Tag Archives: Pushcart Prize

Meet the 2015 A&L Prizes Nonfiction Judge

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It is a privilege to have Barbara Hurd as the judge for the Arts & Letters Journal nonfiction prize this year.

Barbara is the recipient of a 2002 NEA Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction, winner of the Sierra Club’s National Nature Writing Award and Pushcart Prizes in 2004 and 2007. She teaches creative writing in the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine.

Ms. Hurd has published several award-winning books, including: Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts and What Remains, Entering the Stone: On Caves and Feeling Through the Dark, a Library Journal Best Natural History Book of the Year, Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2001, and The Singer’s Temple, winner of the Bright Hill Press Poetry Award.

We are honored to have an author as esteemed as Ms. Hurd serve as this year’s nonfiction judge. Read more about Barbara and her work on her website.

Pushcart Prize XXXVIII: Best of the Small Presses

Pushcart Prize XXXVIIIPushcart Prize XXXVIII

Writers are encouraged to read the literary journals and magazines, both to keep abreast of the contemporary literary scene and to find venues for submitting their work. There are so many publications that it’s hard to know where to begin. The Pushcart collection offers a starting point, not a comprehensive list, but an impressive sample of work from established magazines.

The thick tome looks a bit intimidating at first glance, but the 534 pages of fiction, essays and poetry contained within are well worth exploring, as are the lists of past winners, special mentions, and contributing presses. It’s sort of a crash course on reputable journals and the contemporary scene, with work from both familiar names and fresh voices. While most of the prose is fairly traditional in terms of structure, the characters, subjects and plots offer plenty of surprises.

Tina Louise Blevins’s story “God of Ducks,” nominated by The Gettysburg Review tells the story of an overweight, middle-aged cook who forms a friendship with a young “punk” he meets at his restaurant job. “Teen Culture,” nominated by American Short Fiction, is a first person narrative of a single mother who finds companionship with her fourteen-year-old daughter’s friends.

If there is a common thread through the fiction in this widely varied collection it is deep empathy for difficult characters. The nonfiction pieces stare down contentious issues ranging from modern technology to suicide. Charles Baxter’s “What Happens in Hell,” nominated by Ploughshares, is about both a near-death experience and the author’s own unwillingness to forgive the man who nearly killed him. Eric Fair’s “Consequence” (also from Ploughshares) tells of the outrage resulting from an article he published about his experience working as private contractor during the Gulf War, exploring both the ugliness of his actions and the cruel response they elicit with unflinching honesty.

There are even a few moments of humor, like Andrew Zolot’s “The Piece Need Not Be Built,” which originally appeared in American Circus: a cynical, satirical argument for why the coat check at the Museum of Modern Art is its best exhibit.

The poetry is both beautiful and accessible. Like Natalie Diaz’s “Cranes, Mafiosos and a Polaroid Camera,” from Spillway, which transforms a paranoid late night phone call into a meditation on nature, death, and the machine-like workings of the human body. “Just tell me what to do. You know what to do, he pleaded./ I should have known how to help my brother by now . . . Instead I told him about the sandhill cranes, the way they dance–/moving into and giving way to one another, bowing down . . .”