Deadline Extended for Stories on Theme of "Blackness"

Fiction International, a California-based journal emphasizing both literary innovation and progressive politics, has pushed its June 1 contest deadline to August 31. Through the remainder of the summer, the magazine is accepting submissions of short stories on the theme of "Blackness" for a one-thousand-dollar prize, and all entries will be considered for publication.

According to contest coordinator Joel Cox, the theme is "deliberately elastic," encompassing, for instance, "skin; sleep; death; meditation; apocalypse; birds falling from the sky, blanketing the sun; love unloved; the obverse of white."

"Contestants can take 'Blackness' wherever they choose," Cox says. The editors, including final judge Harold Jaffe, "will cede to them."

In the video below, Jaffe presents one of his latest texts, Anti-Twitter: 150 50-Word Stories (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2010) at Google's San Francisco office.

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.

Shteyngart Is First American to Take Wodehouse Prize

New York City author Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story has won the twelfth annual Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize honoring fiction written in the humorous spirit of the prize's namesake, British author P. G. Wodehouse. Judge Peter Florence, director of the Hay Festival—at which the prize was announced—called the novel "great literature" and "wild comedy."

"Shteyngart's writing is thrilling," Florence told the Guardian. "He's a staggeringly clever satirist who manages to create worlds and people of perfect coherence and outrageous misfortune."

Shteyngart's prize is a double magnum of Bollinger champagne, a set of Wodehouse books, and a pig named after his book (the Gloucestershire Old Spot will join a herd that includes fellow swine with names such as Solar, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, and All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses an Eye).

The shortlisted titles this year were Serious Men (John Murray) by Manu Joseph, Comfort and Joy (Penguin) by India Knight, The Coincidence Engine (Bloomsbury) by Sam Leith, and The News Where You Are (Penguin) by Catherine O'Flynn.

Last summer's trailer for Super Sad is below, featuring Jeffrey Eugenides, Mary Gaitskill, Edmund White, Jay McInerney, and Shteyngart's student, James Franco.

Amazon Announces Breakthrough Novel Finalists

Amazon has revealed the three finalists for its novel publication prize, and now the company is asking the public to weigh in. Until June 1, readers can read excerpts of manuscripts by Gregory Hill of Denver, Lucian Morgan of Phoenix, and Phyllis Smith of New York City, as well as reviews by a panel of industry professionals, and vote for their favorite title on the contest website.

Hill is shortlisted for East of Denver, the story of an elderly father and his son who plan a bank robbery to avoid losing their family farm. Morgan's Dog Christ centers on a wheelchair-bound man and the international cast of characters who come through his home, and Smith's I Am Livia bases its cunning protagonist on a figure from history, the wife of Julius Caesar's adopted heir.

The Breakthrough Novel winner receives an advance of fifteen thousand dollars as part of a publishing contract from Penguin. Amazon will announce the winner in Seattle on June 13.

Allison Amend's Unconventional and Partly Unagented Road to Publication

For Allison Amend, author of the story collection Things That Pass for Love and the novel Stations West, the road to publication has been a slightly bumpy one. It has required tenacity and perseverance, coupled with faith in her considerable talent. An Iowa MFA grad, with several prestigious credits, and for at least ten years, no books—she diligently wrote, placed articles and stories, applied for residencies and fellowships, freelanced, taught freshman comp, while her peers openly debated why Allison Amend had not yet published a book. She'd been a finalist or semi-finalist in so many first book award contests she'd stopped listing them on her resume.

In 2004, she finished a historical novel, Stations WestA version of the first chapter had appeared in One Story in 2002. And she landed a big-time agent, who shopped the book to over thirty publishing houses, at first big, and then small. Many editors liked it; some came tantalizingly close to saying yes, but ultimately none offered to publish it. Amend’s agent suggested she put her hard-wrought novel, as they say, in the drawer. Subsequently, she and the agent parted ways. But Amend persisted on her own, finally finding a publisher for her book, despite having no representation. The novel was published in 2010, to critical acclaim, and nominated for the $100,000 Sami Rohr prize. She's now represented by Terra Chalberg at the Susan Golomb Literary Agency. (Terra Chalberg answers reader-submitted questions in The Poets & Writers Guide to Literary Agents.)

Of all authors, Amend knows the pros and cons of working with an agent. In this video, she shares her experience. 

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.

May 19

5.18.11

Write a scene in which two characters who are close (friends, relatives, a couple) are secretly angry at each other about something that has happened in the past. Decide what they are angry about before writing the scene but don't write about it directly. Instead, reveal the tension between them in the dialogue and in the actions involved in accomplishing a mundane task they are doing together, such as moving a couch, setting up a tent, making dinner, or painting a house.

Roth Takes International Booker

The winner has been announced for the fourth biennial Man Booker International Prize, which carries a purse of sixty thousand pounds. For American Philip Roth, who was honored for his lifetime contributions to fiction, that translates to roughly ninety-seven thousand dollars.

Roth's oeuvre—from Goodbye, Columbus (Houghton Mifflin, 1959) to Nemesis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010)—has "stimulated, provoked and amused an enormous, and still expanding, audience," said chair of judges Rick Gekoski. "His imagination has not only recast our idea of Jewish identity, it has also reanimated fiction, and not just American fiction, generally."

A three-time finalist for the international award, Roth was joined on this year's shortlist by U.K. authors John le Carré (whose request to be removed from the shortlist was unsuccessful) and Philip Pullman, Australian David Malouf, Chinese author Su Tong, and Americans Marilynne Robinson and Anne Tyler. Past winners of the prize include Chinua Achebe of Nigeria, Ismail Kadare of Albania, and Alice Munro of Canada.

In the video below, Roth talks about beginning a novel and the years-long process of working on one, and why he doesn't worry about the reader.

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