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G&A: The Contest Blog

Yesterday, the New York City–based PEN American Center announced its new PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, an annual prize honoring a book in any genre that has “broken new ground and signals strong potential for lasting influence.” The winner will receive $75,000.

Funded by oral historian Jean Stein, the award will be the largest prize conferred by PEN, and one of the richest literary prizes in the United States. PEN America president Andrew Solomon says the award will “focus global attention on remarkable books that propel experimentation, wit, strength, and the expression of wisdom.” An anonymous judging panel will nominate candidates for the prize internally; there is no application process.

In addition to the book prize, Stein will also fund a $10,000 oral history grant. The award will support “the completion of a literary work of nonfiction that uses oral history to illuminate an event, individual, place, or movement.”

The inaugural winners of both prizes will be announced at the annual PEN Literary Awards Ceremony in February 2017.

Stein has authored numerous works of nonfiction and conducted interviews with prominent American cultural figures, including William Faulkner and Robert F. Kennedy. Stein’s most recent book is West of Eden: An American Place, a profile of five prominent Los Angeles families.

The Center for Fiction has announced its 2016 First Novel Prize longlist. The prize is given annually for a debut novel published in the award year. The winning author receives $10,000, and each shortlisted author receives $1,000. 

The longlisted novels are: The Alaskan Laundry by Brendan Jones (Mariner Books), All Joe Knight by Kevin Morris (Grove Press), Another Place You’ve Never Been by Rebecca Kauffman (Soft Skull Press), As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner (Lee Boudreaux Books), The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter by Kia Corthron (Seven Stories Press), Dodgers by Bill Beverly (Crown), Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson (Harper), The Girls by Emma Cline (Random House), Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright), Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf) How I Became a North Korean by Krys Lee (Viking), Hurt People by Cote Smith (FSG Originals), The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni (Counterpoint), The Longest Night by Andria Williams (Random House), The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay (Melville House), The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales (Riverhead Books), Shelter by Jung Yun (Picador), Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser (Ecco), Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings by Stephen O’Connor (Viking), Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss (Scout Press), We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin Books), What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves (Scribner), and Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore (Hogarth).

The shortlist will be announced in September, and the winner will be announced at the Center for Fiction’s annual benefit and awards dinner on Tuesday, December 6, in New York City.

Viet Thanh Nguyen won the 2015 prize for The Sympathizer (Grove Press), which also went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. Previous winners of the First Novel Prize include Marisha Pessl, Junot Díaz, Hannah Tinti, Ben Fountain, and Tiphanie Yanique.

Publishers may submit books to be considered for the prize; submissions for the 2017 prize will open in January.

Listen to Yaa Gyasi read an excerpt from her novel, Homegoing, which is included in the Poets & Writers Magazine 2016 First Fiction roundup.

Submissions are currently open for the BOAAT Press Chapbook Prize, awarded annually for a poetry chapbook. The prize includes $1,000 and publication of the winning chapbook in both a printed and handmade edition. Between one and four finalists will also each receive publication of their chapbooks as PDF digital downloads on BOAAT’s website and a $50 honorarium. 

BOAAT’s editorial team will select a longlist of twenty-five chapbooks, and award-winning poet Richard Siken will choose the winner. Siken is the author most recently of War of the Foxes (Copper Canyon, 2015), as well as the collection Crush (Yale University Press, 2005), which won the 2004 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize.

Using the online submission manager, submit a manuscript of 15 to 30 pages of poetry along with a $17 entry fee by July 15. The winner and finalists will be announced by October. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Previous winners of the chapbook prize include Jess Feldman, Brenda Iijima, and Rebecca Farivar.

Watch a video below detailing the creation of BOAAT Press’s handmade book designs.

South African writer Lidudumalingani has won the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing for his story “Memories We Lost.” He received £10,000 (approximately $12,900) and has been offered a monthlong residence at Georgetown University as the writer-in-residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics. The annual award, now in its seventeenth year, is given for a short story published in English and written by an African writer.

“The winning story explores a difficult subject—how traditional beliefs in a rural community are used to tackle schizophrenia. This is a troubling piece, depicting the great love between two young siblings in a beautifully drawn Eastern Cape,” said judge Delia Jarrett-Macauley. “Multi-layered and gracefully narrated, this short story leaves the reader full of sympathy and wonder at the plight of its protagonists.” In addition to Jarrett-Macauley, the 2016 judges were Adjoa Andoh, Robert J. Patterson, and Mary Watson.

The shortlist for the prize included Abdul Adan of Somalia and Kenya for “The Lifebloom Gift,” Lesley Nneka Arimah of Nigeria for “What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky,” Tope Folarin of Nigeria for “Genesis,” and Bongani Kona of Zimbabwe for “At Your Requiem.” They each received £500 (approximately $650), and all of their stories, along with Lidudumalingani’s, can be read at the Caine Prize website.

Established in 2000, the Caine Prize was launched to “encourage and highlight the richness and diversity of African writing by bringing it to a wider audience internationally.” The deadline for the 2017 prize is January 31, 2017; publishers may submit six copies of a story between 3,000 and 10,000 words published in English by an African writer. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Previous winners of the prize include Zambian writer Namwali Serpell, Kenyan writer Okwiri Oduor, and Nigerian writers Tope Folarin and Rotimi Babatunde.

Listen to Lidudumalingani read his winning story, “Memories We Lost.”

Summer has officially begun! If you are looking to kick off the season by submitting to writing contests, you’re in luck—the deadlines for several contests approach. Below is a roundup of contests with a June 30 deadline that are open to fiction writers. The contests award at least $1,000 and publication of full-length fiction manuscripts, as well as single stories or novel excerpts.

Indianapolis-based independent publisher Engine Books administers an annual fiction prize, which awards $1,000 and publication of a full-length short story collection, novella collection, or novel. Manuscripts of any length are considered; the entry fee is $30. Novelist and short story writer Alix Ohlin will judge.

Hidden River Arts, a literary arts organization based in Philadelphia, sponsors the annual William Van Wert Fiction Award for an unpublished short story or novel excerpt. Writers may submit up to 25 pages of fiction with a $17 entry fee. The winner will be notified by April 1, 2017.

For writers with some publications under their belt, the University of Pittsburgh Press Drue Heinz Literature Prize awards $15,000 and publication of a story collection. The award is open to writers who have previously published a book of fiction, or a minimum of three short stories or novellas in nationally distributed publications. Manuscripts of 150 to 300 pages are accepted exclusively via postal mail. There is no entry fee.

Self-published authors are eligible to submit to the Winning Writers North Street Book Prize. Three awards of $1,500 each are given annually for self-published books in the categories of fiction, genre fiction, and creative nonfiction. In addition to the cash prize, winners will also receive publication of an excerpt on the Winning Writers website; a one-hour marketing consultation with author and publishing consultant Carolyn Howard-Johnson; a $300 credit at BookBay, a self-publishing and book promotion platform; and three free advertisements in the Winning Writers newsletter. Two honorable mentions in each category will receive $250. The entry fee is $50.

For more information about the prizes and complete submission guidelines, visit the contest websites. Visit our Grants & Awards database and submission calendar for a wide selection of contests in all genres with upcoming deadlines.

As we head into the second half of June, the deadlines approach for several poetry competitions. The contests included below—which are sponsored by organizations and schools based in places from Australia to Cape Cod—offer cash prizes from $1,000 to $10,000 for single poems.

The Cultural Center of Cape Cod offers a prize of $1,000 through its annual Poetry Competition. The submission deadline is Monday, June 20; the entry fee is $15.

With a deadline of Tuesday, June 21, the Troubadour International Poetry Prize, sponsored by London-based Coffee-House Poetry, offers a first-place prize of £5,000 (approximately $7,000) and a second-place prize of £1,000 (approximately $1,400). Glyn Maxwell and Jane Yeh will judge; the entry fee is $8 per poem.

Over in Australia, University of Canberra is currently considering submissions for its annual Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Prize. The international contest, open to poets from any country writing in English, offers a hefty first-place prize of $15,000 AUD (approximately $11,100) as well as a second-place prize of $5,000 AUD (approximately $3,700). The winners will be published in an e-book anthology, and Simon Armitage will judge. The deadline is June 30, with an entry fee of $20 AUD (approximately $15).

For the musically inclined, String Poet is hosting its annual poetry competition with a deadline of June 30. Not only will the winner receive $1,000 and publication in String Poet, but the composer Richard Books will compose a piece of music inspired by the winning piece. The entry fee is $15. X. J. Kennedy will judge.

Visit the contest websites for complete submission details, including eligibility guidelines and poem length requirements. For a look at more writing contests with upcoming deadlines, visit our Grants & Awards database and submission calendar.


The Dublin City Council announced last week that Akhil Sharma has won the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award for his novel Family Life. Sharma will receive €100,000 (approximately $113,000). The annual award, which is one of the world’s largest prizes for a single book, is given for a novel written in or translated into English and published in the previous year.

The 2016 judges were Meaghan Delahunt, Carlo Gébler, Ian Sansom, Iglika Vassileva, Juan Pablo Villalobos, and Eugene R. Sullivan. They selected Family Life (Norton) from 160 titles, which were nominated by libraries in 118 cities in 43 countries. Sharma’s novel, which tells the story of a family that immigrates to America from Delhi in 1978, was nominated by both the New Delhi­–based India International Centre Library and the Jacksonville Public Library in Florida.

“Suffering and the struggle to ameliorate suffering are not unknown in fiction but Family Life pulls off the extraordinary feat of showing them in their correct alignment,” wrote the judges in their citation. “Closing the book, having known this mix of light and dark, you are left with the sense that while reading you were actually at the core of human experience and what it is to be alive. This is the highest form of achievement in literature. Few manage it. This novel does. Triumphantly. Luminously. Movingly.”

The 2016 shortlist included Outlaws by Javier Cercas, translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean; Academy Street by Mary Costello; Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers; The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky; A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James; Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa; Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated from the French by Melanie Mauthner; Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill; and Lila by Marilynne Robinson.

Previous winners of the prize include Jim Crace for Harvest, Juan Gabriel Vásquez for The Sound of Things Falling, and Colum McCann for Let the Great World Spin.

Sharma, who also won the £40,000 2015 Folio Prize for Family Life, lives in New York City and teaches at Rutgers University in Newark. “To be acknowledged by people I respect is a strange thing,” said Sharma of winning the International Dublin Literary Award. “I can’t say I fooled them. I feel abashed by this honor.”

Photo: Akhil Sharma. Credit: Jason Clarke.

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