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G&A: The Contest Blog

At a benefit dinner in New York City tonight the winners of the sixtieth annual National Book Awards were announced. In poetry, Keith Waldrop won for his collection Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press), his fifteenth book of poems. Colum McCann won in fiction for his fifth novel Let the Great World Spin (Random House). They each received a ten-thousand-dollar prize.

Awards were also given in young adult literature, to Phillip Hoose for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and nonfiction, to T. J. Stiles for his biography The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (Knopf).

The winner of the best of the National Book Awards Fiction, given in celebration of the awards' anniversary, was The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor. The public was invited to vote on the standout of six fiction volumes, including books by Ralph Ellison and Eudora Welty, earlier this fall. O'Connor's collection received the majority of a reported ten thousand votes.

In the video below, McCann discusses his winning book.

Today the University of Pittsburgh Press named Bobby C. Rogers the winner of the 2009 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. His debut collection, Paper Anniversary, selected by Pitt Poetry Series editor Ed Ochester, will be published by the press next fall. Rogers will receive a prize of five thousand dollars as well as a standard royalty contract.

According to Pitt's press release, Rogers cites his influences as ranging from Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson to the prose of writers such as Flannery O'Connor and John Cheever, as well as "the book of Ecclesiastes and the epistle of James" and the voices of the community in his native Tennessee. The forty-five-year-old writer lives in Memphis and teaches at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.

Given since 1981, the annual Starrett Prize presents the only opportunity for first book manuscripts to be considered for publication by the press. The press reports that in 2009 it received more than seven hundred contest entries, which are accepted each year during the months of March and April.

The past years' winners are:
2008 Cheryl Dumesnil for In Praise of Falling
2007 Michael McGriff for Dismantling the Hills
2006 Nancy Krygowski for Velocity
2005 Rick Hilles for Brother Salvage: Poems
2004 Aaron Smith for Blue on Blue Ground
2003 David Shumate for High Water Mark
2002 Shao Wei for Pulling a Dragon's Teeth
2001 Gabriel Gudding for A Defense of Poetry
2000 Quan Barry for Asylum
1999 Daisy Fried for She Didn't Mean To Do It
1998 Shara McCallum for The Water Between Us
1997 Richard Blanco for City of a Hundred Fires
1996 Helen Conkling for Red Peony Night
1995 Sandy Solomon for Pears, Lake, Sun
1994 Jan Beatty for Mad River
1993 Natasha Sajé for Red Under the Skin
1992 Hunt Hawkins for The Domestic Life
1991 Julia Kasdorf for Sleeping Preacher
1990 Debra Allbery for Walking Distance
1989 Nancy Vieira Couto for The Face in the Water
1988 Maxine Scates for Toluca Street
1987 David Rivard for Torque
1986 Robley Wilson for Kingdoms of the Ordinary
1985 Liz Rosenberg for The Fire Music
1984 Arthur Smith for Elegy on Independence Day
1983 Kate Daniels for The White Wave
1982 Lawrence Joseph for Shouting at No One
1981 Kathy Calloway for Heart of the Garfish

PEN American Center recently initiated an award that will recognize and fund the translation of Paraguayan literature. The organization announced today that novelist Lily Tuck has donated one hundred thousand dollars to establish the prize, which will award three thousand dollars to a living Paraguayan author for a major work and, in the following year, the same amount to a translator. The inaugural prize will be given in 2010.

Tuck was inspired to found the prize following the release of her National Book Award–winning 2004 novel set in Paraguay during the nineteenth century. "In gratitude for the enthusiasm and welcome both my novel, The News from Paraguay, and I received in Paraguay, I am delighted to offer PEN a translation prize for both established and emerging Paraguayan writers and thereby enhance literature worldwide," she is quoted as saying in a PEN press release. "Writing is hard and lonely work, and I believe in writers reaching across international borders and language barriers to support one another."

PEN is inviting Paraguayan publishers to submit five copies of a work in Spanish or Guaraní along with a letter of nomination to PEN Paraguay by December 15. Entry information is posted on the PEN Web site.

Undergraduate and grad student writers take note: The Atlantic is welcoming submissions for its annual poetry, fiction, and nonfiction competitions until December 1. The winners each will receive one thousand dollars, and second- and third-place prizes will also be awarded. The Atlantic doesn't mention publication as part of the prize, but works by past winners of the contest have appeared in the magazine.

In order to enter, one must be enrolled full-time at an accredited U.S. college or university. The submitted work—one to three poems or up to 7,500 words of prose (fiction or a personal or journalistic essay)—should be previously unpublished, but the guidelines state that pieces that have previously appeared in student publications are still eligible. There is no fee for submission, but only one entry per genre is allowed.

In order from first place to third, the 2008 winners in poetry are Diana Chien of Princeton University, Adam Nunez of College of Idaho, and Luke Johnson of Hollins University. In fiction, the winners are Jonathon Walter of the University of Arizona, Marjorie Celona of the University of Iowa, and Shelley Scalleta of Columbia University. The nonfiction recipients are Danielle Luther Luebbe and Kelly Grey Carlisle, both of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and Simon Tudiver of Yale University. The titles of their winning works have not been announced.

A list of the current contest's winners will be published in the May 2010 issue of the Atlantic, after honorees are contacted in March.

On Monday the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction named John Pipkin of Austin, Texas, winner of the 2009 First Novel Prize for Woodsburner (Nan A. Talese). He was awarded ten thousand dollars at the organization's annual benefit dinner held in New York City.

Pipkin's novel, which the Times-Picayune says evokes "a vision of a younger America poised at a moment of self-definition," centers on the forest fire accidentally set by Henry David Thoreau a year before he went to live at Walden Pond. In the award announcement, the Center for Fiction says that the book "offers a beautifully nuanced portrait of a young and less recognizable Thoreau, whose philosophy begins to materialize as the flames lay waste."

The finalists for this year's award were Paul Harding for Tinkers (Bellevue Literary Press), Yiyun Li for The Vagrants (Random House), Philipp Meyer for American Rust (Spiegel & Grau), and Patrick Somerville for The Cradle (Little, Brown).

Previous winners of the prize, given since 2006 and formerly known as the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize, are Marisha Pessl for Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Viking, 2006), Junot Díaz for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead, 2007), and Hannah Tinti for The Good Thief (Dial Press, 2008).

Sonny Mehta, publisher of Alfred A. Knopf, has been named the recipient of an award for lifetime achievement in publishing from the Asian American Writers Workshop (AAWW). Mehta, who came to Knopf in 1987 after several years as a successful publisher in England, will be honored for his work with authors such as Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, V. S. Naipaul, and Michael Ondaatje at a dinner in New York City on Friday.

The ceremony will commence the AAWW's first Page Turner literary festival, held at Brooklyn's powerHouse Arena on Saturday. During the event, the winners of the twelfth Asian American Literary Award, given for books published in 2008, will also be honored. They are poet Sesshu Foster, fiction writer Jhumpa Lahiri, and creative nonfiction writer Leslie T. Chang. Foster received the prize for his collection World Ball Notebook (City Lights Publishers), and Lahiri for her short story collection Unaccustomed Earth (Knopf). Chang won for Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (Spiegel & Grau).

The runners up are, in poetry, Jeffrey Yang for An Aquarium (Graywolf Press) and Monica Ferrell for Beasts for the Chase (Sarabande Books); in fiction, Ed Park for Personal Days (Random House) and Amitav Ghosh for Sea of Poppies (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); and in creative nonfiction, Kavita Rajagopalen for Muslims of Metropolis: The Stories of Three Immigrant Families in the West (Rutgers University Press) and Kau Kalia Yang for Late Homecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (Coffee House Press).

The AAWW is offering tickets to the dinner honoring Mehta and the literary awards ceremony on the Page Turner Web site.

In the video below, poetry award winner Foster talks about investigating the human spirit through literature.

The literary journal of Washington and Lee University, Shenandoah, is accepting entries for its second annual poetry contest, open to writers living in or born in Virginia. The winner of the Graybeal-Gowan Prize for Virginia Writers will receive five hundred dollars, publication in the magazine, and copies of a broadside of his or her poem.

The judge is National Book Award finalist Brendan Galvin, whose sixteen poetry collections include The Strength of a Named Thing (1999), Habitat: New and Selected Poems 1965-2005 (2005), and Whirl Is King: Poems From a Life List (2008), all published by Louisiana State University (LSU) Press. A review of Galvin's Ocean Effects (LSU Press, 2007) published in the Valparaiso Poetry Review describes him as being among "the ranks of poets to whom an acute understanding of the natural world—the wonders of its workings and of human interaction with it—are of first importance." 

Last year's Graybeal-Gowan winner, selected by poet Betty Adcock, was University of Virginia professor Kevin Hart. He won for his poem "March," which was published in the journal's Spring/Summer 2009 issue.

Writers may submit up to three unpublished poems (two copies of each) and a brief bio that establishes eligibility by November 29. Shenandoah does not charge an entry fee for this contest.

 

 

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