Poets & Writers Blogs

Chicago Lit Mag Holds Sedaris-Inspired Essay Competition

There are two days remaining to submit essays for a competition that will award four writers tickets to a performance by essayist David Sedaris in Chicago. Cooler by the Lake, the online magazine of StoryStudio Chicago writing and arts center, will accept entries of "funny, humorous, poignant" essays through Friday.

The winners each will receive two tickets to Sedaris's show on April 17 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, and their essays will be published in Cooler by the Lake. StoryStudio will notify winners, who will be responsible for their own travel and lodging, by April 2.

In the recording below, originally broadcast on Chicago Public Radio's This American Life, the author of essay collections Me Talk Pretty One Day (Little, Brown, 2000) and When You Are Engulfed in Flames (Little, Brown, 2008), among others, tells a story from his childhood.

Book Contest Looks for Writing That Cuts to the Gut

Black Lawrence Press, publisher of contemporary literature and an imprint of nonprofit press Dzanc Books, is winding down its submissions period for the annual Hudson Prize. The competition is open to collections of both poetry and short stories, but no matter its genre, the work, according to executive editor Diane Goettel, should aim to rock readers on a visceral level.

Goettel responded to our question about what the editors, who will serve as judges, will be looking for in a manuscript by recalling one blurber's reaction to the book of a former prizewinner—Jason Tandon. Tandon won the press's debut book prize, the St. Lawrence Book Award, in 2006. "In his blurb for Give Over the Heckler and Everyone Gets Hurt, Todd Zuniga said that Tandon's poems caused him to ache—'an "I'm-happy-to-be-alive" ache, an "I'm-glad-writing-like-this-exists" ache.' That's what we are looking for in submissions to The Hudson Prize: writing that makes us ache."

The winning manuscript will be published by Black Lawrence Press, and the winner will receive one thousand dollars. Entries may be of any length, and should be sent via e-mail by March 31. More information about this and other competitions going on now is available in our Grants & Awards database.

To read a poem from Tandon's winning collection, visit the online archives of Opium Magazine, of which Zuniga is editor.

Alexie Wins Thirtieth PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Earlier today Sherman Alexie was named winner of the fifteen-thousand-dollar PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for his "structurally inventive" short story collection War Dances (Grove Press). Judges Rilla Askew, Kyoko Mori, and Al Young selected Alexie's book, which interweaves poetry with prose, from among roughly 350 novels and short story collections nominated by publishers.

Also receiving honors are finalists Barbara Kingsolver, nominated for her novel The Lacuna (Harper); Lorraine M. Lopez, for Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories (BkMk Press); Lorrie Moore, for her novel A Gate at the Stairs (Knopf); and Colson Whitehead, for his novel Sag Harbor (Doubleday), each of whom will be awarded five thousand dollars. The honorees will all be celebrated at the thirtieth anniversary award ceremony on May 8 at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., where the PEN/Faulkner Foundation is based.

Alexie, the first Native American to win the prize, joins a roster of award alumni that includes Kate Christensen, Ha Jin, Joyce Carol Oates, Joseph O'Neill, Ann Patchett, Annie Proulx, Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, and John Updike.

 

No-Fee Contest Offers Writers Secretarial Services

Writer's Relief, a New Jersey–based company that provides submission services to writers, has announced the first of what will be annual scholarships to poets, fiction writers, and essayists. The Peter K. Hixson Scholarship will award three writers an A La Carte Plus package, a service that includes a vetted list of markets, as well as preparation of cover and query letters for writers to send to specific literary magazine editors and agents.

According to the Writer's Relief Web site, the service has assisted writers in placing work in journals including Zone 3, Chautauqua, Rio Grande Review, the MacGuffin, and Willard and Maple. The company values each Hixson scholarship at five hundred dollars.

The award is given in honor of the late Peter K. Hixson, a poet, fiction writer, choreographer, and speech-language pathologist who used the service. Excerpts of Hixson's work are posted online.

Writers may submit a sample in one category—poetry, short prose, or novel—via an online form. There is no fee to enter. More information about the award is available on the scholarship contest page.

Same Contests, New Sponsors

Two writing competitions that had been administered by Eastern Washington University (EWU) Press in Spokane recently were shifted into the jurisdictions of two separate presses. The Blue Lynx Prize, given for a book of poetry, and the Spokane Prize for a short fiction collection are now housed at Lynx House Press and Willow Springs Books, respectively.

Lynx House Press, established in 1975 and for the past five years managed by EWU Press, is now going solo as a nonprofit outfit since the university elected to close its eponymous publisher. The school’s creative writing program will still have access to an in-house press, Willow Springs Books, a new publishing venture that serves as the lab for the program’s internship in literary editing.

Competition guidelines and the awards themselves haven’t changed, however. The prizes each offer two thousand dollars and publication of the winning manuscript. The deadline is approaching for the fiction award, which closes on April 1, and the poetry prize deadline is May 15.

In other contest news, Bellingham Review has extended the deadline for its poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction contests to April 1. 

Women's Fiction Prize Judge Laments "Misery Lit"

On the heels of the announcement of the Orange Prize longlist today, a bit of insight into the judging process of the annual award, given for a novel by a woman writer, was revealed by chair of judges Daisy Goodwin. The British television producer told the Independent she was put off by an abundance of nominated books written around an "issue," derivative of the popular genre she called the "misery memoir," several centering on themes of rape and child abuse.

"The pleasure of reading counts for something...I don't think editors think enough about this pleasure," Goodwin told the U.K. newspaper. "If I read another sensitive account of a woman coming to terms with bereavement, I was going to slit my wrists."

Goodwin counted as exceptions Roopa Farooki's The Way Things Look to Me, the story of an autistic teenager; Amy Sackville's The Still Point, whose protagonist suffers from depression; and Hilary Mantel's Booker prize–winning historical novel Wolf Hall—all of which made the longlist. Joining Goodwin in winnowing the pile of nominated titles are rabbi and author Julia Neuberger, novelist and critic Michèle Roberts, journalist Miranda Sawyer, and British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman.

Below is the list of semifinalists for the 2010 Orange Prize. The winner of the £30,000 (approximately $46,000) award will be announced on June 9.

Rosie Allison for The Very Thought of You (Alma Books)
Eleanor Catton for The Rehearsal (Granta)
Clare Clark for Savage Lands (Harvill Secker)
Amanda Craig for Hearts and Minds (Little, Brown)
Roopa Farooki for The Way Things Look to Me (Pan Books)
Rebecca Gowers for The Twisted Heart (Canongate)
M. J. Hyland for This is How (Canongate)
Sadie Jones for Small Wars (Chatto & Windus)
Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna (Faber & Faber)
Laila Lalami for Secret Son (Viking)
Andrea Levy for The Long Song (Headline Review)
Attica Locke for Black Water Rising (Serpent's Tail)
Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate)
Maria McCann for The Wilding (Faber & Faber)
Nadifa Mohamed for Black Mamba Boy (HarperCollins)
Lorrie Moore for A Gate at the Stairs (Faber & Faber)
Monique Roffey for The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (Simon & Schuster)
Amy Sackville for The Still Point (Portobello Books)
Kathryn Stockett for The Help (Fig Tree)
Sarah Waters for The Little Stranger (Virago)

In the video below, 2009 Orange Prize winner Marilyn Robinson discusses the complexity of father-son relationships, which she investigates in her winning third novel, Home.

Vestal McIntyre and Marilyn Hacker Among Lambda Finalists

The Lambda Literary Foundation announced its preliminary picks for the twenty-second annual Lambda Literary Awards. Eighty-two judges selected as finalists works of fiction, poetry, and memoir, as well as GLBT studies texts, anthologies, young adult literature, and books of drama, erotica, and genre fiction from a pool of 462 books—about 10 percent more than were nominated by publishers for last year's prizes.

The finalists are listed below by category. Winners will be named at a ceremony on May 27 at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Lesbian Poetry
Bird Eating Bird by Kristin Naca (HarperCollins)
Gospel by Samiya Bashir (Red Bone Press)
Names by Marilyn Hacker (W.W. Norton)
Stars of the Night Commute by Ana Božičević (Tarpaulin Sky Press)
Zero at the Bone by Stacie Cassarino (New Issues Poetry & Prose)

Gay Poetry
Breakfast with Thom Gunn by Randall Mann (University of Chicago Press)
The Brother Swimming Beneath Me by Brent Goodman (Black Lawrence Press)
The First Risk by Charles Jensen (Lethe Press)
Sweet Core Orchard by Benjamin S. Grossberg (University of Tampa Press)
What the Right Hand Knows by Tom Healy (Four Way Books)

Lesbian Debut Fiction
The Creamsickle by Rhiannon Argo (Spinsters Ink)
The Bigness of the World by Lori Ostlund (University of Georgia Press)
Land Beyond Maps by Maida Tilchen (Savvy Press)
More of This World or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson (HarperCollins)
Verge by Z Egloff (Bywater Books)

Gay Debut Fiction
Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal (Kensington Books)
God Says No by James Hannaham (McSweeneys)
Pop Salvation by Lance Reynald (HarperCollins)
Shaming the Devil: Collected Short Stories by G. Winston James (Top Pen Press)
Sugarless by James Magruder (University of Wisconsin Press)

Lesbian Fiction
Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon (HarperCollins)
A Field Guide to Deception by Jill Malone (Bywater Books)
Forgetting the Alamo, Or, Blood Memory by Emma Pérez (University of Texas Press)
Risk by Elena Dykewomon (Bywater Books)
This One’s Going to Last Forever by Nairne Holtz (Insomniac Press)

Gay Fiction
Lake Overturn by Vestal McIntyre (HarperCollins)
The River in Winter by Matt Dean (Queen's English Productions)
Said and Done by James Morrison (Black Lawrence Press)
Salvation Army by Abdellah Taia (Semiotext(e))
Silverlake by Peter Gadol (Tyrus Books)

Lesbian Memoir and Biography
Called Back: My Reply to Cancer, My Return to Life by Mary Cappello (Alyson Books)
Mean Little Deaf Queer by Terry Galloway (Beacon Press)
My Red Blood: A Memoir of Growing Up Communist, Coming Onto the Greenwich Village Folk Scene, and Coming Out in the Feminist Movement by Alix Dobkin (Alyson Books)
Likewise: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag by Ariel Schrag (Simon & Schuster/Touchstone Fireside)
The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar (St. Martin’s Press)

Gay Memoir and Biography
Ardent Spirits: Leaving Home, Coming Back by Reynolds Price (Scribner Books)
City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960’s and 70’s by Edmund White (Bloomsbury USA)
Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division by Jon Ginoli (Cleis Press)
Once You Go Back by Douglas A. Martin (Seven Stories Press)
The Pure Lover: A Memoir of Grief by David Plante (Beacon Press)

Transgender Literature
Bharat Jiva, a poetry collection by Kari Edwards (Litmus Press)
Lynnee Breedlove’s One Freak Show, a humor collection by Lynn Breedlove (Manic D Press)
The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, an essay collection by S Bear Bergman (Arsenal Pulp Press)
Transmigration, a poetry collection by Joy Ladin (Sheep Meadow Press)
Troglodyte Rose, an illustrated science fiction book by Adam Lowe (Cadaverine Publications)

Fourteen Titles From Around the World Take Home Awards

A host of literary honors were announced at the close of last week, including the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award, two world-spanning book prizes, and an award for Canadian fiction.

Last Thursday, Rae Armantrout took the NBCC prize in poetry for Versed (Wesleyan University Press), and Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel won for her novel Wolf Hall (Holt). Diana Athill's Somewhere Towards the End (Norton) won the prize in autobiography.

The international literature resource Three Percent, housed at the University of Rochester, awarded its Best Translated Book Award last week at Idlewild Books in New York City. The winner in poetry was Elena Fanailova's The Russian Version (Ugly Duckling Presse), translated from the Russian by Genya Turovskaya and Stephanie Sandle. Gail Hareven's The Confessions of Noa Weber (Melville House), translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu, won in fiction. Three Percent gives the award to honor international books of poetry and fiction published in the United States during the previous year.

After a week of debates broadcast by Canada's Radio One, Montreal author Nicolas Dickner's novel Nikolski beat out four other titles to win the Canadian Broadcasting Company's Canada Reads competition. His book, translated from the French by Lazer Lederhendler, will be released in a U.S. trade paperback edition in May by Trumpeter Books.

Eight writers from nations of the British Commonwealth received regional book awards from the Commonwealth Foundation. The four regions represented are Africa, the Carribean and Canada, South Asia and Europe, and Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

The winners for debut books are Adaobi Tricia Nwaubeni of Nigeria for I Do Not Come to You by Chance (Hyperion); Shandi Mitchell of Canada for Under This Unbroken Sky (Harper); Daniyal Mueenuddin from Pakistan for In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (Norton); and Glenda Guest from Australia for Siddon Rock (Random House). Marié Heese of South Africa won Best Book for The Double Crown (Human & Rousseau); Michael Crummey of Canada won for Galore (Doubleday Canada); Rana Dasgupta of the United Kingdom won for Solo (Fourth Estate); and Albert Wendt of Samoa won for The Adventures of Vela (Huia). The winning debut titles from this round will go on to compete for a five-thousand-pound prize, and the "Best Book" honorees have the opportunity to win a ten-thousand-pound award, announced on April 12.

AAWW Sponsors Story Prize for Asian American Writers

The Asian American Writers' Workshop (AAWW) in New York City is teaming up with San Francisco–based Hyphen magazine to present a short story contest for writers of Asian descent. Fiction writers living in the United States and Canada are eligible for the one-thousand-dollar prize, which also includes publication in Hyphen, a nonprofit news and culture magazine that seeks to "go beyond celebrity interviews and essays about discovering our roots, which we found a long time ago, thank-you-very-much" and offer "a more complex representation of Asian America."

The contest winner will also receive one-year of membership in the AAWW. The AAWW's members are offered discounts on event fees and books, a vote in the Members' Choice Workshop Award given annually to published writers, and access to other opportunities, including fellowships.

Writers may enter their stories, novellas, or novel excerpts that could be published as stand-alone pieces by March 31. Since its launch in 2007, the contest has reportedly received about two hundred entries per year. More details are on the Hyphen Web site.

In the video below, inaugural Asian American Short Story Prize winner Preeta Samarasan reads from her debut novel, Evening is the Whole Day.

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.