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Do you have a work or fiction or nonfiction ready to submit? As we head into the weekend, consider submitting to the following contests—which offer prizes of up to $10,000 and have deadlines within the next two weeks.

University of Iowa Press Iowa Prize in Literary Nonfiction: Publication by University of Iowa Press will be given for an essay collection; Meghan Daum will judge.
Deadline: December 10
Entry Fee: $10

Friends of American Writers Literary Awards: A prize of $4,000 will be given for a book of fiction or nonfiction published during 2016 by a writer who is a resident of the Midwest (or who previously resided in the Midwest for at least five years) or whose book features a Midwestern setting.
Deadline: December 10
Entry Fee: None

Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest: A prize of $10,000 and publication in Creative Nonfiction will be given for an essay on the theme of “The Dialogue Between Science & Religion.” A $5,000 runner-up prize will also be awarded.
Deadline: December 12
Entry Fee: $20

Willow Books Literature Awards: A prize of $1,000 will be given for a book of fiction or creative nonfiction by a writer of color. Story collections, novellas, novels, essay collections, and memoirs are all eligible.
Deadline: December 15
Entry Fee: $25

Chautauqua Institution Chautauqua Prize: A prize of $7,500 will be given for a book of fiction or creative nonfiction published during the previous year. The winner also receives a weeklong, all-expenses-paid summer residency at Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York.
Deadline: December 15
Entry Fee: $75

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. Visit our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Zadie Smith, author of the new novel, Swing Time (Penguin Press, 2016), considers dancers who have influenced her writing in a recent essay for the Guardian. About Mikhail Baryshnikov, she says: “He has high and low modes, tough and soft poses, but he’s always facing outwards, to us, his audience.” Write an essay that begins with one of your memories of watching a dancer. How does the dancer’s body move through space? Did you feel a connection with the performance and the artist? Were you moved emotionally?

Earlier this month, actress Emma Watson hid books with handwritten messages in the London Underground and New York City subway stations as part of the community project Books on the Underground. Write a short story that begins with a character hiding a book in an unlikely place, like a bus stop or a graveyard or the hollow of a tree. What book would be hidden and why? Is anyone supposed to find it, and if so, what happens after? Is the discovery the beginning of a mystery?

BuzzFeed has announced the recipients of its second annual BuzzFeed Emerging Writer Fellowships. Four nonfiction writers will each receive $12,000 and career mentorship from BuzzFeed’s senior editorial staff. Beginning in January, the fellows will spend four months in BuzzFeed’s offices in New York City or Los Angeles and focus on writing personal essays and cultural criticism.

The 2017 fellows are: Jennifer Hope Choi, a Brooklyn, New York–based creative nonfiction writer who is currently at work on a memoir, and whose writing has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, the Atlantic, and elsewhere; Frederick McKindra, a writer based in Brooklyn, New York, who is at work on a novel, and whose writing interrogates the intersections between race, sexuality, gender, and socio-economics; Nichole Perkins, a writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, whose pop culture writing and personal essays have appeared in Vulture, Fusion, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere; and Pier Dominguez, a writer from Colombia whose cultural criticism and pop culture essays have appeared in Newsday, Remezcla, Univision, and elsewhere. Read more about the fellows.

BuzzFeed’s editorial staff selected the 2017 fellows from a pool of more than three hundred applicants. Saeed Jones, BuzzFeed’s executive editor of culture, launched the BuzzFeed Emerging Writer Fellowship program in 2015 with a mission to “diversify the broader media landscape by investing in the next generation of necessary voices.” The inaugural fellows were Chaya Babu, Tomi Obaro, Neila Orr, and Esther Wang.

Read our exclusive interview with Jones about the first year of the program and his goals for its second year. 

(Photos from left: Jennifer Hope Choi, Frederick McKindra, Nichole Perkins, Pier Dominguez)

In an essay for the Ploughshares blog, Emily Smith discusses representations of witches in literature and how they are usually associated with fear and terror. In her exploration of Macbeth, Smith notices that, “Shakespeare’s witches are…followed by dark clouds of rain.” Write a poem using dark or gothic imagery, such as a woman being followed by dark clouds of rain. What emotions are elicited from your depiction? Is she focused on the storm clouds or does she notice them only peripherally? How might you alter your rhythm and sounds to mimic those of a thunderstorm?

Teaching artist Marge Pellegrino recently led a series of P&W–supported writing workshops for the YWCA’s La Escuelita’s summer program. Pellegrino has written about grief and resilience for children. Since 1999, she has directed programming for the Owl & Panther expressive arts project that serves refugees impacted by torture, trauma, and traumatic dislocation. Her book Journey of Dreams (Frances Lincoln Press, 2009) is a Smithsonian Notable Book, Southwest Best Book, and Judy Goddard Award winner for excellence in young adult literature. Her book Too Nice (Magination Press, 2002) is available in five languages.

Missing You Workshop Cohort

The neighborhood surrounding the House of Neighborly Service’s La Escuelita knows loss. Many of the youth who participate in the YWCA’s La Escuelita summer camp have family members who have died too young. Some have relatives who have been incarcerated. Some youth come from mixed-status or undocumented families who are separated from loved ones by deportation.

The series of five P&W–supported “Missing You” writing workshops invited neighborhood youth from five to seventeen years of age to explore new ways to hold memories and reach out to those they love. They played with writers’ tools to create a small body of work that tapped spatial and linguistic intelligences. They let their illustrations fuel a “simile portrait.” They felt the cadence in their “I Miss/I Remember” list poems. They composed letters to the people they love and imagined how the voice of that person might sound in an answer. Some of the participants were particularly engaged when they stitched together narratives that captured details of a time they spent together with the person they miss.

One morning they wrote about the metaphorical trash in their lives on scraps of colored paper. They ripped the paper up, put the small pieces in a blender with water, “transforming trash into treasure,” and created a beautiful handmade paper cover for their book, which held their own story of resilience. Their last exploration held up gratitude. They wrote about things they valued about a brother, a tio, abuela, or the mother who loved them, in order to feel how gratitude can lift their spirits, like the last line of a great poem.

Each workshop ended in sharing within the cohort—a time when their words traveled on sound, when they could see others respond to what they had kept tucked in their hearts. A time when the writing and sharing could break through the isolation caused by a buildup of grief and separation. Hearing the others’ stories let them know they weren’t alone with these feelings.

The series culminated in a shy and proud reading for the community elders.

Photo: La Escuelita “Missing You” workshop with Marge Pellegrino.

Support for Readings & Workshops events in Tucson is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

The 1987 John Hughes film Planes, Trains and Automobiles stars Steve Martin and John Candy as a mismatched pair both trying to travel from New York City to Chicago in time for the Thanksgiving holiday in what proves to be a comedic journey filled with bad luck, misunderstandings, and ill-timed coincidences. At its core are two central characters who seem to have philosophical outlooks, priorities, and skills that clash, and whose differentiation occupies much of the screen time and seemingly much of their respective psyches. Write an essay about a time when you were in a difficult situation and at complete odds with another person involved. Did you find yourself dwelling on your differences, and if so, how did that affect the trajectory of the outcome of events? In what ways might your differences have been emphasized by the attraction to larger-than-life oppositions?

“During the day, as I worked, I clarified daydreams, rehearsed thoughts. Phrases rose up, and as I shoveled compost, mulched garlic, or turned over the soil, the phrases turned too…. The world’s margins shrank but also grew luminous. After working outside in my body all day long, my mind felt brightly lit.” In “Turning the Soil” in the November/December issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, Tess Taylor writes about her revelatory experience volunteering at a farm while at a writing residency in southwestern Massachusetts. Try to carve out a few hours this week to spend engaged in an activity that is very different from—and outside of—your usual working environment. Get your hands dirty in a garden or park, sit quietly in a library, or people-watch at an airport or train station. Allow your mind to roam over unexpectedly fresh images and phrases that surface, and then write a series of flash fiction pieces inspired by your time spent “outside.” 

Planning to do some writing over the holiday weekend? Have something ready to submit? Here are a few upcoming deadlines for prose writers (and a few more for poets, too)—including publication prizes for individual stories and essays, chapbook and full-length book awards, and academic fellowships.

Narrative Fall Story Contest: A prize of $2,500 and publication in Narrative is given annually for a short story, a short short story, an essay, or an excerpt from a longer work of prose of up to 15,000 words. A second-place prize of $1,000 and publication is also awarded.
Deadline: 
November 30
Entry Fee: 
$24

Fish Publishing Short Story Prize: A prize of €3,000 (approximately $3,360) and publication in the annual Fish Publishing anthology is given annually for a short story of up to 5,000 words.
Deadline: 
November 30
Entry Fee: 
$25

Arcadia Press Chapbook Prize: Three prizes of $1,000 each, publication by Arcadia Press, 25 author copies, and distribution to Arcadia subscribers are given annually for a poetry, fiction, and nonfiction chapbook of 15 to 45 pages.
Deadline: 
November 30
Entry Fee: 
$20

W. Y. Boyd Literary Award: A prize of $5,000 is given annually by the American Library Association for a novel published in 2016 that is set in a period when the United States was at war.
Deadline: 
December 1
Entry fee:
None

Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction: A prize of $1,000 is given annually by the Langum Charitable Trust for a book of historical fiction published in 2016.
Deadline: 
December 1
Entry fee:
None

Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown Writing Fellowships: Seven-month residencies at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, are given annually to four poets and four fiction writers who have not published a full-length book in any genre. Each fellowship includes a private apartment and a monthly stipend of $750. For fellowships from October 1, 2016, through April 30, 2017, using the online submission system submit up to 35 pages of fiction (include a synopsis if submitting a novel), a personal statement
Deadline: 
December 1
Entry Fee: 
$50

Stanford University Wallace Stegner Fellowships: Ten two-year fellowships, five in poetry and five in fiction, are given annually to emerging writers. Each fellowship includes a $26,000 annual stipend, a tuition waiver, and health insurance. Submit 10 to 15 pages of poetry or a fiction manuscript of up to 9,000 words, composed of two short stories, one short story and a novel excerpt, or a novel excerpt.
Deadline: 
December 1
Entry Fee: 
$85

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. Check out our latest roundup of poetry deadlines, and for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, visit our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar.

In the early twentieth century, anthropologist Franz Boas published claims that the Eskimo languages had dozens or more words for snow—claims that have been pored over and analyzed, debunked and reaffirmed, and criticized and clarified in countless investigations since. Think of a natural or cultural phenomenon, such as a certain type of food, or an emotion, that you believe deserves or warrants a larger vocabulary. Write a poem that presents these new words—perhaps compound words of your own invention—along with their definitions and an exploration of why these articulations are significant to you. 

As the month of November winds down, the deadline approaches for several poetry contests. Whether you’re looking to submit a single poem or a full collection, here are contests with a deadline of November 30—all of which offer a prize of at least $1,000 and publication.

If you have a full-length poetry manuscript ready to send out, consider submitting to the National Federation of State Poetry Societies Stevens Poetry Manuscript Competition; the White Pine Press Poetry Prize; the Bear Star Press Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize, given to a writer residing in a state west of the central time zone; the Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Competition; or the Burnside Review Press Book Prize, judged by Ada Limón. The Cider Press Review Book Award is also open for submissions and will be judged by Anne Harding Woodworth; the winner will receive $1,500 and publication.

The University of Georgia Press is also accepting submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts to its Georgia Poetry Prize; in addition to $1,000 and publication, the winner will receive travel expenses to give readings at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Georgia State University, with a $1,000 honorarium for each event. David Bottoms will judge.

For writers looking to publish their first book of poetry, the BOA Editions A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize is open for submissions. The winner will receive $1,500 and publication; Brenda Shaughnessy will judge. New Issues Poetry & Prose is also open to submissions for its annual Poetry Prize. The winner will receive $2,000 and publication; David Rivard will judge.

For poets over the age of fifty, check out the Two Sylvias Press Wilder Series Book Prize. Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Convy will judge.

The University of North Texas’s Rilke Prize is given for a poetry collection published in the previous year by a mid-career poet. The winner will receive $10,000 plus airfare and lodging to give readings at the University of North Texas and the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex in April 2017. U.S. poets who have published at least two previous poetry collections are eligible.

And if you only have a few polished poems, not to worry! Poetry International is accepting submissions for its annual C. P. Cavafy Poetry Prize, given for a single poem. The Munster Literature Center Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, given annually for a poem, includes €1,000; publication in Southword; a weeklong residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, Ireland; and up to €600 in travel expenses, as well as lodging and meals, to give a reading at the Cork International Poetry Festival in Cork, Ireland, in February 2017. Mary Noonan will judge.

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. For more upcoming contests, visit our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar.

 

 

Joan Gerstein, originally from New York, has lived in California since 1969. A retired educator and psychotherapist, Gerstein has been writing poetry since elementary school, and her writing is featured in multiple San Diego publications as well national and international periodicals. She has volunteered to teach creative writing to incarcerated veterans at the county jail for almost two years and finds it stimulating and extremely rewarding. She has led the workshop for veterans at the Vista jail for six years. Her poetry has been published in Tidepools, Magee Park Poets Anthology, A Year in Ink, Summations, and the San Diego Poetry Annual. She served as the editor of the special Veteran's Section of the San Diego Poetry Annual 2015-16. San Diego Entertainment & Arts Guild partnered with Gerstein recently for a series of P&W–supported veteran workshops.

Joan GersteinWhat makes your workshops unique?
The veterans are in a specially designed program called Veterans Moving Forward and are required to participate in all classes including my creative writing workshop. As such, the men have a wide range of writing skills and interest in the writing process. There is also much fluidity because new participants enter weekly and some depart. I offer a combination of workshops such as poetry, memoir, fiction writing, and if there are requests, classes focused on grammar and sentence and paragraph structure. I also offer my editing, typing, and submission services for those who either wish to enter a contest or are writing something of which they want my feedback. Because they are currently incarcerated and have little access to computers, I meet individually with those men, edit and type up their material, get their approval of final product, and if relevant, submit their entries to various periodicals and veteran anthologies.

What techniques do you employ to help shy writers open up?
Attending the workshop is mandatory but participation varies. I offer a vast number of different exercises to ensure that everyone can hopefully respond to at least some. Sharing of work with the group is voluntary. I often suggest that men work in pairs or groups to allow more reserved men to participate without undue attention. While they are doing assignments, I make a point of walking around the room and working individually with men who rarely share with the group.

What has been your most rewarding experience as a teacher?
The men are extremely appreciative as a group and individually. I look forward to and thoroughly enjoy my weekly workshops and feel especially rewarded when I work individually with the writers, and their submissions are accepted. 

What affect has this work had on your life and/or your art?
I’m not sure this has affected my work except as possible subject matter to use in my writing, however the experience has enriched my life and given me a greater understanding of the challenges facing discharged military. My students range from men in their young twenties to veterans of the Vietnam War, of every race and background, from all over the United States as well as foreign countries. I have definitely gained a greater appreciation of their sacrifices and challenges.

What are the benefits of writing workshops for veterans?
This is a creative outlet for many. For men who already enjoy writing and do it regularly, it is an opportunity to hone their craft and a showcase for them to share their material. If they want, I work with the men individually to fine-tune their writing. I offer several opportunities for the men to submit poetry and prose to various contests or veteran publications. For all the men, I hope to expose them to various styles of writing as well as many writers. For example, I may read excerpts from A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca, so the men can see that anyone can overcome odds including incarceration, and even become a great writer. The various exercises we do, individually and in small and large groups, encourage critical thinking. Most participants, even those that insist they “can’t write,” will find some success and surprise themselves.

Photo: Joan Gerstein  Photo credit: Joan Gerstein
Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation and the Hearst Foundations. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

The Lannan Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2016 Lannan Literary Awards and Fellowships. The awards honor writers who have made “significant contributions to English-language literature,” while the fellowships recognize writers of merit who demonstrate outstanding potential. This year the foundation awarded a total of $850,000 in awards and fellowships to a group of seven poets and fiction writers.

The 2016 award recipients are fiction writers Kevin Barry and John Keene, and poet Tyehimba Jess.

Kevin Barry is the award-winning author of the novels Beatlebone (Doubleday, 2015) and City of Bohane (Graywolf, 2011), and the story collections Dark Lies the Island (Graywolf, 2012) and There Are Little Kingdoms (Stinging Fly, 2007). John Keene is the author of the fiction collection Counternarratives (New Directions, 2015), the novel Annotations (New Directions, 1995), and the poetry-art collection Seismosis (1913 Press, 2006). Poet Tyehimba Jess is the author Olio (2016) and Leadbelly (Wave Books, 2005), winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. 

The fellowship recipients are poets Don Mee Choi, Craig Santos Perez, Solmaz Sharif, and Ocean Vuong.

Don Mee Choi’s published works include the poetry collections Hardly War (Wave, 2016) and The Morning News Is Exciting (Action, 2010), as well as several translations of Korean poet Kim Hyesoon. Craig Santos Perez is the coeditor of two anthologies of Pacific Islander literature and the author of three poetry collections, most recently the American Book Award–winning from unincorporated territory [guma’] (Omnidawn, 2014). Solmaz Sharif’s debut collection, Look (Graywolf, 2016), was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her other honors include an NEA fellowship and a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship. Ocean Vuong’s debut collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, was published by Copper Canyon in 2016. He has received the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets, as well as honors from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation and the Academy of American Poets.

Candidates for the awards and fellowships are first nominated by a group of writers, publishers, editors, and literary scholars. The Lannan Foundation’s literary committee selects the winners. There is no application process.

The annual Lannan Literary Awards and Fellowships program aims to expand the audience of contemporary poetry and prose and to inspire the creation of more English-language literature. Visit the website for more information about the awards and winners.

Last night in New York City the National Book Foundation announced the winners of the 2016 National Book Awards. Daniel Borzutzky won in poetry for his collection The Performance of Becoming Human (Brooklyn Arts Press), and Colson Whitehead took home the fiction award for his novel The Underground Railroad (Doubleday). Ibram X. Kendi won in nonfiction for his book Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, and John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell won in young people’s literature for the graphic memoir March: Book Three (Top Shelf Productions/IDW Publishing). Each winner receives $10,000.

The ceremony was hosted by comedian Larry Wilmore, who along with award judges, winners, and presenters returned to the power and importance of literature, particularly in the current political climate. “Books give us hope,” said Lisa Lucas, the executive director of the National Book Foundation. “There’s no better way to start conversations about the world than reading. Let’s change the world one book at a time.”

The winners reinforced the idea that books can both advance and record social change. In his acceptance speech, poetry winner Daniel Borzutzky said, “Literature and poetry can serve as the means of preserving social and historical memory.” Fiction winner Colson Whitehead, whose book The Underground Railroad follows the story of two slaves trying to escape via the Underground Railroad, accepted the award and urged everyone to “be kind to everybody, make art, and fight the power.” Nonfiction winner Ibram X. Kendi, whose book details the history of racist ideas in America, said, “In the midst of racism there is the human beauty of the resistance to racism. That is why I have faith.”

“Let me tell you something,” Wilmore said after Kendi’s speech. “The National Book Foundation is woke.”

Congressman John Lewis, who along with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell won in young people’s literature for the third installation of Marchwhich chronicles Lewis’s activism during the Civil Rights Movement—took the opportunity to note how the social climate in America has changed. To explain the award’s significance to him, Lewis, who is the congressman for Georgia’s fifth congressional district, spoke through tears of being denied a library card growing up in a segregated Alabama. “I love books,” said Lewis. “Thank everyone, thank you, National Book Foundation.”

Earlier in the evening, the foundation gave the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community to the nonprofit Cave Canem. Established twenty years ago by poets Cornelius Eady and Toi Dericotte, the nonprofit works to advance African American poetry. Poet Terrance Hayes presented the award, and cited the Latin meaning of Cave Canem—“beware the dog”—to explain the importance of the organization’s work, especially in the face of ongoing discrimination. “Cave Canem is the fortification of your language, your history, your future,” said Hayes. “We must be the dog that guards the house.”

The foundation also honored biographer Robert Caro with its Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Caro has written several notable biographies, including The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (Knopf, 1975), and a set of four biographies about Lyndon Johnson.

The finalists for the awards were announced in October; each receives $1,000. The annual awards are given for books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people’s literature published in the previous year. Interviews with the winners and finalists, as well as the full video from last night’s ceremony are available on the National Book Foundation website.

Established in 1950, the National Book Awards are among the literary world’s most prestigious prizes. The 2015 winners were Robin Coste Lewis in poetry for Voyage of the Sable Venus (Knopf), Adam Johnson in fiction for Fortune Smiles (Random House), and Ta-Nehisi Coates in nonfiction for Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau).

Photo (left to right): Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell, Congressman John Lewis, Daniel Borzutzky, Colson Whitehead, Ibram X. Kendi

“Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it,” writes Marilynne Robinson in her 2004 novel, Gilead. “I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave…to make ourselves useful. It allows us to be generous, which is another way of saying exactly the same thing.” The winter holiday season is often associated with generosity and giving—being generous with one’s home and spirit, and the giving of thanks and gifts. Write a personal essay about a time when you have been the giver or receiver of a great act of generosity. Explore the connection between courage and generosity, reflecting on the exemplary people or events you encountered. What do you find are the greatest emotional challenges to doing something so bravely useful?

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