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G&A: The Contest Blog

White Pine Press announced today that poet Kelli Russell Agodon has won its fifteenth annual poetry book prize for Letters From the Emily Dickinson Room, selected by Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Dennis. The Buffalo-based indie press will publish Agodon's book, her second, next fall, and she will receive one thousand dollars.

Agodon's debut collection, Small Knots, was published by Cherry Grove Collections in 2004. Her poems have also appeared in magazines and journals, including Prairie Schooner and the Atlantic, and anthologies such as Poets Against the War (Nation Books, 2003), edited by Sam Hamill. She coedits the Crab Creek Review, a twenty-five-year-old Seattle literary magazine. 

The sixteenth annual White Pine Press contest is currently underway, with an entry deadline of November 30. U.S. poets can submit manuscripts of sixty to eighty pages with a twenty-dollar fee. The judge remains anonymous until the competition closes, but the press does say that the poet making the selection will be a writer of national reputation.

On Saturday the Library of Virginia named the winners of its twelfth annual literary awards, which recognize Virginia writers for works published in the previous year. The poetry and fiction honorees, both on the faculty of universities in Virginia, are poet Lisa Russ Spaar and novelist Domnica Radulescu. Each will receive a prize of thirty-five hundred dollars.

Spaar, a professor of English and director of the Area Program in Poetry Writing at University of Virginia in Charlottesville, took the award for her fourth collection, Satin Cash (Persea Books). The book borrows its title from Emily Dickinson's poem 402: "I pay—in Satin Cash/ You did not state—your price—."

The poetry finalists were Claudia Emerson for Figure Studies: Poems (Louisiana State University Press) and Eric Pankey for The Pear as One Example: New and Selected Poems, 1984-2008 (Ausable Press).

Radulescu won for her debut novel, Train to Trieste (Knopf). The Romanian-born writer teaches romance languages at Washington and Lee University, where she is also director of the women's studies program.

The shortlisted authors in fiction were Geraldine Brooks for People of the Book (Viking) and David A. Taylor for Success: Stories (Washington Writers' Publishing House).

Pulitzer Prize winner Annette Gordon-Reed was also honored with the award in nonfiction, for her much-lauded book The Hemingses of Monticello (Norton), which sheds light on the lives of Thomas Jefferson and the Hemings family at the Charlottesville estate they shared. Gordon-Reed teaches at New York Law School.

The library will be accepting entries of books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction (including creative nonfiction) for next year's awards—three copies each of titles with a 2009 publication date—until February 5.

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.

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