Jerusalem Prize Honors Literature of the Individual

The International Jerusalem Book Fair has announced the twenty-fifth winner of the ten-thousand-dollar Jerusalem Prize, given biennially since 1963. Novelist and short story writer Ian McEwan will be given the award honoring "freedom of the individual in society" at the festival this February.

"McEwan’s protagonists struggle for their right to give personal expression to their ideas and to live according to those ideas in an environment of political and social turmoil," the prize jury said in a statement. "His obvious affection for them, and the compelling manner in which he describes their struggle, make him one of the most important writers of our time. His books have been translated into many languages and have enjoyed world-wide success—particularly in Israel, where he is one of the most widely-read of foreign authors."

McEwan, who lives in London, joins previous honorees—all male with the exception of Simone de Beauvoir and Susan Sontag—including Jorge Luis Borges, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Haruki Murakami. Author of the Booker Prize–winning novels On Chesil Beach (Nan A. Talese, 2007) and Amsterdam (Nan A. Talese, 1999), his most recent novel is Solar (Nan A. Talese, 2010).

In the video below, McEwan discusses his latest work.

A Look at the Emerging Writer Fellowships

The Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland, just a few miles north of Washington, D.C., home to writing workshops and resources for area writers also offers a number of reading fellowships to poets and prose writers in the early stages of their careers. Fellows receive an honorarium and a slot to read at Story/Stereo, a fusion of live music and literature in performance that was attended by roughly seven hundred listeners in its first year, 2009.

Story/Stereo's fall season opens tonight, featuring California-based poet Allison Benis White, whose poetry collection Self-Portrait With Crayon won the Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize in 2008, and fiction writer Aryn Kyle of New York City, author of a short story collection, Boys and Girls Like You and Me (Scribner, 2010), and a novel, The God of Animals (Scribner, 2007). Benis White and Kyle will be accompanied by musician John Davis at the event, which begins at 8 PM.

Other fellows selected for the fall are poet Jenny Browne (The Second Reason) and memoirist Debra Gwartney (Live Through This: A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters), who will read on October 8, and poet Alison Pelegrin (Big Muddy River of Stars) and fiction writer Doreen Baingana (Tropical Fish: Stories Out of Entebbe), set to perform on November 5.

The fellows are chosen by a panel of the center's board members, community representatives, and workshop leaders. In the first two seasons of the program, the winners were seven men and five women, half of whom had published only one book, and the other half two. Five fellows were writers of color.

Kyle Semmel, the center's publications and communications manager, says the organization is looking to bring in emerging writers from across the country. (Fellows who live more than 250 miles from Bethesda receive an honorarium of five hundred dollars and local writers receive half that amount.) The deadline for writers nationwide to submit work for spring 2011 consideration is September 30.

In the video below, tonight's featured writer Aryn Kyle reads the first part of an essay at the Franklin Park Reading Series in Brooklyn, New York, about her experience on a book tour (and dating another writer at the time). Subsequent scenes from the reading are posted on YouTube.

Nine Emerging Writers Snag Fifty Grand Award

The winners of this year’s fifty-thousand-dollar Whiting Writers' Awards, given to promising writers nominated by established authors and literary professionals across the United States, were announced last night at a ceremony in New York City. This marks the twenty-fifth year of the prizes, which have bolstered the early careers of luminaries including Jorie Graham, Denis Johnson, Alice McDermott, David Foster Wallace, and C. D. Wright.

The winning poets are Matt Donovan, author of the collection Vellum (Mariner Books, 2007); Jane Springer, author of Dear Blackbird (University of Utah Press, 2007); and L. B. Thompson, whose chapbook is Tendered Notes (Center for Book Arts, 2003). The fiction winners are Michael Dahlie, author of the novel A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living (Norton, 2008); Rattawut Lapcharoensap, author of the short story collection Sightseeing (Grove Press, 2004); and Lydia Peelle, author of the story collection Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing (Harper Perennial, 2009). The nonfiction winners are Elif Batuman, author of The Possessed, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux last February; Amy Leach, whose essay collection about animals, plants, and stars is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2012; and Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, author of the memoir When Skateboards Will Be Free (The Dial Press, 2009).

Six of the winners hold MFAs—from New York University, University of Iowa’s nonfiction program, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, and Washington University—and two hold doctorate degrees. Among the magazines that have published multiple winners’ works are Granta, the New Yorker, and Orion. Full biographies on the winners are posted on the Web site of the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, sponsor of the awards.

In the video below, creative nonfiction winner Sayrafiezadeh reveals a dirty little literary secret.

Literary MagNet

Literary MagNet chronicles the start-ups and closures, successes and failures, anniversaries and accolades, changes of editorship and special issues—in short, the news and trends—of literary magazines in America. This issue's MagNet features Pleiades, Nashville Review, Sycamore Review, One Story, the Oxford American, the Awakenings Review, Fairy Tale Review, and Bound Off.

 

An Interview With Creative Nonfiction Writer Augusten Burroughs

by
Litsa Dremousis
10.5.04

"I believe I control the world with my mind," Augusten Burroughs writes in the title essay of his new collection, Magical Thinking: True Stories. And who’s to say he doesn’t? Having survived a tumultuous childhood and an early career as an advertising copywriter while struggling with alcoholism, Burroughs—now a bestselling author—has indeed controlled his world. Magical Thinking is his fourth book in as many years, taking its place alongside Sellevision, his satirical novel about cable television’s home shopping networks, and his memoirs, Running With Scissors and Dry.

Imperative: The Pressure to Be Exotic

by
Azita Osanloo
9.1.06

Let me be the last—the absolute dead last—to point out that we're in the midst of a memoir craze. My favorite form of procrastination used to be computer solitaire, but now I prefer to chat on the phone with my writing friends and discuss the ongoing boom in autobiographical literature. We speculate like housing developers prognosticating on the real estate market. Will the bubble pop? Will prices continue to rise? Will market trends ever again veer toward literary fiction?

Four Memoirists Find an I in Team

by
Anna Mantzaris
11.1.06

Last year a total of 172,000 books were published in the United States. Although that number reflects a 10 percent decrease from the previous year, it's easy to see how any one book could get lost in the shuffle—especially if it's one among the many memoirs being published every season. With the idea that there's strength in numbers, four memoirists who published books earlier this year have joined forces to promote their titles, developing a community of like-minded authors—and fostering emerging writers—along the way.

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