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My Tran Wins Second Chautauqua Janus Prize

Author Will Give Public Lecture and Reading at Chautauqua Institution 

Chautauqua Institution is delighted to announce “Tree rings, like concentric ghosts” by My Tran as the 2019 winner of The Chautauqua Janus Prize.

As the author selected from eight finalists by judge Vi Khi Nao, Tran receives $5,000, elevated this year from the original prize of $2,500, plus all travel and expenses for a summer residency at Chautauqua during the 2019 summer season. Tran will present a public lecture and reading at a celebratory event with music and refreshments at a date to be determined on the Institution’s grounds. Their writing will also appear in a future issue of the literary journal Chautauqua

Tran said they were honored to be chosen for a prize that celebrates formal innovation.

“Here is a space where I let playful associations bridge the cut between sense and nonsense, between the languages that cohere and fall apart in my body, between fact and fiction,” Tran said of “Tree rings, like concentric ghosts.” “So, I am thrilled to be a part of the conversations at Chautauqua Institution, where dialogue is woven across disciplines, genres, and impulses, always attuned to our social and political climate.” 

Impossible to summarize or categorize, and touching on everything from longing and loss to theories of language, consciousness, and time, “Tree rings” is featured in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Black Warrior Review, which will be available for purchase throughout the summer season at the CLSC Veranda and Chautauqua Bookstore. 

Director of Literary Arts Atom Atkinson agreed with Tran that this winning entry is a perfect representation of the prize’s mission. 

“I was ecstatic to learn that Vi Khi Nao had chosen this finalist entry as our 2019 winner. Experimental prose can sound like a cold enterprise, and My Tran’s writing is downright exciting to read — and re-read,” Atkinson said. “It is hard to imagine a winning entry that could better showcase the mission of The Chautauqua Janus Prize: innovative narrative approaches that bend time in the space of a few pages.” 

From Hanoi, Tran is a cross-genre/gender artist making sculptures and performances in Providence, where they attend Brown University. Their stories were a finalist in the Black Warrior Review Fiction Contest and Black Lawrence Press Chapbook Competition. 

Judge Vi Khi Nao offered high praise when explaining her choice. 

“I am quite captivated by the emotional intelligence of ‘Tree rings, like concentric ghosts’: its internal innovative style, the heightened, hexagonal poetics of My Tran’s perception, their sharp way of interweaving cultural artifacts with art, the past (ghost), sound (wind), and the emotional clarity in which they perceive the world around them,” Nao said. “Their writing unravels steadily with great inner strength, research, and movement. They break the conceptual barriers between fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and permit them all to coexist as one old-fashioned, modern machine. I feel so lucky to be exposed to My Tran’s beautiful work.” 

Nao, the 2019 judge, is the author of 11 books, including the story collection A Brief Alphabet of Torture (winner of FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize) and the novel Fish in Exile. Her work also includes film and cross-genre collaboration. Nao will also be a Chautauqua Writers’ Center writer-in-residence during Week Three of the 2019 summer season, leading a prose workshop called “How to Steal the Pain of Others and Make It Your Own.” 

First awarded in 2018, The Chautauqua Janus Prize celebrates one emerging writer’s single work of short fiction or nonfiction for daring formal and aesthetic innovations that upset and reorder literary conventions, historical narratives and readers’ imaginations. Named for Janus, the Roman god who looks to both the past and the future, the prize will honor writing with a command of craft that renovates our understandings of both. The prize is funded by a generous donation from Barbara and Twig Branch. 

Details on The Chautauqua Janus Prize are available online at chq.org/janus. Eligible short prose that is either unpublished or published after Jan. 31, 2019, will be accepted as submissions for the 2020 prize beginning this fall. 

View the announcement of the Janus Prize, by 2018 Chautauqua Prize winner Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, on Facebook at @chqliteraryarts and @chq1874

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