Wednesday, December 23, 2009

NEA 2010 Literature Fellows announced

The 2010 Literature Fellows of the National Endowment for the Arts were announced this month. This year the fellowships are awarded to creative writers working in prose.

I encouraged many of you to apply if you were eligible. The applications for poetry are due soon.

For Minnesota a big congratulations goes to Matthew Batt of Saint Paul and Gregory Blake Smith of Northfield.

Notable Asian Americans selected this year include: Padma Viswanathan, author of House of Sacred Cows and The Toss of a Lemon, Frances Hwang and Aimee Phan, a Vietnamese American writer and author of We Should Never Meet.

Congratulations to all 42 writers chosen! Over 25,000 pages were reviewed from 993 eligible applicants. The Fellowship awards $25,000 to support writing and additional projects necessary for the writers' artistic growth.

To apply, writers submit a sample of their best work. Prose writers submit 30 pages of fiction or creative nonfiction. Poets submit 10 pages of poems. These are judged blindly by anonymous manuscript and sent to a panel of distinguished American writers who spend five months evaluating them.

In my year, ca. 1,000 poets applied. Only 42 were selected, less than 1 per state.

The panel is split into teams, who pick their favorites to discuss in Washington, DC. Every chosen manuscript is read, discussed, and scored by a subset of judges who ultimately rank-order our work according to our combined scores.

The full panel looks at the ranked list and makes its final recommendations, which then go through two more levels of review: the presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed National Council on the Arts and the NEA Chairman.

This is NOT an easy process.

That being said, I strongly benefited from my NEA Fellowship and had the opportunity to meet so many of you face to face because of it. I think it makes an exceptional difference in the life of a writer, not only monetarily but because it is one of the strongest affirmations from our peers.

These are some of the most distinguished writers in the country today judging our work on as little as 10 pages and 200 words outlining our plans. That's not a lot to work with.

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts bringing the arts to all Americans. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts.

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