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G&A: The Contest Blog

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.

The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction, named for the late Canadian nonfiction writer, was awarded last night to Ian Brown for his memoir The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for His Disabled Son (Random House Canada). Brown, an award-winning journalist who contributes to the Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail, received forty thousand dollars to honor his book about life with his son, who suffers from Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, an extremely rare condition.

Three finalists, all authors of biographies, each received a prize of two thousand dollars. They are John English for Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1968–2000 (Knopf Canada); Daniel Poliquin for René Lévesque (Penguin Canada); and Kenneth Whyte for The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst (Random House Canada). The judges were nonfiction writer Andrew Cohen, 2009 Charles Taylor Prize winner Tim Cook, and translator Sheila Fischman.

The annual prize is given to promote works of literary nonfiction by Canadian writers with a distinct style and command of language. According to the prize Web site, "Charles Taylor believed that a well-read and well-informed public contributes to a thriving democracy" and "that excellence in style is the basis for communication in thought." The next deadline for publishers to submit books is April 15.

In the video below, Brown talks about his winning book. 

The Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Project, a memorial foundation honoring the late poet Lexi Rudnitsky, is once again teaming with New York City indie press Persea Books to hold a poetry book prize. Like the five-year-old prize for a first book, the new Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor's Choice Award offers publication of a poetry collection and one thousand dollars, but this prize will be given to a U.S. poet who has published at least one full-length book of poetry in an edition of over five hundred copies.

The winning poet will also receive a two- to four-week residency at the Anderson Center artist retreat in Red Wing, Minnesota. The length of the stay is up to the winner, but "the center loves it when residents come for the full month," says Persea's poetry editor and contest judge Gabriel Fried.

When asked what he is looking for in a submission, Fried said, "I really don't have a pre-articulated sense of what sort of poetry will win, except that it should be unforgettable, striking in the ways it accomplishes what it sets out to do….I honestly don't feel predisposed toward a particular poetics, just toward the realization of poetic ambition."

Fried will select the winner with the help of an advisory committee from the Poetry Project, and the announcement will be made in April.

Finishing Line Press has extended the deadline of its New Women's Voices Chapbook Competition. Women poets who have not published a book-length collection now have until February 28 to submit manuscripts of up to twenty-six pages.

The winner will receive one thousand dollars and publication of her chapbook. Contest judge Leah Maines, the press's senior editor and author of the first book in the New Women's Voices series, Looking to the East With Western Eyes, will also select ten finalists for publication. 

Last year's winner was University of Wisconsin literature professor Cherene Sherrard for Mistress, Reclining, forthcoming in April. A list of all past winners' and finalists' books released as part of the New Women's Voices series—seventy-six chapbooks in all—is posted on the Finishing Line Press Web site

 

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