NEA Prose Fellowships announced

by Matt Ruff on November 18, 2011

The National Endowment for the Arts has just announced the recipients of the 2012 NEA Prose Fellowships. I had the honor of serving on this year’s selection panel, so I’m particularly excited to see the winners’ list posted. The 40 finalists were chosen from a field of over 1200 applicants—which is to say, they’re all really, really good writers. I do have my favorites, and may talk about them in a later post, but having been on the jury I have to say the blind submission process has a lot to recommend it. So if you’re looking for someone new to read, do yourself a favor and take a chance: Pick a few names off the winners’ list at random, and head for your nearest library, independent bookstore, or e-reader. They won’t all be to your taste, but I guarantee at least one of them will be an author you’ll be glad to get to know, who you would never have even heard of otherwise. And that’s your tax dollars at work, right there.

Many thanks to my fellow panelists, who were as civil as they were passionate about their likes and dislikes, and to the NEA staff, who took great care of us, kept things running smoothly, and, oh yeah, have the coolest headquarters of any federal agency:

And to the new Fellows themselves: Congratulations! Discovering your work and getting to share it with other people is both a pleasure and a privilege.

Tegan November 20, 2011 at 11:45 am

Exciting! I’ve been meaning to read Tayari Jones for a while– this might bump “Silver Sparrow” to the top of the stack. And yes, those are definitely the coolest headquarters for a federal agency. Do employees wear tiaras?

Matt Ruff November 20, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Sadly, no, there’s not enough money in the NEA’s budget for tiaras. But they *deserve* them.

As for Tayari Jones, she’s on my personal recommendation list. Definitely give Silver Sparrow a try.

Thija November 21, 2011 at 4:13 am

I hesitate to imagine that you had to read more than 1200 pieces (of which length) for your recommendation list …

Matt Ruff November 21, 2011 at 10:15 am

There’s a full description of the process here, but the short answer is no, they break the panel into teams, and each team gets a portion of the manuscripts to read and pick favorites from. So every manuscript gets reviewed by multiple people, but only the favorites get read by the full panel.

It’s still a lot of reading, but I really enjoyed it for the most part and would definitely do it again.

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