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G&A: The Contest Blog

The Spanish Ministry of Culture announced recently that its Cervantes Prize, given annually to a Spanish or Latin American writer for lifetime achievement, will go to for the third time to a woman—Spanish novelist Ana María Matute. The eighty-five-year-old author of The Lost Children (MacMillan, 1965) and Soldiers Cry at Night (Latin American Literary Review Press, 1995) will receive her award of 125,000 euros (approximately $165,000) on the 395th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra on April 23, 2011.

"I am happy, enormously happy," Matute said in response to the announcement of her award. "I take it as a recognition, if not of the quality of my work, then at least of the effort and dedication that I have devoted to writing throughout my life."

Matute joins on the short list of women honorees Cuban-born poet Dulce María Loynaz, whose works have been collected in English translation most recently in Against Heaven (Carcanet Press, 2007) and Woman in Her Garden (White Pine Press, 2002), and Spanish essayist María Zambrano, one of whose books, Delirium and Destiny: A Spaniard in Her Twenties, was published in translation by State University of New York Press in 1999. Other past winners of the Cervantes Prize include Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Fuentes, José Emilio Pacheco, Octavio Paz, and this year's Nobel Prize winner, Mario Vargas Llosa.

Among Matute's works in English, in addition to the titles above, are Celebration in the Northwest (University of Nebraska Press, 1997), Trap (Latin American Literary Review Press, 1996), and School of the Sun (Pantheon, 1963). According to the Spanish Ministry of Culture, her books have been translated into twenty-three languages.

The first journal tailored exclusively to its eponymous form, Creative Nonfiction is holding a themed contest in anticipation of its Summer 2011 issue. Judged by New Yorker writer and author of The Orchid Thief (Random House, 1998) Susan Orlean, the competition is open to true stories concerning the night. (The contest Web page offers a few ideas: "It was a dark and stormy night; "Strangers in the Night"; the night sky; Friday Night Lights; things that go bump in the night; Take Back the Night; night owls; The Night Before Christmas; The Night Watch; In the Night Kitchen; The Armies of the Night; "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"; prom night; date night; Good Night, Nurse!")

The writer of the winning essay will receive five thousand dollars, and the winning piece will be published in the magazine. One runner up will receive $2,500 and online publication.

The prize is cosponsored by the Salt Institute, a Portland, Maine, a center for aspiring nonfiction story–telling writers, radio producers, and photographers that offers a range of classes to college and graduate students and awards a certificate in documentary studies (as well as transferable credits). Pending acceptance to the institute, the two top honorees in Creative Nonfiction's "Night" contest have to option to apply their awards funds directly to tuition at Salt.

To find details on how to submit your essay of up to four thousand words (with a twenty dollar entry fee), visit the Creative Nonfiction Web site. The deadline for entry is January 10, 2011.

In the video below, Orlean reveals a bit about her literary predilections—through her desert island book picks.

Along with its CreateSpace self-publishing platform and Penguin Group, Amazon once again will sponsor a prize for an unpublished or self-published novel. Works that have never been under contract and are written in English by authors in the United States and Canada (excluding the province of Québec), as well as twenty-one other countries, are eligible.

Past winners of the contest, which includes a fifteen-thousand-dollar prize and publication by Penguin, are Patricia McArdle for Farishta, James King for Bill Warrington's Last Chance, and Bill Loehfelm for Fresh Kills.

To enter, writers must first complete the free registration for CreateSpace. Then, between January 24 and February 6, 2011, the service will accept submissions of full novel manuscripts of 50,000 to 150,000 words each, along with an excerpt of and pitch for each work. There is no cost to submit, but once five thousand entries have been received, Amazon will close the contest.

Judging will take place in five rounds, commencing with Amazon editors reviewing pitch submissions. Titles whose pitches pass muster will advance, and excerpts of those works will be read by a selection of Amazon's customer reviewers. Reviewers for Publishers Weekly will then read the highest-rated 250 titles.

Fifty semifinalists will have their manuscripts assessed by editors at Penguin, and three finalists' works will advance to being read and reviewed by a group of literary professionals. This year's panelists are New York City author and book critic Lev Grossman, agent Jennifer Joel, and Putnam editor Marysue Rucci.

Finally, the public will have a chance to read the panelists' reviews and vote for a winner beginning in late May. The winner will be announced in June.

While entries for the novel contest (and the second-annual young adult novel contest) will not be accepted for another eight weeks, full guidelines and eligibility information are available now on the Amazon and CreateSpace Web sites.

The video below is a book trailer for King's winning book, which was published last August.

The Minnesota-based Bush Foundation, created in 1953 by Edyth Bassler Bush and 3M executive Archibald Granville Bush, announced last week that it will no longer administer its longstanding individual fellowship programs, including one targeted to artists. Instead of discipline-specific awards—grants had been offered specifically to artists, medical doctors, and nontraditional students—the organization will now run a single fellowship competition open to innovators of any stripe who are invested in social change in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

"We need 'all hands on deck,'" the foundation says on its Web site, "every social entrepreneur, business owner, artist, public sector employee, community volunteer, and the like—to embrace the opportunity to learn and grow so others in our communities can have the hoped for future." The foundation says it will focus on tackling "tough problems through building individual leadership capacity," particularly in schools and with Native American nations working to rebuild their governments.

Since it began in 1976, 431 artists from Minnesota and the Dakotas received funds from the fellowship program, including poets Robert Bly and David Mura and memoirist Patricia Hampl. Guidelines for fellowship application and information about the new initiative will be posted on the Bush Foundation Web site tomorrow.

In the video below, Bly reads his poem "Driving Through Minnesota During the Hanoi Bombings" in an excerpt from the 1978 documentary on the poet, "A Man Writes to Part of Himself." (The film was released the same year that Bly received his first Bush Foundation artist fellowship).

The John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Irish Book Awards were announced last week, both recognizing books by U.K. authors. In London, Orange Prize finalist Amy Sackville won the Rhys Prize, given for a work by a writer under thirty-five, for her novel, The Still Point (Portobello Books), and in Ireland, native Dubliner Emma Donoghue won the Novel of the Year prize at the Irish Book Awards for her best-selling novel Room (Picador, 2010) , which earlier this month took the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize in Canada and was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

The judges for the Rhys Prize, which awarded Sackville five thousand pounds (approximately $7,800), were critic Claire Allfree; Bidisha, who debuted on the literary scene at age sixteen with the novel Seahorses; and poet Maura Dooley.

Donoghue, whose book was shortlisted for Novel of the Year along with Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn (Scribner, 2009), Joseph O’Connor’s Ghost Light (Harville Secker, 2010), and Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin (Random House, 2009), was determined the winner of the Irish Book Award by public voting. Her novel received nearly thirty thousand nods.

In the video below, Donoghue discusses how she approached writing the child protagonist of her winning book.

The Hurston-Wright Foundation, established twenty years ago to promote and encourage writers of African descent, presented its 2010 Legacy Awards last week. Joining a list of Legacy alumni that includes Pulitzer Prize winners Junot Díaz and Edward P. Jones, MacArthur "Genius" fellow Edwidge Danticat, and Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist Uwem Akpan, are this year's winners, Rita Dove (also a Pulitzer winner) and Haki Madhubuti, who shared the poetry award, and fiction writer Percival Everett.

Dove received the honor for her collection Sonata Mulattica (Norton, 2009), inspired by the life of George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, the biracial violinist who in 1803 premiered Beethoven's "Kreutzer" sonata in Vienna with the composer's accompaniment on piano. The poet "is concerned equally with the status of musicians in a world of precarious patronage," according to a review in the New Yorker, "and with 'the radiant web' of music itself." (A poem from the collection is available on the New Yorker online.)

Madhubuti won for his collection Liberation Narratives: New and Collected Poems 1966–2009 (Third World Press, 2009). A pivotal figure in the Black Arts Movement, Madhubuti is the founder of Third World Press and established the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University, where he had also directed the MFA in creative writing program. He resigned from his work at the university earlier this year.

Everett was honored for his novel I Am Not Sidney Poitier (Graywolf Press, 2009), which follows a character named Not Sidney Poitier on what the Believer calls "journeys through the minefields of American expectation, ugliness, and absurdity" accompanied by "a cadre of beautifully sketched characters, including [Ted] Turner and a rotund professor of 'Nonsense Philosophy' named Percival Everett."

Nonfiction writer Robin D. G. Kelley also took home an award for his book Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (Free Press, 2009).

Each writer received a statuette and five hundred dollars, a prize amount that is revised yearly based on funds raised for the occasion (in the early years of the award, created in 2002, the purse was ten thousand dollars), and the authors were feted at a restaurant in Washington, D.C.

For poets interested in seeking a Web venue for their work, online journal Gemini Magazine, which holds annual competitions for short stories and flash fiction, is now accepting entries for its inaugural poetry prize. The winner, selected by editor David Bright, will receive one thousand dollars and publication in the February 2011 issue of Gemini.

Poets may submit as many poems as they wish, with an entry fee of five dollars for every three pieces sent (electronically or via snail mail). The deadline for entries is December 31.

Full competition guidelines are on Gemini's contest page, and the most recent issue is available on the magazine's front page. For more on the magazine's philosophy and aesthetic, check out two interviews with editor David Bright, on Essential Writers and Duotrope.

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