AAFF Goes Green, Sees Submissions Rise

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When the Ann Arbor Film Festival finished receiving submissions for this year's March 24-29 festival, they had collected works from over 40 countries that crossed every imaginable genre, with total submissions surpassing 2,600 films, up 25-percent from last year. In an effort to improve the festival's sustainability, the AAFF also waived the press kit component for filmmakers and requested eco-friendly packaging, such as paper cases and recyclable mailers. With the Oscar nominations being announced January 20 and awards given February 22, film auteurs and aficionados have some exciting events to look forward to throughout the cold months ahead.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #134

It is not everyday that a debut fiction is picked as a finalist of the National Book Awards.

Rachel Kushner's FFF Telex from Cuba* impressed a panel of distinguished judges as "a profound and lush evocation of 1950s’ Cuba".

"Though the chief observers are two keen-eyed American children, Kushner masterfully portrays the complex and varied forces of revolution through the perspectives of dictators, workers, the Havana underworld, the revolutionaries in the hills, and the Americans in denial that their colonial paradise is doomed."

Learn more about this fabulous newcomer to the literary fiction scene from a recent interview.

* = Starred Review

Tree Town in Top Ten Again

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Add Tree Town to another Top Ten list ... the Center for Digital Government and Digital Communities ranked the City of Ann Arbor the 7th Best Digital City in the country. The City's website was honored for the Citizen Request System, GIS resources, MyProperty, and TRAKiT, a new online service offering 24/7 lookup of permits, registrations and inspections.

Poet and Novelist Laura Kasischke Named 2008 United States Artist Fellow

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United States Artists (USA) is a grant-making, artist-advocacy organization dedicated to supporting America’s finest artists working across diverse disciplines.

Since its launch in September 2005 with $20 million in seed funding provided by a coalition of leading foundations, the USA Fellows program has been awarding unrestricted $50,000 grants to 50 artists each year.

Kasischke, an assistant professor in the University of Michigan MFA creative writing program, winner of 4 Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts has published books of poetry and novels.

Here is a complete list of the 2008 USA fellows.

Happy Birthday Ang Lee!

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Born October 23, 1954 in Pingtung, Taiwan, Ang Lee has become one of today's greatest contemporary filmmakers. Stop by the AADL and browse our collection of his movies. For laughs try The Wedding Banquet (1993). For love and relationships choose Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) or Lee's version of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (1995). For drama try The Ice Storm (1997) or Ride With The Devil (1999). For action try Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) or Hulk (2003). For an Academy Award Winner, try Lee's heartbreaker Brokeback Mountain (2005). Fans of espionage and thrillers should check out Lee's most recent release Lust, Caution (2007). Taking Woodstock, Lee's latest project, is currently in production.

Amy Hempel Wins Short Story Award

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Author Amy Hempel has been named this year's winner of the The Rea Award for the Short Story. The award was established in 1986 by Michael M. Rea, a publisher and collector of first-edition short stories who died in 1996.

Ms. Hempel has won several prestigious literary awards for her work, including the Hobson Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Over the years, she has served as a judge for the National Book Award, The PEN/Revson Award, The PEN/ Hemingway Award, and the Mary McCarthy Prize among others. Her Collected Stories (2006), was named one of the The New York Times' Ten Best Books in 2007.

Amy has taught at a number of colleges and universities across the country, including New York University, Saint Mary's College, and the University of Missouri. She is currently a faculty member in the graduate writing programs of Bennington College in Vermont and The New School University in New York City.

Mavis Gallant, John Updike, Alice Munro and Stuart Dybek are among the previous winners. The award comes with a $30,000 prize.

October 14, 1964 - Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Have you ever wondered about the Nobel Prizes? We all know them as a mark of prestige, but where did those world-famous awards come from and who decides the winners? Check out The Nobel Prize : A History of Genius, Controversy, and Prestige and wonder no more. Burton Feldman relates the lively history of the awards, touring their century-long existence forward from the will of dynamite mogul Alfred Nobel. Readers will learn about the quirky preferences of the award committees, winners who really didn't deserve to win, losers that should have been winners, and amusing bits of Nobel trivia (like the awarding of the prize in medicine to the inventor of the lobotomy). For details on Martin Luther King, Jr. and his award, the AADL has a GIANT collection of MLK materials for you to peruse. Enjoy!

Mudbound

Every two years, Barbara Kingsolver funds a prize for the best work of fiction by a new author writing about social change. Called the Bellwether Prize, the 2006 recipient was Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. A darkly brooding story, told in alternating, first-person narrative by each character, the events reveal the scarring and devastating effects of both racism and war on two families in rural Mississippi. The long-standing hatreds of the community, combined with two returning soldiers' crippling experience of violence in World War II, beget the final betrayal for each character.

Why would one want to read such a stark-sounding, downer of a book, you may wonder? Because, frankly, it is a stunning story, told in a strong, clear voice, with characters you may never forget, and, though it unveils the dark, frightening forces at work in the human soul, it also celebrates the fierce allegiances to family, land and love. Jordan’s first book is a compelling journey with the characters to a chilling and inevitable conclusion. What surprises and satisfies is how she shines a light of hope at the end.

Bridge to Terabithia

In Katherine Patterson's Newberry award winning novel, "Bridge to Terabithia," two 5th grade kids dream up a magical land where they can escape from the pressures of everyday life. Jesse and Leslie don't quite fit in with the rest of the kids in their rural community. Their friendship and their imaginary kingdom provide them with a safe place to be themselves.

John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of 2007

The Campbell Award (and a list of previous winners) named In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan the Best Science Fiction Novel of 2007. The award was created to honor the late editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine (now called Analog). Many writers and scholars call Campbell, who edited the magazine from 1937 until his death in 1971, the father of modern science fiction.

You might remember back in January 2008, In War Times was picked as the best 2007 SF novel by the American Library Association's Reading List Council Genre Fiction Awards. For a list of the major literary award winners, check out our new service : BookLetters.

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