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G&A: The Contest Blog

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.

Two award announcements arrived recently with news that they would be the last for the respective prizes. Earlier this month Washington and Lee University's literary journal, Shenandoah, named Robin Ekiss, author of Mansion of Happiness (University of Georgia Press), winner of its Glasgow Prize for a debut poetry collection. However, due to budget cuts, the two-thousand-dollar award, which has been given since 2001, has been discontinued.

Quercus Review Press, which awarded its latest Poetry Series Book Award to Orlando poet Terry Godbey for her manuscript "Beauty Lessons," has also announced the suspension of its prize. The entire press, based at Modesto Junior College in California, is going on hiatus—a casualty of state budget cuts in the arts, according to editor Sam Pierstorff. The press will publish Godbey's collection, the seventh book in its award series, in the fall and will award her one thousand dollars along with fifty copies of her book.

In the video below, Ekiss reads the poem "The Opposite of the Body" from her winning collection. 

The results of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award competition, sponsored by the libraries of Dublin, were announced today. From a shortlist that included Marilynne Robinson and Joseph O'Neill, Gerbrand Bakker of the Netherlands was selected as winner of the one-hundred-thousand-euro prize (approximately $124,000), of which a quarter will go to his translator, David Colmer, for The Twin (Harvill Secker).

The judges, Anne Fine, Anatoly Kudryavitsky, Eve Patten, Abdourahman Waberi, and Zoë Wicomb, praised the "sparely written" novel for its narrator's "odd small cruelties, laconic humor and surprising tendernesses." The book is available in the United States from the small press Archipelago Books.

"It's wonderful," Bakker said after hearing news of the prize, the Guardian reported. "But for me it was also wonderful to read the book in English— I said to David, the translator, 'Who wrote this book?' I didn't recognize it; I thought it was very good. It made me realize it really is a book, and I am a writer."

Bakker, also a licensed gardener, reportedly has plans to buy a horse with his winnings. "In Holland we've got these huge grey horses that are very sweet and I would like to own one," he said. "I'm not a rider but I just love these big beasts. They're so kind. You
can lie on top of them every day for ten minutes, not ride them—and then feed them a carrot or ten."

[Correction: Gerbrand Bakker's country of residence was incorrectly stated in the original blog post. Bakker is a resident of the Netherlands.]

In recognition of Bloomsday and the author that inspired it, we're taking a look at a contest out of James Joyce's native Ireland that's seeking stories (though Joyce's Ulysses, celebrated all over the Western world today, is a far cry from the short form). The Munster Literature Centre, located in Joyce's ancestral hometown of Cork, is accepting entries for its eighth annual Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Competition until July 31.

The winning story writer will receive fifteen hundred euros (approximately $1,850) and publication in the Centre's journal, Southword, as well as an invitation to read at the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Festival in Cork this September. Writers of any nationality working in English are welcome to submit—while the majority of past prize recipients hail from Ireland, the two most recent winners are U.S. residents.

The contest is named for Seán Ó Faoláin (1900–1991), an Irish writer and admirer of Joyce known for his short stories, included in collections such as The Man Who Invented Sin (1949), A Purse of Coppers (1937), and Midsummer Night Madness (1932). Tania Hershman, author of The White Road and Other Stories (Salt Publishing, 2008), will judge.

In other award news from the Emerald Isle, the winner of the one-hundred-thousand-euro International IMPAC Dublin Literature Award will be announced tomorrow. The shortlist, which will be narrowed down by judges Anne Fine, Anatoly Kudryavitsky, Eve Patten, Abdourahman Waberi, and Zoë Wicomb, includes American Marilynne Robinson for her novel Home (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

The other shortlisted authors, all with books published in 2008, are:
Dutch author Gerbrand Bakker for The Twin (Harvill Secker)
Muriel Barbery of France for The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Europa Editions)
Robert Edric of Great Britain for In Zodiac Light (Doubleday)
German author Christoph Hein for Settlement (Metropolitan Books)
Zoë Heller of Great Britain for The Believers (Fig Tree)
Irish Author Joseph O’Neill for Netherland (Pantheon Books)
Ross Raisin of Great Britain for God’s Own Country (Viking)

Happy Bloomsday, and stay tuned for the IMPAC prize results. In the meantime, check out the video below, by Jim Clark, of an animated Joyce reading from Episode Seven of Ulysses.

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.] 

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