Poets & Writers Blogs

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.

Another Prize For Fiction Writers From Dzanc Books

Last week, we announced on the blog that Dzanc Books is holding its second contest for a short story collection. The publisher has recently sent word of another opportunity for fiction writers: the five thousand dollar Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. The award is given annually to provide support to a writer to dig into a work-in-progress.

Eligible writers must also have in mind a yearlong community service project that they can outline for the prize judges. On their Web site, the press provides some examples of programs that would catch a judge's eye: "working with HIV patients to help them write their stories, doing a series of workshops at a drop-in youth homeless center, running writing programs in inner-city schools, or working with older citizens looking to write their memoirs."

In an e-mail newsletter, Dzanc founders Steve Gillis and Dan Wickett expressed a bit of disappointment in the low percentage of viable submissions—around four percent—in the two years that the press has run the award, seemingly due to writers lacking investment in the service proposal requirement of the entry process. A word to the wise: "It should be truly surprising to open up a submission and read that the literary community service aspect will be that the author will read from his or her work one or two times at the local library. Sadly, after reading two years worth of submissions, that particular service idea is not that surprising any longer." The two are hoping to broaden the entrant pool this year by asking that writers forward and post information about the award widely.

The deadline for entries is November 1. Detailed guidelines are posted on Dzanc's Web site.

Historical Novel Wins Booker Prize

Tonight novelist Hilary Mantel was revealed as the winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize for fiction for her eleventh novel, Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate). Mantel, who was longlisted for the prize in 2005 for Beyond Black (Fourth Estate), received the fifty-thousand-pound award (approximately eighty thousand dollars) at a dinner at London's Guildhall.

In her winning book, Mantel weaves an historically-inspired story centered on Thomas Cromwell, who rose from working-class roots to become King Henry VIII's chief advisor. "With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident," reads the description of the novel on the Booker Web site, Wolf Hall "peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage."

The book was selected from a shortlist that includes Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger (Virago) and A. S. Byatt's The Children's Book (Chatto and Windus). Lucasta Miller, John Mullan, James Naughtie, Sue Perkins, and Michael Prodge were the judges.

In the video below, Mantel reads from and talks about the "book she was born to write" at the Edwardian bookshop Daunt Books in London. The second and third segments of the talk are available on YouTube.

National Book Foundation Names Its Annual Five to Watch

The National Book Foundation has revealed its Five Under Thirty-Five honorees for 2009, all of whom are recognized for debut books. The five writers, chosen as they have been since the Five Under Thirty-Five program began in 2006 by former National Book Award (NBA) winners and finalists, will be celebrated by their nominators and a host of lit lovers at a celebration in New York City kicking off National Book Awards week later this fall.

The honorees are:
Ceridwen Dovey for her novel Blood Kin (Viking, 2008), selected by Rachel Kushner, 2008 NBA Fiction Finalist for Telex from Cuba (Scribner, 2008)

C. E. Morgan for her novel All the Living (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), selected by Christine Schutt, 2004 NBA Fiction Finalist for Florida (TriQuarterly Books, 2004)

Lydia Peelle for her novel Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing (HarperCollins, 2009), selected by Salvatore Scibona, 2008 NBA Fiction Finalist for The End (Graywolf Press, 2008)

Karen Russell for her story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves  (Vintage, 2006), selected by Dan Chaon, 2001 NBA Fiction Finalist for Among the Missing (Ballantine Books, 2001)

Josh Weil for his novella collection The New Valley (Grove Press, 2009), selected by Lily Tuck, 2004 NBA Fiction Winner for The News from Paraguay (HarperCollins, 2004)

The event celebrating the five will take place on November 16 at Brooklyn's PowerHouse Arena, a popular venue for literary events and home to the art book publisher PowerHouse Books. The honorees will read from their works at the party, emceed by New York City punk rocker and novelist Richard Hell. Brooklyn author Jonathan Lethem will serve as the evening's DJ.

The National Book Awards, now in their sixtieth year, will be announced the following Wednesday, November 18, at the foundation's annual dinner in New York City.

Dzanc Books Launches Second Story Collection Contest

Following an impressive batch of submissions to its inaugural short story collection contest last year, Dzanc Books has announced that it will run a second wave of the competition this fall. The winning fiction writer will receive one thousand dollars and publication of his or her book by the Michigan-based nonprofit literary press, with a release date in spring or summer of 2012.

The deadline for manuscript entries, which should be sent via e-mail, is December 31. There is an entry fee of twenty dollars; payment information is available on the press's Web site.

Last year's winner was David Galef for My Date With Neanderthal Woman, slated for publication in November 2011. His book will join a titles lineup that includes works by Laura van den Berg, whose debut story collection, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, was recently named a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, as well as Terese Svoboda, Roy Kesey, and the authors of Black Lawrence Press and OV Books, Dzanc's imprints. 

The press also publishes Monkeybicycle, a biannual lit mag in print whose online incarnation is updated twice a week.

Linda Gregg's New and Selected Snags a Second Honor

Poet Linda Gregg of New York City received high honors from the Academy of American Poets today as winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. Fellow poets Dorianne Laux, J. D. McClatchy, and James Richardson selected her latest collection, All of It Singing: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2008) for the twenty-five-thousand-dollar award, given for a collection published in the previous year.

The book, Gregg's eighth, also won the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America (PSA) in March. Gregg's poetry has been recognized by PEN American Center, with the PEN/Voelcker Award, and Poets & Writers, Inc., with the Jackson Poetry Prize, and she has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Gregg, who has said of her work, "The art of finding in poetry is the art of marrying the sacred to the world, the invisible to the human," receives from the Academy an award named for a writer and activist who promoted the sacredness of the world in her own right: Lenore Marshall helped form the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, an organization that helped pass the partial nuclear test ban treaty of 1963. The New Hope Foundation created the prize in her memory in 1975.

The list of past winners—a group that includes John Ashbery, Wanda Coleman, Stanley Kunitz, and Alice Notley—is posted on the Academy's Web site.

Gregg reads at the Jackson Poetry Prize ceremony in May:

Alice Munro Competes for Canadian Book Prize

After bowing out of consideration for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, storied story writer Alice Munro has been named one of five finalists for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Her collection Too Much Happiness (McClelland and Stewart) is the fourth of her books to be nominated for the award, which she won in 2004 for Runaway (McClelland and Stewart). The twenty-five-thousand-dollar prize is given for a novel or short story collection by a Canadian author.

The other finalists, announced today, are:
Nicole Brossard for her novel Fences in Breathing (Coach House Books), translated by Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood
Douglas Coupland for his novel Generation A (Random House Canada)
Annabel Lyon for her debut novel The Golden Mean (Random House Canada)
Andrew Steinmetz for his debut novel Eva's Threepenny Theatre (Gaspereau Press)

Descriptions of the shortlisted books—from a memoir-inspired tale of a Brechtian performer to a fictionalized story of Aristotle's tutoring a young Alexander the Great—are posted along with finalist biographies on the prize Web site. The winner will be announced on November 24.

Zoetrope Contest Offers Ten Writers a Chance for Representation

There are only two days remaining to enter the Short Fiction Contest from Zoetrope: All-Story, the lit mag founded by Francis Ford Coppola in 1997. Not only will the winner receive a prize of one thousand dollars and publication on the magazine's Web site, but he or she, along with nine finalists, will also be considered for representation by a number of literary agencies. The ten top story writers will have their work reviewed by the William Morris Agency, International Creative Management, Regal Literary, the Elaine Markson Literary Agency, Inkwell Management, Sterling Lord Literistic, and the Georges Borchardt Literary Agency.

The judge this year is Yiyun Li, author of the award-winning story collection A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (Random House, 2005) and The Vagrants (Random House, 2009), which is up for the 2009 First Novel Prize from the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction. She is a contributing editor of A Public Space.

Stories of up to five thousand words can be submitted, along with a fifteen-dollar entry fee, via the journal's online submission system until 11:59 PM on Thursday, October 1.

The winner of last year's contest was Bernie McGill of Portstewart, Ireland, for "Sleepwalkers," selected by Elizabeth McCracken.

First Book Prize Now Gives a Woman Poet Time to Write Abroad

Persea Books is now accepting entries to the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize, which offers the winning poet one thousand dollars, publication of her poetry collection, and, for the first time this year, a six-week residency in Italy. The all-expenses-paid retreat will take place at the Civitella Ranieri Center, a fifteenth century castle in Italy's Umbria region.

The contest is open to women poets who have not yet published a book-length collection. The deadline for manuscripts, which should be forty-six to ninety-eight pages, is November 1. The winner, to be announced in January, is chosen by an anonymous selection committee.

Previous years' winners are:
2009 Alexandra Teague for Mortal Geography
2008 Tara Bray for Mistaken for Song
2007 Anne Shaw for Undertow
2006 Alena Hairston for The Logan Topographies

The award is a collaborative effort between Persea Books, independent publisher of collections by poets such as Sarah Gambito, Marie Howe, and Thylias Moss, and the Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Project, named for the late poet Lexi Rudnitsky, author of A Doorless Knocking Into Night (Mid-List Press, 2005).

ReLit Awards Honor Canadian Indies

On Sunday three Canadian writers were revealed as the winners of the 2009 ReLit Awards, honoring books published by independent presses in Canada. Poet Maurice Mierau of Winnipeg, Manitoba, won for his book Fear Not (Turnstone); Lisa Foad of Toronto won for her debut short story collection The Night Is a Mouth (Exile Editions); and Michael Blouin of Oxford Mills, Ontario, won for his novel Chase & Haven (Coach House).

The prizes, operating under the banner "Ideas, Not Money," award each winner a ReLit ring, comprised of four movable, letter-embossed bands that allow the wearer to spell out different words. Mierau, Foad, and Blouin will receive their rings at a celebration that will take place during the Ottawa International Writers Festival on October 25.

The winners were selected from shortlists of seven books in each category. The finalists were:
Poetry
Noble Gas, Penny Black (Brick) by David O’Meara
Little Hunger (Nightwood) by Philip Kevin Paul
Dead Cars in Managua (DC Books) by Stuart Ross
Penny Dreadful (Signal) by Shannon Stewart
Troubled
(Coach House) by R. M. Vaughan
Sentenced to Light (Talon) by Fred Wah

Short Fiction
Squishy (DC Books) by Arjun Basu
Evidence (Porcupine’s Quill) by Ian Colford
My White Planet (Thomas Allen) by Mark Anthony Jarman
In the Quiet After Slaughter (Libros Libertad) by Don McLellan
Elysium (Anvil) by Pamela Stewart
The Butcher of Penetang (Caitlin) by Betsy Trumpener

Novel
Cleavage (NeWest) by Theanna Bischoff
Shuck (Arsenal Pulp) by Daniel Allen Cox
A Slice of Voice at the Edge of Hearing (Mercury) by Brian Dedora
Girls Fall Down (Coach House) by Maggie Helwig
Charlie Muskrat (Thistledown) by Harold Johnson
Anna’s Shadow (Esplanade) by David Manicom

The ReLit Awards, whose name stands for "regarding literature, reinventing literature, relighting literature," have been given since 2000.

Bausch Book Wins Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Announced yesterday, the recipient of the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize is Richard Bausch, for his eleventh novel, Peace, published by Knopf in April. He will receive ten thousand dollars, and the runner-up, Uwem Akpan, whose honored short story collection Say You're One of Them (Little, Brown, 2008) was recently named an Oprah's Book Club pick, will receive one thousand dollars.

Bausch's winning novel follows American soldiers in Italy during World War II as they pursue the German army. The prize press release calls the book a "meditation on the corrosiveness of violence, the human cost of war, and the redemptive power of mercy."

Along with the nonfiction winner—Benjamin Skinner's A Crime So Monstrous: Face to Face With Modern Day Slavery (Free Press)—Akpan's collection "put a much-needed spotlight on the tragedy of contemporary slavery, an issue that has been ignored for too long," says prize chair Sharon Rab in the press release. (Skinner donated his ten-thousand-dollar honorarium to Free the Slaves, the U.S. branch of the human rights organization Anti-Slavery International.)

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize, given since 2006, recognizes authors whose "work advances peace as a solution to conflict, and leads readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view." The writers will be feted at a ceremony in Dayton on November 8.

Danticat and McHugh Among "Genius" Grant Fellows

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today the twenty-four recipients of this year's "Genius" Fellowships. The fellows working in the literary arts are poet Heather McHugh, fiction writer and memoirist Edwidge Danticat, and short story writer Deborah Eisenberg. They will each receive one hundred thousand dollars every year over the course of five years.

"It felt incredibly, wonderfully surreal,” Danticat told the Felicia R. Lee of the New York Times. "What artists crave and need most is time. It will definitely buy some time. It’s wonderful to have a sense of security, especially in these economic times."

Danticat's most recent book is the memoir Brother, I'm Dying (Knopf, 2007), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors. Eisenberg is the author of four story collections, including Twilight of the Superheroes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006). The latest book from McHugh, who has also worked in translation and essay, is the poetry collection Upgraded to Serious, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in October.

As 2009 MacArthur fellows, the three writers are in the company of artists working in media including painting, documentary film, and photojournalism, as well as luminaries in other disciplines. Recipients this year include an ornithologist, a papermaker, a climate scientist, a mental health lawyer, a bridge engineer, a biogeochemist, and an applied mathematician.

The no-strings grants are given in the anticipation of independent creative achievement in the future—that is, according to MacArthur Foundation president Robert Gallucci, "We're looking for you to continue in a creative way, without anyone looking over your shoulder."

Ellison or O'Connor? Voting Opens for Best of NBA Fiction

In celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of its National Book Awards (NBA), the National Book Foundation is asking the public to weigh in on who they think is the best of its fiction winners, beginning today. Through October 21, visitors to the foundation's Web site can choose from a shortlist of six NBA-winning books nominated for the superlative honor by a panel of 140 National Book Award winners, finalists, and judges.

Which of these do you think is the Best of the National Book Awards Fiction, 1950 to 2008?
John Cheever's The Stories of John Cheever (Knopf, 1981)
Ralph Ellison' s Invisible Man (Random House, 1953)
William Faulkner's Collected Stories of William Faulkner (Random House, 1951)
Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972)
Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (Viking, 1974)
Eudora Welty's The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1983)

An incentive to cast your vote: The National Book Foundation announced that it will choose one voter to receive tickets to the NBA ceremony, held at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City on November 18, and a hotel stay at the Marriott Hotel Downtown.

The finalists for this year's NBA in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people's literature will be announced on October 13. Along with the book award winners, Gore Vidal and Dave Eggers will be honored at the November ceremony. Eggers will receive the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, and Vidal will be presented with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

George Plimpton and actor Irwin Corey, who stood in for Thomas Pynchon at the 1974 award ceremony, talk about the theatrical acceptance of the NBA that year: