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.

Contest Looks for Truth—or Fiction—at Twenty-Four Frames a Second

Quiddity, a literary journal out of Benedictine University in Springfield, Illinois, has launched its inaugural contest for a prose book trailer. The biennial competition is open to short films based on both unpublished manuscripts and published books of fiction or creative nonfiction, offering a five-hundred-dollar prize in each category.

Aside from the cash prize, Quiddity will also arrange to promote the winning trailers in the journal and on National Public Radio member station WUIS Springfield, as well as on the Web sites of both. The journal's prose editor David Logan and emerging novelist A. D. Carson will judge.

Authors should submit films of no longer than three minutes in the manuscript category, and publishers or presses should submit entries for published books; entry is free. Complete guidelines and entry forms are available on the Quiddity website.

Entries aren't due until December 10, but a look at Carson's sample trailer below might leave some writers wanting to carve out substantial time to get production just right, or assemble a crew—friends and colleagues are permitted to assist in the trailer's creation. Videos simply featuring authors reading do not qualify for this competition.

Ayelet Waldman on Working With Literary Agent Mary Evans

In honor of Mother's Day, we asked Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, to talk about how she works with her literary agent Mary Evans

You've written an eclectic mix of fiction and nonfiction: mystery novels, literary novels, personal essays, as well as a new foray into television. Does your agent, Mary Evans, play a role in deciding what to write next? Does she offer long-term career advice, encourage or discourage you in taking on the next project?
She's wonderfully encouraging, my biggest cheerleader next to my husband. She's always eager for me to try new things, to stretch my wings in different directions. She's never once said anything like, "Oh the mysteries are working, don't try to write more 'literary' fiction" or "The nonfiction mommy stuff sells well, do more of that." I think she genuinely views her role as facilitating my growth as a writer, even when, on occasion, that means making a less commercial choice.

Agents are notoriously over extended and distracted as they deal with their many clients, or courting editors, answering numerous queries, etc. Do you wait for Mary Evans to contact you, for instance, if she's had a manuscript for a long while with no word? Or do you not hesitate to call or write to check in?
I feel truly blessed. Mary always calls me back right away, and on the very rare occasion where she can't return my call within a couple of hours, she's hugely apologetic. She turns my manuscripts around immediately, usually that same weekend, and certainly within a week or two. I feel comfortable (perhaps too comfortable) checking in about the work she's looking at, about my career in general, about how much I hate the Republican majority in the House.

Daughter's Keeper, published in 2003, your first literary novel, was rejected thirty-one times before finding a publisher. Tell us about Mary Evans's role in seeing that novel to fruition. Did she edit, or suggest rewrites between submissions?
Absolutely. In fact, it's my fault it was rejected so many times, not hers. She very gently suggested from the beginning that I do more work on it before I sent it out, but I was about to give birth and I desperately wanted the novel out the door. Had I done what she said, I probably would have sold the novel a lot earlier. And in the end, of course I had to do the work anyway.

And last, a related question: Does Mary Evans edit your work, either a full manuscript or a nonfiction proposal, before it's sent out to editors? Or does she send it out as is?
I wouldn't feel comfortable sending something out without her practiced eye. She reads everything, comments on everything, and yet doesn't push. She'll read multiple drafts of a novel, even when we're at the stage of things where I'm submitting directly to my editor. I like having her input, and I think she enjoys this part of the job.

Landing a Literary Agent by Going Viral (and Being Funny)

If somehow you're one of the few who missed Richmond, Virginia, attorney David Kazzie's hilarious Xtranormal animation, "So You Want to Write a Novel," that zinged around the Internet a few months back, then watch it right now, but only if you're sitting somewhere where it's appropriate to laugh out loud. It lampoons the vast, blind ambition of certain novice writers, and tickled agents, editors, writers, as well as would-be writers and readers alike. The video, as they say, went viral, and one of the multitude of people who liked it, was Ann Rittenberg, a Manhattan literary agent who represents Dennis Lehane, and who, with Laura Whitcomb, has written a how-to guide called Your First Novel.

Kazzie noticed Rittenberg had linked to his video, and found it particular exciting as he is a huge Dennis Lehane fan. Kazzie and Rittenberg chatted, and it turned out, Kazzie did indeed have an unpublished manuscript, a thriller. Rittenberg liked his sensibility. David Kazzie now has an agent, and, yes, it's Ann Rittenberg.

Bonus: Ann Rittenberg's "The Successful Writer’s Personality" and an interview with David Kazzie. Also, check out more with Ann Rittenberg in Eryn Loeb's article, "Seek and You Shall Sign" in The Poets & Writers Guide to Literary Agents.

Collin Kelley on a Writer's Worth

Collin KelleyP&W-SPONSORED WRITER & PRESENTER: Collin Kelley

For the next few weeks, poet Collin Kelley, author of After the Poison, Slow to Burn, and Better to Travel, and curator of both the Poetry Atlanta reading series and the Georgia Center for the Book reading series will be blogging about his experience as a longtime R/W-sponsored writer and presenter of literary events.

In February 2005, I wrote my first grant approved by Poets & Writers, Inc., when it expanded its Readings/Workshops program to the Atlanta area. The recipient of that grant, Cherryl Floyd-Miller, hadn’t asked for any money, but deserved it for her many years of selfless and uncompensated work as a writer in the city. We had a standing-room-only audience that night at the Barnes & Noble on the Georgia Tech campus, and I was thrilled to be able to put a check in Cherryl’s hand.

Asking a writer to pay airfare, hotel (or sleep on an uncomfortable sofa), and other expenses with no compensation other than the “glory” and “honor” of being asked to read becomes more and more abhorrent to me the longer I’m in the business of words. Even if the writer is just coming from across town, they are giving up their time, paying $3-plus for gas and providing experiences for audiences.

Whether the poet is coming from Boston or Los Angeles (such was the case with January Gill O’Neil and Steven Reigns, respectively) or just around the corner (the newly-crowned Women of the World Poetry Slam champion Theresa Davis or local favorite Karen Head), my belief is that they all deserve to be paid.

Let’s face it: Unless some book-loving heiress has died and bequeathed her fortune, most literary organizations are struggling. And not just because of the recent economic downturn, but since time began. It’s not that people don’t value literature; it’s just often taken for granted as always being there. Writers are usually left in the gray area of trying to balance doing what they love and keeping the lights on in their dens.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Atlanta is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Guggenheim Announces Twenty-Seven Literature Fellows

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation named yesterday the winners of its 2011 fellowships for writers in the United States and Canada. The writers receiving awards, which last year averaged $36,867, are most in the middle stages of their careers, with two or more books published. Award amounts vary based on a writers' individual budget requests.

The fellows are, in poetry:
Peter Campion
Claudia Emerson
Paul Guest
Kimberly Johnson

Eleanor Lerman
Maurice Manning
Bill Porter (translation)
D. A. Powell
A. E. Stallings
Matthew Zapruder
Cynthia Zarin

In fiction:
Bonnie Jo Campbell
Jonathan Dee
Christie Hodgen
Clancy Martin
Valerie Martin
Karen Russell
David Vann
Lara Vapnyar
Brad Watson

In creative nonfiction:
Eula Biss
Mary Cappello
John D’Agata

Rosemary Mahoney
Katherine Russell Rich
Patricia Volk

In the video below, fiction fellow Lara Vapnyar, who emigrated from Moscow in the early nineties, describes her experience as a writer in America.

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