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Interviews with the 2018 BLR Prizewinners

July 03, 2018

Lauren Erin O’Brien (pictured above)
Winner of the 2018 Goldenberg Prize for Fiction for Fiction for "Atrophy"
Selected by Geraldine Brooks

"In my experience with illness, when illness becomes a central part of a person’s life, it can cause them to create certain rules. For example, a rule of I will never recover from this can seem absolute to a person deep in the throes of their illness. A single setback, a harsh statement, a moment of loneliness and pain can all seem like “proof” of the rule. The occasional progress, kind word or painless moment are easy to call an anomaly.

Rhonda’s bluntness and rambling are there to challenge Luca’s rules and offer a countering voice that breaks through her short sentences and lost sense of reality. Rhonda keeps her grounded in the present and helps her envision a future, rather than allowing her to dwell on her tragedies. Family – and that doesn’t need to be blood relatives – are uniquely positioned for this. They know or have seen enough to be a reliable perspective, and are able to continuously challenge the rules of the illness."

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Elizabeth Crowell
Winner of the 2018 Felice Buckvar Prize for Nonfiction for "Cancer, So Far"
Selected by Rivka Galchen

"I often write to understand what I don't understand. The whirlwind of illness was so new to me. Cancer is so complex. Even as talked to others with cancer, I realized how individual my own case was. I found myself writing small vignettes and drawing them together."

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Gabriel Spera
Winner of the 2018 Marica and Jan Vilcek Prize for Poetry for "Throat"
Selected by Rachel Hadas

"Much of my work tends toward narrative, even though I often work in lyrical forms. Some of the earliest and most enduring poems we have were essentially stories—Beowulf, Gilgamesh, the Odyssey, the Ramayana. Moreover, the human mind is extraordinary in its ability to construct a narrative—to explain a single event, or to link apparently disparate events. So although the parts of this sequence are arranged chronologically, the narrative is largely constructed by the reader. And I’d guess that different readers might have different narratives—some that are final, and some that are open-ended."

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