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G&A: The Contest Blog

Submissions are currently open for the Center for Fiction’s third annual Christopher Doheny Award, a $10,000 prize given for a book-length work of fiction or nonfiction on the topic of life-threatening physical illness. The winner of the prize “must demonstrate high literary standards while exploring the impact of illness on the patient, family and friends, and others.”

In addition to the cash prize, the winner will receive production and promotion of the book in an audio format from Audible, Inc., and assistance from Audible to pursue print publication. This year’s judging panel includes writer Charles Bock, previous Doheny Award–winners Michelle Bailat-Jones (2013) and Mike Scalise (2014), and two representatives of Audible.

Fiction and nonfiction writers who have previously published works in literary journals, or have published a book with an independent or traditional publisher, are eligible to apply. Using the online submission system, submit a previously unpublished manuscript along with a list of previous publications, a synopsis of up to two pages, and a one-paragraph bio by December 15. Submissions can be made via postal mail to the Christopher Doheny Award, Center for Fiction, 17 E. 47th Street, New York, NY 10017. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Supported by Audible, Inc., and the friends and family of Christopher Doheny, who died of cystic fibrosis in 2013, the Center for Fiction’s Christopher Doheny Award recognizes literary excellence “by a writer who has personally dealt or is dealing with life-threatening illness, either his or her own or that of a close relative or friend.”

Photo: Christopher Doheny

On Wednesday night in New York City, the winners of the 2015 National Book Awards were announced. The poetry award went to Robin Coste Lewis for her collection, Voyage of the Sable Venus (Knopf). Adam Johnson took home the fiction award for his story collection Fortune Smiles (Random House). Ta-Nehisi Coates won in nonfiction for Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau). Neal Shusterman won in young people’s literature for Challenger Deep (HarperCollins). Each winner receives $10,000.

Robin Coste Lewis is a Provost’s Fellow in poetry and visual studies at the University of Southern California, and a Cave Canem fellow. Voyage of the Sable Venus is her debut poetry collection, which questions the historical idea and role of the black female figure in America.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for the Atlantic and is the recipient of a 2015 MacArthur Genius grant. Between the World and Me is a meditation on race in America, written in the form of a letter to the author’s son. Coates dedicated his award to his friend Prince Jones, who was killed by a police officer in 2000. In his acceptance speech, Coates said, “I have waited fifteen years for this moment.”

Adam Johnson won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Orphan Master’s Son. He has received a Whiting Award and fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He teaches creative writing at Stanford University and lives in San Francisco. In his winning collection, Fortune Smiles, Johnson “delves deep into love and loss, natural disasters, the influence of technology, and how the political shapes the personal.”

Publishers submitted 1,428 books for review this year: 419 in fiction, 494 in nonfiction, 221 in poetry, and 294 in young people’s literature. The awards are given annually to American writers who published books in the previous year. The finalists each receive $1,000.

Novelist Don DeLillo received the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters for his lifetime contribution to American literature. Novelist Jennifer Egan introduced DeLillo, and said of his work, “He has an empath’s gift for capturing colloquial rhythm and speech…I’m so grateful to DeLillo for proving to my generation that fiction can still do anything it wants.” 

Meanwhile, James Patterson was presented with the Literarian Award for outstanding service in the American literary community. Patterson donated more than one million dollars in grants to independent bookstores last year, and has donated thousands of books to children and schools in need. Patterson said in his acceptance speech, “I feel compelled to help independent bookstores survive and prosper, and help school libraries any way that I can…let’s find a way to make sure there is another generation of readers out there.”

Read about the winners and finalists, and watch the full video from last night’s ceremony at the National Book Foundation website.

The National Book Foundation was founded in 1986 with the mission to “celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America.”

Submissions are currently open for ScreenCraft’s 2015 short story contest. A prize of $1,000 and a consultation with an Academy Award­–winning writer and a Hollywood literary manager will be given for a short story or novella with “special cinematic potential.” One second-place winner will receive $300 and a consultation with a literary manager, and ten finalists will receive publication on ScreenCraft’s website and will have their stories submitted to ScreenCraft’s network of literary magazines and publishing professionals.
ScreenCraftUsing the online submission system, submit an original short story or novella of up to twenty thousand words along with a $39 entry fee by December 5, or with a $49 entry fee between December 6 and the final deadline of December 19. For an additional $50, writers will receive professional feedback on their work. Writers over the age of eighteen, who have not earned more than $50,000 from professional writing services for film or television in the previous year, are eligible to apply. Multiple submissions are accepted. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

The judges are Emily Cooke, senior editor at Harper’s; Valerie Cates, executive story editor at Random House Films; Cheston Knapp, managing editor of Tin House; and Diana Ossana, Academy Award–winning screenwriter of Brokeback Mountain, which she adapted from a short story. Ossana notes that she is looking for “stories that resonate emotionally, in any direction. I’ll be looking for stories that move me, that are structurally sound, and that have compelling characters.”

Founded in 2012, ScreenCraft is an independent screenwriting consultancy “dedicated to helping screenwriters and filmmakers succeed.” ScreenCraft hosts regular live events in New York City and Los Angeles, a variety of annual screenplay and short story competitions, destination residencies, and an annual fellowship program.

The National Poetry Series has announced the winners of its annual Open Competition. Each of the five winning poets will receive $10,000 and publication in 2016 by a participating trade, university, or small press.

The 2015 winners are Justin Boening’s Not on the Last Day, But on the Very Last, selected by Wayne Miller, to be published by Milkweed Editions; Jennifer Kronovet’s The Wug Test, selected by Eliza Griswold, to be published by Ecco; Melissa Range’s Scriptorium, selected by Tracy K. Smith, to be published by Beacon Press; Danniel Schoonebeek’s Trébuchet, selected by Kevin Prufer, to be published by University of Georgia Press; and Joshua Bennett’s The Sobbing School, selected by Eugene Gloria, to be published by Penguin.

Established in 1978, the Princeton, New Jersey–based National Poetry Series is a nonprofit dedicated to “promot[ing] excellence in contemporary poetry” by publishing five poetry books annually through its Open Competition. Previous notable winners of the prize include Terrance Hayes, Adrian Matejka, Marie Howe, and Eleni Sikelianos.

In December 2013, the National Poetry Series was in danger of closure due to lack of funds, but has since been revived and has increased the monetary amount of its Open Competition awards from $1,000 to $10,000. For more information about the organization, visit the National Poetry Series website.

(Photos from left: Justin Boening, Jennifer Kronovet, Melissa Range, Danniell Schoonebeek, Joshua Bennet)

Jamaican writer Marlon James has won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings (Riverhead Books). James, who was announced the winner this evening at a ceremony in London, will receive £50,000 (approximately $76,000), and becomes the first Jamaican writer to receive the prize.

James, forty-four, is the author of two previous novels: John Crow’s Devil (Akashic Books, 2005) and The Book of Night Women (Riverhead Books, 2009). A Brief History of Seven Killings tells the story of the 1976 assassination attempt on famed reggae singer Bob Marley. The novel, which follows over a dozen different narrators, portrays the cultural and political climate in Jamaica at the time.

“The book is startling in its ranges of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to the Book of Revelation,” said chair of judges Michael Wood. “It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.”

Along with Wood, the panel of judges—Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith, and Frances Osborne—selected James from a shortlist of five other writers: Tom McCarthy of the United Kingdom for Satin Island (Knopf); Chigozie Obioma of Nigeria for The Fisherman (Little, Brown); Sunjeev Sahota of the United Kingdom for The Year of the Runaways (Knopf); Anne Tyler of the United States for A Spool of Blue Thread (Knopf); and Hanya Yanagihara of the United States for A Little Life (Doubleday). The shortlisted authors will each receive £2,500 (approximately $3,800).

In his acceptance speech at the London ceremony, James credited Bob Marley and reggae music as his inspiration, saying they were “the first to recognize that the voice coming out of our mouths was a legitimate voice for fiction and for poetry.” James also said, “We talk about diversity, and sometimes I think we just use that to kowtow to political correctness, but one of the things it reinforces is that there are so many ways to tell the English-language novel…this wonderfully malleable, wonderfully flexible language can be used in so many different ways.” James dedicated the prize to his late father.

First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is one of the literary world’s most prestigious awards for fiction. The prize, which was previously given only to writers from the United Kingdom, Ireland, or Zimbabwe, was expanded last year to include writers of any nationality writing in English, whose books have been published in the United Kingdom during previous year. Australian writer Richard Flanagan won the 2014 prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Belarusian author and investigative journalist Svetlana Alexievich has received the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature. The prize was announced today in Stockholm by Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, who called Alexievich’s writing “a monument to suffering and courage in our time.” 

Alexievich is the author of seven books, including Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster (Dalkey Archive Press, 2005), for which she interviewed more than five hundred eyewitnesses of the 1986 nuclear plant disaster in Ukraine—including firefighters, doctors, physicists, politicians, and citizens—over a period of ten years. The book was awarded the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction.

Her other works—such as 1988’s War’s Unwomanly Face, comprised of interviews with hundreds of women soldiers who fought in World War II—collect the memories of wartime, including the Soviet-Afghan war, the war in Afghanistan, and the fall of the Soviet Union, creating what Danius calls “a history of emotions—a history of the soul, if you wish.”

“By means of her extraordinary method—a carefully composed collage of human voices—Alexievich deepens our comprehension of an entire era,” the academy noted. “For the past thirty or forty years, she has been busy mapping the Soviet and post-Soviet individual. But it’s not really about a history of events…. What she’s offering us is really an emotional world.”

Alexievich was born in Stanislav, Ukraine, in 1948, and grew up in Belarus. She worked as a reporter for several local newspapers, a Belarusian carp fishing magazine, and a Minsk-based literary magazine before dedicating her work to oral histories. Persecuted by Lukashenko regime for the nature of her writing, Alexievich left Belarus in 2000 and lived under sanctuary for a decade in Paris, Gothenburg, and Berlin, before returning to Minsk in 2011.

She becomes the fourteenth woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature since it was first awarded in 1901. The last woman to win, Canada’s Alice Munro, received the award in 2013. French novelist Patrick Modiano won the 2014 prize. Alexievich will receive eight million Swedish kronor, or approximately $1.1 million.

Kirkus Reviews has announced the finalists for its second annual Kirkus Prize, given for books of fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature published in the previous year. The winners, who will be announced on October 15, will each receive $50,000.

The six finalists in fiction are: Susan Barker for her novel The Incarnations (Simon & Schuster, 2015); the late Lucia Berlin for her short story collection A Manual for Cleaning Women (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015); Lauren Groff for her novel Fates and Furies (Riverhead, 2015); Valeria Luiselli for her novel The Story of My Teeth (Coffee House Press, 2015) translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney; Jim Shepard for his novel The Book of Akron  (Knopf, 2015); and Hanya Yanagihara for her novel A Little Life (Doubleday, 2015). This year’s fiction judges are Megan Labrise, Nicole Magistro, and Colson Whitehead.

The six finalists in nonfiction are: Ta-Nehisi Coates for Between the World and Me: Notes on the First 150 Years in America (Spiegel & Grau, 2015); John Ferling for Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War that Won It (Bloomsbury, 2015); Helen Macdonald for H Is for Hawk (Grove Books, 2015); Adam Tooze for The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916–1931 (Viking, 2014); Simon Winchester for Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers (HarperCollins, 2015); and Andrea Wulf for The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World (Knopf, 2015). The nonfiction judges are Meghan Daum, Marie du Vaure, and Clayton Moore.

Books published in the previous year that received a Kirkus Star review were eligible. The editors of Kirkus Reviews estimate their reviewers cover eight to ten thousand books every year and give 10 percent of those books a Kirkus Star. Established last year to celebrate the eightieth anniversary of Kirkus Reviews, the inaugural Kirkus Prize was given to Lily King for her novel Euphoria (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2014) and Roz Chast for her graphic memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (Bloomsbury).

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