G&A: The Contest Blog

Words From a Winner

As part of this blog’s mission to offer you the perspectives of writers who have found success in entering writing contests, we recently caught up with Tricia Springstubb, a fiction writer from Ohio whose name has lately come up as a winner of contests that we list in our Grants & Awards pages. This year Springstubb won the Howard Frank Mosher Short Story Award from Hunger Mountain (she also earned an honorable mention in their young adult writing competition) and the Iowa Review Award in fiction. “It's only very recently that my literary fairy godmother has begun to ROCK,” Springstubb told us, adding that she just found out that her story is among the top twenty-five entries in Glimmer Train’s September Fiction Open. We asked her to share a bit about her experiences as a competition entrant and winner.

How many contests do you estimate you have entered? How many did you enter before winning your first award?
I've probably entered less than ten contests. The Iowa Review Award came on my third or fourth try. The other ones have followed in succession.

What do you look for in a contest?
I try to enter contests where the judge is someone I recognize and respect. I know too well how subjective and even arbitrary these prizes are, so I like the idea that if I should actually win something, a person whose judgment I value made the choice.

How do you select a piece to submit to a competition?
This sounds moronic, but I tend to write long short stories.  So I try to pick one that most closely fits the contest's guidelines, so I have to cut as little as possible.

Do you have an organizational strategy for tracking award deadlines, submissions, and honors received?

I have a folder full of paper with journals and dates scribbled and circled and crossed out. But I plan to initiate a coherent filing system within this lifetime. Just recently a writer friend made me aware of your Grants & Awards Database and I now have it bookmarked. What a useful tool and generous service!

What is the most rewarding aspect of receiving an award? What award has been of the most value to you?

The affirmation of winning an award fires me up. Also, it's nice to no longer have to leave the “awards” section blank when I apply for fellowships or grants. And of course being published and read is always the main thing.

I had a recent weak-in-the-knees experience when Ann Patchett, who judged the Iowa Review Award, read here in Cleveland. Afterwards I spoke with her and she remembered the story and talked about it with me.  It was cool to be a member of her club, even if only for an afternoon.

What piece of advice do you have for writers looking to contests as a way to get their work into the world?

Awards can earn you some traction, but I don't know that I'd recommend them over just plain old submitting. Fifteen minutes of fame! And then you're back to work.

Booker Winner Up for Enjoyable Literature Prize

The shortlist for the 2009 Costa Book Awards, given for books published in the current year by writers living in the United Kingdom, was announced earlier today. Among the finalists are Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel and poet Ruth Padel, nominated for a collection centered on her great great grandfather, Charles Darwin. The prizes, formerly the Whitbread Literary Awards (they now take the name of their sponsor, a popular U.K. coffee chain), recognize the year's "most enjoyable books" in the categories of poetry, novel, and first novel.

The finalists are, in poetry:
Clive James for Angels Over Elsinore (Picador Poetry)
Katharine Kilalea for One Eye’d Leigh (Carcanet)
Ruth Padel for Darwin: A Life in Poems (Chatto & Windus)
Christopher Reid for A Scattering (Arete Books)

In the novel:
Penelope Lively for Family Album (Fig Tree)
Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate)
Christopher Nicholson for The Elephant Keeper (Fourth Estate)
Colm Tóibίn for Brooklyn (Viking)

In first novel:
Rachel Heath for The Finest Type of English Womanhood (Hutchinson)
Peter Murphy for John the Revelator (Faber and Faber)
Raphael Selbourne for Beauty (Tindal Street Press)
Ali Shaw for The Girl with Glass Feet (Atlantic Books)

The winner in each category, announced on January 5, will receive five thousand pounds (approximately eight thousand dollars). A "Book of the Year" selected from among the works of the genre winners will be awarded twenty-five thousand pounds (approximately forty thousand dollars). The overall honoree will be revealed on January 26.

Journal Prizes Writers' Vocal Stylings

Missouri Review is offering a prize of fifteen hundred dollars for what it calls "voice-only literature"—a poem, story, or work of creative nonfiction recorded with no other sound but the author's voice reciting the work. The journal says in the award guidelines that the audio submissions "will be judged on literary merit and technical proficiency."

Entries, which should ideally "make creative use of recording technology as a means of furthering...literary craft" are limited to ten minutes. Writers are asked to record on a CD labeled with writer, producer, title, and duration of play, and to submit a twenty-four-dollar fee per entry (this also entitles entrants to a one-year subscription to the journal). The deadline is January 2, 2010.

The journal is also running a contest for a video documentary short, not to exceed ten minutes. The DVD recording may either present a nonfiction narrative, a documentary play, or an interview (on "any topic of interest to a general literary audience"). The prize is fifteen hundred dollars and a screening of the winning work at Columbia, Missouri's, True/False Film Festival.

Last year's voice-only literature winners, who received five hundred dollars each, are Douglas Collura in poetry for “Living the Life of the Great Buster Keaton" and Ann Rosenquist Fee in fiction for “Annunciation of the Baby Jesus One Block North of Riverfront Dr." Rachel Hanel won in creative nonfiction for "Smoke Rings." In 2007, Todd Boss won in poetry for “To Wind a Mechanical Toy”; Josh McDonald won in flash fiction for “Lost”; and Albert Haley won in creative nonfiction for “The Cough.” A list of the runners-up and the documentary honorees is on the Missouri Review Web site.

Poems, stories, and essays from a free audio issue of Missouri Review, published in 2007 and featuring work by writers such as Paul Guest and Stephen O'Connor, are available for download from the journal Web site.

In the video below, Boss, who wrote a story for Poets & Writers Magazine on how writers can build an audio platform, recites another of his poems titled "Constellations."

 

Microfiction for Microbrews

River Styx, the thirty-five-year-old literary and arts journal, is running its fourth annual short short story contest with a prize of fifteen hundred dollars and a case of Schlafly beer. The Saint Louis–based microbrewery is cosponsoring the competition, which invites fiction writers to submit up to three stories of no more than five hundred words each. The winning work will be published in River Styx.

The 2009 winner, selected from more than five hundred submissions, is Amina Gautier for her story "Minnow." The second- and third-place winners, respectively, are Rose Bunch for "Season" and Gerry Canavan for "When We're Gone." Honorable mentions went to Avni Vyas for "Cartography," Lisa Nikolidakis for "Misplaced,"
 Fred Venturini for "Punches," and 
Gary Leising for "Enter Fortinbras."

This year's deadline for entries is December 31, and all entrants will receive a one-year subscription to the journal.

Waldrop, McCann Take National Book Awards

At a benefit dinner in New York City tonight the winners of the sixtieth annual National Book Awards were announced. In poetry, Keith Waldrop won for his collection Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press), his fifteenth book of poems. Colum McCann won in fiction for his fifth novel Let the Great World Spin (Random House). They each received a ten-thousand-dollar prize.

Awards were also given in young adult literature, to Phillip Hoose for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and nonfiction, to T. J. Stiles for his biography The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (Knopf).

The winner of the best of the National Book Awards Fiction, given in celebration of the awards' anniversary, was The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor. The public was invited to vote on the standout of six fiction volumes, including books by Ralph Ellison and Eudora Welty, earlier this fall. O'Connor's collection received the majority of a reported ten thousand votes.

In the video below, McCann discusses his winning book.

Pitt Poetry's First Book Winner Announced

Today the University of Pittsburgh Press named Bobby C. Rogers the winner of the 2009 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. His debut collection, Paper Anniversary, selected by Pitt Poetry Series editor Ed Ochester, will be published by the press next fall. Rogers will receive a prize of five thousand dollars as well as a standard royalty contract.

According to Pitt's press release, Rogers cites his influences as ranging from Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson to the prose of writers such as Flannery O'Connor and John Cheever, as well as "the book of Ecclesiastes and the epistle of James" and the voices of the community in his native Tennessee. The forty-five-year-old writer lives in Memphis and teaches at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.

Given since 1981, the annual Starrett Prize presents the only opportunity for first book manuscripts to be considered for publication by the press. The press reports that in 2009 it received more than seven hundred contest entries, which are accepted each year during the months of March and April.

The past years' winners are:
2008 Cheryl Dumesnil for In Praise of Falling
2007 Michael McGriff for Dismantling the Hills
2006 Nancy Krygowski for Velocity
2005 Rick Hilles for Brother Salvage: Poems
2004 Aaron Smith for Blue on Blue Ground
2003 David Shumate for High Water Mark
2002 Shao Wei for Pulling a Dragon's Teeth
2001 Gabriel Gudding for A Defense of Poetry
2000 Quan Barry for Asylum
1999 Daisy Fried for She Didn't Mean To Do It
1998 Shara McCallum for The Water Between Us
1997 Richard Blanco for City of a Hundred Fires
1996 Helen Conkling for Red Peony Night
1995 Sandy Solomon for Pears, Lake, Sun
1994 Jan Beatty for Mad River
1993 Natasha Sajé for Red Under the Skin
1992 Hunt Hawkins for The Domestic Life
1991 Julia Kasdorf for Sleeping Preacher
1990 Debra Allbery for Walking Distance
1989 Nancy Vieira Couto for The Face in the Water
1988 Maxine Scates for Toluca Street
1987 David Rivard for Torque
1986 Robley Wilson for Kingdoms of the Ordinary
1985 Liz Rosenberg for The Fire Music
1984 Arthur Smith for Elegy on Independence Day
1983 Kate Daniels for The White Wave
1982 Lawrence Joseph for Shouting at No One
1981 Kathy Calloway for Heart of the Garfish

New Prize to Highlight Paraguayan Writers

PEN American Center recently initiated an award that will recognize and fund the translation of Paraguayan literature. The organization announced today that novelist Lily Tuck has donated one hundred thousand dollars to establish the prize, which will award three thousand dollars to a living Paraguayan author for a major work and, in the following year, the same amount to a translator. The inaugural prize will be given in 2010.

Tuck was inspired to found the prize following the release of her National Book Award–winning 2004 novel set in Paraguay during the nineteenth century. "In gratitude for the enthusiasm and welcome both my novel, The News from Paraguay, and I received in Paraguay, I am delighted to offer PEN a translation prize for both established and emerging Paraguayan writers and thereby enhance literature worldwide," she is quoted as saying in a PEN press release. "Writing is hard and lonely work, and I believe in writers reaching across international borders and language barriers to support one another."

PEN is inviting Paraguayan publishers to submit five copies of a work in Spanish or Guaraní along with a letter of nomination to PEN Paraguay by December 15. Entry information is posted on the PEN Web site.

The Atlantic's Fee-Free Contest for Student Writers

Undergraduate and grad student writers take note: The Atlantic is welcoming submissions for its annual poetry, fiction, and nonfiction competitions until December 1. The winners each will receive one thousand dollars, and second- and third-place prizes will also be awarded. The Atlantic doesn't mention publication as part of the prize, but works by past winners of the contest have appeared in the magazine.

In order to enter, one must be enrolled full-time at an accredited U.S. college or university. The submitted work—one to three poems or up to 7,500 words of prose (fiction or a personal or journalistic essay)—should be previously unpublished, but the guidelines state that pieces that have previously appeared in student publications are still eligible. There is no fee for submission, but only one entry per genre is allowed.

In order from first place to third, the 2008 winners in poetry are Diana Chien of Princeton University, Adam Nunez of College of Idaho, and Luke Johnson of Hollins University. In fiction, the winners are Jonathon Walter of the University of Arizona, Marjorie Celona of the University of Iowa, and Shelley Scalleta of Columbia University. The nonfiction recipients are Danielle Luther Luebbe and Kelly Grey Carlisle, both of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and Simon Tudiver of Yale University. The titles of their winning works have not been announced.

A list of the current contest's winners will be published in the May 2010 issue of the Atlantic, after honorees are contacted in March.

Novel on Young Thoreau Wins Merc Prize

On Monday the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction named John Pipkin of Austin, Texas, winner of the 2009 First Novel Prize for Woodsburner (Nan A. Talese). He was awarded ten thousand dollars at the organization's annual benefit dinner held in New York City.

Pipkin's novel, which the Times-Picayune says evokes "a vision of a younger America poised at a moment of self-definition," centers on the forest fire accidentally set by Henry David Thoreau a year before he went to live at Walden Pond. In the award announcement, the Center for Fiction says that the book "offers a beautifully nuanced portrait of a young and less recognizable Thoreau, whose philosophy begins to materialize as the flames lay waste."

The finalists for this year's award were Paul Harding for Tinkers (Bellevue Literary Press), Yiyun Li for The Vagrants (Random House), Philipp Meyer for American Rust (Spiegel & Grau), and Patrick Somerville for The Cradle (Little, Brown).

Previous winners of the prize, given since 2006 and formerly known as the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize, are Marisha Pessl for Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Viking, 2006), Junot Díaz for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead, 2007), and Hannah Tinti for The Good Thief (Dial Press, 2008).

Mehta, Lahiri Win Awards From Asian American Writers Workshop

Sonny Mehta, publisher of Alfred A. Knopf, has been named the recipient of an award for lifetime achievement in publishing from the Asian American Writers Workshop (AAWW). Mehta, who came to Knopf in 1987 after several years as a successful publisher in England, will be honored for his work with authors such as Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, V. S. Naipaul, and Michael Ondaatje at a dinner in New York City on Friday.

The ceremony will commence the AAWW's first Page Turner literary festival, held at Brooklyn's powerHouse Arena on Saturday. During the event, the winners of the twelfth Asian American Literary Award, given for books published in 2008, will also be honored. They are poet Sesshu Foster, fiction writer Jhumpa Lahiri, and creative nonfiction writer Leslie T. Chang. Foster received the prize for his collection World Ball Notebook (City Lights Publishers), and Lahiri for her short story collection Unaccustomed Earth (Knopf). Chang won for Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (Spiegel & Grau).

The runners up are, in poetry, Jeffrey Yang for An Aquarium (Graywolf Press) and Monica Ferrell for Beasts for the Chase (Sarabande Books); in fiction, Ed Park for Personal Days (Random House) and Amitav Ghosh for Sea of Poppies (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); and in creative nonfiction, Kavita Rajagopalen for Muslims of Metropolis: The Stories of Three Immigrant Families in the West (Rutgers University Press) and Kau Kalia Yang for Late Homecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (Coffee House Press).

The AAWW is offering tickets to the dinner honoring Mehta and the literary awards ceremony on the Page Turner Web site.

In the video below, poetry award winner Foster talks about investigating the human spirit through literature.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Prize Reporter's blog