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G&A: The Contest Blog

The Hurston-Wright Foundation, established twenty years ago to promote and encourage writers of African descent, presented its 2010 Legacy Awards last week. Joining a list of Legacy alumni that includes Pulitzer Prize winners Junot Díaz and Edward P. Jones, MacArthur "Genius" fellow Edwidge Danticat, and Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist Uwem Akpan, are this year's winners, Rita Dove (also a Pulitzer winner) and Haki Madhubuti, who shared the poetry award, and fiction writer Percival Everett.

Dove received the honor for her collection Sonata Mulattica (Norton, 2009), inspired by the life of George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, the biracial violinist who in 1803 premiered Beethoven's "Kreutzer" sonata in Vienna with the composer's accompaniment on piano. The poet "is concerned equally with the status of musicians in a world of precarious patronage," according to a review in the New Yorker, "and with 'the radiant web' of music itself." (A poem from the collection is available on the New Yorker online.)

Madhubuti won for his collection Liberation Narratives: New and Collected Poems 1966–2009 (Third World Press, 2009). A pivotal figure in the Black Arts Movement, Madhubuti is the founder of Third World Press and established the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University, where he had also directed the MFA in creative writing program. He resigned from his work at the university earlier this year.

Everett was honored for his novel I Am Not Sidney Poitier (Graywolf Press, 2009), which follows a character named Not Sidney Poitier on what the Believer calls "journeys through the minefields of American expectation, ugliness, and absurdity" accompanied by "a cadre of beautifully sketched characters, including [Ted] Turner and a rotund professor of 'Nonsense Philosophy' named Percival Everett."

Nonfiction writer Robin D. G. Kelley also took home an award for his book Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (Free Press, 2009).

Each writer received a statuette and five hundred dollars, a prize amount that is revised yearly based on funds raised for the occasion (in the early years of the award, created in 2002, the purse was ten thousand dollars), and the authors were feted at a restaurant in Washington, D.C.

For poets interested in seeking a Web venue for their work, online journal Gemini Magazine, which holds annual competitions for short stories and flash fiction, is now accepting entries for its inaugural poetry prize. The winner, selected by editor David Bright, will receive one thousand dollars and publication in the February 2011 issue of Gemini.

Poets may submit as many poems as they wish, with an entry fee of five dollars for every three pieces sent (electronically or via snail mail). The deadline for entries is December 31.

Full competition guidelines are on Gemini's contest page, and the most recent issue is available on the magazine's front page. For more on the magazine's philosophy and aesthetic, check out two interviews with editor David Bright, on Essential Writers and Duotrope.

The winners of the National Book Award, including a punk rocker, a poet influenced by music and memory, and a dark horse indie press author, were announced last night at a ceremony in New York City. Terrance Hayes won in poetry for Lighthead (Penguin); Jaimy Gordon won in fiction for her horseracing novel, Lord of Misrule, published by independent publisher McPherson; and Patti Smith won in nonfiction for Just Kids (Ecco), a memoir of her life as a young songwriter in New York City and her friendship with the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

This year's judges were Rae Armantrout, Cornelius Eady, Linda Gregerson, Jeffrey McDaniel, Brenda Shaughnessy in poetry; Andrei Codrescu, Samuel R. Delany, Sabina Murray, Joanna Scott, Carolyn See in fiction; and Blake Bailey, Marjorie Garber, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Seth Lerer, Sallie Tisdale in nonfiction.

Each winner received ten thousand dollars, and the finalists in each category, including poet C. D. Wright, novelist Nicole Krauss, and nonfiction writer Megan K. Stack, each received one thousand dollars.

In the video below, Smith reads from her winning book and performs her classic song, "Because the Night."

From Henry James to A. S. Byatt, literary authors have long conjured spirits from beyond the grave, and as the weather cools and the shadows grow longer, the Daily Telegraph is honoring the form of the ghost story with a writing contest. Until Saturday, November 20, the British newspaper will accept short story entries, and on December 11 will publish the winning story along with illustrations.

"To be any good, a ghost story needs a structure, characters, a narrative line—dialogue is optional," says judge Susan Hill, author of literary novels such as The Beacon (Chatto and Windus, 2008) as well as crime fiction and ghost stories, most recently The Small Hand (Chatto and Windus, 2010). "Above all, the ghost must have a purpose. It may be revenge for harm suffered. It may be to explain some past incident. It may be to protest, to offer information—the whereabouts or contents of a will, a murdered body or the identity of a killer."

The Telegraph's Lorna Bradbury and Andrew Franklin of Profile Books will also judge. Their shortlist will be announced on December 4, and the finalists' stories will appear on the Telegraph's Web site on that date.

Stories should be no longer than two thousand words may be e-mailed or sent via postal mail to the Telegraph's offices. Full guidelines appear at the end of Hill's article on literary ghost stories on the Telegraph's Web site.

In the video below, Hill's The Small Hand is introduced in an eerie book trailer.

Aspinwall, Pennsylvania-based Black Lawrence Press, an imprint of Dzanc Books and sponsor of two contests for poetry and short story collections, has just launched a novel publication prize. The Big Moose Prize, open for entries now, will award one thousand dollars and publication of the winning book, and finalists will also be considered for publication.

While this is the first novel contest for Black Lawrence, the press has released a number of novels, including Todos Santos (2010) by Deborah Clearman, The Consequence of Skating (2010) and Temporary People (2008) by Dzanc publisher Steven Gillis, Every Bitter Thing (2010) by Hardy Jones, Dead Letter Office (2009) by Daniel Natal, and Christopher Torockio's Floating Holidays (2007). All of the press's books are trade paperbacks, perfect-bound, and with the option of a color cover.

Submissions are accepted via e-mail only, and the twenty-five-dollar entry fee must be paid using PayPal. The deadline is January 31, 2011. Complete guidelines are posted on the Black Lawrence Web site.

In the video below, Clearman discusses her process for writing her debut novel.

The Library of Congress announced the winner of its 2010 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, given for a collection published during the past two years. The ten-thousand-dollar prize went to Washington State poet and MacArthur "Genius" fellow Lucia Perillo for her fifth book of poetry, Inseminating the Elephant (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.

Perillo is the third woman to be given the honor, along with Louise Glück and Alice Fulton. Among the other past winners of the biennial prize, given since 1990, are Frank Bidart, Bob Hicok, James Merrill, and Franz Wright.

For readers living in Washington, D.C., Perillo will give a free reading on December 13 at the Library of Congress's James Madison Building in celebration of the prize. To hear her read from her winning work now, check out the video below.

Last week, we reported on a poetry chapbook contest that recently increased its prize, and this week, we're highlighting an award for a full-length poetry collection that's made a similar move. Spire Press, founded in New York City in 2002, has recently bumped its annual book prize to one thousand dollars. The winner will also see their collection published by Spire and receive twenty author copies.

Spire counts among its authors Maureen Alsop, Matthew Hittinger, Jennifer MacPherson, Alice Pettway, and Elizabeth Rees, a winner of the aforementioned Codhill Press chapbook contest (she also won Spire's chapbook award in 2007). Last year's book prize winner was Christina Olson for Before I Came Home Naked, which received praise from poets such as Paul Guest, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Katrina Vandenberg.

To submit to this year's contest, send a manuscript of forty-eight to eighty pages with an entry fee of twenty dollars (low-income writers may apply for a waiver) by December 20. Full guidelines are available on the Spire Web site.

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