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G&A: The Contest Blog

Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, announced yesterday that novelist Samantha Hunt is the recipient of the 2009 Bard Fiction Prize. The thirty-thousand-dollar award, given annually to an emerging fiction writer, includes a one-semester appointment as writer-in-residence at the college, situated near the Catskill Mountains ninety miles north of New York City.

Hunt has received a handful of other honors in her early career, receiving a 2006 Five Under Thirty-Five award from the National Book Foundation, selected by René Steinke, after Hunt's debut novel, The Seas (MacAdam/Cage), was released in 2004. Her most recent book, The Invention of Everything Else (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008) was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Believer Book Award.

Previous winners of the Bard Fiction Prize, given since 2001, include Fiona Maazel (another Five Under Thirty-Five author) for her novel Last Last Chance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008), Salvador Plascencia for hsi novel The People of Paper (McSweeney's Books, 2005), and Nathan Englander for his short story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges (Knopf, 1999).

Published authors are invited to submit entries for the award, accepted by Bard College until July 15. Submissions should include three copies of the published book that best represents their work, a project proposal, and a curriculum vitae. More information is available on the Bard College Web site.

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to Herta Müller of Germany, announced earlier today by the Swedish Academy, which selects the winner in letters. The author, who was born in a German-speaking town in Romania and emigrated in 1987 after she was prohibited from publishing in her home country, will receive her $1.4 million prize at a ceremony in Sweden on December 10.

Müller's most recent book is the novel Atemschaukel (Hanser, 2009), which depicts the lives of German Romanians, a minority in the southeastern European country, who were deported during World War II to the Soviet Union. The author has personal ties to the situation of the individuals portrayed in her book: Müller's own mother spent five years in a Ukrainian work camp during that era.

Across her oeuvre, Müller has explored her own experiences with corruption and repression in Romania, casting a penetrating light on the situation of Romanian citizens under a dictatorship. Her debut short story collection, Niederungen (Kriterion-Verlag, 1982) was censored in Romania, though well received in Germany, along with her second collection, Drückender Tango (Kriterion-Verlag, 1984).

She has gone on to publish seventeen additional works of fiction, poetry, and essays. Her novels available in English translations are Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet (Rowohlt, 1997), or The Appointment, translated by Philip Boehm and Michael Hulse (Metropolitan Books, 2001); Herztier (Rowohlt, 1994), or The Land of Green Plums, translated by Michael Hofmann (Metropolitan Books, 1996); Reisende auf einem Bein (Rotbuch-Verlag, 1989), or Traveling on One Leg, translated by Valentina Glajar and André Lefevere (Northwestern University Press, 1998); and Der Mensch ist ein großer Fasan auf der Welt (Rotbuch-Verlag, 1986), or The Passport , translated by Martin Chalmers (Serpent's Tail, 1989).

In a video interview with Simon Frantz of Nobelprize.org, Peter Englund, the new permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, commended Müller's "extreme precision with words" and the "moral momentum in what she writes." For the uninitiated, Englund recommends Müller's Herztier, which he says is considered by many to be her best novel.

Last week, we announced on the blog that Dzanc Books is holding its second contest for a short story collection. The publisher has recently sent word of another opportunity for fiction writers: the five thousand dollar Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. The award is given annually to provide support to a writer to dig into a work-in-progress.

Eligible writers must also have in mind a yearlong community service project that they can outline for the prize judges. On their Web site, the press provides some examples of programs that would catch a judge's eye: "working with HIV patients to help them write their stories, doing a series of workshops at a drop-in youth homeless center, running writing programs in inner-city schools, or working with older citizens looking to write their memoirs."

In an e-mail newsletter, Dzanc founders Steve Gillis and Dan Wickett expressed a bit of disappointment in the low percentage of viable submissions—around four percent—in the two years that the press has run the award, seemingly due to writers lacking investment in the service proposal requirement of the entry process. A word to the wise: "It should be truly surprising to open up a submission and read that the literary community service aspect will be that the author will read from his or her work one or two times at the local library. Sadly, after reading two years worth of submissions, that particular service idea is not that surprising any longer." The two are hoping to broaden the entrant pool this year by asking that writers forward and post information about the award widely.

The deadline for entries is November 1. Detailed guidelines are posted on Dzanc's Web site.

Tonight novelist Hilary Mantel was revealed as the winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize for fiction for her eleventh novel, Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate). Mantel, who was longlisted for the prize in 2005 for Beyond Black (Fourth Estate), received the fifty-thousand-pound award (approximately eighty thousand dollars) at a dinner at London's Guildhall.

In her winning book, Mantel weaves an historically-inspired story centered on Thomas Cromwell, who rose from working-class roots to become King Henry VIII's chief advisor. "With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident," reads the description of the novel on the Booker Web site, Wolf Hall "peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage."

The book was selected from a shortlist that includes Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger (Virago) and A. S. Byatt's The Children's Book (Chatto and Windus). Lucasta Miller, John Mullan, James Naughtie, Sue Perkins, and Michael Prodge were the judges.

In the video below, Mantel reads from and talks about the "book she was born to write" at the Edwardian bookshop Daunt Books in London. The second and third segments of the talk are available on YouTube.

The National Book Foundation has revealed its Five Under Thirty-Five honorees for 2009, all of whom are recognized for debut books. The five writers, chosen as they have been since the Five Under Thirty-Five program began in 2006 by former National Book Award (NBA) winners and finalists, will be celebrated by their nominators and a host of lit lovers at a celebration in New York City kicking off National Book Awards week later this fall.

The honorees are:
Ceridwen Dovey for her novel Blood Kin (Viking, 2008), selected by Rachel Kushner, 2008 NBA Fiction Finalist for Telex from Cuba (Scribner, 2008)

C. E. Morgan for her novel All the Living (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), selected by Christine Schutt, 2004 NBA Fiction Finalist for Florida (TriQuarterly Books, 2004)

Lydia Peelle for her novel Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing (HarperCollins, 2009), selected by Salvatore Scibona, 2008 NBA Fiction Finalist for The End (Graywolf Press, 2008)

Karen Russell for her story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves  (Vintage, 2006), selected by Dan Chaon, 2001 NBA Fiction Finalist for Among the Missing (Ballantine Books, 2001)

Josh Weil for his novella collection The New Valley (Grove Press, 2009), selected by Lily Tuck, 2004 NBA Fiction Winner for The News from Paraguay (HarperCollins, 2004)

The event celebrating the five will take place on November 16 at Brooklyn's PowerHouse Arena, a popular venue for literary events and home to the art book publisher PowerHouse Books. The honorees will read from their works at the party, emceed by New York City punk rocker and novelist Richard Hell. Brooklyn author Jonathan Lethem will serve as the evening's DJ.

The National Book Awards, now in their sixtieth year, will be announced the following Wednesday, November 18, at the foundation's annual dinner in New York City.

Following an impressive batch of submissions to its inaugural short story collection contest last year, Dzanc Books has announced that it will run a second wave of the competition this fall. The winning fiction writer will receive one thousand dollars and publication of his or her book by the Michigan-based nonprofit literary press, with a release date in spring or summer of 2012.

The deadline for manuscript entries, which should be sent via e-mail, is December 31. There is an entry fee of twenty dollars; payment information is available on the press's Web site.

Last year's winner was David Galef for My Date With Neanderthal Woman, slated for publication in November 2011. His book will join a titles lineup that includes works by Laura van den Berg, whose debut story collection, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, was recently named a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, as well as Terese Svoboda, Roy Kesey, and the authors of Black Lawrence Press and OV Books, Dzanc's imprints. 

The press also publishes Monkeybicycle, a biannual lit mag in print whose online incarnation is updated twice a week.

Poet Linda Gregg of New York City received high honors from the Academy of American Poets today as winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. Fellow poets Dorianne Laux, J. D. McClatchy, and James Richardson selected her latest collection, All of It Singing: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2008) for the twenty-five-thousand-dollar award, given for a collection published in the previous year.

The book, Gregg's eighth, also won the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America (PSA) in March. Gregg's poetry has been recognized by PEN American Center, with the PEN/Voelcker Award, and Poets & Writers, Inc., with the Jackson Poetry Prize, and she has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Gregg, who has said of her work, "The art of finding in poetry is the art of marrying the sacred to the world, the invisible to the human," receives from the Academy an award named for a writer and activist who promoted the sacredness of the world in her own right: Lenore Marshall helped form the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, an organization that helped pass the partial nuclear test ban treaty of 1963. The New Hope Foundation created the prize in her memory in 1975.

The list of past winners—a group that includes John Ashbery, Wanda Coleman, Stanley Kunitz, and Alice Notley—is posted on the Academy's Web site.

Gregg reads at the Jackson Poetry Prize ceremony in May:

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