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G&A: The Contest Blog

Submissions are currently open for University of Utah Press’s Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize. The annual prize, which includes $1,500 and publication by University of Utah Press, is given for a poetry collection. The winner will also receive travel and lodging expenses and an additional $500 to give a reading at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Linda Bierds will judge.

Submit a manuscript of 48 to 100 pages with a $25 entry fee by April 15. Submissions can be made through Submittable, or via postal mail to University of Utah Press, c/o The Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry, J. Willard Marriott Library, 295 South 1500 East, Suite 5400, Salt Lake City, UT 84112.

Established in 2003, the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize honors the poet Agha Shahid Ali (1949–2001). Ali taught at the University of Utah and published several poetry collections including Rooms Are Never Finished (Norton, 2001) and Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals (Norton, 2003). Recent winners of the prize include Sara Wallace for The Rival, Kara Candito for Spectator, and Mark Jay Brewin Jr. for Scrap Iron.

Judge Linda Bierds has published nine poetry collections, most recently Roget’s Illusion (Putnam, 2014). In Bierds’s 2009 interview with the Atlantic, Sarah Cohen describes the poet’s work as “distinguished by a precise and musical voice, a passionate eye for detail, and a distinctive, decades-long exploration of the lives and voices of well-known artists, scientists, and historical figures.” Bierds has judged several contests in the past; she selected Jonathan Thirkield as the winner of the 2008 Walt Whitman Poetry Award, and Anna Marie Craighead-Kintis as the winner of the 2012 Bellingham Review 49th Parallel Poetry Award.

The Academy of American Poets announced today that Sjohnna McCray has won the 2015 Walt Whitman Award for his debut poetry collection, Rapture. McCray will receive $5,000, publication by Graywolf Press in 2016, a six-week paid residency in Umbria, Italy, and distribution of his book to all Academy members. He will also be featured on the Academy of American Poets website as well as in its print publication, American Poets.

Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Tracy K. Smith selected McCray as this year’s winner. Of McCray’s manuscript, Smith writes, “These poems are so beautifully crafted, so courageous in their truth-telling, and so full of what I like to think of as lyrical wisdom—the visceral revelations that only music, gesture and image, working together, can impart—that not only did they stop me in my tracks as a judge, but they changed me as a person. Sjohnna McCray’s is an ecstatic and original voice, and he lends it to family, history, race and desire in ways that are healing and enlarging. Rapture announces a prodigious talent and a huge human heart.”

McCray, forty-three, grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. He holds an MFA from the University of Virginia as well as a master’s in English education from Columbia University’s Teacher College. McCray received AWP’s Intro Journal Award and Ohio University’s Emerson Poetry Prize, and his poems have appeared in numerous publications including the Southern Review and Shenandoah. McCray currently lives and teaches in Savannah, Georgia.

Now in its fortieth year, the Walt Whitman Award is given annually for a first book of poetry. The prize was expanded last year to include the new partnerships with Graywolf Press and the Civatelli Ranieri Center. Earlier this month, the Academy also expanded eligibility criteria for all of its prizes to include non-citizens living in the United States. Previous winners of the Walt Whitman Award include Nicole Cooley, Suji Knock Kim, Eric Pankey, and J. Michael Martinez. 

The Academy of American Poets was founded in 1934 and is the “largest member-supported nonprofit organization fostering an appreciation for contemporary poetry and supporting American poets.” The Academy distributed over $200,000 in prize money to poets in 2014.

Photo: Sjohnna McCray (credit Aaron Mervin)

Submissions are currently open for Finishing Line Press’s 2015 New Women’s Voices Series Chapbook Competition. A prize of $1,000 and publication by Finishing Line Press will be given for a poetry chapbook written by woman who has not yet published a full-length collection. Leah Maines, poet and director of Finishing Line Press, will judge. Ten finalists will be offered publication in the New Women’s Voices chapbook series.

Submit a manuscript of up to 26 pages with a biography, acknowledgements page, cover letter, and $15 entry fee by March 31. Writers may submit entries through the online submission manager or via postal mail to Finishing Line Press, P.O. Box 1626, Georgetown, KY 40324. Multiple submissions are accepted. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Finishing Line Press is an small poetry press based in Georgetown, Kentucky. Established in 1998 by C. J. Morrison, the press specializes in poetry chapbooks and publishes over one hundred collections per year. Finishing Line administers two annual competitions: the New Women’s Voices Series Chapbook Competition and the Open Chapbook Competition, which both offer $1,000 and publication. Sarah Green won the 2014 New Women's Voices prize for her chapbook Skeleton Evenings.

American poet and fiction writer Fanny Howe has been named a finalist for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize. The biennial prize is given to a fiction writer who writes in English or whose work is generally available in translation in English. The winner will receive £60,000 (approximately $89,290).

The finalists were announced yesterday at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. They are César Aira of Argentina, Hoda Barakat of Lebanon, Maryse Condé of Guadeloupe, Mia Couto of Mozambique, Amitav Ghosh of India, Fanny Howe of the United States, Ibrahim al-Koni of Libya, László Krasznahorkai of Hungary, Alain Mabanckou of the Republic of Congo, and Marlene van Niekerk of South Africa. The finalists were selected by judges Nadeem Aslam, Elleke Boehmer, Edwin Frank, Wen-chin Ouyang, and Marina Warner.

“The judges have had an exhilarating experience reading for this prize; we have ranged across the world and entered the vision of writers who offer an extraordinary variety of experiences,” said chair of judges Marina Warner. “Fiction can enlarge the world for us all and stretch our understanding and our sympathy. The novel today is in fine form: as a field of inquiry, a tribunal of history, a map of the heart, a probe of the psyche, a stimulus to thought, a well of pleasure and a laboratory of language. Truly we feel closer to the tree of knowledge.”

The number of finalists who do not write in English but are translated into English is the highest ever for the 2015 prize, with eight out of the ten finalists writing in non-English languages. In addition, the list includes writers of six nationalities never before included on the list: Guadeloupe (an island region of France located in the West Indies), Hungary, Libya, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, and South Africa. “This is the most interesting and enlightening list of finalists,” said Jonathan Taylor, the chair of the Booker Prize Foundation. “It brings attention to writers from far and wide, so many of whom are in translation.”

Established in 2005, the Man Booker International Prize is administered by the London-based Booker Prize Foundation. The foundation also administers the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction, a £50,000 prize given for a novel published in the United Kingdom in the previous year.

The winner of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize will be announced in London on May 19. Recent winners include American writers Lydia Davis and Philip Roth, and Canadian writer Alice Munro.

Last night at an award ceremony in London, Indian American writer Akhil Sharma was announced the winner of the 2015 Folio Prize for his second novel Family Life. He will receive £40,000 (approximately $59,500). The annual award is given for an English-language book of fiction published in the United Kingdom in the previous year.

“From a shortlist of which we are enormously proud, Akhil Sharma’s lucid, compassionate, quietly funny account of one family’s life across continents and cultures, emerged as our winner,” said chair of judges William Fiennes. “Family Life is a masterful novel of distilled complexity: about catastrophe and survival; attachment and independence; the tension between selfishness and responsibility. We loved its deceptive simplicity and rare warmth. More than a decade in the writing, this is a work of art that expands with each re-reading and a novel that will endure.” The prize was judged by Fiennes, Rachel Cooke, Mohsin Hamid, A. M. Homes, and Deborah Levy.

Sharma is the author of one previous novel, An Obedient Father. Born in Delhi and raised in New Jersey, Sharma spent nearly thirteen years writing the semi-autobiographical Family Life. The novel chronicles the story of Ajay, whose family immigrates from Dehli to New York in the 1970s and struggles to cope with an accident that leaves Ajay’s brother brain-damaged.

The finalists for the prize were Rachel Cusk for Outline (FSG); Ben Lerner for 10:04 (Faber & Faber); Jenny Offill for Dept. of Speculation (Knopf); Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor for Dust (Knopf); Ali Smith for How to Be Both (Pantheon); Miriam Toews for All My Puny Sorrows (McSweeney’s); and Colm Tóibín for Nora Webster (Scribner). The finalists were selected from a list of eighty books—twenty of which were nominated by publishers, and sixty of which were nominated by the Folio Prize Academy, an international group of 235 writers and critics.

Now in its second year, the Folio Prize is the first major English-language book prize open to writers from around the world. (The Man Booker Prize only expanded to include writers of any nationality in 2014.) American writer George Saunders won the inaugural Folio Prize for his short story collection Tenth of December (Random House).

Acclaimed novelist Louise Erdrich has been named the recipient of the 2015 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, given annually to an American fiction writer whose “body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but for its originality of thought and imagination.” A panel of distinguished literary critics and authors recommended Erdrich to Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who then selected Erdrich as this year’s winner.

Erdrich, 60, is the author of fourteen novels, including Love Medicine (HarperCollins, 1984), The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse (HarperCollins, 2001), The Plague of Doves (HarperCollins, 2009), and, most recently, The Round House (HarperCollins 2013), which won the National Book Award for fiction. Over her thirty-year career, Erdrich has received numerous awards and accolades, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. Born to a German-American father and a half French-American, half Ojibwe mother, much of Erdrich’s writing centers on Native American history.

In his announcement on Tuesday, Billington said of Erdrich: “Throughout a remarkable string of virtuosic novels, Louise Erdrich has portrayed her fellow Native Americans as no contemporary American novelist ever has, exploring—in intimate and fearless ways—the myriad cultural challenges that indigenous and mixed-race Americans face. In this, her prose manages to be at once lyrical and gritty, magical yet unsentimental, connecting a dreamworld of Ojibwe legend to stark realities of the modern-day. And yet, for all the bracing originality of her work, her fiction is deeply rooted in the American literary tradition.”

Erdrich will receive the award during the 2015 Library of Congress National Book Festival on September 5.

Now in its third year, the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction “seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that—throughout long, consistently accomplished careers—have told us something new about the American experience.” E. L. Doctorow was awarded the prize in 2014 and Don DeLillo won the inaugural prize in 2013. The award was inspired by the former Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award, which was previously given to Herman Wouk in 2008, John Grisham in 2009, Isabel Allende in 2010, Toni Morrison in 2011, and Philip Roth in 2012.

Photo: Louise Erdrich (credit Allen Brisson-Smith/ New York Times)

PEN American Center has announced the longlist for its 2015 Literary Awards. The annual prizes are given for works of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, translation, and children’s literature written by emerging and established writers. This year PEN will award over $150,000 to writers through its awards.

The full longlist for the 2015 awards, given in seventeen categories (eight of which do not have a longlist), can be read on PEN’s website. Below are the semi-finalists for a few awards:

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000): Awarded annually for a debut short story collection or novel published in the previous year that represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.

The UnAmericans (Norton) by Molly Antopol
(Hogarth) by Cynthia Bond
Black Moon
(Hogarth) by Kenneth Calhoun
(Penguin Press) by Phil Klay
Ride Around Shining
(Harper) by Chris Leslie-Hynan
The Dog
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Jack Livings
The Wives of Los Alamos
(Bloomsbury) by TaraShea Nesbit
The Heaven of Animals
(Simon & Schuster) by David James Poissant
Love Me Back
(Doubleday) by Merritt Tierce
Time of the Locust
(Atria Books) by Morowa Yejidé

Judges: Caroline Fraser, Katie Kitamura, Paul La Farge, Victor LaValle

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000): Awarded annually for an essay collection published in the previous year that exemplifies the dignity and esteem the essay form imparts to literature.

Moral Imagination (Princeton University Press) by David Bromwich
Theater of Cruelty
(New York Review Books) by Ian Buruma
(Tin House Books) by Charles D’Ambrosio
Surrendering Oz
(Etruscan Press) by Bonnie Friedman
The Hard Way on Purpose
(Scribner) by David Giffels
Where Have You Been?
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Michael Hofmann
The Empathy Exams
(Graywolf Press) by Leslie Jamison
(Coffee House Press) by Valeria Luiselli
(Sarabande Books) by Angela Pelster
You Feel So Mortal
(University of Chicago Press) by Peggy Shinner

Judges: Diane Johnson, Dahlia Lithwick, Vijay Seshadri, Mark Slouka

PEN Open Book Award ($5,000); Awarded annually for an exceptional book-length work of literature by an author of color.

An Unnecessary Woman (Grove Press) by Rabih Alameddine
Fire Shut Up in My Bones
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Charles M. Blow
Team Seven
(Doubleday) by Marcus Burke
(Coffee House Press) by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
Every Day Is for the Thief
(Random House) by Teju Cole
An Untamed State
(Black Cat) by Roxane Gay
A Brief History of Seven Killings
(Riverhead Press) by Marlon James
Citizen: An American Lyric
(Graywolf Press) by Claudia Rankine
The Fateful Apple
(Urban Poets and Lyricists) by Venus Thrash
The City Son
(Soho Press) by Samrat Upadhyay
Kinder Than Solitude
(Random House) by Yiyun Li

Judges: R. Erica Doyle, W. Ralph Eubanks, Chinelo Okparanta

Finalists will be announced on April 15, and the winners will be announced on May 13 and honored at an award ceremony at the New School in New York City on June 8.

Established in 1922, PEN American Center has administered its Literary Awards for nearly fifty years. Based in New York City, PEN works to “ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to make it possible for everyone to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others.”

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