Welcome to Readings & Workshops, a new blog which will showcase the fabulous literary contributions that Readings/Workshops program participants make to their communities. Check back regularly to read highlights of events we’ve supported through our R/W grant program and dispatches from the writers and literary presenters we’ve partnered with in New York State, California, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New Orleans, Seattle, Tucson, and Washington, D.C.
For a taste of what R/W is all about, check out this video, which documents a writing workshop at New York’s Goddard Riverside Community Center. We’ve funded this workshop since 2001, making it one of our longest-running writing workshops for seniors, and most of the participants have attended consistently for more than a decade. You’ll understand why when you watch the video.
Lionel Shriver, who some posit is among the greatest living American writers, finds her Orange Prize–winning novel recognized for another honor this spring. The film adaptation of We Need to Talk About Kevin, starring Tilda Swinton—an actress with more than a few literary films under her belt—is up for the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. (Meanwhile, the Independent reports, Shriver has not seen the film and will not go to Cannes, though she was not opposed to the adaptation of her book.)
The novel, Shriver's seventh, took the 2005 Orange Prize, given since 1996 for a novel by a woman of any nationality. We Need to Talk About Kevin, which was rejected by dozens of publishers before finding break-out success, was also voted the Orange Prize "winner of winners" in a public vote last summer. (Shriver dismissed the subsequent honor, however, telling the Independent, "I'm critical of the Orange people on this front. The more prizes you give, the more meaningless they become.")
Whether the story of Kevin will be recognized with another honor will be revealed on the final day of Cannes, May 22.
The two-year-old Sunday Times Short Story Award, given by the U.K. weekend newspaper for a single story, goes this year to an American author. Anthony Doerr, who won the Story Prize in March for his second collection Memory Wall, took the thirty-thousand-pound prize (nearly fifty thousand dollars) for "The Deep," set in 1920s Detroit.
Doerr's story, set in 1920s Detroit, centers on a boy with a hole in his heart who lives among salt miners in a world that "continually drains itself of young men." It originally appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story's Fall 2010 issue.
Also honored are stories by Will Cohu ("East Coast—West Coast"), Roshi Fernando ("The Fluorescent Jacket"), Yiyun Li ("The Science of Flight"), Hilary Mantel ("Comma"), and Gerard Woodward ("The Family Whistle"). Each was given five hundred pounds (about eight hundred dollars).
Last year's inaugural Sunday Times Short Story Award winner was seventy-eight-year-old New Zealand author C. K. Stead, for his story "Last Season's Man." In order to be eligible, authors, regardless of nationality, must have had work previously published in the United Kingdom.
In the video below, actor Damian Lewis reads an excerpt from Doerr's winning piece.
Choose a social-media Web site, and click on the profile of a person you don't know. Look at his photos, interests, and friends. Give this person a new name, and write a story about something you imagine happened to him ten years in the past, an event that altered the course of his life.
Among the ten finalists for the one-hundred-thousand-dollar International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award are three American writers, the same number that hail from the librarian-driven award's home country. Barbara Kingsolver is shortlisted for her novel The Lacuna, Yiyun Li for The Vagrants, and Joyce Carol Oates for Little Bird of Heaven, all published in 2009.
Representing Ireland (with a touch of New York City) are the novels Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, and Love and Summer by William Trevor. Also shortlisted are Michael Crummey of Canada for Galore and Australian writers David Malouf for Ransom, Craig Silvey for Jasper Jones, and Evie Wyld for After the Fire, a Still, Small Voice.
The titles were selected from a pool of 162 books nominated by librarians around the world, and for the first time since 2000, no translations appear on the shortlist (the Guardian's books blog probes the issue). The winner, selected by an international panel of writers, will be announced on June 15.
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation named yesterday the winners of its 2011 fellowships for writers in the United States and Canada. The writers receiving awards, which last year averaged $36,867, are most in the middle stages of their careers, with two or more books published. Award amounts vary based on a writers' individual budget requests.
The fellows are, in poetry:
Claudia Emerson Paul Guest
Kimberly Johnson Eleanor Lerman
Bill Porter (translation)
D. A. Powell
A. E. Stallings
Bonnie Jo Campbell
Russell David Vann
Take a standard medical form from a doctor's office and fill it out in the persona of a character you're working on. Generating even basic information—the name of her street, her family's medical history, her emergency contact—may lead to new insights about her life and her background that you can explore later. This week's fiction prompt comes from fiction writer Eleanor Henderson, whose first novel, Ten Thousand Saints, will be published by Ecco in June.
Judging this year's entries will be poet Lia Purpura, author of King Baby (Alice James Books, 2009); fiction writer Adrianne Harun, author of the story collection The King of Limbo (Mariner Books, 2002); and creative nonfiction writer Ira Sukrungruang, author of Talk Thai: The Adventures of a Buddhist Boy (University of Missouri Press, 2010).
Just before National Poetry Month kicked off last week, word began to spread about a major new poetry prize out of Canada. The fifty-thousand-dollar Montreal International Poetry Prize, funded by an anonymous donor, isn't honoring a poet's lifetime achievement or a major new book, but a single poem.
The prize purse is highly unusual for a single-poem competition—similar contests tend to offer a few thousand dollars, at most. (The winning poem and forty-nine finalists will also be published in a "global anthology" by Véhicule Press in the fall, and an e-book featuring one hundred additional poems is planned, as well.) We asked prize director Len Epp how he might respond to writers skeptical of the magnitude of this new contest, which Epp hopes will be able to offer the same amount annually.
"I would tell them that single works of art are often given a much greater value than fifty thousand dollars," Epp wrote in an e-mail, "and that we're trying to tell the world that a poet who can produce an excellent poem deserves an excellent reward as much as any other artist. To doubt this is to undervalue poetry in a very unfortunate way."
He added that the prize organization has "done a lot of work to establish our credentials, and we are proud of our advisory and editorial boards," which include international poets Valerie Bloom, Stephanie Bolster, Frank M. Chipasula, Fred D'Aguiar, Michael Harris, John Kinsella, Sinéad Morrissey, Odia Ofeimun, Eric Ormsby, Don Paterson, and Anand Thakore, and fiction writer Ben Okri. Former U.K. poet laureate Andrew Motion will judge.
The contest, looking to cull entries from international poets writing in "the various Englishes of the world," will charge an entry fee based on a sliding scale (writers in designated developing countries may pay a lower rate) ranging from fifteen to twenty-five dollars. When asked why the competition is charging a fee, Epp responded, "While we are actively seeking traditional forms of support through big sponsors and patrons, we are also committed to a self-sustaining community funding model, which would maximize our independence. As with all other poetry competitions that charge fees, entry fees go towards covering our costs, improving the prize, and guaranteeing its future."
In addition to awarding the prize, the organization has long term ambitions to provide direct funding to poets and establish a global poetry center.
More information about the Montreal International Poetry Prize and details on how to enter are available on the prize Web site. The deadline is July 8, and a discounted entry fee is available for poems submitted by April 22.
In the video below, Motion reads two poems at the 2006 Dodge Poetry Festival.
Take a cue from Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, which tells a single narrative in ninety-nine ways, and write a poem based on what happened just after you got up this morning. Then use one or more of these filters to revise the poem: onomatopoeia (integrating the sounds of your morning into the language of its telling), litotes (a supremely understated start to the day), overstatement (embellishing every detail), olfactory (emphasizing the morning's smells), tactile (emphasizing the morning's physical feel), gustatory (emphasizing the morning's particular taste).
Take a book off the shelf and write down the opening line. Then substitute as many words as possible with your own words, keeping the syntax and parts of speech intact. Then keep writing. Performing this kind of literary "Mad Lib" often creates a useful starting place for a story, especially when the sentence contains an intersection of character, setting, and situation. Or try using these opening lines, from Faulkner, García Márquez, and Plath, respectively:
Through the [concrete noun], between the [adjective] [concrete noun], I could see them [verb ending in "ing"].
It was inevitable: the scent of [adjective] [plural noun] always reminded him of the [noun] of [adjective] [noun].
It was a [adjective], [adjective] [season], the [same season] they [transitive verb, past tense] the [family name, plural], and I didn't know what I was doing in [city].
This week's fiction prompt comes from fiction writer Eleanor Henderson, whose first novel, Ten Thousand Saints, will be published by Ecco in June.
The finalists for the Man Booker International Prize have been announced, but if one nominee's wishes were honored, the shortlist would have to be clipped further. Best-selling author John le Carré has refused his nomination for the prize honoring achievement in fiction, saying simply that, while flattered by the recognition, he does not compete for literary awards.
Despite le Carré's request to be removed from the list of contenders, he could still be given the honor, which is offered at the discretion of a judging panel. "Le Carré's name will, of course, remain on the list," says chair of the judges Rick Gekoski. "We are disappointed that he wants to withdraw from further consideration because we are great admirers of his work."
Unlike its sister award, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, the International Prize does not accept outside nominations. The finalists and winner of the sixty-thousand-pound prize (approximately ninety-six thousand dollars) are determined by a closed judging process.
Zone 3 Press, housed at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, is accepting entries for a new book competition "open to anyone who can carve an artful exposition, drive a factual narrative, or strum a lyric sentence." One creative nonfiction manuscript will be selected for publication by the press, and the winning writer will receive one thousand dollars.
The judge is Baltimore poet and essayist Lia Purpura, author of the prose collections Increase (University of Georgia Press, 2000), On Looking (Sarabande Books, 2006), and Rough Likeness, which is forthcoming from Sarabande Books in 2012. Her poetry collections include The Brighter the Veil (Orchises Press, 1996) and King Baby (Alice James Books, 2008).
Eligible manuscripts should be 150 to 300 pages, and writers are encouraged to submit works that "embrace creative nonfiction’s potential by combining lyric exposition,
researched reflection, travel dialogues, or creative criticism." The entry deadline is May 1. Complete deadlines can be found on the press's Web site.
In the video below, Purpura, whose prose works have been referred to as "lyric essays," reads from her latest collection of poetry.