Each of the three online issues of the anthology features a prize-winning poem, story, or essay selected by well-known practitioners in their respective fields. Bennington Writing Prizes of $250 are awarded in each of the three writing genres. Judges for plain china: Best Undergraduate Writing 2011 are essayist, novelist, and short story writer Jonathan Lethem for nonfiction; Paris Review editor Lorin Stein for fiction; and poet, translator, and former American Poetry Review editor Elinor Wilner for poetry.
Previous judges have included The Atlantic fiction editor C.Michael Curtis, essayist Susan Cheever, and poet April Bernard (2009); Michael Curtis, essayist and anthologist Philip Lopate, and poet Ellen Bryant Voigt (2010).
Jonathan Lethem, Nonfiction Judge
Novelist, essayist and short story writer Jonathan Lethem has published eight novels, including Fortress of Solitude, which became a New York Times best seller, and Motherless Brooklyn, which was named Novel of the Year by Esquire and won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Salon Book Award, as well as the Macallan Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger. He has also written three short story collections, a novella and two collections of essays; edited The Vintage Book of Amnesia; guest-edited The Year’s Best Music Writing 2002; co-edited The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick; and was the founding fiction editor of Fence magazine. His writings have appeared in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, McSweeney’s and many other periodicals. In 2005, he received a MacArthur Fellowship.
Lethem’s short book about John Carpenter’s movie They Live was published recently and he’s currently working on another about the album Fear of Music by Talking Heads. He is the Roy E. Disney Professor in Creative Writing at Pomona College, a position formerly held by David Foster Wallace.
Lorin Stein, Fiction Judge
Lorin Stein has been the editor of The Paris Review since 2010. Before taking the helm at the magazine, he worked as an editor at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux with authors Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, Richard Price, Denis Johnson, Lydia Davis, and others.
Books edited by Stein have received the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Los Angeles TimesBook Prize, the Believer Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His reviews of fiction and poetry and his translations from French have appeared in The New York Review of Books, Harper’s,The London Review of Books, The New Republic, n+1, and the Salon Guide to Contemporary Fiction. In 2008, FSG published his translation of Grégoire Bouillier’s memoir, The Mystery Guest.
Eleanor Wilner, Poetry Judge
Eleanor Wilner has published seven collections of poetry, including Tourist in Hell (University of Chicago Press, 2010); The Girl with Bees in Her Hair and Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems (both from Copper Canyon); and Otherwise (U. of Chicago). Other works include a verse translation of Euripides’s Medea (Penn Greek Series); and a book on visionary imagination, Gathering the Winds (Johns Hopkins Press). Her work has appeared in more than 40 anthologies, including Best American Poetry and The Norton Anthology of Poetry. She has received numerous awards, including fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts; the Juniper Prize, and three Pushcart Prizes.
A former editor of The American Poetry Review, Wilner is now an advisory editor of Calyx and Poetry International. She has taught, most recently, at the University of Chicago, Northwestern, and Smith College, and is currently on the faculty of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.