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In the classic essay "Notes of a Native Son," James Baldwin writes about his relationship with his father, against the backdrop of a time of racial violence in America. Write an essay about your relationship with a parent and try to relate it to a larger aspect of the society and culture in which you were raised.

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation has announced that George Saunders will receive the 2013 PEN/Malamud Award. Given annually for a “body of work that demonstrates excellence in the art of short fiction,” the award comes with a five-thousand-dollar purse.

Considered a master of the short story, George Saunders’s most recent collection, Tenth of December, was published in January by Random House. A professor of creative writing at Syracuse University, his previous works include the story collections and novellas CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1997), Pastoralia (2001), The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip (2005), The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil (2005), and In Persuasion Nation (2007), and an essay collection, The Braindead Megaphone (2007). He is a regular contributor to the New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, GQ, and the New York Times Magazine. Saunders has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and four National Magazine Awards.

“Saunders is one of the most gifted and seriously comic short story writers working in America today,” said Alan Cheuse, a member of the Malamud Award selection committee, which is comprised of a panel of PEN/Faulkner directors. “And his comedy, like most great comedy, is dark….He's a Vonnegutian in his soul and, paradoxically, a writer like no one but himself.”

In addition to the prize money, PEN/Malamud Award winners are also invited to give a reading as part of the PEN/Faulkner Reading Series at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. This year’s reading will take place in December. 

Established in 1988, the PEN/Malamud Award honors the late writer Bernard Malamud. Past winners have included, among others, John Updike, Saul Bellow, Eudora Welty, Grace Paley, Stuart Dybek, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, Junot Diaz, Lorrie Moore, Tobias Wolff, Amy Hempel, Nam Le, Edith Pearlman, and James Salter. 

Listen below as George Saunders discusses Tenth of December for the WNYC talk show Soundcheck.  

Think about a person from history—Anne Boleyn, Martin Luther King Jr., Cleopatra, Abraham Lincoln—whose story you find compelling. Write a summary of this person's life, charting the ups and downs that made it remarkable. Using this summary as a plot, write a story that is set in the present and features a main character from your imagination.

Choose a poem—a classic work or something you've newly discovered—and memorize it. As you do so, note the rhythms, sounds, and structure that help you remember it. To test your memory, and in honor of National Poetry Month, consider reciting it to a friend in person, leaving a recording of it on a friend's voicemail, or sending an audio file of it to one or more friends via e-mail. 

The judges for the 2013 National Book Awards were announced today. For the first time since the 1970s, the judges in each category will include not only writers, but also literary professionals such as editors, professors, and booksellers, in an attempt to broaden the reach of one of the country's most prestigious literary prizes. 

The judges in poetry include Nikky Finney, whose collection Head Off & Split won the 2011 National Book Award; Ada Limón, whose debut collection, Lucky Wreck, won the 2005 Autumn House Poetry Prize; D. A. Powell, who won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for his collection Useless Landscape: A Guide for BoysJahan Ramazani, a professor at the University of Virginia whose book Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Craig Morgan Teicher, the poetry reviews editor for Publishes Weekly whose collection Brenda Is in the Room and Other Poems won the 2007 Colorado Prize for Poetry. 

The judges in fiction include Charles Baxter, who was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2000 for The Feast of LoveGish Jen, the author of four novels and a collection of stories, and an American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow; Charles McGrath, the former editor of the New York Times Book Review and former deputy editor at the New YorkerRick Simonson, who has been a bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Washington, for over thirty-five years; and René Steinke, a 2005 National Book Award finalist for her novel Holy Skirts, and director of the MFA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The judges in nonfiction include Jabari Asim, the author of The N Word and What Obama Means, a former book reviewer for the Washington Post, and an associate professor at Emerson College; André Bernard, vice president and secretary of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; M. G. Lord, author of The Accidental FeministForever Barbie, and Astro Turf, for which she received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant; Lauren Redniss, a finalist for National Book Award in 2011 for Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout; and Eric Sundquist, author and chair of the English Department at Johns Hopkins University.

“The expansion of the judging pool has given us an extraordinary diversity of voices on our panels,” said Harold Augenbraum, the executive director of the National Book Foundation, which sponsors the annual awards. “We expect spirited discussions throughout the process.” 

The judges for this year’s awards will be the first group in the history of the prizes to select a long list of ten titles in each of the four categories, to be announced on September 12. Twenty finalists from the long list will be announced on October 16, and the winners in each category will be announced at the sixty-fourth annual National Book Awards ceremony in New York City on November 20.  

Louise Erdrich took the 2012 award in fiction; David Ferry won in poetry, and Katherine Boo won in nonfiction.

The National Book Awards have been given annually since 1950 for books published in the current award year. Submissions for the 2013 prizes open today. Using the new online submission system, publishers may submit books published between December 1, 2012, and November 30, 2013, until June 3. Visit the website for complete submission guidelines

P&W-funded Regie Cabico blogs about his latest readings and workshops. He is the coeditor, with poet and novelist Brittany Fonte, of the recently published anthology of queer poetry and spoken word, Flicker and Spark (Lowbrow Press). His own work has appeared in over thirty anthologies, including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Spoken Word Revolution, and Chorus & The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He received the 2006 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers for his work teaching at-risk youth at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. He is a former Artist in Residence at NYU's Asian Pacific American Studies Program and has served as faculty at Banff's Spoken Word Program. He resides in Washington, D.C.

March had me climbing from The University of Northern Alabama conducting poetry and performance workshops with Andy Thigpen and Chelsea Root, the codirectors of Boxcar Voices: a Poetry and Storytelling Series in Florence, Alabama. I would know nothing of the south if it weren't for JT Bullock, a slam poet and registered nurse who grew up performing poetry and organizing poetry readings with heralded slam poets. The workshops I conducted drew twenty students and the performance drew a hundred or so enthusiastic audience members. JT and I are a two-person poetry group called Dirty Rice. The name reflects my Asian and JT's Southern Roots. The “dirty” stands for our lascivious poems and stories of political gay identity.

Florence is magical: the people, the shrimp and grits and muffins. I left wanting to curate a queer arts festival this year. Why? Because I'm insane. But also because the community is so friendly and warm and I know that the impact of a queer spoken word gathering would forever affect the 40,000-person population of Florence. Thigpen is a born and bred resident of Florence; he loves words, is an incredible writer, and his running of series in a small town creates an incredible impact. Chelsea Root is an up-and-coming writer with an intense delivery and shares Thigpen's enthusiasm for the word.

The open mic is its own church and community. The Sparkle Series (which occurs on the fourth Wednesday of each month at Busboys and Poets at 5th & K) is my way of combating homophobia and misogyny in the Washington, D.C. open mic scene. In its five-year history, Danielle Evennou and I have brought emerging and established queer poets to D.C. to share their work. Denise Jolly, recently ranked number five in the 2013 Women of the World Slam, graced us with her newer work. Jolly was joined by Spencer Retelle, a new voice in D.C. Along with Busboys and Poets, Sparkle and Split This Rock will apply for Poets & Writers funding through the Readings/Workshops Program for my performance in mid-June.

Finally, I am writing my last blog in Montreal, the gayest city in North America. I am with JT Bullock again and participating in The Mile End Poetry Festival. I conducted a workshop sponsored by the Montreal Slam Team and performed with Jane Gabriels, a poet and theater artist from New York City and Montreal, and other avant garde artists. My work is only made possible by those who have visions of bringing voices together. Ian Ferrier, who curated The Mile End Poetry Festival, is a literary activist galvanizing the best literary talents. Sheri-D Wilson of Calgary, David Bateman from Toronto, and Moe Clark and Kaie Kellough of Montreal inspire me. On the second night of the festival, I participated in the first ever Word Race contest—a competition where people read words as fast as they can, battling each other through speed and acuracy. I came in second place and won a Norwegian Arts Guide Book. C Command, the individual representative for the Canadian Indie Competition, won. He received an American Slang Dictionary. Oh, shucks. I wouldn't have been able to carry it in my bag anyway.

Photo: Regie Cabico. Credit: Carlos Rodriguez.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Washington, D.C., is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

In March, P&W-supported poet Terrance Hayes read with Red Hen Press at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena, California. P&W staff member Cheryl Klein writes about the evening.

Red Hen Press GroupGiven that many reading series struggle to draw audiences, it’s somewhat astonishing to consider that Red Hen Press maintains five series—one in New York and four in the Los Angeles area, where the eighteen-year-old press is based. And judging by a mid-March reading by poet Terrance Hayes and several Red Hen authors, sagging attendance is not an issue.

With the sun setting pinkly, poetry fans filed into the Boston Court Performing Arts Center, a large brick theater with a digital marquee, tucked in a leafy residential street in Pasadena, California. A Boston Court representative cheerily informed the audience that, behind the thick black curtain, sets were being built for the center’s next production, about America’s first serial killers. On that note, he turned the mic over to Red Hen Managing Editor Kate Gale.

Gale introduced each of the night’s four poets by reading a few of her favorite lines from their work. Katharine Coles read first, from The Earth is Not Flat, a Red Hen collection comprised of poems she wrote while traveling in Antarctica. The poems reflected her longtime fascination with the intersection of science and literature.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the travel poems of Alaska’s Peggy Shumaker, who read from her book Toucan Nest later that evening, reveal an obsession with warmer territory. Specifically, she recounted in lyrical form a trip she’d taken to Costa Rica with fellow Red Hen author and new L.A. poet laureate Eloise Klein Healy, whose partner leads eco-tours to tropical environments. Shumaker’s poem about baby howler monkeys reveled in the kind of parent-child push-and-pull that can be found in all climates.

Dan Vera, inaugural winner of the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize, read striking and funny poems about growing up Cuban in Arizona. In Cuban Spanish, he told the audience, “menudo” is slang for change, the kind you receive from a cashier. In Mexican Spanish, it refers to tripe soup. You can imagine how things unfolded when his father demanded that the owner of a Mexican restaurant put five dollars worth of menudo in his cupped hand.

The evening’s featured reader was Terrance Hayes, who appeared on stage in a gray sweater and a watch on each wrist—apparently he wasn’t going to be one of those features to prattle on. And in fact, he only read two poems—though they were both somewhat epic in nature, folding in flashes of American history, riffing about race, and punning slyly.

The first, “Self Portrait as the Mind of a Camera,” was based on the photographs of Charles Harris, who documented life in the African-American neighborhoods of his native Pittsburgh. Hayes contemplated the various meanings of “black and white” as they pertain to photography and race: “To be black and white is to behold the existential and believe that the colors are conspiring against you.”

His second poem, “Wigphrastic,” was a critique of Norman Mailer’s essay “The White Negro,” which played with the idea of the “wigger” (a word Hayes said he dislikes, though he’s up for combining “white” and “black” to get “wack”) by naming the many uses for wigs. Protection, façade—“Isis wigs, Cleopatra wigs, Big Booty Judy wigs.” The idea of playing with artifice was clearly as fascinating to Hayes as any icy or tropical landscape.

From left: Terrance Hayes, Monica Copeland, Kate Gale, and Eloise Klein Healy. Credit: Gabriela Morales.


Major support for Readings/Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Open City, an online magazine published by the New York City–based Asian American Writers’ Workshop, sponsors five annual fellowships of five thousand dollars each to Asian American creative nonfiction writers in New York City. Fellows will write short-form and long-form pieces focused on the immigrant communities of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, which will be published in Open City. Applications are due April 8.

In addition to the grant money, the Open City Creative Nonfiction Fellows program provides membership and full access, including workspace, to the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in Manhattan, as well as career guidance, editorial feedback, and meetings with publishing professionals. The program seeks emerging writers interested in journalism, Asian American communities, and social issues such as race, culture, immigration, and gentrification. Fellows are expected to write at least one piece each month, including features, profiles, Q&As, and personal essays, to be published in Open City. The yearlong fellowship begins on April 30.

Established in 1991, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop is a national nonprofit arts organization “devoted to the creating, publishing, developing, and disseminating of creative writing by Asian Americans” through various event series and the online magazines Open City and The Margins. Open City “takes the real-time pulse of metropolitan Asian America as it’s being lived on the streets of New York right now. We tell the stories of the Asian and immigrant neighborhoods that comprise one million New Yorkers and 13 percent of the city, but that rarely find their way to mainstream media.” For complete guidelines and application form, and to learn more about the Asian American Writers' Workshop, visit the website.

In the video below, current Open City Creative Nonfiction Fellows Rishi Nath, Sukjong Hong, and Humera Afridi discuss their experiences in the fellowship program. 

Browse through online newspapers for stories that took place on the same day at least ten years apart. Write an imaginative essay, based on these two stories, that moves back and forth between them and ultimately ties them together.

Take a draft of one of your stories and cut it up into sections no longer than three to four paragraphs each. Reorder these sections and revise the story accordingly, writing transitions and discovering connections that lead to a new cohesive structure.

Make a collage inspired by a working draft of one of your poems, using images from books, photographs, magazines, newspapers, and drawings. You may incorporate words as well. Let the transformation of your poem into another medium inform a revision of the poem on the page.

The Northern Colorado Writers (NCW) short fiction contest, which offers a grand prize of one thousand dollars and publication in the NCW anthology, is given annually for a short story. The deadline is March 31. 

Fiction writers may submit a story of up to five thousand words, along with a twenty-dollar entry fee, via e-mail. Writers need not be NCW members or Colorado residents to enter. 

Novelist and short story writer Alyson Hagy, whose most recent novel, Boleto, was published by Graywolf last year, will judge. A second-place prize of two hundred and fifty dollars and a third-place prize of one hundred dollars are also given. Winners, honorable mentions, and editor’s picks will be published in Pooled Ink, NCW’s annual anthology, which this year will be released in December. 

Established in 2006 by freelance writer Kerrie Flanagan, the Fort Collins–based Northern Colorado Writers was founded in order to “encourage and support writers of all levels and genres.” The organization hosts an annual writers conference—including workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as round-tables with editors and agents—which will be held on April 26 and 27 at the Fort Collins Hilton. NCW also sponsors a creative nonfiction contest (which accepts submissions from April 1 through June 30) and a poetry contest (which accepts submissions from July 1 through September 30). 

Visit the NCW website for complete contest guidelines

P&W-funded Regie Cabico blogs about a whirlwind week of readings and workshops. He is the coeditor, with poet and novelist Brittany Fonte, of the recently published anthology of queer poetry and spoken word, Flicker and Spark (Lowbrow Press). His own work has appeared in over thirty anthologies, including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Spoken Word Revolution, and Chorus & The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He received the 2006 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers for his work teaching at-risk youth at Bellevue Hospital in New York. He is a former Artist in Residence at NYU's Asian Pacific American Studies Program and has served as faculty at Banff's Spoken Word Program. He resides in Washington, D.C.

P&W-funded Kundiman, an organization that supports Asian American poets, has been an important resource for me as a teaching mentor, and the co-founders Sarah Gambito and Joseph Legaspi have been long-time supporters of my performance work. If I don’t make it to the 2013 AWP Conference in Boston to attend their ten-year anniversary panel and party, it’ll be like missing a wedding.

On the plane from D.C. to Boston, as we are about to take off, the pilot tells us that all flights in and out of Boston's Logan airport have been suspended. An hour later, they have to clean the ice on the wings. After watching JetBlue’s History Channel entire program on vikings, we finally lift off.

My first reading starts at 7:30 PM. I arrive in Boston at 8 PM. My coeditor Brittany Fonte texts me, HURRY! and I finally get to the reading at 8:30 PM. I read two poems: Baruch Porras Hernandez’ “Pursuit of Taconess” and J Mase the III’s “Neighbor”—both hysterical pieces with serious messages about immigration and transphobia. It’s a hit. Afterward, Nathaniel Siegel takes me out to a gay bar, where I sing “I Am What I Am” really badly.

On Thursday at 1:30 PM is the Flicker & Spark book signing. I spend thirty dollars on beverages and snacks at Trader Joe’s. Three poets show up: Nathaniel Siegel, Dorothea Smartt from London, and Lenelle Moise. Brittany Fonte and I were hoping to find the other poets in the book and thank them.

On Thursday night, Kundiman had a very emotional intimate celebration at the Pucker Gallery. The room exploded with Prosecco, sushi, impromptu massages, and poetry whispered in our ears. Afterward, I take it easy and watch Project Runway with Kim Roberts, a poet and my housemate.

On Friday, I pray that my fRegie Cabicolight to Madison will be on time. I am scheduled to perform at the Midwest Filipino Students Association. I am to give a workshop and a performance in the evening. I bring my bags to Friday morning's Kundiman panel. Myung Mi Kim, Paisley Rekdal, and I read poems and talk about pedagogy.

I leave Boston and its icy wind velocities. At the airport, I see Michael Cirelli, executive director of P&W-funded Urban Word. He confirms my hosting the slam finals on April 20 at The Apollo with rapper MC Lyte.

I can only think about getting to Madison. I get in at midnight. The next morning, my workshop has twenty students and my performance in the evening is a huge hit.

On Sunday, I am eating brunch with the students and comedian Rex Navarette. I insist that we all have a wholesome Wisconsin brunch with organic eggs and cheese. I get to my house at midnight. I will have a Poetry Out Loud workshop to do the next day along with an open mic feature for the Northern Virginia Gay Health Center at Busboys & Poets, and then I will host my weekly spoken word and cabaret show La-Ti-Do.

Once at home, I reflect back on my week. I have too many business cards that need to be sorted. I am totally drained, and it is not even National Poetry Month yet. But I am happy I saw Bonnie Rose Marcus, the director of Poets & Writers' Readings/Workshops (East), who reminded me to apply for D.C. funds while there was some money left. Through Poets & Writers' Readings/Workshops program, I've been paid for doing my community work.

Photos: (Top, from left to right:) Regie Cabico, Sarah Gambito. Credit: Oliver de la Paz. (Bottom, from left to right:) Soham Patel, Regie Cabico, and Regie's patron poet Carlos Bulosan.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Washington, D.C., is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Last week, during a ceremony at the British Library in London, the Folio Society announced the launch of a new literature prize worth forty thousand pounds, or roughly sixty thousand dollars. 

The Folio Prize will be given annually for books of literary fiction, regardless of form or genre, written in English by an author from any country and published in the United Kingdom during the previous calendar year. The inaugural prize will be awarded in 2014. 

Led by prize cofounder Andrew Kidd, a literary agent and former publisher of Picador/Macmillan, the advisory committee gathered over a hundred authors, editors, and critics from around the world to form the Folio Academy, from which a panel of five judges will be selected each year. The Folio Society—a London–based publisher that reissues classic works of literature in illustrated special editions—was announced as the prize’s sponsor earlier this year. 

Academy members include Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee; Booker Prize recipients Margaret Atwood, Peter Carey, Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatje, and Salman Rushdie; critics Geoff Dyer and Elif Batuman; Granta editor John Freeman, n+1 editor Keith Gessen, and New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman; American authors Michael Chabon, Michael Cunningham, Bret Easton Ellis, Junot Díaz, Ben Lerner, Richard Powers, Alice Sebold, and Maria Semple; and international writers Nam Le, China Mieville, David Mitchell, Philip Pullman, Zadie Smith, Miguel Syjuco, Colm Toibin, and Jeanette Winterson.

The panel of judges will consider eighty books each year for the prize. The Academy will nominate sixty titles (each member is encouraged to nominate up to three titles per year); publishers will also be invited to nominate titles, from which twenty additional finalists will be chosen. The panel will select a shortlist of eight books, and the final winner will be announced in the spring. The judges for the first Folio Prize will be announced this summer, and the inaugural winner will be announced in March 2014. 

To watch a video from the launch and for more information, visit the Folio Prize website. 

Write a micro essay of 1,000 words in which you incorporate a series of footnotes. Strive to create the footnotes so that they both propel the essay forward and layer it with meaning.

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