Keep The Devil Way Down In The Hole

How would you feel if someone called you the Devil? Delighted? Me too! Which means you would fit right in at our Editors’ Prize Weekend.

Last weekend was when we brought in our three Editors’ Prize winners to spend time with our staff, eat a ton of food, and have a general blast with David Kirby, Yuko Sakata, and Peter Selgin. When this weekend occurs is never a definitive date on the calendar. We look at dates between February and April. We think about AWP and Spring Break. We ask our three writers—who often aren’t notified until late December, sometimes early January, that they won—when they can make it in. We check for flights, hotel accommodations, all that good stuff. Depending on your perspective, either this is pretty easy (if, say, you’re an administrator of a summer camp) or pretty hard. No matter what, we find a way to make it work.

I’d never met them. I was familiar with David’s work—his poetry appeared in River Styx during my time as the magazine’s managing editor—and knew Peter Selgin’s name, but I had no personal connection with either man. “Unintended” was Yuko’s first published story, the true definition of an emerging writer. I wouldn’t say I was worried about meeting them (I can count on one hand the number of writers I’ve met that I have truly disliked)(no, I will not say who. C’mon, now!) but bringing writers in, writers whose work we are publishing and deeply admire, does feel a bit like a blind date.

They were wonderful. Smart, charming, funny, generous: these three are people you would like to spend two hours talking to, the kind of conversation that when you look at your watch you have no idea how much time has passed. The readings were terrific, mirroring the voice we imagined each author had (Kevin McFillen, our audio editor, and I briefly talked about this; he was delighted that the voice talent we have performing “Unintended” and “The Kuhreihen Melody” fit just right), a nice sneak preview of our spring issue which will be out … well, soon. Real soon!

Did I really get called the Devil? Absolutely! I was standing in the back of the room during the reading—I generally prefer to be in the back; I like seeing and feeling how the audience responds to the writer’s reading—and wore a black suit, beer bottle in hand, serenely intense. I was in the shadows. And David noted that the Devil would, in fact, look a bit like I did. Which, of course, I loved. Threw my arms up. Nodded. Everyone laughed. Pretty rare that you can get called Satan and be happy about it. But, hey, that’s what happens on Editors’ Prize weekend. We’re okay with that.

I can’t say thank you enough to Yuko, David, and Peter. They are absolutely wonderful people, and I hope that I’ll know all of them, read their work, and be friends with them for a very long time.

Read more about David here and Peter here, and get yourself amped up for our spring issue. We are a little bit behind, with a litany of reasons (InDesign problems, new printing bid, font colors of our art feature, etc.) that we’ve got all sorted out. I’m biased, but the Editors’ Prize issue, the spring issue, is always my favorite. I hope you’ll feel the same way.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye

Winners of the 2011 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize

We are delighted to announce the winners of our 21st annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize.  Let’s get to it!

Fiction

Winner: Yuko Sakata of Madison, WI for “Unintended”

Finalists:

Jessica F. Kane of New York, NY, for “The Essentials of Acceleration”

Thomas Pierce of Charlottesville, VA, for “Grasshopper Kings”

Bart Skarzynski of Columbus, OH for “Project X”

Poetry

Winner: David Kirby of Tallahassee, FL

Finalists:

Steve Gehrke of Reno, NV

Cynthia Marie Hoffman of Madison, WI

Mark Wunderlich of Catskill, NY.

Essay

Winner: Peter Selgin of Winter Park, FL, for “The Kuhreihen Melody”

Finalists:

May-Lee Chai of San Francisco, CA, for “The Blue Boot”

Mako Yoshikawa of Cambridge, MA, for “My Father’s Women”

Dave Zoby of Casper, WY, for “Leftovers, 1993”

We received over 2500 manuscripts this year, and the overall quality was extraordinarily good, making our decision a difficult one.  This is of course a good thing: selecting winners of a contest should never be easy, and it certainly wasn’t for us.  We’re very thankful to all the writers who entered this year. TMR is only as good as the work we publish, and we are grateful that so many writers sent us their very best work.

We were particularly thrilled to find out, after we accepted her work, that “Unintended” will be Yuko Sakata’s first published story!

I also want to say “Thanks!” to our staff. Promotion of the Editors’ Prize began in May, months before we get the chance to even start reading the submissions. Also, there is the never-ending amount of administrative work that goes into promoting the contest. Then we had to make the tough decisions on semi-finalists, finalists, and making the recommendations for our winners. And, we pulled it off! All of this was done successfully only because of our contest editor, Claire McQuerry, who did all the hard work behind the scenes to make our contest a huge success. Her staff was once again tremendous this year. Thank you to all the editors, advisors, and interns who made it happen.

We’re making plans right now for our Editors’ Prize weekend, our annual spring reception and reading honoring the winners of the contest. Details will be forthcoming as soon as we lock down the date. The 2012 Editors’ Prize issue will be out in April. I’m positive you’ll find these stories, poems, and essays as engaging and memorable as we did.

Congratulations to Yuko, David, and Peter!

Follow Michael Nye on Twitter: @mpnye