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So You Wanna Win a Book Prize?

In honor of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize (open now!), we've revived our interview series about publishing the first book. This week poet Kristi Carter, author of Cosmovore, talks about the importance of becoming familiar with the agendas of presses, wearing out your obsessions, and the surreal feeling of having two books picked up in the same month.

1. How many books have you published, and where?

On The Winner of the 2017 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry

by Katie Pryor

When I started Susan Gubernat’s The Zoo at Night, I felt naïve. I felt young. Facts about American history, Irish legends, and words I did not know gathered in the drain of my mind and I embraced it. I embraced it because sometimes Twitter exhausts me, sometimes the weight of my desire for youthfulness disgusts me. The truths of Gubernat’s collection are blunt and revealed slow. They take time. They have taken time.

Mary Ruefle, commenting on our obsession with talking about poems instead of reading them, says that no poet can teach us anything until they’re dead. I would argue, perhaps, that no poet teaches us anything until they are older, until some time has passed. I don’t mean to undermine the young; I am twenty-nine years old. What I mean to say is that I needed Gubernat’s longer view, I needed her to confound me, to further me along past the current limits of my senses.  

"We’re all constantly messing up and all constantly changing": an interview with Andrea Gibson

by Ilana Masad

Andrea Gibson’s newest book, Take Me With You, is a pocket-sized collection of one-liners, couplets, greatest hits, and longer form poetry. Reading straight through it will fill your heart to the brim, while taking it slow will provide droplets of necessary insight and humor into otherwise gray days. Andrea Gibson was kind enough to speak to assistant nonfiction editor Ilana Masad about their work. Click here to buy Take Me With You.


Ilana Masad: Because your poems often include a musical element, a rhythmic element, but also work on the page, written down, I wonder—what is your writing process like?

"That writing should challenge readers with the most difficult truths": An Interview with Heather Johnson

by Sarah Fawn Montgomery

Heather Johnson is the winner of our 2017 Summer Nonfiction Contest for her essay "Nowhere Place," which is forthcoming in our Spring Issue. Click here to subscribe to Prairie Schooner today.


Sarah Fawn Montgomery: Your essay, “Nowhere Place,” describes both a literal space, “a nowhere place surrounded by mesas, embedded in a valley of sand and weeds,” as well as a mental space, a “sense of unbelonging even to my own self.”  How did you go about writing about the Navajo Indian Reservation and dissociation? What freedoms and challenges did each present?

"Amid all the dreams and anxieties": A Debut Novelist Roundtable, Pt. 2

Our Debut Novelist Roundtable, much like the new Justice League film released today, is a powerhouse collaboration between a handful of superheroes that will be enjoyed by tens of millions of people around the world. That's the goal anyway. The second and final installment of this conversation focuses more on the nitty-gritty details of writing a book, getting it published, and staying committed to the project as the months and years go by. If that's not super heroics, I don't know what is. Enjoy!


Ted Wheeler: How long did it take you guys to write your novels? Did they come out basically fully formed or, like mine, did it take a few shots to figure out how the book should be written? How many pages did you write to come up with the end product?

"The truth, but not the whole truth": A Debut Novelist Roundtable, Pt. 1

Prairie Schooner is widely known for featuring up-and-coming writers within the pages of our magazine. What isn't so widely known is just how many talented people have been invovled with our editorial team over the years. Four such contributors-- Devin Murphy, SJ Sindu, Theodore Wheeler, and Nick White-- all had novels come out recently, and exchanged some ideas over email about the strange work of becoming a debut novelist. This is part one of the conversation, stay tuned for part two!

"Be patient. Keep working. Be persistent.": An Interview with Esmé Weijun Wang

by Sarah Fawn Montgomery

Our annual summer nonfiction contest is currently open to all types of creative nonfiction essays up to 5,000 words. The entry fee is $20 and includes a copy of the Spring 2018 issue of Prairie Schooner, in which the winning essay will appear. Our guest judge, Esme Weijun Wang, will name a winner and finalist. The winner will receive $250 and publication in our Spring 2018 issue. Below is an interview with Wang that touches on the art of writing, both fiction and nonfiction, living with chronic illness, and more.


SFM: The Border of Paradise is your debut novel, and your second book is the forthcoming essay collection, The Collected Schizophrenias. How did you arrive at each of these projects? Do your writing processes and practices differ depending on genre?

A Portrait of the Essayist as a Middle-aged Man: An Interview with Patrick Madden

by Ryan McIlvain

When Patrick Madden speaks of his chosen genre, he often calls it “the essay,” according it the respect of the definite article and the weight of tradition. It’s a long, wide, deep, endlessly variable tradition, though lately it’s been flattened out, rather commandeered (I don’t think I exaggerate Pat’s view) by writers with little real analysis to offer, and less insight. Here was the bender to end all benders . . . How I survived my baroquely awful Wall Street job . . . A year of eating only peaches . . . A year of following all speed limits, on all surfaces, in all weathers. (I hope that last memoir/adventure essay really exists somewhere. The others I’ve skipped or abandoned halfway through.)

Three Questions for Bryan Allen Fierro Regarding His Debut Short-Story Collection, Dodger Blue Will Fill Your Soul

by Daniel A. Olivas

Bryan Allen Fierro earned an MFA from Pacific University in Oregon.  He grew up in Los Angeles but now splits his time between L.A. and Anchorage, Alaska, where he now works as a firefighter and paramedic.  Fierro is the recipient of the Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award in Fiction, as well as the Rasmuson Individual Artist Award for literary and script works.

Fierro’s debut short-story collection is Dodger Blue Will Fill Your Soul published by the University of Arizona Press in the press’s Camino del Sol series.  In truth, these stories will fill your soul: Fierro’s characters and their very human frailties ring true, and he presents them with just the right doses of humor and affection.  Fierro kindly agreed to answer a few questions for Prairie Schooner about his first book.

Briefly Noted: Swimming in Hong Kong by Stephanie Han

by Jennifer S. Deayton
Jennifer S. Deayton on "Swimming in Hong Kong" by Stephanie Han. The collection is, according to Deayton, "More observational than plot-heavy, Han’s stories revolve around characters who find themselves at breaking points both large and small." Click here to read the full review!
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