2016 Balcones Winners Announced

Austin Community College announces the winners of the 2016 Balcones Fiction and Poetry Prizes
Balcones Fiction Prize—Bystanders (SFWP) by Tara Laskowski

Judging Tara Laskowski’s Bystanders, novelist Amanda Eyre Ward said, “Her stories pulsed with energy and excitement, like small lightning storms on the page. I was constantly surprised by her characters, and finished the book wishing there were more. I think she is a real talent—original and vibrant—and I’m excited to celebrate her work.”

Laskowski is also the author of the flash fiction collection Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in W. W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, Best Small Fictions, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and other places. She won the grand prize for the 2010 Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards Series. Tara earned a BA in English with a minor in writing from Susquehanna University and an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University. Since 2010, she has been the editor of the online flash fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly.

Finalists for the Balcones Fiction Prize are:
Brightfellow by Rikki Ducornet (Coffee House)
Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter (Graywolf)
Heirlooms by Rachel Hall (BkMk)
Landfall by Julie Hensley (Ohio State University)
Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy (Graywolf)

Former winners of the Balcones Fiction Prize:
People Like You by Margaret Malone, 2015
Hold the Dark by William Giraldi, 2014
Girls I Know by Douglas Trevor, 2013
We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen, 2012
Send Me Work by Katherine Karlin, 2011
Love Like Hate by Linh Dinh, 2010

Balcones Poetry Prize—American Happiness (NewSouth Books) by Jacqueline Allen Trimble

American Happiness is Jacqueline Allen Trimble’s first book. A professor of English at Alabama State University in Montgomery, she has published in The Griot, The Offing and The Blue Lake Review; she was a Cave Canem fellow and recipient of a literary arts fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts in 2017.

Of Trimble’s poetry, the judges said, “Trimble should never be taken lightly, but darn it, her poems are so often funny. She can face the darkness with courage and understanding, she can embrace joy with tenderness and sensuality, and she can find the seams and gaps where laughter lives. Hers is a refreshing new voice.” “Her poetry is intimate, humorous and irony-filled. She stares paradox in the eye and stares it down. The personal and the universal she treats as one in the same.”

Four finalists were also named:
“Incorrect Merciful Impulses” (Copper Canyon) by Claudia Rankine
“Arabesques for Travelers” (West End Press) by Bryce Milligan
“Everything We Always Knew Was True” (Copper Canyon) James Galvin
“Vivas to Those Who Have Failed” (Norton) Martin Espada

The judges for the 2016 prize were Prudence Arceneaux, a poet and professor of English and Creative Writing at Austin Community College; Richard Price, a poet and retired professor of English at Austin Community College; and John Herndon, a poet and professor of English and Creative Writing at Austin Community College.

Former winners of the Balcones Poetry Prize:
What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford, ed. Michael Wiegers, 2015
Once in the West, Michael Wiman, 2014
Interrobang, Jessica Piazza, 2013
When My Brother Was an Aztec, Natalie Diaz, 2012
Bone Fires, Mark Jarmon, 2011
Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been, Chase Twichell, 2010
Portrait and Dream, Bill Berkson, 2009
Dismantling the Hills, Michael McGriff, 2008
At the Drive-In Volcano, Aimee Nezhukumatahil, 2007
Drive, Lorna Dee Cervantes, 2006
No Accident, Aaron Anstett, 2005
Dancing on Main Street, Lorenzo Thomas, 2004
Bread Without Sorrow, John Hogden, 2002
Short History of Pets, Carol Potter, 2001
In the Surgical Theatre, Dana Levin, 2000
The Red-Shifting Web, Arthur Sze, 1999
Sparrow: New and Selected Poems, Reginald Gibbons, 1997
The Body Mutinies, Lucia Perillo, 1996
Every Substance Clothed, Kathleen Halme, 1995

Nominations for the 2017 Balcones Fiction and Poetry Prizes will be accepted from September 1, 2017 to January 31, 2018.

For more information: John Herndon, Austin Community College, 1212 Rio Grande Street, Austin, Texas 78701; jherndon@austincc.edu; 512-828-9368; sites.austincc.edu/crw.

2015 Balcones Poetry Prize awarded to What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford (Copper Canyon Press), edited by Michael Wiegers

Frank Stanford

Frank Stanford, 1973

Frank Stanford was born in August 1948 and died by his own hand in June 1978. Yet in his short life he produced an astonishing amount of poetry—the present volume contains more than 700 pages of verse. Stanford’s poetry was published in literary journals and small presses and has remained obscure, although he has had potent influence on those who know his work.

Born in Mississippi, Stanford grew up in Memphis and Arkansas, attending the University of Arkansas, and lived in Missouri and New Orleans as well. He published seven books of poetry during his life, including The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You, a passionate yet carefully crafted outpouring of over 15,000 lines.





Michael Wiegers

Michael Wiegers at the Sewanee Writers Conference, 2014.

Of Stanford’s poetry, the judges said, “Frank Stanford wrote as fiercely as he lived. He is a master storyteller, and his images from rural Arkansas never fail to surprise.” His “poems seem to be written by someone very old, someone or something who has lived and thought and suffered…as old as the earth itself, and as wise, and as deadly. Yet the poems never seem dated or archaic.” His “work is distinctly Southern, distinctly rural, yet…crafted with such mastery as to transcend regionalism. The soul, the voice of these poems, is simultaneously his own, and yet universal.”

Michael Wiegers is poetry editor of Narrative Magazine and executive editor of Copper Canyon Press. His previous titles include This Art, The Poet’s Child and Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poetry (co-edited with Monica de la Torre).

Four finalists were also named:

  • Forest Primeval, Vievee Francis (TriQuarterly Books)
  • Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay (University of Pittsburgh Press)
  • Lighting the Shadow, Rachel Eliza Griffiths (Four Way Books)
  • Crow-Work, Eric Pankey (Milkweed Editions)

The judges for the 2015 prize were Joseph Ahearn, a poet and professor at Austin Community College; Ken Fontenot, a poet and novelist who lives in Austin; and Allyson Whipple, a poet and professor at Austin Community College.

Former winners of the Balcones Poetry Prize:

  • Once in the West, Michael Wiman, 2014
  • Interrobang, Jessica Piazza, 2013
  • When My Brother Was an Aztec, Natalie Diaz, 2012
  • Bone Fires, Mark Jarmon, 2011
  • Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been, Chase Twichell, 2010
  • Portrait and Dream, Bill Berkson, 2009
  • Dismantling the Hills, Michael McGriff, 2008
  • At the Drive-In Volcano, Aimee Nezhukumatahil, 2007
  • Drive, Lorna Dee Cervantes, 2006
  • No Accident, Aaron Anstett, 2005
  • Dancing on Main Street, Lorenzo Thomas, 2004
  • Bread Without Sorrow, John Hogden, 2002
  • Short History of Pets, Carol Potter, 2001
  • In the Surgical Theatre, Dana Levin, 2000
  • The Red-Shifting Web, Arthur Sze, 1999
  • Sparrow: New and Selected Poems, Reginald Gibbons, 1997
  • The Body Mutinies, Lucia Perillo, 1996
  • Every Substance Clothed, Kathleen Halme, 1995

Nominations for the 2016 prize will be accepted from Septemer 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017.

For more information: John Herndon, Austin Community College, 1212 Rio Grande Street, Austin, Texas 78701. jherndon@austincc.edu, sites.austincc.edu/crw.

2015 Balcones Fiction Prize awarded to People Like You (Atelier26 Books), a short story collection by Margaret Malone

In Margaret Malone’s debut story collection People Like You, characters in the thick of everyday experience absent of epiphanies, are caught off-guard or cast adrift by personal impulses even while wide awake to their own imperfections.

Malone’s writing has appeared in The Missouri Review, Oregon Humanities Magazine, Coal City Review, Propeller Quarterly, The Timberline Review, Swink, Nailed and latimes.com. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Oregon Arts Commission and Literary Arts, two Regional Arts & Culture Council Project Grants, and residencies at The Sitka Center and Soapstone. Malone has a degree in Philosophy from Humboldt State University and has taught creative writing as a visiting artist at Pacific Northwest College of Art. She lives with her husband filmmaker Brian Padian and two children in Portland, where she co-hosts the artist and literary gathering SHARE.

Margaret Malone

Margaret Malone. Photo by Sabina Poole.

Final judge John Blair called the book “a masterfully minimalist collection of lives lived poorly but with the best of intentions.  Her stories are powerful, sad, and plain-spoken, and this debut collection takes the normative-yet-desperate circuits of the day-to-day that Bobbie Anne Mason and Frederick Barthelme brought to the forefront of American short fiction and makes them both new again and powerfully affecting.  These are marvelous and worthy stories, and very much deserving of recognition.”

Six finalists were also named:

  • Aftermath Lounge by Margaret McMullan (Calypso Editions)
  • Between You and Me by Scott Nadelson (Engine Books)
  • Girl Power by Katie Cortese (ELJ Editions)
  • Engels by Gavin McCrea (Catapult)
  • Nonprofit by Matt Burriesci (New Issues)
  • Wilberforce by H.S. Cross (FSG)

Former winners of the Balcones Fiction Prize:

  • Hold the Dark by William Giraldi, 2014
  • Girls I Know by Douglas Trevor, 2013
  • We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen, 2012
  • Send Me Work by Katherine Karlin, 2011
  • Love Like Hate by Linh Dinh, 2010

Nominations for the 2016 Balcones Fiction Prize will be accepted from September 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017.

For more information: Joe O’Connell, Austin Community College, 1212 Rio Grande Street, Austin, Texas 78701. joconne@austincc.edu, sites.austincc.edu/crw.

ACC Literary Coffeehouse presents DAVE OLIPHANT on November 9, 2015

CrWr_2015-16_LitCoffeehouse_Nov2015

Austin Community College announces the winner of the 2014 Balcones Poetry Prize: ONCE IN THE WEST (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux) by Christian Wiman

The Creative Writing Department and the Division of Arts and Humanities at Austin Community College are pleased to announce the 2014 Balcones Poetry Prize. The prize of $1,500 recognizes an outstanding book of poetry published during the year.

Once in the West, published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, is the fourth collection of poetry by Christian Wiman, who is also the author of two books of prose. Born and rasied in West Texas, he earned a BA from Washington and Lee University and has taught at Northwestern University, Stanford University, Lynchburg College and the Prague School of Economics. From 2003 to 2013, he was editor of Poetry magazine. He currently teaches in the Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.

Christian Wiman

Christian Wiman

Wiman’s poems are known for their musicality as well as their exploration of faith and doubt. The judges said, “The startling, revelatory poems…remind us that wisdom, like rhythm, is a necessary ingredient of poetry.” His “lines of arresting emotional accuracy” are “often edgy with recognition of human frailty, both spiritual and physical.” His “daringly spare, ceaselessly inventive music, his distinctive and heartening mix of earthiness and questing spiritualty” are “meant as a thrilling wake-up and usable courage-stone to spur us through “lordless mornings.” “I don’t know another contemporary poet who conjures such trill and song from our language…but I love this book equally for its fearless engagement with big ideas—faith, memory, illness, and amidst what is left, “days veined with grace.”

Four finalists were also named:

  •  Storm Toward Morning, Malachi Black (Copper Canyon Press)
  • A Woman Without a Country, Eavan Boland (W. W. Norton and Company)
  • The New Testament, Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press)
  • To the Bramble and the Briar, Steve Scafidi (The University of Arkansas Press)

The judges for the 2014 prize were Cyrus Cassells, a poet and professor at Texas State University; Vive Griffith, a poet, director of the Free Minds project at the Univeristy of Texas, and professor of creative writing at Austin Community College; and Chris Leche, a poet and professor of creative writing at Austin Community College.

Former winners of the Balcones Poetry Prize:

  • Jessica Piazza, Interrobang, 2013
  • Natalie Diaz, When My Brother Was an Aztec, 2012
  • Mark Jarmon, Bone Fires, 2011
  • 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

Austin Community College awards the Balcones Poetry Prize annually for a book of poetry published during the year. Nominations for the 2015 prize will be accepted from September 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016.

For more information: John Herndon, Austin Community College, 1212 Rio Grande Street, Austin, Texas 78701, 512-828-9368, jherndon@austincc.edu.

ACC announces winner of the 2014 Balcones Fiction Prize: HOLD THE DARK by William Giraldi

The Creative Writing Department and the Division of Arts and Humanities at Austin Community College are pleased to announce the winner of the Balcones Fiction Prize. The prize of $1,500 recognizes an outstanding book of literary fiction published during 2014.

William Giraldi

William Giraldi

Hold the Dark by William Giraldi (Liveright/Norton) is set in a bleak Alaskan winter when wolves take three children from an isolated Alaskan village, including the six-year-old son of Medora and Vernon Slone. Medora contacts nature writer and wolf expert Russell Core to investigate the killings. He discovers horrifying darkness at the heart of Medora Slone and learns of an unholy truth harbored by this village. When Vernon Slone returns from a desert war to discover his son dead and his wife missing, he begins a methodical pursuit across this frozen landscape. Aided by his boyhood companion Cheeon, and pursued by the stalwart detective Donald Marium, Slone is without mercy, cutting a bloody swath through the wilderness of his homeland. As Russell Core attempts to rescue Medora from her husband’s vengeance, he comes face to face with an unspeakable secret at the furthermost reaches of American soil—a secret about the unkillable bonds of family, and the untamed animal in the soul of every human being.

Giraldi is the author of the critically hailed Busy Monsters and fiction editor for the journal AGNI at Boston University. He lives in Boston with his wife and sons.

Novelist A.G. Mojtabai, who judged the 2014 prize, said in Giraldi’s novel “setting becomes character, landscape—inscape. An unnamed yet excruciatingly familiar desert war zone and an Alaskan wilderness outpost, twin darknesses, are plumbed to reveal the darkness of human hearts.The tale is told in prose with the compression, the density, of poetry. Giraldi picks his words with profound care, as if for the first naming, as if lives are at stake in naming things rightly.”

Five finalists were also named:

  • Byrd by Kim Church (Dzanc Books)
  • A Falling Star by Chantel Acevedo (Carolina Wren Press)
  • Out of Peel Tree by Laura Long (West Virginia University Press)
  • Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb by Ian Woollen (Coffeetown Press)
  • What Ends by Andrew Ladd (New Issues)

Austin Community College awards the Balcones Fiction Prize annually for a book of literary fiction published during the year. Nominations for the 2015 prize will be accepted from September 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016.

For more information: Joe O’Connell, 1212 Rio Grande Street, Austin, Texas 78701, joconne@austincc.edu.

BALCONES PRIZE WINNERS READING ON APRIL 15

ACC_CrWr_Balcones2015_poster

Austin Community College announces the winner of the 2013 Balcones Fiction Prize: GIRLS I KNOW (Sixoneseven Books) by Douglas Trevor.

The Creative Writing Department and the Division of Arts and Humanities at Austin Community College are pleased to announce the 2013 Balcones Fiction Prize. The prize of $1,500 recognizes an outstanding book of literary fiction published during the year.

Douglas Trevor

Douglas Trevor

Girls I Know (Sixoneseven Books) by Douglas Trevor follows 29-year-old Walt Steadman—grad school dropout, sperm donor, and holder of other odd jobs— who survives a shooting in his favorite Boston café that leaves four people dead. During the course of the book, Walt, a female Harvard undergraduate named Ginger who is writing a book about women and violence, and an 11-year-old African-American girl whose parents were killed in the shooting, together come to face what it means to try to make sense of life in the wake of violent loss.

Trevor is the author of short story collection The Thin Tear in the Fabric of Space, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award and finalist for the 2006 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for First Fiction. He lives in Ann Arbor, where he is an Associate Professor of Renaissance Literature and Creative Writing in the English Department at the University of Michigan.

Novelist Carolyn Osborn, who judged the 2013 prize, said Trevor’s novel provides “a contemporary answer to meaningless violence and, at the same time, hope for a reasonable future. These interwoven characters manage to help each other by accident, by luck, and by goodwill. Nothing is forced or fanciful. Resolutions are reached skillfully in clear prose leading a reader to see that rampant evil can be assuaged if not totally overcome. The writer is to be congratulated for his sensibly balanced point of view that allows his readers to understand people from different cultures, their griefs, their acceptances, and their means of survival.”

Five finalists were also named:

  • Hotel Juarez (Arte Publico) by Daniel Chacon
  • Nothing Serious (Permanent Press) by Daniel Klein
  • If I’d Known You Were Coming (University of Iowa Press) by Kate Milliken
  • Think of Me and I’ll Know (Triquarterly) by Anthony Varallo
  • The Golem and the Jinni (Harper) by Helene Wecker

The deadline for nominations for the 2014 Balcones Fiction Prize is January 31, 2015.

For more information: Joe O’Connell, 1212 Rio Grande Street, Austin, Texas 78701, joconne@austincc.edu, sites.austincc.edu/crw/.

Austin Community College announces the winner of the 2013 Balcones Poetry Prize: INTERROBANG (Red Hen Press) by Jessica Piazza

The Creative Writing Department and the Division of Arts and Humanities at Austin Community College are pleased to announce the 2013 Balcones Poetry Prize. The prize of $1,500 recognizes an outstanding book of poetry published during the year.

Jessica Piazza

Jessica Piazza

Interrobang by Jessica Piazza, published by Red Hen Press, is a first book. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Piazza earned a BS at Boston University, where she interned with US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and an MA at the University of Texas; she recently completed a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California.

The judges said, “Piazza’s poetry has an air of potent volatility. She works with a great knowledge of and love for words.” “The wordplay, with sounds developing sense in surprising ways, makes for great fun and insight. Often working within the sonnet form, the poet “makes it new” through her voice that remains uninhibited by rhyme scheme or line length and even seems to thrive on such strictures.” She “will grab you by the hand and run with you through familiar mazes of form, stopping briefly to delight in intimacy and assonance.”

The poet will visit Austin Community College to read from her work April 8, 2015.

Four finalists were also named: Ain’t No Grave (New Issues Press), by T.J. Jarrett; Duppy Conqueror, (Copper Canyon Press), Kwame Dawes; Flame in the Air (Casasola Editores) by Vidaluz Meneses, translated by Maria Roof; and The Government of Nature (University of Pittsburgh Press) by Afaa Michael Weaver.

The judges for the 2014 prize were Dave Oliphant, poet, author, editor and professor retired from the University of Texas and Austin Community College; Peggy Kelley, poet, attorney and yogini living in Austin; and Louisa Spaventa, poet and professor of writing and literature at Austin Community College.

The deadline for nominations for the 2014 Balcones Poetry Prize is January 31, 2015.

For more information:

 John Herndon, Associate Director, 
The Balcones Center for Creative Writing, 
Austin Community College, 
1212 Rio Grande Street,
 Austin, Texas 78701. 
512-828-9368, sites.austincc.edu/crw/.

The $1,500 Balcones Poetry Prize for 2012 has been awarded to WHEN MY BROTHER WAS AN AZTEC by Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz

The Creative Writing Department and the Division of Arts and Humanities at Austin Community College are pleased to announce the 2012 Balcones Poetry Prize. The prize of $1,500 recognizes an outstanding book of poetry published during the year.

When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz, published by Copper Canyon Press, is a first book. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community. After playing professional basketball in Europe and Asia, she earned an MFA at Old Dominion University. The judges said she “captures the tension of devastation and persistent hope, the tragically mercurial nature of addicts and the extravagant wishes of those who love them, and the psychotic sweetness death can bring.” Her poems are “disturbing and visceral,” “daring and personal,” “the unflinching eye in the storm of violence surrounding her and her people.”

Diaz lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona, where she directs a language revitalization program and works with the last Elder speakers of the Mojave language.

The poet will visit Austin Community College to read from her work February 27, 2014.

Four finalists were also named:

The Crossed-Out Swastika, Cyrus Cassells (Copper Canyon Press)
Animal Eye, Paisley Rekdal (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Our Andromeda, Brenda Shaughnessy (Copper Canyon Press)
Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, Patricia Smith (Coffee House Press)

The judges for the 2013 prize were Lyman Grant, a poet and professor of Creative Writing and Dean of Arts and Humanities at ACC; Michelle Iskra, a poet who teaches writing and literature at Cedar Park High School and ACC; and Deborah Paredez, a poet and professor at the University of Texas.

The deadline for nominations for the 2013 Balcones Poetry Prize is January 31, 2014.

For more information:
John Herndon, Associate Director
The Balcones Center for Creative Writing
Austin Community College
1212 Rio Grande Street
Austin, Texas 78701
512-828-9368
sites.austincc.edu/crw/