Each year, the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC ) awards honor a selection of books newly published in the United States in six categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. These are the only national literary awards chosen by critics themselves.
As the writing and literature world awaits the award announcements on February 28, Creative Writing at The New School, which has hosted the ceremonies for more than a decade, has provided an inside look at this year’s finalists through interviews conducted by the program’s students on their newly launched website American Vanguard.
“The goal of the project was to give our students real world literary experience they would face working for a magazine or journal and at the same time promote, celebrate, and deepen the collaboration we have enjoyed with NBCC for many years,” said Robert Polito, director of the School of Writing.
With NBCC not announcing the finalists until January, the project needed to come together quickly. The chosen students studied finalists’ work, prepared questions and conducted the interviews in person or by Skype—in most cases videoing the interview for the website. Interviewed authors include luminaries like Laurent Binet (HHhH), Zadie Smith (NW), and Daniel Mendelsohn (Waiting for the Barbarians).
This task was handed to writing faculty John Reed. “He was the perfect person to put in charge of this project,” Polito said. “Being a gifted novelist and editor with real technology expertise, John had the perfect combination to supervise the creation of the website and oversee the whole interview process.”
With the launching of the website, American Vanguard, named after an annual anthology of writing by New School students from the late 1940s and 1950s, the School of Writing continues drawing from its past, a goal of the program,while at the same time preparing its MFA students with the skills needed to someday be in the interviewee chair themselves, as a finalists for the NBCC award.
Stay tuned to find out who wins.