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G&A: The Contest Blog

The Center for Fiction in New York City announced its shortlist for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize (formerly known as simply the First Novel Prize). The honorees include three small press authors, one of whom was later published by a major house after a prize nomination led to increased demand.

That writer is Karl Marlantes, nominated for Matterhorn (Grove/Atlantic), which was initially acquired by editor Tom Farber at El León Literary Arts, a small outfit in Berkeley, California. "This huge book couldn't at first find an agent or a publisher," journalist Leah Garchik wrote of the novel in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Farber recognized its power. Take heart, writers."

The other finalists for the Center for Fiction's ten-thousand-dollar award are:

Michelle Hoover, a descendant of generations of farming families, for The Quickening (Other Press). She now teaches at Boston University and the Boston literary center Grub Street.

Jessica Francis Kane of New York City for The Report (Graywolf Press), which follows her debut story collection, Bending Heaven (Counterpoint, 2002).

Ethiopian-born Maaza Mengiste, a graduate of the MFA program at New York University, for Beneath the Lion's Gaze, published by Norton. In 2007 she was named a "Literary Idol" by New York Magazine's readers.

Julie Orringer for The Invisible Bridge, her follow-up to her debut story collection, How to Breathe Underwater, both published by Knopf. She is an Iowa Writers' Workshop alumna and a former Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford.

Drew Perry of North Carolina, who has also published poetry, for This Is Exactly Like You (Viking).

Nashville (via New York City) writer Adam Ross for Mr. Peanut (Knopf). Ross received his MFA from Washington University.

The winner will be announced by last year's winner, John Pipkin, on December 6 at a ceremony in New York City. Each runner up will receive, for the first time in the prize's history, a one-thousand-dollar award.

In the video below, Marlantes discusses the urgency to write his novel, a project he worked on for thirty years. (Also on YouTube: Hoover reveals the historical materials, photographs and a journal, that inspired her book.)

When the New Yorker's Book Bench blog reported last month on the H. G. Wells Short Story Contest, the Britain-based competition hadn't received a single entry. At least not for the one-thousand-pound main prize (about fifteen hundred dollars) open to writers twenty-five and younger—a second competition offering a quarter of that amount had received a number of submissions.

Book Bench blogger Eileen Reynolds illuminated a few reasons why young writers' story flow could have been so low—quirky rules that required entries to be handwritten ("because that is considered an important aspect of literacy") and asked writers to avoid employing elements of Wellsian science fiction, focusing rather on an alternative topic, "what life is like for ordinary people, working or retired." Or it could have been that potential entrants were simply unaware of the contest.

Whatever the reason, there are a few more days for writers in Britain and beyond to submit (anyone is eligible, per the entry form, though the target is university and secondary school students from Kent)—the deadline has been extended to August 15. Prize administrator Reg Turnill also opened the competition to science fiction and will accept typed entries, though, according to Kent News, handwritten entries will be given "extra marks."

The prizes will be awarded at the second annual H. G. Wells Festival in Folkestone, on the coast of Kent, taking place in September. The late author's great grandson, Dominic Wells, will present the awards.

A preview for one film adaptation of Wells's 1895 novella, The Time Machine, a work that "stimulated the imagination of mankind" and feature elements of both nineteenth-century ordinary life and the futuristic fantastical, is below.

The literary festival named for the late author and playwright is holding its first poetry contest in honor of Tennessee Williams, whose verse New Directions founder James "Jay" Laughlin once wrote has a "way of getting right into the marrow of life" in contrast to the younger American "decorator" poets he witnessed being published the 1950s. (Laughlin was Williams's publisher of choice since before his first collection, In the Winter of Cities, was released in 1956.)

The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival will host the winner of the poetry contest as a VIP, along with the fiction and one-act play competition winners. All will give readings at the twenty-fifth anniversary event to be held in New Orleans next March in conjunction with Williams's one-hundredth birthday. The winner will also receive one thousand dollars and publication in Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine.

Writers who have not published a poetry collection have until August 15 to enter the contest with two to four poems (plus a twenty-dollar entry fee). Complete guidelines and more about the event are available on the festival Web site. (Prose writers take note: The fiction contest deadline is November 15.)

Two writers recently received laurels, including a cash prize and the promise of publication of their respective books, from University of Nebraska Press, but two runners up were missing from this year's roll of winners. Due to budget constraints, the Prairie Schooner Book Prizes (named for the university's literary journal) were awarded to only first-place authors this year, poet James Crews and fiction writer Greg Hrbek, each of whom won three thousand dollars.

Crews, who has an MFA from University of Wisconsin in Madison and has seen poems published in Prairie Schooner in the past, won for his first collection, The Book of What Stays. He has been a student at Portland, Oregon's the Attic writing center and, according to a shout-out on their Web site, also volunteers for AmeriCorps.

Hrbek won for his short story collection Destroy All Monsters, which follows his debut book, the novel The Hindenburg Crashes Nightly (William Morrow, 1999). He earned his MFA at University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and is a writer-in-residence at Skidmore College in Sarasota Springs, New York.

According to managing editor James Engelhardt, the press will reinstitute its two one-thousand-dollar runner-up prizes, which were given last year to poet Nicole Cooley and fiction writer Garth Risk Hallberg (the winners were Shane Book and Ted Gilley), as soon as the economy permits. More details about the awards, now in their ninth year, are available on the University of Nebraska Press Web site.

The Poetry Foundation has revealed the twenty-nine finalists for its five coveted Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship awards. The winners of the fifteen-thousand-dollar prizes, given annually to support poets between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one in their writing and study of poetry, will be announced by September 1.

Out of a reported eleven-hundred entrants, the finalists are:
Justin Boening
Julie Brown
Lily Brown
Kara Candito
George David Clark
Brooklyn Copeland
Tarfia Faizullah
Patrick Ryan Frank
Andrew Grace
Miriam Bird Greenberg
Chelsea Jennings
Paul Killebrew
Nate Klug
Laura Koritz
Brandon Kreitler
Dora Malech
Jamaal May
Amanda Nadelberg
Kathryn Nuerenberger
Idra Novey
Brittany Perham
Cherry Pickman
Frances Justine Post
Courtney Queeney
Margaret Reges
Christopher Robinson
Sarah Schweig
Christopher Shannon
Will Tyler

In the video below, finalist Idra Novey reads from her debut collection The Next Country, published by Alice James Books in 2008 as part of the Kinereth Gensler Award.

The Arvon Poetry Prize, established thirty years ago by poet and husband of Sylvia Plath Ted Hughes, is now accepting entries. Until August 16, poets from around the world are invited to submit poems (with a seven-pound fee per piece) for the seventy-five-hundred-pound prize (a little less than twelve hundred dollars) sponsored by the British writing organization the Arvon Foundation.

Second- and third-place prizes of twenty-five hundred pounds and one thousand pounds, respectively, will also be given. Winners will be individually notified by October 1, and an announcement will be made in London on November 4.

The judges will be U.K. poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who last year launched the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry won by Alice Oswald; Elaine Feinstein, poet, translator, and Hughes biographer whose first collection, The Circle (Faber Finds, 1970), was a semifinalist for the Lost Man Booker Prize; and Sudeep Sen, whose most recent collection is Letters of Glass (Wings Press, 2010).

For a list of previous winners (including former U.K. poet laureate Andrew Motion) and complete guidelines are available on the Arvon Foundation Web site.

In the video below, judge Duffy's poem "Mrs. Midas" is adapted in animation. The text of the poem is also available on the Web.

The semifinalists for the Man Booker Prize, which annually awards fifty thousand pounds (approximately seventy-eight thousand dollars) to a novelist writing in English, were announced yesterday. Thirteen writers from Australia, Canada, Ireland, England, Scotland, and South Africa are included in the 2010 longlist, selected by judges Rosie Blau, Financial Times literary editor; writer and dancer Deborah Bull; former U.K. poet laureate Andrew Motion; Independent columnist Tom Sutcliffe; and biographer and book reviewer Frances Wilson.

The semifinalists, whose novels were all published in U.K. editions in 2010 are:
Peter Carey for Parrot and Olivier in America (Faber and Faber)
Emma Donoghue for Room (Picador)
Helen Dunmore for The Betrayal (Fig Tree)
Damon Galgut for In a Strange Room (Atlantic Books)
Howard Jacobson for The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)
Andrea Levy for The Long Song 
(Headline Review)
Tom McCarthy for C (Jonathan Cape)
David Mitchell for The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet  (Sceptre)
Lisa Moore for February (House of Anansi Press)
Paul Murray for Skippy Dies (Hamish Hamilton)
Rose Tremain for Trespass (Chatto & Windus)
Christos Tsiolkas for The Slap (Tuskar Rock)
Alan Warner for The Stars in the Bright Sky 
(Jonathan Cape)

The shortlist will be announced on September 7, and the winner will be named on October 12. More information about the longlisted books is available on the prize Web site.

In the video below, semifinalist Levy introduces and reads from The Long Song.

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