John Rich opens up about the annual Guild Literary Complex Prose Awards

From now until October 1st, The Guild Literary Complex is taking 1,000 word non-fiction and fiction submissions for its annual Prose Awards. The winners of the coveted prize (judged by non-fiction writer, Donna Seaman and fiction writer, Janet Burroway) will receive a tantalizing $500 award.

So, what does it take to win The Guild Literary Complex Prose Awards? Read my exclusive interview with John Rich to find out.

Interview after the jump.

2014 Prose Awards call flyer (Guild Complex)
(c) The Guild Literary Complex 2014

Can you tell our readers a little bit more about The Guild Literary Complex Prose Awards?

The Prose Awards began after many years of running the wildly successful Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award—initiated by the poet herself in collaboration with the Guild. We recognized the need to support emerging prose writers with cash awards. And as a result, the Guild now offers two prizes of $500, one for fiction and one for non-fiction, and the competition is open to writers (18+) residing anywhere in Illinois.


What sort of prose do you look for?

As far as themes or content, even structure, the field is completely open: we accept it all. Of course, pieces should be well crafted, and writers an encouraged to submit their strongest, unpublished work. But submissions can be humorous or serious, subtle or chaotic—whatever best serves the story’s impact. And 1,000 words or less.


Can you tell us about past winners?

Last year Cyn Vargas won with a piece of fiction called “That Girl,” a story composed of miniatures. Our judge Cristina Henríquez said it best: “This deceptively simple story vividly evoked the dynamics of a friendship between two girls. I admired how full and rich the story felt and how much time the author was able to cover in only a few pages. There was an energy pulsing beneath the writing, too, that stuck with me long after I finished reading.”

J.H. Palmer won our non-fiction prize with a self-aware essay titled, “How to Rescue a Feral Cat”. Her work surprised non-fiction judge Miles Harvey, who wrote, “What won me over was not, needless to say, the creepy cats themselves but the way the author uses them to explore the darkness and wildness of her own soul, especially in the essay’s.”


How do you choose the judges for these awards?

Our final judges are established professionals with a sincere commitment to good storytelling and empowering emerging voices. This year our fiction judge is Janet Burroway, an excellent novelist but also well known for her textbooks Writing Fiction and Imaginative Writing. Our non-fiction Judge—and arguably one of Chicago’s most avid readers—is Booklist senior editor Donna Seaman. As a literary critic and a writer, Donna’s honors include the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary Criticism, several Pushcart Prize special mentions, and the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award.


The word count is 1,000, how did you decide this particular word count?

For writers, it presents a good challenge, and it’s short enough that a new story could be crafted in time for the deadline if the author doesn’t have a short work on hand. Plus, it’s a great word limit for a live reading, and the contest ends with a public reading of the three finalists in each category.


What are you most looking forward to for this year’s awards?

I’m always most engaged by the recognition event, to hear compelling, inspiring, jarring, and humorous tales told in a crowded room of story lovers. And then, I most look forward to writing checks to the winners!


The Guild Literary Complex Prose Awards

October 22nd, 2014 @ 7:30pm

Chopin Theater (1543 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60642)

Non-fiction Judge: Donna Seaman

Fiction Judge: Janet Burroway

Tickets are $8 general // $6 students