Posts Categorized: Prizes

INTERVIEW WITH 2021 FICTION PRIZE JUDGE, KALI FAJARDO-ANSTINE

Indiana Review is accepting submissions for the Fiction Prize until March 31st, 2021! In this interview with Fiction Editor Laura Dzubay, 2021 judge Kali Fajardo-Anstine opens up about her award-winning collection of short stories, Sabrina & Corina, the importance of craft in good fiction, and what’s in store for the future.

Kali Fajardo-Anstine is the author of Sabrina & Corina (One World, 2019), winner of an American Book Award and Reading the West Award. Fajardo-Anstine is the 2019 recipient of the Denver Mayor’s Award for Global Impact in the Arts. Her writing has appeared in print and online at Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, O, the Oprah Magazine, The American Scholar, Boston Review, Bellevue Literary Review, The Idaho Review, Southwestern American Literature, and elsewhere.

A lot of the stories in Sabrina & Corina manage time really masterfully—weaving characters’ backstories in through flashbacks, jumping forward in time to the most relevant scenes, introducing a key event early and then explaining it later, etc. Could you say a little about how you decide to handle time when you’re writing a short story, and what you think its relationship is to structure?

Thank you! Time fascinates me, and I think much of this obsession comes from being part of a large family that has inhabited the same geographic space for generations, and in some cases since time immemorial. The way I tend to handle time in fiction is intended to replicate the reality of having numerous timelines existing at once during a scene. That is to say, if I am standing on a street corner in Denver, not only do I possess my own memories of that corner, but I often have glimmers of stories from my ancestors collapsed into my own experiences. My characters’ minds function in the same way.

Time in my work is communal, shared, and is often not linear. Structurally, this makes for time-infused scenes, where each sentence is imbued with layers of meaning, allusions to the ancestral past, but also an understanding that the future eventually brings death. “Time is an ocean,” sang Bob Dylan, “but it ends at the shore.”

Short stories can feel like microcosms of characters going through specific changes in particular areas of their lives, but in a good story we often get the sense that a character is a complete person, even when what we see of them is limited. How do you decide what parts of a character’s life to include in a story, and what does the process of getting to know a character look like for you?

During my MFA at the University of Wyoming, the first short story I turned into workshop was a draft of “All Her Names.” I was writing about a character named Alicia who had once been well-known in the Denver graffiti scene. I knew she painted trains and had an ex-boyfriend she ran around with despite being married to an older man. Back then, this was 2011 or so, the story wasn’t landing the way I wanted it to, and my professor, the late Brad Watson, stopped me in the English department hallway. We were on a split-level staircase. He was going up and I was going down. The sun was coming in a long window behind Brad’s whitish hair and the stairwell was warm. Brad told me he had been thinking about my story, but he suspected I needed to “dream on it more.” At the time, I thought his advice was ludicrous. I wanted to force my fiction into shape with rules and prescriptive advice. But Brad, a truly gifted and sensitive artist, knew better. Sometimes, we need to listen to our subconscious. Give time over to our characters. Daydream on their realities. “All Her Names” was published eventually and is included in Sabrina & Corina, but it took years for me to finally listen to Alicia.

When reading short fiction, what excites you the most and why?

Everything. If it’s a good story, I’m in love. And what makes a good story? It’s voice, a particular way of looking at the world, a dedication to craft.

Which writers and works do you look to for inspiration?

Arturo Islas, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Edward P. Jones, Katherine Anne Porter, James Baldwin, Sandra Cisneros, Kent Haruf, Katherine Dunn, Jack Gilbert, Mark Strand, Joy Williams, Gabriel García Márquez and many, many others.

Are there any projects you want to share that you’re looking forward to in 2021?

I’ve recently finished some new short stories and I’m very close to completing my first novel. I’ve also written my first book review, which is such an intimate and energizing way to learn about a book. 

Article Thumbnail

ANNOUNCING THE 2020 CREATIVE NONFICTION PRIZE WINNER

We are excited to announce “On Desire” by Caitlin McGill as the winner of the 2020 Creative Nonfiction Prize, judged by Bassey Ikpi. Many thanks to everyone who submitted their work and made this year’s prize possible!

On “On Desire,” Bassey Ikpi said:

“I’ve often felt like the word ‘beautiful’ is overused when describing writing. I tend to use it when I know I like the work but can’t find the correct collection of words to make the point. Maybe a sentence or two or a passage or three jumps and sticks with me and makes it enough to coat the entire thing with ‘beautiful.’

After reading “On Desire,” I want to take back 90% of the times I’ve used the word out of sheer laziness and nothing else. “On Desire” is architectural in the way it builds on itself, stacking foundation, and layer after layer of story into a slowly crafted structure. Each line is wonderful; passages poignant, but there was a moment, in the middle of reading, when I realized I’d been holding my breath. I was afraid to disturb the thing that was being constructed. At first,  It felt fragile and delicate, but then I realized how solid the writer was, how sure, how steady, how purposeful. How much I trusted them to tell this story. 

We’ve all had quietly devastating breakups, have all slipped out of love like an oversized jacket. We’ve all gathered pieces of our childhood and dragged them into confusing adult personality quirks. We’ve all been in these worlds where our pasts and our futures and our presents become a collage of our existence. “On Desire” turns those ‘ordinary experiences’ into a praise song. Into a poem. Into all these mixed metaphors I’ve collected. 

This non-fiction short story made me hold my breath in spaces… not due to fear but to feeling like if I could hold this breath in, maybe this sentence won’t end. I wanted to live in some of these lines as the writers skipped and danced across the page– each memory sliding from the past, into the present, laying claim to the future. When I began, I settled into an essay about a break-up, I was prepared for tears or pity, what I felt was relief, not just for the author, but for myself. Thinking of the times I’ve held on to a relationship out of guilt, or fear, to watch the writer free herself from the relationships (romantic and familial) and her expectations of the past, was triumphant. The story was good and ‘regular.’

But, my goodness, the writing made my heart skip a few times. I found myself reading pages over and over just to make sure I didn’t miss any bit of the intent. This was one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever read. 

‘Beautiful’ is overused, but not here—it can not be stated enough.”

FINALISTS

Jonathan Gleason, “Gilead”

Mimi Tempestt, “blue black venus” 

Lauren Rhoades, “Solomon Story”

Lee Anne Gallaway-Mitchell, “The Devil’s Balls”

Alisha Acquaye, “Fruit Snack Fairytale”

The winner will be published in the Summer 2021 issue of the Indiana Review.

Article Thumbnail

ANNOUNCING THE 2020 1/2 K PRIZE WINNER

We are excited to announce “Maximum Overdrive” by Connor Yeck as the winner of the 2020 1/2 K Prize, judged by Tiana Clark. Many thanks to everyone who submitted their work and made this year’s prize possible!

On “Maximum Overdrive,” Tiana Clark said: “From the title, I didn’t know right away that this poem would soon reference one of my favorite guilty pleasure ‘80’s movies! I was delighted to read a modern ekphrastic poem in three brilliant movements, braiding a personal memory with pop culture and the German language. I selected this poem for the risks it took on the page by unexpected associative leaping, which allowed for strangeness, delight, and depth. The similes were vivid and sonically plush. There is a controlled too-muchness here that I celebrate, because it vibrates with cohesion in its sustained image systems with a savvy sense of play and wonder. This is a poet who trusted and chased their imagination. It paid off, and I applaud you.”

FINALISTS

“Good Work and Goodbye!” by Clancy Tripp

“Fire” by Mary Ardery

“He Who Finds a Wife Finds a Good Thing” by Alysse McCanna

“Hoarder” and “Exhaustion” by Joshua Nguyen

“Groundwork” by Cate Lycurgus

“Long Ago, an Owl” by Nancy Quinn

“Count-Down” by Alan Sincic

“Hold for Release till End of the World Confirmed” by Connor Yeck

The winner will be published in the Summer 2021 issue of the Indiana Review.

Article Thumbnail

Announcing the 2020 Don Belton Fiction Prize Winner

We are excited to announce that prize judge Charles Yu has selected The Devil and the Dairy Princess by Pedro Ponce as the winner of the 2020 Don Belton Fiction Prize! We are honored to have read so many incredible novels, novellas, and short story collections. Many thanks to everyone who submitted their work and made this year’s Don Belton Fiction Prize possible. The Devil and the Dairy Princess will be published by Indiana University Press in trade paperback form in 2021 as part of the Blue Lights Book Series.

***

2020 Don Belton Fiction Prize Winner

The Devil and the Dairy Princess by Pedro Ponce

Charles Yu says, “I found The Devil and the Dairy Princess to be strikingly original. Each piece is distinctive, innovative, and full of fresh surprises. Yet the collection as a whole is cohesive in tone and voice, evocative, playful, haunting spaces both dreamy and nightmarish.”

***

Congratulations to our finalists…

Pretend It’s My Body: Stories by Luke Blue

Rabbit Moon by Alicia Fuhrman

***

Interested in more publishing opportunities with IR / IU Press? Our Blue Light Books Prize is open Sept. 1 – Oct. 31. Send poetry manuscripts of 48-75 pages for a chance to win $2,000 and publication.

Interview With 2020 Don Belton Prize Judge Charles Yu

The Don Belton Prize is open until June 30th! In this interview, IR talks with prize judge Charles Yu about his writing influences, humor, and what makes a great novel.

CHARLES YU is the author of four books, including the novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, which was a New York Times Notable Book and named one of the best books of the year by Time magazine. He received the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award and was nominated for two WGA awards for his work on the HBO series, Westworld. He has also written for upcoming shows on AMC and HBO. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in a number of publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times, Slate, and Wired. His latest book, Interior Chinatown, will be published by Pantheon in January 2020. Check it out here.

Lots of us have “writerly obsessions.” How do you think about returning to subjects & themes in your work?

My thinking on this has changed over time. At first, I didn’t even know I had obsessions. Then after I’d written a couple dozen things, I started to see patterns. It was: hmm, what’s going on here? A little bit like every morning I would set off on a walk, and then realize I always ended up at the same park. The obsessions didn’t go away. I started to worry. For a while, I tried to get away from my usual topics, thinking they were limitations or that I would burn out my readers and myself if I kept navigating the same territory. Then, more recently, I hit a new phase. I became comfortable with my obsessions. It’s not that I don’t want to continue to break new ground or try things. I definitely do. But my obsessions have been with me for so long now. I’ve invested in them, and they’ve invested in me. Writing is hard enough, and I think most writers are very lucky to get even a little bit of territory to which they can lay any kind of claim. My topics are my topics; they define me, and I’m grateful for them. And as I age, maybe I’ll even gain a new obsession or two, or a new perspective on the ones I have.

You’ve written short stories, TV episodes, novels, and more. Can you tell us how you think about genre & medium when you write?

The thing all of those genres and media have in common is they depend on character and story. So that comes first. Viable ideas don’t present themselves that often. So when one does peek its little head out of the dirt, I try not to scare it away with the tagging gun. I’ve got to coax it out of the ground, get it to emerge fully and show itself. Once I’ve got the idea firmly in grasp (although sometimes they still get away), I can try to think about what kind of story is this? What genre or form feels right to cage it? Have I taken this analogy too far? Maybe. 

As for TV vs. prose, I was and am a fiction writer first, so words are the material I am most comfortable with. Television is a visual medium, so I have to think in images. 

Many of us are struggling to do creative work right now. What’s been helping you think creatively lately, even if it doesn’t manifest as writing?

Walks. Reading. Finding ways to have less noise and more perspective. Not easy, though—at the time I’m writing these responses, I’m 94 days into lockdown. Somewhere around day 70, I started to feel a bit foggy. It’s been a struggle. I’m thankful to have had assignments in this time—nothing like the pressure of a deadline to focus the mind.

What do you look for in a good novel?

Voice. Which for me can come from one or many places: choices with diction or grammar or syntax that perturb and excite. A liminal space—feeling like I’m in an envelope of consciousness, a permeable barrier between my thoughts and the text. That might sound a bit obscure or elliptical. What I mean is I love novels where my mind melts into the minds of the characters, and vice versa. 

Any advice for aspiring satire writers out there?

Ha! No.