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This morning, the longlist for the 2016 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was announced. The annual award of £50,000 (approximately $66,000) is given for a work of fiction originally written in English and published in the United Kingdom by a writer of any nationality.

The thirteen longlisted books are:

The Sellout (Oneworld) by Paul Beatty (U.S.); The Schooldays of Jesus (Harvill Secker) by J.M. Coetzee (South Africa, Australia); Serious Sweet (Jonathan Cape) by A.L. Kennedy (U.K.); Hot Milk (Hamish Hamilton) by Deborah Levy (U.K.); His Bloody Project (Contraband) by Graeme Macrae Burnet (U.K.); The North Water (Scribner) by Ian McGuire (U.K.); Hystopia (Faber & Faber) by David Means (U.S.); The Many (Salt) by Wyl Menmuir (U.K.); Eileen (Jonathan Cape) by Ottessa Moshfegh (U.S.); Work Like Any Other (Scribner) by Virginia Reeves (U.S.); My Name Is Lucy Barton (Viking) by Elizabeth Strout (U.S.); All That Man Is (Jonathan Cape) by David Szalay (Canada, U.K.); and Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Granta Books) by Madeleine Thien (Canada).

The judges—Amanda Foreman, Jon Day, Abdulrazak Gurnah, David Harsent, and Olivia Williams—selected this year’s finalists from 155 books published between October 1, 2015, and September 30, 2016. Foreman, the 2016 chair, said of this year’s finalists, “From the historical to the contemporary, the satirical to the polemical, the novels in this list come from both established writers and new voices. The writing is uniformly fresh, energetic and important. It is a long list to be relished.” The list includes four debut novels and one former double winner, J. M. Coetzee, who received the prize in 1983 for Life & Times of Michael K, and again in 1999 for Disgrace.

The shortlist of six finalists will be announced on Tuesday, September 13, at a press conference in London. Each shortlisted author receives £2,500. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, October 25, at a ceremony in London’s Guildhall.

First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is one of the most prestigious English-language prizes for literary fiction. Previous winners include Salman Rushdie, Iris Murdoch, Hilary Mantel, and Marlon James, whose 2015 winning novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, has sold over 315,000 copies in the U.K. and commonwealth to date, and is translated in twenty languages. 

In 2012, New Zealand courts granted legal standing to the country’s third largest river, the Whanganui River. The agreement, signed by the government and the local Māori people, allows for the river to be recognized as a person in the eyes of the law—similar to the granting of corporate personhood to businesses—and for its rights and interests to be protected by appointed guardians. Write a short story in which your main character’s primary opponent is a body of water, forest, or other natural entity, which may manifest in a plot that involves environmental and cultural concerns, or perhaps more mystical and fantastic elements. What emotions, voices, and relationships will you explore in your depiction of this man versus nature story?

Did this past winter seem to drag on interminably, while spring was over in the blink of an eye, and the summer months keep zipping on by? Sometimes days, weeks, and months feel like they pass at varying speeds, depending on factors such as the weather, travel obligations, school or work schedules, and personal tastes and moods. Write a poem that explores two or more distinctly paced periods of time that occurred in the past year or so. Manipulate the sound and rhythm of your language—as well as the expository or emotional content of your lines—to reflect the drag or rush of each period.

Estevan Azcona, PhD, is director of MECA Presents, the arts and residency program at Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts (MECA) in Houston, Texas. A former curator for the National Performance Network's Performing Americas Program, he has also served on grant panels for organizations including the National Association for Latino Arts and Culture. Azcona is an ethnomusicologist by training and also serves as Music Director for MECA's AfterSchool Arts program. Below, he blogs about a P&W–supported reading that took place on April 7, 2016.

MECA Reading

Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts (MECA) is a Latino-based multicultural, multidisciplinary arts organization that has been serving low-income communities in Houston, Texas for almost forty years. Beginning in a local parish church to give "at risk" or "inner city'' neighborhood kids music, dance, and art classes after school and during the summer, MECA has since watched the inner loop of Houston change as gentrification played its part in the Sixth Ward neighborhood where the organization has always been located, as well as throughout the central part of the city, where it is becoming increasingly expensive to live. Instead of coming from down the block, or a mile or so away, families now bring their kids—some of them driving thirty minutes plus one way—to MECA from throughout the metropolitan area.

For some time now, Poets & Writers has been a welcome source of support for writers to come and read their work and give workshops to the kids, the families, and the public. Houston's first poet laureate, Gwendolyn Zepeda, is a MECA alumna from the Sixth Ward and has many times been central to bringing creative writing workshops to our students, with help from P&W, as have other local writers. As a predominantly performance and visual arts organization, this support has been critical in bringing letters into our programming.

In April of this year, we had the opportunity to present three Latina writers, each approaching their craft in different ways: local writer Jasminne Mendez is a powerhouse performance poet; Sarah Rafael García is a talented memoirist and youth writing advocate with her project, Barrio Writers; and Isabel Quintero is a gifted fiction writer who has recently garnered a lot of attention. We were lucky to have writer and poet, Edyka Chilomé, from Dallas, come to Houston to serve as emcee for the public reading.

When the authors came to us to do a project together, we were especially excited as the work of each of the writers eloquently addresses the experience of growing up and/or being Latina. While all youth from marginalized communities are challenged to have the opportunities other groups take for granted, at MECA we are not unaware of the obstacles for young women of color, and here was a great project to open the door for young Latinas to the work of these authors. Though we were concerned with turnout, as we do not often present writers, we had an audience of at least forty ready to hear the words and stories of this group of women, including a dozen or so youth who participated in the joint writing workshop. Virtually everyone stayed after the public reading to speak with the authors, buy books, and chat amongst themselves. And the sign was clear to MECA, do this again!

Photo: Jasminne Mendez. Photo credit: Pin Lim.

Support for Readings & Workshops events in Houston is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Yesterday, the New York City–based PEN American Center announced its new PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, an annual prize honoring a book in any genre that has “broken new ground and signals strong potential for lasting influence.” The winner will receive $75,000.

Funded by oral historian Jean Stein, the award will be the largest prize conferred by PEN, and one of the richest literary prizes in the United States. PEN America president Andrew Solomon says the award will “focus global attention on remarkable books that propel experimentation, wit, strength, and the expression of wisdom.” An anonymous judging panel will nominate candidates for the prize internally; there is no application process.

In addition to the book prize, Stein will also fund a $10,000 oral history grant. The award will support “the completion of a literary work of nonfiction that uses oral history to illuminate an event, individual, place, or movement.”

The inaugural winners of both prizes will be announced at the annual PEN Literary Awards Ceremony in February 2017.

Stein has authored numerous works of nonfiction and conducted interviews with prominent American cultural figures, including William Faulkner and Robert F. Kennedy. Stein’s most recent book is West of Eden: An American Place, a profile of five prominent Los Angeles families.

Summer eating competitions in New York earlier this month included both the long-running hot dog eating contest in Coney Island, and a kale eating contest in Buffalo. Imagine that you have to consume one type of food for a ten-minute all-you-can-eat contest—what food would you choose? Write a short essay about how you would prepare physically and psychologically, and recount your favorite memories that involve this food.

Over the past two weeks, the popularity of the new mobile video game Pokémon Go, which incorporates cartoon characters into the real world using GPS maps, has resulted in conversations about many related issues and consequences—from privacy and surveillance, to sore legs and outdoor exercise, to city engagement and the future of technology. Write a short story that takes place in a world in which all citizens have integrated augmented reality software, games, and apps into their everyday lives. Does the story’s main conflict arise from a societal shift due to the new technology or from the lack of human interaction?

This week, look through some photographs you’ve taken while you were on a trip, either from recent summer travels or a long-ago vacation. To what extent does the photograph encapsulate that locale and your memories of that trip with emotional accuracy? Write a poem that explores the distance between your current self and that photograph, and between an image and a feeling or memory.

Verónica Reyes is the author of Chopper! Chopper! Poetry From Bordered Lives (Arktoi Books, 2013). She is a Chicana feminist jota poet from East Los Angeles. She scripts poetry for her communities: la jotería, Chicanas y Mexicanos. She has received grants and fellowships from residencies, such as the Montalvo Arts Center. Her work has appeared in Calyx, Feminist Studies, North American Review, and the Minnesota Review. Currently, Reyes teaches at California State University, Los Angeles.

firme tejana-clifas

“El pueblo unido jamás sera vencido//La jotería unida jamás sera vencida.” Xicana Power! Jota Power! In the air, I felt it. These fourteen mujeres voices needed to be here. To claim space. Establish our existence. In this society, the written text is valued. La palabra sets the boundaries as what gets recognized and what gets excluded. Chicana writing plays a pivotal role in breaking down puertas. Xicana jota literature must fight through many barriers. Our writings are a necessity.

April 2015
At the AWP Annual Conference & Bookfair in Minneapolis, the frigid air outside planted the yearning for warmth. So many writers were excited to meet old friends. I saw young writers feel at home. This was their community. But then I felt a knot inside me. I scanned the book fair and the hallways. It slapped me. Most of these writers were white.

I looked for poets/writers who mirrored me: a Mexican American butch dyke. Immediately, I understood Latinas/os were just a smudge of color in this mass. And this pissed me off. I was not going to accept: Brown, queer or straight, authors “absent” at this major writers’ event. So I invited Xicana—dykes and straight—writers and proposed three events.

April 1-2, 2016
El Centro’s morning sol draped the sky, the buildings, and the cracked sidewalks with the yawn of light. On Pico and Venice, I stepped off the bus. Breathed in downtown’s morning: warmth, cars, dust. Strolled up Pico to Figueroa, the clatter of skyscrapers’ noise stammered.   
The Los Angeles Convention Center was booming. Strutted up the walkway and saw an old friend, Wanda, my fellow Chicana dyke, the moderator for the Jota panel. Her face, her embrace, her queerness, her cariño, said it all why our presence was necessary.

All the readings were awesome. “Jotas: A Chicana Lesbian Reading by Barrio-Based Writers” event was amazing. The writers—Wanda Alarcón, Verónica Reyes, Claudia Rodríguez, Griselda Suárez—performed their work to a beautiful audience who dared to attend the first session. Alarcón’s framed the importance of Xicana jota literature and today’s plight. They absorbed their words and gave a beautiful embracing applause. Feminist poetry filled the room about East L.A. tacos dorados via Long Beach, chanting of power in the room, and culminating with the hiss of spray paint from a Compton poet. Everything was blaring pride.

Puentes bridges“¡Chicana! Power! A Firme Tejana-Califas Reading.” These writers— Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Anel Flores, Guadalupe García Montaño, Laurie Ann Guerrero, Emmy Pérez—were mesmerizing. Joy was pulsing in the room. García Montaño introduced each writer and the authors empowered the room with stories set in San Antonio, Río Grande Valley, L.A., and la frontera. The lives of immigrants were honored. Cariño for familia bloomed in the room.

“Puentes=Bridges: A Queer-Straight Mujeres Reading” presented Olga García Echeverría, Estella González, liz gonzález, Melinda Palacio, and Karleen Pendleton Jiménez. The audience mirrored puentes. The event was a beautiful roundabout. Each writer introduced the next one. It honored bridges and the support of each other. The readings explored a hotel Juárez, the Inland Empire in the seventies, an East L.A. memoir for her mama, and shared the road to butch pregnancy. Questions flew in to the writers. The room enveloped the love of literature from laughter, to tears, to pride. It was a beautiful culmination.

Photos: (top) firma tejana-califas readers. (bottom) Puetes=Bridges readers. Photo credit: Michael Senado.
Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation and the Hearst Foundations. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

The new animated film The Secret Life of Pets explores the idea that when human owners are away, household pets shed their conventional façades and get into all sorts of mischief. Think about a pet you’ve owned or one you’ve been acquainted with through someone else, a movie, or a book. Write an essay that first notes the pet’s most readily apparent, idiosyncratic traits and habits, then imagines its secret life. What does the secret life you’ve imagined for the pet reveal about your own behavior when nobody's watching?

The Center for Fiction has announced its 2016 First Novel Prize longlist. The prize is given annually for a debut novel published in the award year. The winning author receives $10,000, and each shortlisted author receives $1,000. 

The longlisted novels are: The Alaskan Laundry by Brendan Jones (Mariner Books), All Joe Knight by Kevin Morris (Grove Press), Another Place You’ve Never Been by Rebecca Kauffman (Soft Skull Press), As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner (Lee Boudreaux Books), The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter by Kia Corthron (Seven Stories Press), Dodgers by Bill Beverly (Crown), Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson (Harper), The Girls by Emma Cline (Random House), Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright), Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf) How I Became a North Korean by Krys Lee (Viking), Hurt People by Cote Smith (FSG Originals), The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni (Counterpoint), The Longest Night by Andria Williams (Random House), The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay (Melville House), The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales (Riverhead Books), Shelter by Jung Yun (Picador), Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser (Ecco), Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings by Stephen O’Connor (Viking), Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss (Scout Press), We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin Books), What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves (Scribner), and Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore (Hogarth).

The shortlist will be announced in September, and the winner will be announced at the Center for Fiction’s annual benefit and awards dinner on Tuesday, December 6, in New York City.

Viet Thanh Nguyen won the 2015 prize for The Sympathizer (Grove Press), which also went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. Previous winners of the First Novel Prize include Marisha Pessl, Junot Díaz, Hannah Tinti, Ben Fountain, and Tiphanie Yanique.

Publishers may submit books to be considered for the prize; submissions for the 2017 prize will open in January.

Listen to Yaa Gyasi read an excerpt from her novel, Homegoing, which is included in the Poets & Writers Magazine 2016 First Fiction roundup.

In “Superpowered Storytelling” in the July/August issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, Benjamin Percy refers to Tony Earley’s quote: “Every story is about the thing and the other thing.” Percy explains by citing two examples of fiction in which the story is about a character working a job, and an added layer about that character in a developing relationship. Write a short story in which the exterior plot follows the day-to-day actions of your main character at work, while the interior landscape is about her evolving relationship with a secondary character. How can you manipulate the details about the job to serve as a metaphor for the relationship?

Last week, a bunch of Ruby Roman grapes sold at an auction for almost eleven thousand dollars in Japan, where highly valued seasonal fruit can serve as an important status symbol. While money may not be the most obvious choice for poetic lyricism, it can reveal a lot about our society and human nature. Write a poem about a situation in which you had to make a sizable financial decision—saving or spending, dealing with a sudden gain or loss—and examine how your personal value system is intertwined with money. 

Vern Miller has authored many stories and articles. He holds advanced degrees in German Language and Literature, as well as an MBA degree, and has taught at two major universities. Now he is combining his enthusiasm for literature with his interest in business to publish the Fifth Wednesday Journal.

Fifth Wednesday Books, Inc., publishes a nationally recognized print magazine, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and the online literary magazine, FWJ Plus. In addition to the magazines, we organize and participate in literary events in many venues. Our mission is to be a bridge between the creative artist and a diverse and receptive audience, to make good poetry and prose a part of the daily lives of more people. We are an all-volunteer organization with highly qualified, very energetic, and intensely loyal editors and interns, who produce more than four hundred pages of poetry, fiction, essays, black and white photography, book reviews, and interviews each year. We began as a print literary magazine, and have expanded our programs and activities to include presentations in Chicago, New York, and other locations, as an essential part of our pursuit of excellence.

Five years ago we decided to do everything we could to bring even more poetry to people in Chicago through events featuring poets from around the country, music, and book signings and receptions. We needed partners. We asked for support. Support arrived. We are grateful to the Poetry Foundation for the donation of their much sought after space for our programs for the past five years.

We needed more. We asked. Poets & Writers came through like champions. We have received critical support in the form of grants to assist with reading fees, without which we could not offer national writers to our audiences in Chicago. Here are some highlights:

In 2013, Poets & Writers helped us bring Marge Piercy and Ira Wood to our Chicago audience. (More than a hundred people braved a torrent of rain and wind.)

In 2014, Poets & Writers again provided critical support for a very successful program featuring three Illinois poets: Michael Anania, Elise Paschen, and Jeffery Renard Allen. (Almost a hundred people came for readings, music, and reception, despite the typical rainy weather in Chicago.)

In 2015, Poets & Writers came through again when we asked for help in presenting a program of African American poets including Haki Madhubuti, Angela Jackson, Roger Reeves, and others. (More than a hundred people filled the seats, even as I fretted about our lack of sufficient publicity.)

Photos: (top) Ira Wood, Marge Piercy, and Andrea Witzke Slot. (bottom) Haki Madhubuti, Angela Jackson, Calvin Forbes, Roger Reeves, and Kelly Norman Ellis. Photo credit: Fifth Wednesday Books.

Support for Readings & Workshops events in Chicago is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Submissions are currently open for the BOAAT Press Chapbook Prize, awarded annually for a poetry chapbook. The prize includes $1,000 and publication of the winning chapbook in both a printed and handmade edition. Between one and four finalists will also each receive publication of their chapbooks as PDF digital downloads on BOAAT’s website and a $50 honorarium. 

BOAAT’s editorial team will select a longlist of twenty-five chapbooks, and award-winning poet Richard Siken will choose the winner. Siken is the author most recently of War of the Foxes (Copper Canyon, 2015), as well as the collection Crush (Yale University Press, 2005), which won the 2004 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize.

Using the online submission manager, submit a manuscript of 15 to 30 pages of poetry along with a $17 entry fee by July 15. The winner and finalists will be announced by October. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Previous winners of the chapbook prize include Jess Feldman, Brenda Iijima, and Rebecca Farivar.

Watch a video below detailing the creation of BOAAT Press’s handmade book designs.

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