For one week, collect words and phrases you encounter throughout the day from signs, advertisements, menus, overheard conversations, radio programs, headlines, television, etc. At the end of the week, write a found poem, using these snippets.
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Symphony Space in New York City is introducing a little competition to the ticket holders to the March 2 performance of Selected Shorts, its storytelling series. The theater, which houses one of New York City's most literary stages, will hold a story contest—Electric Shorts—on the occasion of Selected Shorts: Electric Literature, a presentation of stories from the digital (and print-on-demand) magazine performed by comedians including Mike Birbiglia and John Lithgow.
To enter, writers should purchase a ticket to the event (fifteen dollars for attendees age thirty and under, twenty-three dollars for Symphony Space members, and twenty-seven dollars for everyone else), then submit a story of up to five hundred words. Each e-mailed submission must include the writer's name, address, phone number, e-mail address, the work's title, its word count, and the date of ticket purchase. The deadline is February 25.
A winner, selected by Electric Literature author Rick Moody, will be announced at the March 2 event, and that winner's story will be read onstage by one of the evening's performers. The story will also be recorded for a Selected Shorts podcast. There is no cash prize for this award (but we do hear there'll be rum cocktails served gratis during the event).
Newspapers are filled with compelling headlines that often include one or two people and describe the final outcome of an event: Man Jumps Off Bridge After Wedding, Woman Kidnapped as Baby Reunites With Family, Flight Attendant Receives Proposal Mid-flight. Read your local newspaper or peruse local newspapers online, and choose a headline. Use it to write a story about what led up to the final outcome the headline describes.
The Man Booker Prize has created another one-off award. Intended to celebrate the life's work of the late Beryl Bainbridge, who had been a finalist for the prestigious British award five times but never won, the Best of Beryl prize will call out the most Booker-worthy of her shortlisted titles, as determined by public vote.
Voters can choose between Bainbridge's novels Master Georgie (1998), Every Man for Himself (1996), An Awfully Big Adventure (1990), the Guardian Fiction Award–winning The Bottle Factory Outing (1974), and The Dressmaker (1973). (Incidentally, her final novel, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, forthcoming in June from Little, Brown, is ineligible for a posthumous Booker nomination—only living writers are considered for the honor.) The Best of Beryl title will be announced in April.
"Beryl did want to win the Booker very much despite her protests to the contrary," says Bainbridge's daughter, Jojo Davies. "We are glad she is finally able to become the bride, no longer the bridesmaid."
Meanwhile, the Guardian's Michael Holroyd takes a more skeptical stance on what exactly the award is celebrating.
In the video below, BBC News takes a look back at the life of Bainbridge at the time of her death last July.
As the new year rages on with news of political unrest abroad, PenTales, a New York City–based organization dedicated to furthering global dialogue through stories, has announced a short story contest on the theme of "revolt." The competition welcomes entries from around the globe (written in or translated into English) that offer unique perspective on the topic.
According to the contest guidelines listed on the PenTales Web site, judge Daniel Rasmussen, author of American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt (Harper, 2011), will be looking for "stories that capture the bravery and idealism of men and women who fight against oppression and injustice; stories that disinter the wild spirit of man in rebellion; stories that remind us of the wild dreams and tremendous risks of complete and total revolt."
The winning work, as well as the second- and third-place selections, will be published on the PenTales Web site along with a review by Rasmussen. The winner will also receive a signed copy of American Uprising.
The deadline for entries, which should be submitted via e-mail, is March 7.
For those seeking inspiration from a book on the subject, this recent post on the New Yorker's Book Bench blog recommends a few illuminating titles, including Gabriel García Márquez's 1975 novel, The Autumn of the Patriarch.
Read the first paragraph of five of your favorite short stories, analyzing how they begin. Do they start with the description or voice of a character? With the description of a place or incident? With dialogue? Choose one of the beginnings and use it as a model for the entryway into a story of your own. See how far it takes you.
Aspinwall, Pennsylvania–based Black Lawrence Press, while experiencing rather modest weather in comparison to points west, has opted to extend the deadline for its novel competition, with snowbound writers in mind.
"We've received word from a number of people that inclement weather across much of the country made it rather difficult to meet Monday's Big Moose Prize deadline," the press's executive editor Diane Goettel writes in an e-mail. "For this reason, we are extending the deadline to February 15. And don't worry, we won't exclude you if you live in a land of sand and sun."
If you're under the cloud that is covering most of the country, perhaps today is the day to resist cabin fever and consider submitting that novel—or at least cozying up to write. For a little wintry literary inspiration, check out the video poem below by Black Lawrence Press author Brent Goodman.
Three Percent, the international literature division at University of Rochester in New York, has announced its top twenty-five picks for the 2011 Best Translated Book Award in fiction, representing nineteen countries and twelve languages. A five-thousand-dollar prize will be given to each winning author and translator of books of poetry and fiction published between December 1, 2009, and November 30, 2010 (poetry finalists will be announced in March).
The longlisted fiction titles, below, include books by 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award finalist David Grossman and International 2007 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winner Per Petterson. Three Percent will feature on its Web site reviews and analysis of each title in the coming weeks, leading up to the shortlist announcement on March 24. Winners will be named on April 29 at the PEN World Voices Festival in New York City.
The Literary Conference by César Aira, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (New Directions)
The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz, translated from the Czech by Andrew Oakland (Dalkey Archive Press)
The Rest Is Jungle and Other Stories by Mario Benedetti, translated from the Spanish by Harry Morales (Host Publications)
A Life on Paper by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, translated from the French by Edward Gauvin (Small Beer Press)
A Jew Must Die by Jacques Chessex, translated from the French by Donald Wilson (Bitter Lemon)
A Splendid Conspiracy by Albert Cossery, translated from the French by Alyson Waters (New Directions)
The Jokers by Albert Cossery, translated from the French by Anna Moschovakis (New York Review Books)
Eline Vere by Louis Couperus, translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke (Archipelago Books)
Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky (New Directions)
The Blindness of the Heart by Julia Franck, translated from the German by Anthea Bell (Grove Press)
Hocus Bogus by Romain Gary (writing as Émile Ajar), translated from the French by David Bellos (Yale University Press)
To the End of the Land by David Grossman, translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen (Knopf)
The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal (New York Review Books)
The Clash of Images by Abdelfattah Kilito, translated from the French by Robyn Creswell (New Directions)
Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico by Javier Marías, translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen (New Directions)
Cyclops by Ranko Marinković, translated from the Croatian by Vlada Stojiljković, edited by Ellen Elias-Bursać (Yale University Press)
Hygiene and the Assassin by Amélie Nothomb, translated from the French by Alison Anderson (Europa Editions)
I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson, translated from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund and the author (Graywolf Press)
A Thousand Peaceful Cities by Jerzy Pilch, translated from the Polish by David Frick (Open Letter)
Touch by Adania Shibli, translated from the Arabic by Paula Haydar (Clockroot)
The Black Minutes by Martín Solares, translated from the Spanish by Aura Estrada and John Pluecker (Black Cat)
On Elegance While Sleeping by Emilio Lascano Tegui, translated from the Spanish by Idra Novey (Dalkey Archive Press)
Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk, translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns (Tin House)
Microscripts by Robert Walser, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky (New Directions/Christine Burgin)
Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer by Ernst Weiss, translated from the German by Joel Rotenberg (Archipelago Books)
Write a scene in which two very different characters—an old man and a young woman, for example—are having an argument. Then rewrite the scene so that each character makes the argument the other character was making in the previous draft. Pay close attention to what is revealed about the characters in each draft.
While the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Awards shortlists, announced last weekend, have echoes of last fall's National Book Awards, the nominees in fiction were a completely fresh batch. Receiving nods for this year's prize in fiction are A Visit From the Goon Squad (Knopf) by Jennifer Egan, Freedom (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Jonathan Franzen, To the End of the Land (Knopf) by David Grossman, Comedy in a Minor Key (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Hans Keilson, and Skippy Dies (Faber and Faber) by Paul Murray.
National Book Award winners Terrance Hayes (Lighthead, Penguin) and Patti Smith (Just Kids, Ecco) are up for the prizes in poetry and autobiography, respectively. Also called out are National Book Award–nominated poets Kathleen Graber for The Eternal City (Princeton University Press) and C. D. Wright for One With Others (Copper Canyon), as well as Anne Carson for Nox (New Directions) and U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan for The Best of It (Grove Press).
In the memoir category, Smith’s book is up against Half a Life (McSweeney's Books) by Darin Strauss, Crossing Mandelbaum Gate (Scribner) by Kai Bird, Autobiography of an Execution (Hachette) by David Dow, Hitch-22 (Twelve) by Christopher Hitchens, and Hiroshima in the Morning (Feminist Press) by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto.
The judging committees of the NBCC will have their say this spring, but while awaiting word of the winners on March 10, here’s a look at what some critics thought of this year's notable titles before they were finalists.
"Nox is a luminous, big, shivering, discandied, unrepentant, barking web of an elegy." Meghan O’Rourke on Carson’s poetry collection, New Yorker
"If you only read one book of poetry this year, that’s not enough, but start with this one.” Craig Morgan Teicher on Graber’s The Eternal City, Publishers Weekly
"Talking to the reader as if she were sitting next to him on a bar stool, Hayes makes poems that flatter our subtlety and make unfussy the business of turning on the imagination's light." John Freeman on Lighthead, Dallas Morning News
"Turning each corner of a Ryan poem, the eye drops to the next solid, well-planked surface." John Freeman on The Best of It, Los Angeles Times
"One With Others is potent because it is alive with voices, alive with suffering, alive with a language which earmarks an era, but also a message which seeks to persist. It is also alive with an ideology of hatred that still courses through the United States today.” Steven Karl on Wright’s poetry collection, Coldfront
"For a book so relentlessly savvy about the digital age and its effect on how we experience time (speeded up, herky-jerky, instantaneous, but also full of unbearable gaps and pauses), A Visit From the Goon Squad is remarkably old-fashioned in its obsession with time’s effects on characters, that preoccupation of those doorstop nineteenth-century novels." Will Blythe on Egan’s novel, New York Times Book Review
"Some of Freedom’s sentences are so well-written you want to pluck them out, stab them with little corn holders, and eat them." Sam Anderson on Franzen's novel, New York Magazine
"Why was Freedom written?" B. R. Myers also weighs in, The Atlantic
"Grossman invites us to look beneath the shrill headlines, beyond the roadblocks, within the clenched fist — to see Israel’s predicament not as 'the situation' but as many situations, one for every person.” Donna Rifkind on To the End of the Land, Kansas City Star
"Keilson treats his characters tenderly, sympathizing with their difficulties and forgiving them their mistakes…. Keilson's work as a psychoanalyst displays an empathy and a sensitivity to suffering that are surely the equal—if not arguably the superior—of any of which a novelist is capable." Dan Vitale on Comedy in a Minor Key, which was originally published in German in 1947 (in a review that also covers Keilson’s Death of the Adversary), Three Percent
"One of Murray's achievements is to evoke the mournfully short-lived nature of adolescent forevers." Richard Eder on Skippy Dies, Los Angeles Times
"Dow’s candor seems so absolute that readers on both sides of the [death penalty] debate
can gain insight into the thought process of an experienced advocate.
His prose is captivating." Steve Weinberg on Autobiography of an Execution, Christian Science Monitor
"Hitchens’s political writing radiates anger and toughness, but his stories of his loved ones are remarkably sensitive and emotionally real.” Michael Schaub on Hitch 22, National Public Radio
"Hiroshima in the Morning is a deeply affecting record of the author’s exploration of story and memory, and an intriguing addition to existing 9/11-related books.” J. G. Stinson on Rizzuto’s memoir, ForeWord Reviews
"Just Kids is the most spellbinding and diverting portrait of
funky-but-chic New York in the late sixties and early seventies that any alumnus has committed to print." Tom Carson on Smith's memoir, New York Times Book Review
"What is truly exceptional here is watching a writer of fine fiction…probe, directly, carefully and with great humility, the source from which his fiction springs." Dani Shapiro on Strauss’s Half a Life, New York Times Book Review
Today the widow of T. S. Eliot awarded the annual prize given to honor a poetry book published in the previous year. Eighty-one-year-old Derek Walcott received the fifteen-thousand-pound prize for White Egrets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
The Nobel laureate, who was compared last year to Eliot in the New York Times Book Review, was accompanied on the shortlist by Simon Armitage, nominated for Seeing Stars (Faber); Annie Freud for The Mirabelles (Picador); John Haynes for You (Seren); fellow Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney for Human Chain (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Pascale Petit for What the Water Gave Me (Seren); Robin Robertson for The Wrecking Light (Mariner Books); Fiona Sampson for Rough Music (Carcanet Press); Brian Turner for Phantom Noise (Alice James Books); and Sam Willetts for New Light for the Old Dark (Jonathan Cape).
"More than almost any other contemporary poet, Derek Walcott might seem to be fulfilling T. S. Eliot’s program for poetry," poet Karl Kirchwey writes in his NYTBR review of White Egrets last April. "He has distinguished himself in all of what Eliot described as the 'three voices of poetry': the lyric, the narrative or epic, and the dramatic."
The judges expressed similar sentiments. "It took us not very long to decide that this collection was the yardstick by which all the others were to be measured," said chair of judges Anne Stevenson, whose was joined by Bernardine Evaristo and Michael Symmons Roberts. "These are beautiful lines; beautiful poetry."
Make a list of objects. One thing should be from your desk, one from your closet, one a body part, one a thing you covet that belongs to someone else, one enormous, one slippery, and at least one that makes an odd or evocative sound. Now, describe each using a simile. Do this twice for each one. Using as many of the similes as you can, write a poem with a title such as “Checklist to Survive a Nuclear Winter” or “Things That Have Nothing To Do With Grief.”
Small literary press New Issues Poetry and Prose, operating out of the Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, has announced the winner of its twelfth annual Green Rose Prize. Texas poet Corey Marks received the two-thousand-dollar prize, given for a manuscript by a poet who has published at least one poetry collection, for "The Radio Tree," which New Issues will publish in the spring of 2012.
The book will be Marks's second poetry collection, following Renunciation, which won the National Poetry Series Open Competition and was published by University of Illinois Press in 2000. Marks, who directs the creative writing program at the University of North Texas, holds a PhD in creative writing from the University of Houston and earned his MFA from Warren Wilson College's low-residency program.
Previous winners include Noah Eli Gordon (chapbook reviewer for Rain Taxi) for A Fiddle Pulled From the Throat of a Sparrow, Joan Houlihan (director of the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference) for The Mending Worm, and Martha Rhodes (publisher of Four Way Books) for Perfect Disappearance.
New Issues also accepted runner-up Hadara Bar-Nadav's manuscript "The Frame Called Ruin" for publication in the fall of 2012. Bar-Nadav is the author of the collection A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight (Margie/IntuiT House, 2007) and the chapbook The Soft Arcade (Cinematheque Press, 2010).