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G&A: The Contest Blog

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice has pushed its deadline for grants to emerging lesbian poets and fiction writers to July 15. U.S. writers who wish to apply for one of two ten-thousand-dollar grants from the Lesbian Writers Fund must have published literary work at least once in a newspaper, magazine, literary journal, or anthology, but must not have published more than one book.

A third grant will be given to a writer west of the Mississippi, sponsored by Skip's Sappho Fund (established by a bequest from Skip Neal, a lesbian artist and patron of the arts). Astraea will grant two finalists in each genre fifteen hundred dollars each, and honorable mention prizes of one hundred dollars will also be awarded.

"Too often, lesbian writing is marginalized by literary venues and funding sources, resulting in exceptionally talented artists unable to receive the nurturing and support so vital to their craft," the organization stated in a press release announcing the deadline extension. "The Lesbian Writers Fund is attempting to remedy this— and with good results. A former grantee used her award to purchase a computer, and no longer had to write by hand, and another attracted the attention of a prominent agent who facilitated the publication of her first novel."

By next Wednesday, interested writers need to submit a work sample and a one-paragraph anonymous biography focused on writing accomplishments and goals, along with an application, available on the Astraea Web site. Grantees will be announced by January 31, 2010.

In celebration of its sixtieth year honoring authors with the National Book Award, the National Book Foundation (NBF) has created a blog that, over the course of the next few months, will revisit all of the winning books of fiction from 1950 to 2008. The book-a-day blog commenced yesterday, with National Book Award finalist Rachel Kushner and NBF executive director Harold Augenbraum offering their words about Nelson Algren’s The Man With the Golden Arm (Doubleday). For the cross-reference-lover, each blog post also suggests links to more information on the book and author, as well as facts about each title, and names of judges and finalists, giving readers an idea of how the awards landscape looked in a given year.

Why focus only on winning fiction? The NBF, which currently grants the award in poetry, nonfiction, and young people’s literature, as well, says on its Web site that the prize in fiction has been the only category that has seen a winner every year since the National Book Awards were instituted. Also, many of the fiction winners have gone on to literary fame, and out of the seventy-seven winning titles, seventy-four are still in print—a higher percentage than in any other genre.

New posts by authors, editors, and other members of the literati will go up daily until September 21—with Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country (Modern Library) closing the series—when the NBF will invite readers to vote for the "Best of the National Book Awards Fiction." (Reminiscent of the Man Booker Prize's celebratory "Best of Booker" competition in 2008.) Voters will have the opportunity to win two tickets to the 2009 National Book Awards ceremony. The organization has also sent ballots to six hundred writers, asking them to select three of their favorite titles.

More about the sixtieth anniversary campaign can be found on the NBF Web site, or via the organization’s Twitter feed.

One month remains before the close of the first poetry book contest from Mississippi Review, the literary magazine of the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. The new series, whose deadline is August 1, will award three poets one thousand dollars each and publication of their collections in January 2010. The winners will also each receive one hundred copies of their books and distribution to fellow entrants and the magazine’s subscribers.

The inaugural judge is Dara Wier, author of eleven poetry collections including Remnants of Hannah (2006), Reverse Rapture (2005), Hat on a Pond (2002), and, forthcoming this fall, Selected Poems, all published by Wave Books. Weir was born in New Orleans and attended Louisiana State University. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University in 1974 and her first collection, Blood, Hook & Eye, was published by the University of Texas Press three years later.

In Wier’s profile on the Academy of American Poets Web site, John Ashbery is quoted as saying of her work, "It may not be for the faint of heart—most intense experiences aren’t—but those who stay with it will find themselves face to face with a world whose eerily sharp focus suggests recent satellite photographs of Mars. And they will never be the same again."

Poets may submit any number of manuscripts (48 to 56 pages each) to the contest, with each entry accompanied by a twenty-five-dollar fee. The winners will be announced in September.

Last week, National Public Radio commenced a monthlong microfiction contest, seeking out prose that, in the words of judge James Wood, "strikes at the very heart of the short story as a project, which is to get something going rapidly." Writers are asked to submit original fictional stories that can be read in less than three minutes, with a length limit of six hundred words.

While no monetary prize is offered, Wood, a literary critic for the New Yorker and author of numerous essays on fiction, will read his favorite works on air throughout the summer, and one writer will be interviewed on a weekend edition of All Things Considered. The winning selections will also be posted on the NPR Web site.

Pointing to authors such as Anton Chekov and Lydia Davis as masters of the form, Wood offers some words of advice to writers of tiny tales: "One of the most effective ways to get a very short story vivid is to think in terms of voice," he says on the NPR Web site. "I'm going to be looking at a writer's ability to suggest a world, rather than to fill it in and dot every i."

Works can be submitted via the NPR Web site until July 18. As of Sunday, the contest had received thirteen hundred entries.

Not too long ago the Great Lake Colleges Association announced the winners of its New Writers Awards, given annually to a poet, fiction writer, and creative nonficiton writer to honor their first books. The University of Iowa Press published two of the winning titles: Don Waters's story collection Desert Gothic and Melissa J. Delbridge's memoir Family Bible. Indie publisher Curbstone Press released Teeth, the debut of winning poet Aracelis Girmay. (Incidentally, both Girmay and Delbridge have been featured in Poets & Writers Magazine.) As part of the award, each of the winners are invited to give readings, meet with students, and lead classes at several of the GLCA's member colleges, each of which pay five hundred dollars.

So, where might these three recent winners travel to collect their honoraria and meet potential readers? The following are the association's member colleges in Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvanie, and Ohio: 

Albion College
Allegheny College
Antioch College
Denison University
DePauw University
Earlham College
Hope College
Kalamazoo College
Kenyon College
Oberlin College
Ohio Wesleyan University
Wabash College
The College of Wooster

The deadline for this year's Pearl Poetry Prize is July 15. The annual award, which offers a thousand dollars and publication by Pearl Editions, an independent press in Long Beach, California, is given for a full-length poetry collection. Below are the winners of the last ten contests. Who will judge Debra Marquart, herself a previous winner, pick this year?

2008: Alison Luterman's See How We Almost Fly, chosen by Gerald Locklin
2007: Lavonne J. Adams's Through the Glorieta Pass, chosen by David Hernandez
2006: Kevin Griffith's Denmark, Kangaroo, Orange, chosen by Denise Duhamel
2005: Ada Limón's This Big Fake World, chosen by Frank X. Gaspar
2004: Elizabeth Oakes's The Farmgirl Poems, chosen by Donna Hilbert
2003: Andrew Kaufman's Earth's Ends, chosen by Fred Voss
2002: Richard M. Berlin's How JFK Killed My Father, chosen by Lisa Glatt
2001: Micki Myer's Trigger Finger, chosen by Jim Daniels
2000: Debra Marquart's From the Sweetness, chosen by Dorianne Laux
1999: Robert Perchan's Fluid in Darkness, chosen by Ed Ochester

Julia Alvarez was recently named winner of the fourteenth annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award. The prize, sponsored by the F. Scott Fitzgerald Conference, an annual day-long event held at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, honors the achievements of a "great American author." Alvarez, whose most recent book is the novel Return to Sender (Knopf, 2009), writes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and books for young readers. She will recieve the award at this year's conference on October 17.

Previous recipients of the award are William Styron, John Barth, Joyce Carol Oates, E. L. Doctorow, Norman Mailer, Ernest J. Gaines, John Updike, Edward Albee, Grace Paley, Pat Conroy, Jane Smiley, William Kennedy, and Elmore Leonard.

The conference was started in 1996 when the city of Rockville celebrated the centennial of the birth of Fitzgerald, who happens to be buried in the town at Saint Mary's Church. This year's event will feature panel discussions, workshops, and "publication conversations."

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