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G&A: The Contest Blog

A host of literary honors were announced at the close of last week, including the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award, two world-spanning book prizes, and an award for Canadian fiction.

Last Thursday, Rae Armantrout took the NBCC prize in poetry for Versed (Wesleyan University Press), and Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel won for her novel Wolf Hall (Holt). Diana Athill's Somewhere Towards the End (Norton) won the prize in autobiography.

The international literature resource Three Percent, housed at the University of Rochester, awarded its Best Translated Book Award last week at Idlewild Books in New York City. The winner in poetry was Elena Fanailova's The Russian Version (Ugly Duckling Presse), translated from the Russian by Genya Turovskaya and Stephanie Sandle. Gail Hareven's The Confessions of Noa Weber (Melville House), translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu, won in fiction. Three Percent gives the award to honor international books of poetry and fiction published in the United States during the previous year.

After a week of debates broadcast by Canada's Radio One, Montreal author Nicolas Dickner's novel Nikolski beat out four other titles to win the Canadian Broadcasting Company's Canada Reads competition. His book, translated from the French by Lazer Lederhendler, will be released in a U.S. trade paperback edition in May by Trumpeter Books.

Eight writers from nations of the British Commonwealth received regional book awards from the Commonwealth Foundation. The four regions represented are Africa, the Carribean and Canada, South Asia and Europe, and Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

The winners for debut books are Adaobi Tricia Nwaubeni of Nigeria for I Do Not Come to You by Chance (Hyperion); Shandi Mitchell of Canada for Under This Unbroken Sky (Harper); Daniyal Mueenuddin from Pakistan for In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (Norton); and Glenda Guest from Australia for Siddon Rock (Random House). Marié Heese of South Africa won Best Book for The Double Crown (Human & Rousseau); Michael Crummey of Canada won for Galore (Doubleday Canada); Rana Dasgupta of the United Kingdom won for Solo (Fourth Estate); and Albert Wendt of Samoa won for The Adventures of Vela (Huia). The winning debut titles from this round will go on to compete for a five-thousand-pound prize, and the "Best Book" honorees have the opportunity to win a ten-thousand-pound award, announced on April 12.

The Asian American Writers' Workshop (AAWW) in New York City is teaming up with San Francisco–based Hyphen magazine to present a short story contest for writers of Asian descent. Fiction writers living in the United States and Canada are eligible for the one-thousand-dollar prize, which also includes publication in Hyphen, a nonprofit news and culture magazine that seeks to "go beyond celebrity interviews and essays about discovering our roots, which we found a long time ago, thank-you-very-much" and offer "a more complex representation of Asian America."

The contest winner will also receive one-year of membership in the AAWW. The AAWW's members are offered discounts on event fees and books, a vote in the Members' Choice Workshop Award given annually to published writers, and access to other opportunities, including fellowships.

Writers may enter their stories, novellas, or novel excerpts that could be published as stand-alone pieces by March 31. Since its launch in 2007, the contest has reportedly received about two hundred entries per year. More details are on the Hyphen Web site.

In the video below, inaugural Asian American Short Story Prize winner Preeta Samarasan reads from her debut novel, Evening is the Whole Day.

The Vermont Studio Center (VSC) in Johnson announced recently that it would award monthlong residencies to writers and artists from Haiti. Supported by the center's Fund for Displaced Artists, which also offered retreats to New Orleans artists in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and New Yorkers displaced after the September 11 attacks, the two McGarrell Awards include room and board and a studio at the center, as well as a stipend for travel and materials.

The award is named for artist Flo McGarrell, the son of VSC visiting artist James McGarrell, who died in Haiti during the recent earthquake while he was working in a downtown Jacmel art center where he also taught.

Applications and nominations for the awards may be sent to the VSC via e-mail, and more information can be obtained by calling the center at (802) 635-2727. The recipients will be announced no later than July 1.

Patti LuPone, the Juilliard-trained actress and singer who is known for creating lead roles in Les Miserables and Sunset Boulevard, is holding a contest to determine the title of her forthcoming memoir. LuPone, who has also made her mark in performances of Evita, Gypsy, and Sweeney Todd, among many other productions in the United States and abroad, writes on her Web site, "Dolls, I've been busy writing the story of my theatrical life and need your help to find a suitable and fabulous title."

Not a Broadway baby? Perhaps you could cull title inspiration from one of LuPone's film roles, in movies such as Spike Lee's Summer of Sam or David Mamet's State and Main, or one of her many television appearances, which include a handful of spots on PBS's Great Performances series.

The winner will receive a copy of the book autographed by the actress, two tickets to her next show on Broadway or in a performance closer to the winner's home, and a personal congratulations from LuPone backstage. The deadline for submissions, which can be made on the Web site, is March 30.

In the video below, LuPone sings "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" from her eponymous role in Evita.

 

Debut author Daniyal Mueenuddin received the twenty-thousand-dollar Story Prize last night at a ceremony in New York City. Mueenuddin, honored for his collection of linked stories, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, was revealed as winner after a lively evening of readings and onstage conversations featuring fellow finalists Victoria Patterson and Wells Tower.

"I've been accused of being too dark," Mueenuddin told prize presenter Larry Dark, who engaged each writer in an interview after their respective readings and asked Mueenuddin about the often tragic demise of some of his characters. "But that's sort of the way I see it," the author added. Mueenuddin's book investigates life in his native Pakistan (he was also raised in Massachusetts) through the lenses of individuals in different stations, from an electrician to a woman servant to a farm manager, a position the author himself occupies today. He described himself as being in the profession of identifying characters, both in his writing and in his business at home. 

Tower and Patterson also offered insight into their writing lives and process of generating narratives. Patterson, a finalist for her collection of linked stories, Drift, described her motives as being perhaps "angry, and maybe not so pure" when creating characters based on real and imagined residents of her hometown of Newport Beach, located in often-stereotyped Orange County, California.

Tower, a dedicated reviser who was nominated for Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, said he likes the story form because "you get to make more mistakes more rapidly," so the story is "a great laboratory." He also described his futile attempts during graduate school—he attended Columbia University's MFA program in the early 2000s—to "crack the code" of the short story, citing some revealing advice he received from the late Barry Hannah concerning  "the secret" to writing a great story: "Get in and get out."

When the prize was announced, Mueenuddin took the stage to dedicate the award to his mother, writer Barbara Thompson Davis, who passed away last November, and whom he honored for teaching him "that becoming a writer was a legitimate thing to do."

In the Poets & Writers video below, Mueenuddin takes a crack at the question of "the secret" to the great story:

 

Pen Parentis, a young, New York City–based organization whose mission is to provide resources to writers who have children, is offering its first contest for a writing fellowship. The organization will award an emerging fiction writer one thousand dollars and promote his or her work on the Pen Parentis Web site.

The winner will give a reading in New York City at the September 14 gathering of the organization's free monthly reading series featuring writer parents. Novelist—and mother—Jennifer Egan is scheduled to read alongside the inaugural fellow. Egan is the author of the story collection Emerald City (Nan A. Talese, 1996) and four novels including The Keep (Knopf, 2006) and A Visit from the Goon Squad, forthcoming from Knopf in June.

Fiction writers with at least one child under the age of ten are invited to submit unpublished works of short fiction from today until April 17. Each submission must total no more than twelve hundred words and should be accompanied by a fifteen-dollar entry fee.

There is no residency requirement for entrants, but the winner must be able to provide his or her own travel to and accommodations in New York City to be present for the reading in September. More information about the award is available on the Pen Parentis Web site.

On the occasion of the its 125th anniversary, the Boston Pops has announced a (short and snappy) writing competition, awarding a trip to attend the orchestra's nationally broadcast July 4 concert this summer. Each entry should explain—or make a more creative argument, perhaps—why the widely-recorded orchestra founded by Civil War veteran Henry Lee Higginson should send the writer and family to the Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular on the Charles River Esplanade.

The winner and three companions will receive a three-day trip to Boston and event admission, including an opportunity to meet conductor Keith Lockhart, who has expanded the Pops oeuvre to include collaborations with pop and indie musicians, after the show.

Submissions, due May 15, can be made on the Boston Pops Web site, via the orchestra's Twitter and Facebook pages, and by text message. The only guidelines are that each submission must be 125 characters or fewer, and only one entry may be submitted. The winner will be selected on May 22.

In the video below, Lockhart offers a bit of Pops history while announcing the other events celebrating the anniversary season:

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