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• Electric Book Award •

About Alternating Current’s Electric Book Award

The Electric Book Award is Alternating Current Press’ annual book award to recognize an unpublished adult manuscript of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, play script, or hybrid work, as a full-length collection or as a full-length single work, submitted to the press. All manuscripts submitted to Alternating Current are considered for the award, and there is no additional submission process. The winner is announced each summer from our manuscript finalists, selected by our readers and editors, to receive publication, publicity, a monetary award, and other incentives from our press.

Award Process and Guidelines

Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Contest Code of Ethics

We Subscribe to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) Contest Code of Ethics: CLMP’s community of independent literary publishers believes that ethical contests serve our shared goal: to connect writers and readers by publishing exceptional writing. We believe that intent to act ethically, clarity of guidelines, and transparency of process form the foundation of an ethical contest. To that end, we agree to 1.) conduct our contests as ethically as possible and to address any unethical behavior on the part of our readers, judges, or editors; 2.) to provide clear and specific contest guidelines—defining conflict of interest for all parties involved; and 3.) to make the mechanics of our selection process available to the public. This Code recognizes that different contest models produce different results, but that each model can be run ethically. We have adopted this Code to reinforce our integrity and dedication as a publishing community and to ensure that our contests contribute to a vibrant literary heritage.

Alternating Current’s Selection & Judging Process

1.) We take submissions through Submittable and use its tools and our own to accept incognito submissions. The editor-in-chief has access to the information, but she does not read or accept submissions. While the editor-in-chief determines what is published on our press, she does not make judging decisions for awards.

2.) We ask submitters not to include their names, contact information, or any identifying marks within the documents, titles, and file names of submissions.

3.) Staff members of Alternating Current may have pieces published on The Coil or submit pieces for incognito submission consideration, but staff members are not eligible to win award prizes while serving on our staff.

4.) For all awards, the editor-in-chief compiles a spreadsheet of all the eligible pieces, makes sure everything is stripped of any contact information, and sends that spreadsheet to the editorial readers. The judges rank the selections to choose the top finalists for individual categories. The rankings are then tallied, and the incognito judging decisions are final.

5.) While the manuscripts are read incognito, the readers are asked to recuse themselves from judging if there are any submissions that they may recognize as posing a personal conflict of interest. Once selected, we will reveal the winner’s name privately to the readers before announcement to clarify that there is no conflict of interest. Should there be, the next finalist in line without conflict shall become the winner, or judges shall recuse themselves from the ranking tallies. Conflicts of interest are defined as: close friends, relatives, students, and former students of the judges. We do not consider workshops to be disqualifying factors, unless the judge personally feels there is a conflict there. We leave the discretion of conflict identification up to the judges.

6.) The winner is notified prior to announcement. The results are publicly posted online at The Coil and on the press website.

Current 2021 Prize

The winner receives an additional $100 (upon publication), alongside our standard advance; publication of the manuscript at Alternating Current Press in paperback and ebook formats; 10 additional complimentary print copies; complimentary digital copies; competitive backend royalties at 50%; an award medallion for use on book covers and websites; a certificate; and our standard publicity package, including a press kit, a book club reading guide, a press release, multiple mailing-list email blasts, social media, review and contest copies, and more.

2020 Electric Book Award Winner: A Gospel of Bones by Suzi Q. Smith

“How survival transfigures into testament. How cultural memory never forgotten is remembered.”
—Bobby LeFebre,
Poet Laureate of Colorado

Suzi Q. Smith’s debut collection, A Gospel of Bones, is an exploration of internal dialogue and a survival guide as the poet examines and contends with the politics of biracial black womanhood, love, sex, single motherhood, family, violence, poverty, and most of all, prayer. A Gospel of Bones includes poems that crisply and lyrically examine the poet’s own gospels. Smith’s writing is breathtaking and devastating at times, welcoming and affirming in others, offering a narrative on faith, violence, love, divorce, grief, and policing, with the racial dynamics threaded throughout. The poems are an offering of unflinching and fierce determination to tell the good stories, the hidden stories, the hard stories, and all that endures after the telling.

Read more and buy the book!

2019 Electric Book Award Winner: Wyatt Earp by Larry Beckett

“A whip-smart and vivid masterpiece scattershot and peppered throughout with lines that crackle like a prairie wildfire.”
—Hosho McCreesh,
author of Chinese Gucci

Wyatt Earp is more than a legend; he’s the embodiment of the American Wild West. It’s easy to reduce a man of such stature to mere stereotypes and iconoclasm, to leave out the women who inspired him, or to rely on the slander of those he defeated; but forgoing the myths, wordsmith Larry Beckett skirts the overwrought icon and gives us instead the aches, loves, and morals of the flesh-and-blood human. Wyatt Earp follows the famed lawman and his historic posse through the streets of Tombstone, in a natural five-act tragedy: the western zone, rise of the outlaws and hero, the showdown, fall of the outlaws and hero, and the vendetta ride, with striking prose poetry that makes use of Earp’s own words.

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2018 Electric Book Award Winner: We Meant to Bring It Home Alive by Armin Tolentino

“There’s no shortage of miracles here, yet extinction waits at every turn. Perhaps we should listen.”
—Ruth Awad,
author of Set to Music a Wildfire

From astronauts drifting lost through space to whalers hauling dragon weight through dark waters to fossil hunters of the 19th-century Bone Wars, the voices within this poetry collection all seek one uniting thing: connection. The epic sweep of Moby Dick meets Space Age exploration inside the lyrics of Bowie songs on the cusp of an apocalypse, all within the forgotten dreams of a fisherman or a whaler or a devil-dodger or a lizard man. Exploring distance, forgiveness, disconnection, and regret, the speakers—regardless of their fantastical or absurd situations—are simply people severed from their loved ones, their gods, their faith, or what they once believed was true about the world. But still each is hoping someone, something is listening across the expanse.

Read more and buy the book!

2017 Electric Book Award Winner: What Shines from It by Sara Rauch

“So perfectly quiet before leveling you with an emotional wallop.”
—Pete Fromm,
author of A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do

The eleven stories in Sara Rauch’s What Shines from It are rife with the physical and psychic wounds of everyday life. They are populated by women on the verge of transcendence—brimming with anger and love—and working-class artists haunted by the ghosts of their desires. Abiding by a distinctly guarded New England sensibility, these stories inhabit the borderlands of long-established cities, where humans are still learning to embrace the natural world. Subtly exploring sexualities, relationships, birth and rebirth, identity, ghosts, and longing, Rauch searches for the places where our protective shells are cracked and, in spare, poetic language, limns those edges of loneliness and loss with light.

Read more and buy the book!

2016 Electric Book Award Winner: A Room in Dodge City by David Leo Rice

“With a draftsman’s hand and a psychonaut’s eye, David Leo Rice has mapped the alien precinct in which we already live. I’ve never encountered a book so strange yet so familiar.”
—Joanna Ruocco,
author of Dan

A Room in Dodge City follows a nameless drifter into an American heart of darkness. In this nightmarish version of the historic Dodge City, mythic beasts crawl out of the woodwork; bizarre rituals are enacted; and death is never the end. Equal parts humor and horror-show, David Leo Rice’s novel combines the mundaneness of modern life—motels, strip malls, temp jobs—with something stranger, darker, and more eternal. Told through linked vignettes that read like metaphoric fairytales gone wrong, Dodge City consumes the reader just as it slowly consumes the drifter, leaving all to wonder whether any of us can ever truly escape this world—or our own.

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2015 Electric Book Award Winner: The Girl Wakes by Carmen Lau

“A beautifully vicious first collection of retrofitted fairytales, with whip-smart swerves, darkly funny moments, and razor-sharp language.”
—Brian Evenson,
author of Windeye and ALA-RUSA Award-winner Last Days

Dark, strange, lyrical, and full of frustrated desire and whimsy, Carmen Lau’s debut collection of stories and novellas paints a vivid picture of femininity in the clutches of fantasy, reflecting the brutality of growing up a girl and challenging readers to rethink fairytales as they’ve always known them. Within, you’ll find a tender heart, a painful core, and a paradoxically disastrous and beautiful coming-of-age of every and any girl, told through fairytales that mirror real life and are at once contemporary and timeless. Joining the ranks of Angela Carter, Kate Bernheimer, and Allyse Near, Lau weaves tales of a girl who is too fantastical to be real and too real to be fantasy.

Read more and buy the book!