Last night the winners of the National Book Awards were announced at a ceremony in New York. For insights into the writing process, be sure to read the interviews with the winning authors (and most of the finalists) that are posted on the NBA Web site. The winners, along with highlights from the NBA interviews, are:
Fiction: Colum McCann for Let the Great World Spin
"Our language is so deeply influenced by landscape, and vice versa. But mostly for me it has to do with rhythm and sound. As a writer you have to try to find the music of that place. If it's the west of Ireland it's a different music to what it is in New York. So I went out and listened to the different instruments that the city plays …"
Nonfiction: T.J. Stiles for The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
"Among my various roles, I see myself as an archeologist of the mind--or the mindset, perhaps. In researching this book, I found that much of what we take for granted today was understood very differently in the past. … The marvel of nonfiction is that it can simultaneously entertain, inform, and, at its best, instill wisdom about the human condition."
Poetry: Keith Waldrop for Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy
"I think of myself as actually very traditional, but that doesn't mean I don't experiment, of course. … The public has always been a puzzle to me. I never really tried that hard to figure out who likes what, and certainly never wrote with the idea that here's something people will like."
Young People's Literature: Phillip Hoose for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
"I don't think it's possible for me to write about things that don't matter. Each of my nine books has been connected with building and preserving community in one way or another. I try to inspire activism through stories. The same elements that make fiction powerful animate non-fiction too: strong characters with deep feelings, interesting relationships among them, obstacles, suspense, conflict, desire. I think people learn mainly through stories."
Also honored at the ceremony were Gore Vidal, who received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and Dave Eggers, who accepted The Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.
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