G&A: The Contest Blog

First Book Prize Now Gives a Woman Poet Time to Write Abroad

Persea Books is now accepting entries to the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize, which offers the winning poet one thousand dollars, publication of her poetry collection, and, for the first time this year, a six-week residency in Italy. The all-expenses-paid retreat will take place at the Civitella Ranieri Center, a fifteenth century castle in Italy's Umbria region.

The contest is open to women poets who have not yet published a book-length collection. The deadline for manuscripts, which should be forty-six to ninety-eight pages, is November 1. The winner, to be announced in January, is chosen by an anonymous selection committee.

Previous years' winners are:
2009 Alexandra Teague for Mortal Geography
2008 Tara Bray for Mistaken for Song
2007 Anne Shaw for Undertow
2006 Alena Hairston for The Logan Topographies

The award is a collaborative effort between Persea Books, independent publisher of collections by poets such as Sarah Gambito, Marie Howe, and Thylias Moss, and the Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Project, named for the late poet Lexi Rudnitsky, author of A Doorless Knocking Into Night (Mid-List Press, 2005).

ReLit Awards Honor Canadian Indies

On Sunday three Canadian writers were revealed as the winners of the 2009 ReLit Awards, honoring books published by independent presses in Canada. Poet Maurice Mierau of Winnipeg, Manitoba, won for his book Fear Not (Turnstone); Lisa Foad of Toronto won for her debut short story collection The Night Is a Mouth (Exile Editions); and Michael Blouin of Oxford Mills, Ontario, won for his novel Chase & Haven (Coach House).

The prizes, operating under the banner "Ideas, Not Money," award each winner a ReLit ring, comprised of four movable, letter-embossed bands that allow the wearer to spell out different words. Mierau, Foad, and Blouin will receive their rings at a celebration that will take place during the Ottawa International Writers Festival on October 25.

The winners were selected from shortlists of seven books in each category. The finalists were:
Noble Gas, Penny Black (Brick) by David O’Meara
Little Hunger (Nightwood) by Philip Kevin Paul
Dead Cars in Managua (DC Books) by Stuart Ross
Penny Dreadful (Signal) by Shannon Stewart
(Coach House) by R. M. Vaughan
Sentenced to Light (Talon) by Fred Wah

Short Fiction
Squishy (DC Books) by Arjun Basu
Evidence (Porcupine’s Quill) by Ian Colford
My White Planet (Thomas Allen) by Mark Anthony Jarman
In the Quiet After Slaughter (Libros Libertad) by Don McLellan
Elysium (Anvil) by Pamela Stewart
The Butcher of Penetang (Caitlin) by Betsy Trumpener

Cleavage (NeWest) by Theanna Bischoff
Shuck (Arsenal Pulp) by Daniel Allen Cox
A Slice of Voice at the Edge of Hearing (Mercury) by Brian Dedora
Girls Fall Down (Coach House) by Maggie Helwig
Charlie Muskrat (Thistledown) by Harold Johnson
Anna’s Shadow (Esplanade) by David Manicom

The ReLit Awards, whose name stands for "regarding literature, reinventing literature, relighting literature," have been given since 2000.

Bausch Book Wins Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Announced yesterday, the recipient of the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize is Richard Bausch, for his eleventh novel, Peace, published by Knopf in April. He will receive ten thousand dollars, and the runner-up, Uwem Akpan, whose honored short story collection Say You're One of Them (Little, Brown, 2008) was recently named an Oprah's Book Club pick, will receive one thousand dollars.

Bausch's winning novel follows American soldiers in Italy during World War II as they pursue the German army. The prize press release calls the book a "meditation on the corrosiveness of violence, the human cost of war, and the redemptive power of mercy."

Along with the nonfiction winner—Benjamin Skinner's A Crime So Monstrous: Face to Face With Modern Day Slavery (Free Press)—Akpan's collection "put a much-needed spotlight on the tragedy of contemporary slavery, an issue that has been ignored for too long," says prize chair Sharon Rab in the press release. (Skinner donated his ten-thousand-dollar honorarium to Free the Slaves, the U.S. branch of the human rights organization Anti-Slavery International.)

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize, given since 2006, recognizes authors whose "work advances peace as a solution to conflict, and leads readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view." The writers will be feted at a ceremony in Dayton on November 8.

Danticat and McHugh Among "Genius" Grant Fellows

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today the twenty-four recipients of this year's "Genius" Fellowships. The fellows working in the literary arts are poet Heather McHugh, fiction writer and memoirist Edwidge Danticat, and short story writer Deborah Eisenberg. They will each receive one hundred thousand dollars every year over the course of five years.

"It felt incredibly, wonderfully surreal,” Danticat told the Felicia R. Lee of the New York Times. "What artists crave and need most is time. It will definitely buy some time. It’s wonderful to have a sense of security, especially in these economic times."

Danticat's most recent book is the memoir Brother, I'm Dying (Knopf, 2007), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors. Eisenberg is the author of four story collections, including Twilight of the Superheroes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006). The latest book from McHugh, who has also worked in translation and essay, is the poetry collection Upgraded to Serious, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in October.

As 2009 MacArthur fellows, the three writers are in the company of artists working in media including painting, documentary film, and photojournalism, as well as luminaries in other disciplines. Recipients this year include an ornithologist, a papermaker, a climate scientist, a mental health lawyer, a bridge engineer, a biogeochemist, and an applied mathematician.

The no-strings grants are given in the anticipation of independent creative achievement in the future—that is, according to MacArthur Foundation president Robert Gallucci, "We're looking for you to continue in a creative way, without anyone looking over your shoulder."

Ellison or O'Connor? Voting Opens for Best of NBA Fiction

In celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of its National Book Awards (NBA), the National Book Foundation is asking the public to weigh in on who they think is the best of its fiction winners, beginning today. Through October 21, visitors to the foundation's Web site can choose from a shortlist of six NBA-winning books nominated for the superlative honor by a panel of 140 National Book Award winners, finalists, and judges.

Which of these do you think is the Best of the National Book Awards Fiction, 1950 to 2008?
John Cheever's The Stories of John Cheever (Knopf, 1981)
Ralph Ellison' s Invisible Man (Random House, 1953)
William Faulkner's Collected Stories of William Faulkner (Random House, 1951)
Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972)
Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (Viking, 1974)
Eudora Welty's The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1983)

An incentive to cast your vote: The National Book Foundation announced that it will choose one voter to receive tickets to the NBA ceremony, held at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City on November 18, and a hotel stay at the Marriott Hotel Downtown.

The finalists for this year's NBA in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people's literature will be announced on October 13. Along with the book award winners, Gore Vidal and Dave Eggers will be honored at the November ceremony. Eggers will receive the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, and Vidal will be presented with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

George Plimpton and actor Irwin Corey, who stood in for Thomas Pynchon at the 1974 award ceremony, talk about the theatrical acceptance of the NBA that year:

Five First Novels Up for Merc Center Prize

The Mercantile Library Center for Fiction announced on Wednesday the shortlist for its 2009 First Novel Prize. The ten-thousand-dollar award aims to promote the career of an emerging U.S. fiction writer by honoring his or her debut novel.

The finalists, whose books were all published in 2009, are:
Paul Harding for Tinkers (Bellevue Literary Press)

Yiyun Li for The Vagrants (Random House)

Philipp Meyer for American Rust (Spiegel & Grau)

John Pipkin for Woodsburner (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)

Patrick Somerville for The Cradle (Little, Brown)

A committee of American writers selected the shortlisted books from a pool chosen by the Mercantile’s librarians, staff, and members.

The winner, announced on November 9, will join the ranks of One Story editor Hannah Tinti, who won the prize for The Good Thief (Dial Press, 2008); Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz, honored for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead, 2007); and bestselling author Marisha Pessl, who received the prize for Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Viking, 2006). Tinti will present this year’s prize at the Center for Fiction's annual benefit in New York City, during which the Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Fiction will also be given to Gerald Howard, vice president and executive editor of Doubleday.

Check out a book trailer for The Cradle, touring the Wisconsin landscape for sites from the novel:


Here's an interview with Woodsburner author Pipkin, who talks about the process of writing the historical novel:

At Anniversary Event, Ashbery Speaks About Winning Inaugural NBCC Award

Last Saturday the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC), sponsors of the annual NBCC Award, celebrated their thirty-fifth anniversary at a gathering in New York City. John Ashbery, who received the first NBCC Award in poetry in 1976 for his book Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Viking), spoke at the event about how book critics and the award had influenced his career. (Self Portrait, incidentally, went on to win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.)

Ashbery recalled how a conversation between critic David Kalstone and NBCC founder Elizabeth Hardwick, prompted by a negative review of Self Portrait published in the New York Review of Books, may have influenced his being awarded the book prize, his first.

According to Ashbery, Hardwick had been under the impression that he had won numerous awards, until Kalstone informed her that Ashbery hadn’t received any. (Excepting the honor of having his 1956 collection Some Trees selected for the Yale Younger Poets Series by W. H. Auden.) "Elizabeth [...] seemed to ponder this and said that she’d look into the matter," Ashbery told the attendees of the NBCC gathering. "I'm not sure if that had something to do with my NBCC award, but that happened only a few weeks after the conversation I've described."

He went on to thank the audience of book critics "for letting me come full circle—that is, to be here beaming my gratitude at you, both for what you've done for me personally, not just as regards poetry, but for all the things you write about."

After receiving the 1975 prize, Ashbery was nominated for three additional NBCC awards, for his collections Houseboat Days in 1977, A Wave in 1984, and April Galleons in 1987 (all of the volumes were published by Viking). Earlier this year, Ashbery’s work was recognized by the NBCC yet again, when his translation from the French of Pierre Martory’s The Landscapist (Sheep Meadow Press) was a finalist for the 2008 award in poetry.


Jean Valentine and Harryette Mullen Win Major Prizes

The Academy of American Poets announced on Monday that it has awarded poets Jean Valentine and Harryette Mullen two of the organization’s top honors. Valentine received the Wallace Stevens Award, which carries a prize of one hundred thousand dollars, and Mullen won the twenty-five-thousand-dollar Academy Fellowship.

Valentine is the author of eleven poetry collections, most recently Little Boat (Wesleyan University Press, 2007). Her work has been recognized in the past with grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts, among others. In a press release, Academy chancellor and poet Gerald Stern describes Valentine’s work as sometimes existing "in a dream-world, with all the immediacy, the panic, the odd journey that dreams give. But add to that a great moral vision, infinite skill, and beauty."

Mullen, whose most recent book is a compilation of three volumes previously released by small presses, Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge (Graywolf Press, 2006), is the author of Sleeping with the Dictionary (University of California Press, 2002), Blues Baby: Early Poems (Bucknell University Press, 2002), and Tree Tall Woman (Energy Earth Communications, 1981). Academy chancellor Susan Stewart calls Mullen a "a magician of words, phrases, and songs" who has “has sparked a revolution in poetic diction."

The Wallace Stevens award is given annually to an established poet who has demonstrated mastery of the art. Past winners include James Tate, John Ashbery, and Louise Glück. Given since 1937 to recognize poetic achievement, the Academy Fellowship has been awarded to Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, and Elizabeth Bishop, among other notable poets.

Valentine and Mullen will both appear at the Academy's Poets Forum, which takes place on October 15, 16, and 17 in New York City, to read their work and participate in panels on poetry.

Med School Poets, This Contest Is for You

In honor of the physician and poet William Carlos Williams, an eponymous competition is underway to celebrate a poem by a student attending a school of osteopathy or medical studies in the United States or Canada. The contest, now in its twenty-eighth year, awards a three-hundred-dollar prize sponsored by the Behavioral and Community Health Sciences Department of the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM).

A second-place prize of two hundred dollars and a third-place prize of one hundred dollars will also be given, and the three winners will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to read their poems at NEOUCOM on April 23, 2010. In addition, the editors of Journal of Medical Humanities will consider the winning works for publication.

The final judge will be psychiatrist and poet Richard M. Berlin, who received the 2002 Pearl Poetry Prize for his collection How JFK Killed My Father (Pearl Editions, 2003). English faculty of the Northeastern Ohio Universities consortium will act as preliminary judges.

December 31 is the deadline for writers pursuing an M.D. or D.O. degree to submit up to three poems of no more than 750 words each (enclose five copies of each poem). There is no fee to enter. Complete details can be found on the prize guidelines document online.

Story Contest Open to Works on Words and Music

Chautauqua, the journal of the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, is seeking entries for its annual contest, open each year to writers working in different genres. This year's competition is open to fiction writers whose stories touch on the "broadly conceived" theme of music and words. The winner will receive a prize of one thousand dollars and publication in the journal.

The judge will be David Crouse, short story writer and "fringe art" enthusiast—among Crouse's interests, according to the journal, are "punk rock, 'outsider' music, neo-psychedlia, found art, Italian zombie movies, and other odd cultural artifacts." His stories have been collected in two books, Copy Cats, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction from University of Georgia Press, and The Man Back There, which won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction from Sarabande Books, and published in journals such as the Greensboro Review and Quarterly West. Crouse's comic book writing has also appeared in the anthology The Dark Horse Book of the Dead (Dark Horse Comics, 2005).

Chautauqua is accepting story entries of up to five thousand words, sent along with a twenty dollar entry fee, until November 15.


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