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G&A: The Contest Blog

Writers who are residents of Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have the opportunity this summer to apply for awards specific to the states they call home.

Deadlines for grants from five states arts councils are coming up, offering awards that range from one thousand dollars to ten thousand dollars. Some funds are for specific projects, but others are no-strings grants.

Here is a list of upcoming deadlines for grants sponsored by state arts organizations:

July 31
Maryland State Arts Council (for fiction writers only)
Individual Artist Awards

August 1
Delaware Division of the Arts
Individual Artist Fellowships

September 1
Illinois Arts Council (for fiction and creative nonfiction writers only)
Artist Fellowship Awards

Ohio Arts Council
Individual Excellence Awards

September 3
Arizona Commission on the Arts
Artist Project Grants

Also this summer, California poets and fiction writers are invited to apply to the Writers Exchange Contest sponsored by Poets & Writers, Inc. The award is five hundred dollars and an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to meet with a wish list of writers, editors, and agents. The deadline is August 31.

Until September 1, women writers from Philadelphia can apply for the Leeway Foundation’s Art and Change Grants of up to $2,500 to fund a project that melds art and social progress.

Stay tuned later this summer for deadlines in October and November for New York, South Carolina, and Wyoming writers.

Kundiman, the New York City-based organization promoting Asian American poets, and Alice James Books, the Maine-based cooperative poetry press, have partnered to present a $2,000 book publication prize in 2010. The new award, the only prize of its kind, is dedicated exclusively to Asian American poets.

"We, Kundiman, are thrilled to be partnering with Alice James Books on this initiative in that it gives us an opportunity to participate in a material way the production of Asian American poetry and in the professional development of Asian American poets," said Sarah Gambito, Kundiman’s cofounder and executive board president. She went on to say that the award "fulfills our shared commitment to contributing to the diversity of voices in the poetic landscape."

Interested writers have the remainder of the summer and autumn to prepare their manuscripts, which should be forty-eight to eighty pages in length, with the deadline falling on January 15 of next year. The board members of Alice James Books and Kundiman will collectively judge the prize.

Kundiman, which has been in operation for six years, runs an annual retreat at the University of Virginia and a reading series in New York City. In 2005 and 2006, the organization awarded a prize for smaller volumes, the Vincent Chin Memorial Chapbook Prize.

More information about the award is forthcoming on the Kundiman Web site.

From over one hundred entries from twelve African countries, Nigerian writer EC Osondu emerged as winner of the tenth annual Caine Prize for African Writing. Osondu received the ten-thousand pound prize (approximately sixteen thousand dollars) for his story "Waiting" from the online magazine Guernica (October 2008). The award, given for a short story by an African writer published in English, was announced last Monday at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Nana Yaa Mensah, chair of the judges, called Osondu’s story "a tour de force describing, from a child’s point of view, the dislocating experience of being a displaced person. It is powerfully written with not an ounce of fat on it—and deeply moving."

Stories published in journals and anthologies as many as five years prior to the deadline are considered for each year's prize. This year's finalists were:

Mamle Kabu of Ghana for "The End of Skill” from Dreams, Miracles and Jazz (Picador Africa, 2008)

Parselelo Kantai of Kenya for “You Wreck Her” from St. Petersburg Review (2008)

Alistair Morgan of South Africa for “Icebergs” from Paris Review (Winter 2007)

Mukoma wa Ngugi of Kenya for “How Kamau wa Mwangi Escaped into Exile” from Wasafiri (Summer 2008)

Osondu, who once worked as an advertising copywriter and went on to receive his MFA from Syracuse University, now teaches at Providence College in Rhode Island. As part of the award, Osondu will spend a month in residence at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

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.

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