Poets & Writers Blogs

U.S. and Canada Book Awards Name the Year's Standouts

Yesterday afternoon the National Book Foundation announced the contenders for the National Book Awards, among them several titles published by small publishing outfits such as Coffee House Press, Four Way Books, and Copper Canyon Press. The lists of honorees in poetry and fiction are below; the finalists in young people's literature and nonfiction (a category that includes rocker-poet Patti Smith for her memoir Just Kids) are posted on the NBF Web site.

The finalists in poetry, judged by Rae Armantrout, Cornelius Eady, Linda Gregerson, Jeffrey McDaniel, Brenda Shaughnessy are:
The Eternal City
(Princeton University Press) by Kathleen Graber
Lighthead (Viking Penguin) by Terrance Hayes
By the Numbers (Copper Canyon Press) by James Richardson
One with Others (Copper Canyon Press) by C. D. Wright
Ignatz (Four Way Books) by Monica Youn 

The finalists in fiction, judged by Andrei Codrescu, Samuel R. Delany, Sabina Murray, Joanna Scott, Carolyn See are:
Parrot and Olivier in America
(Knopf) by Peter Carey
Lord of Misrule (McPherson) by Jaimy Gordon
Great House (Norton) by Nicole Krauss
So Much for That (Harper) by Lionel Shriver
I Hotel (Coffee House Press) by Karen Tei Yamashita

The National Book Award winners, who will be named on November 17, will each be awarded ten thousand dollars. Runners-up will receive one thousand dollars apiece.

Meanwhile, our neighbors to the north have made public the shortlists for their own national book prize, the Governor General's Literary Award to recognize Canadian literature in English and French. Among the English-language finalists are poet Daryl Hine (&: A Serial Poem, Fitzhenry and Whiteside), former editor of Poetry magazine; fiction writer and Booker Prize finalist Emma Donoghue (Room, HarperCollins); and memoirist Ian Brown (Boy in the Moon, Random House Canada), who received the Trillium Book Award, the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction, and British Columbia's National Award for Canadian Nonfiction this year.

The full lists, including the honorees in French-to-English translation, are posted on the award Web site. The winners, who will be revealed on November 16 in Montreal, will receive twenty-five thousand Canadian dollars (worth roughly the same amount in U.S. currency).

Third Nomination's a Charm for This Year's Booker Winner

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction, which carries a purse of fifty thousand pounds (approximately $79,200), was announced last night at a ceremony in London. Coming from behind his shortlisted counterparts, at least in terms of where betters placed his book, London author Howard Jacobson took the award for his "comic novel" The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury), which was released today in the United States.

The prize, which Salon's Laura Miller calls "the best literary award," typically promotes a worldwide rise in sales. Last year's winner, Hilary Mantel, has seen rights to her winning book, Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate), sold in thirty-seven countries, and its sales climb to over a half a million copies in the United Kingdom alone.

This is the first Booker for Jacobson, who was longlisted for the prize twice before in 2006 for Kalooki Nights (Jonathan Cape) and in 2002 for Who's Sorry Now (Jonathan Cape). His novel The Mighty Walzer (Jonathan Cape) won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing in 2000.

This year's judging panel includes former U.K. poet laureate Andrew Motion, Financial Times literary editor Rosie Blau, Royal Opera House creative director Deborah Bull, journalist Tom Sutcliffe, and critic Frances Wilson.

In the video below, Jacobson and a group of reviewers discuss his winning book, which the author has described as his darkest.

Ploughshares Editor Wins Nebraska Book Award

The Nebraska Center for the Book has announced the winners of its 2010 book awards. Debut author Dwaine Spieker won the poetry award for his collection Garden of Stars, published by All Along Press, a cooperative letterpress workshop in Saint Louis. Fiction writer and Ploughshares  editor   Ladette Randolph, who teaches at Boston's Emerson College, won in fiction for her first novel, A Sandhills Ballad (University of New Mexico Press).

The authors will be honored, along with winners in nonfiction, anthology, and design, on November 6. Also receiving recognition will be twenty-year-old poetry magazine Plainsongs, published at Hastings College, which won this year's Jane Geske Award, given to an organization that supports literacy in Nebraska.

Nominations for the awards are accepted in the spring. The 2010 deadline for book awards entries was July 1, and for the Geske Award, July 15.

Vargas Llosa Takes Nobel, Heaney Wins Prize for First Work After Stroke

Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature this morning, the first time in twenty-eight years that the award has been given to a South American writer. (Gabriel García Márquez received the prize in 1982.) The Swedish Academy recognized Vargas Llosa for "his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat." Following the award announcement, the Guardian named five must-read Vargas Llosa novels; the Paris Review and Christian Science Monitor also have posted interviews with the author from their archives.

In other awards news, the Forward Arts Foundation in London named Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney winner of this year's ten-thousand-pound Forward Prize (approximately $15,877). The poet was honored with the United Kingdom's most lucrative poetry award for his collection Human Chain (Faber and Faber), the first collection published after the Heaney's 2006 stroke. This is the first Forward Prize for the seventy-one-year-old poet, who has been shortlisted twice for his collections District and Circle (Faber and Faber, 2006) and The Spirit Level (Faber and Faber, 1996).

The Forward's Felix Dennis Prize for a debut collection went to Hilary Menos, an organic farmer and mother of four sons, for Berg (Seren Books). She received five thousand pounds ($7,938). Julia Copus, who is also a radio dramatist, won the one-thousand-pound prize ($1,587) for a single poem for "An Easy Passage."

In Spain, late Canary Island poet Jose Maria Millares Sall was awarded the country's national poetry prize for his final collection, Cuadernos 2000–2009 (Notebooks 2000–2009). His niece commented to the Latin American Herald Tribune that the Culture Ministry's awarding of the twenty-thousand-euro prize ($27,858) to her uncle, who died one year ago, was “a very great act of poetic justice."

In the video below, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Peter Englund, reveals the 2010 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Carve's Story Contest Deadline Extended

Carve Magazine, an online outpost for fiction, returned last month from a yearlong hiatus with an announcement of its eleventh annual Raymond Carver Short Story Contest. The winning story will be published in Carve, and its author will receive one thousand dollars.

In an effort to ensure at least a forty-five day entry period (the contest opened on September 7), the deadline has recently been extended from October 15 to October 31. Stories of up to five thousand words each can be mailed (with a fifteen dollar fee) or submitted via Submishmash (for seventeen dollars). The editors say that they may deliver comments on entries made electronically, a feature enabled by the online submission system. Complete guidelines for how to enter are available on the Carve Web site.

Past prize judges include short story writers Ben Fountain and Cristina Henríquez and magazine founder Melvin Sterne. Selecting this year's winner is Carve editor Matthew Limpede. "We look for fiction that is captivating and full of emotional honesty, that speaks to the human condition," Limpede says. "We want to be left with a lasting feeling at the end of the story. This is usually achieved when the writer is in full control of the craft of the story."

For more upcoming deadlines, visit our Submission Calendar.

Literary Agent Georges Borchardt

Legendary agent Georges Borchardt, whose list includes authors such as poets John Ashbery, Robert Bly, Rafael Campo, and Philip Schultz; fiction writers T. C. Boyle, Robert Coover, David Guterson, Charles Johnson,Ian McEwan, Claire Messud, and Susan Minot; and nonfiction writers Anne Applebaum, Stanley Crouch, Susan Jacoby, Tracy Kidder offers advice to writers that has been informed by over fifty years in the business in this interview with editor Jofie Ferrari-Adler published last fall in Poets & Writers Magazine. And in this Poets & Writers video exclusive with Ferrari-Adler, Borchardt talks about changes in the publishing industry and the importance of independent presses. Check them out!

NBF Celebrates Five Promising Fiction Writers

For the fifth year, the National Book Foundation has named its Five Under Thirty-Five honorees, a group of young novelists and short fiction writers selected for recognition by former National Book Award (NBA) winners and finalists. This year's list, dominated by women, includes expats from the former Yugoslavia and the Virgin Islands, two recipients of the Rona Jaffe Writers' Award for emerging women writers, an O. Henry Prize winner, and two small press authors.

Iowa Writers' Workshop alumna and Rona Jaffe Writers' Award–winner Sarah Braunstein was selected by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, an NBA fiction finalist for Madeleine Is Sleeping (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004). Braunstein's debut novel, The Sweet Relief of Missing Children, is forthcoming from Norton in 2011.

Grace Krilanovich, whose first novel, The Orange Eats Creeps, was published by Two Dollar Radio in September, was chosen by Scott Spencer, an NBA fiction finalist for his novels A Ship Made of Paper (Ecco, 2003) and Endless Love (Knopf, 1979).

Téa Obreht, a New York State author (by way of the former Yugoslavia, Cyprus, and Egypt) who has already seen her fiction published in the New Yorker and the Atlantic, was chosen by Colum McCann, last year's NBA winner for Let the Great World Spin (Random House, 2009). Obreht's first novel, The Tiger’s Wife, is forthcoming from Random House in 2011.

Rona Jaffe Writers' Award–winner and Drew University professor Tiphanie Yanique, born in Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands, was selected by Jayne Anne Phillips, a finalist for Lark and Termite (Knopf, 2009). Yanique's debut novella and story collection, How to Escape from a Leper Colony, was published by Graywolf Press last March.

O. Henry Prize–winner Paul Yoon was selected by Kate Walbert, an NBA finalist for Our Kind, a novel in stories (Scribner, 2004). Yoon's first story collection, Once the Shore, published by Sarabande in 2009, won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares.

The five will read from their books at a party at powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, New York, on November 15. The event, hosted by Rosanne Cash and featuring Love Is a Mix Tape author Rob Sheffield as deejay, commences the National Book Awards Week celebrations leading up to the announcement of this year's prizes on November 17.

The video below is the book trailer for Krilanovich's debut, which follows a band of "vampire junkies" through a nineties-era Pacific Northwest.

Mediabistro Holds Book Proposal Contest

Mediabistro, along with its affiliate blogs GalleyCat and eBookNewser, is inviting writers of fiction and nonfiction to send in their best book pitches for a chance at Big Apple exposure. Finalists will read their proposals (or have their pitches read by a Mediabistro staffer) at a New York City book pitch party on November 3, described as "a book club for book proposals: showcasing the work of ten talented writers and forging a community of aspiring authors."

Three winners, selected during the party by a panel of yet-unnamed judges, will receive a ticket to Mediabistro's December 15 conference on digital publishing, the eBookSummit, as well as a consultation with pitch party panelists. Winners are required to attend this main event, which promises all attendees interaction with innovative publishers, tips on building a digital audience, and information on writing for the handheld screen.

Book proposals, which should be one page long and single spaced, must be submitted via e-mail by October 15. Full guidelines are available on the eBookNewser Web site.

Philadelphia Poet Wins Cave Canem Prize

Cave Canem, the national organization known as a "major watering hole and air pocket for Black poetry" in North America, has named its eleventh annual poetry book prize winner. Judge Elizabeth Alexander selected Philadelphia poet Iain Haley Pollock's collection Spit Back a Boy for the award, which includes one thousand dollars and publication of the book by University of Georgia Press.

Among the poets whose debuts were published through the award in the past are Pulitzer Prize–winner Natasha Trethewey; Major Jackson, a Pew Fellow and Whiting Writers' Award–winner; and the recipient of this year's Rolex Mentor and 
Protégé Arts Initiative fellowship, Tracy K. Smith, who also won a Whiting Writers' Award. Also recognized this year is Vida Cross, who received an honorable mention for her manuscript "Bronzeville at Night: 1949."

For those looking to sample of Pollock's poetry before his book's release in spring 2011, several of his poems can be read online in journals such as Agni Online, Boston Review, and the Drunken Boat.

Cave Canem's next deadline for first-book manuscript submissions from African American poets is April 30, 2011.

Historic Milwaukee Hotel Seeks Storyteller

The Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee, a National Trust Historic Hotel of America established in 1893, is looking for a writer to tell the stories of the "many interesting people who pass through" each day. The Pfister Narrator, who will spend ten hours each week in the hotel lobby interviewing guests and collecting tales for the Pfister blog, will receive a stipend of one thousand dollars a month for a six-month tenure, as well as meals and parking (not lodging, however).

Among the hotel's notable guests, about whom the writer-in-residence would write two posts a week, is rumored to be one spectral presence: the ghost of founder Charles Pfister. "A 'visitor' has been spotted surveying the lobby from the grand staircase, strolling the minstrel's gallery above the ballroom, and passing through the ninth floor storage area," says a statement under Ghost Stories on the hotel Web site. "He is always described in roughly the same terms: older, portly, smiling, and well-dressed. Upon seeing a portrait of Pfister, witnesses swore that it was the man they had seen."

Also regularly occupying the hotel—in physical form—is painter Katie Musoloff, the second of the hotel's artists-in-residence. In the video below, Musoloff describes her process for creating portraits, and her plan to generate work inspired by the Pfister building and its inhabitants.

To apply for the writer-in-residence opportunity, writers should submit via e-mail two to three writing samples, a resumé and cover letter, a two-hundred-word proposal, and two letters of reference. The deadline for submissions is this Friday, October 1. Complete guidelines are available on the hotel Web site.

Writer, Teacher, and Mother of Two Wins "Genius" Fellowship

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced yesterday the winners of its 2010 "Genius" Fellowships, among them one author. Lauded Chinese American fiction writer Yiyun Li, who struggled for several year with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to prove herself of the "extraordinary ability" required for citizenship, received the five-hundred-thousand-dollar award, given out-of-the-blue to innovators in all fields and "designed to provide an extra measure of freedom, visibility, and opportunity."

Li, an alumna of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and author of the story collections Gold Boy, Emerald Girl (Random House, 2010) and A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (Random House, 2005) and the novel The Vagrants (Random House, 2009), has previously won a Whiting Writers Award, the Plimpton Prize from the Paris Review, the Frank O'Hara International Short Story Award, and the Guardian First Book Award, among other honors. The mother of two and assistant professor at University of California in Davis told the Los Angeles Times that she anticipated the fellowship funds will allow her to focus more on writing and a little less on teaching.

Joining Li in this year's honor roll are twenty-two other "explorers and risk takers" including sign language linguist Carol Padden, type designer Matthew Carter, historian Annette Gordon-Reed, jazz pianist Jason Moran, and journalist and screenwriter David Simon, known for his work on the television series Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Wire. The complete list is posted on the MacArthur Foundation Web site.

Among the writers to have won the award in the past are John Ashbery, Edwidge Danticat, Ann Lauterbach, Jonathan Lethem, Heather McHugh, and David Foster Wallace.

In the video below, Li discusses her connection to Winnie the Pooh (which she read first as Willie Ille Pu—the Latin translation), happiness, and what authors she'd like to meet one-on-one.

One Week to Enter Arizona Lit Mag's Contest

The fifteen-year-old literary journal Alligator Juniper, published by Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona, is holding its annual writing contest until October 1. One winner in each genre—poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction—will receive one thousand dollars and publication in the magazine, which has a circulation of fifteen hundred.

The 2010 winners are Lillian-Yvonne Bertram for her poem "In Leaving My Lover Teaches Me Half a Bible Story," Laurie Anne Doyle for her story "Wings Raised Up," and Miles Fuller for his essay "The Mormon Martyr’s Guide to Chemical Reactions."

Former managing editor Jeff Fearnside, who recently left the post to work on his own writing, let us in on a few details about the journal and the competition.

What makes this competition unique?
It is judged almost entirely by undergraduate students enrolled in the Literary Journal Practicum course at Prescott College, under the guidance of published writers and teachers. I worked as an editor in graduate school for the national journal Willow Springs, and I can attest that what these students do at Prescott College is comparable to graduate-level work. The results speak for themselves: Alligator Juniper has won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs National Program Directors’ Prize for Undergraduate Literary Magazines in content for its 2000, 2003, and 2008 issues. No other journal has won this prestigious award more than once.

What are the judges looking for in a submission?
Quite simply, the very best writing. Naturally, how that is defined varies from year to year, depending on the individual tastes of the student editors. Prescott College’s mission focuses on the environment and social justice, and our editorial tastes may occasionally and incidentally reflect this, though by no means are we limited to any aesthetic or literary school; we’ve published work in styles ranging from traditional to experimental, and reflecting a wide range of themes.

How many finalists are offered publication?
It varies, as we select work based on quality, not a particular quota, but typically we publish fifteen to twenty finalists total in addition to the three winners.

An entry fee of fifteen dollars, which includes a copy of the prize issue, is required with each submission, and all entries must be made via postal mail. Complete guidelines are available on the Alligator Juniper Web site.

Eggers, Hacker, DeLillo and Others Honored for Literary Contributions

This week two literary organizations with an interest in writing and social justice honored authors with an array of awards. The Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the PEN American Center's Literary Awards recognized the work of writers including Anne Carson, Don DeLillo, Dave Eggers, Marilyn Hacker, and Marlon James.

James won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in fiction, given in recognition of a work that promotes global understanding, for his novel The Book of Night Women (Riverhead Books), and Eggers was awarded the prize in nonfiction for Zeitoun (McSweeney's Books). Each received ten thousand dollars. The runners up, who each received one thousand dollars, are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for her story collection The Thing Around Your Neck (Knopf) and, in nonfiction, Justine Hardy for In the Valley of Mist (Free Press).

"From religious discrimination and immigration to racism and xenophobia, this year’s winners tackle challenging issues which are too often debated with sound bites and rhetoric only,” said Sharon Rab, chair of the prize, which will be presented on November 7 in Dayton, Ohio. “With wisdom, grace, and humanity, these books deliver much-needed relief from the political discourse, offering light instead of heat, and hope rather than despair.”

Over on the east coast, PEN American Center awarded Pulitzer Prize–winner Paul Harding received the thirty-five-thousand-dollar PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers for his debut novel, Tinkers (Bellevue Literary Press). The twenty-five-thousand-dollar PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction went to Don DeLillo, and Susan Choi won the ten-thousand-dollar award for a midcareer fiction writer, the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award. Marilyn Hacker won the five-thousand-dollar PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, given to recognize a distinguished body of work.

Receiving three thousand dollars each are Anne Carson, who won the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for her translation from the Greek of An Oresteia (Faber and Faber), and Michael Henry Heim, who won the PEN Translation Prize for his translation from the Dutch of Wonder by Hugo Claus (Archipelago Books). The one-thousand-dollar Open Book Award (formerly the Beyond Margins Award) in poetry went to Sherwin Bitsui for his collection Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press).

The PEN Literary Award winners will be feted on October 13 in New York City.

In the video below, Eggers discusses the experience of the New Orleans man and his family whose story he adapted in his winning book.

North Carolina Author Wins Irish Short Story Prize

On Sunday night the Munster Literature Centre in Cork, Ireland, announced the winner of this year's Frank O'Connor Short Story Award. North Carolina fiction writer and poet Ron Rash won the thirty-five-thousand-euro prize—the richest purse given for the short story form—for his collection Burning Bright (HarperCollins), set in the landscape of Appalachia spanning time from the Civil War to the present. In American currency, the prize is worth nearly forty-six thousand dollars.

This is not the first time Rash, professor of Appalachian studies at Western Carolina University, has seen his fiction contending for a major honor. His novel Serena (Ecco, 2008), the story of a powerful couple's unraveling relationship in the North Carolina mountains where they'd built a logging empire, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

The shortlisted authors for this year's Frank O'Connor Award are Robin Black for If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This (Random House), Belle Boggs for Mattaponi Queen (Graywolf Press), T. C. Boyle for Wild Child (Viking), David Constantine for The Shieling (Comma Press), and Laura van den Berg for What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc Books).

To have a title considered for the 2011 award, authors, publishers, and agents may submit books by March 31, 2011. Eligibility rules and guidelines for entry are available on the Munster Literature Centre Web site.

Shakespeare and Company Seeks a First Novella

From Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse to Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, James Joyce's The Dead to Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain—Shakespeare and Company says the novella, a "small but perfectly-formed" literary object, "holds an important place in literature." The Paris bookstore known for its support of aspiring writers recently launched its first Paris Literary Prize to promote the form in contemporary practice.

One writer who has not published a novel, novella, or short story collection will receive an award of ten thousand euros, cosponsored by the recently established de Groot Foundation, and a weekend stay in Paris next June, during which the award will be presented. Two runners-up will also receive a weekend trip to the city of lights.

The deadline for the first three thousand words of a manuscript is December 1, and submissions must be accompanied by an entry fee of fifty euros (approximately sixty-five dollars). Finalists, announced next February, will be asked to submit their complete manuscripts (of twenty- to thirty-thousand words) by March 20, 2011.

Guidelines and more information about how to enter are available on the Paris Literary Prize Web site.

In the video below, the luminous Jean Seberg dances with melancholy in Otto Preminger's film adaptation of Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness), accompanied by the English version of the film's eponymous song.