Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Story Prize Judges: Kristen Arnett, Andy Hunter, and Tiphanie Yanique

Here come the judges: Arnett, Hunter, and Yanique

We're pleased to announce this year's judges for The Story Prize: author and librarian Kristen Arnett; writer, editor, and publisher Andy Hunter; and author Tiphanie Yanique.

Each year we enlist three independent members of the literary community to select the winner of The Story Prize from among the three finalists that Founder Julie Lindsey and Director Larry Dark choose from among the more than 100 short story collections submitted for the prize. We alternate years between having a librarian or a bookseller as a judge. At least one of the judges is an author and the other is most often a critic or editor.

The final deadline for 2019 entries is Nov. 15. We will announce the three finalists in early January 2020 and the winner at an event at The New School on Feb. 26, 2020.

(And don't forget that The Story Prize: 15 Years of Great Short Fiction, an anthology featuring stories from past Story Prize winners is available from Catapult books.)

About the judges:


Kristen Arnett is a research librarian, the New York Times bestselling author of the debut novel Mostly Dead Things, and a queer fiction and essay writer. She was awarded Ninth Letter's Literary Award in Fiction and is a columnist for Literary Hub. Her work has appeared at North American Review, TriQuarterly, Guernica, Buzzfeed, Electric Literature, McSweeney's, PBS Newshour, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her story collection, Felt in the Jaw, was published by Split Lip Press and was awarded the 2017 Coil Book Award. She is a Spring 2020 Shearing Fellow at Black Mountain Institute.

Andy Hunter is a writer, editor, and publisher interested in literary writing, the future of media, storytelling, and technology. His work is dedicated to preserving and promoting literary culture and the importance of books in the digital age. He co-founded Electric Literature in 2009, Catapult in 2014, and Literary Hub in 2015. He currently serves as publisher of Literary Hub, Catapult, Counterpoint, and Soft Skull Press.

Tiphanie Yanique is the author of the poetry collection, Wife, which won the Bocas Prize in Caribbean poetry and the Forward/Felix Dennis Prize for a First Collection. Her novel, Land of Love and Drowning, won the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, the Phillis Wheatley Award for Pan-African Literature, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Family Foundation Award. It was listed by NPR as one of the Best Book of 2014. She is also the author of a short story collection, How to Escape from a Leper Colony. Her writing has won a National Book Awards 5 Under 35 prize, the Bocas Award for Caribbean Fiction, the Boston Review Prize in Fiction, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Academy of American Poet’s Prize.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Goodbye Guest Blog Posts, Hello Author Instagram Posts

After nine years of featuring guest posts from writers whose books have been submitted for The Story Prize (538 of them, to be exact), we've jumped to another social media platform: Instagram. So far this year, we've featured 23 guest posts. We ask every writer whose book we receive to share an image (or a few images) that inspired, informed, are essential to, or represent her or his book or a particular story in it, along with a brief explanation of the image or images. Contributors so far include Michael Carroll, Amy Hempel, Cary Holladay, Carrianne Leung, Mark Mayer, Josip Novakovich, Chris Power, and Aurelie Sheehan. To see these posts, follow @TheStoryPrize on Instagram.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Video of The Story Prize Event: Jamel Brinkley, Deborah Eisenberg, and Lauren Groff (the Winner)

What The Story Prize Judges Had to Say About Deborah Eisenberg's Your Duck Is My Duck

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 writer Jo Ann Beard, Washington Post book critic Ron Charles, and bookseller Veronica Santiago Liu. 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.

“I love Deborah Eisenberg and believe in her work and in her vision. The subject matter she chooses is fascinating, and worthwhile, and I approached each story with renewed interest and hope. She's smart and has lived, and understands the human psyche and the hopeful hopelessness with which we all (of a certain age) approach life.”

“The stories collected in Deborah Eisenberg’s Your Duck Is My Duck feel strange, and only when you begin to vibe with their rhythms do you realize that it is, in part, because she has somehow successfully embedded her characters into your head, so that you hear with their ears, shudder with their confusions, search for the answers they don’t have and aren’t likely to have by story’s end. While the characters’ voices ring in your ears, it is almost easy to forget that each story is framed around deep loss. These absences, coupled with the absurdities that unravel inside the minds of people, make for an unexpectedly humane whole in each unique story.”

What The Story Prize Judges had to Say About Jamel Brinkley's A Lucky Man

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 writer Jo Ann Beard, Washington Post book critic Ron Charles, and bookseller Veronica Santiago Liu. 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.

"There is a novelistic weight to the complexity of the worlds Jamel Brinkley creates in each story in A Lucky Man. Whole stories can turn on a line—sometimes so subtle that its heft could nearly be missed—and in those lines, these sudden exposures of truth, the culmination of lies that one tells oneself to survive in the world are revealed. Even when you think you are just getting to the heart of some of these stories—while sitting on the bank of Quantico Creek, returning to the steps of Good Shepherd, or beating the shit out of a dog—you find, no, there’s more, and Jamel Brinkley is gonna go there and take us along, pools of lamplight and sun-sprinkled paths like coins lighting the way through the book. In each story, the stakes get so high, but Mr. Brinkley doesn’t shy away from meeting them, “peeling back” his characters’ histories, through “language to a hard core, like the spiked stones of peaches” the boys in “A Family” used to throw at stray dogs."

"I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a contemporary short story collection so full with the weight of our city lives that also so brazenly delivered." 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

What The Story Prize Judges Had to Say About Lauren Groff's Florida

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 writer Jo Ann Beard, Washington Post book critic Ron Charles, and bookseller Veronica Santiago Liu. 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.

“Groff's collection is a truly immersive experience—each story builds upon the last, without being expressly linked, until by the end, the reader experiences the book the way you might experience Florida. Fierce and almost fully deconstructed now in its beauty and awfulness.  Amid the merciless sun like ‘hot yellow wool,’ the dense heat, the humid tangle of vines and mosquitoes, the elusive silkiness of a panther, and the cool slither of reptiles, Groff's characters emerge from their landscape fully imagined. There are imperiled children, a lost and hopeless little dog, circling ever wider until it dissipates altogether, a woman with head trauma and spectacular visions, another woman lost to others but still vivid to herself who nearly drowns in a rainstorm, a mother who dislocates herself to Paris, her sons glum at a French carousel, their mouths rimmed in green pistachio ice cream. Frilled lizards and a black raptor that falls out of the sky. Groff's dark wit and her vivid and precise language make each story into a strange, familiar world, and the cumulative effect is as staggering as the Florida sun on a summer afternoon.”

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“Lauren Groff's Florida is that rare creation: Each of these stories offers a complex, distinct world with its own carefully composed melody, but they’re also tuned to vibrate in response to each other. Even her final, longest story, set more than 4,000 miles away in Northern France feels at once a striking departure and a perfect companion to the earlier pieces.

“Groff understands these young women, wives and mothers struggling to survive and thrive in America’s wild and febrile environment, and she writes with such empathy that we come to know them, too. Peril hovers over them all—and crashes down upon some. They live in a rapidly warming climate that produces increasingly chaotic weather. They confront threats that we imagine we’ve eradicated— nightmarish creatures of the swamp— and animal spirits of the human heart that we pretend we’ve tamed. And many of these women are caught between conflicting demands: for strength, for softness, for independence, for affection. They are smart, determined people, sorely tempted to despair, sometimes lashed to their lives only by the love they feel for their children.

“Indeed, the real triumph of this collection is its sustained tension between dread and determination, conveyed in prose that never discloses its own complexity. Florida is the work of a mature writer beyond any need to impress us with her stylistic flourishes. Groff tells these stories in clear, deceptively transparent lines laced with insight, wit, and muffled terror.”

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“Lauren Groff is exceptional at creating atmosphere: settings heavy with heat and vegetation, yet harboring chilly layers never far from the surface. Every story in Florida is delicate with danger. Yet the danger doesn’t always arrive, isn’t always meant to arrive—or is it? We join as readers holding our breaths at these near-climaxes left unrealized, a state mirroring the moments in daily life when confrontations are avoided or averted, or when fear paralyzes. Like Amanda in ‘For the God of Love, for the Love of God,’ we are held at the point when something announcing itself, ‘in the very back of [the] head. . . . almost arrived. . . . [is] almost here.’ And we are given space to ‘let it step shyly forward into the light’: the potential, not just of that lurking danger, but also of hope.

“As I moved from story to story, I imagined a bird’s eye view of a spiritual map of Florida, with a reader cam swooping down suddenly into scrub, to a lake’s surface, to a roadway to nowhere at the opening of each new narrative.”

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Lauren Groff's Florida is the 15th Winner of The Story Prize!

Photo © Beowulf Sheehan
We're pleased to announce that Lauren Groff's Florida (Riverhead Books) is the winner of The Story Prize for books published in 2018. The other finalists this year were authors Jamel Brinkley for A Lucky Man (Graywolf Press) and Deborah Eisenberg for Your Duck Is My Duck (Ecco). At the event at The New School, all three finalists read from and discussed their work on-stage. Groff received $20,000 and an engraved silver bowl. As runners-up, Brinkley and Eisenberg each received $5,000. Congratulations to Lauren Groff and Riverhead Books!

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.