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G&A: The Contest Blog

Submissions are currently open for the second annual Prada Feltrinelli Prize, cosponsored by the Italian fashion house Prada and the Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore. The winner or winners will each receive €5,000 (approximately $6,783) and publication in Prada Journal, a digital anthology distributed through the Prada website. The annual award is given for a short story.

Using the online submission system, submit a story of 10 to 20 pages in any language by June 24. There is no entry fee. The story should focus on the question, “What are the signs of a changing world? And what situations can we envision? Taking a good look at the details might give us the answer.” Representatives from Prada and Feltrinelli Editore, along with an international jury, will judge the contest. The winner will be announced by December 31, and the full terms and conditions can be read on the Prada website.

The inaugural winners of the prize were Mattia Conti of Molteno, Italy; Leisl Egan of Melbourne, Australia; Angel Mario Fernández of Soraluze, Spain; Sarah Harris Wallman of New Haven, Connecticut; and Peng Yang of Beijing, China. They each received €5,000, and were honored at an event at the Prada Epicenter in New York City in October 2013. At the event, excerpts of their stories were read aloud by writers and actors Jonathan Ames, Zoe Kazan, Anthony Mackie, Jay McInerney, and Gary Shteyngart. Over 1,300 entries in over 30 languages were submitted for the 2013 prize. The 2013 Prada Journal can be downloaded from the Prada website and read in both the original language and in English. Of the five winning entries, two were written in English, one in Italian, one in Spanish, and one in Mandarin Chinese.

Four of the five inaugural winners, from left to right: Sarah Harris Wallman, Peng Yang, Mattia Conti, Leisl Egan.

Photo credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images North America

For the ninth installment of our Winners on Winning series, we spoke with Jacob Newberry, who won the Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Contest in nonfiction for his essay What You Will Do. The prize, given annually in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, includes $1,000 and publication in Ploughshares. Newberry is originally from the Mississippi coast, and is a PhD student in creative writing, with an emphasis in poetry, at Florida State University.

Has winning this award, or previous awards, changed the way you approach your work?
The awards I've won, and this one in particular, have given me a very tangible validation for my writing. I think we can all understand how nice this might feel when it's never happened, but it's more than a nice feeling: It's an important form of motivation. There were many times when I was just starting to write when I'd convince myself that I wasn't any good at it at all. In the first workshop I ever took, which was when I was working on an MA (not in creative writing), most of the people in the class were workshop pros and were actually quite hostile toward me. They took a lot of opportunities not just to tear down the work (which needed tearing down) but to really tear down my ambition altogether. At the time, I was new enough to writing that it was pretty damaging. The effect was that I stopped believing in my skills as a writer for a while, though I never stopped writing.

Once I started winning awards and seeing things in print, though, I stopped doubting and fearing my ambition. And if that self-doubt ever creeps up on me again, I can remember that I had the same feeling of worry and panic and confusion when I was writing the pieces that won these awards, and so I should spend the energy on the writing and not on unfounded panic. 

The bottom line is that winning hasn't changed the way I write. If it had, I suspect it would be only for the worse. As I said, it's really been a way of mitigating the self-doubt that all writers experience when we're not writing. So when I step away from the page, that's when the self-sabotage might begin. The difference now is that I just don't let it begin at all. 

Have you ever entered a contest that you didn't win?
I've entered plenty of contests that I didn't win. Not winning those contests actually gave me a better sense of perspective once I did start winning. All awards are about quality writing to a large extent, of course, but there's also a really unknowable percentage of it that's just chance. Who are the first readers of your submission, and what if their taste is simply different from yours (or the final judge's)? What effect does submitting late or early or right in the middle have on the time and attention given to your piece? What if the editor tells you she absolutely loves your poem about Jerusalem, but she just published some Jerusalem poems last issue, and now it's too soon to revisit that topic? (The last one happened to me.) 

What advice would you offer to writers thinking of submitting to writing contests?
Save your very best work and submit it only to contests that you'd be proud to win or place in. If winning that contest would be an important enough achievement for you and the contest requires a fee, then pay it. Otherwise, never pay for a contest that doesn't give you a subscription in return. 

For more Winners on Winning, read the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, and check back next Wednesday for a new installment.

Poets Anne Carson and Brenda Hillman have won the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prizes, given annually since 2000 for books of poetry published in, or translated into, English in the previous year and submitted from anywhere in the world. They each received $65,000 Canadian (approximately $60,000).

Carson, a poet, essayist, and translator who was born in Canada and currently teaches at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, won the Canadian prize for her most recent collection, Red Doc> (Knopf). Hillman, who serves as a professor and poet-in-residence at St. Mary’s College in Morago, California, and is the author of eight previous collections, won the International Prize for her collection Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (Wesleyan University Press).

The announcement was made late last week at an annual awards ceremony in Toronto. Scott Griffin, the founder of the prize, and trustees Carolyn Forché, Robert Hass, Robin Robertson, Karen Solie, Colm Tóibín, and David Young hosted the event.

The judges, who are selected each year by the prize trustees, were for 2014 Robert Bringhurst, Jo Shapcott, and C. D. Wright. They each read 542 books of poetry, submitted from forty different countries, including twenty-four translations.

The 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist featured collections by four international and three Canadian poets. The finalists were Rachael Boast’s Pilgrim’s Flower (Picador), Carl Phillips’s Silverchest (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Mira Rosenthal’s translation from the Polish of Colonies by Tomasz Rózycki (Zephyr Press), Sue Goyette’s Ocean (Gaspereau Press), and Anne Michaels’s Correspondences (McClelland & Stewart). Each finalist received a $10,000 honorarium.

During the awards ceremony, Brazilian poet and writer Adélia Prado was honored with the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry's 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology: A Selection of the 2014 Shortlist, edited by Robert Bringhurst and published by House of Anansi Press, is now available at retail bookstores and online. Royalties generated from the anthologies, published annually, are donated to UNESCO's World Poetry Day.

Carson (above left), and Hillman (above right, Brett Hall Jones)

Last night at the Southbank Centre in London, Irish author Eimear McBride won the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for her debut novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. She received £30,000 (approximately $50,385). 

Established in 1996, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Orange Prize, is given annually for a novel written in English by a woman and published in the United Kingdom during the previous year. The shortlisted finalists included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Americanah (Knopf); Hannah Kent for Burial Rites (Little, Brown); Jhumpa Lahiri for The Lowland (Knopf); Audrey Magee for The Undertaking (Atlantic Books); and Donna Tartt for The Goldfinch (Little, Brown).

The judges for this year’s prize were Mary Beard, Denise Mina, Caitlin Moran, Sophie Raworth, and chair of judges Helen Fraser, who called McBride’s winning book “an amazing and ambitious novel that impressed the judges with its inventiveness and energy. This is an extraordinary new voice—this novel will move and astonish the reader.”

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which tells the story of a young woman struggling with sexual abuse and her brother’s brain tumor, is written in an experimental stream-of-consciousness style. McBride wrote the book in six months, and spent almost nine years trying to get the book published. It was finally picked up by the small UK-based Galley Beggar Press, which published it as their second book. The book has gone on to win the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year award and the Goldsmiths prize.

At last night’s award ceremony, McBride said of her win, “I hope it will serve as an incentive to publishers everywhere to take a look at difficult books and think again. We are all writers but we are all readers first. There is a contract between publishers and readers which must be honored, readers must not be underestimated.”

 Photo: Reuters

For the eighth installment of our Winners on Winning series, we spoke with Chris Hosea, the winner of the 2013 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets for his debut collection, Put Your Hands In. The prize, given annually to a poet who has not yet published a book, includes $5,000, publication, and a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. Hosea's winning manuscript, selected by John Ashbery, was published by Louisiana State University Press in March. Hosea received his MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and is a senior copywriter at H4B Chelsea. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

What kind of impact has winning the Whitman Award had on your career?
I'm pretty sure the Whitman Award helped me recently to land a new job, with better pay and more impressive-sounding title, in advertising. Creative distinctions, and particularly established institutional honors, are valued in such industries. 

Has winning this award, or previous awards, changed the way you approach your work?
I'm certain that contest judge John Ashbery's comparison between my poems and Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descebding a Staircase, and even more Ashbery's remarks about derision and eroticism in Put Your Hands In, will affect my writing for the rest of my life.

Have you ever entered a contest that you didn't win?
I have entered hundreds of contests and spent thousands of dollars on fees. If you don't play, you can't win. 

What advice would you offer to writers thinking of submitting to writing contests?
Sequencing is important. Give yourself at least a month to order and reorder the poems in your book. Also, contest screeners are often (though by no means always) young students who haven't read a lot of poetry before: so include some lyrical candy up front. 

For more Winners on Winning, read the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, and check back next Wednesday for a new installment.

Hosea: Myles Paige

Submissions are open for the 2014 Paz Poetry Prize, sponsored by the Center for Literature and Theater at Miami Dade College and the National Poetry Series. An award of $2,000 and publication of a bilingual edition by Akashic Books will be given for a poetry collection written in Spanish by a U.S. resident. A translator will translate the winning entry from Spanish to English.

Submit a manuscript of at least 48 pages by June 15. There is no entry fee. Submissions can be sent by mail to the National Poetry Series, Paz Prize for Poetry, 57 Mountain Avenue, Princeton, NJ 08540. Richard Blanco will judge.

The biennial Paz prize was established in 2012 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Center for Literature and Theater at Miami Dade College. In response to why the prize was started, Lissette Mendez, the programs director at the center, says, “It’s hard for poets to publish, but poets who write in English have many contests they can enter in the U.S., as well as many independent presses and university presses to which they can submit manuscripts. It’s not quite that easy for poets who write in other languages—most publishers of foreign language books are in other countries. And then there is the issue of translation. The Paz Prize really works as a shortcut—publication in the U.S. by a wonderful, highly respected independent press in a bilingual edition. And our partner, National Poetry Series, is one of the most important poetry organizations in the country. It’s a wonderful thing to help a writer’s work get to the greater world, to help her or him find readers.”

Akashic Books, the Brooklyn-based press that will publish the winning collection, describes itself as committed to publishing work by authors who “are either ignored by the mainstream, or have no interest in working within the ever-consolidating ranks of the major corporate publishers.”

The 2012 winner of the Paz Prize, Dinapiera Di Donato, is a Venezuelan poet living in New York City. She won for her collection Colaterales/Collateral, which was chosen by Victor Hernandez Cruz, and translated by the poet Ricardo Alberto Maldonado.

The prize is named after the Mexican poet, essayist, and diplomat Octavio Paz (1914-1998), who wrote numerous poetry collections in Spanish from 1933 to 1989. He won the Cervantes Award in 1981, the Neustadt Prize in 1982, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990.

Paz: La Jornada

Submissions are currently open for the third annual International Short Story Prize, sponsored by the Cavan, Ireland–based literary magazine the Moth. The winner will receive €3,000 (approximately $4,082), and publication in the autumn 2014 issue of the Moth.

A second-place prize of €1,000 (approximately $1,361) and a third-place prize that includes a weeklong writing retreat at Circle of Misse in Missé, France, and €250 (approximately $340) for travel expenses, will also be given. Both winners will receive publication of their stories in the autumn 2014 issue of the Moth, and will be invited, along with the first-place winner, to read at the Winding Stair Bookshop in Dublin in September.

Submit a story of up to 6,000 words with a €9 (approximately $12) entry fee by June 30. Submissions can be sent through the online submission system, or by mail, with the required entry form, to the Moth Short Story Prize, the Moth, 81 Church Street, Cavan, Co. Cavan, Ireland. Irish fiction writer Mike McCormack will judge. McCormack is the author of two short story collections, most recently Forensic Songs (The Lilliput Press, 2012), and two novels. A recent interview with McCormack can be read on the Moth website.

The International Short Story Prize was established in 2012. The 2013 winner, Meadhbh Ní Eadhra of Galway, Ireland, won for her story “Ghosties,” which was chosen by Martina Evans. Visit the Moth website to read the winning entry.

 Photo: The Winding Stair bookstore in Dublin.

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