Poets & Writers Blogs

Poetry in Animation Snags Moby Award

Last night Melville House celebrated its first Moby Awards, given by the New York City indie press for video book trailers —the low-budget, the beautiful, and the cringe-worthy all represented—made in the past twelve months. Top trailers in five categories earned a golden whale and perhaps a nudge on YouTube—in the book world, sometimes even promotion could use a little promotion. Small press poetry got a nod from the judges, with the award for Best Low Budget or Indie Book Trailer going to the understated, animated short for Kathryn Regina's poetry chapbook, I Am in the Air Right Now, published in a limited edition—now sold out— by Greying Ghost Press.

The winners in the other predetermined categories, with a few honorable add-ons, are:
Best Big Budget or Big House Book Trailer: The stunning stop-motion video—books transform before your eyes—for Going West by Maurice Gee, released by Faber and Faber in 1992

Best Cameo in a Book Trailer: Zach Galifinakis (the Brooklyn actor and comedian of Hangover fame) in the video for John Wray's novel Lowboy, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2009

Best Performance by an Author: Dennis Cass in the trailer for his memoir Head Case (HarperCollins, 2007)

Least Likely Trailer to Sell the Book: Sounds of Murder (Cozy Cat Press, 2010) by Patricia Rockwell

Bloodiest Book Trailer: Killer by Dave Zeltserman (Serpent's Tail, 2010)

Best Foreign Film Book Trailer: Etcetera and Otherwise: A Lurid Odyssey, by Canadian author Sean Stanley, illustrated by Kristi-Ly Green (Tightrope Books, 2008)

Most Annoying Music: New Year's At the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story by April Halprin Wayland (Dial, 2009)

Biggest Waste of Conglomerate Money: Level 26, billed as "the world's first digi-novel," by CSI: Crime Scene Investigation writer Anthony Zuiker (Dutton, 2009)

While there were no rules for book publication dates, the videos had to have been produced between April 2009 and April 2010.

Below is the trailer for Regina's chapbook.

Late Liverpudlian's 1970 Book Wins Lost Booker Prize

The late novelist J. G. Farrell was honored on Wednesday with the Lost Man Booker Prize, awarded for Troubles (Phoenix), which was published during a period in 1970 when changes in the prestigious prize's publication date guidelines rendered many books ineligible for entry. The prize, given just this once to recognize a book released during that time, is the second Booker for a work by Farrell, who won the 1973 award for the second novel in a trilogy that began with Troubles, The Siege of Krishnapur (Weidenfeld & Nicolson). Farrell died in 1979 in Ireland's Bantry Bay.

The winning book was selected by public vote by a majority— 38 percent—from a shortlist that included The Birds on The Trees (Virago Press) by Nina Bawden, The Bay of Noon (Virago Press) by Shirley Hazzard, Fire From Heaven (Arrow Books) by Mary Renault, The Driver's Seat (Penguin Classics) by Muriel Spark, The Vivisector (Vintage) by Nobel Prize–winner Patrick White. The semifinalists were determined by poet Tobias Hill, broadcaster Katie Derham, and journalist Rachel Cooke.

Troubles, which has not been out-of-print since its publication, was most recently published in a U.S. edition by New York Review Books Classics in 2002.

Australian Sonnet Collection Wins Major Prize

The winners of this year's New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, Australia's thirty-one-year-old prize series, include two debut novelists, a decorated fiction writer, and an established poet attempting to fill a void in the library of her country.

Jordie Albiston, author of six books of poetry, won the thirty-thousand-dollar Kenneth Slessor Prize for poetry for her collection of sonnets, the sonnet according to 'm' (John Leonard Press), written as a response to a dearth of Australian poetry written in the form.  

''I was interested in applying the form to Australian language in particular," Albiston told the Australian newspaper the Age. "I wanted to contribute to the genre as an Australian.''

In fiction, two-time Booker Prize winner J. M. Coetzee won the forty-thousand-dollar Christina Stead Prize for his novel Summertime (Harvill Secker). Andrew Croome received the UTS (University of Technology, Sydney) Glenda Adams Award for first fiction for his novel set during the Cold War, Document Z (Allen & Unwin), and Cate Kennedy, author of the short story collection Dark Roots (Grove Press, 2008), won the People's Choice Award for her first novel, The World Beneath (Scribe).

Memoirist Abbas El-Zein won the fifteen-thousand-dollar Community Relations Commission Award for Leave to Remain (University of Queensland Press), his story of individuals and families affected by war. Screenwriter Jane Campion received honors as well for Bright Star, her 2009 film about Romantic poet John Keats.

In the video below, debut author Croome talks about his experience writing his first novel.

Glimmer Train Wants Timeless Stories From New Voices

We recently asked the folks at Glimmer Train Stories, who hold twelve fiction contests a year, to let us know what they look for in a story submission. Here's what the editors—Portland, Oregon, sisters Linda Swanson-Davies and Susan Burmeister-Brown, who have also edited the essay anthologies Where Love Is Found and Mother Knows (both out from Simon & Schuster)—had to say about the kind of "well-crafted stories of substance" they hope to publish.

"Because Glimmer Train Stories is a print publication, and those seem to be becoming more scarce, it is important to us that the stories we publish capture some aspect of being human that will feel as meaningful in fifty years as it does now.

"From the beginning, Glimmer Train has welcomed the work of new writers, partly because publication opportunities are particularly rare for them, but also because it is really exciting to find, fall in love with, and publish great stories by new voices. It is one of the most fun things we do."

At the moment, entries are open for the Short Story Award for New Writers, which will award twelve hundred dollars and publication to a writer who has not published fiction in a journal with a circulation over five thousand. Next month Glimmer Train will accept submissions to its Fiction Open competition of stories ranging from two thousand to twenty thousand words. Contest guidelines and a glimpse of the magazine are available on the Glimmer Train Press Web site.

Prize for Short Story Writing Given to Author of "Cool Ferocity"

Mary Robison, author of four short story collections, has been named the latest winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story, given to recognize significant work the form. The prize, which was last awarded in 2008 to Amy Hempel, is typically given annually and carries an award of thirty
thousand dollars.

A native of Washington, D.C., who now teaches at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Robison was commended by judges Andrea Barrett, Hempel, and Jayne Anne Phillips for her stories' "lean, cool ferocity and their wry takes on people in pivotal moments." Her story collections are Days (Knopf, 1979), An Amateur’s Guide to the Night (Random House, 1983), Believe Them (Knopf, 1988), and Tell Me: Thirty Stories (Counterpoint, 2002), and Robison has also published five novels including Oh! (Knopf, 1981), Why Did I Ever (Counterpoint, 2001), and One D.O.A., One on the Way (Counterpoint, 2009).  

Previous winners of the Rea Award, founded in 1986 by writer and "passionate reader" Michael Rea, include Cynthia Ozick, Tobias Wolff, Eudora Welty, Andre Dubus, and Antonya Nelson.

Crazyhorse's Top Literary Quotes

"I write a little every day, without hope and without despair," said Danish author Isak Dinesen. Hers was one of twenty quotes by writers on writing selected by Crazyhorse from readers' nominations to grace the journal's Web site. Contest participants who submitted winning entries will receive a subscription to the magazine, which turned fifty this year.

Below are a few selections from the picks of the judges—the editorial interns—which will appear in a graphic on the journal's home page. Currently, the Web site is showcasing quotes from the latest issue, including works by winners of the Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize and the Crazyhorse Prize—Kary Wayson and Elizabeth Oness.

"If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up."—Hunter S. Thompson

"All I am is the trick of words writing themselves."
—Anne Sexton

"Write, damn you! What else are you good for?"
—James Joyce

"I could claim any number of high-flown reasons for writing, just as you can explain certain dogs behavior... But maybe, it’s that they’re dog, and that’s what dogs do."
—Amy Hempel

"Writing is finally a series of permissions you give yourself to be expressive in certain ways. To leap. To fly. To fail."
—Susan Sontag

Dublin Magazine Holds Flash Fiction Contest

As a response an observed increase in the popularity of the form, the Dublin Review of Books has launched a one-time flash fiction contest. The free, online magazine of book reviews and news will publish three short short stories selected by a DRB editor and Irish fiction writers James Ryan and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, and award the author of the winning work a prize of one thousand euros (approximately thirteen hundred dollars).

Writers from anywhere in the world working in English may enter up to three stories of no more than five hundred words each, either via the online form or e-mail, by June 1. A ten-euro entry fee (approximately thirteen dollars), which the DRB will accept through PayPal, is required.

Judge James Ryan is the author of novels South of the Border (Lilliput Press, 2008), Seeds of Doubt (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001), and Home from England (Phoenix House, 1995). To read a short story by Ryan, check out issue seven of the Dublin Review (no relation to DRB).

Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, who has studied medieval literature and oral tradition and has a doctorate in Irish folklore, has published short story collections including The Pale Gold of Alaska (Blackstaff Press, 2000) and Blood and Water (Attic Press, 1988), and the novel The Dancers Dancing (Blackstaff Press, 1999), which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.

Also holding short short story contests this spring are the Bridport Arts Centre in England and New Millennium Writings in the United States, both with deadlines in June.

Text Message Journal Wins Innovator Prize

The National Book Foundation (NBF) announced today that among the winners of its Innovations in Reading Prizes is Cellpoems, a poetry journal distributed via text message. The journal, which accepts submissions online and, naturally, via text message, will receive a twenty-five-hundred-dollar grant to continue, in the words of NBF's director of programs Leslie Shipman, "using technology in a surprising and innovative way to make poetry a part of people’s daily lives."

Details on how to submit and how to receive the journal—which readers can also follow on Twitter—are available on the Cellpoems Web site.

Other 2010 Innovations in Reading winners are 826 Valencia, the San Francisco branch of 826 National's network of nonprofit literary centers; Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop for teenage boys incarcerated in Washington, D.C.; Mount Olive Baptist Church in rural South Carolina, which established a community children's library; and United Through Reading, a program assists parents who are separated from their children in creating DVD recordings of storybook readings.

Book Blog Launches Contest to Revamp Alger

Mediabistro's book blog, GalleyCat, has commenced its World's Longest Literary Remix contest, which invites a preregistered group of writers to recompose one page each of a work by nineteenth-century novelist Horatio Alger, famous for his copious rags-to-riches narratives. For interested parties who aren't on the roster to submit rewrites of Alger's "badly-written, meandering, and oversimplified public domain parable" Joe's Luck, or Always Wide Awake, GalleyCat is still taking names for a waiting list via e-mail

The rewritten pages, from which three winning entries will be randomly selected, are due on June 7. Prizes include printed copies of the remixed novel, courtesy of Scribd and Blurb; a selection of books from Quirk Books, publishers of twisted literary titles such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Android Karenina; and the first four issues of Electric Literature, a quarterly online and POD journal. The digital book version of the Joe's Luck remix will be available to the public for free.

GalleyCat has plans to run similar contests in the future with other public domain books—and the waitlisted writers from this first contest will be among the first to be invited in the next round. More information is posted on GalleyCat.

Barbara Kingsolver's Debut Novel Prize Awarded to Tucson Writer

The winner of the twenty-five-thousand-dollar Bellwether Prize for an unpublished novel manuscript has been announced. Barbara Kingsolver—author of novels including The Bean Trees (Harper & Row, 1988) and The Lacuna (Harper, 2009) and the locavore memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (HarperCollins, 2007)—has selected the manuscript "Running the Rift" by Naomi Benaron of Tucson as the recipient of the biennial award, which includes publication by Algonquin Books. Also judging were inaugural Bellwether winner Donna Gershten and Algonquin editor Kathy Pories.

Benaron's novel, according to Kingsolver, "engages the reader with complex political questions about ethnic animosity in Rwanda and so many other issues relevant to North American readers." The prize, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, is given to recognize a first work of literary fiction that speaks to social justice issues.

"In my writing," Benaron said in a press release, "what has always mattered most is to carry the human consequences of injustice to the reader’s heart and thus in some small way, bring healing." The author, whose pursuits beyond writing include orthopedic massage, seismology, and the Ironman Triathlon, also works with African refugees in her community and women writers in Afghanistan, through the Afghan Women's Writing Project online. 

The 2008 Bellwether Prize–winning novel, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow, was released last month, and the next competition will open in 2011.

Another Book Trailer Competition, Looking for the Best and Worst

Melville House, the New York City indie press, has launched its first book trailer contest and is currently accepting submissions. Awards will be given for best big-budget trailer—for books released by major houses or trailers with budgets over five hundred dollars—best low-budget trailer, best cameo in a trailer, best performance by an author, and the "least likely to sell the book" trailer. Finalists for the Moby Awards, named for the press's book blog MobyLives, will be feted on May 20 at the posh Griffin cocktail lounge in New York City, in the company of publishing professionals and "surprise celebrity guests."

"Yes, that’s right: We will judge you," reads today's post on MobyLives. "Well, we’ll judge your book trailers, which one might consider reflections of you (and your work), whether you’re an author, editor, agent, publicist—whoever!" Panelists Megan Halpern, a publicist; Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times blog Jacket Copy; Jason Boog of the blog GalleyCat; Troy Patterson of Slate; and Colin Robinson, publisher of OR Books, will select winners from among nominations—which can be made by anyone via a comment on the contest Web page—of videos produced between April 2009 and April 2010. A shortlist will be announced during awards week.

Also accepting entries to its book trailer contest for indie titles is ForeWord Reviews. The submission period closes at the end of this week.

The video below, promoting James Greer's novel The Failure (Akashic Books), is one of many trailers that have already been nominated for the Moby.

 

L.A. Times Awards First Graphic Novel Prize

The Los Angeles Times announced on Friday the winners of its 2009 Book Awards. Brenda Hillman took the prize in poetry for Practical Water (Wesleyan University Press), Rafael Yglesias won in fiction for A Happy Marriage (Scribner), and Philipp Meyer won the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction for American Rust (Spiegel & Grau), while David Mazzucchelli received the inaugural award for a graphic novel for Asterios Polyp (Pantheon).

The judges of the graphic novel prize—the first major book award to honor the genre—called Mazzucchelli's book "a beautifully executed love story, a smart and playful treatise on aesthetics, a perfectly unified work whose every formal element, down to the stitching on its spine, serves its themes."

Hillman, an experimental poet who teaches at St. Mary's College of California, was cited for her "commitment to innovation and interiority…galvanized by the need to speak back to the stark realities of our situation."

Debut author Meyer was commended by the judges for the "deep compassion" with which he renders his novel's characters, residents of a deteriorating Pennsylvania steel town. Yglesias's novel was called "an ennobling picture of lives lived over decades, in sickness and health, brought vibrantly to life." 

Also receiving recognition for their literary endeavors were Dave Eggers and Evan S. Connell. Eggers, who was given the Innovator's Award for his work as a publisher and the founder of the youth organization 826 National, also the prize for current interest book for Zeitoun (McSweeney's Books), a work of narrative journalism centered on a married couple who survived Hurricane Katrina. Connell received the Robert Kirsch Award for his oeuvre as a writer living in the American West.

Blog Essays Compete for a Second Life in Print

Inspired by a rumination on the New York Times Paper Cuts blog that asked whether a blog could ever rise to the level of literature, the literary magazine Creative Nonfiction is asking blog readers and writers to nominate "vibrant new voices with interesting, true stories to tell" for a special issue of the magazine. Specifically, the magazine is looking for entries of literary ("narrative, narrative, narrative") blog posts that were published between November 1, 2009, and March 31 of this year.

The winning essays will be published in the July 2010 issue of Creative Nonfiction and each author will receive a fifty-dollar reward for one-time reprint rights.

Can a blog post transcend the tendency of its kind toward, as Gregory Cowles of Paper Cuts puts it, being "too topical and too fleeting to count as literature"? The deadline for nominations of previously blogged essays—your own, a friend's, a stranger's—totaling no more than two thousand words each is Monday, April 26. More information is available on Creative Nonfiction's Web site.

John Edgar Wideman Hosts Flash Fiction Contest on Lulu

Acclaimed novelist, memoirist, and short story writer John Edgar Wideman, who made news last month when he announced that his new book of short short stories would be released using the self-publishing outfit Lulu, recently launched a writing contest inspired by the collection, Briefs: Stories for the Palm of the Mind. The author, whose many honors include the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (which he won a history-making two times), a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, and the Rea Award for Excellence in the Short Story, is inviting entries of what he is calling "micro-stories" for possible inclusion in a special edition of his book.

Story entries should be no more than six hundred words, and should be submitted via e-mail to pr@lulu.com by May 1. Wideman will announce the winner, who will also receive a signed copy of the special edition including his or her story, on the Lulu blog on May 14.  

"The micro-fictions in my collection are about losing time, saving time, enduring time, fearing and escaping time," Wideman says in an essay that draws parallels between the short short form and the flow of a basketball game. He explains that the act of entering and soon after exiting a story—as if a time-out has been called in a game—allows the reader to "freeze, review, highlight the action. As if you can press a pause button and be released temporarily from the game’s intensity, from time." The complete essay is posted on the Lulu blog.

In the video below, actor Theron Cook reads the story "Bananas" from Briefs.

More Big Winner News: Eleanor Ross Taylor Wins Ruth Lilly Prize

Ninety-year-old poet Eleanor Ross Taylor is this year's recipient of the one-hundred-thousand-dollar Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, given by the Poetry Foundation to recognize lifetime achievement. Taylor, who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, will be presented the award next month during the Poetry Foundation's Pegasus Awards ceremony at the Arts Club of Chicago.

The May issue of Poetry, published by the Poetry Foundation, will feature a portfolio of Taylor's poems, many of which were out of print before Captive Voices, a book of her selected poems, was published last year—a volume that was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her previous collections are Wilderness of Ladies (1960), Welcome Eumenides (1972), New and Selected Poems (1983), Days Going/Days Coming Back (1991), and Late Leisure (1999).

In an award citation, Poetry editor Christian Wiman noted the "spiritual largesse and…great inner liberty” of Taylor's poems. "We live in a time when poetic styles seem to become more antic and frantic by the day, and Taylor’s voice has been muted from the start," Wiman said. "Muted, not quiet." 

Previous winners of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize include Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Gerald Stern, Yusef Komunyakaa, current U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan, C. K. Williams, Lucille Clifton, and Fanny Howe.