In the third person, write a scene using three different modes of narrative distance. First, using an objective point of view, describe a woman boarding a bus. Use only actions, expressions, and dialogue; make no judgments about the scene or about her interior life. Then, using the omniscient point of view, describe the woman striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to her. You can still describe what you see on the "outside," but now, reveal something "inside" that only a privileged narrator would know. (Is she late for work? Is she worried about something? Is she bored by the conversation?) Finally, shift into stream of consciousness as the woman gets off the bus. Continue to access the woman's thoughts, feelings, and memories, but use the language of the character herself, revealing "the process as well as the content of the mind," as Janet Burroway says. This wide range of voices may be extreme, but it allows for a full portrait of a character's inner and outer life—and reminds us that no point of view is static. This week's fiction prompt comes from fiction writer Eleanor Henderson, whose first novel, Ten Thousand Saints, will be published by Ecco in June.
Kansas-born poet Ben Lerner, author of Mean Free Path (2010), Angle of Yaw (2006), and The Lichtenberg Figures (2004), has become the first American poet to win the Preis für International Poesie der Stadt Münster, a poetry translation award given biennially by the city of Münster, Germany. Lerner, whose books are all published by Copper Canyon Press, won for his debut collection, translated into German by Steffen Popp as Die Lichtenbergfiguren and published by Germany’s Luxbooks.
Past winners of the prize, given since 1993, include Tomaž Šalamun, Hugo Claus, Zbigniew Herbert, and Inger Christensen. Lerner was selected for the tenth award by judges Urs Allemann, Michael Braun, Cornelia Jentzsch, Johan P. Tammen, Wendela Beate Vilhjalmsson, and Norbert Wehr.
In the video below, Lerner reads from The Lichtenberg Figures at the College of New Jersey.
Write a poem on a page of today's newspaper, allowing your eye to wander slightly and take in the language on the page, and for your text to overlay the text on the page. If you fix your eye on a specific word or phrase, incorporate it into the composition.
For the third time in the prize's short history, the Man Asian Literary Prize has been given to an author from China. On Thursday Bi Feiyu received the thirty-thousand-dollar honor for his novel Three Sisters (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), set during China's Cultural Revolution of the late sixties. The book's translators, Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin, each received five thousand dollars.
"Picking a winner from the selection of novels as rich and varied as those before us has made for an embarrassment of riches," said judge and literary critic Homi K. Bhahba during a speech at the award ceremony in Hong Kong. "For the house of fiction, as the novelist Henry James once called it, is a wondrous thing. Each window looks out on a different view. Each room provides an alternative way of living. Each door opens onto another country."
The Man Asian Literary Prize, which had for the past three years been given for a book of fiction not yet published in English and written by a citizen of one of twenty-seven Asian countries or territories, is now given for a volume already published in English. Past winners are Miguel Syjuco (Ilustrado) of the Philippines and Su Tong (The Boat to Redemption) and Jiang Rong (Wolf Totem), both of China.
Yesterday the Lambda Literary Foundation announced the finalists for its twenty-third annual "Lammy" literary awards. Books are considered on the basis of their being authored by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender writers or depicting LGBT characters.
Below are the contenders for prizes in poetry, fiction, and debut fiction, selected from a record pool of entries: 520 titles submitted by 230 publishers. The full lists of finalists in the additional Lammy categories, including biography, anthology, and erotica, are available on the Lambda Literary Foundation Web site.
Gay Poetry darkacre by Greg Hewett (Coffee House Press) then, we were still living by Michael Klein (GenPop Books) Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems by James Schuyler (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Pleasure by Brian Teare (Ahsahta Press) The Salt Ecstasies: Poems by James L. White (Graywolf Press)
Lesbian Poetry Money for Sunsets by Elizabeth J. Colen (Steel Toe Books) The Inquisition Yours by Jen Currin (Coach House Books) The Sensual World Re-emerges by Eleanor Lerman (Sarabande Books) White Shirt by Laurie MacFayden (Frontenac House) The Nights Also by Anna Swanson (Tightrope Books)
Gay Debut Fiction XOXO Hayden by Chris Corkum (P. D. Publishing) Probation by Tom Mendicino (Kensington Publishing) Bob the Book by David Pratt (Chelsea Station Editions) The Palisades by Tom Schabarum (Cascadia Publishing) Passes Through by Rob Stephenson (University of Alabama Press)
Lesbian Debut Fiction Alcestis by Katharine Beutner (Soho Press) Sub Rosa by Amber Dawn (Arsenal Pulp Press) Fall Asleep Forgetting by Georgeann Packard (The Permanent Press) The More I Owe You by Michael Sledge (Counterpoint Press) One More Stop by Lois Walden (Arcadia Books)
Bisexual Fiction Fall Asleep Forgetting by Georgeann Packard (The Permanent Press) If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous (Harper Perennial) Krakow Melt by Daniel Allen Cox (Arsenal Pulp Press) The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet by Myrlin A. Hermes (Harper Perennial) Pride/Prejudice: A Novel of Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, and Their Forbidden Lovers by Ann Herendeen (Harper Paperbacks)
Gay Fiction By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Children of the Sun by Max Schaefer (Soft Skull) Consolation by Jonathan Strong (Pressed Wafer) The Silver Hearted by David McConnell (Alyson Books) Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett (Doubleday)
Lesbian Fiction Big Bang Symphony by Lucy Jane Bledsoe (University of Wisconsin Press) Fifth Born II: The Hundredth Turtle by Zelda Lockhart (LaVenson Press) Holding Still for as Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall (House of Anansi), also a finalist in the transgender fiction category Homeschooling by Carol Guess (PS Publishing) Inferno by Eileen Myles (OR Books)
The winners will be honored at a gala held at the School of Visual Arts in New York City on May 26.
In the video below, Lesbian Fiction finalist Eileen Myles discusses her nominated book.
Find a story you admire, one with a tight, linear structure. Stories by Flannery O'Connor or Tobias Wolff would be good choices. Read the story slowly and thoroughly five times, so that you are emotionally detached from the narrative, so that you are able to recognize every sentence as a moving part that contributes to the overall design. Then read it again, for a sixth time, with a notebook next to you. Chart the architecture of the story. Indicate a new paragraph with a dotted line running across the page. Separate every instance of white space with a bold line. Track each paragraph, noting every relevant element. Example: Opens with a description of setting that clues us in to the mood of despair. Character A introduced with a line of dialogue that reveals his selfishness. And so on. When you finish, write your own story that bears no resemblance to the original except in its design. Paste new flesh on an old skeleton. For canonical examples of this, compare "Mexico" by Rick Bass to "The Prophet From Jupiter" by Tony Early or "The Lady With the Pet Dog" by Anton Chekhov to "The Man With the Lapdog" by Beth Lordan. This week's fiction prompt comes from fiction writer Benjamin Percy, whose most recent novel, The Wilding, was published in September 2010.
The PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, which offers a prize of fifteen thousand dollars, was announced yesterday. MacArthur "Genius" Fellow Deborah Eisenberg received the honor, for which she will be feted at a ceremony in May, for The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg (Picador). The four other finalists, including recent National Book Critics Circle Award winner Jennifer Egan, will receive five thousand dollars each.
In other fiction news, the longlist for the Orange Prize, given for a novel by a woman writer published in the United Kingdom during the previous year, was announced today. Among this year's standout authors are nine debut novelists, including much-celebratedTéa Obrecht for The Tiger's Wife (Random House) and Karen Russell—whobroke out onto the literary scene in 2006 with the story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (Knopf)—for Swamplandia! (Knopf). Samantha Hunt, whose The Seas appeared in the United Kingdom six years after it debuted in the United States, is also a contender for the thirty-thousand-pound prize (approximately forty-eight thousand dollars).
The finalists, with their U.K. publishers noted, are: Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch (Canongate) Room by Emma Donoghue (Picador) The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi (Bloomsbury) Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty (Faber and Faber) A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Corsair) The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Bloomsbury) The London Train by Tessa Hadley (Jonathan Cape) Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson (Sceptre) The Seas by Samantha Hunt (Corsair) The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna (Faber and Faber) Great House by Nicole Krauss (Viking) The Road to Wanting by Wendy Law-Yone (Chatto & Windus) The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (Viking) Repeat it Today with Tears by Anne Peile (Serpent's Tail) Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Chatto & Windus) The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin (Serpent's Tail) The Swimmer by Roma Tearne (Harper Press) Annabel by Kathleen Winter (Jonathan Cape)
"There is a scope to this list," says one judge, Susanna Reid. "If anyone has a preconception about what a woman writes about, or what a woman's novel is, I think that this will blow it away. These novels cross continents, cross generations, cross decades, and there is no subject that these writers are not willing to tackle."
The Orange Prize winner will be announced on June 8.
Choose a poem that you are in the process of revising. Draw a map of that poem, paying attention to the details of its landscape, its realities and abstractions, its landmarks, the spacial relationships among its features. Use the map to guide a revision of the initial work.
Last night the National Book Critics Circle celebrated its favorite books of 2010, announcing National Book Critics Circle Award winners in poetry, fiction, and autobiography. C. D. Wright took home the prize in poetry forOne With Others (Copper Canyon), a work of verse journalism investigating the Civil Rights movement in the poet's native Arkansas.
"She’s developed a new form, if not a new genre," says NBCC board member Craig Morgan Teicher in a review of Wright's book, "that allows for a new
blending of fact and feeling, one which could help us tell our stories
going forward, if only we’ll let it school us."
In fiction, Jennifer Egan won in fiction for A Visit From the Goon Squad (Knopf). Board member Collette Bancroft says of Egan's time-leaping novel-in-stories, "A Visit From the Goon Squad wraps big themes—art and its
relationship with technology, the fluid nature of the self, love and its
loss—in stories with a satiric edge, believable but never predictable
characters, and a range of styles masterfully rendered."
In autobiography, Darin Strauss won for Half a Life (McSweeney's Books), a memoir of the author's life after a devastating accident involving one of his high school classmates. "What might have been exploitative instead feels important, and dearly won," says board member Karen Long.
In the video below, filmed last week, Wright reads from her winning volume at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.
Abe's Penny, a "micro-magazine" that presents stories and poems serialized on postcards along with images, is looking for poems to accompany four series of photographs it will present in a Miami exhibition this April. The magazine will accept entries live at the New World School of the Arts' ArtSeen gallery on April 2, opening night of its exhibition featuring works by photographers Robby Campbell, Francie Bishop Good, Lee Materazzi, and Samantha Salzinger (and, incidentally, poetry readings by Gabby Calvocoressi and Denise Duhamel).
Writers will also have to opportunity to submit work during poetry and music events promoting the exhibition's run, which ends on April 26. (The show is held in conjunction with the new, monthlong, O, Miami literary festival, and information about all events is available on the festival Web site.) At the end of April, Abe's Penny will select one collaboration to publish as an issue of its magazine, which will be published piece-by-piece over the course of four weeks.
Writers visiting the gallery are invited to pen their poetry in "utopian but functional" workspaces created by New World School students. In order to offer writers more time to interact with the photography, the gallery will open to poets one hour prior to each scheduled event. There is no fee to submit poems, and the events are free and open to the public.
Think of a piece of gossip you've heard and identify the least sympathetic person involved. Maybe it's the adulterous mother of two? Or the Salvation Army bell ringer who, during the holidays, pocketed some of the donations he'd collected? Write a story from the perspective of the least sympathetic person with the piece of gossip as the narrative climax. You might also try writing the story with the piece of gossip as the inciting action of the story, as the event that sets everything in motion. This week's fiction prompt comes from Bret Anthony Johnston, fiction writer and editor of Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer.
The winner of the 2011 Story Prize, the annual twenty-thousand-dollar award for a collection of short fiction, was announced on Wednesday night. Idaho author Anthony Doerr received the honor for his fourth book and second story collection, Memory Wall (Scribner), a series of stories investigating memory and its relation to sense of self.
Judges John Freeman, Jayne Anne Phillips, and Marie du Vaure selected Doerr's book from a three-strong shortlist that also included Yiyun Li's Gold Boy, Emerald Girl (Random House) and Suzanne Rivecca's Death Is Not an Option (Norton). Li and Rivecca each received five thousand dollars.
Memory Wall also won the Pacific Northwest Literary Award and made recommended reading lists at the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Doerr has received numerous honors for his previous work, including two O. Henry Prizes, the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award, and the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize.
Here's what critics had to say about Memory Wall.
"Doerr is daring, yes, and compassionate, but more than anything, the four stories and two novellas in this collection are imbued with, and fueled by, a deep, almost anachronistic-seeming respect for his twin muses: memory and the natural world." Jeff O'Keefe for the Rumpus
"The impetus of a Doerr story is always a movement toward transcendence, and the process is what matters, not the vehicles: not the metaphors, not the tricky plots, not the local color, not the occasional bursts of melodrama. It’s the flow of experience toward something resembling
meaning, a sense of one’s place in time." Terrence Rafferty for the New York Times Book Review
"[Doerr] has a scientist's eye, a lyrical sensibility, and an impressively global canvas." Justine Jordan for the Guardian
In the video below, Doerr discusses books that blew his mind.
[Correction: Story Prize winner Anthony Doerr received an award of twenty thousand dollars, not ten thousand dollars, as previously reported.]
Make a list of five physical artifacts that seem to lack emotional weight, the more mundane the better. A donut, a vacuum cleaner, a pair of socks, etc. From your list, choose one of the artifacts, and use it as the emotional linchpin of a story. Write a story in which, say, a vacuum cleaner takes on enormous and surprising emotional significance to a character. For an example of how this can work, read Ann Beattie's story "Janus" from her collection Where You'll Find Me and Other Stories (Scribner, 2002). This week's fiction prompt comes from Bret Anthony Johnston, fiction writer and editor of Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer.
The finalists for this year's PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, which carries a prize of fifteen thousand dollars, were announced today. The shortlisted authors are Jennifer Egan for her novel A Visit From the Goon Squad (Knopf), which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; MacArthur "Genius" Fellow Deborah Eisenberg for The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg (Picador); Jaimy Gordon for her National Book Award-winning novel Lord of Misrule (McPherson); Eric Puchner for his novel Model Home (Scribner); and Brad Watson for his story collection Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives (Norton).
How does a judge manage to winnow all those entries? "There's a little sound a hardback book makes when it's first opened,
not exactly a squeak but almost, and that sound became familiar," says Furman. "When I
felt unsure, groggy, or worst, compromising, my fellow judges were
there—as were the best of the books—to remind me to keep to the
strictest of standards, those of my heart, instinct, and intelligence."
The winner of the thirty-first annual award will be announced during a
ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. on May 7.
In the video below, Egan reads from her nominated book at New York City's Franklin Park Reading Series.