National Book Awards Add Book App to Nominees

The National Book Awards, a literary institution for more than sixty years, broke through their traditional submission guidelines recently, accepting for the first time an exclusively electronic book as a nominee. According to National Book Foundation (NBF) executive director Harold Augenbraum, although the rules stipulate that eligible books must be printable on paper—and the app in question, designed for the iPad, contains features such as graphics and video—the foundation reviews its guidelines annually, and broadening them to include e-books may be a natural next step.

"I wonder whether the tablet reader will lend itself to a new phase in the type of literary abstraction," Augenbraum told book culture website inReads, noting that the nominated app "combines text, graphics, and video in a seamless story. That will have an effect on the way we read. There will be people who will only want to read text, or watch video, and then there will be combinations."

Among the other books nominated for this year's awards are 191 poetry collections, 311 novels, and 441 nonfiction books.

For more of Augenbraum's behind-the-scenes perspective on the National Book Awards, check out the full interview at inReads. And stay tuned this fall as the NBF whittles down its list of nominees; the finalists for the ten-thousand-dollar prizes will be announced on October 12.

SMITH Wants Your Boss, in Brief

Last month, we reported on SMITH magazine's six-word memoir contest Six Words About Work, which launched with the theme My Job (or, "Why I do what I do"). For the next eight days, the magazine is accepting entries on a new topic: bosses—and not just any bosses, but the best bosses ever.

Like inaugural contest winner Mindy Getch, whose My Job memoir, "Who doesn't love the payroll lady," rose above more than four thousand entries, the winner of the boss-themed contest will receive as a prize her choice of an iPad2 or a BlackBerry PlayBook. The prizes are cosponsored by the consulting firm Mercer.

Today's featured memoir comes from Elisa Shevitz: "The CEO knew every intern's name." Other entries, which appear on the SMITH website, include, "Peter Pan complex, together we regress," "Said, 'If he goes, I go,'" and "Verbal pugilist, he's still my dad."

On August 13 the contest will refresh with a new theme. Until then, boss-related entries can be published (with no fee) directly to the contest page.

Kingsolver Honored for Peace Work

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize committee announced today that its first Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award will be given to novelist and nonfiction writer Barbara Kingsolver. The ten-thousand-dollar prize, formerly known as the Lifetime Achievement Award but renamed to honor the late U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, celebrates an author for a body of work that promotes peace and understanding.

Kingsolver is the author of, most recently, The Lacuna (Harper, 2009), a novel examining the relationship between Mexico and the United States. Among her other works are the memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (HarperCollins, 2007), coauthored with her husband and daughter, and the novels The Poisonwood Bible (HarperFlamingo, 1998) and The Bean Trees (Harper and Row, 1988).

The author will receive her award on November 13 at a ceremony in Dayton, Ohio, the site of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords. The finalists for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, given annually for a book of fiction and a book of nonfiction, will be revealed later this month, and the winners will be honored alongside Kingsolver.

In the video below, Kingsolver discusses nationhood, news and gossip, and schadenfreude in The Lacuna, which won the 2010 Orange Prize.

Olga Garcia Remembers Bakersfield

Poet Olga Garcia, author of Falling Angels: Cuentos y Poemas and the chapbook Lovely Little Creatures, blogs about her experience facilitating a P&W-supported workshop at Southwest Bakersfield Library in Bakersfield, California.

When the California Center for the Book's David Gernand first connected me with Southwest Bakersfield Library to facilitate a memoir writing workshop, I had a sudden flashback.

When I was eight, my parents packed all five of us kids into an old, avocado-green station wagon and drove us to Bakersfield to pick onions. Once there, we toiled in the vicious heat, snapping enormous green scissors, filling coarse brown sacks with dusty white onions. One foreman came by every so often to halfheartedly shoo us kids off the field. Within minutes after he disappeared, we’d run back to our parents to help with the onion picking or the dragging of sacks that inevitably grew heavier with each added onion.

We were supposed to work the fields for several weeks that summer, but at night while we camped out and fought over the bare mattress laid out at the back of the station wagon, we beseeched our parents to take us home. The smell of onions permeated our clothes, skin, and hair. It burned our eyes and lingered on our tongues. After a few days, my father shook his head in defeat, saying we were the worst workers he had ever seen. As we drove out of Bakersfield, we waved goodbye to the onion fields from the rear window, promising never to return.

Thirty-three years later I’m in Bakersfield again, standing before a group of workshop participants at Southwest Library. It’s a small, ethnically diverse group of nine and their ages range from twelve to sixty. Some of them have aspirations of memoir writing; others have come simply to practice writing. I share my onion story as a means to discuss memoir writing (how place, sound, smell, and taste trigger snapshots of what we’ve lived). We do several exercises to probe into the personal stories archived in their bodies.

One exercise asks participants to write about a memorable place. Another asks them to use one of Sandra Cisneros’s vignettes as a springboard to write about their names. Both exercises produce intimate recollections, and it is through the sharing of these intimate recollections that we connect with one another.

Maria, the library branch supervisor, reveals a long-kept secret. “Well, you see,” she says “my name isn’t actually Maria.” The name was given to her by a group of Catholic nuns in the Philippines and it stuck. A great beginning to a memoir. Maritza, from Guadalajara, Mexico, was named after a character in a Brazilian soap opera. And Gene, the middle-aged man whose Mexican parents didn’t speak a word of English, was named after Gene Autry, the American performer known as the "Singing Cowboy." As Gene shares his story, his wife leans into him and mumbles, “I never knew that.”

Photo: Olga Garcia. Credit: Weenobee.com.

Major support for Readings/Workshops events in California is provided by The James Irvine Foundation. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Guardian Seeks Suggestions for Debut Book Prize

Earlier this month the Guardian revealed the one hundred thirty-six nominees for its annual First Book Award, posing the question, "what have we missed?" After inviting readers to suggest fiction and nonfiction titles not yet entered by publishers—who must pay an entry fee of one hundred fifty pounds (nearly two hundred fifty dollars) to submit each title—the newspaper collected more than a hundred responses, but the forum for discussion is still open.

On Monday the Guardian posted responses from a group of literary bloggers weighing in on the question. Asylum's John Self named Teju Cole's novel, Open City (Random House) as his missing title, and Bookslut's Jessa Crispin suggested Vanessa Veselka's novel, Zazen, and nonfiction title Who Is Anna Mendieta? by Christine Redfern and Caro Caron (Feminist Press), among others. Nic Bottomley of Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Delights and Jonathan Ruppin of Foyles both called out the novel Snowdrops by A. D. Miller (Atlantic Books).

Fictionbitch blogger Elizabeth Baines, looking for "books that don't fit the conception of the 'market' but, with the oxygen of a prize win, have the power to capture readers' imaginations and indeed change the terms of the market," selected as one of her titles James Franco's "brilliantly written" story collection Palo Alto, published by Faber in the United Kingdom and Scribner in the United States.

For the bloggers' full lists and to offer your own nominations, visit the Guardian's website. The long- and shortlists for the prize, worth ten thousand pounds (roughly sixteen thousand dollars), will be rolled out in the coming months, with a winner announced in the late fall.

A Challenge of Six for Your Fourth

This summer SMITH Magazine is bringing writers another of its famed challenges in literary brevity. Amidst this weekend's celebrations of liberty from it, perhaps now's the perfect time to reflect on the contest theme—work—using six words exactly.

From now until Labor Day, a new sub-theme will be introduced every two weeks, and writers are invited to enter their six-word memoir on that particular aspect of work on the SMITH website. This week's competition, judged by The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin, asks, "Why do you do what you do?" (Some recent entries: "Who doesn't love the payroll lady?" and "I can work in my slippers.")

There is no fee to enter, and the magazine is partnering with Mercer, a human resources firm, to offer the winner of each two-week-long challenge an iPad2 or Blackberry Playbook. All entries will also be considered for a Six Words About Work book. For more information, to read entries, and to submit your own, visit the contest web page.

U.K.'s Second Oldest Literary Prize Is Suspended

A nearly seventy-year-old literary award that honored works in all genres by young, emerging writers is buckling under the pressure of budget woes. Booktrust, the organization that has for the past nine years sponsored the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, given since 1942 to writers under the age of thirty-five, announced earlier this week that government funding cuts forced it to revamp its program portfolio, shuttering the awardat least for 2011.

The prize, according to author Margaret Drabble, who won the award in 1966 and lamented its loss in the Guardian, is "one of the most romantic and distinguished of prizes," more so than the oldest major U.K. award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, or the Booker. The five-thousand-pound award (roughly eight thousand dollars) is given to writers "at the outset of their careers, when a sign of approval means much more than it does in their cynical, competitive, commercial later years."

The 2009 winner, Evie Wyldwho won for her novel, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice (Pantheon)says the award "gave me a platform to work off, and I'm not sure I'd be in the position I am in now, had the Rhys not brought such a large amount of attention with it," including radio appearances and articles. Among the other poets and prose writers who have taken the prize in the past are Angela Carter, Andrew Motion, V. S. Naipaul, and Jeanette Winterson.

Booktrust, which is pursuing alternate avenues for maintaining the prize, told the Guardian it hopes to bring the Rhys "back with a bang as soon as possible," possibly even in 2012.

In the video below, Wyld reads from her winning book, a "romantic thriller about men who aren't talking."

Moby Awards Fete Excellence, and Awfulness, in Literary Video

Last night in Brooklyn the Moby Awards, sponsored by indie press Melville House, celebrated the best, worst, and weirdest of last year's book trailers. A panel of critics, editors, and other lit types representing the Huffington Post, McNally Jackson Books, the Millions, GoodReads, and more selected the following to receive the honorary golden sperm whale.

Lifetime Achievement Award
Ron Charles for his Totally Hip Video Book Review Series for the Washington Post

Grand Jury/We’re Giving You This Award Because Otherwise You’d Win Too Many Other Awards
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Book Trailer as Stand Alone Art Object
How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley

Best Small House
Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer

Best Big House
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Worst Performance by an Author
Jonathan Franzen in his Freedom trailer

Most Celebtastic Performance
James Franco in the trailer for Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story 

Worst Small / No House
Pirates: The Midnight Passage by James R. Hannibal

Worst Big House
Savages by Don Winslow

What Are We Doing To Our Children?
It’s A Book by Lane Smith

General Technical Excellence and Courageous Pursuit of Gloriousness
Electric Literature, including the below short "Can a Book Save Your Life?"

Most Monkey Sex
Bonobo Handshake by Vanessa Woods

Worst Soundtrack
Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley

Most Angelic Angel Falling to Earth
Teen tome Torment by Lauren Kate

Most Conflicted (we published the book but the trailer is sooo good!)
The Beaufort Diaries by T Cooper


 

A New Bread Loaf Rises in Italy

by
Jennifer De Leon
5.1.11

This September Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference will expand its workshop from the historic Bread Loaf Inn in Middlebury, Vermont, to the Italian island of Sicily, with a condensed program of classes in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Adam Haslett and Eileen Myles Among Lammy Winners

The twenty-third annual Lambda Literary Awards were announced last night in New York City. Coinciding with this year's Book Expo America, the awards event brought out over four hundred attendees in celebration of LGBT literature.

Adam Haslett was honored for his novel, Union Atlantic (Nan A. Talese), the follow-up to his story collection, You Are Not a Stranger Here (Doubleday, 2002), a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Eileen Myles, author of more than a dozen books and chapbooks of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, won the award in lesbian fiction for Inferno (A Poet's Novel) (OR Books).

Anna Swanson and Brian Teare took the prizes in poetry, Swanson for her debut collection, The Nights Also (Tightrope Books), and Teare for Pleasure (Ahsahta Press). Two novelists won in debut fiction, Amber Dawn for Sub Rosa (Arsenal Pulp Press) and David Pratt for Bob the Book (Chelsea Station Editions). The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet (Harper Perennial) by Myrlin Hermes won in bisexual fiction, and Holding Still For as Long as Possible (House of Anansi Press) by Zoe Whittall received the transgender fiction prize.

Barbara Hammer and Julie Marie Wade were also recognized for their memoirs, Hammer! Making Movies Out of Sex and Life (Feminist Press) and Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures (Colgate University Press), respectively. A complete list of winners, including honorees in drama, anthology, and young adult literature, is posted on the Lambda Literary website.

In the video below, fiction winner Haslett presents a dramatic reading of passages from Union Atlantic.

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