Poets & Writers Blogs

"Language Textures" Likely to Stand Out in Innovative Fiction Contest

We asked Ander Monson, editor of the literary journal DIAGRAM and judge of the magazine's 2010 Innovative Fiction Contest, to weigh in on what he'll be looking for in the submission pile. The competition, which awards one thousand dollars and publication in DIAGRAM, is open to stories of up to ten thousand words until March 8.

Monson says that he usually reads all of the submissions that come in, along with DIAGRAM fiction editors Sarah Blackman and Lauren Slaughter, and then the finalists go on to an outside judge, but this year he'll also make the ultimate pick. Read on for his take on the selection process, beginning with the evaluation of every entry—at least twice.

"We never know what we're looking for in the contest until we see it. Each year we get different stories told in different ways, and the decisions are extremely difficult, and we don't often agree. Almost always, interestingly, my own personal favorites in years past have coincided with the [final] judges' picks, so I think we're on the same page. And this year we are more obviously on the same page.

"As a reader I value a real sense of language textures in a story. Sometimes that manifests itself as an idiosyncratic voice, or in idiosyncratic forms—which for this reader are always welcome. But I also want story—I want to be moved, to be riveted.

"What I want is what I think we all want every time we read stories: We want to be enraptured and entertained. We call it the Innovative Fiction Prize because as an online and, more than occasionally, new media journal, DIAGRAM tries to publish stories that take more risks. So I'd say that what we want is either 1) something really and actually new; or else 2) something old, but told/written/created in such a way that it subverts our expectations of what we think a story can be, and yet it delivers the things that great stories deliver: mystery, beauty, terror, depth, a sense of a living and fully-realized consciousness, revelation, movement, hilarity, even shock, so it reads as new.

"I absolutely want my expectations subverted, and then rewarded with something strange and wonderful. I/we want to be surprised. We don't know how stories are being told, how they are going to be told in the future. Maybe with interactivity. Maybe with images. Maybe via code. Who knows. But we would very much like to see and be shown. Which is why we award the prize, to encourage and reward the most interesting stories/fictions we can find. Because we know there are plenty of somebodies out there writing them, and we want them to think of DIAGRAM as a place for interesting and innovative art. Which I think it is."

DIAGRAM's Chapbook Contest is also under way, open to manuscript submissions of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or multi-genre work. Check out the guidelines for that contest and more in our Grants & Awards database.

Two Fiction Contests Extend Deadlines

Sonora Review and Sycamore Review have both pushed the deadlines for their annual story competitions. Sonora's Short Short Story Contest will accept flash fiction of up to one thousand words until May 1. Sycamore Review's Wabash Prize for Fiction is open for story submissions of up to ten thousand words each until March 8.

The awards each offer a prize of one thousand dollars and publication in the sponsoring journal. The entry fees are also identical—fifteen dollars, which includes a copy of the magazine.

The Sonora Review short short judge will be Baltimore native Joe Wenderoth, author of three poetry collections as well as Letters to Wendy's (Verse Press, 2000), a fiction collection comprised of comment cards to the American fast food giant, and the essay collection The Holy Spirit Of Life: Essays Written For John Ashcroft’s Secret Self (Wave Books, 2005). A sample of Wenderoth's prose, the story "The Peephole," is available on the Guernica magazine Web site.

Britain-born Peter Ho Davies will judge Sycamore's contest. His works include the novel The Welsh Girl (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007) and the short story collections Equal Love (Granta Books, 2001) and The Ugliest House in the World (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). The author's Web site features selections of his short fiction and "outtakes" from his novel.

In the video below, Wenderoth—very subtly—performs an excerpt from Letters to Wendy's.

NBCC Offers a Daily Glimpse at Prize Finalists' Books

Leading up to the announcement of the National Book Critics Circle Award winners on March 11, the NBCC is rolling out a series of book reviews on their Critical Mass blog. Every day, the NBCC will post a reviewer's brief response to one of the shortlisted books, including Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, Museum of Accidents by Rachel Zucker, Chronic by D. A. Powell, and Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips, reviews for which have already been posted.

Reviews of poetry, fiction, and autobiography will be interspersed with selections from the biography, nonfiction, and criticism categories. Two biographies of literary luminaries are among the current posts, Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey and Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor by Brad Gooch.

More information about the awards, including an explanation of the selection process executed by board members (some of whom have posted reviews), is available on the NBCC Web site.

In the video below, D. A. Powell reads from Chronic

APR Presents Thirteenth Award for Debut Poetry

Mark Doty has selected San Francisco poet Melissa Stein as winner of the 2010 Honickman First Book Prize from the American Poetry Review (APR). Stein's debut collection, Rough Honey, will be published by APR and distributed by Copper Canyon Press, and she will receive three thousand dollars.

Some of Stein's poems, which have appeared in journals such as New England Review, Seneca Review, and the Journal, appear on the Web site of her Bay Area writing workshop, Thirteen Ways.

Past winners of the APR/Honickman award are:
2009 Laura McKee for Uttermost Paradise Place selected by Claudia Keelan
2008 Matthew Dickman for All-American Poem selected by Tony Hoagland
2007 Gregory Pardlo for Totem selected by Brenda Hillman
2006 David Roderick for Blue Colonial selected by Robert Pinsky
2005 Geoff Bouvier for Living Room selected by Heather McHugh
2004 Kevin Ducey for Rhinoceros selected by Yusef Komunyakaa
2003 James McCorkle for Evidences selected by Jorie Graham
2002 Kathleen Ossip for The Search Engine selected by Derek Walcott
2001 Ed Pavlic for Paraph of Bone & Other Kinds of Blue selected by Adrienne Rich
2000 Anne Marie Macari for Ivory Cradle selected by Robert Creeley
1999 Dana Levin for In The Surgical Theater selected by Louise Glück
1998 Joshua Beckman for Things Are Happening selected by Gerald Stern

The next deadline for poets who have not published books to submit manuscripts is October 31.

Canadian Journalist Ian Brown Honored for Memoir

The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction, named for the late Canadian nonfiction writer, was awarded last night to Ian Brown for his memoir The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for His Disabled Son (Random House Canada). Brown, an award-winning journalist who contributes to the Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail, received forty thousand dollars to honor his book about life with his son, who suffers from Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, an extremely rare condition.

Three finalists, all authors of biographies, each received a prize of two thousand dollars. They are John English for Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1968–2000 (Knopf Canada); Daniel Poliquin for René Lévesque (Penguin Canada); and Kenneth Whyte for The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst (Random House Canada). The judges were nonfiction writer Andrew Cohen, 2009 Charles Taylor Prize winner Tim Cook, and translator Sheila Fischman.

The annual prize is given to promote works of literary nonfiction by Canadian writers with a distinct style and command of language. According to the prize Web site, "Charles Taylor believed that a well-read and well-informed public contributes to a thriving democracy" and "that excellence in style is the basis for communication in thought." The next deadline for publishers to submit books is April 15.

In the video below, Brown talks about his winning book. 

Persea Books Launches Prize for Published Poets

The Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Project, a memorial foundation honoring the late poet Lexi Rudnitsky, is once again teaming with New York City indie press Persea Books to hold a poetry book prize. Like the five-year-old prize for a first book, the new Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor's Choice Award offers publication of a poetry collection and one thousand dollars, but this prize will be given to a U.S. poet who has published at least one full-length book of poetry in an edition of over five hundred copies.

The winning poet will also receive a two- to four-week residency at the Anderson Center artist retreat in Red Wing, Minnesota. The length of the stay is up to the winner, but "the center loves it when residents come for the full month," says Persea's poetry editor and contest judge Gabriel Fried.

When asked what he is looking for in a submission, Fried said, "I really don't have a pre-articulated sense of what sort of poetry will win, except that it should be unforgettable, striking in the ways it accomplishes what it sets out to do….I honestly don't feel predisposed toward a particular poetics, just toward the realization of poetic ambition."

Fried will select the winner with the help of an advisory committee from the Poetry Project, and the announcement will be made in April.

Women's Poetry Contest Deadline Extended

Finishing Line Press has extended the deadline of its New Women's Voices Chapbook Competition. Women poets who have not published a book-length collection now have until February 28 to submit manuscripts of up to twenty-six pages.

The winner will receive one thousand dollars and publication of her chapbook. Contest judge Leah Maines, the press's senior editor and author of the first book in the New Women's Voices series, Looking to the East With Western Eyes, will also select ten finalists for publication. 

Last year's winner was University of Wisconsin literature professor Cherene Sherrard for Mistress, Reclining, forthcoming in April. A list of all past winners' and finalists' books released as part of the New Women's Voices series—seventy-six chapbooks in all—is posted on the Finishing Line Press Web site

 

Honorary Booker Fills Gap in Prize's History

Twenty-two books published four decades ago have made the longlist for the Lost Man Booker Prize. The third celebratory prize in the history of the Bookers—following the twenty-fifth anniversary Booker of Bookers and the fortieth anniversary Best of the Booker—will recognize a novel by a U.K. writer published in 1970, the year before the award guidelines changed their scope and made many just-released titles ineligible for prize consideration.

From the longlist, poet Tobias Hill, broadcaster Katie Derham, and journalist Rachel Cooke—all born in or around 1970—will select a shortlist of six titles, which will be announced in March. A public vote will then determine the winning book.

The semifinalists and their novels, available most recently from the publishers noted below, are:
The Hand Reared Boy (Souvenir Press) by Brian Aldiss
A Little Of What You Fancy? (Penguin) by H. E. Bates
The Birds on The Trees (Virago Press) by Nina Bawden
A Place in England (Sceptre) by Lord Melvyn Bragg
Down All The Days (Vintage) by Christy Brown
Bomber (HarperCollins) by Len Deighton
Troubles (Phoenix) by J. G. Farrell
The Circle (Faber Finds) by Elaine Feinstein
The Bay of Noon (Virago Press) by Shirley Hazzard
A Clubbable Woman (HarperCollins) by Reginald Hill
I'm the King of the Castle (Penguin) by Susan Hill
A Domestic Animal (Faber Finds) by Francis King
The Fire Dwellers (Virago Press) by Margaret Laurence
Out of the Shelter (Penguin) by David Lodge
A Fairly Honourable Defeat (Vintage) by Iris Murdoch
Fireflies (Penguin) by Shiva Naipaul
Master and Commander (HarperCollins) by Patrick O'Brian
Head to Toe (Methuen Publishing) by Joe Orton
Fire From Heaven (Arrow Books) by Mary Renault
A Guilty Thing Surprised (Arrow Books) by Ruth Rendell
The Driver's Seat (Penguin Classics) by Muriel Spark
The Vivisector (Vintage) by Patrick White

Last-Minute Call for Potomac Review Poem Entries

Potomac Review, the literary magazine of Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, will accept submissions to its biennial poetry contest until Monday, February 1. Submissions of up to three poems totaling no more than five pages can be made this weekend online, though the entry fee of twenty dollars must be sent via mail.

The winning poet, announced on February 15, will receive one thousand dollars and publication of her winning work in Potomac Review. All entries will be considered for publication in the print magazine and on the journal's Web site.

So, where does that entry fee go? Why does the journal run contests at all (the poetry prize rotates annually with one in fiction)? Information about the inner workings of Potomac Review is available on the journal's blog, where a member of the editorial staff makes a case for holding contests. Here are a few key bits from that post:

"Contests are a way for us to prove to our funding source that we can make money. We use them to give back the money they provide for printing, mailing, and staff support." 

"I personally like the anonymous nature of contests. Anybody, published or unpublished, can win. My associate editors like the absence of cover letters. Several have told me it frees them to read with an open mind."

"So I realize that everybody is offering a contest, but I think poets and writers should give it a shot. Take a chance and support your favorite magazines. If you were ever going to subscribe to us, why not submit a few poems and roll the dice."

Translator Edith Grossman Wins Spanish Institute Prize

The Queen Sofía Spanish Institute in New York City has awarded Edith Grossman—translator of works by Miguel de Cervantes, Gabriel García Márques, and Mario Vargas Llosa, among other Latin American and Spanish authors—its first ever translation prize. Grossman will receive the inaugural ten-thousand-dollar prize in honor of A Manuscript of Ashes (Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt, 2008), her translation of Antonio Muñoz Molina's 1986 novel Beatus Ille.

The 2010 award set out to recognize an English-language fiction translation published between 2006 and 2008 by a U.S. publisher and written in Castilian by a Spanish author. The next prize is expected to be awarded in 2012, and then again in 2015.

Prior to presentation of the prize on February 2, the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute will host a conversation between Grossman and Muñoz Molina at 6 PM. Information is available on the organization's Web site.

In the video below, Grossman discusses the importance of the translator at an event sponsored by Words Without Borders. Several other videos from this presentation are also posted on YouTube.

Amazon Seeks Breakthrough Novel

For the third year, Amazon has launched its competition for the next popular novel. The winning author, selected by Amazon users, will have her book published by Penguin and receive an advance of fifteen thousand dollars.

The contest, which this year also includes a second category for young adult fiction, will close on February 7, or once five thousand entries have been received, whichever comes first.

Manuscripts will be screened by editors from Amazon and Penguin as well as reviewers from Publishers Weekly and Amazon, according to the prize Web site. A shortlist of three novels will be issued by author Tana French, Viking Books editorial director and executive editor Molly Stern, and agent Julie Barer, and in late May Amazon users will vote to select the winner, announced on June 14.

Last year's winner was James King for Bill Warrington's Last Chance, and the inaugural winner was Bill Loehfelm for Fresh Kills. Four of last year's finalists will also receive publication—a recent development for the competition. Amazon announced today that its imprint AmazonEncore will release Andrew Fukuda's Crossing, Francine Thomas Howard's Page From a Tennessee Journal, Steffan Piper's Greyhound, and Paul Reid's A Cruel Harvest. The titles will be available in the spring.

In the video below, Amazon reviewer Megan Bostic presents her take on King's winning book.

Women Writers Dominate NBCC Awards Shortlists

After a year in which must-read book lists notoriously shut out the talented ranks of female authors, the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) has named four women poets, four women fiction writers, and four women memoirists finalists for its 2010 awards. In conjunction with the shortlists announcement last Saturday, Joyce Carol Oates was honored with the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award and New Yorker book and dance critic Joan Acocella received the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

The finalists for the NBCC award in poetry are:
Rae Armantrout for Versed (Wesleyan)
Louise Glück for A Village Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
D. A. Powell for Chronic (Graywolf Press)
Eleanor Ross Taylor for Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems, 1960-2008 (Louisiana State University Press)
Rachel Zucker for Museum of Accidents (Wave Books)

In fiction, the finalists are:
Bonnie Jo Campbell for her story collection American Salvage (Wayne State University Press)
Marlon James for his novel The Book of Night Women (Riverhead)
Michelle Huneven for her novel Blame (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Hilary Mantel for her novel Wolf Hall (Holt), which took the Booker Prize last year
Jayne Anne Phillips for her novel Lark and Termite (Knopf)

In autobiography, the finalists are:
Diana Athill for Somewhere Towards the End (Norton)
Debra Gwartney for Live Through This: A Mother's Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Mary Karr for Lit (Harper)
Kati Marton for Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America (Simon & Schuster)
Edmund White for City Boy (Bloomsbury)

The shortlisted authors will give a reading in New York City on March 10. They'll be joined by finalists in biography, criticism, and general nonfiction, a group that includes William T. Vollman, nominated for his nonfiction book Imperial (Viking); David Hajdu, a finalist in criticism for Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture (Da Capo Press); and Martha A. Sandweiss, nominated in biography for Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line (Penguin Press). The winners will be announced on March 11.

Pennsylvania Writer Wins Dzanc Prize

Fiction writer Eugene Cross is the recipient of the third annual Dzanc Prize, given by Dzanc Books to facilitate the completion of a novel or story collection and support a writer in realizing plans to serve his community. Cross, whose submission rose to the top of over one hundred entries, will receive half of his five-thousand-dollar prize next month and the other half once he has completed his proposed service project.

In his hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, Cross plans to run three four-month creative workshops for refugees from Nepal, Sudan, and Bhutan who are learning English as a second language. He also anticipates completing a short story collection titled "Fires of Our Choosing."

"Eugene's writing has that perfect blend of modernism and classic storytelling, is at once humorous and sexy, intelligent and provocative, and is at the same time composed and controlled," Dzanc publisher Steven Gillis said in a press release. "We were also very much moved by Eugene's service program. With all that is going on in the world, and in particular as the devastation in Haiti is front page news, we found Eugene's desire to work with refugees in the telling of their stories a wonderful and timely idea." 

Cross, an MFA alum from the University of Pittsburgh, teaches English and creative writing at Penn State in Erie. His stories have appeared in Hobart, Narrative Magazine, the Pinch, and Third Coast, among other journals.

Two Emerging Poets Win Library of Congress Fellowships

The Library of Congress announced today that U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan has selected two emerging poets as recipients of the thirteenth annual Witter Bynner Fellowships. Jill McDonough and Atsuro Riley will each be awarded $7,500 and will both give a reading next month in Washington, D.C.

McDonough, who hails from Boston, and Riley, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, will each also organize readings in their respective hometowns as part of the fellowship. The two poets—both Pushcart Prize winners who have seen their work published in established journals such as Poetry and Threepenny Review—are each authors of a single collection. McDonough's debut, Habeas Corpus (Salt Publishing, 2008), is a sonnet series on the theme of real-life executions whose "histories of injectings, hangings, and burnings wind up not sensational but mysterious," Ryan says. In April, the University of Chicago Press will release Riley's first book, Romey's Order—interlocking poems evocative of the poet's South Carolina Lowcountry heritage that, according to Ryan, "play equally over the skin and the mind."

There is no application process for the fellowships, which are awarded using funds from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry to support poets in their practice. Previous winners, selected each year by the current poet laureate, are:
1998 Carol Muske-Dukes and Carl Phillips
1999 David Gewanter, Heather McHugh, and Campbell McGrath
2000 Naomi Shihab Nye and Joshua Weiner (all seven chosen by Robert Pinsky)
2001 Tory Dent and Nick Flynn (chosen by Stanley Kunitz)
2002 George Bilgere and Katia Kapovich
2003 Major Jackson and Rebecca Wee (all four chosen by Billy Collins)
2004 Dana Levin and Spencer Reece (chosen by Louise Glück)
2005 Claudia Emerson and Martin Walls
2006 Joseph Stroud and Connie Wanek (all four chosen by Ted Kooser)
2007 Laurie Lamon and David Tucker (chosen by Donald Hall)
2008 Matthew Thorburn and Monica Youn (chosen by Charles Simic)
2009 Christina Davis and Mary Szybist (chosen by Kay Ryan)

For information about the free, public reading in Washington, D.C., which will take place at the library's James Madison Building at 6:45 PM on February 18, visit the Library of Congress Web site.

Indie Bookseller Holds Poetry Contest

The Strand, beloved bookstore of New York City's resident and visiting literary types, will award a trio of prizes for original poems on the theme "love of the Strand." The winner will receive a Strand gift card worth $250, and the winning work may be featured on the bookstore's Web site and merchandise. The second-place prize is a bundle of books and swag worth $175, and the third-place prize is a $50 gift card.

The "fiercely independent family business" was opened nearly eighty-three years ago in New York City's former Book Row, among forty-seven other booksellers, all of which have ceased operation. The Strand, now located on Broadway near the city's Union Square, boasts an inventory of eighteen miles of rare, used, and new books, not including the selection at their kiosks in Central Park.

There is no cost to submit to the competition, and entries may be made via e-mail, with "Poetry Contest" as the subject line. The deadline is February 11 at 6 PM.

In the video below, Strand owner Fred Bass gives a tour of the bookstore.

 

 

If you catch wind of a free writing contest in your area, please drop us an e-mail letting us know about it. And if you're interested in bidding homage to your own local bookseller, check out our Inside Indie Bookstores series and leave us a comment about your favorite literary haunt.