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G&A: The Contest Blog

On Sunday three Canadian writers were revealed as the winners of the 2009 ReLit Awards, honoring books published by independent presses in Canada. Poet Maurice Mierau of Winnipeg, Manitoba, won for his book Fear Not (Turnstone); Lisa Foad of Toronto won for her debut short story collection The Night Is a Mouth (Exile Editions); and Michael Blouin of Oxford Mills, Ontario, won for his novel Chase & Haven (Coach House).

The prizes, operating under the banner "Ideas, Not Money," award each winner a ReLit ring, comprised of four movable, letter-embossed bands that allow the wearer to spell out different words. Mierau, Foad, and Blouin will receive their rings at a celebration that will take place during the Ottawa International Writers Festival on October 25.

The winners were selected from shortlists of seven books in each category. The finalists were:
Poetry
Noble Gas, Penny Black (Brick) by David O’Meara
Little Hunger (Nightwood) by Philip Kevin Paul
Dead Cars in Managua (DC Books) by Stuart Ross
Penny Dreadful (Signal) by Shannon Stewart
Troubled
(Coach House) by R. M. Vaughan
Sentenced to Light (Talon) by Fred Wah

Short Fiction
Squishy (DC Books) by Arjun Basu
Evidence (Porcupine’s Quill) by Ian Colford
My White Planet (Thomas Allen) by Mark Anthony Jarman
In the Quiet After Slaughter (Libros Libertad) by Don McLellan
Elysium (Anvil) by Pamela Stewart
The Butcher of Penetang (Caitlin) by Betsy Trumpener

Novel
Cleavage (NeWest) by Theanna Bischoff
Shuck (Arsenal Pulp) by Daniel Allen Cox
A Slice of Voice at the Edge of Hearing (Mercury) by Brian Dedora
Girls Fall Down (Coach House) by Maggie Helwig
Charlie Muskrat (Thistledown) by Harold Johnson
Anna’s Shadow (Esplanade) by David Manicom

The ReLit Awards, whose name stands for "regarding literature, reinventing literature, relighting literature," have been given since 2000.

Announced yesterday, the recipient of the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize is Richard Bausch, for his eleventh novel, Peace, published by Knopf in April. He will receive ten thousand dollars, and the runner-up, Uwem Akpan, whose honored short story collection Say You're One of Them (Little, Brown, 2008) was recently named an Oprah's Book Club pick, will receive one thousand dollars.

Bausch's winning novel follows American soldiers in Italy during World War II as they pursue the German army. The prize press release calls the book a "meditation on the corrosiveness of violence, the human cost of war, and the redemptive power of mercy."

Along with the nonfiction winner—Benjamin Skinner's A Crime So Monstrous: Face to Face With Modern Day Slavery (Free Press)—Akpan's collection "put a much-needed spotlight on the tragedy of contemporary slavery, an issue that has been ignored for too long," says prize chair Sharon Rab in the press release. (Skinner donated his ten-thousand-dollar honorarium to Free the Slaves, the U.S. branch of the human rights organization Anti-Slavery International.)

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize, given since 2006, recognizes authors whose "work advances peace as a solution to conflict, and leads readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view." The writers will be feted at a ceremony in Dayton on November 8.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today the twenty-four recipients of this year's "Genius" Fellowships. The fellows working in the literary arts are poet Heather McHugh, fiction writer and memoirist Edwidge Danticat, and short story writer Deborah Eisenberg. They will each receive one hundred thousand dollars every year over the course of five years.

"It felt incredibly, wonderfully surreal,” Danticat told the Felicia R. Lee of the New York Times. "What artists crave and need most is time. It will definitely buy some time. It’s wonderful to have a sense of security, especially in these economic times."

Danticat's most recent book is the memoir Brother, I'm Dying (Knopf, 2007), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors. Eisenberg is the author of four story collections, including Twilight of the Superheroes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006). The latest book from McHugh, who has also worked in translation and essay, is the poetry collection Upgraded to Serious, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in October.

As 2009 MacArthur fellows, the three writers are in the company of artists working in media including painting, documentary film, and photojournalism, as well as luminaries in other disciplines. Recipients this year include an ornithologist, a papermaker, a climate scientist, a mental health lawyer, a bridge engineer, a biogeochemist, and an applied mathematician.

The no-strings grants are given in the anticipation of independent creative achievement in the future—that is, according to MacArthur Foundation president Robert Gallucci, "We're looking for you to continue in a creative way, without anyone looking over your shoulder."

In celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of its National Book Awards (NBA), the National Book Foundation is asking the public to weigh in on who they think is the best of its fiction winners, beginning today. Through October 21, visitors to the foundation's Web site can choose from a shortlist of six NBA-winning books nominated for the superlative honor by a panel of 140 National Book Award winners, finalists, and judges.

Which of these do you think is the Best of the National Book Awards Fiction, 1950 to 2008?
John Cheever's The Stories of John Cheever (Knopf, 1981)
Ralph Ellison' s Invisible Man (Random House, 1953)
William Faulkner's Collected Stories of William Faulkner (Random House, 1951)
Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972)
Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (Viking, 1974)
Eudora Welty's The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1983)

An incentive to cast your vote: The National Book Foundation announced that it will choose one voter to receive tickets to the NBA ceremony, held at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City on November 18, and a hotel stay at the Marriott Hotel Downtown.

The finalists for this year's NBA in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people's literature will be announced on October 13. Along with the book award winners, Gore Vidal and Dave Eggers will be honored at the November ceremony. Eggers will receive the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, and Vidal will be presented with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

George Plimpton and actor Irwin Corey, who stood in for Thomas Pynchon at the 1974 award ceremony, talk about the theatrical acceptance of the NBA that year:

The Mercantile Library Center for Fiction announced on Wednesday the shortlist for its 2009 First Novel Prize. The ten-thousand-dollar award aims to promote the career of an emerging U.S. fiction writer by honoring his or her debut novel.

The finalists, whose books were all published in 2009, are:
Paul Harding for Tinkers (Bellevue Literary Press)

Yiyun Li for The Vagrants (Random House)

Philipp Meyer for American Rust (Spiegel & Grau)

John Pipkin for Woodsburner (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)

Patrick Somerville for The Cradle (Little, Brown)

A committee of American writers selected the shortlisted books from a pool chosen by the Mercantile’s librarians, staff, and members.

The winner, announced on November 9, will join the ranks of One Story editor Hannah Tinti, who won the prize for The Good Thief (Dial Press, 2008); Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz, honored for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead, 2007); and bestselling author Marisha Pessl, who received the prize for Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Viking, 2006). Tinti will present this year’s prize at the Center for Fiction's annual benefit in New York City, during which the Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Fiction will also be given to Gerald Howard, vice president and executive editor of Doubleday.

Check out a book trailer for The Cradle, touring the Wisconsin landscape for sites from the novel:

 

Here's an interview with Woodsburner author Pipkin, who talks about the process of writing the historical novel:

Last Saturday the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC), sponsors of the annual NBCC Award, celebrated their thirty-fifth anniversary at a gathering in New York City. John Ashbery, who received the first NBCC Award in poetry in 1976 for his book Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Viking), spoke at the event about how book critics and the award had influenced his career. (Self Portrait, incidentally, went on to win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.)

Ashbery recalled how a conversation between critic David Kalstone and NBCC founder Elizabeth Hardwick, prompted by a negative review of Self Portrait published in the New York Review of Books, may have influenced his being awarded the book prize, his first.

According to Ashbery, Hardwick had been under the impression that he had won numerous awards, until Kalstone informed her that Ashbery hadn’t received any. (Excepting the honor of having his 1956 collection Some Trees selected for the Yale Younger Poets Series by W. H. Auden.) "Elizabeth [...] seemed to ponder this and said that she’d look into the matter," Ashbery told the attendees of the NBCC gathering. "I'm not sure if that had something to do with my NBCC award, but that happened only a few weeks after the conversation I've described."

He went on to thank the audience of book critics "for letting me come full circle—that is, to be here beaming my gratitude at you, both for what you've done for me personally, not just as regards poetry, but for all the things you write about."

After receiving the 1975 prize, Ashbery was nominated for three additional NBCC awards, for his collections Houseboat Days in 1977, A Wave in 1984, and April Galleons in 1987 (all of the volumes were published by Viking). Earlier this year, Ashbery’s work was recognized by the NBCC yet again, when his translation from the French of Pierre Martory’s The Landscapist (Sheep Meadow Press) was a finalist for the 2008 award in poetry.

 

The Academy of American Poets announced on Monday that it has awarded poets Jean Valentine and Harryette Mullen two of the organization’s top honors. Valentine received the Wallace Stevens Award, which carries a prize of one hundred thousand dollars, and Mullen won the twenty-five-thousand-dollar Academy Fellowship.

Valentine is the author of eleven poetry collections, most recently Little Boat (Wesleyan University Press, 2007). Her work has been recognized in the past with grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts, among others. In a press release, Academy chancellor and poet Gerald Stern describes Valentine’s work as sometimes existing "in a dream-world, with all the immediacy, the panic, the odd journey that dreams give. But add to that a great moral vision, infinite skill, and beauty."

Mullen, whose most recent book is a compilation of three volumes previously released by small presses, Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge (Graywolf Press, 2006), is the author of Sleeping with the Dictionary (University of California Press, 2002), Blues Baby: Early Poems (Bucknell University Press, 2002), and Tree Tall Woman (Energy Earth Communications, 1981). Academy chancellor Susan Stewart calls Mullen a "a magician of words, phrases, and songs" who has “has sparked a revolution in poetic diction."

The Wallace Stevens award is given annually to an established poet who has demonstrated mastery of the art. Past winners include James Tate, John Ashbery, and Louise Glück. Given since 1937 to recognize poetic achievement, the Academy Fellowship has been awarded to Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, and Elizabeth Bishop, among other notable poets.

Valentine and Mullen will both appear at the Academy's Poets Forum, which takes place on October 15, 16, and 17 in New York City, to read their work and participate in panels on poetry.

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