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G&A: The Contest Blog

At a ceremony Thursday night in New York City, the winners of the 2014 National Book Awards were announced. The awards, now in their sixty-fifth year, are given annually for books published in the previous year in the categories of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people’s literature.


Louise Glück won the award in poetry for her collection Faithful and Virtuous Night (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Phil Klay won the award in fiction for his debut short story collection, Redeployment (Penguin). Evan Osnos won the award in nonfiction for Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and Jacqueline Woodson took the award in young people’s literature for Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books). Each winner receives $10,000.

The finalists in poetry were Fanny Howe, Maureen N. McLane, Fred Moten, and Claudia Rankine. The fiction finalists were Rabih Alameddine, Anthony Doerr, Emily St. John Mandel, and Marilynne Robinson. Read a complete list of finalists here, as well as the longlists from which they were chosen.

Earlier in the evening's programming, the National Book Foundation awarded Kyle Zimmer, founder of the Washington, D.C.–based children’s literacy nonprofit First Book, with the 2014 Literarian Award, given for outstanding service to the literary community.

Legendary science fiction and fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin, meanwhile, received the foundation’s annual Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. “Ursula Le Guin has shown how great writing will obliterate the antiquated—and never really valid—line between popular and literary art,” said Harold Augenbaum, the executive director of the National Book Foundation, in a statement. “Her influence will be felt for decades to come.”

In receiving the award, which was presented at the ceremony by Neil Gaiman, Le Guin spoke of the importance of writing in a capitalist society, in which books are often considered commodities rather than works of art. She called upon writers to harness their art as tools of resistance and change: “The profit motive is often at odds with the aim of art…” she said. “The name of our beautiful reward is not profit, it is freedom.”

Top: Glück, Klay, Osnos, Woodson. Bottom: Le Guin.

Submissions are open for the Table 4 Writers Foundation’s third annual grants, given annually to fiction and nonfiction writers over the age of twenty-one. The winner will receive $5,000 and two runner-ups will each receive $2,500.

The grants are given for short stories, essays, or novel or memoir excerpts that somehow deal with New York City. To apply, submit four copies of four to ten pages (or 1,000 to 2,500 words) with the required entry form and a $10 entry fee via postal mail by November 15. Applications should be mailed to 1650 Broadway, Suite 405, New York, NY 10019.

The Table 4 Writers Foundation established its writers grants in 2012 in honor of restauranteur Elaine Kaufman. Kaufman, who passed away in 2010, ran an Austro-Hungarian bar on the Upper East Side of New York City for over forty-seven years. The restaurant was a favorite among writers, journalists, and editors. Kaufmann, who always sat at table four, was known for offering support and advice to writers.

The 2014 recipients will be announced in February and celebrated at the foundation’s annual spring gala in New York City. The 2013 recipients are Matthew Perron, Kurt Pitzer, Danny Thiemann, Jennie Yabroff, and Karen Yin. They each received $2,500, and their winning entries can be read on the foundation’s website. The foundation received over one hundred entries for the 2013 contest.

Photo: Elaine Kaufman

Submissions are currently open for the Madison Review’s Phyllis Smart-Young Prize in Poetry and Chris O’Malley Prize in Fiction. The prizes are given annually for a trio of poems and a short story. Each winner will receive $1,000 and publication in the Madison Review.

Using the online submission system, submit either three poems totaling no more than fifteen pages, or a story of up to thirty pages with a $10 entry fee by November 1. The editors of the Madison Review will judge.

Established in the early 1970s, the Madison Review is the undergraduate student­–run journal of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The biannual review has published the work of poets Stephen Dunn, Lisel Mueller, and C. K. Williams, and fiction writers Charles Baxter and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

The 2013 poetry prize–winner was Steve Tomasko for his poems “And No Spiders Were Harmed,” “The Plane of the Ecliptic,” and “An Inordinate Fondness.” Phillippe Diederich won the fiction prize for his short story “The Falling.” The winning pieces were published in the Spring 2014 issue of the Madison Review.

Kirkus Reviews has announced the winners of its inaugural Kirkus Prize. Established this year to celebrate the eighty-first anniversary of Kirkus Reviews, the $50,000 prizes will be given annually for a book of fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature published in the previous year.

Lily King won the fiction prize for her novel Euphoria (Atlantic Monthly Press). The finalists were Siri Hustvedt for The Blazing World  (Simon & Schuster); Dinaw Mengestu for All Our Names (Knopf); Brian Morton for Florence Gordon (Houghton Mifflin); Bill Roorbach for The Remedy of Love (Algonquin Books); and Sarah Waters for The Paying Guests (Riverhead). Kate Christensen, Stephanie Valdez, and Marion Winik judged.

Roz Chast won the nonfiction prize for her graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (Bloomsbury). The finalists were Leo Damrosch for Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World (Yale University Press); Elizabeth Kolbert for The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Holt); Armand Marie Leroi for The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science (Viking); Thomas Piketty for Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press); and Bryan Stevenson for Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel & Grau). Sarah Bagby, Sloane Crosley, and Gregory McNamee judged.

Kate Samworth won the young readers’ literature prize for her picture book Aviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual (Clarion). Claudette S. McLinn, Linda Sue Park, and John Edward Peters judged.

The 2015 Kirkus Prize will be awarded to books published between November 1, 2014, and October 31, 2015, and given a Kirkus Star review. For a traditional Kirkus review, authors, agents, or publishers may submit two copies of a book at least four to five months before its publication date. Self-published authors may order a Kirkus Indie review for $425 (for a review in seven to nine weeks) or $575 (for a review in four to six weeks). The editors of Kirkus Reviews estimate their reviewers cover eight to ten thousand books every year and give 10 percent of those books a Kirkus Star. Founded in 1933 by Virginia Kirkus, Kirkus Reviews is published twice monthly. 

Upper Left: Lily King, photo by Winky Lewis. Upper Right: Roz Chast, photo by Bill Franzen.

The National Book Foundation has announced the shortlists for its 2014 National Book Awards. The finalists in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people's literature were announced this morning on NPR’s Morning Edition by Mitchell Kaplan, cofounder of Miami Book Fair International and former president of the American Booksellers Association. 

The finalists in poetry are Louise Glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Fanny Howe, Second Childhood (Graywolf Press); Maureen N. McLane, This Blue (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Fred Moten, The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions); and Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press).

The finalists in fiction are Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman (Grove Press); Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner); Phil Klay, Redeployment (Penguin); Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (Knopf); and Marilynne Robinson, Lila (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

The finalists in nonfiction are Roz Chast, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (Bloomsbury); Anand Gopal, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes (Metropolitan Books); Evan Osnos, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); John Lahr, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh (Norton); and Edward O. Wilson, The Meaning of Human Existence (Liveright).

The finalists in young people’s literature are John Corey Whaley, Noggin (Atheneum Books); Deborah Wiles, Revolution (Scholastic); Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books); Eliot Schrefer, Threatened (Scholastic); and Steve Sheinkin, The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights (Roaring Books Press).

The finalists were selected from a longlist in each category. Fiction heavyweights Richard Powers and Jane Smiley failed to make the cut, while relative newcomers Phil Klay and Emily St. John Mandel join Pulitzer Prize–winner Marilynne Robinson, whose novel Home was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2008. On the poetry side, veteran Edward Hirsch was also cut from the longlist, while favorites Glück, Howe, and Rankine (who earlier this year received the $50,000 Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers, Inc.) top the list.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in New York City on November 19, headlined by Daniel Handler—also known as Lemony Snicket. 

Photo: Claudia Rankine

Australian author Richard Flanagan has won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Flanagan, fifty-three, was presented with the award by the Duchess of Cornwall at a ceremony this evening at London's Guildhall. He receives £50,000, or approximately $80,000.

Flanagan is the author of five previous novels and several works of nonfiction. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, published in the U.K. by Chatto & Windus and in the United States by Knopf, tells the story of Australian prisoners of war forced by imperial Japan to construct the Thailand-Burma Death Railway during World War II. Flanagan based the novel on the experiences of his father, who died the day Flanagan finished the book.

For the first time in its forty-six-year history, Britian’s most prestigious literary prize was expanded this year to include writers of any nationality. The decision has been controversial, with the Man Booker Prize Foundation consistently taking heat from the British literary community. The award was previously limited to authors from the U.K. and the British Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland, and Zimbabwe.

Flanagan was chosen from among six short-listed finalists, including the American authors Joshua Ferris for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking) and Karen Joy Fowler for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Putnam); and British authors Howard Jacobson for J (Jonathan Cape), Neel Mukherjee for The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus), and Ali Smith for How to Be Both (Hamish Hamilton). A panel of six judges chose the winner from more than a hundred novels. 

New Zealand’s Eleanor Catton won the 2013 prize for her novel The Luminaries. At twenty-eight, Catton became the youngest writer to win the award. Flanagan is the third author from Australia—and the first from the island of Tasmania—to win the prize.

French novelist Patrick Modiano of Paris has won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature. The announcement was made today in Stockholm by Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy. Englund praised the 69-year-old author, whose work explores “the art of memory, with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”

Modiano was born in a west Paris suburb in July 1945, two months after the end of the second world war. His parents—a Jewish Italian father and Belgian mother—met during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Jewish identity, the Holocaust, and loss of memory, identity, and time are recurring themes in Modiano's work. He published his debut novel, La Place de l'Etoile, in 1968; though few of his books have been translated into English, he has since gained both critical and popular acclaim throughout France. One of his most well known novels is Missing Person (Jonathan Cape, 1980), which was awarded France's Prix Goncourt in 1978. His most recent book is Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier.

American authors Phillip Roth and Thomas Pynchon were favorites for this year’s award, along with Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, and the Syrian poet Adonis.

Founded in 1901, the Nobel Prize in literature is given to a writer who, according to the will of Alfred Nobel, has “produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” The winner receives eight million Swedish kronor, or approximately $1.1 million. Modiano will receive the award at a ceremony on December 10.

Canadian short story writer Alice Munro received last year’s prize. Chinese novelist Mo Yan won in 2012, Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer won in 2011, and Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa won in 2010.

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