This Year’s Kirkus Prize Winners, Alex Gino’s Beloved Middle Grade Novel Receives New Title, 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.

The recipients of this year’s Kirkus Prizes, which offer $50,000 to each winning writer, were announced in a virtual ceremony yesterday evening. Joy Williams earned the fiction award for Harrow, Brian Broome received the nonfiction award for Punch Me Up to the Gods, and Christina Soontornvat took home the young readers’ literature award for All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team.

Scholastic has retitled Alex Gino’s middle grade novel George to Melissa, to reflect the name the young trans protagonist chooses for herself. Gino had misgivings about the original title from the outset—the book was first published in 2015—but they told Publishers Weekly, “I didn’t really think I had such control of the title until it was already into production.” The official change was made possible in part by Gino’s recent social media campaign in which they encouraged readers to retitle their copies of the book with a Sharpie.

Jessica Stockton-Bagnulo is now the sole owner of Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, as cofounder Rebecca Fitting has decided to leave the business. “Owning a small business has always been deeply rewarding, but also incredibly challenging, and running Greenlight while parenting through a pandemic has caused me to rethink my personal priorities,” said Fitting. (Publishers Weekly)

“Being a performance poet, I have an opportunity to broaden how people think about poetry because it’s not only on the page, it’s spoken as well.” Shawn Welcome discusses the experience and ambition he will bring to his three-year term as poet laureate of Orlando, Florida. (WMFE)

Five Nigerian writers express both hope and despair about their country’s current state of affairs. “Only one word comes close to describing Nigeria these days and that is uncertain,” says editor Wale Lawal. (Guardian)

Jon Chaiim McConnell reflects on the significance of the title of his debut novella, thrum. “The word itself was actually a late bloomer in the drafting process. But the more I magnified the sensory details of this phenomenon I was trying to describe, the more the threads of the story would cohere around it.” (Rumpus)

“I wanted to show Los Angeles through a lens outside of Hollywood and through the eyes of a Black woman.” Natashia Deón discusses representing Los Angeles in her latest novel, The Perishing. (Los Angeles Times)

Elisabeth Egan of the New York Times writes in praise of inventive author bios.