Poets & Writers Blogs

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:

Five First Novels Up for Merc Center Prize

The Mercantile Library Center for Fiction announced on Wednesday the shortlist for its 2009 First Novel Prize. The ten-thousand-dollar award aims to promote the career of an emerging U.S. fiction writer by honoring his or her debut novel.

The finalists, whose books were all published in 2009, are:
Paul Harding for Tinkers (Bellevue Literary Press)

Yiyun Li for The Vagrants (Random House)

Philipp Meyer for American Rust (Spiegel & Grau)

John Pipkin for Woodsburner (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)

Patrick Somerville for The Cradle (Little, Brown)

A committee of American writers selected the shortlisted books from a pool chosen by the Mercantile’s librarians, staff, and members.

The winner, announced on November 9, will join the ranks of One Story editor Hannah Tinti, who won the prize for The Good Thief (Dial Press, 2008); Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz, honored for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead, 2007); and bestselling author Marisha Pessl, who received the prize for Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Viking, 2006). Tinti will present this year’s prize at the Center for Fiction's annual benefit in New York City, during which the Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Fiction will also be given to Gerald Howard, vice president and executive editor of Doubleday.

Check out a book trailer for The Cradle, touring the Wisconsin landscape for sites from the novel:

 

Here's an interview with Woodsburner author Pipkin, who talks about the process of writing the historical novel:

At Anniversary Event, Ashbery Speaks About Winning Inaugural NBCC Award

Last Saturday the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC), sponsors of the annual NBCC Award, celebrated their thirty-fifth anniversary at a gathering in New York City. John Ashbery, who received the first NBCC Award in poetry in 1976 for his book Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Viking), spoke at the event about how book critics and the award had influenced his career. (Self Portrait, incidentally, went on to win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.)

Ashbery recalled how a conversation between critic David Kalstone and NBCC founder Elizabeth Hardwick, prompted by a negative review of Self Portrait published in the New York Review of Books, may have influenced his being awarded the book prize, his first.

According to Ashbery, Hardwick had been under the impression that he had won numerous awards, until Kalstone informed her that Ashbery hadn’t received any. (Excepting the honor of having his 1956 collection Some Trees selected for the Yale Younger Poets Series by W. H. Auden.) "Elizabeth [...] seemed to ponder this and said that she’d look into the matter," Ashbery told the attendees of the NBCC gathering. "I'm not sure if that had something to do with my NBCC award, but that happened only a few weeks after the conversation I've described."

He went on to thank the audience of book critics "for letting me come full circle—that is, to be here beaming my gratitude at you, both for what you've done for me personally, not just as regards poetry, but for all the things you write about."

After receiving the 1975 prize, Ashbery was nominated for three additional NBCC awards, for his collections Houseboat Days in 1977, A Wave in 1984, and April Galleons in 1987 (all of the volumes were published by Viking). Earlier this year, Ashbery’s work was recognized by the NBCC yet again, when his translation from the French of Pierre Martory’s The Landscapist (Sheep Meadow Press) was a finalist for the 2008 award in poetry.

 

Jean Valentine and Harryette Mullen Win Major Prizes

The Academy of American Poets announced on Monday that it has awarded poets Jean Valentine and Harryette Mullen two of the organization’s top honors. Valentine received the Wallace Stevens Award, which carries a prize of one hundred thousand dollars, and Mullen won the twenty-five-thousand-dollar Academy Fellowship.

Valentine is the author of eleven poetry collections, most recently Little Boat (Wesleyan University Press, 2007). Her work has been recognized in the past with grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts, among others. In a press release, Academy chancellor and poet Gerald Stern describes Valentine’s work as sometimes existing "in a dream-world, with all the immediacy, the panic, the odd journey that dreams give. But add to that a great moral vision, infinite skill, and beauty."

Mullen, whose most recent book is a compilation of three volumes previously released by small presses, Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge (Graywolf Press, 2006), is the author of Sleeping with the Dictionary (University of California Press, 2002), Blues Baby: Early Poems (Bucknell University Press, 2002), and Tree Tall Woman (Energy Earth Communications, 1981). Academy chancellor Susan Stewart calls Mullen a "a magician of words, phrases, and songs" who has “has sparked a revolution in poetic diction."

The Wallace Stevens award is given annually to an established poet who has demonstrated mastery of the art. Past winners include James Tate, John Ashbery, and Louise Glück. Given since 1937 to recognize poetic achievement, the Academy Fellowship has been awarded to Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, and Elizabeth Bishop, among other notable poets.

Valentine and Mullen will both appear at the Academy's Poets Forum, which takes place on October 15, 16, and 17 in New York City, to read their work and participate in panels on poetry.

Med School Poets, This Contest Is for You

In honor of the physician and poet William Carlos Williams, an eponymous competition is underway to celebrate a poem by a student attending a school of osteopathy or medical studies in the United States or Canada. The contest, now in its twenty-eighth year, awards a three-hundred-dollar prize sponsored by the Behavioral and Community Health Sciences Department of the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM).

A second-place prize of two hundred dollars and a third-place prize of one hundred dollars will also be given, and the three winners will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to read their poems at NEOUCOM on April 23, 2010. In addition, the editors of Journal of Medical Humanities will consider the winning works for publication.

The final judge will be psychiatrist and poet Richard M. Berlin, who received the 2002 Pearl Poetry Prize for his collection How JFK Killed My Father (Pearl Editions, 2003). English faculty of the Northeastern Ohio Universities consortium will act as preliminary judges.

December 31 is the deadline for writers pursuing an M.D. or D.O. degree to submit up to three poems of no more than 750 words each (enclose five copies of each poem). There is no fee to enter. Complete details can be found on the prize guidelines document online.

Story Contest Open to Works on Words and Music

Chautauqua, the journal of the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, is seeking entries for its annual contest, open each year to writers working in different genres. This year's competition is open to fiction writers whose stories touch on the "broadly conceived" theme of music and words. The winner will receive a prize of one thousand dollars and publication in the journal.

The judge will be David Crouse, short story writer and "fringe art" enthusiast—among Crouse's interests, according to the journal, are "punk rock, 'outsider' music, neo-psychedlia, found art, Italian zombie movies, and other odd cultural artifacts." His stories have been collected in two books, Copy Cats, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction from University of Georgia Press, and The Man Back There, which won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction from Sarabande Books, and published in journals such as the Greensboro Review and Quarterly West. Crouse's comic book writing has also appeared in the anthology The Dark Horse Book of the Dead (Dark Horse Comics, 2005).

Chautauqua is accepting story entries of up to five thousand words, sent along with a twenty dollar entry fee, until November 15.

Inaugural Marick Press Poetry Book Contest Is Underway

Marick Press, the publisher of poets such as Franz Wright, G. C. Waldrep, and Katie Ford, has launched a new poetry book contest. Accepting entries now, the competition is open to manuscripts of forty-eight to eighty pages until October 15.

Alicia Suskin Ostriker, whose chapbook At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems was published by Marick Press this year, will judge the inaugural prize. The winner, announced on March 15, 2010, will receive one thousand dollars and publication of his or her collection by the nonprofit press.

Ostriker is the author of twelve poetry collections, including the forthcoming work The Book of Seventy, which will be published by University of Pittsburgh Press in October. Her previous books include The Mother/Child Papers (Momentum Press, 1980), the volcano sequence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002), and No Heaven (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005). Twice a finalist for the National Book Award, Ostriker is Professor Emerita of English at Rutgers University and teaches at the low-residency program at Drew University.

Five Poets Win Book Publication in National Poetry Series

The National Poetry Series announced yesterday the five winners of the 2009 Open Competition. The prize, established in 1978, is given annually to "ensure the publication of five books of poetry a year" through trade, university, and small press publishers, with winning manuscripts selected by established poets.

This year's winners are:
Julie Carr of Denver for Sarah—Of Fragments and Lines, selected by Eileen Myles and to be published by Coffee House Press

Colin Cheney of New York City for Here Be Monsters, selected by David Wojahn, and to be published by University of Georgia Press

Carrie Fountain of Austin, Texas, for Burn Lake, selected by Natasha Trethewey and to be published by Penguin Books

Erika Meitner of Blacksburg, Virginia, for Ideal Cities, selected by Paul Guest and to be published by HarperCollins

Jena Osman of Philadelphia for The Network, selected by Prageeta Sharma, and to be published by Fence Books

Each winner received one thousand dollars, and their winning books will be published during the summer of 2010.

J. M. Coetzee and Sarah Waters Among Booker Finalists

The Man Booker Prize judges announced today the finalists for the 2009 award, selected from a longlist of thirteen. Six writers now have less than a month to wait to see who of them will receive the fifty-thousand-pound prize (a little over eighty thousand dollars), given for a novel written by a citizen of the British Commonwealth or Ireland.

The shortlisted titles are:

The Children's Book (Chatto and Windus) by A. S. Byatt

Summertime (Harvill Secker) by J. M. Coetzee

The Quickening Maze (Jonathan Cape) by Adam Fould

Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate) by Hilary Mantel

The Glass Room (Little, Brown) by Simon Mawer

The Little Stranger (Virago) by Sarah Waters 

For readers interested in sampling the selected texts, audio excerpts from the finalists' books, as well as interviews with the writers, are available on the prize Web site. The site is also hosting a virtual debate about the shortlisted books.

This year's judges are critic Lucasta Miller, journalist John Mullan, broadcaster James Naughtie, comedian Sue Perkins, and Sunday Telegraph literary editor Michael Prodger. They will reveal the winner on October 6.

Prepare That First Book Over the Long Weekend

Use the holiday weekend now upon us to prepare your manuscript for entry into one of this autumn's upcoming first book awards. Unpublished poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers all have an opportunity to submit debut works to competitions running from now through November 15, listed below.

For poets:
Academy of American Poets
Walt Whitman Award
open from September 15 through November 15

American Poetry Review
Honickman First Book Prize
open through October 31

Persea Books
Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize
open through November 2

Perugia Press
Poetry Prize
open through November 15

Silverfish Review Press
Gerald Cable Book Award
open through October 15

Yale University Press
Yale Series of Younger Poets
open from October 1 through November 15

(N.B. Poets, check out Katrina Vandenberg's article "Putting Your Poetry in Order, the Mix-Tape Strategy" for one writer's advice on how to organize a manuscript.)

For fiction writers:
University of Iowa Press
Short Fiction Awards
September 30

For writers in all genres:
Bread Loaf Writers' Conference
Bakeless Literary Publication Prizes
open from September 30 through November 1

Akpan, Herrera, and Hoang Win Beyond Margins Awards

Three writers have received 2009 Beyond Margins Awards from PEN American Center, the literary and human rights organization announced today. The winners are Uwem Akpan, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Lily Hoang.

Akpan, of Lagos, Nigeria, won for his debut short story collection Say You're One of Them (Little, Brown and Company). Herrera, who lives in Redlands, California, received the award for his poetry collection Half of the World in Light (University of Arizona Press), which also won the International Latino Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award this year. Hoang, of South Bend, Indiana, is honored for her novel Changing (Fairy Tale Review Press).

The writers join award alumni including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Alberto Ríos, Chris Abani, and Joy Harjo, to name four of the twenty-nine previous winners.

The Beyond Margins Awards are given by PEN each year to recognize works by writers of color published in the previous year. The prize is sponsored by PEN's Open Book Program, which promotes diversity within the American literary community and publishing industry. Then next deadline for publishers and agents to submit books for prize consideration is December 14.

Six Women Writers Win Twenty-Five-Thousand-Dollar Awards

The Rona Jaffe Foundation announced the winners of the organization's fifteenth annual Writers' Awards, devoted to the support of emerging women poets and prose writers. The recipients of the twenty-five-thousand-dollar grants are poets Vievee Francis, Janice N. Harrington, and Heidy Steidlmayer, fiction writers Lori Ostlund and Helen Phillips, and creative nonfiction writer Krista Bremer.

The winners were selected from a pool of nominations made by select writers, editors, and critics who remain anonymous. In September, the six writers will be honored at a reception in New York City, where the foundation says the honorees will be introduced to an array of industry professionals, including agents, publishers, and fellow writers, among them inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander.

Rona Jaffe, author of the best-selling novel The Best of Everything (Simon & Schuster, 1958) and other works of fiction, established the annual awards in 1995. Ninety-eight women have since received the grants, among them Lan Samantha Chang, ZZ Packer, Tracy K. Smith, and Rivka Galchen.

Isherwood Fiction Fellowships Open Today

Beginning today, U.S. fiction writers who have published at least one book have the opportunity to apply for four-thousand-dollar fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. Five to eight writers will receive the awards, intended to enable them to set aside time for writing.

Isherwood, born in England in 1904, was a novelist and translator, friend and collaborator with writers such as W. H. Auden, and an activist for gay rights. U.K. publisher Jonathan Cape released Isherwood's first novel, All the Conspirators, in 1928. In the early 1930s, he lived in Berlin, during which time he wrote Berlin Stories, which was adapted into the musical Cabaret. Isherwood spent the latter part of his life in California, where he worked in film and television among other writers including Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Aldous Huxley. He died in 1986.

According to the organization's Web site, the Isherwood Foundation was established to grant funds to published fiction writers, as well as scholars of the late novelist. For the fiction grants, writers who have published a novel or short story collection may submit three copies of twenty to thirty pages of fiction, a curriculum vitae, and a letter of interest between today and October 1.

Before sending materials, entrants should visit the Web site to complete an online application and obtain an ID number. The organization is specific about how materials should be organized and mailed, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully.

Deadline for Flannery O'Connor Contest Extended

Shenandoah, the literary magazine of Washington and Lee University, has extended the deadline for its occasional prize for a work honoring the life and fiction of Flannery O'Connor. Writers now have until October 31 to submit poems, fiction, or essays for a chance to win one thousand dollars and have their work included in the journal's sixtieth anniversary issue, dedicated to the prose maven from Georgia.

O'Connor, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, debuted with the novel Wise Blood (Harcourt, Brace) in 1952, and went on to publish the short story collection A Good Man Is Hard to Find (Harcourt, Brace, 1955) and another novel, The Violent Bear It Away (Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960), before her death at thirty-nine, from complications of lupus, in 1964. Her story collection Everything That Rises Must Converge (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) was released posthumously in 1965. Her letters to fellow literary luminaries, as well as essays and reviews, have also been collected for publication over the years.

All entries to Shenandoah's contest will be considered for publication in the special issue, and there is no length restriction on pieces. Reviews, photographs, and works of visual art are also eligible for the contest.

 

Spectrum of Genres Represented in Guardian First Book Award Longlist

The U.K. newspaper the Guardian announced today the ten semifinalists for its 2009 First Book Award. The winner, whose book will be selected from a field of poetry, fiction, memoir, and nonfiction works, will receive ten thousand pounds (approximately sixteen thousand dollars).

The longlisted authors are:
Eleanor Catton for her novel The Rehearsal (Granta)

Petina Gappah for her short story collection An Elegy for Easterly (Faber and Faber)

Samantha Harvey for her novel The Wilderness (Jonathan Cape)

Siân Hughes for her poetry collection The Missing (Salt Publishing)

Reif Larsen for his novel The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet (Harvill)

Ali Shaw for her novel The Girl With Glass Feet (Atlantic)

Gabriel Weston for her memoir Direct Red (Jonathan Cape)

Three writers of nonfiction books were also selected as semifinalists. They are Edward Hollis for The Secret Lives of Buildings (Portobello), Graham Farmelo for The Strangest Man (Faber and Faber), and Michael Peel for A Swamp Full of Dollars (I. B. Tauris).

The judges for this year's prize are Claire Armitstead, Nadeem Aslam, John Gray, Tobias Hill, Martha Kearney, and Katharine Vinero. To aid in their selection of the winner, the judging panel will be offered commentary from five reading groups assembled by the U.K. bookstore Waterstone's. In November the group will reveal its shortlist of five authors and the winner will be announced in December.

The annual prize, past winners of which include Jonathan Safran Foer and Zadie Smith, is open to all debut authors writing in English.