Center for Fiction announces finalists for 2016 First Novel Prize

Center for Fiction First Novel Prize 2016 Finalists

The Center for Fiction in New York City has revealed the seven finalists for its prestigious First Novel Prize, narrowed down from the initial 25 nominees. Six of the seven authors are women, including five women of color.

The shortlist (alphabetical by title, matching the photos above from left to right):

Kia Corthron — The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter

Emma Cline — The Girls

Nicole Dennis-Benn — Here Comes the Sun

Yaa Gyasi — Homegoing

Krys Lee — How I Became a North Korean

Kaitlyn Greenidge — We Love You, Charlie Freeman

Garth Greenwell — What Belongs to You 

Read a brief synopsis of each finalist here.

The author of the winning book is awarded $10,000 and each shortlisted author receives $1,000. The winner will be announced at the Center’s Annual Benefit and Awards Dinner on Tuesday, December 6 at The Metropolitan Club.

The Center for Fiction has a good track record in selecting novels that went on to win awards like the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Prize, and the like. Previous winners include, in chronological order, Marisha Pessl for Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Viking), Junot Díaz for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead/Penguin), Hannah Tinti for The Good Thief (The Dial Press), Karl Marlantes for Matterhorn (Atlantic Monthly Press with El León Literary Arts), Bonnie Nadzam for Lamb (Other Press), Ben Fountain for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ecco/HarperCollins), Margaret Wrinkle for Wash (Atlantic Monthly Press), Tiphanie Yanique for Land of Love and Drowning (Riverhead Books), and Viet Thanh Nguyen for The Sympathizer (Grove Press).

See the longlist here.



Center for Fiction announces 2016 First Novel Prize longlist


The Center for Fiction in New York City has announced the longlist of nominees for the 2016 First Novel Prize.

Of the 25 debut novels, 15 are by women (in alphabetical order by author):

  • The Girls by Emma Cline (Random House)
  • The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter by Kia Corthron (Seven Stories Press)
  • Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright)
  • The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni (Counterpoint)
  • We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin Books)
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Another Place You’ve Never Been by Rebecca Kauffman (Soft Skull Press)
  • How I Became a North Korean by Krys Lee (Viking)
  • As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner (Lee Boudreaux Books)
  • Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss (Scout Press)
  • Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves (Scribner)
  • Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore (Hogarth)
  • The Longest Night by Andria Williams (Random House)
  • Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson (Harper)
  • Shelter by Jung Yun (Picador USA)

According to the Center for Fiction website, “The First Novel Prize is awarded to the best debut novel published between January 1 and December 31 of the award year. The author of the winning book is awarded $10,000 and each shortlisted author receives $1,000. The winner will be announced at our Annual Benefit and Awards Dinner on Tuesday, December 6 at The Metropolitan Club.”

The shortlist of seven finalists will be announced in September.

“Previous winners include Marisha Pessl, for Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Viking), Junot Díaz, for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead/Penguin), Hannah Tinti, for The Good Thief (The Dial Press), John Pipkin, for Woodsburner (Doubleday/Nan A. Talese), Karl Marlantes, for Matterhorn (Atlantic Monthly Press with El León Literary Arts), Bonnie Nadzam, for Lamb (Other Press), Ben Fountain, for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ecco/HarperCollins), Margaret Wrinkle, for Wash (Atlantic Monthly Press), Tiphanie Yanique, for Land of Love and Drowning (Riverhead Books), and Viet Thanh Nguyen, for The Sympathizer (Grove Press).”

The other ten books (by male writers) are:

  • Dodgers by Bill Beverly (Crown)
  • The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales (Riverhead Books)
  • What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • The Alaskan Laundry by Brendan Jones (Mariner Books)
  • All Joe Knight by Kevin Morris (Grove Press)
  • Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser (Ecco)
  • Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings by Stephen O’Connor (Viking)
  • Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay (Melville House)
  • Hurt People by Cote Smith (FSG Originals)

Laura van den Berg on the complex writing process behind her debut novel FIND ME

Laura-van-den-Berg   Find Me

Laura van den Berg’s first novel (after two acclaimed short story collections), Find Me, was published in early 2015 and has just been issued in softcover by FSG Originals. It was named to “Best of 2015” lists by NPR, Time Out New York, Buzzfeed, Booklist, Bustle, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Baltimore City Paper, and Book Riot, was longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and has just been named to the longlist for the Dylan Thomas Prize. A detailed bio of van den Berg follows her essay. 

Writing a novel is not easy. Of course, I knew that going in—certainly when I began Find Me I did not think, “Hey, this should be easy!”—but as someone who had written only short stories, save for a few half-hearted 50-page stabs at novel writing, I did not appreciate how hard it would be until I was in deep. I wrote the first draft of Find Mein roughly six months, in 2008. I turned in my final edits to my publisher in May 2014. What was I doing with all that time in between?

If you were to compare that very first draft of Find Me and the finished book, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single sentence that carried over from the initial version to the final one. In the six months I spent drafting Find Me, I worked in a frenzy, writing straight through, following every impulse as it occurred to me, no matter how misguided—just as I would when drafting a short story. The result? A hideous 300-page mess.

It took me years—literally years—to understand what I had put on the page and why and what it might become, let alone what it should become. I’ve certainly had short stories that were hard to write, that took me years to write, but I’d never before felt so completely overwhelmed by a fictional landscape and its many possibilities and glaring flaws. And yet my heart was sunk into this story, and into the narrator, a young woman named Joy, and so on I went.

The years that followed were a mix of trial and error. A few knots were successfully unfurled; others were pulled tighter; new ones appeared. I would spend six months or a year writing in one direction only to realize that direction was hopeless and that I needed to delete and begin anew. That was the hardest part for me: the lost time, existing in that unfinished state, with the uncertainty of knowing if I would ever finish and, if I did, what kind of book I would have on my hands.

This process continued even after I was fortunate enough to sell Find Me and to get wonderful notes from my editor. On the one hand, I was so excited my book was going to be out in the world, but on the other I wanted to make sure what I put out into the world represented the absolute best I could do at that time. The novel has a two part structure—the first part is set in a hospital in rural Kansas; the second part is set on the road—and in the summer of 2013, I went to a writers’ colony in Key West feeling queasy about the second part.

One of my biggest mistakes had been holding on to things that weren’t working for way too long, for not letting go sooner, and now I knew I was running out of time. “Write the book you want to read” became my line to myself. In Key West, it was brutally hot and I was plagued with insomnia and most days I would walk to the ocean to swim because that made me feel awake. One morning, in the water, I knew with uncommon certainty that I needed to cut the second part and start over. Totally. And so I did.

When I left Key West, the version of Find Me I took with me was much closer to the final book, though some significant edits still lay in my future. I called all my missteps and detours “lost time” above, but I know that’s not really true, since all those detours played a part in getting me to where I needed to be, and I don’t think it would have been possible to skip over them. They were necessary, in their way.

So I am grateful to this book. I learned a great deal from it. I am in the early stages of a new novel project now and I know that “write the book you want to read” is a good line to listen to. I know that if I get that queasy feeling I will hit “delete” and never look back. I know detours are necessary sometimes and that very few of the sentences I’m putting down now will remain and that I am in no particular rush.

Laura van den Berg was raised in Florida and earned her M.F.A. at Emerson College. Her first collection of stories, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc Books, 2009), was a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection and shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her stories have appeared in Conjunctions, The Kenyon Review, American Short Fiction, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and One Story, and have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and the Pushcart Prize XXIV

Her second collection of stories, The Isle of Youth, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in November 2013. The Isle of Youth was named a “Best Book of 2013″ by over a dozen outlets, including NPR, The Boston Globe, and O, The Oprah Magazine; it was a finalist for the Frank O’Connor Award, and received both The Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and The Bard Fiction Prize.


Center for Fiction announces seven finalists for First Novel Prize

Seven debut novels, four by women, have made the short list for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.

Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Tanwi Nandini Islam’s Bright Lines (Penguin Press), Sophie McManus’s The Unfortunates (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), and Lori Ostlund’s After the Parade (Scribner) made the cut from a long list of 29 novels.

The other finalists are Against the Country by Ben Metcalf (Random House), The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (Little, Brown), and The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press).

The longlist included such acclaimed novels as Black River by S.M. Hulse (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Girl at War by Sara Nović (Random House) [see my review here], Orhan’s Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian (Algonquin Books) [see my review here], The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson (Penguin Press), The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein (Bloomsbury), and You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman (Harper).

The author of the winning book is awarded $10,000 and each shortlisted author receives $1,000. The winner will be announced at the Center’s Annual Benefit and Awards Dinner on December 8 at The Metropolitan Club.

Full story here:

Center for Fiction announces longlist for first novel prize

The Center for Fiction in New York City today announced the longlist of nominees for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. Seventeen of the 26 nominees were written by female authors, reflecting their dominance in the area of literary fiction in recent years, especially 2013-2014. The author of the winning book will receive $10,000 and each shortlisted author will receive $1,000. The 2014 Short List will be announced in September and the winner will be announced on December 9 at The Center for Fiction’s Annual Benefit and Awards Dinner at the New York Athletic Club. Recent winners include Margaret Wrinkle in 2013 for Wash, Ben Fountain in 2012 for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Bonnie Nadzam in 2011 for Lamb, and Karl Marlantes in 2010 for Matterhorn.

The Center for Fiction, founded in 1820 as the Mercantile Library, is the only organization in the United States devoted solely to the art of fiction. The mission of the Center is to encourage people to read and value fiction and to support and celebrate its creation and enjoyment. Resources in the Center’s 8-story building on E. 47th Street include a ground floor bookshop, a second floor reading room and event space, open stacks on the fourth and fifth floors, an archive along with a book group and screening room space on the sixth floor, and a Writers’ Library and Writers’ Studio on the top floor. The Center offers an array of creative programs for readers and writers alike. The CFF seeks to serve the reading public, to build a larger audience for fiction, and to create a place where readers and writers can share their passion for literature.

Nominees (alphabetical by title)

The Anatomy of Dreams by Chloe Krug Benjamin (Atria Books)

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (Black Cat)

Byrd by Kim Church (Dzanc Books)

Cementville by Paulette Livers (Counterpoint)

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (Harper)

The End of Always by Randi Davenport (Twelve)

For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson (Ecco)

The Girls from Corona Del Mar by Rufi Thorpe (Knopf)

The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil (Grove Press)

The Invention of Exile by Vanessa Manko (Penguin Press)

The Kept by James Scott (Harper)

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique (Riverhead Books)

The Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson (Little Brown and Company)

Life Drawing by Robin Black (Random House)

Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah (Sarah Crichton Books)

Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston (Random House)

Ruby by Cynthia Bond (Hogarth)

Saint Monkey by Jacinda Townsend (W.W. Norton & Company)

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (Thomas Dunne Books)

The Sixteenth of June by Maya Lang (Scribner)

The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart (Little Brown and Company)

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas (Simon & Schuster)

What Ends by Andrew Ladd (New Issues Poetry & Prose)

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon (Doubleday Books)

Young God by Katherine Faw Morris (FSG)