The Year You Were Born

4.11.13

Write an essay about the year that you were born. Research what was happening politically, socially, and environmentally, both in your town or city and around the world. Place yourself and your family among the events of that year, and try to find out where you fit into the picture of what was happening in the world.

Notes of a Native Son

In the classic essay "Notes of a Native Son," James Baldwin writes about his relationship with his father, against the backdrop of a time of racial violence in America. Write an essay about your relationship with a parent and try to relate it to a larger aspect of the society and culture in which you were raised.

National Book Award Judges Announced, Submissions Open Today

The judges for the 2013 National Book Awards were announced today. For the first time since the 1970s, the judges in each category will include not only writers, but also literary professionals such as editors, professors, and booksellers, in an attempt to broaden the reach of one of the country's most prestigious literary prizes. 

The judges in poetry include Nikky Finney, whose collection Head Off & Split won the 2011 National Book Award; Ada Limón, whose debut collection, Lucky Wreck, won the 2005 Autumn House Poetry Prize; D. A. Powell, who won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for his collection Useless Landscape: A Guide for BoysJahan Ramazani, a professor at the University of Virginia whose book Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Craig Morgan Teicher, the poetry reviews editor for Publishes Weekly whose collection Brenda Is in the Room and Other Poems won the 2007 Colorado Prize for Poetry. 

The judges in fiction include Charles Baxter, who was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2000 for The Feast of LoveGish Jen, the author of four novels and a collection of stories, and an American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow; Charles McGrath, the former editor of the New York Times Book Review and former deputy editor at the New YorkerRick Simonson, who has been a bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Washington, for over thirty-five years; and René Steinke, a 2005 National Book Award finalist for her novel Holy Skirts, and director of the MFA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The judges in nonfiction include Jabari Asim, the author of The N Word and What Obama Means, a former book reviewer for the Washington Post, and an associate professor at Emerson College; André Bernard, vice president and secretary of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; M. G. Lord, author of The Accidental FeministForever Barbie, and Astro Turf, for which she received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant; Lauren Redniss, a finalist for National Book Award in 2011 for Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout; and Eric Sundquist, author and chair of the English Department at Johns Hopkins University.

“The expansion of the judging pool has given us an extraordinary diversity of voices on our panels,” said Harold Augenbraum, the executive director of the National Book Foundation, which sponsors the annual awards. “We expect spirited discussions throughout the process.” 

The judges for this year’s awards will be the first group in the history of the prizes to select a long list of ten titles in each of the four categories, to be announced on September 12. Twenty finalists from the long list will be announced on October 16, and the winners in each category will be announced at the sixty-fourth annual National Book Awards ceremony in New York City on November 20.  

Louise Erdrich took the 2012 award in fiction; David Ferry won in poetry, and Katherine Boo won in nonfiction.

The National Book Awards have been given annually since 1950 for books published in the current award year. Submissions for the 2013 prizes open today. Using the new online submission system, publishers may submit books published between December 1, 2012, and November 30, 2013, until June 3. Visit the website for complete submission guidelines

Open City Creative Nonfiction Fellowship Deadline Approaches

Open City, an online magazine published by the New York City–based Asian American Writers’ Workshop, sponsors five annual fellowships of five thousand dollars each to Asian American creative nonfiction writers in New York City. Fellows will write short-form and long-form pieces focused on the immigrant communities of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, which will be published in Open City. Applications are due April 8.

In addition to the grant money, the Open City Creative Nonfiction Fellows program provides membership and full access, including workspace, to the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in Manhattan, as well as career guidance, editorial feedback, and meetings with publishing professionals. The program seeks emerging writers interested in journalism, Asian American communities, and social issues such as race, culture, immigration, and gentrification. Fellows are expected to write at least one piece each month, including features, profiles, Q&As, and personal essays, to be published in Open City. The yearlong fellowship begins on April 30.

Established in 1991, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop is a national nonprofit arts organization “devoted to the creating, publishing, developing, and disseminating of creative writing by Asian Americans” through various event series and the online magazines Open City and The Margins. Open City “takes the real-time pulse of metropolitan Asian America as it’s being lived on the streets of New York right now. We tell the stories of the Asian and immigrant neighborhoods that comprise one million New Yorkers and 13 percent of the city, but that rarely find their way to mainstream media.” For complete guidelines and application form, and to learn more about the Asian American Writers' Workshop, visit the website.

In the video below, current Open City Creative Nonfiction Fellows Rishi Nath, Sukjong Hong, and Humera Afridi discuss their experiences in the fellowship program. 

What's Your Timeline?

3.14.13

Create a timeline that marks the major events of your life. Analyze it, looking for patterns or events that led to a series of others. Based on what you see, write an essay that explores one period of time—it could be a year, two years, a decade, or more. Think about how that time period informs the narrative of your life that you present to your friends, family, and acquaintances.

D.A. Powell, Ben Fountain Win National Book Critics Circle Awards

Last night, during a ceremony at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium in New York City, the National Book Critics Circle announced the recipients of its book awards for publishing year 2012. 

D. A. Powell won in poetry for Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys (Graywolf); Ben Fountain won in fiction for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ecco); and Andrew Solomon won in nonfiction for Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Scribner).

Leanne Shapton won the autobiography award for Swimming Studies (Blue Rider Press); Robert A. Caro won the biography award with The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Knopf); and Marina Warner won the criticism award for Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights (Belknap Press). 

The winners were chosen by a panel of established literary critics from a list of thirty finalists announced this past January. The shortlist in poetry included David Ferry for Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (University of Chicago Press); Lucia Perillo for On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths (Copper Canyon Press); Allan Peterson for Fragile Acts (McSweeney’s Books); and A. E. Stallings for Olives (Triquarterly). The finalists in fiction were Laurent Binet for HHhH, translated by Sam Taylor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Adam Johnson for The Orphan Master’s Son (Random House); Lydia Millet for Magnificence (W. W. Norton); and Zadie Smith for NW (The Penguin Press). 

The annual National Book Critics Circle awards are given for books published in the previous year. For more information about the awards, visit the NBCC website.

In the video below, watch the finalists read from their work at last night’s ceremony.   

National Book Critics Circle Finalists Announced

The finalists for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced today. Of the thirty finalists, one winner in each of the six categories will be selected this February to receive the prestigious literary prize. 

The finalists in poetry are David Ferry for Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (University of Chicago Press), Lucia Perillo for On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths (Copper Canyon Press), Allan Peterson for Fragile Acts (McSweeney’s Books), D. A. Powell for Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys (Graywolf Press), and A. E. Stallings for Olives (Triquarterly).

The finalists in fiction are Laurent Binet for HHhH, translated by Sam Taylor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Ben Fountain for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ecco), Adam Johnson for The Orphan Master’s Son (Random House), Lydia Millet for Magnificence (W. W. Norton), and Zadie Smith for NW (Penguin Press).

The finalists in autobiography are Reyna Grande for The Distance Between Us (Atria Books), Maureen N. McLane for My Poets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), the late Anthony Shadid for House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Leanne Shapton for Swimming Studies (Blue Rider Press), and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o for In the House of the Interpreter (Pantheon).

For a complete list of finalists, including those in the additional categories of general nonfiction, biography, and criticism, and for profiles of each author, visit the National Book Critics Circle Tumblr page or the official blog of the NBCC, Critical Mass.

The National Book Critics Circle Awards—the only national prizes selected by a panel of established literary critics—have been given annually since 1976 for books published in the United States in the previous year. The NBCC also honors one of its member critics with the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and awards the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award for a distinguished author, editor, publisher, or literary institution, each year.

The winners of the 2012 awards will be announced on Thursday, February 28 at a ceremony at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium in New York City. A finalists reading will be held on February 27. 

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