Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer's Residency Prize

What's that you say? You're a poet, you're under 40 years of age, you haven't had a book published yet, you'd like someone to publish your manuscript, you'd like to spend a couple of months in a swanky mansion (pictured above), and you'd like $10,000? We at Lake Forest College have got you covered! It's time to apply for the Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer's Award. Past winners include Jessica Savitz (for poetry) and Gretchen Henderson (for prose).

I'm one of the judges, but please don't send anything to me directly — everything has to be handled via the official snailmail and email addresses below.

You've got two weeks before the deadline.


Each spring, Lake Forest College, in conjunction with the &NOW Festival, sponsors emerging writers under forty years old—with no major book publication—to spend two months in residence at our campus in Chicago's northern suburbs on the shore of Lake Michigan. There are no formal teaching duties attached to the residency. Time is to be spent completing a manuscript, participating in the annual Lake Forest Literary Festival, and offering a series of public presentations.

The completed manuscript will be published (upon approval) by &NOW Books imprint, with distribution by Northwestern University Press. The stipend is $10,000, with a housing suite and campus meals provided by the college.

2011 Guidelines (Deadline April 1, 2010):

We invite applications for an emerging poet under forty years old, with no major book publication, to spend two months (February-March or March-April 2011) in residence at Lake Forest College.


1) Curriculum vita
2) No more than 30 pages of manuscript in progress
3) A one-page statement of plans for completion to:

Plonsker Residency
Department of English
Lake Forest College
Box A16
555 N. Sheridan Road
Lake Forest, IL 60045.

Submissions must be postmarked by April 1, 2010 for consideration by judges Robert Archambeau, Davis Schneiderman, Joshua Corey, and Jennifer Moxley. Direct inquiries to with the subject line: Plonsker Prize.


  1. Dear Mr. Archambeau, Mr. Corey, and Ms. Moxley,

    On the day of your deadline, April 1, I will turn 40. I trust this does not disqualify me from applying for this considerable honor and prize.

    You announce that anyone with no "major book publications" is eligible for the ten grand and two-month residency in the mansion. Though I have published some things, none of them are major, so I trust that I'm OK in that regard, too.

    One thing I am really good at is cleaning and mowing the lawn. Therefore, should I win, your foundation could save money in the matter of the plantation's house staff. I would like to tell you this before I send in my formal application. In fact, I can tell you that I'd be happy to bring along my own riding mower. I'll even ride it there, if I have to (I don't have a car, presently), like in that movie, by David Lynch.


    Kenneth Johanson

  2. I can't speak for my colleagues, but I have the pale, soft, weak hands of an academic, so we may have to take you up on the lawn-mowing.

    But we'll have to argue the whole "major" thing. I really liked Homage to the Last Avant-Garde.

    Implicated in the culture industry,


  3. the age limit is plain silly.

  4. Ginab (Gina B?),

    Well, it's far from the only prize to have an age limit. What is probably the most venerable poetry prize in America, the Yale Younger Poets Prize, also cuts off at 40. (Which, to be fair, is a dozen years later than American Idol's limit).

    Anyway -- I am not in charge of the criteria. I just volunteer to spend a big chunk of my summer reading several hundred applications, trying to be fair to them all, doing a lot of paperwork and (along with my colleagues) a lot of the legwork -- getting a suite rehabbed for the writer to stay in, getting printing done, and getting distribution for the work, etc. We thought about using some of the money as administration costs and paying ourselves, but we don't (the non-Lake Forest College guest judge gets a small honorarium).

    So: I suppose I have less patience than I should for people who want to kvetch about the prize. I'm glad the opportunity to award it came about, I'm grateful to those who provide the funding, and I'm happy to do the work. And it'll be easier to do if I can convince Kent to mow my lawn while I do it.