Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award Winners, Roundtable With Black Editors and Writers, 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.

Simon Han and Brent Newsom of Oklahoma are the winners of Poets & Writers’ 2020 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. Each year, Poets & Writers selects one state and invites writers from that jurisdiction to apply for the prize. In a typical year, the winners spend a week in New York City meeting agents, editors, authors, and others in aligned professions, however, due to the pandemic, this year’s winners will participate in virtual meetings. Both writers will also be offered a one-month residency at the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Banner, Wyoming.

“When the world is in many ways hyper-attuned to the experience of Black life and death, we wanted to invite Black writers we admire to talk about their relationship to writing, the roles contemporary writing of all genres can play in advancing racial justice.” Believer editors Niela Orr and Ismail Muhammad introduce the first installment of Black Feeling, Black Talk—a new six-part dialogue series on Black literary life and racial justice. The first roundtable features writers and editors Cassie Owens, Danielle A. Jackson, and Hanif Abdurraqib. 

Irenosen Okojie has won the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “Grace Jones.” In his citation, chair of the judging panel Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp writes, “It is risky, dazzling, imaginative and bold; it is intense and full of stunning prose; it’s also a story that reflects African consciousness in the way it so seamlessly shifts dimensions.” 

“My disbelief is the cage my brain has built for my own survival, which has also trapped me into straining to make sense of what I can’t.” Poet Destiny O. Birdsong writes about sexual violence and survival. (Paris Review Daily)

“Derek Walcott had many New Yorks, and all of them played a part in his life and in his evolution as a writer.” Caryl Phillips writes on poet and playwright Derek Walcott’s early months in New York City. (New York Review Daily)

“Running the bookstore during the pandemic has felt like triage—months and months of triage.” Emma Straub, the owner of Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, New York, discusses her latest novel, All Adults Here, and the challenges of bookselling during the pandemic. (Electric Literature)

“I was thinking a lot about endings at that time, and starting your life over, and how we as a culture handle grief, or largely try to avoid it.” Karolina Waclawiak on how writing her latest novel, Life Events, helped complicate her understanding of grief. (BOMB)

Waterstones, the British bookstore chain, plans to lay off an undisclosed number of employees at its London Piccadilly head office. (Bookseller)