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G&A: The Contest Blog

Hitting the road this weekend? If you're writing about your journey by car, bike, or foot, the travel Web site Trazzler is running a contest that might be up your alley (or street, or highway). The site, a hub for brief pieces covering the nuances of destinations around the world, is looking for short short essays about "the in-between places, quirky attractions, scenic drives, irresistible pit stops, natural oases, sleepy forgotten towns, places of pilgrimage, roadside enigmas, monuments, crossroads," and other places of pause on the road.

The On the Road writing contest winner, selected by the site's editors, will receive a five-thousand-dollar contract to write twenty more short pieces about trips for Trazzler as well as fifteen nights in Fairmount Hotels, which have locations in North and Central America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Runners up for the editorial prize and the people's choice honorees will also receive hotel vouchers. People's choice winners will be determined by Trazzler users who save trip stories to their accounts with the site.

To enter, submit a travel essay of no more than 160 words by August 31. There is no entry fee. Visit the Trazzler Web site for guidelines.

For a bit of off-the-beaten-path inspiration, check out the video below, in which travel writer Rolf Potts, author of the essay collection Marco Polo Didn't Go There and the guide Vagabonding, takes a break on the road to shop for homemade fireworks in El Salvador.

This year's winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, given annually for a short story by an African writer published in English, was announced earlier this week. Olufemi Terry, born in Sierra Leone and now living in Cape Town, South Africa, won the ten-thousand-pound prize (approximately fifteen thousand dollars) for "Stickfighting Days," which appeared in the South African journal Chimurenga. The writer, who is currently working on a novel, was honored at a ceremony at the Bodleian Library in England, home country of the award named for the late Booker Prize chair Michael Caine.

Terry's work was recognized by the prize committee once before and included in the eighth annual Caine Prize collection, Jambula Tree and Other Stories
(New Internationalist, 2008). As part of this year's honor, in addition to the monetary prize, he will
receive a monthlong residency at Georgetown University in Washington,
D.C., during February 2011.

Also shortlisted this year were Ken Barris for "The Life of Worm" and Alex Smith for "Soulmates," both stories from New Writing From Africa 2009 (Johnson and King James Books); Lily Mabura for "How Shall We Kill the Bishop" from the Spring 2008 issue of London-based Wasafiri; and Namwali Serpell for "Muzungu" from The Best American Short Stories 2009 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

The judges were Ellah Allfrey of Granta, University of East Anglia professor Jon Cook, Georgetown University professor Samantha Pinto, and Economist literary editor Fiammetta Rocco.

First for some good news. Danielle Cadena Deulen, whose name has appeared in our Grants & Awards pages a few times in recent years has won the Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize from the University of Arkansas Press. Lovely Asunder, which will be the debut poetry collection of the University of Utah PhD candidate, was selected by Enid Shomer for publication. Deulen will also receive a prize of five thousand dollars.

What this year's winner won't receive is the trip to Fayetteville to give a reading, with most expenses paid, that once came with the award. Due to budget cuts affecting the University of Arkansas MFA program, the annual spring festival that had played host to the winners' performances has been canceled. The press anticipates that the reading will be reinstated as part of the prize at some future point, but it's too early to tell when.

Back to the bright side: This year's competition also recognized one finalist, Stephen Gibson, for his manuscript "Paradise." Gibson also recently won the Idaho Prize for Poetry from Lost Horse Press for his collection Frescoes.

Earlier this week the Australian Publishers Association celebrated its favorite books of last year, with honorees including a pop rocker and a classical musician. The book award for a debut title went to pianist Anna Goldsworthy, who performs solo and in the Seraphim Trio, for her memoir, Piano Lessons (Black Inc.). Novelist and indie singer and songwriter Craig Silvey won both the Australian Book of the Year award and the prize in literary fiction for his second novel, Jasper Jones (Allen & Unwin).

Both books are available in the United States as e-book editions for Amazon's Kindle, and Goldsworthy's memoir is forthcoming in October from St. Martin's Press.

For the Book of the Year honor, Silvey's novel was up against Australian literary luminary David Malouf's novel Ransom (Random House Australia) and Peter Temple's literary crime novel Truth (Text Publishing), along with a biography of horse racing legend Bart Cummings and a history of Australia by Thomas Keneally.

Malouf's book also appeared with Silvey's on the shortlist for literary fiction, joining novels Dog Boy by Eva Hornung (Text Publishing), The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy (Scribe Publications), and Lovesong by Alex Miller (Allen & Unwin).

In debuts, the shortlist included the novels Siddon Rock by Glenda Guest (Random House Australia), Red Dust by Fleur McDonald (Allen & Unwin), and The Weight of Silence by Catherine Therese (Hachette Australia).

The video below is the trailer for Silvey's winning book, which has been compared to classic coming-of-age novels like To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn.

Birdsong Collective and Micropress, an indie literary outfit based in Brooklyn, New York, is now accepting submissions for its winter 2010 poetry and prose competition. There's no entry fee and the prize is fifty dollars, publication in Issue 14 of birdsong, and a featured spot in a mid-December reading in New York City (the reading is "an integral part of birdsong’s publication process," so entrants should make sure they'd be able to attend in the event of a win).

The members of the collective, headed up by editor in chief Tommy Pico, aren't simply producing zines and holding readings for literature's sake, but share an interest in furthering "social movements of feminism, anti-racism, queer positivity, class-consciousness, and DIY cultural production," according a statement on their Web site. For more on the collective's ethos, take a look at their blog.

To enter the contest, poets may submit up to three poems and prose writers may send a story or essay of up to fifteen hundred words. Entries (one per writer) are accepted via e-mail only, but before you submit, check out the full guidelines on the Birdsong Collective Web site. The deadline is October 10.

In the video below, Pico reads his work at the New School University's Nuclear Poetry series.

Former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize–winner Ted Kooser has been named the inaugural recipient of the Hall-Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. The five-thousand-dollar award, named for the late poet Jane Kenyon and her widower, the New Hampshire poet Donald Hall, is given by the New Hampshire Writers' Project and the Concord Monitor to honor a poet's contribution to the art.

Kooser, whose most recent book of poems is Valentines (University of Nebraska Press, 2008), was selected to receive the prize by poet Wesley McNair. "He's a miniaturist in American poetry," McNair said, also recognizing Kooser as a poet of place working in the vein of Hall and Kenyon. "He creates small poems that include large worlds."

The seventy-one-year-old poet will receive his award at a reading at New Hampshire's Concord City Auditorium in October. In the video below, Kooser reads a poem at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in 2008. 

The third annual Desmond Elliott Prize, given for a first novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom, was awarded yesterday. British author Ali Shaw received the ten-thousand-pound prize (approximately fifteen thousand dollars) for his novel, The Girl With Glass Feet, published by Atlantic Books in the United Kingdom and Henry Holt in the United States.

The judges—author Elizabeth Buchan, bookseller James Daunt, and Observer editor William Skidelsky—praised Shaw's book, a hybrid work of myth and realism, for its "exploration of frozen landscapes, both interior and exterior" and "precisely detailed and articulated fantasy." The author, whose influences include the Italian fabulist fiction writer Italo Calvino and Franz Kafka (specifically The Metamorphosis), spent five years writing the book, centered on a woman who is turning, feet first, to glass. 

Also on the shortlist for this year's award were Before the Earthquake (Tindal Street Press) by Maria Allen and Talk of the Town (Picador) by Jacob Polley.

The prize, given in past years to Edward Hogan for Blackmoor (Simon & Schuster) and Nikita Lalwani for Gifted (Penguin), is named for the late literary agent and publisher Desmond Elliott whose wish it was to have his estate establish an award to "enrich the careers of new writers." In September, the submission period for the prize will open for books published between April 2010 and April 2011.

The video below was posted on Shaw's blog under "Strange and Beautiful Things," a piece illuminating of the author's aesthetic that we couldn't help but share. Shaw reports an affinity for fantastical animals—images of his drawings of unicorn mice and winged livestock, some of which make appearances in his novel, are posted on his Web site—and told the Oxford Reporter that he hoped his book would be "a conversation of images." 

Firekites - AUTUMN STORY - chalk animation from Lucinda Schreiber on Vimeo.

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