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G&A: The Contest Blog

Dalkey Archive Press recently announced that it has chosen four young literary translators as winners of its first Applied Translation fellowship program. Rhett Warren McNeil, Ursula Meany Scott, Jamie Richards, and Kerri Pierce were chosen from more than 130 applicants from 35 countries.

According to the press's Web site, the program was created "in response to the need on a national and international level for providing practical experience to young literary translators." Each fellow will receive an eighteen-thousand-dollar stipend to work at Dalkey Archive for one year, "gaining experience in translation and learning about the publishing industry while also participating in other aspects of the international literary community."

By the end of the year, each fellow will have translated a complete book to be published by the press. They will also be involved with the Center for Translation Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where the press is based.

In a press release, Dalkey Archive’s publisher John O’Brien said, “I’ve always felt that creating opportunities for young people to make a contribution to the literary community is an important part of Dalkey Archive’s nonprofit mission. We’ve worked with students for years, at every academic level and in various capacities, but never before on this scale. We plan to expand this program in the coming years, and hope it becomes a model for other institutions to help develop the field of literary translation.”

Amazon announced on Friday that book editors at Penguin selected three finalists from a pool of one hundred semifinalists for the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. They are "Stuff of Legends" by Ian Gibson, "Bill Warrington's Last Chance" by James King, and "In Malice, Quite Close" by Brandi Lynn Ryder.

Amazon customers can download excerpts of the three manuscripts and vote for the winner through Thursday. The winner, who will receive a publishing contract from Penguin, will be announced next Wednesday.

Last year's winner was Bill Loehfelm for his novel Fresh Kills. As we reported earlier this year, the contest has elicited its share of criticism—but then perhaps that's the whole point.

The BBC announced yesterday that nineteen titles have been named to the longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction, several of which readers would have no difficulty placing in the "creative nonfiction" category. Among these are Swiss author Alain de Botton's The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, an exploration of the modern workplace in all its forms. From the book's promotional copy: "We spend most of our waking lives at work—in occupations often chosen by our unthinking younger selves. And yet we rarely ask ourselves how we got there or what our occupations mean to us." Published in the U.K. in April by Hamish Hamilton, it is forthcoming from Pantheon Books in June.

Other notable titles on the longlist include Philip Hoare's Leviathan (Fourth Estate, 2008) and David Grann's The Lost City of Z (Simon & Schuster, 2009). Bookseller.com has the entire longlist. The winner, who will be announced on June 30, receives twenty thousand pounds (or just over thirty thousand dollars). 

Below is a video of Alain de Botton (who last year helped establish London's School of Life, a refreshingly simple take on education) discussing his new book earlier this year in Melbourne. Best line? Might be the one at the beginning: "To be a modern human being—to be alive in the modern world—is never to be far from a career crisis."

And on that note, enjoy your weekend!

Given the overwhelming response to our May 1 post, "Who Should Have Won? A Writer's Spectator Sport," (cricket...cricket) here's another chance to be the judge.

Which of the following books of poetry and fiction (all of them published in these first five months of 2009, some having appeared in Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin) do you think will win one of the big literary awards—Pulitzer, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards, etc.? (Note to the crowd of readers, clamoring to post comments, who notice a glaring omission: Feel free to make your voices heard).

Poetry
Portait and Dream: New and Selected Poems (Coffee House Press) by Bill Berkson
Romanticism (Norton) by April Bernard
See Jack (University of Pittsburgh Press) by Russell Edson
Selected Poems (FSG) by Michael Hofmann
Shannon: A Poem of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Ecco) by Campbell McGrath
Chronic (Graywolf Press) by D. A. Powell
The Dangerous Shirt (Copper Canyon Press) by Alberto Ríos
Poems 1959-2009 (FSG) by Frederick Seidel
The Great Wave (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Ron Slate
Assorted Poems (FSG) by Susan Wheeler

Fiction
The Sky Below (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Stacey D'Erasmo
Out of My Skin (FSG) by John Haskell
Nobody Move (FSG) by Denis Johnson
Castle (Graywolf Press) by J. Robert Lennon
How It Ended (Knopf) by Jay McInerney
Pygmy (Doubleday) by Chuck Palahniuk
Miles From Nowhere (Riverhead Books) by Nami Mun
Ruins (Akashic Books) by Achy Obejas
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (FSG) by Wells Tower
Sag Harbor (Doubleday) by Colson Whitehead

To find out of you're right, we'll have to wait a while—the National Book Awards will likely be announced in November; the National Book Critics Circle Awards, next March; and the Pulitzers and the Tufts Awards, next April—but just think of how shrewd you'll feel if you predict correctly.

It's easy to get caught up in the details of who won which award and how big the cash prize was and when the winning book is going to be published. These are all important details, no doubt, but every once and a while a contest or a sponsoring organization comes along that offers a little perspective to the competition, reminding those of us who pay such close attention to the deadlines and the recent winners that the people who run the magazines and the small presses and the nonprofits that make the contests possible are often doing what they're doing for very personal reasons.

Robert Nazarene named his Chesterfield, Missouri-based literary magazine Margie to honor his late sister's memory. Marjorie J. Wilson died in 1977 at the age of twenty-two. The annual journal also sponsors a number of writing contests, several of which are also named after late family members. The Marjorie J. Wilson Award, worth a thousand dollars, is given annually for a single poem. (This year's deadline has been extended to May 29.) The Robert E. and Ruth I. Wilson Poetry Book Award, given annually for a book-length poetry collection, is named for Nazarene's grandparents. And the newly created Auntie Ann Book Award, which will be given for a book-length collection of poetry (the deadline is August 31), is named for his aunt.

In a recent e-mail, Nazarene explained the personal importance of this suite of contests:

"Our 'Auntie Ann' was aunt to Margie, myself, James [Margie's senior editor], and our brother Tom. Also to my children, Bobby and Madelyn. She was of extremely modest means. And yet, she never missed a birthday or Christmas card to any of us...and it always included a far more generous check than she could afford. She was so kind. And she gave us all back rubs whenever we wanted them. Similarly, the Robert E. and Ruth I. Wilson Poetry Book Award is in honor of our grandparents. Neither our grandparents nor our Auntie Ann had the opportunity of education. In fact, my grandfather, Robert E. Lee Wilson, went to work at nine to support his mother and six siblings when his father (an alcoholic) abandoned the family. In any event, none of these dear people ever went beyond the eighth grade. We know they are smiling at the literary awards named in their honor. ... They all loved Margie with all their hearts and were dumbfounded with grief when we lost her at age twenty-two in 1977."

The literary magazine Margie, Nazarene added, "is not about a what, it's all about a who and our attempt to keep her voice alive and ringing."

If your literary aspirations are a bit more, shall we say, glossy—your ideal number of readers in the six- or seven-digit range—you might want to check out these new writing contests. Esquire, the monthly magazine for the "intellectually curious and confident modern man" (circ. 700,000), and Real Simple, the magazine for women that features "the inspiration, information, and time saving tools they need to make their lives easier" (circ. 1.9 million), recently launched contests that offer some good, old-fashioned cash and, perhaps more importantly, publication in magazines that are read by a wider cross section of the American public than most creative writers ever expect to reach.

The new Esquire Fiction Contest offers $2,500 and publication for the best story based one one of these three titles: "Twenty-Ten," "An Insurrection," or "Never, Ever Bring This Up Again." Writers may submit up to four thousand words by August 1. 

Real Simple's second annual Life Lessons Contest offers three thousand dollars, publication, two round-trip tickets to New York City, hotel accommodations for two nights, tickets to a Broadway play, and a lunch with Real Simple editors, for the best essay that answers the following question: When did you realize that you had become a grown-up? Writers may submit essays of up to fifteen hundred words by September 7.

In 2004, at the age of forty-seven, Barb Johnson decided to take time away from her carpentry business and pursue an MFA in fiction at the University of New Orleans. Shortly thereafter, Hurricane Katrina wiped out Johnson's business and forced her to live on the balcony of her apartment in the evacuated city. She kept writing, and by the time she graduated, in 2008, she had a book deal for a story collection, More of This World or Maybe Another, forthcoming from HarperCollins in November. Last week, she won the fifty-thousand-dollar Gift of Freedom Award from the nonprofit A Room of Her Own Foundation.

In her application for the biennial award, which is given to a woman writer who has a specific two-year goal (winners are chosen on the basis of talent and motivation), Johnson wrote, “We write to say, You are not alone. We write the thing that can’t be said…the thing that will be a bright moment for a stranger, the way another’s writing was a bright moment for us.… We pass what we have to those who are hungry for it because we, ourselves, have been hungry.”

With financial help from the award, Johnson will spend the next two years completing a novel titled "St. Luis of Palmyra," which picks up where her forthcoming story collection leaves off. The finalists for this year's award are Bridget Birdsal, CM Burroughs, Nathalie Handal, Gail Kramer, and Rashaan Alexis Meneses.

Previous recipients of the award, which was created in 2002, are Jennifer Tseng, Jeannine Harkleroad, Meredith Hall, and Summer Wood.

 

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