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G&A: The Contest Blog

Earlier this week, Virginia author Barbara Kingsolver took home the fifteenth annual Orange Prize for Fiction, a thirty-thousand-pound award (nearly forty-four thousand dollars) given to a woman writer of any nationality for a novel written in English. Kingsolver's winning book, The Lacuna (Harper), was up against American Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs (Knopf) and Wolf Hall (Holt) by Hilary Mantel of England, who won the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for her historical novel.

This is the second year in a row in which an American has received the Orange Prize—last year Marilynne Robinson won the award for Home (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008).

Zimbabwean author Irene Sabatini won this year's Orange Award for New Writers for her debut novel The Boy Next Door (Sceptre), rising to the top of a shortlist that included U.K. writers Jane Borodale for The Book of Fires (Harper Press) and Evie Wyld for After the Fire, a Still Small Voice (Jonathan Cape). Sabatini received ten thousand pounds (approximately $14,500).

In the United Kingdom, where the prize's sponsor, Orange Broadband, is based, Kingsolver's novel (in paperback) leapt to the top spot on U.K. Amazon best-seller list in contemporary fiction, and is currently at number six in books overall, with a rise of 835 percent the night after the award announcement, according to the Guardian. Meanwhile, on the American retail site, the book (in hardcover—a paperback edition won't be released until August) weighs in at number seventy in the contemporary category and ranks in the mid-hundreds in general. This may be a slight disparity given the sheer number of books available on Amazon, but a curious one nonetheless.

How do literary awards inform your interest in a book? Are you more likely to purchase a title that comes with a prize committee's imprimatur? Would a book recognized by a local or national prize be more likely to be in your shopping basket? Leave a comment and let us know what you think about the Orange Prize and literature's other big awards.

In the video below, prize judge Daisy Goodwin discusses Kingsolver's Mexican Revolution-era book, which calls out the lacunae, or gaps, in history.

The Vilcek Foundation, which recognizes the work of international artists and scientists living in the United States, is accepting submissions for its first twenty-five-thousand-dollar literature award. The New York City–based foundation, established by a scientist and an art historian who both emigrated from the former Czechoslovakia, will also award four finalist prizes of five thousand dollars each.

The awards will be extended to writers who were born outside of the United States and are currently naturalized citizens or permanent residents pursuing a career in the country. There is an age limit for entrants— in order to be eligible, writers must not be older than thirty-eight as of December 31.

Entries, accepted only online and due on July 30, should include up to thirty pages of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. Details about what else to submit are available on the foundation's Web site

[Correction: The eligibility guidelines stated in the June 10, 2010, blog post omitted one group of U.S. residents that may apply for the prize. Both naturalized citizens and permanent residents (green card holders) are eligible for the award.] 

Kundiman, the Asian American poets organization, announced the winner of its first annual book prize this weekend. Janine Oshiro, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop now teaching in Hawaii, won the two-thousand-dollar award for her manuscript "Pier," which will be published by Alice James Books. Oshiro, who has participated in Kundiman's annual writing retreat, will also be featured in a reading in New York City, where the organization is based.

The finalists for the prize, which was open to published and unpublished Asian American poets living in the United States, are Serena Chopra, April Naoko Heck, Kirun Kapur, Caroline Kim-Brown, Michelle Young-Mee Rhee, Ira Sukrungruang, R. A. Villanueva, Shawn Wen, and Lynn Xu.

Information about next year's prize will be available this fall in our Grants & Awards database, and on the Kundiman Web site.

Two women poets whose works "open the lock of language" and act as "X-rays of our delusions and mistaken perceptions" were honored last night as winners of the Griffin Poetry Prize. Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin of Ireland won the international prize for her collection The Sun-fish and Toronto poet Karen Solie took the Canadian prize for Pigeon (House of Anansi Press).

They each received sixty-five thousand dollars in addition to ten thousand dollars awarded for giving a reading the night prior to the ceremony, during which Adrienne Rich was celebrated with a Lifetime Recognition Award.

Their books were selected by judges Anne Carson, Kathleen Jamie, and Carl Phillips from a shortlist that included John Glenday (Grain), Louise Glück (A Village Life), Kate Hall (The Certainty Dream), the late P. K. Page (Coal and Roses), and Susan Wicks (translation of Valérie Rouzeau's Cold Spring in Winter). Each shortlisted writer received a prize of ten thousand dollars.

"Among the greatest of Solie’s talents, evident throughout the poems of Pigeon," the judges remarked in their citation for the poet, "is an ability to see at once into and through our daily struggle, often thwarted by our very selves, toward something like an honorable life."

"We are in a shifting realm, both real and otherworldly," the judges said of Chuilleanáin's book. "The effect of her impressionistic style is like watching a photograph as it develops."

In the video below, Chuilleanáin reads a poem from The Sun-fish, "The Witch in the Wardrobe," which the judges noted for its "startling imagery" of "a ‘fluent pantry’, where ‘the silk scarves came flying at her face like a car wash.'"

Shakespeare and Company, the famously bohemian Paris bookstore established ninety-one years ago, recently announced its founding of a novella competition open exclusively to unpublished writers. Entries have not yet opened for the biennial award, which includes a prize of ten thousand euros (approximately twelve thousand dollars), but writers can stay tuned to this blog or the bookstore's Web site for the latest.

Guidelines will be posted on Shakespeare and Company's Web site on June 20, the final day of the annual literary festival based at the store, which has since 1951 made its home on Paris's Left Bank. What we already know about the rules: Manuscripts should be twenty-thousand to thirty-thousand words, there will be a fee to enter, and the deadline for the initial submission period will be December 1.

The contest announcement comes on the heels of the bookstore's launch of Paris Magazine, a new embodiment of the sporadically published journal created by the bookstore's owner, George Whitman. The nonagenarian American literary advocate performed his own act of reincarnation when he opened the current Shakespeare and Company ten years after Sylvia Beach's original store was shuttered during World War II. The first issue of the new magazine, edited by Fatema Ahmed, formerly of Granta, features works by international talent including stories by French-Senegalese author Marie NDiaye and emerging American fiction writer Jesse Ball, and a translation of Apollinaire by Whitman's friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

The North Carolina Humanities Council recently announced a call for submissions to its Linda Flowers Literary Award competition. A prize of five hundred dollars and a residency at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities will be awarded to a writer—state residency is not required—for a work of poetry or prose that relates to the people and cultures of North Carolina.

The award is given in honor of Linda Flowers, a member of the council who authored the nonfiction book Throwed Away: Failures of Progress in Eastern North Carolina (University of Tennessee Press, 1993), which draws on her personal experiences with economic travesties occurring in rural regions of her home state. "We want to celebrate excellence in the humanities achieved by people like her," the council says on its Web site, emphasizing that it will be seeking out writers "who not only identify with our state, but who explore the promises, the problems, the experiences, the meanings in lives that have been shaped by North Carolina and its many cultures."

The deadline for submissions is August 15. For more information about the award, writers can visit the Web site or e-mail the council.

Among other organizations offering state grants this summer is Literary Arts, based in Portland, Oregon, which supports the state's writers with fellowships of $2,500 (women writers whose work touches on themes of race, class, physical disability, or sexual orientation are also eligible for a special award). The deadline for submissions is June 25.

Maryland authors who have published or will publish a book in 2010 can submit titles for Towson University's Prize for Literature until June 15, and Washington State writers can enter their work for a grant from Seattle-based Artist Trust until June 25.

In the video below, North Carolina poet laureate Cathy Smith Bowers reads a poem from her most recent book, The Candle I Hold Up to See You (Iris Press, 2009), touching on the private, metaphorical language taught her by her mother.

 

In preparation for a season of tribute to late Beatles front man John Lennon, who was born seventy years ago and died thirty years ago this fall, the Beatles Story museum in Liverpool, England, is hosting a poetry competition. Along with a performance poetry contest, the museum is inviting entries for an international "paper poet" competition of works touching on the life of Lennon.

While there's no cash prize, poems by the winner and finalists will be considered for publication in an anthology. The honorees will also be invited (though expenses aren't covered) to an awards ceremony in Liverpool on November 6, held in conjunction with the poetry slam.

U.K. poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy will judge the competition. "From his earliest lyrics, John Lennon displayed a poet's sensitivity to language," Duffy said of the musician who named among his influences James Joyce, Lewis Carroll, and Oscar Wilde and authored a whimsical book of verse and prose, In His Own Write. "I'm delighted to judge this competition, which honors a famous son of a wonderful city...vibrant with language and poetry."

Poems of up to forty lines can be submitted via e-mail, with entries closing on September 10. There is no entry fee, but writers may submit only once. More information about the contest is available on the Beatles Story Web site.

In the video below, the Beatles perform "I Am the Walrus," with lyrics by Lennon, who was purportedly inspired by Carroll's poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter" and perhaps even Joyce's Finnegan's Wake when writing the song.

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