Poets & Writers Blogs

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.

Two Emerging Writers Receive Iowa Poetry Prize

The University of Iowa Press announced today the winners of the 2009 Iowa Poetry Prize, both of them receiving the honor for debut collections. The prize, which is given annually to both emerging and established writers, went to Samuel Amadon for Like a Sea and Molly Brodak for A Little Middle of the Night. Their books will be published by the press next March, and each writer will receive a standard royalty contract.

Amadon is the author of the chapbooks Advice for Young Couples from H_NGM_N B_ _KS, Goodnight Lung from Octopus Books, Each H from Ugly Duckling Presse, and Spy Poem, released by Projective Industries, the chapbook press where he serves as coeditor. He received his MFA in poetry from Columbia University and is a PhD candidate in creative writing and literature at the University of Houston, where he teaches as a graduate fellow. "Rather than create worlds," University of Iowa Press said of Amadon's poems in the awards announcement, "they point out what a strange world already exists."

Brodak, whose Instructions for a Painting was selected by Reginald Shepherd for the 2007 GreenTower Press Midwest Chapbook Series, received her MFA in creative writing from West Virginia University and teaches at Augusta State University. The press noted that her collection "simmers with wit as Brodak confronts tragedy, childhood losses, transcendent love, and the question of art itself."

The next deadline for the prize is April 30, 2010.

Marvin Bell to Judge Debut Book Prize

The Academy of American Poets announced yesterday that poet Marvin Bell will judge the 2010 Walt Whitman Award, given for a first poetry collection. Bell's debut collection, published in 1966 by Stone Wall Press, is Things We Dreamt We Died For, and his most recent book is 7 Poets, 4 Days, 1 Book (Trinity University Press, 2009), a collaborative project with six other writers.

The winner of the Whitman Award, which will open for entries on September 15, will receive a prize of five thousand dollars, publication of his or her winning manuscript by Louisiana State University Press, and a monthlong residency at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson. Writers who have not published a poetry collection in a standard edition—that is, a book of forty pages or more in length that was released in an edition of five hundred copies or more—may submit a manuscript of fifty to one hundred pages between September 15 and November 15 with a twenty-five-dollar entry fee. Poets who have published chapbooks or books in limited editions still eligible. An entry form and complete guidelines are available on the Academy Web site.

The winner is expected to be announced in May 2010. Last year's award, judged by Juan Felipe Herrera, was given to J. Michael Martinez of Boulder, Colorado, for his debut collection, Heredities, which will be published next spring.

To read a selection of poems by Bell, and to link to an interview with him conducted by Rebecca Seiferle, visit the Academy's Web page on the poet.

NPR's Second Three-minute Fiction Contest Closes Tonight

Due to the popularity of the first Three-Minute Fiction Contest, National Public Radio (NPR) is giving writers a second chance to submit their short short stories. This round of the contest, judged once again by writer and critic James Wood, asks writers to begin their pieces with the line "The nurse left work at five o'clock."

Stories must be no longer than six hundred words, and may be submitted via an e-mail form on the NPR Web site. The contest closes tonight at 11:59 PM. Favorite stories will be posted on the site, and the winning tale will be read by Wood on air.

Molly Reid, who teaches composition and literature at Colorado State University, won the inaugural contest earlier this summer for her story "Not That I Care," selected from over five thousand submissions. Along with Reid's winning work, the finalists' pieces can be viewed online at NPR's Three-Minute Fiction series page.

Upcoming Contests Looking for Your Single Knockout Piece

Until the end of September, nine literary journals are running competitions open for entries of individual poems, stories, and essays. Each will offer its winners publication and monetary prizes of five hundred dollars or more.

Here's a roundup of upcoming opportunities to submit your standout work. The type of work accepted is indicated beneath the prize name. 

August 31 
Glimmer Train Press
Very Short Fiction Award
Story
Prize is twelve hundred dollars and publication in Glimmer Train Stories

Margie
Editor’s Prize
Poem
Prize is one thousand dollars and publication in Margie: The American Journal of Poetry

September 1
American Literary Review
Literary Awards
Poem, story, essay
Prizes are one thousand dollars each and publication in the American Literary Review

September 8
13th Moon
Poetry and Fiction Contests
Poem and story
Prizes are one thousand dollars each and publication in 13th Moon: A Feminist Literary Magazine 

Bear Deluxe Magazine
Doug Fir Fiction Award
Story
Prize is one thousand dollars and publication in Bear Deluxe Magazine

September 10
Hunger Mountain
Creative Nonfiction Prize
Essay
Prize is one thousand dollars and publication on the Hunger Mountain Web site

September 15
Greensboro Review
Robert Watson Literary Prizes
Poem and story
Prizes are five hundred dollars each and publication in Greensboro Review

Literal Latté
Ames Essay Award
Essay
Prize is one thousand dollars and publication in Literal Latté

September 30 
Glimmer Train Press
Fiction Open
Story
Prize is two thousand dollars and publication in Glimmer Train Stories

Red Hen Press
Ruskin Art Club Poetry Award
Poem
Prize is one thousand dollars and publication in Los Angeles Review

NEA Fellowships Support Translation of Works in Eleven Languages

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced yesterday that it has awarded sixteen translators Literature Fellowships for Translation Projects to work on specific literary endeavors. Six fellows were awarded grants of $25,000, and ten will receive $12,500 to work on English translations of works in Croatian, Turkish, and Catalan, among other languages.

The fellowships for poetry went to Olga Broumas to support translations from the Greek of works by contemporary poet Kiki Dimoula, author of twelve volumes of verse; Eléna Rivera for a translation from the French of Bernard Noël’s collection The Rest of the Voyage; Richard Tillinghast for a translation from the Turkish of selected pieces by experimental poet Edip Cansever; and Russell Valentino for a translation from the Rovignese, a rare Istro-Venetian dialect, of Conversations with Filip the Seagull in this Corner of Paradise by Ligio Zanini, who died in 1993. Each translator will receive $12,500.

Fellows in fiction are Charlotte Mandell, who will be working on a translation from the French of the five-hundred-page, single-sentence novel Zone by Mathias Énard, published in 2008; Daniel Shapiro for a translation from the Spanish of the short story collection Missing Persons, Animals and Artists by contemporary Mexican writer Roberto Ransom; and Martha Tennent for a translation from the Catalan of approximately forty stories from the lesser-known collections of Mercè Rodoreda. They each will receive $25,000.

Also given $12,500 awards in fiction were Ellen Elias-Bursac for a translation from the Croatian of the novel The Goldsmith's Gold by August Šenoa; Tina Kover for a translation from the French of Manette Salomon by brothers Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, who wrote in the mid- to late-nineteenth century; and Tess Lewis for a translation from the German of Alois Hotschnig’s short story collection Die Kinder Beruhigte das Nicht (That Didn't Reassure the Children), published in Germany in 2006.

The nonfiction fellows are Brian Henry for a translation from the Slovenian of Ales Steger’s essay collection, Berlin; and Sandra Kingery for her translation from the Spanish of the memoir We Won the War by Esther Tusquets. Henry received $25,000 and Kingery received $12,500.

Eugene Ostashevsky received a $12,500 award for a translation from the Russian of a the philosopher Leonid Lipavsky’s Conversations, a portrayal of his talks with the OBERIU, a group of Russian avant-garde poets. Three playwrights, Diane Arnson Svarlien, Chantal Bilodeau, and Nahma Sandrow also received fellowships.

The fellowships, given annually by the NEA, have supported such projects as Natasha Wimmer’s translation of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction last year. The next application deadline is January 7, 2010.

Two of this year’s fellows, Lewis and Shapiro, also recently received three-thousand-dollar Translation Fund Grants from PEN American Center to support the translations mentioned above.

Poet and Professor Juliana Spahr Honored for Writing and Teaching

Folger Poetry, a program of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., announced yesterday that it will award Juliana Spahr its nineteenth annual O. B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize. She will receive the ten-thousand-dollar award and give a reading at the library on October 9.

The prize, named for poet, teacher, and former Folger director O. B. Hardison, is awarded to recognize poets' work as writers and their service as educators. Spahr, who teaches at Mills College in California, most recently published The Transformation (Atelos Press, 2007), a lyric memoir. Claudia Rankine and Joshua Weiner selected her for the honor.

Past winners of the poetry prize are:
2008 Mary Kinzie
2007 David Wojahn
2006 David Rivard
2005 Tony Hoagland
2004 Reginald Gibbons
2003 Cornelius Eady
2002 Ellen Bryant Voigt
2001 David St. John
2000 Rachel Hadas
1999 Alan Shapiro
1998 Heather McHugh
1997 Frank Bidart
1996 Jorie Graham
1995 E. Ethelbert Miller
1994 R. H. W. Dillard
1993 John Frederick Nims
1992 Cynthia MacDonald
1991 Brendan Galvin

Pacific Northwest Magazine Seeks Fiction With an Eye on Environment

A prize of one thousand dollars and publication in Bear Deluxe Magazine out of Portland, Oregon, is being offered for a short story that addresses the environment, sense of place, and the natural world. The magazine is published by Orlo, a nonprofit that supports creative arts that explore environmental issues.

The judge for this year’s prize will be Portland writer Jon Raymond, whose most recent book is the story collection Livability (Bloomsbury, 2009), two pieces from which have been adapted for film. The 2006 film Old Joy was based on the story of the same title, and "Train Choir" became the 2008 movie Wendy and Lucy. Raymond has also written and edited for locally-based literary magazine Tin House.

Writers may submit stories of up to 5,000 words by September 8. The contest charges a $15 entry fee, which includes a copy of the prize issue.

Last year’s winner, Justin Blessinger of Madison, South Dakota, had his story "Winter Count" published in the Summer 2009 issue of the magazine. The judge was Katherine Dunn, also a Portland resident and the author of Geek Love (Knopf, 1989).

Historical Research Residencies Offered to Creative Writers

In 2010, the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, will give at least four fellowships to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers who wish to explore American history before the twentieth century. The organization’s goal in providing the monthlong residencies, which include $1,100 and housing on the campus of the independent research library (or $1,600 without housing), is to "multiply and improve the ways in which an understanding of history is communicated to the American people."

Fellowship recipients may spend their time at the library researching any subject, with the objective of producing "imaginative, non-formulaic works dealing with pre-twentieth-century American history." The opportunity will also be offered to painters, sculptors, filmmakers, playwrights and other artists working on historical projects.

Writers should submit ten copies of a twenty-five-page manuscript, a resumé, and a five-page project proposal by October 5. Two references should also send letters of recommendation directly to the society. Complete guidelines are available on the organization's Web site.

Past fellows include poet Nicole Cooley (1999), who researched the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 for her collection The Afflicted Girls (Louisiana State University Press, 2004); fiction writer Amy Brill (2005), who worked on a novel set in the 1800s about a female astronomer in Nantucket; and creative nonfiction writer and novelist Ginger Strand (2006), who investigated the library’s collection of Niagara Falls–related writings, images, and miscellania for her book Inventing Niagara (Simon & Schuster, 2008).

McSweeney’s Author Wins Debut Novel Award from VCU

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has awarded Deb Olin Unferth the Cabell First Novelist Award for Vacation, published by McSweeney’s Books in 2008. She will receive five thousand dollars and an all-expenses-paid trip to Richmond to attend VCU’s First Novelist Festival in November.

Unferth has previously published a short story collection, Minor Robberies, one-third of the boxed set One Hundred and Forty Five Stories in a Small Box (McSweeney's Books, 2007), which also includes How the Water Feels to the Fishes by Dave Eggers and Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape by Sarah Manguso.

Unferth’s debut novel was selected for the honor by previous prizewinners Travis Holland and Peter Orner, and Andrew Blossom, the editor of Makeout Creek magazine and the anthology Richmond Noir, forthcoming from Akashic Books in March 2010. Holland won the 2008 award for The Archivist’s Story (Dial Press, 2007), and Orner won in 2007 for The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo (Little, Brown, 2006).

This year's finalists were David Mura for Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire (Coffee House Press) and Jesmyn Ward for Where the Line Bleeds (Agate Bolden), recently nominated for a Legacy Award from the Hurston/Wright Foundation.

The annual award is named for prolific Richmond author and poet James Branch Cabell, known for his contributions to fantasy fiction, though he also wrote literary works. His debut novel, The Eagle’s Shadow—the first of fifty-two volumes of work—was published by Doubleday in 1904.

The next deadline for publishers to submit nominations is September 15, for books published in January through June of this year. The entry deadline for books released in July through December is January 15, 2010.

Lost Horse Press Names Winner of Poetry Book Prize

Lost Horse Press has announced the winner of the 2009 Idaho Prize for Poetry. Stephen Gibson of West Palm Beach was named the recipient of the one-thousand-dollar prize, which includes publication of his winning collection, Frescoes, by Lost Horse Press. Carolyne Wright judged.

Gibson’s most recent book of poetry is Masaccio’s Expulsion, published in 2008, which won MARGIE/IntuiT House Press’s Robert E. Lee and Ruth I. Wilson Poetry Book Award, judged by Andrew Hudgins. His debut collection, Rorschach Art, was published by Red Hen Press in 2001. Frescoes will be released in February of next year.

Two runners-up for the Idaho Prize were also named. They are John Brady for Thunder Shakes the Snake: The Poetry of Cheng Hui and Matthew Thorburn for Every Possible Blue.

The longlisted finalists are John Bensko for Fur Traders on the Missouri, Esther Lee for little lung damage, James McKean for We Are the Bus, Peter Munro for Animal Kingdom, Richard Robbins for Radioactive City, Catherine Staples for Still-Life Breathing, Joe Wilkins for Ragged Point Road, and Maya Jewell Zeller for Rust Fish.

The book prize is given annually in August, and the next deadline for manuscript submissions is May 15, 2010.

Travel Site Launches Contest for Place-based Essays

Travel Web site Trazzler and NYCgo, a New York City lifestyle site, are currently running a travel writing competition for a short-short essay on a personal oasis. One writer will win ten thousand dollars and a two-week trip to New York City to write about oases in the urban landscape for Trazzler. Four runners-up will receive five-hundred-dollar contracts to cover fifteen excursions. The deadline for 160-word entries, accepted online only, is August 17.

"Modern life can often feel like a trek through the desert," Trazzler says in its contest guidelines. "We want you to write about a place that not only satisfies your thirst for a change of scenery, but goes beyond this, breaking the spell of everyday existence and providing the ‘refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast’ that we all crave, especially in the summer." 

According to the guidelines, writers may have to employ some self-promotion to make it through the three-tiered selection process. Semifinalists’ pieces, chosen by editors and posted on Trazzler, will be voted on by the public. For writers among the semifinalists, Trazzler recommends publicizing the mini-essays using Twitter, social networking sites, and blogs. An editorial jury will then select the winner from the ten most popular pieces, and the prize announcement will be made during the week of September 21.

In order to enter, writers must sign up to be members of Trazzler using their Facebook accounts. A note to residents of Arizona: according to the official rules, this contest is void in the state.

Shortlist Announced for Fifty-thousand-dollar Fiction Prize

St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, announced the shortlist for its new fifty-thousand-dollar literary award, given to honor a fourth book of fiction. The finalists are Chris Abani for his novella Song For Night (Akashic Books, 2007), Aleksandar Hemon for his short story collection Love and Obstacles (Riverhead Books, 2009), Jim Krusoe for his novel Girl Factory (Tin House Books, 2008), and Arthur Phillips for his novel The Song Is You (Random House, 2009).

The judges for the award are authors Michael Chabon, Heidi Julavits, Jonathan Lethem, Ben Marcus, and Ayelet Waldman. They selected the four finalists from a pool of just under forty submissions.

The winner will be announced on September 12 at a gala celebrating the Brooklyn Book Festival, which will be held the following day at Brooklyn Borough Hall, a few blocks from the St. Francis campus. A ceremony to honor the prize recipient, who will conduct a fiction workshop and give a reading at St. Francis, will be held at the college in the fall.

Genre-flexing Journal Announces Chapbook Winner, Upcoming Contest

DIAGRAM, an online magazine of text and art, has announced the winner of its 2009 Chapbook Contest, which was open to manuscripts of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and mixed-genre writing. Benjamin Mirov, a poet and editor of the online journal Pax Americana from New York City, won for his collection I Is to Vorticism. Mirov’s Ghost Machine was also a finalist for the one-thousand-dollar award, which includes publication by New Michigan Press.

The finalists are:
Lucy Anderton for The Sinister Juice (poetry)
Douglas Basford for Gull Hymns (poetry)
Franklin Bruno for All That Is Solid Melts in Your Mouth (poetry)
William Carty for Quarry (poetry)
Justin Dodd for An Extravagant Fever (poetry)
Patrick Ryan Frank for A Compact Guide to Modern Fears (poetry)
Loren Goodman for New Products (poetry)
Boris Jardine for Resistance (poetry)
Heather Kirn for Psalms of Unknowing (poetry)
Sara Levine for Misgivings (fiction)
JoAnna Novak for Something Real (fiction)
J. Robinson, for Strap On Aesthete (mixed genre)
Jennifer Tamayo for Keloid (mixed genre)
Mark Yakich for Pornocracies (poetry)
Jake Adam York for The Lamps Are Never Out (poetry)

The majority of entries fell into the category of poetry—ninety-five percent, according to DIAGRAM editor Ander Monson’s estimation—but the journal hopes to see more prose and multigenre chapbook submissions in the future, Monson said. The next deadline for the contest is April 30, 2010.

The journal is currently running its annual Hybrid Essay Contest for pieces that incorporate innovative textual and visual elements or writing in genres besides creative nonfiction. The winning work will be published in DIAGRAM and the writer or writers—essays by multiple authors are accepted—will receive one thousand dollars. Finalists’ pieces will also be considered for publication.

So what kind of work is the journal seeking? "We still don't know exactly what we mean by hybrid, and we would certainly prefer to leave definitions up to you. We don't like them," say the submission guidelines on the journal’s Web site. "We're looking for essays that are in some way outside the traditional boundaries of the genre. The lyric essay is a great example of a hybrid form: an essay that is essay but also poem. So we're looking for fusion of one sort or another. In particular we'd like to see work with greater visual components, or perhaps audio, or something that will amaze and beguile us."

Hybrid writers can submit essays of ten thousand words or fewer with a fifteen dollar entry fee, either using DIAGRAM’s electronic submission system or via mail, by October 31. Ander Monson and Nicole Walker will judge.

Bellwether Prize Will Publish Emerging Novelist Writing on Social Change

Entries will soon be accepted for the 2010 Bellwether Prize, given biennially for a novel whose content "addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships." The winner will receive $25,000, courtesy of sponsor Barbara Kingsolver, author of the novels The Bean Trees (HarperCollins, 1988) and The Poisonwood Bible (HarperCollins, 1999), among others. Editor Kathy Pories of Algonquin Books will negotiate a publication contract and edit the winning manuscript.

"Fiction has a unique capacity to bring difficult issues to a broad readership on a personal level, creating empathy in a reader’s heart for the theoretical stranger," Kingsolver says in a statement on the prize Web site. "Throughout history, every movement toward a more peaceful and humane world has begun with those who imagined the possibilities. The Bellwether Prize seeks to support the imagination of humane possibilities."

Writers who are U.S. citizens may submit a manuscript of eighty thousand words or more, along with a curriculum vitae and a twenty-five-dollar entry fee, between September 1 and October 2. The contest is open to emerging writers who have some previous publication credits, but have not published a book that sold more than ten thousand copies.

The previous prizewinners are:
2008 Heidi Durrow for The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (forthcoming from Algonquin Books)

2006 Hillary Jordan for Mudbound (Algonquin Books, 2008)

2004 Marjorie Kowalski Cole for Correcting the Landscape (HarperCollins, 2005)

2002 Gayle Brandeis for The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins, 2003)

2000 Donna Gershten for Kissing The Virgin's Mouth (HarperCollins, 2001)