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For those interested in practicing their elevator speeches, the Algonkian Writer Conference will sponsor three events on the art of pitching your work. Pitch and Shop for fiction writers and creative nonfiction writers will be held from September 23 to September 26 at the Ripley-Grier Studios in New York City, Fisherman's Wharf Writers Conference for fiction writers will be held from October 13 to October 17 at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, and Write and Pitch for fiction writers will be held from November 12 to November 14 at the Corte Madera Best Western Hotel, outside of San Francisco. Authors, editors, and, of course, agents will participate.

New Orleans Review, published by Loyola University in New Orleans, is currently holding its Walker Percy Short Fiction Contest, named in honor of the late physician novelist whose novels were often set in the Big Easy. The city has also been a realm of interest for this year's judge and NOLA native, Nancy Lemann, who called Percy her "hero" in a 1988 interview in BOMB magazine.

Lemann authored her first book, Lives of the Saints (Knopf, 1985), at age twenty, and has since published four additional works: the novels Sportsman's Paradise (Knopf, 1992), The Fiery Pantheon (Scribner, 1998), and Malaise (Scribner, 2002), and the nonfiction book Ritz of the Bayou (Knopf, 1987). Lemann's recent projects include, according to her bio on the Johns Hopkins
University
Web site, "an intergenerational saga of New Orleans
culminating in the hurricane."

The prize is one thousand dollars and publication in New Orleans Review. The journal will also consider the stories of twenty-five finalists for publication.

Story submissions of up to 7,500 words can be sent online or via postal mail until October 1, along with a fifteen-dollar fee per entry. Contest details and select content from the magazine's archive are available on the New Orleans Review Web site.

With a new batch of deadlines listings just posted in our Grants & Awards database, over the next few days we'll be highlighting select prizes with details about what winners can expect, judge profiles, winner stats, and more.

Fiction Collective Two (FC2), an imprint of the University of Alabama Press, is now accepting short story collections, novellas, and novels of any length for its two prizes, the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize, which offers fifteen thousand dollars, and the one-thousand-dollar Ronald Sukenick American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize. Both awards include publication by FC2.

We asked FC2 how the winners’ books are promoted, how the authors are publicized, and if finalists are typically awarded publication. Here’s what managing editor Carmen Edington had to say:

"Both contests' winners benefit from FC2's imprint-of-the-University-of-Alabama-Press (UAP) status. Together with UAP, FC2 promotes our authors in several national literary magazines, on our Web site and blog, and at the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference.

"FC2 aims to publish books of high quality whose style, subject matter, and form push the limits of American publishing. Our contests help us discover writers who are doing this and who have been doing this for years but haven't yet found a home for their writing."

The number of finalists published typically varies from none to two, according to Edington.

In 2009 Tricia Bauer received the first annual Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize for Father Flashes, which will be released in March 2011. Bauer, who works as vice president of special markets for Rosen Publishing in Manhattan, has previously published four books: Working Women and Other Stories (Bridge Works, 1995), Boondocking (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), Hollywood & Hardwood (St. Martin’s Press, 2000), and Shelterbelt (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). The Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize accepts submissions from any U.S. writer who has published a minimum of three books. Entries will be accepted until November 1.

The judge for this year’s contest is Ben Marcus, the author of The Age of Wire and String (Dalkey Archive Press, 1998), Notable American Women (Vintage Contemporaries, 2002), and The Father Costume (Artspace Books, 2002), who will also pen the foreword to the winning book. Known for his surrealist fiction, Marcus is the 2009 recipient of the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in fiction, and many other fellowships and prizes.

Sara Greenslit, a veterinarian at Healthy Pet Veterinary Clinic in Wisconsin, won the 2009 Ronald Sukenick American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize for her novel As If a Bird Flew by Me which will also be released in 2011. She is also the author of The Blue of Her Body, which won the Starcherone Fiction Prize in 2005. The Sukenick Prize is open to any U.S. writer who has no history of publication with FC2. The deadline for submissions is November 1.

Kate Bernheimer, a member of FC2’s board of directors and editor of Fairy Tale Review, is slated to select this year’s winning manuscript. Members of the FC2 board of directors will also select finalists for both prizes.

Manuscripts will be judged on how well they fulfill FC2’s mission to publish “fiction considered by America’s largest publishers too challenging, innovative, or heterodox for the commercial milieu.” According to FC2’s website, these are works of “high quality and exceptional ambition whose styles, subject matter, or forms push the limits of American publishing and reshape our literary culture.”

Nightboat Books has been offering its poetry book publication prize since one year after the small press that "resists convention and transcends boundaries" was founded in 2003. The award, judged this year by Kimiko Hahn, includes one thousand dollars as well as a standard royalty contract and twenty-five author copies.

We asked Hahn, author of eight collections including Toxic Flora (Norton, 2010) and The Narrow Road to the Interior (2006), about her guiding principles when judging the contest. "I tend to favor highly textured language—see Jack Myers's description," she said. "Also, a mix of personal and social concerns doesn't hurt."

Here is the definition Myers and his coauthor Don Wukasch offer for texture in their Dictionary of Poetic Terms (Longman, 1985): "From Latin for 'to weave.' Originally, the surface constitution of a painting or sculpture. In poetry, according to the New Critics, which used the term frequently, texture refers to the unparaphrasable elements of a poem."

What are those important elements? According to Myers and Wukasch, "aesthetic surface, dramatic structure, form, imagery, irony, lineation, meter, rhyme, rhythm, sound system, and typographical arrangement." They also refer to the "heresy of paraphrase," a critical idea introduced by Cleanth Brooks in his 1947 book, The Well Wrought Urn, which argues that a poem cannot be expressed satisfactorily via paraphrase.

Last year's poetry prize judge, Fanny Howe, chose Black Took Collective cofounder Dawn Lundy Martin's second book, Discipline (forthcoming in February 2011) for the 2010 prize. "These poems are dense and deep," Howe said of Martin's winning work. "They are necessary, and hot on the eye. I was reminded of Leslie Scalapino, the sensitivity to the surrounding arrangements and to human suffering. There is no distance from Martin’s subject, but immersion and emotional conflict. Discipline is what it took to write such a potent set of poems.”

Other past winners include Paula Cisewski for Ghost Fargo, Lytton Smith for The All Purpose Magical Tent, Jonathan Weinert for In the Mode of Disappearance, Joshua Kryah for Glean, and Juliet Patterson for Truant Lover.

In the video below, Hahn discusses her love of language and reads from her latest collection.

In honor of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that brought an end to the war in Bosnia, the international Dayton Literary Peace Prize recognizes authors whose work celebrates peace, understanding across borders, and social justice. This year's winner of the ten-thousand-dollar lifetime achievement award is Geraldine Brooks, a novelist and journalist whose novel March (Viking) won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize.

Brooks's most recent work is People of the Book (Viking, 2008), a novel centered on the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated Jewish text protected during centuries of European wars and conflicts by Muslims and Christians. She is also the author of the novel Year of Wonders (Viking, 2001) and the nonfiction books Foreign Correspondence (Anchor Books, 1998) and Nine Parts of Desire (Anchor Books, 1995).

"A writer is always thrilled to have her work recognized," Brooks said. "But this prize has a particular meaning to me, because I covered the fighting in the Balkans as a journalist and I know what peace, even an imperfect peace, can mean to a civilian population that has been besieged and violated by years of war." Remarking on the Bosnian peace agreement, she said, "As Dayton shows, it is at the table, rather than on the battle field, that wars may be brought to an end."

Brooks will receive her award at a ceremony in Dayton on November 7, during which the winners in fiction and creative nonfiction will also be honored.

In the video below, Brooks talks about the resonance of People of the Book, which is dedicated to librarians.

With a new batch of deadlines listings just posted in our Grants & Awards database, over the next few days we'll be highlighting select prizes with details about what winners can expect, judge profiles, winner stats, and more.

Kore Press, a feminist outfit in Tucson, Arizona, is now accepting story submissions for its Short Fiction Award competition (judge TBA), which offers a one-thousand-dollar prize and publication of the winning work as a chapbook. We asked the folks at Kore how the chapbooks are promoted and distributed and how authors are publicized. Here's what they had to say:

"Our chapbooks are usually published in editions of about four hundred, and are distributed and sold in independent bookstores and libraries throughout the United States, as well as on our Web site and Amazon.

"These chapbooks are collected by many special collections and archives throughout the country, along with the rest of the Kore Press collection of published works, appreciated for its cultural, aesthetic,and social value as Kore Press is one of six feminist presses in the United States.

"Kore Press and the author work collaboratively pre- and post-publication to plan effective marketing and publicity for the book and sales goals. Kore Press works up press releases, tip sheets, press kits, and more to represent the book, and likes to pitch its chapbooks to various book awards and always hopes to support our authors in as many readings and events as possible."

In other Kore Press contest news, the deadline for the First Book Award in poetry has been extended to August 31. The judge for this year's contest is Bahnu Kapil, who teaches at Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado. Her works, which "for some readers, function as prose, and for others as poetry" (according to her bio on the Web site of literary magazine Almostisland), include Incubation: A Space for Monsters (Leon Works), and The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers and Humanimal: A Project for Future Children, both published by Kelsey Street Press, a Berkeley, California, press for women writers.

In addition to their contests, Kore Press also accept submissions of full-length book manuscripts during the month of January to consider for its annual catalog of six to nine titles. Since the open submissions period is not a contest, the editors' review process is not anonymous.

The finalists for the tenth Thurber Prize for American Humor were announced by Thurber House, the literary center housed in the late humorist James Thurber's former home in Columbus, Ohio. The five-thousand-dollar award, given previously to writers such as David Sedaris, Christopher Buckley, and Ian Frazier, is the premier honor for literary humor writing given in the nation.

Contending for this year's five-thousand-dollar prize are former MTV veejay and Rolling Stone writer Jancee Dunn for her second memoir Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? (Villard); Steve Hely, who has written for The Late Show With David Letterman and 30 Rock, for his novel, How I Became a Famous Novelist (Grove/Atlantic); and Rhoda Janzen, a former poet laureate of California who holds a PhD from University of California in Los Angeles, for her memoir Mennonite in a Little Black Dress (Henry Holt).

The winner, who will also provide "guest entertainment" at the Thurber House's annual gala in December, will be announced on October 4.

In the video below, Janzen discusses her memoir.

The Washington Post reported this morning that literary agent Elaine Koster died on August 10 in Manhattan. Koster started her own agency in 1998, and her clients over the years have included Monique Truong and best-selling author Khaled Hosseini, among others. She was 69 years old and is survived by her husband and daughter. 

 

The Center for Fiction in New York City announced its shortlist for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize (formerly known as simply the First Novel Prize). The honorees include three small press authors, one of whom was later published by a major house after a prize nomination led to increased demand.

That writer is Karl Marlantes, nominated for Matterhorn (Grove/Atlantic), which was initially acquired by editor Tom Farber at El León Literary Arts, a small outfit in Berkeley, California. "This huge book couldn't at first find an agent or a publisher," journalist Leah Garchik wrote of the novel in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Farber recognized its power. Take heart, writers."

The other finalists for the Center for Fiction's ten-thousand-dollar award are:

Michelle Hoover, a descendant of generations of farming families, for The Quickening (Other Press). She now teaches at Boston University and the Boston literary center Grub Street.

Jessica Francis Kane of New York City for The Report (Graywolf Press), which follows her debut story collection, Bending Heaven (Counterpoint, 2002).

Ethiopian-born Maaza Mengiste, a graduate of the MFA program at New York University, for Beneath the Lion's Gaze, published by Norton. In 2007 she was named a "Literary Idol" by New York Magazine's readers.

Julie Orringer for The Invisible Bridge, her follow-up to her debut story collection, How to Breathe Underwater, both published by Knopf. She is an Iowa Writers' Workshop alumna and a former Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford.

Drew Perry of North Carolina, who has also published poetry, for This Is Exactly Like You (Viking).

Nashville (via New York City) writer Adam Ross for Mr. Peanut (Knopf). Ross received his MFA from Washington University.

The winner will be announced by last year's winner, John Pipkin, on December 6 at a ceremony in New York City. Each runner up will receive, for the first time in the prize's history, a one-thousand-dollar award.

In the video below, Marlantes discusses the urgency to write his novel, a project he worked on for thirty years. (Also on YouTube: Hoover reveals the historical materials, photographs and a journal, that inspired her book.)

When the New Yorker's Book Bench blog reported last month on the H. G. Wells Short Story Contest, the Britain-based competition hadn't received a single entry. At least not for the one-thousand-pound main prize (about fifteen hundred dollars) open to writers twenty-five and younger—a second competition offering a quarter of that amount had received a number of submissions.

Book Bench blogger Eileen Reynolds illuminated a few reasons why young writers' story flow could have been so low—quirky rules that required entries to be handwritten ("because that is considered an important aspect of literacy") and asked writers to avoid employing elements of Wellsian science fiction, focusing rather on an alternative topic, "what life is like for ordinary people, working or retired." Or it could have been that potential entrants were simply unaware of the contest.

Whatever the reason, there are a few more days for writers in Britain and beyond to submit (anyone is eligible, per the entry form, though the target is university and secondary school students from Kent)—the deadline has been extended to August 15. Prize administrator Reg Turnill also opened the competition to science fiction and will accept typed entries, though, according to Kent News, handwritten entries will be given "extra marks."

The prizes will be awarded at the second annual H. G. Wells Festival in Folkestone, on the coast of Kent, taking place in September. The late author's great grandson, Dominic Wells, will present the awards.

A preview for one film adaptation of Wells's 1895 novella, The Time Machine, a work that "stimulated the imagination of mankind" and feature elements of both nineteenth-century ordinary life and the futuristic fantastical, is below.

The literary festival named for the late author and playwright is holding its first poetry contest in honor of Tennessee Williams, whose verse New Directions founder James "Jay" Laughlin once wrote has a "way of getting right into the marrow of life" in contrast to the younger American "decorator" poets he witnessed being published the 1950s. (Laughlin was Williams's publisher of choice since before his first collection, In the Winter of Cities, was released in 1956.)

The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival will host the winner of the poetry contest as a VIP, along with the fiction and one-act play competition winners. All will give readings at the twenty-fifth anniversary event to be held in New Orleans next March in conjunction with Williams's one-hundredth birthday. The winner will also receive one thousand dollars and publication in Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine.

Writers who have not published a poetry collection have until August 15 to enter the contest with two to four poems (plus a twenty-dollar entry fee). Complete guidelines and more about the event are available on the festival Web site. (Prose writers take note: The fiction contest deadline is November 15.)

Two writers recently received laurels, including a cash prize and the promise of publication of their respective books, from University of Nebraska Press, but two runners up were missing from this year's roll of winners. Due to budget constraints, the Prairie Schooner Book Prizes (named for the university's literary journal) were awarded to only first-place authors this year, poet James Crews and fiction writer Greg Hrbek, each of whom won three thousand dollars.

Crews, who has an MFA from University of Wisconsin in Madison and has seen poems published in Prairie Schooner in the past, won for his first collection, The Book of What Stays. He has been a student at Portland, Oregon's the Attic writing center and, according to a shout-out on their Web site, also volunteers for AmeriCorps.

Hrbek won for his short story collection Destroy All Monsters, which follows his debut book, the novel The Hindenburg Crashes Nightly (William Morrow, 1999). He earned his MFA at University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and is a writer-in-residence at Skidmore College in Sarasota Springs, New York.

According to managing editor James Engelhardt, the press will reinstitute its two one-thousand-dollar runner-up prizes, which were given last year to poet Nicole Cooley and fiction writer Garth Risk Hallberg (the winners were Shane Book and Ted Gilley), as soon as the economy permits. More details about the awards, now in their ninth year, are available on the University of Nebraska Press Web site.

The Poetry Foundation has revealed the twenty-nine finalists for its five coveted Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship awards. The winners of the fifteen-thousand-dollar prizes, given annually to support poets between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one in their writing and study of poetry, will be announced by September 1.

Out of a reported eleven-hundred entrants, the finalists are:
Justin Boening
Julie Brown
Lily Brown
Kara Candito
George David Clark
Brooklyn Copeland
Tarfia Faizullah
Patrick Ryan Frank
Andrew Grace
Miriam Bird Greenberg
Chelsea Jennings
Paul Killebrew
Nate Klug
Laura Koritz
Brandon Kreitler
Dora Malech
Jamaal May
Amanda Nadelberg
Kathryn Nuerenberger
Idra Novey
Brittany Perham
Cherry Pickman
Frances Justine Post
Courtney Queeney
Margaret Reges
Christopher Robinson
Sarah Schweig
Christopher Shannon
Will Tyler

In the video below, finalist Idra Novey reads from her debut collection The Next Country, published by Alice James Books in 2008 as part of the Kinereth Gensler Award.

On July 23, Publisher’s Marketplace reported that agent Julie Barer of Barer Literary sold Nick Dybek's debut novel, When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man, after an auction during which five publishers made offers, to editor Sarah Bowlin at Riverhead Books. Most writers, when they read news like this, assume such deals result from a combination of talent and luck. Often overlooked is the hard work put in by both author and agent, after they join forces, to make the manuscript submission-ready. We asked Dybek how the author-agent relationship worked in his case, and here’s what he had to say.

“By the time I began working with Julie Barer, I’d been scrubbing and polishing a novel for almost four years, and I felt the manuscript was almost as good as it would ever be. Julie’s warm and enthusiastic response to the book served to reinforce this delusion, at least at first. Consequently, when her revision letter and mark-up arrived a month later, suggesting what felt like a mountain of substantive changes and cuts, I have to admit my day was ruined. It wasn’t that I was unused to or resistant to criticism; years of writing workshops had given me calluses. But, for the first time, I didn’t have the option of ignoring those suggestions I instinctively, if inexplicably, resisted. ‘Give an editor an excuse to turn a project down,’ Julie often said, ‘and he will.’ Though she never demanded that I take her advice, she was seldom impressed by my flailing explanations as to why I wanted that paragraph or this scene or that chapter to stay the same.

"It took me four months to write a draft responding to Julie’s initial comments. And then, over a period of about nine months, with Julie’s patient help, I wrote another draft and another and another. This was some of the most difficult work I’ve ever done, at least partially because of how conflicted I felt about the process. Part of me was impatient, frustrated at having to address problems in the manuscript I wasn’t sure were problems, unsure that I could even bear to read a scene, a paragraph, a sentence again. But another part of me was purely and immensely grateful that a pro like Julie was taking my work so seriously, spending her weekends reading my manuscript for the second, third, fourth, and fifth times. Though many of the revisions I made were painful in the moment, I haven’t regretted a single one. And I realize now that Julie was holding my work to a standard that I should have held it to all along.”

The Arvon Poetry Prize, established thirty years ago by poet and husband of Sylvia Plath Ted Hughes, is now accepting entries. Until August 16, poets from around the world are invited to submit poems (with a seven-pound fee per piece) for the seventy-five-hundred-pound prize (a little less than twelve hundred dollars) sponsored by the British writing organization the Arvon Foundation.

Second- and third-place prizes of twenty-five hundred pounds and one thousand pounds, respectively, will also be given. Winners will be individually notified by October 1, and an announcement will be made in London on November 4.

The judges will be U.K. poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who last year launched the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry won by Alice Oswald; Elaine Feinstein, poet, translator, and Hughes biographer whose first collection, The Circle (Faber Finds, 1970), was a semifinalist for the Lost Man Booker Prize; and Sudeep Sen, whose most recent collection is Letters of Glass (Wings Press, 2010).

For a list of previous winners (including former U.K. poet laureate Andrew Motion) and complete guidelines are available on the Arvon Foundation Web site.

In the video below, judge Duffy's poem "Mrs. Midas" is adapted in animation. The text of the poem is also available on the Web.

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