James McBride Earns Gotham Book Prize, Deesha Philyaw Wins PEN/Faulkner Award, and More

by Staff

Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—publishing reports, literary dispatches, academic announcements, and more—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today’s stories.

James McBride has won the inaugural Gotham Book Prize, which honors a work of fiction or nonfiction about New York City, for his novel Deacon King Kong. The creation of the $50,000 prize was first announced in July last year and was inspired in part by the hardships brought upon the New York City literary community due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deesha Philyaw has won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her debut story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. In a statement, the judges described the book as “masterful”: “Philyaw gives us that rarest and most joyful fusion—a book that combines the curious agility of the best short fiction with the deep emotional coherence of a great novel.” The prize comes with a purse of $15,000.

Philyaw recently spoke to the Los Angeles Times about her career path and building community with other Black writers. “I started writing fiction about twenty years ago, but it was always an indulgence because I had to make money. I got divorced, I was a single parent to two daughters—and you get paid for writing essays, not short stories.”

“With images, and more recently with some of my work with sound, I’ve been trying to work out how I can go from feeling to expression.” Caleb Azumah Nelson talks to the New York Times about the breakout success of his debut novel, Open Water, and how photography and music are essential to his creative practice.

“I leveled my life in pursuit of another with only an abstract idea of what it might look like to guide me. I turned to women like Torrey to help me see myself. She did, and eventually I saw her, too, beyond who I needed her to be for my sake.” Harron Walker shares lessons from reading and knowing Torrey Peters, the author of Detransition, Baby. (W Magazine)

In 2015, Matthew Byrne, a British poet living in Beijing, founded Spittoon Collective, which he first conceived as a recurring poetry night. Spittoon has since expanded into a truly global arts collective with chapters in Chengdu, Tucson, and beyond. (That’s)

Bloodaxe Books and Newcastle University have launched a new poetry prize earmarked for emerging BIPOC poets who live in the United Kingdom. Developed in partnership with novelist Bernardine Evaristo, the prize will publish debut poetry collections and provide mentorship to winners. In related news, Bloodaxe Books also announced a new board. (Bookseller)

Michael Dirda of the Washington Post recommends under-the-radar gems, including several small press books and the Analog Sea Review, a biannual journal.