Saturday, March 3, 2018

Video of The Story Prize Event: Daniel Alarcón, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Elizabeth Strout (the Winner)

What the Judges Had to Say About Elizabeth Strout's Anything Is Possible

photo © Beowulf Sheehan
When the three judges for The Story Prize make their choices, they provide citations for the books. This year's judges were Susan Minot, Walton Muyumba, and Stephanie Sendaula. We include the citations in congratulatory letters we present to each finalist, along with their checks ($20,000 to the winner, $5,000 to the other two finalists). To protect the confidentiality of the judges' votes and the integrity of the process, we don't attribute citations to any particular judge.
“Elizabeth Strout is a bewitching writer. What does she do that is so stunning? Her stories are quiet and straightforward and then they thwack you on the back of your head. The intelligent prose is seemingly humble but elegant in its subtlety and enchanting in its overall effect. Her wit has such a sharp blade you barely feel it until after the slice. She is a specialist in the reticence of people, and her characters are compelling because of the complexity of their internal lives, and the clarity with which that complexity is depicted. It is a sublime pleasure to read her, whether she draws you into a relatively undramatic scenario or a situation in which the stakes are high. Elizabeth Strout weaves her tales gracefully and you don’t know how deep she is going until you are suddenly overcome. She makes you feel. And then she makes you think, about nothing less than who we are and how we live our lives.”

“Anything is Possible is one of those books that stays with you long after you've finished reading. Strout has a gift with words, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the lives of her rural Illinois characters. Each of them leaves a haunting and lasting impression, from the Barton siblings to the Nicely sisters. A worthwhile collection on love, loss, family, and the concept of home.”

Friday, March 2, 2018

What the Judges Had to Say About Ottessa Moshfegh's Homesick for Another World

photo © Beowulf Sheehan
When the three judges for The Story Prize make their choices, they provide citations for the books. This year's judges were Susan Minot, Walton Muyumba, and Stephanie Sendaula. We include the citations in congratulatory letters we present to each finalist, along with their checks ($20,000 to the winner, $5,000 to the other two finalists). To protect the confidentiality of the judges' votes and the integrity of the process, we don't attribute citations to any particular judge.
“Ottessa Moshfegh’s Homesick for Another World is hilarious and humane. In punchy, terse, sparkling sentences, Moshfegh creates fictional zones that span the globe—from Japan, China, Ukraine, New York, to California. She’s interested in human foibles that ‘translate’ across zones rather than identifying the local particulars of any place.

“Peopled by odd, beautiful, delusional characters, Moshfegh’s stories examine how humans attempt to dull their various anxieties, emotional and existential, with drugs, bad amorous arrangements, and wondrously debauched, disgusting (as one character puts it) sex. But none of this is cheap or tawdry. In Moshfegh’s hands, sex, sexuality, and sexual desire open the characters up, especially the men imagined here, for closer examination.

“Many of the women in these stories own their bodies forcefully, experiencing sexual pleasure as deeply private and personally empowering. But several men here, with embarrassing lack of self-awareness, tout their ‘beautiful’ bodies loudly or probe for sex inelegantly. Moshfegh burns open this masculine bluster with laser incisiveness, revealing its soft core: self-defeating self-aggrandizement. For the reader, these revelations will trigger out-loud laughter. But the author never mocks the characters in Homesick for Another World. Instead, Moshfegh delivers these truths with brilliant, stinging, ironic humor and sensitive care for her characters.”


What the Judges Had to Say About Daniel Alarcón's The King Is Always Above the People

photo © Beowulf Sheehan
When the three judges for The Story Prize make their choices, they provide citations for the books. This year's judges were Susan Minot, Walton Muyumba, and Stephanie Sendaula. We include the citations in congratulatory letters we present to each finalist, along with their checks ($20,000 to the winner, $5,000 to the other two finalists). To protect the confidentiality of the judges' votes and the integrity of the process, we don't attribute citations to any particular judge.
“Alarcón demonstrates mastery of a variety of narrative strategies, voices, and tones in these stories, which tackle issues of individual and national identity, displacement, and migration. His restless male protagonists seem self-aware but also remain somewhat mysterious at their core, often acting intuitively or passively accepting whatever befalls them, seemingly paralyzed by the choices they face while, paradoxically, actively seeking to reinvent themselves. Rich, subtle, and layered, The King Is Always Above the People is a beautifully written collection of great depth, cultural resonance, and lasting value.”

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Elizabeth Strout's Anything Is Possible is the 14th Winner of The Story Prize

photo © Beowulf Sheehan
We're pleased to announce that Elizabeth Strout's Anything Is Possible (Random House) is the winner of The Story Prize for books published in 2017. The other finalists this year were authors Daniel Alarcón for The King Is Always Above the People (Riverhead Books) and Ottessa Moshfegh for Homesick for Another World (Penguin Press). At the event at The New School, all three finalists read from and discussed their work on-stage. Strout received $20,000 and an engraved silver bowl. As runners-up, Alarcón and Moshfegh each received $5,000.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Strout and Random House!

In the days and weeks to come, we'll post the judges' citations for the three books, photos from the event and after party, and a link to the video.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Chalk Talk: The Story Prize Event on Feb. 28


Here's an advanced look at the program cover for The Story Prize event on Feb. 28, co-sponsored by the Creative Writing program at The New School. As always, everyone who attends will get an eight-page, full color booklet (designed by Steven J. Charny). You'll also get to see the finalists—listed on the faux bookstore chalkboard above—read from and discuss their work onstage before Julie Lindsey announces the winner.

Tickets are $14, available online (with a small added fee) or the night of the event at The New School box office (66 W. 12th St.). Also, bookseller McNally Jackson will be selling signed copies of the finalists' books.

We're excited about hosting Daniel Alarcón, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Elizabeth Strout and hope to see you there.

Monday, January 29, 2018

An Index of 2017 Author Guest Posts

Posts with the most: Karen Shepard, Louise Marburg, Geeta Kothari

Last year, for the sixth straight year, we invited every author of a book entered for The Story Prize to contribute a guest post to this blog. Forty-seven of them chose to participate. Since 2010, the TSP blog has featured 499 guest posts from 482 different writers (some have contributed in more than one year).

According to Blogger's statistics, most 2017 author guest posts received 400 or more page views. The most popular post, "Karen Shepard: How to Make Intermittent and Erratic Progress as a Writer, in Twenty-Eight Easy Steps," has so far drawn more than 4,500 page views—the sixth most of any TSP blog post. "Antonya Nelson's Ten Writing Rules," the post with the most all-time views, currently has more than 14,000 of them.

The 2017 author contributions with the second and third most hits were "Louise Marburg Offers Ten Pieces of Writing Advice," with nearly 1,200 page views, and "Geeta Kothari Takes Her Time," with more than 1,000 page views to date.

The two posts with the largest Facebook reach were "Edie Meidav Urges You to Fail" and "Describe Your Reading Habits: An Interview with Deb Olin Unferth."

Many of these offer insights into the writing process or practical advice, serving as mini craft talks. Others get more personal. And several are simply very funny. Here then is this year's complete index, in alphabetical order by last name.

A-C
Jacob M. Appel on Being a Good Literary Citizen
Josh Barkan Starts with Oddities
Emily Bieniek's New Year’s Resolution: To Devalue the Hero’s Journey
Jennifer Caloyeras Reluctantly Joins the Family Business
Olivia Clare on Accountability
Lee Conell on Spotting the Extraordinary Among the Ordinary

Daisy Johnson Plows Ahead
Jeffrey N. Johnson Builds on His Training
Siel Ju and the Suitable State of Mind
Michael Knight on a Literary Touchstone
Geeta Kothari Takes Her Time

L-O
Matthew Lansburgh Finds Time to Feed His Soul
Peter LaSalle: The Short Story vs. the Novel
Becky Mandelbaum's Four Simple Pieces of Advice
Louise Marburg Offers Ten Pieces of Writing Advice
The Drawings on Juan Martinez's Office Door
Edie Meidav Urges You to Fail
Timothy O'Leary Weaves Fact Into Fiction
Adam O'Riordan and the Impulse to Write Prose
Orlando Ortega-Medina Taps Into His Subconscious

P-S
KL Pereira on Lost and Missing Mothers
Matthew Pitt on Making a Memorable Impression
Zach Powers' Thoughts on (In)visible Prose
Bill Roorbach's Freaky Fridays
Michelle Ross Asks: Is a Story Ever Finished?
David Rutschman on Moving Between Distance and Intimacy
Scott Loring Sanders Pulls Flotsam from the Ether
Joseph Scapellato and the Story’s Intention
John Shea Gets Started
Karen Shepard: How to Make Intermittent and Erratic Progress as a Writer, in Twenty-Eight Easy Steps
Caitlin Hamilton Summie's Office with No Door


T-Y
Susan Tepper Keeps At It
Douglas Trevor on Toni Morrison and Subjective Histories
Describe Your Reading Habits: An Interview with Deb Olin Unferth
Samrat Upadhyay: Doctor or Engineer? Neither!
Katherine Vaz on Taking Notes and Making Box Art
Tim Weed and the Ecstasy of Influence
Josh Weil and the Scent of Sagebrush


Past indexes of guest posts:
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Story Prize Long List for Collections Published in 2017


Here is a list (alphabetical by author) of other books we read in 2017—beyond the three finalists and The Story Prize Spotlight Award winner—that particularly stood out for us:

In 2017, The Story Prize received as entries 120 books published by 93 publishers or imprints. As difficult as it is to choose three finalists, it is in many ways even more difficult to narrow the field down to a long list of other notable story collections—especially when the number of excellent books is as high as it was. Easily more than a dozen other titles we read this past year could have been on this list, but even a long list can only be so long.

Anyone who published a short story collection last year accomplished something significant and deserves an enormous amoount of credit. While, subjectively at least, short story collections seem to be garnering more space in major book reviews, too many of them still get far too little attention. And that means too few show up in end of year lists. So, please, if you're looking for something good to read, consider these and other recently published story collections.

So strong was the field this year, that to narrow it down, I decided to put aside a handful of books by stalwart short story writers so skillful and accomplished that they could easily have been finalists or made our long list. In fact, two have been finalists for The Story Prize before: Tessa Hadley and Jim Shepard. You can't go wrong with these short story collections (or hardly any of the stories in them):

Keep in mind: We'll announce the winner of The Story Prize at an event co-sponsored with The New School's Creative Writing program at the auditorium at 66 W. 12 Street on Feb. 28. At the event, finalists Daniel Alarcón, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Elizabeth Strout will read from and discuss their work. You can buy tickets in advance online or that night at the box office. And in the days ahead, be on the lookout for an index of 2017 author posts that appeared on this blog.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Few Highlights from Past Story Prize Events

Here's a short highlight reel we've put together to promote The Story Prize event on Feb. 28 at The New School. That night, authors Daniel Alarcón, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Elizabeth Strout will read from and discuss their work onstage before we announce the winner. (You can order tickets here.)


This video includes excerpts from George Saunders, Adam Johnson, Lorrie Moore, and Adam Johnson. Sometime soon, we hope to create a longer video featuring more highlights of author readings and interviews from past Story Prize events.

Thanks to the Creative Writing Program at The New School, which co-sponsors our award events and arranges to have them recorded each year.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Subcortical by Lee Conell—This Year's Winner of The Story Prize Spotlight Award

Beyond naming three finalists each January, we also present The Story Prize Spotlight Award to a collection of exceptional merit. Selected books can be promising works by first-time authors, collections in alternative formats, or works that demonstrate an unusual perspective on the writer's craft. The winner receives a prize of $1,000.

We're pleased to announce that the winner for books published in 2017 is Subcortical by Lee Conell (Johns Hopkins University Press), a collection of sixteen incisive, distinctive, and superbly crafted stories—a skillful and self-assured debut collection. One of the pleasures of reading for The Story Prize is discovering books like Subcortical. 

Author Lee Conell, winner of
The Story Prize Spotlight Award
This is the sixth time we've given out The Story Prize Spotlight Award. The five previous winners are: Drifting House by Krys Lee, Byzantium by Ben Stroud, Praying Drunk by Kyle MinorKilling and Dying by Adrian Tomine, and Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar

Congratulations to Lee Conell and John Hopkins University Press for winning The Story Prize Spotlight Award for short story collections published in 2017.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Story Prize Finalists: Daniel Alarcón, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Elizabeth Strout

We're pleased to honor as finalists for The Story Prize three outstanding books published in 2017, chosen from 120 entries representing 93 different publishers or imprints. It was a deep field with a lot of worthy story collections—more so than usual. The finalists are:

Authors extraordinaire: Daniel Alarcón, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Elizabeth Strout

The King Is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcón portrays citizens struggling to belong to or hoping to escape from an unnamed South American country. The stories in Ottessa Moshfegh's Homesick for Another World unflinchingly depict women and men seeking meaning in off-kilter circumstances. Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout navigates the bleak terrain of a rural Illinois setting, depicting the haunting effect of the past on the present lives of its characters.

This year's judges—author Susan Minot, author and critic Walton Muyumba, and librarian Stephanie Sendaula—will decide the outcome.

The annual award event will take place at the New School’s Auditorium at 66 West 12 Street in New York City at 7:30 p.m. on Wed., Feb. 28. Tickets cost $14. That night, Alarcón, Moshfegh, and Strout will read from and discuss their work on-stage. At the end of the event, Julie Lindsey will announce the winner and present that author with $20,000 along with an engraved silver bowl. The two runners-up will each receive $5,000. The Creative Writing Program at The New School co-sponsors the event.

In the weeks ahead, we'll announce this year's winner of The Story Prize Spotlight Award. We'll also publish an index of guest posts from 2017 authors and a long list of other exceptional collections we read last year.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Olivia Clare on Accountability

In the 47th in a series of posts on 2017 books entered for The Story Prize, Olivia Clare, author of Disasters in the First World (Black Cat), discusses the value of tracking her writing time.



On this New Year’s Eve—on an uncharacteristically chilly day, writing from a cottage in St. Francisville, Louisiana—I speak in praise of accountability. I sing to it. For it. I cherish it.

Am I a disciplined writer? How does discipline relate to artfulness and less easily accessed moments of insight? Does disciplined writing result merely in artificial products, lacking grace and sincerity, or artful, delicate creations that try to live and breathe?

Accountability can feel like a boring, dry thing to write about. But I’ll tell you: it’s kept me going, especially this past year. I believe in it so much that I have several ways to track my accountability. Some of those ways are for my eyes only. But I am also (seemingly, at least) accountable to others: I track my writing time every week in a spreadsheet with a group of colleagues, and I do the same with a group of friends. I also track my writing time in my own private document. I count the minutes, let my goals be known, and write down what I’ve written that week.

I’ve always craved structure, more than that which I can get from structuring sentences and verses. When studenthood ended, and the ready-made structures of student life vanished, accountability to myself became a challenge. I graduated from graduate school in May of 2016, and I started my first full-time teaching job that fall. My editor, Corinna Barsan, keeps me going with a sui generis combination of friendship and insight. My internal writing engine—located, I have to believe, somewhere inside my inner heart—keeps me going.

And for some reason, simply writing down the number of minutes I’ve written for the day keeps me on track. Like crossing out the passing days on a kitchen calendar, the visualization of time spent and words earned drives and inspires me. It lends gravity and significance to the art of writing and the writer’s life. Here’s to the new year!