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!