It is always a wonderful and satisfying thing to hear that an unknown debut author has won a major prize for writing. It is not that we don't love the established writers and wish them success, but an unknown newbie rising to the top gives us hope and assurance--assurance that these competitions are fairly judged, that small independent presses are taken seriously, that the next generation of writers is as talented and accomplished (and brilliant) as the current.
And when the news that the unknown writer winning the big prize is being published in the United States by Minneapolis' Coffee House Press, well, the news is all the more welcome.
"A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing," by Irish writer Eimear McBride, was consistently rejected by mainstream publishers until last year, when it was picked up by tiny Galley Beggar Press in London. It will be published this fall by Coffee House Press.
Last week, McBride's novel won the Baileys Prize (formerly the Orange Prize); it was selected over many highly praised big novels by notable writers, including “The Goldfinch,” by Donna Tartt, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and “The Lowland,” by Jhumpa Lahiri, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize as well as the National Book Award.
“A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing” is the story of a young woman and her relationship with her brother, who has a brain tumor. The girl’s father abandons the family, her mother retreats into Catholicism, an uncle abuses her.
Coffee House Press publisher Chris Fischbach said McBride’s book floored him when he first read it, “not only by the powerful story, but by its urgent, assaulting syntax, which is both relentless and engrossing. By the time I finished, I was spent: artistically, emotionally, spiritually. I had never read anything like it. We are beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to publish the U.S. edition of this brilliant book.”
McBride’s writing can be difficult, at first, for the reader to penetrate; the book is written in long blocks of fragments with only sporadic punctuation. But critics have found the difficulty well worth the effort. The Star Tribune review, which will be published in September, calls the book “brave, dizzying, risk-taking fiction of the highest order.”
The Guardian called it “jaggedly uncompromising in both style and subject matter,” and Irish novelist Anne Enright called the book an “instant classic” and its author “a genius.”
McBride’s award follows a number of significant awards won recently by Coffee House Press authors, including Ron Padgett’s “Collected Poems,” which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award, and Patricia Smith’s “Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah,” which won the Wheatley Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets.
McBride’s book has also won the Goldsmiths Prize, was named Kerry Group Irish Novel of the year, and was shortlisted for the Folio Prize. The Baileys Prize carries an award of $50,000 and goes to the best novel written in English by a woman. Originally known as the Orange Prize, the award ended briefly in 2012 when Orange telecommunications ended its sponsorship. Baileys Irish Cream announced sponsorship this year.
The other finalists for this year’s Baileys Prize were “Americanah,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Undertaking,” by Audrey Magee, and “Burial Rites,” by Hannah Kent.
Arts: Great Houses of Summit Avenue and the Hill District by Karen Melvin, published by Big Picture Press
Autobiography/Memoir: Here Comes the Sun by Brian Lucas, published by Beaver’s Pond Press
Biography: Confronting Slavery by Suzanne Cooper Guasco, published by Northern Illinois University Press
Business: Hospitality from the Heart by Brandon W. Johnson & Katherine Foley Roden, published by Beaver’s Pond Press
Children’s Fiction: The Colored Car by Jean Alicia Elster, published by Wayne State University Press
Children’s Non-Fiction: Great Ships on the Great Lakes by Catherine M. Green, Jefferson J. Gray, and Bobbie Malone, published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Children’s Picture Books: Angels by Alexis York-Lumbad, illustrated by Flavia Weedn, published by Wisdom Tales
Coffee Table Books: Dances Through Glass by Polly Norman, designed by Dorie McClelland, published by Avant Circle Publishing
Cookbook: Amalia’s Guatemalan Kitchen by Amalia Moreno-Damgaard, published by Beaver’s Pond Press
Crafts and Hobbies: First-Time Machine Applique by Janet Pittman, published by Landauer Publishing
Culture: Amalia’s Guatemalan Kitchen by Amalia Moreno-Damgaard, published by Beaver’s Pond Press
Current Events/Political Science: A View from the Interior by Susan Riseling, published by MavenMark
Education/Learning: Catch the Sun by Anne Johnson, published by Beaver’s Pond Press
Family/Parenting: Ready for Air by Kate Hopper, published by University of Minnesota Press
Fiction: Contemporary: Turtle Season by Miriam Ruth Black, published by Beaver’s Pond Press
Fiction: Fantasy/SciFi/Horror/Paranormal: Orphans by Ben Tanzer, published by Switchgrass Books
Fiction: Historical: Seeking Signs by Staci Angelina Mercado, published by Four Feathers Press
Fiction: Literary: Bolt by Douglas W. Rose, published by Three Towers Press
Fiction: Mystery/Thriller: Wolves by Cary J. Griffith, published by Adventure Publications
Fiction: Romance: Turtle Season by Miriam Ruth Black, published by Beaver’s Pond Press
Fiction: Short Story/Anthology: Something That Feels Like Truth by Donald Lystra, published by Switchgrass Books
Health: The Gray Zone by Deborah Day Laxson, published by Beaver’s Pond Press
History: Race and Rights by Dana Elizabeth Weiner, published by Northern Illinois University Press
Humor: From the Top by Michael Perry, published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Inspiration/Gift Book: Growing Through the Narrow Spots by Ruth Bachman, published by Tristan Publishing
Midwest Regional Interest: Illustration: One Small Farm by text and photos by Craig Schreiner, published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Midwest Regional Interest: Text: Something for Everyone by Michael Leannah, published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Nature: From Where I See It by Karen Olson Johnson, published by Amber Skye Publishing LLC
Poetry: The Cancer Poetry Project 2 by Karin D. Miller, published by Tasora Books
Publisher’s Website: Beaver’s Pond Press
Recreation/Sports: Fore! Gone: Minnesota’s Lost Golf Courses by Joe Bissen, published by Five Star Publishing
Reference: Royal C. Moore: The Man Who Built the Streetcar Boats by Lori Cherland-McCune, published by Beaver’s Pond Press
Religion/Philosophy: Tillich by Daniel J. Peterson, published by Lutheran University Press
Self-Help: Nourishing the Grieving Heart by Jane Thompson with Holly Cashin, published by Empath Press, LLC
Social Sciences: Old Barns and Country Skills of Southeast Michigan by Derek P. Brereton, published by In-Depth Editions
Travel: St. Paul Almanac by multiple authors, published by Arcata Press
Young Adult Fiction: They’re Always With You by Mary Clare Lockman, published by Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Young Adult Non-Fiction: The Compassionate Warrior by Elsa Marston, published by Wisdom Tales
Cover: Dances Through Glass by Polly Norman, designed by Dorie McClelland, published by Avant Circle Publishing
Illustration: Graphic: The Otter, the Spotted Frog and the Great Flood by Gerald Hausman, illustrated by Ramon Shiloh, published by Wisdom Tales
Illustration: Photography: Great Houses of Summit Avenue and the Hill District by Karen Melvin, with photography by Karen Melvin, published by Big Picture Press
Interior Layout: Children of the Tipi by Michael Oren Fitzgerald, designed by Stephen Williams, published by Wisdom Tales
Total Book Design: Dances Through Glass by Polly Norman, designed by Dorie McClelland, published by Avant Circle Publishing
And then last night, up in Duluth, the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards celebration was held, with Cathy Wurzer as keynote speaker. Here are the winners:
Fiction: "Tamarack County," by William Kent Krueger, published by Atria Books.
Honorarable mention: Timber: Fire in the Pines, by A. L. Sanderson, published by Haven Publishing.
Poetry: "Bound Together: Like the Grasses," by Deborah Cooper, Candace Ginsberg, Ann Floreen Niedringhaus, Ellie Schoenfeld, and Anne Simpson, published by Clover Valley Press.
Honorable mention: "Tin Flag: New and Selected Prose Poems," by Louis Jenkins, published by Will o’ the Wisp Books.
General Nonfiction: "The Pie Place Café Cookbook: Food & Stories Seasoned by the North Shore," by Kathy Rice, published by Lake Superior Port Cities, Inc..
Honorable mention: "Esko’s Corner: An Illustrated History of Esko and Thomson Township," by Esko Historical Society, edited by Davis Helberg, published by X-presso Books.
Children’s Literature: "The Best Part of a Sauna," written by Sheryl Peterson, illustrated by Kelly Dupre, published by Raven Productions, Inc.
Honorable mention: "Finding Hope," by Michelle Myers Lackner, published by Adventure Publications.
Memoir / Creative Nonfiction: "Threads of Hope: Caring for Babies Across Three Continents," by Martha Andrea Aas, M.D., published by Lakeberry Press.
Last year, Twin Cities writer William Kent Krueger ventured away from his tried-and-true (and much loved) series of mysteries about Cork O'Connor, writing, instead, a coming-of-age novel wrapped up in a mystery and set in 1961 small-town Minnesota. "Ordinary Grace" has been embraced and honored, winning a Minnesota Book Award and an Edgar Award, is now in the running for an Anthony Award.
The Anthony Awards, named for writer Anthony Boucher (a founder of the Mystery Writers of America), will be presented in the fall in California.
Here's the full list:
Suspect - Robert Crais [Putnam]
A Cold and Lonely Place - Sara J. Henry [Crown]
Ordinary Grace - William Kent Krueger [Atria]
The Wrong Girl - Hank Phillippi Ryan [Forge]
Through the Evil Days - Julia Spencer-Fleming [Minotaur]
BEST FIRST NOVEL
Yesterday’s Echo - Matt Coyle [Oceanview]
Ghostman - Roger Hobbs [Alfred A. Knopf]
Rage Against the Dying - Becky Masterman [Minotaur]
Reconstructing Amelia - Kimberly McCreight [HarperCollins]
The Hard Bounce - Todd Robinson [Tyrus]
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
The Big Reap- Chris F. Holm [Angry Robot]
Purgatory Key - Darrell James [Midnight Ink]
Joyland - Stephen King [Hard Case Crime]
The Wicked Girls - Alex Marwood [Penguin]
As She Left It - Catriona McPherson [Midnight Ink]
BEST SHORT STORY
"Dead End" - Craig Faustus Buck [Untreed Reads]
"The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository" - John Connolly, Bibliomysteries [Mysterious Bookshop]
"Annie and the Grateful Dead" - Denise Dietz, The Sound and the Furry: Stories To Benefit the International Fund for Animal Welfare [Amazon Digital]
"Incident on the 405" - Travis Richardson, Criminal Element's Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble [Macmillan]
"The Care and Feeding of Houseplants" - Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013
BEST CRITICAL OR NONFICTION WORK
Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes - Maria Konnikova [Viking Adult]
The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines - Cate Lineberry [Little, Brown]
All the Wild Children - Josh Stallings [Snubnose Press]
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot To Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War - Daniel Stashower [Minotaur]
Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense - Sarah Weinman, ed. [Penguin]
BEST CHILDREN'S OR YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau [Houghton Mifflin]
Escape Theory - Margaux Froley [Soho Teen]
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library - Chris Grabenstein [Random House Children’s Books]
Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy - Elizabeth Kiem [Soho Teen]
The Code Busters Club: Mystery of the Pirate’s Treasure - Penny Warner [Egmont USA]
BEST TV EPISODE TELEPLAY, FIRST AIRED IN 2013
The Blacklist - Pilot by Jon Bokenkamp - Sept. 2013 [Davis Entertainment, NBC]
Breaking Bad - "Felina" by Vince Gilligan - Sept. 2013 [AMC]
The Fall - "Dark Descent" by Allan Cubitt - May 2013 [Netflix Original]
The Following - Pilot by Kevin Williamson - Jan. 2013 [Warner Bros. Television, FOX]
Justified - "Hole in the Wall" by Graham Yost - Jan. 2013 [Warner Bros. Television, FOX]
BEST AUDIO BOOK
Hour of the Rat - Lisa Brackmann - Tracy Sallows, narrator [Audible]
Man in the Empty Suit - Sean Ferrell - Mauro Hantman, narrator [AudioGO]
The Cuckoo’s Calling - Robert Galbraith - Robert Glenister, narrator [Hachette Audio]
Crescendo - Deborah J Ledford - Christina Cox, narrator [Audible]
Death and the Lit Chick - G.M. Malliet - Davina Porter, narrator [Dreamscape Media]
Kimmerer, who lives in Fabius, N.Y., is a professor environmental biology and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She will receive a $1,000 parize and will visit Northland College in the fall for a reading an the awards ceremony.
"Braiding Sweetgrass" is about the interdependence of people and the natural world, primarily the plant world. "The gift of Kimmerer’s book is that she provides readers the ability to see a very common world in uncommon ways, or, rather, in ways that have been commonly held but have recently been largely discarded," the Star Tribune review notes.
The Sigurd F. Olson award was established in 1991 to recognize remarkable literature that promotes Olson's values and captures the spirit of the relationship of humans in the natural world.
The long list for the PEN Literary Awards is out--more than 80 titles, selected by 50 judges. The shortlist will be announced June 17, and the 18 award winners will be announced on July 30. The awards ceremony will be September 29. Here's the big long fabulous list, with links to our reviews, when available.
PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize ($25,000): To an author whose debut work—a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2013—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.
Judges: Charles Bock, Jonathan Dee, Fiona Maazel, and Karen Shepard
A History of the Present Illness (Bloomsbury), Louise Aronson
Middle Men (Simon & Schuster), Jim Gavin
Bogotá (TriQuarterly Books), Alan Grostephan
The Morels (Soho Press Inc.), Christopher Hacker
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth), Anthony Marra
We All Sleep In the Same Room (Rare Bird Books, A Barnacle Book), Paul Rome
Brief Encounters With the Enemy (The Dial Press), Saïd Sayrafiezadeh
Everybody’s Irish (FiveChapters Books), Ian Stansel
Godforsaken Idaho (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Shawn Vestal
The People in the Trees (Doubleday), Hanya Yanagihara
PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000): For a book of essays published in 2013 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.
Judges: Geoff Dyer, Stanley Fish, Ariel Levy, and Cheryl Strayed
Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume II (New York Review Books), Martin Filler
The Kraus Project (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Jonathan Franzen
Stories We Tell Ourselves (University of Iowa Press), Michelle Herman
The Blind Masseuse (University of Wisconsin Press), Alden Jones
Forty-One False Starts (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Janet Malcolm
Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls (Little, Brown and Company), David Sedaris
The Faraway Nearby (Viking Adult), Rebecca Solnit
Critical Mass (Doubleday), James Wolcott
PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000): For a book of literary nonfiction on the subject of the physical or biological sciences published in 2013.
Judges: Akiko Busch, Rivka Galchen, and Eileen Pollack
Frankenstein’s Cat (Scientific American / Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Emily Anthes
The End of Night (Little, Brown and Company), Paul Bogard
Five Days at Memorial (Crown), Sheri Fink
High Price (Harper), Carl Hart
Surfaces and Essences (Basic Books), Douglas Hofstadter & Emmanuel Sander
Wild Ones (Penguin Press), Jon Mooallem
Gulp (W.W. Norton & Company), Mary Roach
Weird Life (W.W. Norton & Company), David Toomey
What the Dog Knows (Touchstone), Cat Warren
Paleofantasy (W.W. Norton & Company), Marlene Zuk
PEN Open Book Award ($5,000): For an exceptional book-length work of literature by an author of color published in 2013.
Judges: Catherine Chung, Randa Jarrar, and Monica Youn
Southern Cross the Dog (Ecco), Bill Cheng
Duppy Conqueror (Copper Canyon Press), Kwame Dawes
Leaving Tulsa (University of Arizona Press), Jennifer Elise Foerster
The Cineaste (W.W. Norton & Company), A. Van Jordan
domina Un/blued (Tupelo Press), Ruth Ellen Kocher
Cowboys and East Indians (FiveChapters Books), Nina McConigley
A Tale for the Time Being (Viking Adult), Ruth Ozeki
Visiting Hours at the Color Line (Milkweed Editions), Ed Pavlić
Ghana Must Go (Penguin Press), Taiye Selasi
PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5,000): For a distinguished biography published in 2013.
Judges: James Atlas, Lisa Cohen, and Wendy Gimbel
Lawrence in Arabia (Doubleday), Scott Anderson
Wilson (Putnam), A. Scott Berg
Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Linda Leavell
Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns (Other Press), David Margolick
Margaret Fuller (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Megan Marshall
Roth Unbound (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Claudia Roth Pierpont
American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Deborah Solomon
A Life of Barbara Stanwyck (Simon & Schuster), Victoria Wilson
PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): To honor a nonfiction book on the subject of sports published in 2013.
Judges: Joel Drucker, Chad Harbach, and Jackie MacMullan
Mickey and Willie (Crown Archetype), Allen Barra
Monsters (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Rich Cohen
Collision Low Crossers (Little, Brown and Company), Nicholas Dawidoff
The Sports Gene (Current), David Epstein
League of Denial (Crown Archetype), Mike Fainaru-Wada & Steve Fainaru
The Emerald Mile (Scribner), Kevin Fedarko
Francona (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Terry Francona & Dan Shaughnessy
Their Life’s Work (Simon & Schuster), Gary M. Pomerantz
Game Over (The New Press), Dave Zirin
PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing ($5,000): To a writer for an exceptional story illustrated in a picture book published in 2013.
Judges: Mac Barnett, Ted Lewin, and Elizabeth Winthrop
Train (Orchard Books), Elisha Cooper
Tea Party Rules (Viking), Ame Dyckman
Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo (Wordsong), Nancy Bo Flood
Look Up! Bird-Watching In Your Own Backyard (Candlewick Press), Annette LeBlanc Cate
The King of Little Things (Peachtree Publishers), Bil Lepp
Crabtree (McSweeney’s McMullens), Jon & Tucker Nichols
Bugs In My Hair! (The Blue Sky Press), David Shannon
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? (Henry Holt and Company), Tanya Lee Stone
PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000): For a book-length translation of poetry into English published in 2013.
Judge: Kimiko Hahn
Black Stars: Poems by Ngo Tu Lap (Milkweed Editions), Martha Collins & Ngo Tu Lap
Even Now: Poems by Hugo Claus (Archipelago), David Colmer
Diaries of Exile by Yannis Ritsos (Archipelago), Karen Emmerich & Edmund Keeley
fungus skull eye wing by Alfonso D’Aquino (Copper Canyon Press), Forrest Gander
Impromptus by Gottfried Benn (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Michael Hofmann
Collected Haiku of Yosa Buson by Yosa Buson (Copper Canyon Press), Takako Lento & W.S. Merwin
The Colonies by Tomasz Różycki (Zephyr Press), Mira Rosenthal
I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust by Yu Xiang (Zephyr Press), Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Paul Klee’s Boat (In the Grip of Strange Thoughts) by Anzhelina Polonskaya (Zephyr Press), Andrew Wachtel
Cut These Words Into My Stone: Ancient Greek Epitaphs (Johns Hopkins University Press), Michael Wolfe
PEN Translation Prize ($3,000): For a book-length translation of prose into English published in 2013.
Judges: Ann Goldstein, Becka McKay, and Katherine Silver
Shantytown by César Aira (New Directions), Chris Andrews
Twists and Turns in the Heart’s Antarctic by Hélène Cixous (Polity), Beverley Bie Brahic
An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman (New York Review Books), Elizabeth & Robert Chandler
The Infatuations by Javier Marías (Knopf), Margaret Jull Costa
Transit by Anna Seghers (New York Review Books), Margot Bettauer Dembo
Kafka: The Years of Insight by Reiner Stach (Princeton University Press), Shelley Frisch
The Dinner by Herman Koch (Hogarth), Sam Garrett
The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa (Yale University Press), Jeffrey Gray
The Emperor’s Tomb by Joseph Roth (New Directions), Michael Hofmann
Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (New York Review Books), Joanne Turnbull & Nikolai Formozov
2014 CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS AND JUDGES
(The following PEN Awards do not have longlists but are listed below to announce the participation of those authors who are judging the awards. The winners will be announced on July 30th along with all of the winners for the book awards.)
PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction ($25,000): To a distinguished living American author of fiction.
Judges: E.L. Doctorow, Edwidge Danticat, and Zadie Smith
PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, Founded by Barbara Kingsolver ($25,000): To an author of an unpublished novel that addresses issues of social justice. The prize also includes a publishing contract with Algonquin Books.
Judges: Terry McMillan, Nancy Pearl, Kathy Pories
PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry ($5,000): To a poet whose distinguished and growing body of work to date represents a notable and accomplished presence in American literature.
Judges: Peg Boyers, Toi Derricotte, and Rowan Ricardo Phillips
PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Awards ($7,500 and $2,500): Three awards which honor a Master American Dramatist, American Playwright in Mid-Career, and Emerging American Playwright. This is the inaugural year of the Award for an Emerging American Playwright.
Judges: John Lithgow, Elizabeth Streb, and Maria Tucci
PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship ($5,000): To an author of children’s or young-adult fiction, who has published at least two books, to complete a book-length work-in-progress.
Judges: Kathi Appelt, Johanna Hurwitz, and Padma Venkatraman
PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): To a writer whose body of work represents an exceptional contribution to the field.
Judges: Kostya Kennedy, David Rosenthal, and John Schulian
PEN/Edward and Lily Tuck Award for Paraguayan Literature ($3,000): To a living author of a major work of Paraguayan literature not yet translated into English.
Judges: Idra Novey, Yvette Siegert, and Mark Statman
PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants ($2,000-$4,000): To support the translation of book-length works into English.
Judges: The PEN/Heim Translation Fund Advisory
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