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G&A: The Contest Blog

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Fiction writers with at least one child under the age of ten are invited to submit unpublished works of short fiction from today until April 17.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:

Yesterday the Los Angeles Times announced the finalists for the 2009 Book Awards in poetry and fiction, among other genres. The winners, who will each receive a five hundred dollar honorarium, will be announced on April 23, just prior to the weekend-long Times Festival of Books.

The finalists in poetry are:
Gabrielle Calvocoressi for Apocalyptic Swing (Persea Books)
Amy Gerstler for Dearest Creature (Penguin Poets)
Tom Healy for What the Right Hand Knows (Four Way Books)
Brenda Hillman for Practical Water (Wesleyan University Press)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon for }Open Interval{, (University of Pittsburgh Press)

The finalists in fiction, all for novels, are:
Jill Ciment for Heroic Measures (Pantheon)
Jane Gardam for The Man in the Wooden Hat (Europa Editions)
Michelle Huneven for Blame (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Kate Walbert for A Short History of Women (Scribner)
Rafael Yglesias for A Happy Marriage (Scribner)

The finalists for the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, named for the Times editor and founder of the Book Awards, are:
Petina Gappah for the story collection An Elegy for Easterly (Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Paul Harding for his novel Tinkers (Bellevue Literary Press)
Philipp Meyer for his novel American Rust (Spiegel & Grau)
Daniyal Mueenuddin for his story collection In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (W.W. Norton & Co.)
Wells Tower for his story collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
(Mueenuddin and Tower also are both in the running for the twenty-thousand-dollar Story Prize, along with Victoria Patterson for Drift. The winner will be announced next week.)

Three judges in each category, none of whom are employed by the Times, select the Book Awards finalists and winners, and there is no external submission process. The winners of two additional literary honors to be distributed at the April ceremony, the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement among writers of the American West—given this year to Evan S. Connell—and the new Innovator's Award, which will go to Dave Eggers, are determined by an internal panel of Times staff.

We asked Ander Monson, editor of the literary journal DIAGRAM and judge of the magazine's 2010 Innovative Fiction Contest, to weigh in on what he'll be looking for in the submission pile. The competition, which awards one thousand dollars and publication in DIAGRAM, is open to stories of up to ten thousand words until March 8.

Monson says that he usually reads all of the submissions that come in, along with DIAGRAM fiction editors Sarah Blackman and Lauren Slaughter, and then the finalists go on to an outside judge, but this year he'll also make the ultimate pick. Read on for his take on the selection process, beginning with the evaluation of every entry—at least twice.

"We never know what we're looking for in the contest until we see it. Each year we get different stories told in different ways, and the decisions are extremely difficult, and we don't often agree. Almost always, interestingly, my own personal favorites in years past have coincided with the [final] judges' picks, so I think we're on the same page. And this year we are more obviously on the same page.

"As a reader I value a real sense of language textures in a story. Sometimes that manifests itself as an idiosyncratic voice, or in idiosyncratic forms—which for this reader are always welcome. But I also want story—I want to be moved, to be riveted.

"What I want is what I think we all want every time we read stories: We want to be enraptured and entertained. We call it the Innovative Fiction Prize because as an online and, more than occasionally, new media journal, DIAGRAM tries to publish stories that take more risks. So I'd say that what we want is either 1) something really and actually new; or else 2) something old, but told/written/created in such a way that it subverts our expectations of what we think a story can be, and yet it delivers the things that great stories deliver: mystery, beauty, terror, depth, a sense of a living and fully-realized consciousness, revelation, movement, hilarity, even shock, so it reads as new.

"I absolutely want my expectations subverted, and then rewarded with something strange and wonderful. I/we want to be surprised. We don't know how stories are being told, how they are going to be told in the future. Maybe with interactivity. Maybe with images. Maybe via code. Who knows. But we would very much like to see and be shown. Which is why we award the prize, to encourage and reward the most interesting stories/fictions we can find. Because we know there are plenty of somebodies out there writing them, and we want them to think of DIAGRAM as a place for interesting and innovative art. Which I think it is."

DIAGRAM's Chapbook Contest is also under way, open to manuscript submissions of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or multi-genre work. Check out the guidelines for that contest and more in our Grants & Awards database.

Sonora Review and Sycamore Review have both pushed the deadlines for their annual story competitions. Sonora's Short Short Story Contest will accept flash fiction of up to one thousand words until May 1. Sycamore Review's Wabash Prize for Fiction is open for story submissions of up to ten thousand words each until March 8.

The awards each offer a prize of one thousand dollars and publication in the sponsoring journal. The entry fees are also identical—fifteen dollars, which includes a copy of the magazine.

The Sonora Review short short judge will be Baltimore native Joe Wenderoth, author of three poetry collections as well as Letters to Wendy's (Verse Press, 2000), a fiction collection comprised of comment cards to the American fast food giant, and the essay collection The Holy Spirit Of Life: Essays Written For John Ashcroft’s Secret Self (Wave Books, 2005). A sample of Wenderoth's prose, the story "The Peephole," is available on the Guernica magazine Web site.

Britain-born Peter Ho Davies will judge Sycamore's contest. His works include the novel The Welsh Girl (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007) and the short story collections Equal Love (Granta Books, 2001) and The Ugliest House in the World (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). The author's Web site features selections of his short fiction and "outtakes" from his novel.

In the video below, Wenderoth—very subtly—performs an excerpt from Letters to Wendy's.

Leading up to the announcement of the National Book Critics Circle Award winners on March 11, the NBCC is rolling out a series of book reviews on their Critical Mass blog. Every day, the NBCC will post a reviewer's brief response to one of the shortlisted books, including Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, Museum of Accidents by Rachel Zucker, Chronic by D. A. Powell, and Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips, reviews for which have already been posted.

Reviews of poetry, fiction, and autobiography will be interspersed with selections from the biography, nonfiction, and criticism categories. Two biographies of literary luminaries are among the current posts, Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey and Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor by Brad Gooch.

More information about the awards, including an explanation of the selection process executed by board members (some of whom have posted reviews), is available on the NBCC Web site.

In the video below, D. A. Powell reads from Chronic

Mark Doty has selected San Francisco poet Melissa Stein as winner of the 2010 Honickman First Book Prize from the American Poetry Review (APR). Stein's debut collection, Rough Honey, will be published by APR and distributed by Copper Canyon Press, and she will receive three thousand dollars.

Some of Stein's poems, which have appeared in journals such as New England Review, Seneca Review, and the Journal, appear on the Web site of her Bay Area writing workshop, Thirteen Ways.

Past winners of the APR/Honickman award are:
2009 Laura McKee for Uttermost Paradise Place selected by Claudia Keelan
2008 Matthew Dickman for All-American Poem selected by Tony Hoagland
2007 Gregory Pardlo for Totem selected by Brenda Hillman
2006 David Roderick for Blue Colonial selected by Robert Pinsky
2005 Geoff Bouvier for Living Room selected by Heather McHugh
2004 Kevin Ducey for Rhinoceros selected by Yusef Komunyakaa
2003 James McCorkle for Evidences selected by Jorie Graham
2002 Kathleen Ossip for The Search Engine selected by Derek Walcott
2001 Ed Pavlic for Paraph of Bone & Other Kinds of Blue selected by Adrienne Rich
2000 Anne Marie Macari for Ivory Cradle selected by Robert Creeley
1999 Dana Levin for In The Surgical Theater selected by Louise Glück
1998 Joshua Beckman for Things Are Happening selected by Gerald Stern

The next deadline for poets who have not published books to submit manuscripts is October 31.

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