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The University of Wales has announced the semifinalists for its annual Dylan Thomas Prize, given for a literary work in English by a writer of any nationality under the age of thirty. The 2010 longlist, which for the first time features a playwright—American Johnny Meyer—includes six poets and nine novelists from the Australia, Canada, Great Britain, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Somalia, South Africa, and the United States.

The longlisted poets are:
Caroline Bird, 23, for Watering Can (Carcanet)

Adebe D.A., 23, for Ex Nihilo (Frontenac House)
Elyse Fenton, 29, for Clamor (Cleveland State University Poetry Center)
Katharine Kilalea, 28, for One Eye'd Leigh (Carcanet)

Dora Malech, 28, for Shore Ordered Ocean (The Waywiser Press)

Leanne O'Sullivan, 27, for Cailleach (Bloodaxe Books)


The longlisted fiction writers are:
Eleanor Catton, 24, for The Rehearsal (Granta)
Brian DeLeeuw, 29, for In This Way I Was Saved (John Murray Publishers)
Ciara Hegarty, 29, for The Road to the Sea (Macmillan New Writing)
Emily Mackie, 27, for And This is True (Sceptre)

Karan Mahajan, 26, for Family Planning (Harper Perennial)

Nadifa Mohamed, 28, for Black Mamba Boy (Harper Collins)

Amy Sackville, 29, for The Still Point (Portobello Books)

Ali Shaw, 28, for The Girl with Glass Feet (Atlantic Books)

Craig Silvey, 27, for Jasper Jones (Windmill Books)

The winning writer, announced in Thomas's hometown of Swansea, Wales, on December 1, will receive a prize of thirty thousand pounds (approximately $46,700). Judging this year's award are Kate Burton, Peter Florence, Kurt Heinzelman, Gwyneth Lewis, Bruno Maddox, Natalie Moody, and Peter Stead.

In the video below, Somali-British novelist Mohamed discusses her debut, Black Mamba Boy, based on the life of her father. The book recently won the Society of Authors Betty Trask Prize, given to an author for travel abroad.

Manchester Metropolitan University has opened its second biennial poetry competition, which carries a prize of ten thousand pounds (approximately fifteen thousand dollars). Poets writing in English, regardless of nationality, are invited to submit a portfolio of three to five poems totaling no more than 120 lines by August 6.

This year's judges are Simon Armitage (Seeing Stars, Zoom!), Lavinia Greenlaw (Minsk, Thoughs of a Night Sea), and Daljit Nagra (Look We Have Coming to Dover!), who have all been recognized by the prestigious Forward Poetry Prize as winners or finalists.

The 2008 judges, Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker, and Carol Ann Duffy, chose two winners to share the inaugural prize, Lesley Saunders and Mandy Coe, both of England. Coe is the author of two collections, most recently The Weight of Cows (Shoestring Press, 2004), and Saunders the author of four, including No Doves (Mulfran Press, 2010).

The poetry award alternates annually with an award in fiction. English fiction writer Toby Litt, author of ten novels, won the first fiction prize in 2009.

Poetry entries, which should be accompanied by a fifteen pound fee, can be made online or via postal mail. Guidelines and contact information for the university are available on the school's Web site.

In the video below, 2010 judge Armitage reads at the most recent Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.

The second annual Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize winner has been announced. Detroit-based poet and Cave Canem fellowship recipient Vievee Francis received the award for her second poetry collection, Horse in the Dark, selected by Parneshia Jones and Adrian Matejka.

Francis, a 2009 Rona Jaffe Foundation prize winner and graduate of the MFA program at the University of Michigan, is also the author of the collection Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne
State University Press, 2006). Horse in the Dark will be published by Northwestern University Press in March 2011.

The prize, established in 2008, is given for a second poetry collection by an African American writer. The inaugural winner was Indigo Moor for Through the Stonecutter's Window.

To hear a selection of recordings of Francis reading her poems, as well as her words on a humanitarian poetry project, the pleasure of writing, and poets she recommends reading, visit her archive page at From the Fishhouse.

The Munster Literature Centre in Cork, Ireland, named five U.S. writers finalists for the most lucrative prize in short fiction, the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award. American authors Robin Black, Belle Boggs (one of Poets & Writers Magazine's featured debut fiction authors in the July/August 2010 issue), T. C. Boyle, Ron Rash, and Laura van den Berg were shortlisted for the thirty-five-thousand-euro prize (approximately $45,000) along with David Constantine of Oxford, England.

Debut authors make up half of the finalists, with Black shortlisted for If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This (Random House), Boggs for Mattaponi Queen (Graywolf Press), and van den Berg for What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc Books). Boyle is a finalist for Wild Child (Viking), Rash for Burning Bright (HarperCollins), and Constantine for The Shieling (Comma Press). Three of the finalists' publishers are small presses—Graywolf Press, Dzanc Books, and Comma Press.

The annual award recognizes a book of short stories written in English and published in the twelve months preceding the September award announcement, made with all finalists in attendance at the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Festival. Last year's winner was Simon van Booy of Wales for his second collection Love Begins in Winter (Beautiful Books).

The 2010 judges are novelist Mary Morrissy; Nadine O'Regan, books and arts editor for the Sunday Business Post; and Diana Reich, a former Orange Prize administrator and the founder of the Small Wonder short story festival in Sussex, England.

In the video below, van den Berg reads from her debut collection, the manuscript for which won the 2007 Dzanc Prize.

The annual literary journal Stone Canoe, published by the University College of Syracuse University, is offering three prizes—in poetry, fiction, and, for the first time, in creative nonfiction—to writers who have a strong connection to upstate New York. Award winners will have their work published in the 2011 issue of Stone Canoe and receive a five-hundred-dollar prize.

Poets may submit, via the online submission system, up to five poems, and prose writers may submit a single piece of up to ten thousand words. The journal also asks for a short biography of up to one hundred words that includes details about the writer's connection to upstate New York. The deadline is July 31, and there is no entry fee. Guidelines are available on the journal's Web site.

This year's winner in poetry is Juliana Gray of Alfred, New York, for her poems "Nancy Drew,
45, Posts on Match.com," "The Birds," and "Three Scenes." In fiction, Sarah Layden, who currently lives in Indianapolis, received the award for her short story "Hysterectomy." Their winning works were published in the 2010 issue of Stone Canoe.

The fifth annual Dolman Best Travel Book Award, given for a literary work "in the tradition of great travel writing, combining a personal journey with the discovery or recovery of places, landscapes,
or peoples," was awarded yesterday to Ian Thomson. The Scottish author received the twenty-five-hundred-pound prize (approximately $3,800) for The Dead Yard: Tales From Modern Jamaica (Faber and Faber, 2009), a narrative that observes a postcolonial Jamaica "that's neither the rum and reggae of Disneyfied Montego Bay nor the 'guns, guns, guns' of Kingston's slums" often depicted in stories about the country, according to a review in the Guardian.

Earlier this year, Thomson's book received the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize, which honors a work that evokes the spirit of a place. "His candid portrait—vigorous, illuminating and sometimes shocking—allows Jamaica to speak for itself," the Ondaatje Prize judges said. "This is the best kind of travel writing: stimulating, educative, and evocative."

Other books that were shortlisted for the Dolman Award, given only for a work released by a U.K. publisher, are:
Along the Enchanted Way
by William Blacker (John Murray)
A Single Swallow by Horatio Clare (Chatto & Windus)
Eleven Minutes Late by Mathew Engel (Macmillan)
Lost and Found in Russia by Susan Richards (I. B. Tauris)
Out of Steppe by Daniel Metcalfe (Hutchinson)
Tequila Oil: Getting Lost in Mexico by Hugh Thomson (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

The 2010 judges were Jonny Bealby, Ben Fogle, Candida Lycett Green, Michael Jacobs, Dan Linstead, and Brett Wolstencroft.

Jacob Paul, author of the novel Sarah/Sara, published by Ig Publishing in May, is one of the five debut authors featured in our July/August issue’s First Fiction 2010. The piece in the magazine focuses on the intriguing plotlines of Paul’s novel—and rightly so: Sarah/Sara is about a young Orthodox Jewish woman who takes a solo kayak trip across the Artic Ocean after her parents are killed and she is disfigured by a suicide bomber in a Jerusalem café

The novel’s narrative is gripping, but Paul also told us a pretty interesting story—about his early experiences with a literary agent—that didn’t make it into print.

“I didn’t initially intend to publish with an indie press. I found an agent for Sarah/Sara the week after I finished it. He then spent three years sending it to nine places that all wrote nice letters asking to see the next book. Meanwhile, he decided he didn't want to be an agent any longer. By the time I began looking for a new agent, two years ago, most were gun-shy about representing debut fiction. So, I had a few long, friendly conversations with agents who wanted me to try them again in 2010.

“Then, really by chance, I met Robert Lasner [of Ig Publishing] at the 2009 AWP conference.… He and Elizabeth Clementson liked the book, and I liked them. As it turns out, I could not have asked for a better publishing experience. They've sent out lots and lots of galleys, set me up with readings in five cities, arranged for me to work with the Jewish Book Council, and just generally been great to work with.”

So take it from Jacob Paul: If you can’t find a literary agent, or if your literary agent can’t place your work, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. There are alternatives.

If you have a suggestion, anecdote, or essay for Agent Action, send an e-mail to or post a comment below.

Flatmancrooked, the Sacramento-based publisher of Poets & Writers Magazine's recent cover subject James Kaelan's debut novel, is currently holding its second story contest. The winner of the Flatmancrooked Fiction Prize—taken last year by Kevin Walsh for "Un-Love Letters"—will receive one thousand dollars and publication of the winning work in the anthology Flatmancrooked 4, which will appear in print and e-book editions.

Benjamin Percy, author of the novel The Wilding (forthcoming from Graywolf Press in the fall) and the story collections Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk, will serve as judge, selecting the winner and a runner up from ten finalists determined by the editorial staff.

Story entries must be submitted via an online form by July 31, along with a fifteen-dollar fee for one story, or forty dollars for three. More details about the submission process are available on the Flatmancrooked Web site, which, incidentally, features new fiction on its blog every week. 

Hitting the road this weekend? If you're writing about your journey by car, bike, or foot, the travel Web site Trazzler is running a contest that might be up your alley (or street, or highway). The site, a hub for brief pieces covering the nuances of destinations around the world, is looking for short short essays about "the in-between places, quirky attractions, scenic drives, irresistible pit stops, natural oases, sleepy forgotten towns, places of pilgrimage, roadside enigmas, monuments, crossroads," and other places of pause on the road.

The On the Road writing contest winner, selected by the site's editors, will receive a five-thousand-dollar contract to write twenty more short pieces about trips for Trazzler as well as fifteen nights in Fairmount Hotels, which have locations in North and Central America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Runners up for the editorial prize and the people's choice honorees will also receive hotel vouchers. People's choice winners will be determined by Trazzler users who save trip stories to their accounts with the site.

To enter, submit a travel essay of no more than 160 words by August 31. There is no entry fee. Visit the Trazzler Web site for guidelines.

For a bit of off-the-beaten-path inspiration, check out the video below, in which travel writer Rolf Potts, author of the essay collection Marco Polo Didn't Go There and the guide Vagabonding, takes a break on the road to shop for homemade fireworks in El Salvador.

This year's winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, given annually for a short story by an African writer published in English, was announced earlier this week. Olufemi Terry, born in Sierra Leone and now living in Cape Town, South Africa, won the ten-thousand-pound prize (approximately fifteen thousand dollars) for "Stickfighting Days," which appeared in the South African journal Chimurenga. The writer, who is currently working on a novel, was honored at a ceremony at the Bodleian Library in England, home country of the award named for the late Booker Prize chair Michael Caine.

Terry's work was recognized by the prize committee once before and included in the eighth annual Caine Prize collection, Jambula Tree and Other Stories
(New Internationalist, 2008). As part of this year's honor, in addition to the monetary prize, he will
receive a monthlong residency at Georgetown University in Washington,
D.C., during February 2011.

Also shortlisted this year were Ken Barris for "The Life of Worm" and Alex Smith for "Soulmates," both stories from New Writing From Africa 2009 (Johnson and King James Books); Lily Mabura for "How Shall We Kill the Bishop" from the Spring 2008 issue of London-based Wasafiri; and Namwali Serpell for "Muzungu" from The Best American Short Stories 2009 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

The judges were Ellah Allfrey of Granta, University of East Anglia professor Jon Cook, Georgetown University professor Samantha Pinto, and Economist literary editor Fiammetta Rocco.

On July 1, Publishers Marketplace reported that literary agent Zoe Pagnamenta sold Rosie Dastgir's debut novel, A Small Fortune, about "the loves, struggles, and tensions in the lives of a Pakistani family, from rural Pakistan to urban England," to editor Sarah McGrath at Riverhead Books in a "preempt." We asked Pagnamenta to decipher what, exactly, a "preempt" is.

"When a publisher wants to preempt," Pagnamenta explains, "they are choosing to make an offer that will persuade the author’s agent to take a project off the table early. The publisher is grabbing a project they love and avoiding having to compete with other publishers. When an agent feels strongly that the house and editor are the right match for the writer, and if the financial terms being offered are strong, the agent will be well-disposed toward a preempt, although in other cases the agent may want to hold on and conduct a formal auction."

Do you have any questions for literary agents? E-mail Special Agent, and we'll get the answers for you.

First for some good news. Danielle Cadena Deulen, whose name has appeared in our Grants & Awards pages a few times in recent years has won the Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize from the University of Arkansas Press. Lovely Asunder, which will be the debut poetry collection of the University of Utah PhD candidate, was selected by Enid Shomer for publication. Deulen will also receive a prize of five thousand dollars.

What this year's winner won't receive is the trip to Fayetteville to give a reading, with most expenses paid, that once came with the award. Due to budget cuts affecting the University of Arkansas MFA program, the annual spring festival that had played host to the winners' performances has been canceled. The press anticipates that the reading will be reinstated as part of the prize at some future point, but it's too early to tell when.

Back to the bright side: This year's competition also recognized one finalist, Stephen Gibson, for his manuscript "Paradise." Gibson also recently won the Idaho Prize for Poetry from Lost Horse Press for his collection Frescoes.

Earlier this week the Australian Publishers Association celebrated its favorite books of last year, with honorees including a pop rocker and a classical musician. The book award for a debut title went to pianist Anna Goldsworthy, who performs solo and in the Seraphim Trio, for her memoir, Piano Lessons (Black Inc.). Novelist and indie singer and songwriter Craig Silvey won both the Australian Book of the Year award and the prize in literary fiction for his second novel, Jasper Jones (Allen & Unwin).

Both books are available in the United States as e-book editions for Amazon's Kindle, and Goldsworthy's memoir is forthcoming in October from St. Martin's Press.

For the Book of the Year honor, Silvey's novel was up against Australian literary luminary David Malouf's novel Ransom (Random House Australia) and Peter Temple's literary crime novel Truth (Text Publishing), along with a biography of horse racing legend Bart Cummings and a history of Australia by Thomas Keneally.

Malouf's book also appeared with Silvey's on the shortlist for literary fiction, joining novels Dog Boy by Eva Hornung (Text Publishing), The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy (Scribe Publications), and Lovesong by Alex Miller (Allen & Unwin).

In debuts, the shortlist included the novels Siddon Rock by Glenda Guest (Random House Australia), Red Dust by Fleur McDonald (Allen & Unwin), and The Weight of Silence by Catherine Therese (Hachette Australia).

The video below is the trailer for Silvey's winning book, which has been compared to classic coming-of-age novels like To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn.

Although it seems like an obvious enough question, it's one that many writers don't know the complete answer to. Literary agent Nathan Bransford has an excellent blog post from the agent's perspective, and Jofie Ferrari-Adler offers his take, from the editor's perspective, in his article "Necessary Agent," from the July/August 2010 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Birdsong Collective and Micropress, an indie literary outfit based in Brooklyn, New York, is now accepting submissions for its winter 2010 poetry and prose competition. There's no entry fee and the prize is fifty dollars, publication in Issue 14 of birdsong, and a featured spot in a mid-December reading in New York City (the reading is "an integral part of birdsong’s publication process," so entrants should make sure they'd be able to attend in the event of a win).

The members of the collective, headed up by editor in chief Tommy Pico, aren't simply producing zines and holding readings for literature's sake, but share an interest in furthering "social movements of feminism, anti-racism, queer positivity, class-consciousness, and DIY cultural production," according a statement on their Web site. For more on the collective's ethos, take a look at their blog.

To enter the contest, poets may submit up to three poems and prose writers may send a story or essay of up to fifteen hundred words. Entries (one per writer) are accepted via e-mail only, but before you submit, check out the full guidelines on the Birdsong Collective Web site. The deadline is October 10.

In the video below, Pico reads his work at the New School University's Nuclear Poetry series.

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