G&A: The Contest Blog

Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

In a surprising decision out of Stockholm this morning, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for, in the words of the Swedish Academy, which administers the prize, “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Dylan, 75, is the first musician to win the award, and the first American to win since novelist Toni Morrison, in 1993. The decision comes as something of a shock to the literary world: Although Dylan has been included in prize predictions for the past few years—along with perennial favorites Don DeLillo, Haruki Murakami, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and the poet Adonis—his chances were considered outside at best, as, some argue, his work misses the mark in the categories that the prize traditionally honors—poetry, novels, and short stories.

In the wake of the announcement, the literary Internet is grappling with this very question. At Literary Hub, Lisa Levy considers Dylan's artistic identity and the “Poet vs. Songwriter vs. Showman” debate. At the Guardian, meanwhile, Richard Williams defends the Academy’s decision, extolling the many reasons why Bob Dylan deserves the Nobel.

Naturally, many writers also took to Twitter as the announcement came in. Salman Rushdie tweeted: “From Orpheus to Faiz, song & poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice.” Mary Karr also showed support of the decision:

Others were not so supportive.

The Washington Post rounds up more writers’ responses to the Nobel decision.

Dylan, who was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1941, has written and recorded dozens of albums “revolving around topics like the social conditions of man, religion, politics and love,” the Academy writes. “The lyrics have continuously been published in new editions, under the title ‘Lyrics.’” In addition to his records, Dylan has also produced experimental work like Tarantula, a 1971 collection of prose poetry, and the 1973 compliation Writings and Drawings. The first volume of his autobiography, Chronicles, was published in 2004.

The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded since 1901 to writers who have produced “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” In that time, 114 writers have received the award. (Only 14 have been women. This year, every Nobel Prize, across all disciplines, went to men.) Belarussian journalist Svetlana Alexievich won last year’s prize; French novelist Patrick Modiano won in 2014; and Canadian short story writer Alice Munro won in 2013. The annual prize carries with it a purse of 8 million Swedish kronor, or approximately $900,000.

In announcing the prize this morning, Sara Danius, a literary scholar and the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, called Dylan “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition,” comparing him to Homer and Sappho. When asked if the decision to award the prize to a musician meant an expansion of the definition of literature, Danius responded, “The times they are a-changing, perhaps.”

What do you think? Weigh in with a comment below, or send us a tweet @poetswritersinc.

Finalists for National Book Awards Announced

The National Book Foundation has announced the finalists for the 2016 National Book Awards. The annual prizes are given for books of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and young people’s literature published in the previous year. The winners receive $10,000; each finalist receives $1,000. The winners will be announced on November 16 at an awards ceremony in New York City.

The finalists in poetry are:
Daniel Borzutzky, The Performance of Becoming Human (Brooklyn Arts Press)
Rita Dove, Collected Poems 1974–2004 (Norton)
Peter GizziArcheophonics (Wesleyan University Press)
Jay Hopler, The Abridged History of Rainfall (McSweeney’s)
Solmaz SharifLook (Graywolf Press)

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

The finalists in fiction are:
Chris Bachelder
The Throwback Special (Norton)
Paulette JilesNews of the World (William Morrow)
Karan MahajanThe Association of Small Bombs (Viking)
Colson WhiteheadThe Underground Railroad (Doubleday)
Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn (Amistad)

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

The finalists in nonfiction are:
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)
Andrés Reséndez, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Heather Ann ThompsonBlood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy (Pantheon Books)

Cynthia Barnett, Masha Gessen, Greg Grandin, and Ronald Rosbottom judged. 

The longlists for the awards were announced in September. Established in 1950, the National Book Awards are among the literary world’s most prestigious prizes. The 2015 winners were Robin Coste Lewis in poetry for Voyage of the Sable Venus (Knopf), Adam Johnson in fiction for Fortune Smiles (Random House), and Ta-Nehisi Coates in nonfiction for Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau).

Deadline Approaches for StoryQuarterly Fiction Prize

Submissions are open for the sixth annual StoryQuarterly Fiction Prize, given for a short story. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication in Issue 50 of StoryQuarterly. Alexander Chee will judge.

Using the online submission system, submit a story of up to 6,250 words with a $15 entry fee by October 15. All entries will be considered for publication. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Judge Alexander Chee is the author of two novels, most recently the historical epic The Queen of the Night (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016). “I speak to so many young writers who still have various cynical ideas about how one gets ahead,” said Chee in a February interview with the Toast. “Really, just do your best work, stand up for yourself, stay close to your excitement. Yes, the asymmetry between effort and reward in writing is the hardest part of it in many ways—the things you work on forever that receive little or no acknowledgement or pay, the things written quickly that pay enormously or that fly around the Internet, viral—but just keep writing.”

Established in 1975 and based at Rutgers University in Camden, StoryQuarterly publishes fiction and nonfiction. The journal, edited by writer Paul Lisicky, is released quarterly in print and administers a fiction contest in the fall and a nonfiction contest in the spring. Previous winners of the Fiction Prize include Nafissa Thompson-Spires for her story “Heads of the Colored People: Four Fancy Sketches, Two Chalk Outlines, and No Apology,” Anne Ray for her story “The Pool,” and Janet Peery for her story “No Boy At All.”

Other fiction contests with upcoming deadlines include the University of Louisville’s Calvino Prize, Cutthroat’s Writing Awards, Boston Review’s Aura Estrada Short Story Contest, and Omnidawn Publishing’s Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Contest. For a full list of upcoming contests, visit the Grants & Awards database.

Photo: Alexander Chee; Credit: M. Sharkey

National Book Foundation Announces 5 Under 35

The National Book Foundation has announced its 2016 5 Under 35 honorees. The annual awards are given to five writers under the age of 35 who have published their first novel or story collection in the past five years. Each honoree is selected by a writer who was either a finalist for the National Book Award or a previous honoree of the 5 Under 35 program.

The 2016 recipients, who each receive $1,000, are:

Brit Bennett, author of The Mothers (Riverhead, 2016), selected by Jacqueline Woodson.

Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing (Knopf, 2016), selected by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Greg Jackson, author of Prodigals (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016), selected by Lauren Groff.

S. Li, author of Transoceanic Lights (Harvard Square Editions, 2015), selected by Karen Bender.

Thomas Pierce, author of Hall of Small Mammals (Riverhead, 2016), selected by Amity Gaige.

“We are proud to add the current 5 Under 35 honorees to the National Book Foundation’s roster of remarkable writers,” said David Steinberger, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation. “There is no doubt that all 5 Under 35 honorees have expanded and will continue to expand the literary landscape by producing work that engages the world at large.”

Established in 2006, the 5 Under 35 program has honored more than fifty emerging writers including Angela Flournoy, Phil Klay, Valeria Luiselli, Justin Torres, and Kirstin Valdez Quade. The 2016 honorees will be celebrated at a ceremony in New York City on November 14.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Brit Bennett, Yaa Gyasi, Greg Jackson, Thomas Pierce, S. Li

Rankine, Nelson Receive MacArthur “Genius” Grants

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)

National Book Award Longlists Announced

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.

Booker Prize Shortlist Announced

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 

Academy of American Poets Announces 2016 Award Winners

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)

Rona Jaffe Award Winners Announced

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) 

National Poetry Series Announces Winners

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)

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