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G&A: The Contest Blog

The winner of the twenty-five-thousand-dollar Bellwether Prize for an unpublished novel manuscript has been announced. Barbara Kingsolver—author of novels including The Bean Trees (Harper & Row, 1988) and The Lacuna (Harper, 2009) and the locavore memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (HarperCollins, 2007)—has selected the manuscript "Running the Rift" by Naomi Benaron of Tucson as the recipient of the biennial award, which includes publication by Algonquin Books. Also judging were inaugural Bellwether winner Donna Gershten and Algonquin editor Kathy Pories.

Benaron's novel, according to Kingsolver, "engages the reader with complex political questions about ethnic animosity in Rwanda and so many other issues relevant to North American readers." The prize, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, is given to recognize a first work of literary fiction that speaks to social justice issues.

"In my writing," Benaron said in a press release, "what has always mattered most is to carry the human consequences of injustice to the reader’s heart and thus in some small way, bring healing." The author, whose pursuits beyond writing include orthopedic massage, seismology, and the Ironman Triathlon, also works with African refugees in her community and women writers in Afghanistan, through the Afghan Women's Writing Project online. 

The 2008 Bellwether Prize–winning novel, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow, was released last month, and the next competition will open in 2011.

Melville House, the New York City indie press, has launched its first book trailer contest and is currently accepting submissions. Awards will be given for best big-budget trailer—for books released by major houses or trailers with budgets over five hundred dollars—best low-budget trailer, best cameo in a trailer, best performance by an author, and the "least likely to sell the book" trailer. Finalists for the Moby Awards, named for the press's book blog MobyLives, will be feted on May 20 at the posh Griffin cocktail lounge in New York City, in the company of publishing professionals and "surprise celebrity guests."

"Yes, that’s right: We will judge you," reads today's post on MobyLives. "Well, we’ll judge your book trailers, which one might consider reflections of you (and your work), whether you’re an author, editor, agent, publicist—whoever!" Panelists Megan Halpern, a publicist; Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times blog Jacket Copy; Jason Boog of the blog GalleyCat; Troy Patterson of Slate; and Colin Robinson, publisher of OR Books, will select winners from among nominations—which can be made by anyone via a comment on the contest Web page—of videos produced between April 2009 and April 2010. A shortlist will be announced during awards week.

Also accepting entries to its book trailer contest for indie titles is ForeWord Reviews. The submission period closes at the end of this week.

The video below, promoting James Greer's novel The Failure (Akashic Books), is one of many trailers that have already been nominated for the Moby.

 

The Los Angeles Times announced on Friday the winners of its 2009 Book Awards. Brenda Hillman took the prize in poetry for Practical Water (Wesleyan University Press), Rafael Yglesias won in fiction for A Happy Marriage (Scribner), and Philipp Meyer won the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction for American Rust (Spiegel & Grau), while David Mazzucchelli received the inaugural award for a graphic novel for Asterios Polyp (Pantheon).

The judges of the graphic novel prize—the first major book award to honor the genre—called Mazzucchelli's book "a beautifully executed love story, a smart and playful treatise on aesthetics, a perfectly unified work whose every formal element, down to the stitching on its spine, serves its themes."

Hillman, an experimental poet who teaches at St. Mary's College of California, was cited for her "commitment to innovation and interiority…galvanized by the need to speak back to the stark realities of our situation."

Debut author Meyer was commended by the judges for the "deep compassion" with which he renders his novel's characters, residents of a deteriorating Pennsylvania steel town. Yglesias's novel was called "an ennobling picture of lives lived over decades, in sickness and health, brought vibrantly to life." 

Also receiving recognition for their literary endeavors were Dave Eggers and Evan S. Connell. Eggers, who was given the Innovator's Award for his work as a publisher and the founder of the youth organization 826 National, also the prize for current interest book for Zeitoun (McSweeney's Books), a work of narrative journalism centered on a married couple who survived Hurricane Katrina. Connell received the Robert Kirsch Award for his oeuvre as a writer living in the American West.

Inspired by a rumination on the New York Times Paper Cuts blog that asked whether a blog could ever rise to the level of literature, the literary magazine Creative Nonfiction is asking blog readers and writers to nominate "vibrant new voices with interesting, true stories to tell" for a special issue of the magazine. Specifically, the magazine is looking for entries of literary ("narrative, narrative, narrative") blog posts that were published between November 1, 2009, and March 31 of this year.

The winning essays will be published in the July 2010 issue of Creative Nonfiction and each author will receive a fifty-dollar reward for one-time reprint rights.

Can a blog post transcend the tendency of its kind toward, as Gregory Cowles of Paper Cuts puts it, being "too topical and too fleeting to count as literature"? The deadline for nominations of previously blogged essays—your own, a friend's, a stranger's—totaling no more than two thousand words each is Monday, April 26. More information is available on Creative Nonfiction's Web site.

Acclaimed novelist, memoirist, and short story writer John Edgar Wideman, who made news last month when he announced that his new book of short short stories would be released using the self-publishing outfit Lulu, recently launched a writing contest inspired by the collection, Briefs: Stories for the Palm of the Mind. The author, whose many honors include the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (which he won a history-making two times), a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, and the Rea Award for Excellence in the Short Story, is inviting entries of what he is calling "micro-stories" for possible inclusion in a special edition of his book.

Story entries should be no more than six hundred words, and should be submitted via e-mail to pr@lulu.com by May 1. Wideman will announce the winner, who will also receive a signed copy of the special edition including his or her story, on the Lulu blog on May 14.  

"The micro-fictions in my collection are about losing time, saving time, enduring time, fearing and escaping time," Wideman says in an essay that draws parallels between the short short form and the flow of a basketball game. He explains that the act of entering and soon after exiting a story—as if a time-out has been called in a game—allows the reader to "freeze, review, highlight the action. As if you can press a pause button and be released temporarily from the game’s intensity, from time." The complete essay is posted on the Lulu blog.

In the video below, actor Theron Cook reads the story "Bananas" from Briefs.

Ninety-year-old poet Eleanor Ross Taylor is this year's recipient of the one-hundred-thousand-dollar Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, given by the Poetry Foundation to recognize lifetime achievement. Taylor, who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, will be presented the award next month during the Poetry Foundation's Pegasus Awards ceremony at the Arts Club of Chicago.

The May issue of Poetry, published by the Poetry Foundation, will feature a portfolio of Taylor's poems, many of which were out of print before Captive Voices, a book of her selected poems, was published last year—a volume that was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her previous collections are Wilderness of Ladies (1960), Welcome Eumenides (1972), New and Selected Poems (1983), Days Going/Days Coming Back (1991), and Late Leisure (1999).

In an award citation, Poetry editor Christian Wiman noted the "spiritual largesse and…great inner liberty” of Taylor's poems. "We live in a time when poetic styles seem to become more antic and frantic by the day, and Taylor’s voice has been muted from the start," Wiman said. "Muted, not quiet." 

Previous winners of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize include Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Gerald Stern, Yusef Komunyakaa, current U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan, C. K. Williams, Lucille Clifton, and Fanny Howe.

Today the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation announced its 2010 U.S. and Canada fellows, including twenty-eight literary writers. The fellowship winners, who can only receive the award once, include J. Allyn Rosser, whose work takes on traditonal forms and experimental, and poet-documentarian Mark Nowak; recent Pulitzer Prize–winning debut novelist Paul Harding and David Rhodes, who published his latest novel, Driftless, in 2008 after thirty-three years without publication; and creative nonfiction writers Maggie Nelson, who has also published five poetry collections, and memoirist and travel writer Tom Bissell.

The poetry fellows are:
Joel Brouwer
Angie Estes
Kimiko Hahn
Barbara Hamby
Juan Felipe Herrera
Nathaniel Mackey
Mark Nowak
Patrick Phillips
J. Allyn Rosser
Richard Tillinghast

The fellows in fiction are:
Lorraine Adams
Ethan Canin
Anthony Doerr
Nell Freudenberger
Paul Harding
Victor LaValle
Colum McCann
Joseph O’Neill
David Rhodes
Christine Schutt
Salvatore Scibona
Monique Truong

The creative nonfiction fellows are:
Tom Bissell
Peter Godwin
Molly Haskell
Maggie Nelson
Peter Trachtenberg
Irene Vilar

The amount of each writer's grant varies, but the average given last year in literature was upwards of thirty-six thousand dollars. Midcareer North American writers who have "demonstrated exceptional creative ability in the arts" are invited to apply for the fellowships through September 15. 

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