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Interviews With Our 2017 BLR Prizewinners

June 26, 2017

Caitlin Kuehn (pictured above)
Winner of the 2017 Felice Buckvar Prize for Nonfiction for "Of Mothers and Monkeys"
Selected by Ariel Levy

”No person creates alone. One is allowed, and should allow themselves to be inspired by others, to consult with others, ask for help, etc… and to do the same in return. All art on one level is a collaboration of sorts between the parts that make it. All the little encouragements you get, the small practical advice about dialogue or being vulnerable in your writing, about cutting most of it and starting over. All those other works you read and discuss and probably overanalyze. What your sister baked for dessert that one night, or the kid dancing to their iPod on the subway in a way that made you want to capture something. Everything is connected, feeding in to the ecosystem.”

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C.J. Hribal
Winner of the 2017 Goldenberg Prize for Fiction for "Do I Look Sick To You? (Notes on How to Make Love to a Cancer Patient)"
Selected by Ha Jin

”So in my work, I usually try to create situations where the reader experiences two emotions at once. Humor has always been one of the ways we battle tribulations—whether it’s grief or horror or any of life’s darker moments, and I often find that the darkness is sharper if humor is part of the equation, and vice versa. Combining emotions throws each into relief—it’s like counterpoint in music. You experience each more sharply because of the other emotion’s presence. Depending on the story, of course, the blend shifts as necessary. In this story, the characters use humor, sometimes, to respond to disbelief at the unimaginable. When that no longer works, the story shifts more towards tenderness, which I hope is felt more strongly because of what preceded it. You want sentiment, not sentimentality. Humor gives you the necessary distance initially to eventually allow you to work in close, conveying deep emotion without being treacly. You’re laughing a little, then you go, “Oh.””

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