G&A: The Contest Blog

Behind the Prize

Perugia Press announced last week that Jennifer K. Sweeney of Kalamazoo, Michigan, won the Perugia Press Prize for her second poetry collection, How to Live on Bread and Music. She received $1,000, and her book will be published in a print-run of one thousand copies in September. The award is given for a first or second collection by a woman poet.

Sweeney’s manuscript was 1 of 478 manuscripts submitted last November to the prize, which charged a $22 entry fee. The judging process involved several stages: Entries were first stripped of all identifying materials and then sent to a dozen screeners who winnowed the pool down to sixteen. Those semi-finalists were sent to eight judges, who gathered for a full day of reading and discussion, at the end of which two finalists were chosen. According to Kan, Sweeney’s manuscript stood out for the author’s "confidence with language, her willingness to let her intelligence become apparent slowly."

The two finalists were sent to three final judges, but while the manuscripts were being read, one of them was withdrawn because it was taken by another press.

"This has never happened at Perugia Press before," says Kan. "It took the wind out of our sails for a day, but ultimately, knowing that both books will be published is a win-win situation and confirms that our selection process is sound."

Perugia plans to promote the book through its mailing list and by sending out galleys to review publications. “We strongly encourage our poets to plan as many readings as possible,” says Kan. “That's the best way to share the work and sell books.” Sweeney’s book will be available on Perugia’s Web site, through Amazon.com, and in independent bookstores across the country.


Wolff Wins Story Prize, Phillips and Sheff Get Discovered

Wednesday was a busy day for book awards ceremonies in New York City. At the New School last night, Tobias Wolff was named winner of the annual Story Prize for Our Story Begins (Knopf, 2008), edging out finalists Jumpha Lahiri (Unaccustomed Earth, Knopf) and Joe Meno (Demons in the Spring, Akashic Books). Earlier in the day, Gin Phillips and David Sheff were named winners of Barnes & Noble's sixteenth Discover Great New Writers Awards. Phillips won in fiction for her debut novel The Well and the Mine (Hawthorne Books) and Sheff won in nonfiction for his memoir Beautiful Boy (Houghton Mifflin).

Wolff received twenty thousand dollars, while Phillips and Sheff each received ten thousand dollars as well as a year of additional marketing and merchandising support from Barnes & Noble. But the winners aren't the only ones with a little extra coin in the bank today. Story Prize finalists Lahiri and Meno each received five thousand dollars, while the second- and third-place finalists in the Discover Great New Writers Awards program each received five thousand dollars and twenty-five hundred dollars respectively. Those finalists are Benjamin Tayler for The Book of Getting Even (Steerforth Press) and Zachary Lazar for Sway (Little, Brown) in fiction and Eric Weiner for The Geography of Bliss (Twelve) and Nia Wyn for Blue Sky July (Dutton) in nonfiction.

That's sixty-five thousand dollars doled out to nine writers on one day in one city, which, considering today's installment of Daily News, is cause for either excitement or resentment, depending on your disposition.

 

 

Sonia Sanchez Wins the Robert Creeley Award

Poet Sonia Sanchez, author of sixteen books and a Cave Canem faculty member, has received the 2009 Robert Creeley Award. A ceremony will be held on March 23 at the R. J. Grey Jr. High School Auditorium in Acton, Massachusetts; admission is free. Sanchez also will select books that have influenced her writing for inclusion in the Acton Memorial Library collection.

In its ninth year, the Creeley Award honors the memory of Robert Creeley, who lived in Acton, Massachusetts, from the age of four to fifteen. It has brought a variety of distinguished poets, including Galway Kinnell, Grace Paley, Martin Espada, and C. D. Wright, to read in Acton. Last year's winner was John Ashbery. Take a look:

Narrative Magazine Contest Update

In the print edition of our March/April 2009 issue, we described Narrative Magazine's Story Contest as the "Third-Person Story Contest." Since we went to press, Narrative expanded the scope of the award and is now accepting entries written from any point of view.

The $3,000 award will be given three times a year for a short story, a short short story, an essay, or an excerpt from a work of fiction or creative nonfiction of no more than 10,000 words. There is a $20 entry fee, and the deadline is March 31. Visit our Deadlines section for more upcoming grants and awards or our Grants & Awards database, if you'd rather search a year's worth.

Young Lions Fiction Finalists

The finalists for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, given to a writer thirty-five or younger, were announced this week, and—not to toot our own horn or anything, but—two of the five, Rivka Galchen and Salvatore Scibona, were included in our July/August 2008 feature on debut fiction writers.

Galchen was nominated for her novel Atmospheric Disturbances (HarperCollins, 2008), which was also mentioned in Sarah Weinman's article, "Book Trailers: The Key to Successful Marketing" (November/December, 2008), for its especially inventive trailer

Salvatore Scibona was nominated for his novel,The End, published by Graywolf Press, the St. Paul-based indie, whose authors have been raking in the acclaim lately. Along with Scibona's, Graywolf publishes the work of inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander and recently released a special chapbook of Alexander's poem "Praise Song for the Day." Matthea Harvey recently won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, given for a book by a midcareer poet, for her collection Modern Life, which Graywolf published in 2007. (Harvey, by the way, was featured in "Why We Write Now," our special feature on inspiration included in our January/February 2009 issue.)

The three other finalists are Jon Fasman for The Unpossessed City (Penguin, 2008), Sana Krasikov for One More Year (Spiegel & Grau, 2008), and Zachary Mason for The Lost Books of the Odyssey (Starcherone, 2008).

The winner, who receives $10,000, who be announced on March 16.

Annual Journal Sponsors Obama Contest

Don Williams, the editor of the annual literary magazine New Millennium Writings, recently established a new contest that offers a thousand dollars for the best creative writing on the subject of president Barack Obama. 

After receiving an outpouring of response to an essay about the newly inaugurated commander in chief that he posted last month on his own Web site, Williams decided to accept online submissions "for a once-only special contest to mark this moment in our still-young millennium." The Special Contest on Obama is open to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers. One winner, who will receive a thousand dollars, and at least three runners-up will be published in the next issue of New Millennium Writings and on the journal's Web site.

Writers may submit as many poems, stories, or essays as they'd like, but the entry fee for each is $17. Work that has already been published elsewhere, either online or in a magazine with a print circulation under five thousand, will be accepted. The deadline is March 1. Complete guidelines are available on the New Millennium Writings Web site.


 

Entertainment Weekly's Oscar Poetry Contest

Okay, so this contest doesn't offer literary fame or fortune—or much of anything, really, beyond a little fun. But if you're into poetry and movies, Entertainment Weekly is holding a contest in honor of Hollywood's biggest self-congratulatory party—the Academy Awards—that might be of interest.

After the editors of the popular culture magazine received a letter in the form of a poem celebrating Oscar season from a reader in McHenry, Illinois (who somehow manages to reference Revolutionary Road, Milk, Gran Torino, Frost/Nixon, My Bloody Valentine, Fantasia, Slumdog Millionaire, Marley and Me, Liar, Liar, Yes Man, The Wrestler, and The Dark Knight, all in thirty-four lines) they posted it on Entertainment Weekly's Web site and invited poets to submit their own Oscar-themed verse.

So go ahead, put your film critic's hat on and submit a poem before those little gold statues are handed out on February 22.

 

 

Update: Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

As we wrote about yesterday, this week is the submission period for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and it seems the occasion has stirred up debate about the merits of the award.

Yesterday, Mediabistro's GalleyCat posted a defense of the success of last year's winning book, Fresh Kills, in response to snarky reader comments. Another Galleycat post yesterday linked to an article published in N1BR, the new online book supplement to lit mag n+1, written by Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, one of last year's award judges. And, today, GalleyCat posted a correction to Wellington's article submitted by Jane Ciabattari, president of the National Book Critics Circle. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

 

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

The submission period for the second annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award began yesterday and ends on February 8, or until ten thousand entries have been received. The grand-prize winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin Group, including a $25,000 advance.

Entries may be uploaded through a link on Amazon’s site, which also includes information about the multi-tiered judging process. Amazon readers will vote for the winner from three finalists. During the finals, an expert panel—made up of novelists Sue Monk Kidd and Sue Grafton, Penguin Press editor in chief Eamon Dolan, and literary agent Barney Karpfinger, whose client list includes Bill Loehfelm, winner of last year’s Amazon Breakthrough Award for his book Fresh Kills—will post comments for customers to consider while voting. The winner will be announced on May 22.

Also included on the site are tips for submissions, such as this one about the importance of choosing an excerpt to post on the site: “The first ten pages of your book are some of the most important that you will write. Imagine a reader looking through the first few pages of a book to decide whether or not to purchase it: Something special needs to happen at the start—whether that's a sharp plot twist, the introduction of a fascinating character, or a beautifully crafted opening scene—to make the reader want more. When you select your excerpt text, choose where to stop judiciously: It doesn't necessarily have to be at word 5,000. Quality counts. Be careful that you don't leave readers hanging mid-sentence.”

The award is given for an unpublished, English-language work of fiction, between 50,000 and 150,000 words in length; there is no entry fee.

Finalists Chosen for National Book Critics Circle Awards

The National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for its 2008 awards at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City on Saturday night. The winners in each category—poetry, fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, criticism, and biography—will be named on March 12 at an awards ceremony at the New School. 

The finalists in poetry are:
August Kleinzahler for Sleeping It Off in Rapid City (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Juan Felipe Herrera for Half the World in Light (University of Arizona Press)
Devin Johnston for Sources (Turtle Point Press)
Pierre Martory for The Landscapist (Sheep Meadow Press), translated by John Ashbery
Brenda Shaughnessy for Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press)

The finalists in fiction are:
Roberto Bolaño for 2666 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Marilynne Robinson for Home (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Aleksandar Hemon for The Lazarus Project (Riverhead)
M. Glenn Talyor for The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart (West Virginia University Press)
Elizabeth Strout for Olive Kittredge (Random House)

The finalists in autobiography are:
Rick Bass for Why I Came West (Houghton Mifflin)
Helene Cooper for The House on Sugar Beach (Simon & Schuster)
Honor Moore for The Bishop’s Daughter (Norton)
Andrew X. Pham for The Eaves of Heaven (Harmony Books)
Ariel Sabar for My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq (Algonquin)

The nonprofit organization composed of seven hundred book critics and reviewers from across the country also announced on Saturday that the winner of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award is the PEN American Center; Ron Charles will receive the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

Last year, Mary Jo Bang won the NBCC Award in poetry for Elegy (Graywolf), Junot Díaz won in fiction for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead), and Edwidge Danticat won in autobiography for Brother, I'm Dying (Knopf).

 

 

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