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The 2012 Prairie Schooner Book Prize Winners: Xhenet Aliu and Orlando Ricardo Menes

Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has announced the winners for its annual awards for books of short fiction and poetry. Judges for poetry were Hilda Raz, Peggy Shumaker, and David St. John. The judges for fiction were Sherman Alexie and Colin Channer. The winners were chosen from more than 1,100 submissions from around the world.

The Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction for 2012 goes to Xhenet Aliu for her manuscript, Domesticated Wild Things. She will receive a $3,000 prize and publication by the University of Nebraska Press.

"There is a sophisticated brand of humor in Alieu's fiction—her stories in Domesticated Wild Things will make you laugh out loud but will not burden you with any sense of guilt that might come from laughing at people,” says Kwame Dawes, editor of Prairie Schooner. “Her affection for her beautifully rendered characters is contagious, making the humor affirming and humanizing. These are entertaining and insightful stories full of surprises and revelations. We are thrilled to publish what will be her debut collection."

Xhenet Aliu hails from Waterbury, Connecticut. Her fiction has appeared in journals such as Glimmer Train, Hobart, and The Barcelona Review, and she has received multiple scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and a grant from The Elizabeth George Foundation. A former secretary, waitress, entertainment journalist, and private investigator, she received her B.A. from Southern Connecticut State University and an M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Currently, she lives in Athens, Georgia, after recent stints in Brooklyn, Montana, and Utah. She is of Albanian Muslim and Lithuanian Catholic descent.

“I remember when I was about 20 years old, before I'd ever submitted a story or even heard the term 'literary magazine,' picking up a copy of Prairie Schooner at my local Barnes & Noble and feeling awed that a forum of amazing contemporary writing like this existed,” says Aliu. "I'm even more awed now that my own collection will get to wear Prairie Schooner and the University of Nebraska Press on its cover. I couldn't imagine a better outfit for my book.”

The winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry for 2012 is Orlando Ricardo Menes for his manuscript, Fetish. He will receive a $3,000 prize and publication by the University of Nebraska Press.

"Menes is an accomplished poet who has managed to evolve a language that seems determined to encapsulate the broadest and most compelling notion of America that embraces both the northern and southern continents,” says Dawes. “His poems reveal a formal dexterity that is awe inspiring, and his poems are rich with delight and full fascination with the human experience. His is a bold and inventive imagination. Our readers, we believe, will share our enthusiasm for Fetish."

Menes was born in Lima, Perú, to Cuban parents but has lived most of his life in the United States. Since 2000 he has taught at the University of Notre Dame where he now directs the creative writing program. In addition to Fetish, he is also the author of Furia (Milkweed) and Rumba atop the Stones (Peepal Tree). His poems have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including The Hudson Review, Callaloo, The Antioch Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, Indiana Review, Image, and Shenandoah. Menes is editor of Renaming Ecstasy: Latino Writings on the Sacred (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe) and The Open Light: Poets from Notre Dame, 1991-2008 (University of Notre Dame Press). Besides his own poems, Menes has published translations of Spanish poetry, including My Heart Flooded with Water: Selected Poems by Alfonsina Storni (Latin American Literary Review Press). He is the recipient of a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The competition, in its tenth year, runs Jan. 15 to March 15 annually. Submission details and a list of past winners are available online at http://prairieschooner.unl.edu/?q=past-winners.

Founded in 1927, Prairie Schooner is a national literary quarterly published with the support of the English Department at UNL. It publishes fiction, poetry, essays and reviews by beginning, mid-career, and established writers. For more information, visit http://prairieschooner.unl.edu.