July 21

7.21.11

Create a main character assigning basic characteristics, such as gender, age, and physical attributes. Imagine this character having dinner with three other people. At the end of this dinner, the character will have lost something significant—a job, a partner, a home. Write this scene at dinner, and then use it as a turning point for a larger story

Self-Taught Poet Among 2011 Pew Fellows

The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage in Philadelphia has announced its 2011 fellows in the arts. Poets CAConrad and Pattie McCarthy are among the twelve Philadelphia-area artists, musicians, and innovators awarded sixty-thousand-dollar fellowships.

Conrad, who has lived in Philadelphia for twenty-five years, is a self-taught writer for whom "poetry and other art disciplines are forms of courage.” Innovator of a type of writing he calls "(Soma)tic poetry""instructions and recipes that invite the reader-listener into deeply embodied experiences," Conrad is the author of six books including The Book of Frank (Chax Press, 2009), The City Real & Imagined (Factory School, 2010), Advanced Elvis Course (Soft Skull Press, 2009), (Soma)tic Midge (Faux Press, 2008), and Deviant Propulsion (Soft Skull Press, 2006). His latest, (Soma)tic Poetry Exercises & Poems, is forthcoming from Wave Books this fall.

McCarthy studied creative writing at Temple University, where she earned her M.A. in 1998. Experimenting with language and narrative, her collections include Table Alphabetical of Hard Words (2010), Verso (2004), and bk of (h)rs (2002), all published by Apogee Press, and she is currently at work on a project involving various Marys of history and fiction (from the Virgin Mary to Marys who figured into the Salem Witch Trials, for instance).

The awards, now in their twentieth year, are given to Philadelphia-area artists and writers at any stage in their careers. While there is an entry process for nominees, those who may apply for the annual fellowships are selected by an anonymous panel familiar with artists working in the region.

In the video below, Conrad reads from his most recent collection, The Book of Frank.

July 14

7.13.11

Choose a unique historical moment, the first that comes to mind: the Crimean War, the first lunar landing, the invention of the wheel, or something seemingly less dramatic, such as the building of the first traffic light. Then spend some time researching the moment you chose—dig into a few sources, make a page of notes. Create a character who lives on the periphery of the event—a witness or minor player, yet someone living at the intersection of history. The character can be swept up by the event or remotely affected, battle against it or be its biggest cheerleader. Write his or her story.

Cornell Fellow Wins Caine Prize for African Writing

The Caine Prize for African Writing, a major award given annually for a single short story written in English by an African writer, has been awarded to Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo, the pseudonym of Cornell University instructor Elizabeth Tshele. Since earning her MFA at Cornell, Tshele has remained with the university teaching composition and creative writing under the Truman Capote Fellowship.

The ten thousand pound prize (approximately sixteen thousand dollars) was awarded for the story "Hitting Budapest," published in the November/December 2010 issue of Boston Review. Tshele received her award at a ceremony in Oxford, England, yesterday.

"The language of ‘Hitting Budapest’ crackles," said chair of judges Hisham Matar. "This is a story with moral power and weight, it has the artistry to refrain from moral commentary. NoViolet Bulawayo is a writer who takes delight in language."

Also shortlisted for the award were Tim Keegan of South Africa for "What Molly Knew," Lauri Kubuitsile of Botswana for "In the spirit of McPhineas Lata," Beatrice Lamwaka of Uganda for "Butterfly dreams," and David Medalie of South Africa for "The Mistress’s Dog." All of the finalists' pieces originally appeared in story collections.

Fifty-Six-Year-Old Debut Novelist Wins Major Australian Prize

The Australian Prime Minister's Literary Awards were announced yesterday, recognizing noteworthy Australian novels and the "efforts and sacrifices" of their writers. Prime Minister Julia Gillard presented the award for fiction to New Zealand native Stephen Daisley, whose debut novel, Traitor, was released last year by Text Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Australia.

Daisley, who now lives in Perth, Australia, received eighty thousand Australian dollars (roughly eighty-six thousand U.S. dollars), an award which the fifty-six-year-old author says will help his family "survive a bit more." The author, who worked without publication for twenty years, told the Sydney Morning Herald that he persevered with his work because writing is his "bliss."

The shortlisted novelists were each awarded five thousand Australian dollars (about five thousand four hundred U.S. dollars). They are Roberta Lowing for Notorious (Allen & Unwin), Roger McDonald for When Colts Ran (Random House), David Musgrave for Glissando: A Melodrama (Sleepers Publishing), and Kim Scott for That Deadman Dance (Macmillan).

Russian Author Yet to Be Translated in U.S. Wins International Literature Prize

The German Haus der Kulturen der Welt has awarded its twenty-five-thousand-euro (roughly thirty-five-thousand-dollar) International Literature Award to Russian writer Mikhail Schischkin for his novel Venushaar (Maiden's Hair). The novel, which has won several awards in Russia but took seven years to make its way into translation in Germany—and remains untranslated in the United States—was selected for the prize from among over one hundred books translated from twenty-four languages and originating in fifty countries.

Among the finalists for the prize, which honors translations of books from any language into German, were Haitian American author Edwidge Danticat for the translation of her memoir Brother, I'm Dying, which was published by Knopf in the United States in 2007; Elias Khoury for Yalo, originally written in Arabic and released in English by Archipelago Books in 2008; and Mathias Énard for Zone, translated from the French and published last December in English by Open Letter. A list of all the finalists and their German publishers is available on the prize website.

The jury, comprised of editors, translators, critics, and authors, called Schischkin a "wordsmith of the highest order" who has "developed a unique form of novel" and "plays with
perspectives and settings, with the most diverse verbal registers and stylistic positions." His translator, Andreas Tretner of Berlin, who has been translating works from the Russian, Czech, and Bulgarian since the mid-eighties, was also praised for "finding a German lid for every Russian pot."

July 7

Think about an incident from your life—something especially monumental, unexpected, or traumatic that altered the way you see the world. Write a story or essay about it, but from someone else’s perspective. You can appear as a character in the story, but explore it from outside of yourself, as an event that happened, but not one that happened to you.

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."

June 23

6.22.11

Track down what's referred to as "the Flitcraft parable" or "the Falling Beams story" in Dashiell Hammett's novel The Maltese Falcon. Read it first as a period piece, but then try to bring it closer to your world. Focus on that devastating final line of the story, "He adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them not falling." Read that sentence over and over again, and allow yourself to feel the promise and the terror contained within the sentence—the promise of change, the terror of sameness. Now begin a story using that sentence and see where it leads you.
This week's fiction prompt comes from Siddhartha Deb, author of the novels The Point of Return (HarperCollins, 2002) andAn Outline of the Republic (Ecco, 2005). His book of nonfiction, The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India, will be published in August by Faber and Faber.

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