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G&A: The Contest Blog

The Poetry Society of America (PSA) has announced that poet Robert Bly will receive the 2013 Frost Medal, an award presented annually for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry. 

The PSA’s most prestigious award, the Frost Medal was established in 1930. Originally called the “Gold Medal,” the award’s early recipients included Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Wallace Stevens, and Marianne Moore. In 1984, to pay tribute to Robert Frost's longstanding association with the organization, including his tenure as honorary president from 1940-1963, the award was renamed in his honor; subsequent winners have included Gwendolyn Brooks, Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Sonia Sanchez, and in 2012, Marilyn Nelson. Winners receive a cash prize of $2,500. 

Born in western Minnesota in 1926, Robert Bly attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and later founded the literary magazine The Fifties (later The Sixties and The Seventies), which published poetry in translation. Bly published his first book of poetry, Silence in the Snowy Fields (Wesleyan), in 1962, and received a National Book Award in 1968 for The Light Around the Body (Harper & Row). He has since published over thirty books of poetry, translation, and essays, including most recently the poetry collection Talking Into the Ear of a Donkey (Norton, 2011). A forthcoming collection, Stealing Sugar from the Castle: the Selected Poems of Robert Bly, will be published in September by Norton. 

Bly will be honored, along with the twelve recipients of the annual PSA awards, at a ceremony on Friday, April 5, at the National Arts Club in New York City. Bly will also give a reading.

The Poetry Society of America, the nation's oldest poetry organization, was founded in 1910. Its mission is “to build a larger and more diverse audience for poetry, to encourage a deeper appreciation of the vitality and breadth of poetry in the cultural conversation, and to place poetry at the crossroads of American life.” For more information about the PSA and the annual awards, visit the website

The Oklahoma City-based Arcadia Magazine is currently accepting submissions for its inaugural short story contest. The winner will receive a prize of $1,000 and publication in Arcadia. The deadline for entry is February 15.

Fiction writers may submit a short story between 4,000 and 7,000 words, along with a $15 entry fee, via Submittable. There is no required criteria beyond the word limit; stories of any subject or style are eligible. Multiple entries are welcome, but must be submitted separately. All entries will be considered for publication. 

Founded in 2009, Arcadia is a print journal published twice yearly in the spring and fall that features the work of both emerging and established writers. In addition to the contest, the magazine accepts year-round submissions of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as cultural criticism, drama, visual art, comics, music, craft essays, and everything in between—including letters, to be included in the new Epistolary feature on the journal's website. Whatever the form, the editors state on the site, We want to see it, read it, hear it, and love it. If it kicks ass, we will find a way to publish it. 

Visit the submissions page for complete guidelines. 

For more from the Arcadia editors, check out the September/October 2012 print issue of Poets & Writers Magazine for an article on how to submit to Arcadia

Barnes and Noble has announced the shortlist for its 2012 Discover Great New Writers Awards, which annually honor works of fiction and nonfiction by emerging writers published during the previous calendar year and featured in the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program. Of the six finalists, one winner in each genre will be receive $10,000.  

The finalists in fiction are Amanda Coplin for The Orchardist (HarperCollins), Eowyn Ivey for The Snow Child (Reagan Arthur Books), and Karen Thompson Walker for The Age of Miracles (Random House). The finalists in nonfiction are Katherine Boo for Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Random House), Kristen Iversen for Full Body Burden (Crown Publishers), and Cheryl Strayed for Wild (Knopf).

Established in 1990, the Discover program highlights books by debut or early-career writers whose work might otherwise be overlooked by the mainstream. This year’s selections were chosen from a list of fifty-three writers. 

A group of Barnes and Noble volunteers hand-picks Discover selections each year from a list of nominees, and a panel of judges in both genres selects the award finalists and winners. This year's fiction judges are Lan Samantha Chang, Alan Cheuse, and Karl Marlantes. The nonfiction judges are Susan Cheever, Wendy McClure, and Touré.

The winners will be announced on Wednesday, March 6. Second-place finalists will receive $5,000, and third-place finalists will receive $2,500. 

The 2011 Discover Great New Writers Award winner in fiction was Scott O'Connor for Untouchable, published by Tyrus Books; Michael Levy won in nonfiction for Kosher Chinese, published by Holt. 

Barnes and Noble accepts nominations for the Discover program four times yearly. For the Fall 2013 season, books published between August and October, 2013, may be submitted by April 4. Publishers may nominate books by debut authors or writers with fewer than three previously published books. Authors may not submit their own work. Works of literary fiction (including novels and short story collections) and literary nonfiction (including essay collections, memoirs, and other nonfiction works with a strong narrative) are eligible. Self-published or digital-only titles are not eligible. For more information and complete submission guidelines, visit the website.

Claremont Graduate University has announced the finalists for the 2013 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Given annually for a book published in the previous award year by a poet in midcareer, the Tufts Award is one of the most prestigious prizes given to an American poet. The winner receives $100,000.

The finalists are Marianne Boruch for The Book of Hours (Copper Canyon Press), Edward Haworth Hoeppner Blood Prism (Ohio State University Press), and Paisley Rekdal for Animal Eye (University of Pittsburgh Press).

Boruch is the author of eight previous collections, including most recently Grace, Fallen from (Wesleyan, 2008), and a memoir, The Glimpse Traveler (Break Away Books, 2011). She is a professor of creative writing and poetry at Purdue University. Hoeppner is the author of two previous collections, including Rain Through High Windows (New Issues, 2000). He directs the creative writing program at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Rekdal is the author of three previous collections, including most recently The Invention of the Kaleidoscope (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007). She is an associate professor of English at the University of Utah. 

Claremont also announced the finalists for the 2013 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, a prize of $10,000 given annually for a debut poetry collection. The finalists are Rebecca Morgan Frank for Little Murders Everywhere (Salmon Poetry), Francine J. Harris for Allegiance (Wayne State University Press), and Heidy Steidlmayer for Fowling Piece (Triquarterly Books).

This year's panel of judges for both awards includes Linda Gregerson, David Barber, Kate Gale, Ted Genoways, and Carl Phillips. Winners will be announced in March and recognized during a ceremony at Claremont Graduate University in April.

Timothy Donnelly of Brooklyn, New York, received the 2012 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for The Cloud Corporation (Wave Books). Katherine Larson received the Kate Tufts Discovery Award for Radial Symmetry (Yale University Press).

Authors, editors, and publishers may submit books for consideration for both the Kate and Kingsley Tufts Awards. For the 2014 awards, books published between September 1, 2012, and August 31, 2013, are eligible, and must be postmarked by September 15. Visit the website for more information and complete submission guidelines

The Loft Anthology: New England Poetry and Art is accepting submissions for its annual Loft Prize for Poetry until February 1. The award, which includes $1,000 and publication in the Loft Anthology, is given for poems about visual art, written by poets who reside in or are natives of New England.

Poets may submit up to two poems by e-mail with a $15 entry fee. Poems inspired by a piece of artwork from a New England museum are eligible. A list of museums is available on the Loft Anthology website; artwork can also be found online at the Athenaeum. Winners and finalists will be invited to read at an awards reception at the Providence Public Library in Rhode Island on June 6.

Poet Denise Duhamel, whose latest collection, Blowout, will be released by the University of Pittsburgh Press in February, will judge.

The Loft Anthology is published by the Cranston, Rhode Island-based Poetry Loft, a nonprofit literary arts organization that provides free poetry workshops in Rhode Island. The anthology publishes original work by both established and emerging poets in an effort, as stated on the website, to paint “an intimate portrait of the rich state of poetry in our region, informed by the distinct voices and souls of New Englanders. We humbly seek to inspire and disseminate the best poetry of New England.”

Copies of the 2012 anthology can be ordered through the Loft Anthology website, and are available for purchase at Brown Bookstore, Books on the Square, Symposium Books, and Cellar Books in Providence. For more information and complete submission guidelines, visit the website or send questions by e-mail to info@thepoetryloft.org.

The finalists for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, which recognizes one fiction writer for a body of work, were announced today. Of the ten authors only three write in English, including American novelist Marilynne Robinson, who was first short-listed for the award in 2011. The winner, who will be announced in May, will receive sixty thousand British pounds. 

Representing nine different countries, the finalists were annouced this morning at the Jaipur Literature Festival. The list includes U R Ananthamurthy of India, Aharon Appelfeld of Israel, Lydia Davis of the United States, Intizar Husain of Pakistan, Yan Lianke of China, Marie NDiaye of France, Josip Novakovich of Canada, Marilynne Robinson of the United States, Vladimir Sorokin of Russia, and Peter Stamm of Switzerland. 

While many of this year's authors are relatively lesser known, Robinson, who teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is no stranger to literary prizes. Her debut novel, Housekeeping (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1982) won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for best first novel and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction; what is perhaps her most widely known novel, Gilead (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; and her most recent novel, Home, also published by FSG, received the 2009 Orange Prize. 

The current panel of judges, which has grown in size from previous years, includes chairman Christopher Ricks, critic and translator Tim Parks, critic Elif Batuman, and novelists Aminatta Forna and Yiyun Li. On the Man Booker International website, prize administrator Fiammetta Rocco attributes the wide range of finalists to the expanded scope of judges, each who represents a different geographical focus. “Now that we have five judges, we have been able to read in far greater depth than ever before,” she says. “Fiction is now available in all sorts of forms and in translation in more countries. This list recognizes that and is the fruit of the judges' collective reading.”

The award is given every two years to a living author who has published original works of fiction in English, or whose books are widely available in translation. The finalists and winners are chosen solely by the judges; there is no application process. 

Past winners of the prize include American novelist Philip Roth, Canadian short story writer Alice Munro, Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, and Albanian author Ismail Kadare, who won the inaugural prize in 2005. The winner of the 2013 prize, who may also choose a translator of their work to be awarded fifteen thousand pounds, will be announced on May 22 in London.

In this ongoing series, we talk to prize recipients about the ways in which winning literary awards has affected their work and writing life, what they’ve learned from winning, and what advice they might offer to writers applying for awards.

This installment features an interview with fiction writer Daniel Alarcón, author of the short story collection War by Candlelight (Harper, 2006), which was a finalist for the PEN-Hemingway Award, and Lost City Radio (Harper, 2007), which was named a Best Novel of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post, and won the 2009 International Literature Prize given by the House of World Culture in Berlin. Alarcón received the prestigious Whiting Award for fiction in 2004, and was named one of the New Yorker’s 20 under 40 in 2010. He is the associate editor of Etiqueta Negra, a literary quarterly published in his native Lima, Peru; the founder of Radio Ambulante, a Spanish-language storytelling podcast; and a contributing editor of Granta. His two forthcoming books—a novel, At Night We Walk in Circles, and a short story collection, The King Is Always Above The People—will be published by Riverhead Books in the fall of 2013 and 2014, respectively. Alarcón discusses how winning literary prizes has at times allowed him to write full-time and pay the bills, and has motivated him to keep writing.

Has winning literary prizes such as the Whiting Award changed your career? Were you able to put the prize money toward something specific, or did you make any important connections as a result of winning?

Winning prizes is nice, and yes, it has changed my career for the better, even before I realized I had “a career,” per se. The Whiting Award came before my first book had even been published, so it felt like an absurd and undeserved bit of good luck; but I can’t deny that it gave me some confidence to keep working. The piece the judges read was the opening fifty pages of my second book, Lost City Radio, and winning gave me some validation to push forward when I really had no idea what I was doing. By luck or coincidence, awards in my case have tended to come at key moments, just when I needed them to lift my spirits, to remind me that someone was reading, that someone appreciated what I was trying to do. As for the money, yeah, that helps too, but it never lasts. I’ve spent it all by now, but it kept me clothed and fed, the rent paid, at critical junctures. I feel like I should state the obvious: in many cases, this prize money isn’t extra money; it’s the only money. You might not have any other income for six months or a year. Economically, writing is a high-wire act (try getting a home loan as a self-employed novelist) and that’s not going to change unless something crazy happens. Prize money has meant the difference between having to work a real job and enjoying the luxury of writing full-time, or close to full-time. Prize money means being able to turn down teaching jobs. The money I’ve won was never used to go on vacation (I haven’t had one of those in years) or to start a restaurant or buy an Audi. I used it to pay rent and live, which sounds mundane, but there it is.

But sometimes winning isn’t everything. I first met Junot Díaz when we were both finalists for an award (which he won, naturally) and we’ve been friendly since. He’s a writer I’d always admired, and the “prize” at that point was meeting him, sharing a drink, and—crucially—beginning to think of myself as a colleague of writers of that caliber. I was a finalist for [the PEN-Hemingway Award for debut fiction] in 2006, which Yiyun Li won, and the more I’ve read of her work, the more I admire her and the prouder I am to have been a finalist alongside such a talent.

Has receiving awards, or being selected as a finalist, had an effect on the decisions you've made as a writer, or on the path you have chosen to take in your work?

No, not really. I’ve written stories, began and tossed out novels, tried my hand at narrative nonfiction, political reportage, investigative reporting, theater, graphic novels, and now radio storytelling in Spanish—and always done it according to whimsy. I do the things I like doing, and I realize this means I’m very fortunate. Maybe winning prizes has helped, I don’t know. Maybe certain editors will respond to my emails because they know they’ve heard my name somewhere, but you’d have to ask them about that.

What advice could you offer for writers looking to contests as a way to get their work into the world?

Contests have their place, and nowadays, when I serve as a judge, I try to read with the same openness, optimism, and excitement that I had when I was a younger writer, putting my work out there for the first time. I was jury member for the Aura Estrada Prize last year, and it was a real honor. I knew Aura, and there could be no better memorial for someone of her vision and potential than a prize like this one. I read those manuscripts and kept looking for something dynamic, something beautiful, something full of the same hope that is implicit in any sincere artistic pursuit. Most manuscripts didn’t pass muster, didn’t seem good enough to earn a prize with Aura’s name, but then I found it. When one voice managed to push through the clutter, it was incredibly exciting. The writer’s name was Majo Rodríguez. Look for her. That’s what prizes and contests can do. They put a writer on the map.

For more information on the work of Daniel Alarcón, visit his website at danielalarcon.com. On February 5 in New York City, Radio Ambulante will host a Benefit Evening of Latin American Storytelling featuring Alarcón, Junot Díaz, and Francisco Goldman, at 7:00 PM at the Instituto Cervantes at 211 E. 49th Street.

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