Poets & Writers Blogs

Invent Critics, Write Vampire Cookbooks, Persist: Atwood's Advice to Emerging Writers

Last Wednesday night, the winners of the Whiting Writers' Awards were addressed by Margaret Atwood, author of more than forty books of poetry, fiction, essays, and works for children, and herself the recipient of many literary honors, the Giller Prize and the Booker Prize among them. Atwood's speech, reprinted below, invoked the ten writers of poetry, fiction, plays, and nonfiction who each received the fifty-thousand-dollar Whiting Writers' Award to remain vigilant and tenacious in their vocation, encouragement we thought would speak to many readers of this blog. 

It’s a great honor to have been invited to speak to you this evening. The occasion is a happy one—it’s the moment when the Whiting Foundation recognizes and encourages brilliant upcoming writing talent. Congratulations to all! (I’ll put you on my blog.)

My role here is a secondary one. It’s what you might call the Duchess role—what Duchesses would be doing if America hadn’t thoughtlessly done away with them in 1776, thus inaugurating 213 years of Duchess Envy. All my life I’ve fled the idea of being a role model—for heaven’s sakes, don’t live as I’ve lived, I want to tell the young—but I appear to have turned into a sort of role model anyway.    

On this occasion it seems that I’m to act as a kind of symbolic dignitary—writers can’t be actual dignitaries, as they are by nature too undignified—and wield a virtual wand of blessing, like the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio, or wave a banner from a casement window as the young troops ride out to do battle. Gird on your word-swords, I must say to them! Buckle up those adjectives! Make sure your plots are tight, your epigrams sharp and pointed, your lyrical intervals lacking in bathos. Be vigilant—there are ambushes everywhere. On one side lurk the critics, getting ready to sneer and denounce, or worse, to praise for the wrong reasons; on the other side your parent figures, who always wanted you to be doctors, and who have furnished themselves with a list of writers such as Checkhov who were writers, yes, but doctors too: why can’t you do that? This is not helpful.

And on the third side is a stack of bills—bills for things like the rent—that whisper in their papery voices about the impossibility of making a living doing what you most wish to do. Alas, there is no inevitable connection, positive or negative, between talent and money. A bad book can make piles of money, a good book none. Or else a lot. It does happen. But nothing can be foreseen, because writing is among other things a form of gambling. You can win in one throw. You can lose disastrously. Fortune is a notoriously cruel goddess.

This is the moment for a bracing quote from Tennyson: "Doubt Not, Go Forward—If thou doubt’st, The Beasts will tear thee piecemeal." Fare well, I will say to the anointed ten—the fate of our language is in your hands, and it is a crucial fate—for if these the future guardians of it should falter or disappear, and if even our human language should fail us—should it become a rusty and untrustworthy tool—where will that leave us?

But perhaps I should climb down off the soapbox and give some more practical advice. Forget what used to be called "literature," I might say. It’s too risky. Too hard to drop-kick it through the gateposts of the best-seller lists, and the inability to do so—in a winner-take-all environment—can be fatal. Write cookbooks, or books about vampires—you’d do well with either. Or troll through the classics, adding monsters—Tess of the d’Urbervilles and the Body Snatchers, Jane Eyre and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, War and Peace and Heads That Grow Out of Your Armpits—the possibilities are endless! Better still—mix and match even more, and do a Vampire Cookbook! On second thought, maybe not—limited menu. But a Miss Manners Guide to Monster Etiquette—now that would sell! With a little ingenuity and no shame, you can do well. Then, under a different name—a very different name—you can dash off a few masterpieces.

Here’s another helpful hint: Invent some critics, then have them say some laudatory things about your work. This has been done. A painter friend of mine in Toronto made up an art critic called Don Rouge Humber and quoted him in ads, saying things like, "So stunning words fail me" and, "An oasis of pure optical pleasure," "Depilatory fine art with a consistently crispy crunch – delightfully deconstructionist!" My friend thought people would surely realize that Don was pretend, but not so. He sold a number of pieces to folks who turned up, ready for a serious art experience because the esteemed critic Don Rouge Humber thought so highly of his work.

But perhaps I should put on my seriousness hat, and offer some words of cheer, to young writers and to readers and to publishers, as well—to all who inhabit the republic of the written word, as all are essential to the survival of that noble republic. For it cannot have escaped you that we live in trying times. When interviewers start asking you about the state of publishing instead of the state of gender relations, you know we’re in trouble. Is poetry doomed? Is the novel doomed? Is the book doomed? (Not so far as I can see, or not yet.)

Or—a different sort of—Do the young still read? A question that invokes some long-gone non-existent golden age in which all the young did read, and nothing but praiseworthy classics. Not in my high school, I might tell them. Reading complex literary works in the century or so in which we’ve had something like universal literacy—has been a minority taste. But a minority taste well worth acquiring, for it really can be transformative: It can change lives.

But stories—just as stories—are not a minority taste. They’re a universal. Dennis Dutton, in his book The Art Instinct, proposes that art—and especially narrative art—is an evolved adaptation that human beings developed during their eighty-thousand-generation-long sojourn in the Pleistocene—a time when the ability to tell your kids about the time Uncle Mort got eaten by a crocodile, right over there, would have given those kids a distinct evolutionary advantage over other kids who could only find out about the crocodile firsthand. The arts are no frill—they’re part of our essential toolkit as human beings. We’ll make music and compose poems and tell stories as long as we’re on the planet. What’s at issue is the kinds of songs we’ll sing and the kinds of stories we’ll tell. And that’s where you’ll come in.

It’s not a profession, this track you’re on. It’s a vocation—a calling. There’s no pension plan, there are no guarantees, and there’s no magic potion. What you’ve chosen to do is brave and risky, but it’s also necessary—increasingly necessary as we move into a future for which no one, right now, has a convincing blueprint. You’ll be taking the ancient, ancient human language and its songs and stories that have been passed down to you, changing as they go; and through inspiration and hard work, you’ll fashion them into new forms that will in turn be molded by their time, as everything we’ve done is, and has been; and then you’ll pass these forms on in your turn, if we’re lucky. If we are all very lucky.

So that’s the real magic potion: luck. That’s what I should be saying as I wave my virtual wand: Good luck to all of you. Very good luck!

Bevy of Book Award Winners Up for IMPAC Award

The Lord Mayor of Dublin has rolled out the longlist of titles being considered for the 2010 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The sum of nominations from libraries in forty-three countries, a total of 156 novels published in English in 2008 are up for the one-hundred-thousand-Euro award. 

Among the nominees are Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison for A Mercy (Knopf); Marilynne Robinson for Home (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), which won the Orange Prize last year; and Aleksandar Hemon for The Lazarus Project, a National Book Award finalist. Debut novelists also received nods, among them Aravind Adiga for The White Tiger (Free Press), winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize, and Hannah Tinti for The Good Thief (Dial Press), winner of the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction's John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize. Husband and wife Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt each received a nomination, he for Man in the Dark (Henry Holt) and she for The Sorrows of an American (Henry Holt). The full longlist and information about each book is posted on the IMPAC Web site.

Selecting the winning book will be novelists Anne Fine, Anatoly Kudryavitsky, Abdourahman Waberi, and Zoë Wicomb, and scholar Eve Patten.

The shortlist will be announced by the Dublin City Council on April 14, 2010, and the winner on June 17. Previous recipients of the award, given since 1996, are Colm Tóibín, Per Petterson, Orhan Pamuk, and recent Nobel winner Herta Müller.

Jericho Brown and Salvatore Scibona Among Whiting Award Winners

Three poets and four fiction writers have received 2009 Whiting Writers' Awards, given to recognize emerging writers of "exceptional talent and promise," the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation announced last night. The recipients of the fifty-thousand-dollar prize in poetry are Jericho Brown, Jay Hopler, and Joan Kane, and the fiction winners are Adam Johnson, Nami Mun, Salvatore Scibona, and Vu Tran.

Brown is the author of the poetry collection Please (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2008), and Hopler's first book is Green Squall (Yale University Press, 2005). Joan Kane's debut collection, The Cormorant Hunter's Wife, is forthcoming this fall from NorthShore Press.

Johnson has published two books, the short story collection Emporium (Viking, 2002) and the novel Parasites Like Us (Viking, 2003). Mun's debut novel, Miles From Nowhere, was released by Riverhead last December, and Scibona's first novel, The End, was published by Graywolf Press in May 2008. Tran's first novel, currently untitled, is forthcoming from Norton.

Awards were also given to playwright Rajiv Joseph (Animals Out of Paper, Gruesome Playground Injuries), and nonfiction writers Michael Meyer (The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed, published by Walker & Company in 2008) and Hugh Raffles (In Amazonia: A Natural History, published by Princeton University Press in 2002).

Winners are chosen by a panel of writers, scholars, and editors from a pool of nominees recommended by roughly one hundred anonymous individuals working in the literary arts. The foundation, which also awards grants to doctoral students working on dissertations in the humanities, created the Whiting Writers' Awards in 1985.

A Frequent Winner's Advice

If you’ve read our Recent Winners pages over the past few years, you've likely come across the name of fiction writer Siobhán Fallon. A graduate of the MFA program at the New School in New York City, she is the recipient of short story prizes from Meridian, Roanoke Review, and Briar Cliff Review, a residency from the Millay Colony, and, most recently, the Alexander Patterson Cappon Fiction Prize from New Letters for her story "Inside the Break." Since she has seen her stories receive a number of honors, we asked Fallon to share with us her take on submitting to writing contests.

How many contests do you estimate you have entered? And how many did you enter before winning your first award?
I have entered about a hundred contests in the past decade, maybe more. I must have entered about twenty contests before winning my first one—that sounds so bleak, but it gets easier!

What do you look for in a contest?  
I look for a contest run by a magazine and/or university that I recognize, or perhaps a judge’s name that is familiar. I also try to submit to contests with fees below twenty dollars, which helps me limit my otherwise limitless waves of submissions.

How do you select a piece to submit to a competition?
By now I am familiar with most of the magazines that I submit to so I am aware of the style they are looking for. There are magazines that like very realistic fiction—adjectives be damned—and those that prefer something more fantastical in plot or language. I try to tailor my submissions to the tastes of the magazines. If I’m not familiar with the actual journal, I try to read anything and everything the magazine has online.

Do you have an organizational strategy for tracking award deadlines, submissions, and honors received?
I have a battered little notebook that I write all of my submissions and rejections in. And I scribble the heck out of Poets & Writers. I try to keep a story out at one or two contests at all times. Then if I get a rejection letter, I know that that same story is waiting to be read at another magazine, and therefore there is still hope.

What is the most rewarding aspect of receiving an award?
Knowing that the story is done. No more editing or rewriting, no more cover letters and SASEs and bon voyages out into the literary unknown. Knowing that story is a success, finally, and therefore so are you.

What award has been of the most value to you?

My first award, from Crab Orchard Review, was amazing. The editor, Jon Tribble, was very hands-on. He spoke to me on the phone numerous times, seemed to genuinely love the story, and made me feel like a star. It was the perfect beginning. And my latest win at New Letters has been extraordinary too—New Letters sent out press releases to all my local newspapers, as well as my undergraduate and postgraduate alumni magazines. We writers spend so much time alone with our writing, unsure of how well we are doing, that any and every shred of praise feels divine.

Have you ever had a negative experience as a result of winning a prize?
I won a prize once that was a little less than satisfactory. I received an e-mail saying I had won, but I never actually spoke with a living person, nor did I get a chance to look at galleys. I just got the check and, eventually, a copy of the winning issue in the mail. They didn’t even mention the win on their own Web site. However, it was because of this win that Jennifer Barber, the excellent editor at Salamander, read my work and requested my stories. And then my agent, Lorin Rees, picked up a copy of Salamander in Boston and liked my story enough to track me down and sign me. So all in all, the win, though in itself it lacked a bit, ended up really helping my career.

What piece of advice do you have for writers looking to contests as a way to get their work into the world?
At the New School for Social Research MFA program, our professors often emphasized that submitting to contests was a better gamble than submitting to an ordinary slush pile. Unless I have a connection with an editor or am sure that a literary magazine is looking for stories very much like my own, I only submit to contests. I think this philosophy has served me well. Sometimes it is hard to come up with the fifteen dollars over and over and over again as the rejection slips pile up and wallpaper your entire bedroom, but remember that your submission fees are supporting the arts, and one of these days a portion of those accumulated fees will end up in your pocket. And usually a magazine subscription or the prize issue is included [in the entry fee], so when you submit again you will know what that particular magazine looks for. As an added bonus, when you win a contest, you get top billing in the award winning issue, your name is mentioned in Poets & Writers, and of course you deposit the prize in your emaciated bank account! There isn’t the same triumph associated with placing a story in a magazine through the regular submission path.

Emerging Writers Win Oregon Book Awards

The annual Oregon Book Awards, honoring works by in-state authors, were awarded last night to Portland writers Matthew Dickman and Jon Raymond. Dickman received the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry for All-American Poem (American Poetry Review), and Raymond received the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction for Livability: Stories (Bloomsbury). Both writers, though early in their careers, are no strangers to recognition of their work.

Dickman, who won for his debut collection, recently received the ten-thousand-dollar Kate Tufts Discovery Award from Claremont Graduate University. He was chosen for the Stafford/Hall Award by the winner of Claremont's 2009 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, Matthea Harvey. Dickman's book came into publication as part of another award, the Honickman First Book Prize from the American Poetry Review, and also received the May Sarton Poetry Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008 along with four other emerging poets.

Raymond, whose debut story collection was selected by Robert Olmstead for the Kesey Award, has two film credits to his name, both based on stories from the book. Wendy and Lucy, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, was adapted from his story "Train Choir," and Old Joy, a 2006 Sundance feature starring innovative musician Will Oldham, finds its origins in the story of the same title. Raymond is also the author of a novel, The Half-Life (Bloomsbury, 2004).

The finalists for the poetry award are Alicia Cohen for Debts and Obligations (O Books), Endi Bogue Hartigan for One Sun Storm (Center for Literary Publishing), Andrew Michael Roberts for something has to happen next (University of Iowa Press), and Crystal Williams for Troubled Tongues (Lotus Press).

The finalists in fiction are Miriam Gershow for The Local News (Spiegel & Grau), Gina Ochsner for The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight (Portobello Books), Barbara Pope for Cezanne's Quarry (Pegasus Books), and Leslie What for Crazy Love: Stories (Wordcraft of Oregon).

An award in creative nonfiction was also given to state attorney general John Kroger for his memoir Convictions: A Prosecutor's Battles Against Mafia Killers, Drug Kingpins, and Enron Thieves (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The finalists were Bibi Gaston for The Loveliest Woman in America: A Tragic Actress, Her Lost Diaries, and Her Granddaughter's Search for Home (William Morrow), Debra Gwartney for Live Through This: A Mother's Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and Floyd Skloot for The Wink of Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer's Life (University of Nebraska Press). Ted Conover was the judge.

The award winners will be promoted in libraries and bookstores and offered a chance to participate in the Oregon Book Awards Author Tour.

Below is a trailer for Wendy and Lucy, cowritten by Raymond.

Feminist Literary Press Launches Translation Award

Kore Press has introduced a new award to its lineup of poetry and fiction prizes, a prize for a translation by a woman of a woman's work. The Jeremy Ingalls Poetry in Translation Award will honor an original English translation of a poem written by a Japanese woman poet. The contest, which awards a prize of one thousand dollars, is open to woman translators of any nationality.

Poet, performer, and translator Sawako Nakayasu will be the judge. She is the author of, most recently, Hurry Home Honey (Burning Deck, 2009) and Texture Notes (Letter Machine Editions, 2009). In an interview with Chicago Postmodern Poetry, she lists among her influences John Cage, Gertrude Stein, and musical theater.

Kore's prize is named for the poet born Mildred Dodge Jeremy Ingalls, whose Selected Poems was published by the press in 2007. Ingalls, the author of The Metaphysical Sword (Yale Series of Younger Poets, 1941) and The Thunder Saga of Tahl (Knopf, 1945), as well as books of prose, was also a translator of works in Chinese. She died in 2000 in Tucson.

On This Weekend's To Do List: Make Those End-of-Month Deadlines

There is still one week left to submit your genre-bending nonfiction, poetry chapbook, or novel-in-progress, as well as a handful of other types of work. For those sparked into action by a fast-approaching deadline, a list of contests with closing dates in the coming week appears below. Happy submitting.

Closing on Friday, October 30 are:
DIAGRAM's Hybrid Nonfiction Contest

Inkwell's Poetry and Short Fiction Competitions

Wyoming Arts Council's Blanchan/Doubleday Memorial Awards in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction

The Saturday, October 31 deadlines are:
American Poetry Review's Honickman First Book Prize

Dana Awards for a group of poems, a short story, or a novel or novel-in-progress

Elixir Press's Poetry Awards

Glimmer Train Press's Family Matters for a story about family

Graywolf Press's Nonfiction Prize for a work-in-progress

Kore Press's Short Fiction Award

The Ledge Press's Poetry Chapbook Competition

Margie's Strong Medicine Poetry Award

North American Review's James Hearst Poetry Prize

Ohio University Press's Hollis Summers Poetry Prize

PEN/Faulkner Foundation's Award for Fiction for novels or short story collections published in 2009

Poetry Society of the United Kingdom's National Poetry Competition, which is open to international submissions

Truman State University Press's T. S. Eliot Prize for a poetry collection (not to be confused with the Poetry Book Society's T. S. Eliot Prize)

University of Arkansas Press's Miller Williams Poetry Prize for a poetry collection

The Writing Site's Arthur Edelstein Prize for Short Fiction

Sharon Olds Among the Finalists for Britain's Richest Poetry Prize

The Poetry Book Society (PBS), the U.K. institution founded in 1953 by T. S. Eliot and friends, has announced the shortlist of poetry books up for its 2009 T. S. Eliot Prize. The award, worth fifteen thousand pounds (nearly twenty-five thousand dollars), will celebrate a book of verse first published in the United Kingdom or Ireland this year by any poet writing in English.

The finalists are:
The Sun-fish (Gallery Press) by Eiléan Ní Chuilleánain
Continental Shelf (Carcanet Press) by Fred D'Aguiar
Over (Oxford Poets) by Jane Draycott
The Water Table (Bloodaxe Books) by Philip Gross
Through the Square Window (Carcanet Press) by Sinéad Morrissey
One Secret Thing (Jonathan Cape) by Sharon Olds
Weeds & Wild Flowers (Faber and Faber) by Alice Oswald
A Scattering (Areté Books) by Christopher Reid
The Burning of the Books and Other Poems (Bloodaxe Books) by George Szirtes
West End Final (Faber and Faber) by Hugo Williams

The winner will be revealed on January 18, whereupon each of the finalists will be awarded an honorarium of one thousand pounds (a little over sixteen hundred dollars).

British poet Jen Hadfield won last year's award for her second collection, Nigh-No-Place (Bloodaxe Books, 2008). Past recipients of the prize, considered the most lucrative poetry honor in Great Britain, include current U.K. poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Anne Carson, Mark Doty, and Paul Muldoon. The full list of winners since the award's inception in 1993 is available on the PBS Web site

Contest Offers Emerging Story Writer Trip to New Orleans

The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival has opened its second annual fiction contest for a story by a writer who has not published a book. The winner will receive fifteen hundred dollars and a trip (travel, lodging, and an all-access event pass) to attend the twenty-fourth annual festival, which takes place between March 24 and 28, 2010, in the Big Easy.

Writers may submit as many stories as they'd like along with an entry fee of twenty-five dollars per submission. The pieces should be previously unpublished—publication in the New Orleans Review is also part of the prize—and weigh in under seven thousand words each. Jill McCorkle will serve as the judge.

The inaugural winner was Robin Martin of Brooklyn, New York, for "1969," selected by Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford.

For the dramatists out there, the festival will also honor a one-act play with a fifteen hundred dollar prize, a trip to the 2010 event—a reading of the play will be staged there—and publication in Bayou, the literary magazine of the University of New Orleans. A full production of the play will go up at the 2011 festival.

Washington Poet Wins Prize for Second Book

White Pine Press announced today that poet Kelli Russell Agodon has won its fifteenth annual poetry book prize for Letters From the Emily Dickinson Room, selected by Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Dennis. The Buffalo-based indie press will publish Agodon's book, her second, next fall, and she will receive one thousand dollars.

Agodon's debut collection, Small Knots, was published by Cherry Grove Collections in 2004. Her poems have also appeared in magazines and journals, including Prairie Schooner and the Atlantic, and anthologies such as Poets Against the War (Nation Books, 2003), edited by Sam Hamill. She coedits the Crab Creek Review, a twenty-five-year-old Seattle literary magazine. 

The sixteenth annual White Pine Press contest is currently underway, with an entry deadline of November 30. U.S. poets can submit manuscripts of sixty to eighty pages with a twenty-dollar fee. The judge remains anonymous until the competition closes, but the press does say that the poet making the selection will be a writer of national reputation.

Lisa Russ Spaar and Domnica Radulescu Win Library of Virginia Awards

On Saturday the Library of Virginia named the winners of its twelfth annual literary awards, which recognize Virginia writers for works published in the previous year. The poetry and fiction honorees, both on the faculty of universities in Virginia, are poet Lisa Russ Spaar and novelist Domnica Radulescu. Each will receive a prize of thirty-five hundred dollars.

Spaar, a professor of English and director of the Area Program in Poetry Writing at University of Virginia in Charlottesville, took the award for her fourth collection, Satin Cash (Persea Books). The book borrows its title from Emily Dickinson's poem 402: "I pay—in Satin Cash/ You did not state—your price—."

The poetry finalists were Claudia Emerson for Figure Studies: Poems (Louisiana State University Press) and Eric Pankey for The Pear as One Example: New and Selected Poems, 1984-2008 (Ausable Press).

Radulescu won for her debut novel, Train to Trieste (Knopf). The Romanian-born writer teaches romance languages at Washington and Lee University, where she is also director of the women's studies program.

The shortlisted authors in fiction were Geraldine Brooks for People of the Book (Viking) and David A. Taylor for Success: Stories (Washington Writers' Publishing House).

Pulitzer Prize winner Annette Gordon-Reed was also honored with the award in nonfiction, for her much-lauded book The Hemingses of Monticello (Norton), which sheds light on the lives of Thomas Jefferson and the Hemings family at the Charlottesville estate they shared. Gordon-Reed teaches at New York Law School.

The library will be accepting entries of books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction (including creative nonfiction) for next year's awards—three copies each of titles with a 2009 publication date—until February 5.

Ann Lauterbach and Colum McCann Among Finalists for National Book Award

The National Book Foundation revealed the finalists for the National Book Award in poetry and fiction yesterday. The shortlists of five were winnowed from 161 poetry book entries and 236 short story collections and novels submitted by publishers.

The finalists in poetry, selected by judges Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, A. Van Jordan, Cole Swensen, and Kevin Young are:
Rae Armantrout for Versed (Wesleyan University Press)
Ann Lauterbach for Or to Begin Again (Viking)
Carl Phillips for Speak Low (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon for Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Keith Waldrop for Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press)

The finalists in fiction, selected by Alan Cheuse, Junot Díaz, Jennifer Egan, Charles Johnson, and Lydia Millet are:
Bonnie Jo Campbell for her story collection American Salvage (Wayne State University Press)
Colum McCann for his novel Let the Great World Spin (Random House)
Daniyal Mueenuddin for his story collection In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (Norton)
Jayne Anne Phillips for her novel Lark and Termite (Knopf)
Marcel Theroux for his novel Far North (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Finalists in nonfiction and young people's literature were also announced, including, in the nonfiction category, Following the Water: A Hydromancer's Notebook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by 2006 MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship winner and memoirist David M. Carroll, and David Small's Stitches (Norton), a graphic memoir nominated for the young people's literature prize. Bios of all of the shortlisted authors as well as summaries of their books are available on the National Book Foundation Web site.

The award winners, who will receive ten thousand dollars each, will be named at the annual awards dinner on November 18, marking the sixtieth anniversary of the prize.

Anne Carson Among Griffin Prize Judges

The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry announced today the judges of the tenth annual Griffin Poetry Prize. The judges are Anne Carson, born in Canada and currently on faculty at New York University, Kathleen Jamie of Scotland, and Carl Phillips, who teaches at Washington University in Saint Louis.

Both Carson and Jamie have been recognized by the Griffin Trust in the past—Carson won the Griffin Prize in 2001 for her collection Men in the Off Hours (Knopf, 2000), and Jamie was shortlisted for the award in 2003 for Mr. and Mrs. Scotland are Dead: Poems 1980-1994 (Bloodaxe Books, 2002). Phillips, whose most recent collection is Speak Low (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), has received honors including the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and was twice named finalist for the National Book Award.

The Griffin Prize, worth fifty thousand Canadian dollars (a little less than fifty thousand U.S. dollars), is given annually to a Canadian poet and an international poet for collections published in the previous year. Publishers may submit books published in 2009 to the trust by December 31. In April, the shortlist of three Canadian poets and four international will be announced in Toronto, and the winners will be named on June 3. Last year's international winner was C. D. Wright of Providence; Toronto poet A. F. Moritz took the Canadian honor.

In other award jury news, yesterday the Story Prize announced the judging panel for this year's twenty-thousand-dollar award. Author A. M. Homes, blogger Carolyn Kellogg, and librarian Bill Kelly will select the winner of the prize, given annually for a short story collection.

Publishers who would like to have titles considered for the 2009 Story Prize can submit books published between July 1 and December 31, 2009, by November 16 (the deadline for volumes released during the first half of the year was July 15). Past winners include Tobias Wolff, Mary Gordon, and Edwidge Danticat.

In the video below, Griffin Prize judge and inaugural winner Anne Carson reads from her winning collection.

Samantha Hunt Wins Thirty-Thousand-Dollar Fiction Prize

Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, announced yesterday that novelist Samantha Hunt is the recipient of the 2009 Bard Fiction Prize. The thirty-thousand-dollar award, given annually to an emerging fiction writer, includes a one-semester appointment as writer-in-residence at the college, situated near the Catskill Mountains ninety miles north of New York City.

Hunt has received a handful of other honors in her early career, receiving a 2006 Five Under Thirty-Five award from the National Book Foundation, selected by René Steinke, after Hunt's debut novel, The Seas (MacAdam/Cage), was released in 2004. Her most recent book, The Invention of Everything Else (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008) was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Believer Book Award.

Previous winners of the Bard Fiction Prize, given since 2001, include Fiona Maazel (another Five Under Thirty-Five author) for her novel Last Last Chance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008), Salvador Plascencia for hsi novel The People of Paper (McSweeney's Books, 2005), and Nathan Englander for his short story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges (Knopf, 1999).

Published authors are invited to submit entries for the award, accepted by Bard College until July 15. Submissions should include three copies of the published book that best represents their work, a project proposal, and a curriculum vitae. More information is available on the Bard College Web site.

German Romanian Author Herta Müller Wins Nobel

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to Herta Müller of Germany, announced earlier today by the Swedish Academy, which selects the winner in letters. The author, who was born in a German-speaking town in Romania and emigrated in 1987 after she was prohibited from publishing in her home country, will receive her $1.4 million prize at a ceremony in Sweden on December 10.

Müller's most recent book is the novel Atemschaukel (Hanser, 2009), which depicts the lives of German Romanians, a minority in the southeastern European country, who were deported during World War II to the Soviet Union. The author has personal ties to the situation of the individuals portrayed in her book: Müller's own mother spent five years in a Ukrainian work camp during that era.

Across her oeuvre, Müller has explored her own experiences with corruption and repression in Romania, casting a penetrating light on the situation of Romanian citizens under a dictatorship. Her debut short story collection, Niederungen (Kriterion-Verlag, 1982) was censored in Romania, though well received in Germany, along with her second collection, Drückender Tango (Kriterion-Verlag, 1984).

She has gone on to publish seventeen additional works of fiction, poetry, and essays. Her novels available in English translations are Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet (Rowohlt, 1997), or The Appointment, translated by Philip Boehm and Michael Hulse (Metropolitan Books, 2001); Herztier (Rowohlt, 1994), or The Land of Green Plums, translated by Michael Hofmann (Metropolitan Books, 1996); Reisende auf einem Bein (Rotbuch-Verlag, 1989), or Traveling on One Leg, translated by Valentina Glajar and André Lefevere (Northwestern University Press, 1998); and Der Mensch ist ein großer Fasan auf der Welt (Rotbuch-Verlag, 1986), or The Passport , translated by Martin Chalmers (Serpent's Tail, 1989).

In a video interview with Simon Frantz of Nobelprize.org, Peter Englund, the new permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, commended Müller's "extreme precision with words" and the "moral momentum in what she writes." For the uninitiated, Englund recommends Müller's Herztier, which he says is considered by many to be her best novel.