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G&A: The Contest Blog

This morning, the MacArthur Foundation announced the twenty-three recipients of its 2016 fellowships. Also known as “Genius Grants,” the annual fellowships of $625,000 each—which are distributed to recipients over a period of five years—are given to individuals who “have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity of self-direction.”

Five writers received fellowships this year, including poet Claudia Rankine, creative nonfiction writer Maggie Nelson, journalist Sarah Stillman, graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang, and playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

The author of five books, Claudia Rankine is “a poet illuminating the emotional and psychic tensions that mark the experiences of many living in twenty-first-century America,” the announcement stated. Her award-winning 2014 collection, Citizen: An American Lyric, interrogates racially charged violence through poetry, documentary prose, and images to “convey the heavy toll that the accumulation of these day-to-day encounters exact on black Americans.”

Maggie Nelson has written five books of creative nonfiction, including The Red Parts (2007), Bluets (2009), The Art of Cruelty (2011), and The Argonauts (2015), as well as several poetry collections. The MacArthur Foundation writes that Nelson is “forging a new mode of nonfiction that transcends the divide between the personal and the intellectual and renders pressing issues of our time into portraits of day-to-day lived experience.” 

Now in its thirty-fifth year, the MacArthur Fellows Program encourages exceptional individuals across a broad range of fields to pursue their creative, intellectual, and professional projects. Fellows are recommended by external nominations, and then chosen by an anonymous selection committee; there is no application process. Between twenty and thirty fellows are selected each year.

For a complete list of this year’s recipients and more details about the fellowships, visit the MacArthur Foundation website.

(Photos from left: Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson)

Today the National Book Foundation wrapped up its longlist announcements for the 2016 National Book Awards in the categories of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and young people’s literature.

In poetry, the longlist includes Daniel Borzutzky, The Performance of Becoming Human (Brooklyn Arts Press); Rita DoveCollected Poems 1974–2004 (Norton); Peter GizziArcheophonics (Wesleyan University Press); Donald HallThe Selected Poems of Donald Hall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt); Jay Hopler, The Abridged History of Rainfall (McSweeney’s); Donika KellyBestiary (Graywolf Press); Jane MeadWorld of Made and Unmade (Alice James Books); Solmaz SharifLook (Graywolf Press); Monica YounBlackacre (Graywolf Press); and Kevin Young, Blue Laws (Knopf).

Mark Bibbins, Jericho Brown, Katie Ford, Joy Harjo, and Tree Swenson judged.

The fiction longlist includes Chris BachelderThe Throwback Special (Norton); Garth GreenwellWhat Belongs to You (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Adam HaslettImagine Me Gone (Little, Brown); Paulette JilesNews of the World (William Morrow); Karan MahajanThe Association of Small Bombs (Viking); Elizabeth McKenzieThe Portable Veblen (Penguin Press); Lydia Millet, Sweet Lamb of Heaven (Norton); Brad Watson, Miss Jane (Norton); Colson WhiteheadThe Underground Railroad (Doubleday); and Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn (Amistad). 

James English, Karen Joy Fowler, T. Geronimo Johnson, Julie Otsuka, and Jesmyn Ward judged.

The longlist in nonfiction includes Andrew J. BacevichAmerica’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (Random House); Patricia Bell-ScottThe Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice (Knopf); Adam CohenImbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck (Penguin Press); Arlie Russell HochschildStrangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (The New Press); Ibram X. KendiStamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Nation Books); Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (Harvard University Press); Cathy O’NeilWeapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (Crown Publishing Group); Andrés Reséndez, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt); Manisha Sinha, The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (Yale University Press); and Heather Ann ThompsonBlood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy (Pantheon Books).

Cynthia Barnett, Masha Gessen, Greg Grandin, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Ronald Rosbottom judged. 

Visit the National Book Foundation website for more information about the writers and judges, and to see the longlist in the category of young people’s literature.

The shortlists—which will include five finalists in each category—will be announced on October 13; the winners will be named at the foundation’s annual awards ceremony in New York City on November 16. Winners will receive $10,000; shortlisted authors will receive $1,000.

This morning in London, the Man Booker Foundation announced the shortlist for the 2016 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, one of the world’s most prestigious literary prizes. The annual award is given for a book of fiction written in English and published in the United Kingdom in the previous year. The winner receives £50,000 (approximately $66,400).

The finalists are Paul Beatty of the United States for The Sellout (Oneworld); Deborah Levy of the United Kingdom for Hot Milk (Hamish Hamilton); Graeme Macrae Burnet of the United Kingdom for His Bloody Project (Contraband); Ottessa Moshfegh of the United States for Eileen (Jonathan Cape); David Szalay of Canada for All That Man Is (Jonathan Cape); and Madeleine Thien of Canada for Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Granta Books).

The judging panel—which includes 2016 judges chair Amanda Foreman, as well as Jon DayAbdulrazak GurnahDavid Harsent, and Olivia Williams—selected the finalists from a longlist of thirteen. Foreman remarked, “The final six reflect the centrality of the novel in modern culture—in its ability to champion the unconventional, to explore the unfamiliar, and to tackle difficult subjects.” Deborah Levy is the only shortlisted author who has previously made the list, in 2012, for her novel Swimming Home.

The winner will be announced at a ceremony in London’s Guildhall on October 25. Each shortlisted author receives £2,500 (approximately $3,300) and a bound edition of their book. 

First launched in 1969, 2016 marks the third year that the Man Booker Prize has been open to writers of any nationality; the prize was previously limited to writers from Britain, Ireland, the Commonwealth, and Zimbabwe. Jamaican author Marlon James won the 2015 prize for his novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings.

Clockwise from top left: Graeme Macrae Burnet, Deborah Levy, David Szalay, Madeleine Thien, Paul Beatty, Ottessa Moshfegh 

The winners of the 2016 Academy of American Poets Prizes, which honor poets at various stages in their careers, have been announced. This year the Academy awarded more than $200,000 in prize money to poets including Sharon Olds, Lynn Emanuel, and Natasha Trethewey.

Sharon Olds received the $100,000 Wallace Stevens Award for “outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.” Olds, seventy-three, is the author of more than a dozen collections of poetry, including Stag’s Leap (Knopf), which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize. Her forthcoming book, Odes, will be published by Knopf on September 20. Previous winners of the Wallace Stevens Award include Joy Harjo (2015), Robert Hass (2014,) and Philip Levine (2013).

The recipient of the 2016 Academy of American Poets Fellowship is former United States poet laureate Natasha Trethewey. The annual prize of $25,000 is given for “distinguished poetic achievement.” The Academy’s Board of Chancellors nominates and selects the winner.

Lynn Emanuel received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for her collection The Nerve of It: Poems New and Selected (Pitt Poetry Series). The annual $25,000 prize is given for a poetry collection published in the United States during the previous year. 

The James Laughlin Award went to Mary Hickman’s Rayfish (Omnidawn). The annual $5,000 prize honors a second book of poetry. The winner also receives an all-expenses-paid weeklong residency at the Betsy Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, as well as distribution of the book to approximately a thousand Academy members. Ellen Bass, Jericho Brown, and Carmen Giménez Smith judged.

For a complete list of winners and more information about the Academy’s awards, visit poets.org.

Established in 1934, the Academy of American Poets is the largest nonprofit organization supporting the work of American poets. 

(Photo: Sharon Olds)

The Rona Jaffe Foundation has announced the winners of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards. The annual awards are given to six emerging women writers of exceptional talent; each winner receives $30,000.

This year’s winners are poet Airea D. Matthews; fiction writers Jamey Hatley, Ladee Hubbard, and Asako Serizawa; and nonfiction writers Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas and Danielle Geller. The winners will be honored at a private awards ceremony in New York City on September 15.

Beth McCabe, director of the Writers’ Awards program, stated in a press release, “All of our award winners are writing as exiles to some degree and investigating the historical, political and profoundly personal ramifications of this state of being…. Their work has led them in different directions but each, I believe, is profoundly connected to her sense of place—homeland—and digging deep to come to terms with her personal history through her writing.” 

Established in 1995 by novelist Rona Jaffe (1931–2005), the Writers’ Awards program has since given more than $2 million to women in the early stages of their writing careers. Previous winners include Eula Biss, Rivka Galchen, ZZ Packer, Kirstin Valdez Quade, and Tracy K. Smith.

There is no application process for the awards; the Foundation solicits nominations each year from writers, editors, critics, and other literary professionals, and an anonymous committee selects the winners.

To learn more about the winners and program, visit the Rona Jaffe Foundation website

(Photos, clockwise from top left: Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Danielle Geller, Ladee HubbardAsako Serizawa, Airea D. Matthews, Jamey Hatley) 

The National Poetry Series has announced the winners of its 2016 Open Competition. Each of the five winning poets will receive $10,000 and publication in 2017 by a participating trade, university, or small press.

This year’s winners are William Brewer’s I Know Your Kind, selected by Ada Limón, to be published by Milkweed Editions; Sasha Pimentel’s For Want of Water, selected by Gregory Pardlo, to be published by Beacon Press; Jeffrey Schultz’s Civil Twilight, selected by David St. John, to be published by Ecco; Sam Sax’s Madness, selected by Terrance Hayes, to be published by Penguin Books; and Chelsea Dingman’s Thaw, selected by Allison Joseph, to be published by University of Georgia Press. 

The Princeton, New Jersey–based National Poetry Series was established in 1978 to “recognize and promote excellence in contemporary poetry” and to “provide a structural model for collective literary publishing ventures.” Past winners of the annual Open Competition include Joshua Bennett, Hannah Gamble, Terrance Hayes, Douglas Kearney, and Sarah Vap. For submission information, visit the National Poetry Series website

(Photos from left: William Brewer, Sasha Pimentel, Jeffrey Schultz, Sam Sax, Chelsea Dingman)

In 2015, BuzzFeed launched its Emerging Writers Fellowship program with a mission to “diversify the broader media landscape by investing in the next generation of necessary voices.” The annual fellowships, run by BuzzFeed’s executive editor of culture, Saeed Jones, are given to four nonfiction writers and include a $12,000 stipend and career mentorship from BuzzFeed’s editorial staff. The fellows spend four months in BuzzFeed’s offices in New York City or Los Angeles and focus on writing personal essays, criticism, and cultural news.

After the success of the first class of fellows—more than six hundred writers applied—Jones is looking ahead to the next round of fellows, who will begin in January 2017. With applications opening today—the deadline is October 1—Jones speaks with Poets & Writers Magazine about the program’s first year, his goals for its second year, and tips for applicants.

Do you feel like your initial goals for the program were accomplished in its inaugural year?

I’m proud of everything we accomplished with the fellowship’s first class and what we learned from one another throughout the process. The fellows had a joyfully rigorous four months of work while also getting to sit down with writers like Rembert Browne and Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, as well as agents and editors. The fellows are well on their way to what I hope are the next steps in brilliant, sustainable careers. That said, it’s just not in my nature to be satisfied for long. I want to introduce the next class of fellows to even more industry mentors and have more roundtable discussions about what the writer’s life looks like. And, more generally, I’m so eager to apply everything I learned from the first class. We have so much work to do. The urgency is almost overwhelming. Our lives, as literary citizens, depend on artists being empowered to illuminate culture.

How would you describe your experience working with the inaugural fellows?

It was a thrill to work with writers I’m confident I will be reading for the rest of my life. Each morning I walked into the newsroom and saw Esther Wang, Chaya Babu, Niela Orr, and Tomi Obaro sitting at their desks was another morning that I was reminded that transformative change is still possible. Investing in diversity and emerging voices doesn’t just have to be a conversation on panels and roundtables; it can be a reality. Publishing their work was surprisingly emotional because I knew that each essay and reported story was, in effect, an experience in watching a writer’s career evolve before my eyes. Also, it meant a great deal to see how eager my colleagues at BuzzFeed News were to meet the fellows themselves, take them out for coffee, read their work, and give them advice. I’m excited we get to do this again in January.

What will be different about the program in its second year?

Being based in the newsroom, getting face time with other writers and editors, comes with so many benefits—last year our fellows sat just a few feet away from Pulitzer Prize–winning editor and journalist Mark Schoofs, for example. BuzzFeed has a great office culture and it’s important for our fellows to be able to take advantage of its atmosphere. That said, not everyone lives in New York City. Weird, right? Stranger still is the lingering idea that the only way a writer can make it is by packing up all of her belongings and moving to Brooklyn. Fortunately, our brilliant deputy culture editor, Karolina Waclawiak, is based in Los Angeles, so this will be the first year that fellows will have the option of being based in either our New York City headquarters or in our Los Angeles office. Whichever coast they land on, all four fellows will work very closely with Karolina and me. Everyone wins!

Do you have any advice for applicants?

In short, the application is intended to give candidates an opportunity to introduce themselves as writers and advocate for the work they’ve already done. Strong applicants need to make a case for why they need mentorship, time, financial support, and a sustained editorial relationship in order to take an ambitious step forward in their career. Listen, I get it. There isn’t a writer among us who wouldn’t benefit from having more time and money on their hands. That said, I’m drawn to candidates who are able to thoughtfully explain why this fellowship is an investment in a future that could create meaningful change. Another bit of advice: The first test of any application is whether or not the candidate actually followed the directions. This is a minimum expectation, but it also illuminates how a writer will respond and act upon editorial feedback. All editors are different, of course, but I doubt many of us enjoy repeating ourselves.

Approximately how many original pieces will each fellow write during the four-month period?

We don’t have a quota. The emphasis is on giving the fellows as many opportunities as possible, and the editorial support necessary, to put their best work in front of BuzzFeed’s audience. We also encourage the fellows to pursue various modes of writing, especially styles that may be new for them and will push them out of their comfort zone. A writer with a strong reporting background should, of course, seize upon cultural reporting stories but expect to brainstorm and write essays driven by personal narrative or cultural criticism as well. I think versatility is an important aspect of a sustainable career. And I’d encourage applicants to read work from the first fellowship class in order to get a sense of that range.

In addition to the establishing the fellowship program, you launched READER, a literary vertical on BuzzFeed, in March. How will the new fellows’ work intersect with READER?

READER is BuzzFeed’s home for original poetry, short fiction, essays—both personal and reported—as well as comics. It’s also where we feature the work from the fellows, so we get to see excellent work from emerging writers published alongside the work by writers like Mark Doty, Eileen Myles, Solmaz Sharif, Helen Oyeyemi, among others. Just as BuzzFeed is known for a range of content, BuzzFeed READER is designed to feature a great range of literary work. And the fellows—excellent as they are—absolutely have a home amidst that work.

Can you speak a bit to how both READER and the fellowship program help accomplish your goals of broadening cultural coverage and diversifying publishing?

My main goal is to use BuzzFeed’s tremendous platform to highlight excellent writing that matters. Valuing diversity—in terms of identity, style, and range of coverage—is just one part of being an editor in pursuit of that excellence; it’s doing my job. Waiting until there’s a body bleeding in the street and then hurriedly reaching out to black poets for their work is not excellence. It’s panic. So, our strategy is to focus on cultivating a dynamic readership, masthead, and pipeline of writers. All three components are essential. I want the work I’m doing as an editor to outlive me, so to speak, so that means the decisions my team acts upon are driven by our desire to make substantive changes with sustainable impact.

Photo: Saeed Jones Credit: BuzzFeed / Jon Premos

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