Poets & Writers Blogs

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.

Guggenheim Fellows Span the Genres, From Experimental Verse to Travel Memoir

Today the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation announced its 2010 U.S. and Canada fellows, including twenty-eight literary writers. The fellowship winners, who can only receive the award once, include J. Allyn Rosser, whose work takes on traditonal forms and experimental, and poet-documentarian Mark Nowak; recent Pulitzer Prize–winning debut novelist Paul Harding and David Rhodes, who published his latest novel, Driftless, in 2008 after thirty-three years without publication; and creative nonfiction writers Maggie Nelson, who has also published five poetry collections, and memoirist and travel writer Tom Bissell.

The poetry fellows are:
Joel Brouwer
Angie Estes
Kimiko Hahn
Barbara Hamby
Juan Felipe Herrera
Nathaniel Mackey
Mark Nowak
Patrick Phillips
J. Allyn Rosser
Richard Tillinghast

The fellows in fiction are:
Lorraine Adams
Ethan Canin
Anthony Doerr
Nell Freudenberger
Paul Harding
Victor LaValle
Colum McCann
Joseph O’Neill
David Rhodes
Christine Schutt
Salvatore Scibona
Monique Truong

The creative nonfiction fellows are:
Tom Bissell
Peter Godwin
Molly Haskell
Maggie Nelson
Peter Trachtenberg
Irene Vilar

The amount of each writer's grant varies, but the average given last year in literature was upwards of thirty-six thousand dollars. Midcareer North American writers who have "demonstrated exceptional creative ability in the arts" are invited to apply for the fellowships through September 15. 

Rae Armantrout Wins Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

The winners of the 2010 Pulitzer Prizes in Letters, which award ten thousand dollars to each winner, were announced today. Rae Armantrout won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her collection Versed (Wesleyan University Press), which the judges called "striking for its wit and linguistic inventiveness, offering poems that are often little thought-bombs detonating in the mind long after the first reading."

Paul Harding received the prize in fiction for his debut novel Tinkers (Bellevue Literary Press). The fiction jury called his book "a powerful celebration of life in which a New England father and son, through suffering and joy, transcend their imprisoning lives and offer new ways of perceiving the world and mortality."

The finalists in poetry are Lucia Perillo for Inseminating the Elephant (Copper Canyon Press) and Angie Estes for Tryst (Oberlin College Press). Stephen Burt, Wesley McNair, and Maureen McLane judged. In fiction, runner-up honors went to Lydia Millet for Love in Infant Monkeys (Soft Skull Press) and Daniyal Mueenuddin for In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (Norton). Charles Johnson, Laura Miller, and Rebecca Pepper Sinkler judged.

In other awards news, the Los Angeles community-building organization Liberty Hill announced today that it would award its 2010 Upton Sinclair Award to novelist Walter Mosley. The author will receive the award, given to recognize work that contributes to social change, at a gala dinner in Los Angeles on May 20.

Mosley is the author of novels including Fearless Jones (Little, Brown, 2001), Fortunate Son (Back Bay Books, 2007), and Diablerie (Bloomsbury USA, 2007), and the story collection Six Easy Pieces (Washington Square Press, 2003), part of his series of books centered on a character named Easy Rawlins. A new novel, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, is forthcoming from Riverhead Books in November.

Kafi Blumenfield, CEO of Liberty Hill, says that Mosley "has powerfully tackled such monumental events in Los Angeles like the Watts riots in his work and eloquently created an authentic picture of the social injustice being faced by African-Americans in our complicated city."

In the video below, Mosley talks about the responsibility of a writer with Chris Abani.

Residency Award Offers Reflection Time for Writers of the Natural World

The Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word at Oregon State University recently announced its Mount Saint Helens Field Residencies program for writers. The May 1 deadline is fast approaching for poets and prose writers whose work explores place and the natural world, and who are interested in writing "creative responses to the volcano and its varied landscapes."

Residents receive a stipend of one thousand dollars, a campsite at a meadow base camp—though writers must bring their own camping gear—located near Randle, Washington and the volcano; meals; and transportation around the residency site. The program, held from July 18 to 24, will take place at the same time as Mount Saint Helens Science Pulse, a conference of ecologists and field researchers who, in addition to doing their own fieldwork, will travel with writers on field trips and make time for more informal interactions.

The residency program is a companion to the Spring Creek Project's Long-Term Ecological Reflections program, which is rooted in tenets including, "That storytelling and poetry, observation and experiment, myth and mathematics are all authentic windows on the world."

Applications and more information about the residencies are available on the Spring Creek Project Web site

Book Trailer Contest for Indie Press Authors

ForeWord Reviews, a magazine and online resource for writers, publishers, and purveyors of literature, is holding a video contest for independent press books published in 2009 and 2010. The magazine is asking authors and publishers to enter book trailers of no more than three minutes each by the end of April.

The winning trailer, determined by public voting on the magazine's YouTube page, will receive an Apple iPad. Every eligible video submitted will be screened at Book Expo America, held in New York City in May, in the Indie Press Lounge.

For more about book trailers from our archive, check out Sarah Weinman's "Book Trailers: The Key to Successful Video Marketing" and "Five Successful Book Trailers."

Below is a video trailer for Ninni Holmqist's novel The Unit, translated by Marlaine Delargy and published by indie outfit Other Press in 2009.

Award Amount Doubled, Seven Poets Vie for Griffin Prize

The Griffin Poetry Prize, which for the past ten years has honored a Canadian and an international poet for a recent collection, has announced the shortlist for the 2010 award. This year, the total prize purse is two hundred thousand dollars, double the amount formerly awarded. Each of the two winners will receive seventy five thousand dollars, and the finalists will be awarded ten thousand dollars apiece.

The shortlisted international titles are:
Grain
(Picador) by John Glenday of Scotland
A Village Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) by Louise Glück of the United States
The Sun-fish (The Gallery Press) by Eilean Ni Chuilleanain of Ireland
Cold Spring in Winter (Arc Publications) translated from the French of Valerie Rouzeau by Susan Wicks of England

The shortlisted Canadian titles are:
The Certainty Dream (Coach House Books) by Kate Hall
Coal and Roses (The Porcupine's Quill ) by P. K. Page
Pigeon (House of Anansi Press) by Karen Solie

This year's judges, Anne Carson—the 2001 Canadian winner—Kathleen Jamie, and Carl Phillips selected the finalists from nearly four hundred entries from twelve countries, twelve of which were translations. The winners will be announced on June 3 after a reading in Toronto on the previous day.

In the video below, the late P. K. Page, who was also shortlisted for the 2003 award, reads from her collection Planet Earth. In 2001 this poem, also titled "Planet Earth," was read simultaneously in several locations around the globe to celebrate the United Nations International Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations.

Tweet If You Heart National Poetry Month

The Seattle Times is celebrating National Poetry Month with a Twitter poetry contest. The newspaper is inviting tweets of 140-character verse—haiku, epigram, senryu, sonnet, or "what-have-you," so long as it's "suitable for a family newspaper." At the end of April, the editors will select their favorites and publish them in the Times.

Poets should post their works using their own Twitter accounts, after the tag "#STpoem." Examples are available on the Times Web site and on the contest's Twitter feed.

Do you know of a poetry contest being held in recognition of National Poetry Month? If so, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at editor@pw.org.

In the video below, actor and writer Stephen Fry talks about the poetic appeal of the tweet as it relates to Robert Graves's "telegram test."

Asian American Story Prize Extends Deadline

Hyphen magazine and the Asian American Writers' Workshop are keeping their short story contest open for two additional weeks. Asian American writers living in the United States and Canada now have until April 12 to submit stories of up to six thousand words.

The prize judges will be Alexander Chee, author of the novel Edinburgh (Picador, 2002), and Jaed Coffin, author of the memoir A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants (Da Capo, 2008). Whiting Writers' Award–winner Chee's second novel, The Queen of the Night, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Coffin, who has also spent time as a lobsterman, a sea kayak guide, and a Buddhist monk, is at work on a novel titled "Roughhouse Friday" informed by his year as a boxer in the Alaskan barroom circuit.

More information is available on the Hyphen Web site.

In the video below, Coffin reads from his memoir.