Poets & Writers Blogs

Residency Award Offers Haven for Haitian Writers

The Vermont Studio Center (VSC) in Johnson announced recently that it would award monthlong residencies to writers and artists from Haiti. Supported by the center's Fund for Displaced Artists, which also offered retreats to New Orleans artists in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and New Yorkers displaced after the September 11 attacks, the two McGarrell Awards include room and board and a studio at the center, as well as a stipend for travel and materials.

The award is named for artist Flo McGarrell, the son of VSC visiting artist James McGarrell, who died in Haiti during the recent earthquake while he was working in a downtown Jacmel art center where he also taught.

Applications and nominations for the awards may be sent to the VSC via e-mail, and more information can be obtained by calling the center at (802) 635-2727. The recipients will be announced no later than July 1.

Broadway Maven Holds Contest for Fabulous Book Title

Patti LuPone, the Juilliard-trained actress and singer who is known for creating lead roles in Les Miserables and Sunset Boulevard, is holding a contest to determine the title of her forthcoming memoir. LuPone, who has also made her mark in performances of Evita, Gypsy, and Sweeney Todd, among many other productions in the United States and abroad, writes on her Web site, "Dolls, I've been busy writing the story of my theatrical life and need your help to find a suitable and fabulous title."

Not a Broadway baby? Perhaps you could cull title inspiration from one of LuPone's film roles, in movies such as Spike Lee's Summer of Sam or David Mamet's State and Main, or one of her many television appearances, which include a handful of spots on PBS's Great Performances series.

The winner will receive a copy of the book autographed by the actress, two tickets to her next show on Broadway or in a performance closer to the winner's home, and a personal congratulations from LuPone backstage. The deadline for submissions, which can be made on the Web site, is March 30.

In the video below, LuPone sings "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" from her eponymous role in Evita.

 

Daniyal Mueenuddin Takes Home Story Prize

Debut author Daniyal Mueenuddin received the twenty-thousand-dollar Story Prize last night at a ceremony in New York City. Mueenuddin, honored for his collection of linked stories, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, was revealed as winner after a lively evening of readings and onstage conversations featuring fellow finalists Victoria Patterson and Wells Tower.

"I've been accused of being too dark," Mueenuddin told prize presenter Larry Dark, who engaged each writer in an interview after their respective readings and asked Mueenuddin about the often tragic demise of some of his characters. "But that's sort of the way I see it," the author added. Mueenuddin's book investigates life in his native Pakistan (he was also raised in Massachusetts) through the lenses of individuals in different stations, from an electrician to a woman servant to a farm manager, a position the author himself occupies today. He described himself as being in the profession of identifying characters, both in his writing and in his business at home. 

Tower and Patterson also offered insight into their writing lives and process of generating narratives. Patterson, a finalist for her collection of linked stories, Drift, described her motives as being perhaps "angry, and maybe not so pure" when creating characters based on real and imagined residents of her hometown of Newport Beach, located in often-stereotyped Orange County, California.

Tower, a dedicated reviser who was nominated for Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, said he likes the story form because "you get to make more mistakes more rapidly," so the story is "a great laboratory." He also described his futile attempts during graduate school—he attended Columbia University's MFA program in the early 2000s—to "crack the code" of the short story, citing some revealing advice he received from the late Barry Hannah concerning  "the secret" to writing a great story: "Get in and get out."

When the prize was announced, Mueenuddin took the stage to dedicate the award to his mother, writer Barbara Thompson Davis, who passed away last November, and whom he honored for teaching him "that becoming a writer was a legitimate thing to do."

In the Poets & Writers video below, Mueenuddin takes a crack at the question of "the secret" to the great story:

 

New Fellowship for Fiction Writers With Children

Pen Parentis, a young, New York City–based organization whose mission is to provide resources to writers who have children, is offering its first contest for a writing fellowship. The organization will award an emerging fiction writer one thousand dollars and promote his or her work on the Pen Parentis Web site.

The winner will give a reading in New York City at the September 14 gathering of the organization's free monthly reading series featuring writer parents. Novelist—and mother—Jennifer Egan is scheduled to read alongside the inaugural fellow. Egan is the author of the story collection Emerald City (Nan A. Talese, 1996) and four novels including The Keep (Knopf, 2006) and A Visit from the Goon Squad, forthcoming from Knopf in June.

Fiction writers with at least one child under the age of ten are invited to submit unpublished works of short fiction from today until April 17. Each submission must total no more than twelve hundred words and should be accompanied by a fifteen-dollar entry fee.

There is no residency requirement for entrants, but the winner must be able to provide his or her own travel to and accommodations in New York City to be present for the reading in September. More information about the award is available on the Pen Parentis Web site.

Boston Pops Launches Micro-Essay Contest

On the occasion of the its 125th anniversary, the Boston Pops has announced a (short and snappy) writing competition, awarding a trip to attend the orchestra's nationally broadcast July 4 concert this summer. Each entry should explain—or make a more creative argument, perhaps—why the widely-recorded orchestra founded by Civil War veteran Henry Lee Higginson should send the writer and family to the Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular on the Charles River Esplanade.

The winner and three companions will receive a three-day trip to Boston and event admission, including an opportunity to meet conductor Keith Lockhart, who has expanded the Pops oeuvre to include collaborations with pop and indie musicians, after the show.

Submissions, due May 15, can be made on the Boston Pops Web site, via the orchestra's Twitter and Facebook pages, and by text message. The only guidelines are that each submission must be 125 characters or fewer, and only one entry may be submitted. The winner will be selected on May 22.

In the video below, Lockhart offers a bit of Pops history while announcing the other events celebrating the anniversary season:

Story Prize Finalists Towers and Mueenuddin Up for L.A. Times Book Awards

Yesterday the Los Angeles Times announced the finalists for the 2009 Book Awards in poetry and fiction, among other genres. The winners, who will each receive a five hundred dollar honorarium, will be announced on April 23, just prior to the weekend-long Times Festival of Books.

The finalists in poetry are:
Gabrielle Calvocoressi for Apocalyptic Swing (Persea Books)
Amy Gerstler for Dearest Creature (Penguin Poets)
Tom Healy for What the Right Hand Knows (Four Way Books)
Brenda Hillman for Practical Water (Wesleyan University Press)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon for }Open Interval{, (University of Pittsburgh Press)

The finalists in fiction, all for novels, are:
Jill Ciment for Heroic Measures (Pantheon)
Jane Gardam for The Man in the Wooden Hat (Europa Editions)
Michelle Huneven for Blame (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Kate Walbert for A Short History of Women (Scribner)
Rafael Yglesias for A Happy Marriage (Scribner)

The finalists for the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, named for the Times editor and founder of the Book Awards, are:
Petina Gappah for the story collection An Elegy for Easterly (Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Paul Harding for his novel Tinkers (Bellevue Literary Press)
Philipp Meyer for his novel American Rust (Spiegel & Grau)
Daniyal Mueenuddin for his story collection In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (W.W. Norton & Co.)
Wells Tower for his story collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
(Mueenuddin and Tower also are both in the running for the twenty-thousand-dollar Story Prize, along with Victoria Patterson for Drift. The winner will be announced next week.)

Three judges in each category, none of whom are employed by the Times, select the Book Awards finalists and winners, and there is no external submission process. The winners of two additional literary honors to be distributed at the April ceremony, the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement among writers of the American West—given this year to Evan S. Connell—and the new Innovator's Award, which will go to Dave Eggers, are determined by an internal panel of Times staff.

"Language Textures" Likely to Stand Out in Innovative Fiction Contest

We asked Ander Monson, editor of the literary journal DIAGRAM and judge of the magazine's 2010 Innovative Fiction Contest, to weigh in on what he'll be looking for in the submission pile. The competition, which awards one thousand dollars and publication in DIAGRAM, is open to stories of up to ten thousand words until March 8.

Monson says that he usually reads all of the submissions that come in, along with DIAGRAM fiction editors Sarah Blackman and Lauren Slaughter, and then the finalists go on to an outside judge, but this year he'll also make the ultimate pick. Read on for his take on the selection process, beginning with the evaluation of every entry—at least twice.

"We never know what we're looking for in the contest until we see it. Each year we get different stories told in different ways, and the decisions are extremely difficult, and we don't often agree. Almost always, interestingly, my own personal favorites in years past have coincided with the [final] judges' picks, so I think we're on the same page. And this year we are more obviously on the same page.

"As a reader I value a real sense of language textures in a story. Sometimes that manifests itself as an idiosyncratic voice, or in idiosyncratic forms—which for this reader are always welcome. But I also want story—I want to be moved, to be riveted.

"What I want is what I think we all want every time we read stories: We want to be enraptured and entertained. We call it the Innovative Fiction Prize because as an online and, more than occasionally, new media journal, DIAGRAM tries to publish stories that take more risks. So I'd say that what we want is either 1) something really and actually new; or else 2) something old, but told/written/created in such a way that it subverts our expectations of what we think a story can be, and yet it delivers the things that great stories deliver: mystery, beauty, terror, depth, a sense of a living and fully-realized consciousness, revelation, movement, hilarity, even shock, so it reads as new.

"I absolutely want my expectations subverted, and then rewarded with something strange and wonderful. I/we want to be surprised. We don't know how stories are being told, how they are going to be told in the future. Maybe with interactivity. Maybe with images. Maybe via code. Who knows. But we would very much like to see and be shown. Which is why we award the prize, to encourage and reward the most interesting stories/fictions we can find. Because we know there are plenty of somebodies out there writing them, and we want them to think of DIAGRAM as a place for interesting and innovative art. Which I think it is."

DIAGRAM's Chapbook Contest is also under way, open to manuscript submissions of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or multi-genre work. Check out the guidelines for that contest and more in our Grants & Awards database.

Two Fiction Contests Extend Deadlines

Sonora Review and Sycamore Review have both pushed the deadlines for their annual story competitions. Sonora's Short Short Story Contest will accept flash fiction of up to one thousand words until May 1. Sycamore Review's Wabash Prize for Fiction is open for story submissions of up to ten thousand words each until March 8.

The awards each offer a prize of one thousand dollars and publication in the sponsoring journal. The entry fees are also identical—fifteen dollars, which includes a copy of the magazine.

The Sonora Review short short judge will be Baltimore native Joe Wenderoth, author of three poetry collections as well as Letters to Wendy's (Verse Press, 2000), a fiction collection comprised of comment cards to the American fast food giant, and the essay collection The Holy Spirit Of Life: Essays Written For John Ashcroft’s Secret Self (Wave Books, 2005). A sample of Wenderoth's prose, the story "The Peephole," is available on the Guernica magazine Web site.

Britain-born Peter Ho Davies will judge Sycamore's contest. His works include the novel The Welsh Girl (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007) and the short story collections Equal Love (Granta Books, 2001) and The Ugliest House in the World (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). The author's Web site features selections of his short fiction and "outtakes" from his novel.

In the video below, Wenderoth—very subtly—performs an excerpt from Letters to Wendy's.

NBCC Offers a Daily Glimpse at Prize Finalists' Books

Leading up to the announcement of the National Book Critics Circle Award winners on March 11, the NBCC is rolling out a series of book reviews on their Critical Mass blog. Every day, the NBCC will post a reviewer's brief response to one of the shortlisted books, including Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, Museum of Accidents by Rachel Zucker, Chronic by D. A. Powell, and Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips, reviews for which have already been posted.

Reviews of poetry, fiction, and autobiography will be interspersed with selections from the biography, nonfiction, and criticism categories. Two biographies of literary luminaries are among the current posts, Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey and Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor by Brad Gooch.

More information about the awards, including an explanation of the selection process executed by board members (some of whom have posted reviews), is available on the NBCC Web site.

In the video below, D. A. Powell reads from Chronic

APR Presents Thirteenth Award for Debut Poetry

Mark Doty has selected San Francisco poet Melissa Stein as winner of the 2010 Honickman First Book Prize from the American Poetry Review (APR). Stein's debut collection, Rough Honey, will be published by APR and distributed by Copper Canyon Press, and she will receive three thousand dollars.

Some of Stein's poems, which have appeared in journals such as New England Review, Seneca Review, and the Journal, appear on the Web site of her Bay Area writing workshop, Thirteen Ways.

Past winners of the APR/Honickman award are:
2009 Laura McKee for Uttermost Paradise Place selected by Claudia Keelan
2008 Matthew Dickman for All-American Poem selected by Tony Hoagland
2007 Gregory Pardlo for Totem selected by Brenda Hillman
2006 David Roderick for Blue Colonial selected by Robert Pinsky
2005 Geoff Bouvier for Living Room selected by Heather McHugh
2004 Kevin Ducey for Rhinoceros selected by Yusef Komunyakaa
2003 James McCorkle for Evidences selected by Jorie Graham
2002 Kathleen Ossip for The Search Engine selected by Derek Walcott
2001 Ed Pavlic for Paraph of Bone & Other Kinds of Blue selected by Adrienne Rich
2000 Anne Marie Macari for Ivory Cradle selected by Robert Creeley
1999 Dana Levin for In The Surgical Theater selected by Louise Glück
1998 Joshua Beckman for Things Are Happening selected by Gerald Stern

The next deadline for poets who have not published books to submit manuscripts is October 31.

Canadian Journalist Ian Brown Honored for Memoir

The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction, named for the late Canadian nonfiction writer, was awarded last night to Ian Brown for his memoir The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for His Disabled Son (Random House Canada). Brown, an award-winning journalist who contributes to the Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail, received forty thousand dollars to honor his book about life with his son, who suffers from Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, an extremely rare condition.

Three finalists, all authors of biographies, each received a prize of two thousand dollars. They are John English for Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1968–2000 (Knopf Canada); Daniel Poliquin for René Lévesque (Penguin Canada); and Kenneth Whyte for The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst (Random House Canada). The judges were nonfiction writer Andrew Cohen, 2009 Charles Taylor Prize winner Tim Cook, and translator Sheila Fischman.

The annual prize is given to promote works of literary nonfiction by Canadian writers with a distinct style and command of language. According to the prize Web site, "Charles Taylor believed that a well-read and well-informed public contributes to a thriving democracy" and "that excellence in style is the basis for communication in thought." The next deadline for publishers to submit books is April 15.

In the video below, Brown talks about his winning book. 

Persea Books Launches Prize for Published Poets

The Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Project, a memorial foundation honoring the late poet Lexi Rudnitsky, is once again teaming with New York City indie press Persea Books to hold a poetry book prize. Like the five-year-old prize for a first book, the new Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor's Choice Award offers publication of a poetry collection and one thousand dollars, but this prize will be given to a U.S. poet who has published at least one full-length book of poetry in an edition of over five hundred copies.

The winning poet will also receive a two- to four-week residency at the Anderson Center artist retreat in Red Wing, Minnesota. The length of the stay is up to the winner, but "the center loves it when residents come for the full month," says Persea's poetry editor and contest judge Gabriel Fried.

When asked what he is looking for in a submission, Fried said, "I really don't have a pre-articulated sense of what sort of poetry will win, except that it should be unforgettable, striking in the ways it accomplishes what it sets out to do….I honestly don't feel predisposed toward a particular poetics, just toward the realization of poetic ambition."

Fried will select the winner with the help of an advisory committee from the Poetry Project, and the announcement will be made in April.

Women's Poetry Contest Deadline Extended

Finishing Line Press has extended the deadline of its New Women's Voices Chapbook Competition. Women poets who have not published a book-length collection now have until February 28 to submit manuscripts of up to twenty-six pages.

The winner will receive one thousand dollars and publication of her chapbook. Contest judge Leah Maines, the press's senior editor and author of the first book in the New Women's Voices series, Looking to the East With Western Eyes, will also select ten finalists for publication. 

Last year's winner was University of Wisconsin literature professor Cherene Sherrard for Mistress, Reclining, forthcoming in April. A list of all past winners' and finalists' books released as part of the New Women's Voices series—seventy-six chapbooks in all—is posted on the Finishing Line Press Web site

 

Honorary Booker Fills Gap in Prize's History

Twenty-two books published four decades ago have made the longlist for the Lost Man Booker Prize. The third celebratory prize in the history of the Bookers—following the twenty-fifth anniversary Booker of Bookers and the fortieth anniversary Best of the Booker—will recognize a novel by a U.K. writer published in 1970, the year before the award guidelines changed their scope and made many just-released titles ineligible for prize consideration.

From the longlist, poet Tobias Hill, broadcaster Katie Derham, and journalist Rachel Cooke—all born in or around 1970—will select a shortlist of six titles, which will be announced in March. A public vote will then determine the winning book.

The semifinalists and their novels, available most recently from the publishers noted below, are:
The Hand Reared Boy (Souvenir Press) by Brian Aldiss
A Little Of What You Fancy? (Penguin) by H. E. Bates
The Birds on The Trees (Virago Press) by Nina Bawden
A Place in England (Sceptre) by Lord Melvyn Bragg
Down All The Days (Vintage) by Christy Brown
Bomber (HarperCollins) by Len Deighton
Troubles (Phoenix) by J. G. Farrell
The Circle (Faber Finds) by Elaine Feinstein
The Bay of Noon (Virago Press) by Shirley Hazzard
A Clubbable Woman (HarperCollins) by Reginald Hill
I'm the King of the Castle (Penguin) by Susan Hill
A Domestic Animal (Faber Finds) by Francis King
The Fire Dwellers (Virago Press) by Margaret Laurence
Out of the Shelter (Penguin) by David Lodge
A Fairly Honourable Defeat (Vintage) by Iris Murdoch
Fireflies (Penguin) by Shiva Naipaul
Master and Commander (HarperCollins) by Patrick O'Brian
Head to Toe (Methuen Publishing) by Joe Orton
Fire From Heaven (Arrow Books) by Mary Renault
A Guilty Thing Surprised (Arrow Books) by Ruth Rendell
The Driver's Seat (Penguin Classics) by Muriel Spark
The Vivisector (Vintage) by Patrick White

Last-Minute Call for Potomac Review Poem Entries

Potomac Review, the literary magazine of Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, will accept submissions to its biennial poetry contest until Monday, February 1. Submissions of up to three poems totaling no more than five pages can be made this weekend online, though the entry fee of twenty dollars must be sent via mail.

The winning poet, announced on February 15, will receive one thousand dollars and publication of her winning work in Potomac Review. All entries will be considered for publication in the print magazine and on the journal's Web site.

So, where does that entry fee go? Why does the journal run contests at all (the poetry prize rotates annually with one in fiction)? Information about the inner workings of Potomac Review is available on the journal's blog, where a member of the editorial staff makes a case for holding contests. Here are a few key bits from that post:

"Contests are a way for us to prove to our funding source that we can make money. We use them to give back the money they provide for printing, mailing, and staff support." 

"I personally like the anonymous nature of contests. Anybody, published or unpublished, can win. My associate editors like the absence of cover letters. Several have told me it frees them to read with an open mind."

"So I realize that everybody is offering a contest, but I think poets and writers should give it a shot. Take a chance and support your favorite magazines. If you were ever going to subscribe to us, why not submit a few poems and roll the dice."