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G&A: The Contest Blog

The finalists for the 2015 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction have been announced. The annual award honors the best work of fiction published by an American author in the previous year.

The five finalists are Jeffery Renard Allen’s Song of the Shank (Graywolf Press), Jennifer Clement’s Prayers for the Stolen (Hogarth), Atticus Lish’s Preparation for the Next Life (Tyrant Books), Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (Knopf), and Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation (Knopf). More information about the finalists can be found on the PEN/Faulkner website.

The winner of the $15,000 prize will be announced April 7. The four remaining finalists will each receive $5,000. All finalists will be honored during the annual PEN/Faulkner Award Ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., on May 2. The ceremony, which will be hosted by B. J. Novak, is open to the public; tickets are available online or can be purchased by calling the Folger Box Office at 202-544-7077.

Judges Alexander Chee, Marc Fitten, and Deirdre McNamer selected this year’s finalists from 360 novels and short story collections from 142 publishing houses. In a press release, the judges said of their selection process, “The finalists we chose are writing some of the best of American fiction now—urgent and profound work that is deeply engaged with our world, even as it redefines what we call ‘American fiction,’ and what we think of as America.”

Now in its thirty-fifth year, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction is sponsored by the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, and is the largest peer-judged fiction award in the United States. Karen Joy Fowler won the 2014 award for her novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and Benjamin Alire Sáenz received the award in 2013 for his short story collection Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club.


Submissions are currently open for the New York Times Modern Love College Essay Contest. The prize is awarded to a current U.S. college student for an essay that “illustrates the current state of love and relationships.” The winner will receive $1,000 and publication in the New York Times Sunday Styles section and on nytimes.com. Four runners-up will also receive publication in the Times Sunday Styles section and on nytimes.com.

To enter, writers should e-mail a previously unpublished essay of 1,500 to 1,700 words along with their name, e-mail, phone number, college, and year of graduation to essaycontest@nytimes.com by Sunday, March 15. There is no entry fee. Daniel Jones, editor of the New York Times Modern Love column and author of Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (With the Help of 50,000 Strangers), will judge. The winner will be announced May 3.

The New York Times Modern Love column has sponsored its college essay contest two previous times—in 2008 and 2011—and received thousands of submissions each year from students representing hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the country. Caitlin Dewey won the 2011 prize for her essay “Even in Real Life, There Were Screens Between us,” and Marguerite Fields won the inaugural prize in 2008 for her essay “Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define.” The essays of previous finalists can also be read on the New York Times website.

For more information about the Modern Love column, read Jones’s article “How We Write About Love.”

The Whiting Foundation announced the winners of the Whiting Awards yesterday. Now in its thirtieth year, the annual awards are given to ten emerging writers in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama. Each winner receives $50,000.

The 2015 winners in poetry are Anthony Carelli of New York City; Aracelis Girmay of New York City and Amherst, Massachusetts; Jenny Johnson of Pittsburgh; and Roger Reeves of Chicago. The winners in fiction are Leopoldine Core and Dan Josefson, both of New York City, and Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi of South Bend, Indiana. The winner in nonfiction is Elena Passarello of Corvallis, Oregon. The winners in drama are Lucas Hnath and Anne Washburn, both of New York City. The winners will participate in a reading tonight at BookCourt in Brooklyn.

Established in 1985, the Whiting Awards support “exceptional new writers who have yet to make their mark in the literary culture.” Previous recipients include poets Linda Gregg, Jorie Graham, Terrance Hayes, Li-Young Lee, Nathaniel Mackey, and Tracy K. Smith; fiction writers Lydia Davis, Deborah Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eugenides, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, ZZ Packer, and Tobias Woolf; and nonfiction writers Jo Ann Beard, Wayne Koestenbaum, Ian Frazier, and Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts.

Each year the New York City–based Whiting Foundation selects a small committee of writers, scholars, and editors to judge the prize. The judges, who remain anonymous, select the recipients from a pool of nominations the foundation solicits from writers, professors, editors, agents, critics, booksellers, and other publishing and theater professionals. There is no application process.

Photos, clockwise from top left: Anthony Carelli, Aracelis Girmay, Jenny Johnson, Roger Reeves, Elena Passarello, Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, Dan Josefson, and Leopoldine Core. (Whiting Foundation)

Last night in New York City, Elizabeth McCracken was announced the winner of the tenth-annual Story Prize for her collection Thunderstruck (The Dial Press). The $20,000 prize is awarded for a short story collection published in the previous year.

The finalists, who each receive $5,000, were Francesca Marciano for her collection The Other Language (Pantheon) and Lorrie Moore for her collection Bark (Knopf). In addition, Kyle Minor received the Story Prize Spotlight Award—a prize of $1,000 given for a collection that merits additional attention—for his second collection, Praying Drunk (Sarabande Books). During last night’s event, the finalists read and discussed their work on stage with prize director Larry Dark.

A former public librarian who currently teaches at the University of Texas in Austin, McCracken has received literary grants and awards from numerous organizations including the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the American Academy in Berlin. McCracken’s previous books include the story collection Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry, the novels The Giants House and Niagara Falls All Over Again, and the memoir An Exact Replica of a Figure of My Imagination. Thunderstruck is her first short story collection in two decades.

“When you read this book it’s hard to believe it’s her first collection in twenty years—these stories are funny, nuanced, and self-assured,” said prize director Larry Dark. In her on-stage discussion with Dark, McCracken talked about her process, her return to the short story form, and the importance of humor in her writing. “The extent to which I believe that there is redemption in the world of sadness—it is by humor,” she said. McCracken also discussed her use of sensual detail and the importance of creating “evidence that the world in the story existed.”

Dark and Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey selected the three finalists from a record 129 submitted books, representing 85 different publishers. The winner was selected by three judges: Arsen Kashkashian, a book buyer and general manager of the Boulder Bookstore; Noreen Tomassi, director of the Center for Fiction in New York City; and author Laura van den Berg. “Each story in the collection reads like a masterwork, rich and confident and surprising, and together they form an electrifying whole,” the judges said of McCracken’s work. “She writes with such an open and compassionate heart that even the most damaged and lost of her characters thrum with life.”

Established in 2004 to honor the short story, the Story Prize is the largest award given for a book of fiction in the United States. Previous winners include Mary Gordon, George Saunders, Steven Millhauser, and Tobias Wolff.

The shortlist for the 2015 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award has been announced. Sponsored by Booktrust, Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, and the EFG Private Bank, the annual prize of £30,000 (approximately $46,000) is given for a short story by a writer who has been published in the United Kingdom or Ireland. The finalists will each receive £1,000 (approximately $1,535). The winner will be announced at an award ceremony in a London on April 24.

This year’s shortlisted stories are Rebecca F. John’s “The Glove Maker’s Numbers,” Yiyun Li’s “A Sheltered Woman,” Elizabeth McCracken’s “Hungry,” Paula Morris’s “False River,” Scott O’Connor’s “Interstellar Space,” and Madeleine Thien’s “The Wedding Cake.” Subscribers of the Sunday Times can read the finalists’ stories on the publication’s website.

Judge critic and broadcaster Alex Clark says that the six shortlisted stories “represent the variety, ambition and invention we encountered throughout the judging process—and they also reflect the continuing health and vitality of this wonderful form.” The prize’s cofounder and chief of judges Lord Matthew Evans says, “We have six brilliant but utterly different examples which showcase the best of the short story form—ambitious in imagination, global in scope, yet all packing an emotional punch that will stay with readers for a long time after they have finished reading.” Sir Richard Eyre, Aminatta Forna, Andrew Holgate, and Elif Shafak round out this year’s judging panel.

Established in 2009, the international prize aims to promote and celebrate the excellence of the modern short story. Previous winners include Kevin Barry, Junot Díaz, Anthony Doerr, Adam Johnson, and C. K. Stead. This is the first year in the prize's six-year history in which five out of the six finalists are women.

Photos, clockwise from top left: Yiyun Li, Paula Morris, Scott O’Connor, Elizabeth McCracken, Madeleine Thien, Rebecca F. John.

The winners of the 2015 Windham Campbell Prizes for Literature were announced at a press conference this morning at Yale University. The international awards, administered by Yale's Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, are given to English-language writers of fiction, nonfiction, and drama for a body of work or extraordinary promise. Each winner receives $150,000.

The 2015 winners are, in fiction: Teju Cole (U.S./Nigeria), Helon Habila (Nigeria), and Ivan Vladislavić (South Africa); in nonfiction: Edmund de Waal (U.K.), Geoff Dyer (U.K.), and John Jeremiah Sullivan (U.S.); and, in drama: Jackie Sibblies Drury (U.S.), Helen Edmundson (U.K), and Debbie Tucker Green (U.K). Read complete bios of each winner here.

The Windham Campbell Prizes were established in 2013 by Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell to call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns. There is no submission process, and winners are determined by an international group of invited nominators, a jury in each category, and an anonymous selection committee.

In September, the winners will gather from around the world at Yale for an international literary festival celebrating their work. All events are free and open to the public.

“The Windham Campbell Prizes were created by a writer to support other writers," said Michael Kelleher, director of the program. “Donald Windham recognized that the most significant gift he could give to another writer was time to write. In addition to the recognition prestige it confers, the prize gives them just that—with no strings attached."

Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library houses the Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell Papers. For more information about the awards and winners, visit windhamcampbell.org.

Photos: Teju Cole, Geoff Dyer, John Jeremiah Sullivan.

Submissions for the Black Earth Institute (BEI) 2015-2018 fellowships are currently being accepted until March 15. An organization dedicated to supporting artists who address social justice, environmental issues, and spirituality in their work, BEI will award six fellowships of $3,000 each, given over the course of three years, to emerging and established poets, fiction writers, creative nonfiction writers, and other artists.

Fellows will receive an annual $1,000 stipend to support a single, larger project such as a book, or several smaller projects that combine the “artist’s creative direction with the goals and values of BEI.” In addition to completing individual projects, fellows will edit an issue of BEI’s literary journal, About Place, which carries with it a separate $1,000 stipend, and participate in various panels and readings associated with the institute. Fellows are also expected to attend BEI’s annual retreat, which will be held October 8-11 in Black Earth, Wisconsin.

To apply, submit a letter of intent to blackearthinstitute@gmail.com. Upon acceptance of the letter, BEI will notify applicants and request a full interview. Complete submission guidelines can be found on Black Earth Institute’s website.

Founded in 2005 by author and professor Patricia Monaghan and physician and social activist Michael McDermott, the Black Earth Institute focuses on “re-forging the links between spirit, earth and society” through art and “bringing artists together to foment change.” Previous fellows have included LaTasha Diggs, Annie Finch, Roberta Hill, Tom Montgomery Fate, and John P. Briggs. Fellows have participated in panels at various art and environmental events, including the Split This Rock Poetry Festival, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference, and the Iowa State Wildness Conferences.

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