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G&A: The Contest Blog

The National Book Foundation revealed the finalists for the National Book Award in poetry and fiction yesterday. The shortlists of five were winnowed from 161 poetry book entries and 236 short story collections and novels submitted by publishers.

The finalists in poetry, selected by judges Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, A. Van Jordan, Cole Swensen, and Kevin Young are:
Rae Armantrout for Versed (Wesleyan University Press)
Ann Lauterbach for Or to Begin Again (Viking)
Carl Phillips for Speak Low (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon for Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Keith Waldrop for Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press)

The finalists in fiction, selected by Alan Cheuse, Junot Díaz, Jennifer Egan, Charles Johnson, and Lydia Millet are:
Bonnie Jo Campbell for her story collection American Salvage (Wayne State University Press)
Colum McCann for his novel Let the Great World Spin (Random House)
Daniyal Mueenuddin for his story collection In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (Norton)
Jayne Anne Phillips for her novel Lark and Termite (Knopf)
Marcel Theroux for his novel Far North (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Finalists in nonfiction and young people's literature were also announced, including, in the nonfiction category, Following the Water: A Hydromancer's Notebook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by 2006 MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship winner and memoirist David M. Carroll, and David Small's Stitches (Norton), a graphic memoir nominated for the young people's literature prize. Bios of all of the shortlisted authors as well as summaries of their books are available on the National Book Foundation Web site.

The award winners, who will receive ten thousand dollars each, will be named at the annual awards dinner on November 18, marking the sixtieth anniversary of the prize.

The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry announced today the judges of the tenth annual Griffin Poetry Prize. The judges are Anne Carson, born in Canada and currently on faculty at New York University, Kathleen Jamie of Scotland, and Carl Phillips, who teaches at Washington University in Saint Louis.

Both Carson and Jamie have been recognized by the Griffin Trust in the past—Carson won the Griffin Prize in 2001 for her collection Men in the Off Hours (Knopf, 2000), and Jamie was shortlisted for the award in 2003 for Mr. and Mrs. Scotland are Dead: Poems 1980-1994 (Bloodaxe Books, 2002). Phillips, whose most recent collection is Speak Low (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), has received honors including the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and was twice named finalist for the National Book Award.

The Griffin Prize, worth fifty thousand Canadian dollars (a little less than fifty thousand U.S. dollars), is given annually to a Canadian poet and an international poet for collections published in the previous year. Publishers may submit books published in 2009 to the trust by December 31. In April, the shortlist of three Canadian poets and four international will be announced in Toronto, and the winners will be named on June 3. Last year's international winner was C. D. Wright of Providence; Toronto poet A. F. Moritz took the Canadian honor.

In other award jury news, yesterday the Story Prize announced the judging panel for this year's twenty-thousand-dollar award. Author A. M. Homes, blogger Carolyn Kellogg, and librarian Bill Kelly will select the winner of the prize, given annually for a short story collection.

Publishers who would like to have titles considered for the 2009 Story Prize can submit books published between July 1 and December 31, 2009, by November 16 (the deadline for volumes released during the first half of the year was July 15). Past winners include Tobias Wolff, Mary Gordon, and Edwidge Danticat.

In the video below, Griffin Prize judge and inaugural winner Anne Carson reads from her winning collection.

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.

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