Hanna Pylvainen has been awarded the Balcones Fiction Prize for We Sinners, which final judge the acclaimed novelist Sarah Bird called a “stunningly assured debut novel.”
This is the third year for Austin Community College to offer the $1,500 which also comes with a trip to Austin for a reading. The national award goes to the best book of literature published in the previous calendar year. A record 101 books were nominated for the prize.
ACC is unique among community colleges in offering a national book award. The college having a separate creative writing department is also a rarity.
Pylvainen is from suburban Detroit. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College and received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she was also a Zell Postgraduate Fellow. She is the recipient of residencies at the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and a 2012 Whiting Writers’ Award.
Bird said of awarding We Sinners (Henry Holt), “Pylvainen takes us inside an obscure Finnish fundamentalist denomination that is both Bible–Belt familiar and utterly exotic. At its heart, it’s an examination of family and faith, and the sorrows that ensue when belonging and believing become one and the same. In the light of Pylvainen’s austerely beautiful prose each of the eleven family members portrayed shines with surprising profundity that reminds us of the uniquely illuminating power of fiction.”
At Bird’s request, Margaret Hermes received a special second-place award for her story collection Relative Strangers (Carolina Wren Press) and its “lightning strikes of illumination.” Bird said of the book, “Hermes examines the pivot points in lives just beginning and those viewed retrospectively with longing and regret. Innocence and experience battle as the vibrantly alive characters pick their way through world that, in lesser hands, would be humdrum. Hermes makes us see again that each ordinary day is a minefield filled with choices that, sometimes, detonate decades later.”
The other finalists for the Balcones Fiction Prize are:
- Sighs Too Deep for Words by William Jack Sibley (William Jack Sibley)
- Slant of Light by Steve Wiegenstein (Blank Slate Press)
- The Galaxie and Other Rides by Josie Sigler (Livington Press)
- The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets by Dianna Wagman (IG Publishing)
- Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream (William Morrow)
The deadline for the 2013 Balcones Fiction Prize is January 31, 2014. For more information, see:
The Balcones Center for Creative Writing at Austin Community College is pleased to announce the 2011 Balcones Poetry Prize. The prize of $1,500 recognizes an outstanding book of poetry published during the year.
Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems by Mark Jarman, published by Sarabande Books, collects poems from his eight previous books spanning 30 years along with a generous selection of new poems. The title poem, recalling the original meaning of “bonfire” as a religious ritual to ensure the return of light from the darkness of winter, points to the essentially spiritual nature of Jarman’s lifelong poetic quest. The judges were impressed by the “clarity and simplicity of his diction, the musicality and cadence of his voice and keenness of perception in which ordinary experience is rendered luminous and the extraordinary, transcendent.” “The language is simple and straightforward, but beautifully rendered and able to show complicated ideas and feelings as if they were tangible things.” He “listens like truth”…and offers poems that are “nothing less than the soul’s labour, it’s singing.”
Jarman has won numerous awards and fellowships, from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim foundation, the Academy of Amercan poets and many others. He is a professor of English at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
The poet will visit Austin Community College to read from his work March 27, 2013.
Four finalists were also named:
- Songs of Unreason, Jim Harrison (Copper Canyon Press)
- Space, In Chains, Laura Kasischke (Copper Canyon Press)
- The Politics, Benjamin Paloff (Carnegie Mellon University Press)
- The World Falls Away, Wanda Coleman (University of Pittsburgh Press)
The judges for the 2011 prize were Paula Mendoza Hanna, an Austin poet and recent MFA graduate from the University of Michigan, Austin poet and photographer David Jewell, and Richard Price, poet and professor of English at Austin Community College.
- Chase Twichell, Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been, 2010
- Bill Berkson, Portrait and Dream, 2009
- Michael McGriff, Dismantling the Hills, 2008
- Aimee Nezhukumatahil, At the Drive–In Volcano, 2007
- Lorna Dee Cervantes, Drive, 2006
- Aaron Anstett, No Accident, 2005
- Lorenzo Thomas, Dancing on Main Street, 2004
- John Hogden, Bread Without Sorrow, 2002
- Carol Potter, Short History of Pets, 2001
- Dana Levin, In the Surgical Theatre, 2000
- Arthur Sze, The Red-Shifting Web, 1999
- Reginald Gibbons, Sparrow: New and Selected Poems, 1997
- Lucia Perillo, The Body Mutinies, 1996
- Kathleen Halme, Every Substance Clothed, 1995
The deadline for nominations for the 2012 Balcones Poetry Prize is January 31, 2013.
For more information:
John Herndon, Associate Director
The Balcones Center for Creative Writing
Austin Community College
1212 Rio Grande Street
Austin, Texas 78701
Karlin’s collection features stories about American women and their work. Unlike the heroines of domestic fiction, Katherine Karlin’s women face their biggest challenges outside of the house.
Renowned Texas author Jan Reid (Comanche Sundown) served as the book prize’s final judge. “Unlike so many American writers of fiction these days,” he writes, “Katherine Karlin matches lyrical style with a wealth of blue-collar experience and far-ranging imagination — from oboists’ reeds to old circus clowns to hard-earned scars on the arms of welders. Send Me Work is a superb debut.”
Katherine Karlin has worked at an oil refinery and a print shop; she’s driven a forklift at a shipyard and sewn together dog leashes. Upon winning the Balcones Fiction Prize, she wrote, “I had a creative writing professor who always asked me, ‘Why don’t your characters ever fall in love?’ I do something else. I write about work.”
Karlin writes that workplace relationships “can be as complex, confusing and rewarding as the relationships forged in courtship and family.” Karlin is Assistant Professor of English at Kansas State University. In addition to publishing stories in various journals, her work has been anthologized in The Pushcart Prize and New Stories from the South.
The second annual Balcones Fiction Prize attracted over sixty nominations of novels and story collections. ACC creative writing professors chose six finalists for the prize and handed them to Jan Reid for his ultimate decision. The other five Balcones Fiction Prize finalists are:
- Let the Birds Drink in Peace by Robert Garner McBrearty (Conundrum Press)
- Mitzvah Man by John J. Clayton (Texas Tech University Press)
- Quickening by Liza Wieland (Southern Methodist University Press)
- The Fitting by Joseph Zaitchik (Florida Academic Press)
- Green Gospel by L.C. Fiore (Livingston Press)
The deadline for the 2012 Balcones Fiction Prize is January 31, 2013. For more information, see: