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G&A: The Contest Blog

Nightboat Books has been offering its poetry book publication prize since one year after the small press that "resists convention and transcends boundaries" was founded in 2003. The award, judged this year by Kimiko Hahn, includes one thousand dollars as well as a standard royalty contract and twenty-five author copies.

We asked Hahn, author of eight collections including Toxic Flora (Norton, 2010) and The Narrow Road to the Interior (2006), about her guiding principles when judging the contest. "I tend to favor highly textured language—see Jack Myers's description," she said. "Also, a mix of personal and social concerns doesn't hurt."

Here is the definition Myers and his coauthor Don Wukasch offer for texture in their Dictionary of Poetic Terms (Longman, 1985): "From Latin for 'to weave.' Originally, the surface constitution of a painting or sculpture. In poetry, according to the New Critics, which used the term frequently, texture refers to the unparaphrasable elements of a poem."

What are those important elements? According to Myers and Wukasch, "aesthetic surface, dramatic structure, form, imagery, irony, lineation, meter, rhyme, rhythm, sound system, and typographical arrangement." They also refer to the "heresy of paraphrase," a critical idea introduced by Cleanth Brooks in his 1947 book, The Well Wrought Urn, which argues that a poem cannot be expressed satisfactorily via paraphrase.

Last year's poetry prize judge, Fanny Howe, chose Black Took Collective cofounder Dawn Lundy Martin's second book, Discipline (forthcoming in February 2011) for the 2010 prize. "These poems are dense and deep," Howe said of Martin's winning work. "They are necessary, and hot on the eye. I was reminded of Leslie Scalapino, the sensitivity to the surrounding arrangements and to human suffering. There is no distance from Martin’s subject, but immersion and emotional conflict. Discipline is what it took to write such a potent set of poems.”

Other past winners include Paula Cisewski for Ghost Fargo, Lytton Smith for The All Purpose Magical Tent, Jonathan Weinert for In the Mode of Disappearance, Joshua Kryah for Glean, and Juliet Patterson for Truant Lover.

In the video below, Hahn discusses her love of language and reads from her latest collection.

In honor of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that brought an end to the war in Bosnia, the international Dayton Literary Peace Prize recognizes authors whose work celebrates peace, understanding across borders, and social justice. This year's winner of the ten-thousand-dollar lifetime achievement award is Geraldine Brooks, a novelist and journalist whose novel March (Viking) won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize.

Brooks's most recent work is People of the Book (Viking, 2008), a novel centered on the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated Jewish text protected during centuries of European wars and conflicts by Muslims and Christians. She is also the author of the novel Year of Wonders (Viking, 2001) and the nonfiction books Foreign Correspondence (Anchor Books, 1998) and Nine Parts of Desire (Anchor Books, 1995).

"A writer is always thrilled to have her work recognized," Brooks said. "But this prize has a particular meaning to me, because I covered the fighting in the Balkans as a journalist and I know what peace, even an imperfect peace, can mean to a civilian population that has been besieged and violated by years of war." Remarking on the Bosnian peace agreement, she said, "As Dayton shows, it is at the table, rather than on the battle field, that wars may be brought to an end."

Brooks will receive her award at a ceremony in Dayton on November 7, during which the winners in fiction and creative nonfiction will also be honored.

In the video below, Brooks talks about the resonance of People of the Book, which is dedicated to librarians.

With a new batch of deadlines listings just posted in our Grants & Awards database, over the next few days we'll be highlighting select prizes with details about what winners can expect, judge profiles, winner stats, and more.

Kore Press, a feminist outfit in Tucson, Arizona, is now accepting story submissions for its Short Fiction Award competition (judge TBA), which offers a one-thousand-dollar prize and publication of the winning work as a chapbook. We asked the folks at Kore how the chapbooks are promoted and distributed and how authors are publicized. Here's what they had to say:

"Our chapbooks are usually published in editions of about four hundred, and are distributed and sold in independent bookstores and libraries throughout the United States, as well as on our Web site and Amazon.

"These chapbooks are collected by many special collections and archives throughout the country, along with the rest of the Kore Press collection of published works, appreciated for its cultural, aesthetic,and social value as Kore Press is one of six feminist presses in the United States.

"Kore Press and the author work collaboratively pre- and post-publication to plan effective marketing and publicity for the book and sales goals. Kore Press works up press releases, tip sheets, press kits, and more to represent the book, and likes to pitch its chapbooks to various book awards and always hopes to support our authors in as many readings and events as possible."

In other Kore Press contest news, the deadline for the First Book Award in poetry has been extended to August 31. The judge for this year's contest is Bahnu Kapil, who teaches at Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado. Her works, which "for some readers, function as prose, and for others as poetry" (according to her bio on the Web site of literary magazine Almostisland), include Incubation: A Space for Monsters (Leon Works), and The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers and Humanimal: A Project for Future Children, both published by Kelsey Street Press, a Berkeley, California, press for women writers.

In addition to their contests, Kore Press also accept submissions of full-length book manuscripts during the month of January to consider for its annual catalog of six to nine titles. Since the open submissions period is not a contest, the editors' review process is not anonymous.

The finalists for the tenth Thurber Prize for American Humor were announced by Thurber House, the literary center housed in the late humorist James Thurber's former home in Columbus, Ohio. The five-thousand-dollar award, given previously to writers such as David Sedaris, Christopher Buckley, and Ian Frazier, is the premier honor for literary humor writing given in the nation.

Contending for this year's five-thousand-dollar prize are former MTV veejay and Rolling Stone writer Jancee Dunn for her second memoir Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? (Villard); Steve Hely, who has written for The Late Show With David Letterman and 30 Rock, for his novel, How I Became a Famous Novelist (Grove/Atlantic); and Rhoda Janzen, a former poet laureate of California who holds a PhD from University of California in Los Angeles, for her memoir Mennonite in a Little Black Dress (Henry Holt).

The winner, who will also provide "guest entertainment" at the Thurber House's annual gala in December, will be announced on October 4.

In the video below, Janzen discusses her memoir.

The Center for Fiction in New York City announced its shortlist for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize (formerly known as simply the First Novel Prize). The honorees include three small press authors, one of whom was later published by a major house after a prize nomination led to increased demand.

That writer is Karl Marlantes, nominated for Matterhorn (Grove/Atlantic), which was initially acquired by editor Tom Farber at El León Literary Arts, a small outfit in Berkeley, California. "This huge book couldn't at first find an agent or a publisher," journalist Leah Garchik wrote of the novel in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Farber recognized its power. Take heart, writers."

The other finalists for the Center for Fiction's ten-thousand-dollar award are:

Michelle Hoover, a descendant of generations of farming families, for The Quickening (Other Press). She now teaches at Boston University and the Boston literary center Grub Street.

Jessica Francis Kane of New York City for The Report (Graywolf Press), which follows her debut story collection, Bending Heaven (Counterpoint, 2002).

Ethiopian-born Maaza Mengiste, a graduate of the MFA program at New York University, for Beneath the Lion's Gaze, published by Norton. In 2007 she was named a "Literary Idol" by New York Magazine's readers.

Julie Orringer for The Invisible Bridge, her follow-up to her debut story collection, How to Breathe Underwater, both published by Knopf. She is an Iowa Writers' Workshop alumna and a former Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford.

Drew Perry of North Carolina, who has also published poetry, for This Is Exactly Like You (Viking).

Nashville (via New York City) writer Adam Ross for Mr. Peanut (Knopf). Ross received his MFA from Washington University.

The winner will be announced by last year's winner, John Pipkin, on December 6 at a ceremony in New York City. Each runner up will receive, for the first time in the prize's history, a one-thousand-dollar award.

In the video below, Marlantes discusses the urgency to write his novel, a project he worked on for thirty years. (Also on YouTube: Hoover reveals the historical materials, photographs and a journal, that inspired her book.)

When the New Yorker's Book Bench blog reported last month on the H. G. Wells Short Story Contest, the Britain-based competition hadn't received a single entry. At least not for the one-thousand-pound main prize (about fifteen hundred dollars) open to writers twenty-five and younger—a second competition offering a quarter of that amount had received a number of submissions.

Book Bench blogger Eileen Reynolds illuminated a few reasons why young writers' story flow could have been so low—quirky rules that required entries to be handwritten ("because that is considered an important aspect of literacy") and asked writers to avoid employing elements of Wellsian science fiction, focusing rather on an alternative topic, "what life is like for ordinary people, working or retired." Or it could have been that potential entrants were simply unaware of the contest.

Whatever the reason, there are a few more days for writers in Britain and beyond to submit (anyone is eligible, per the entry form, though the target is university and secondary school students from Kent)—the deadline has been extended to August 15. Prize administrator Reg Turnill also opened the competition to science fiction and will accept typed entries, though, according to Kent News, handwritten entries will be given "extra marks."

The prizes will be awarded at the second annual H. G. Wells Festival in Folkestone, on the coast of Kent, taking place in September. The late author's great grandson, Dominic Wells, will present the awards.

A preview for one film adaptation of Wells's 1895 novella, The Time Machine, a work that "stimulated the imagination of mankind" and feature elements of both nineteenth-century ordinary life and the futuristic fantastical, is below.

The literary festival named for the late author and playwright is holding its first poetry contest in honor of Tennessee Williams, whose verse New Directions founder James "Jay" Laughlin once wrote has a "way of getting right into the marrow of life" in contrast to the younger American "decorator" poets he witnessed being published the 1950s. (Laughlin was Williams's publisher of choice since before his first collection, In the Winter of Cities, was released in 1956.)

The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival will host the winner of the poetry contest as a VIP, along with the fiction and one-act play competition winners. All will give readings at the twenty-fifth anniversary event to be held in New Orleans next March in conjunction with Williams's one-hundredth birthday. The winner will also receive one thousand dollars and publication in Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine.

Writers who have not published a poetry collection have until August 15 to enter the contest with two to four poems (plus a twenty-dollar entry fee). Complete guidelines and more about the event are available on the festival Web site. (Prose writers take note: The fiction contest deadline is November 15.)

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