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G&A: The Contest Blog

Twenty-two books published four decades ago have made the longlist for the Lost Man Booker Prize. The third celebratory prize in the history of the Bookers—following the twenty-fifth anniversary Booker of Bookers and the fortieth anniversary Best of the Booker—will recognize a novel by a U.K. writer published in 1970, the year before the award guidelines changed their scope and made many just-released titles ineligible for prize consideration.

From the longlist, poet Tobias Hill, broadcaster Katie Derham, and journalist Rachel Cooke—all born in or around 1970—will select a shortlist of six titles, which will be announced in March. A public vote will then determine the winning book.

The semifinalists and their novels, available most recently from the publishers noted below, are:
The Hand Reared Boy (Souvenir Press) by Brian Aldiss
A Little Of What You Fancy? (Penguin) by H. E. Bates
The Birds on The Trees (Virago Press) by Nina Bawden
A Place in England (Sceptre) by Lord Melvyn Bragg
Down All The Days (Vintage) by Christy Brown
Bomber (HarperCollins) by Len Deighton
Troubles (Phoenix) by J. G. Farrell
The Circle (Faber Finds) by Elaine Feinstein
The Bay of Noon (Virago Press) by Shirley Hazzard
A Clubbable Woman (HarperCollins) by Reginald Hill
I'm the King of the Castle (Penguin) by Susan Hill
A Domestic Animal (Faber Finds) by Francis King
The Fire Dwellers (Virago Press) by Margaret Laurence
Out of the Shelter (Penguin) by David Lodge
A Fairly Honourable Defeat (Vintage) by Iris Murdoch
Fireflies (Penguin) by Shiva Naipaul
Master and Commander (HarperCollins) by Patrick O'Brian
Head to Toe (Methuen Publishing) by Joe Orton
Fire From Heaven (Arrow Books) by Mary Renault
A Guilty Thing Surprised (Arrow Books) by Ruth Rendell
The Driver's Seat (Penguin Classics) by Muriel Spark
The Vivisector (Vintage) by Patrick White

Potomac Review, the literary magazine of Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, will accept submissions to its biennial poetry contest until Monday, February 1. Submissions of up to three poems totaling no more than five pages can be made this weekend online, though the entry fee of twenty dollars must be sent via mail.

The winning poet, announced on February 15, will receive one thousand dollars and publication of her winning work in Potomac Review. All entries will be considered for publication in the print magazine and on the journal's Web site.

So, where does that entry fee go? Why does the journal run contests at all (the poetry prize rotates annually with one in fiction)? Information about the inner workings of Potomac Review is available on the journal's blog, where a member of the editorial staff makes a case for holding contests. Here are a few key bits from that post:

"Contests are a way for us to prove to our funding source that we can make money. We use them to give back the money they provide for printing, mailing, and staff support." 

"I personally like the anonymous nature of contests. Anybody, published or unpublished, can win. My associate editors like the absence of cover letters. Several have told me it frees them to read with an open mind."

"So I realize that everybody is offering a contest, but I think poets and writers should give it a shot. Take a chance and support your favorite magazines. If you were ever going to subscribe to us, why not submit a few poems and roll the dice."

The Queen Sofía Spanish Institute in New York City has awarded Edith Grossman—translator of works by Miguel de Cervantes, Gabriel García Márques, and Mario Vargas Llosa, among other Latin American and Spanish authors—its first ever translation prize. Grossman will receive the inaugural ten-thousand-dollar prize in honor of A Manuscript of Ashes (Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt, 2008), her translation of Antonio Muñoz Molina's 1986 novel Beatus Ille.

The 2010 award set out to recognize an English-language fiction translation published between 2006 and 2008 by a U.S. publisher and written in Castilian by a Spanish author. The next prize is expected to be awarded in 2012, and then again in 2015.

Prior to presentation of the prize on February 2, the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute will host a conversation between Grossman and Muñoz Molina at 6 PM. Information is available on the organization's Web site.

In the video below, Grossman discusses the importance of the translator at an event sponsored by Words Without Borders. Several other videos from this presentation are also posted on YouTube.

For the third year, Amazon has launched its competition for the next popular novel. The winning author, selected by Amazon users, will have her book published by Penguin and receive an advance of fifteen thousand dollars.

The contest, which this year also includes a second category for young adult fiction, will close on February 7, or once five thousand entries have been received, whichever comes first.

Manuscripts will be screened by editors from Amazon and Penguin as well as reviewers from Publishers Weekly and Amazon, according to the prize Web site. A shortlist of three novels will be issued by author Tana French, Viking Books editorial director and executive editor Molly Stern, and agent Julie Barer, and in late May Amazon users will vote to select the winner, announced on June 14.

Last year's winner was James King for Bill Warrington's Last Chance, and the inaugural winner was Bill Loehfelm for Fresh Kills. Four of last year's finalists will also receive publication—a recent development for the competition. Amazon announced today that its imprint AmazonEncore will release Andrew Fukuda's Crossing, Francine Thomas Howard's Page From a Tennessee Journal, Steffan Piper's Greyhound, and Paul Reid's A Cruel Harvest. The titles will be available in the spring.

In the video below, Amazon reviewer Megan Bostic presents her take on King's winning book.

After a year in which must-read book lists notoriously shut out the talented ranks of female authors, the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) has named four women poets, four women fiction writers, and four women memoirists finalists for its 2010 awards. In conjunction with the shortlists announcement last Saturday, Joyce Carol Oates was honored with the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award and New Yorker book and dance critic Joan Acocella received the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

The finalists for the NBCC award in poetry are:
Rae Armantrout for Versed (Wesleyan)
Louise Glück for A Village Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
D. A. Powell for Chronic (Graywolf Press)
Eleanor Ross Taylor for Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems, 1960-2008 (Louisiana State University Press)
Rachel Zucker for Museum of Accidents (Wave Books)

In fiction, the finalists are:
Bonnie Jo Campbell for her story collection American Salvage (Wayne State University Press)
Marlon James for his novel The Book of Night Women (Riverhead)
Michelle Huneven for her novel Blame (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Hilary Mantel for her novel Wolf Hall (Holt), which took the Booker Prize last year
Jayne Anne Phillips for her novel Lark and Termite (Knopf)

In autobiography, the finalists are:
Diana Athill for Somewhere Towards the End (Norton)
Debra Gwartney for Live Through This: A Mother's Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Mary Karr for Lit (Harper)
Kati Marton for Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America (Simon & Schuster)
Edmund White for City Boy (Bloomsbury)

The shortlisted authors will give a reading in New York City on March 10. They'll be joined by finalists in biography, criticism, and general nonfiction, a group that includes William T. Vollman, nominated for his nonfiction book Imperial (Viking); David Hajdu, a finalist in criticism for Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture (Da Capo Press); and Martha A. Sandweiss, nominated in biography for Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line (Penguin Press). The winners will be announced on March 11.

Fiction writer Eugene Cross is the recipient of the third annual Dzanc Prize, given by Dzanc Books to facilitate the completion of a novel or story collection and support a writer in realizing plans to serve his community. Cross, whose submission rose to the top of over one hundred entries, will receive half of his five-thousand-dollar prize next month and the other half once he has completed his proposed service project.

In his hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, Cross plans to run three four-month creative workshops for refugees from Nepal, Sudan, and Bhutan who are learning English as a second language. He also anticipates completing a short story collection titled "Fires of Our Choosing."

"Eugene's writing has that perfect blend of modernism and classic storytelling, is at once humorous and sexy, intelligent and provocative, and is at the same time composed and controlled," Dzanc publisher Steven Gillis said in a press release. "We were also very much moved by Eugene's service program. With all that is going on in the world, and in particular as the devastation in Haiti is front page news, we found Eugene's desire to work with refugees in the telling of their stories a wonderful and timely idea." 

Cross, an MFA alum from the University of Pittsburgh, teaches English and creative writing at Penn State in Erie. His stories have appeared in Hobart, Narrative Magazine, the Pinch, and Third Coast, among other journals.

The Library of Congress announced today that U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan has selected two emerging poets as recipients of the thirteenth annual Witter Bynner Fellowships. Jill McDonough and Atsuro Riley will each be awarded $7,500 and will both give a reading next month in Washington, D.C.

McDonough, who hails from Boston, and Riley, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, will each also organize readings in their respective hometowns as part of the fellowship. The two poets—both Pushcart Prize winners who have seen their work published in established journals such as Poetry and Threepenny Review—are each authors of a single collection. McDonough's debut, Habeas Corpus (Salt Publishing, 2008), is a sonnet series on the theme of real-life executions whose "histories of injectings, hangings, and burnings wind up not sensational but mysterious," Ryan says. In April, the University of Chicago Press will release Riley's first book, Romey's Order—interlocking poems evocative of the poet's South Carolina Lowcountry heritage that, according to Ryan, "play equally over the skin and the mind."

There is no application process for the fellowships, which are awarded using funds from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry to support poets in their practice. Previous winners, selected each year by the current poet laureate, are:
1998 Carol Muske-Dukes and Carl Phillips
1999 David Gewanter, Heather McHugh, and Campbell McGrath
2000 Naomi Shihab Nye and Joshua Weiner (all seven chosen by Robert Pinsky)
2001 Tory Dent and Nick Flynn (chosen by Stanley Kunitz)
2002 George Bilgere and Katia Kapovich
2003 Major Jackson and Rebecca Wee (all four chosen by Billy Collins)
2004 Dana Levin and Spencer Reece (chosen by Louise Glück)
2005 Claudia Emerson and Martin Walls
2006 Joseph Stroud and Connie Wanek (all four chosen by Ted Kooser)
2007 Laurie Lamon and David Tucker (chosen by Donald Hall)
2008 Matthew Thorburn and Monica Youn (chosen by Charles Simic)
2009 Christina Davis and Mary Szybist (chosen by Kay Ryan)

For information about the free, public reading in Washington, D.C., which will take place at the library's James Madison Building at 6:45 PM on February 18, visit the Library of Congress Web site.

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