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If you found yourself stranded on a desert island, what would you most want to have with you? Make a list of ten things—anything from books, music, and photos, to people, pets, or food—and then write a poem with the items in your order of importance. Include the reasons why you can’t live without each item. Are there specific memories attached to certain items that persuaded you to choose them?

Allison Geller is a poet and writer, and the associate editor of A Women's Thing magazine. Her chapbook, Write Home, was published in January 2015 by Finishing Line Press. Geller is also a competitive ballroom dancer.

As poets and artists, we have all contributed our time, work, and creative energies for things that we believe in, whether for a nascent (or not-so-nascent) publication, an event, or a cause. But it’s really great to get paid.

That’s why my Roots Poetry Series cocurator Melissa Ahart and I are tremendously appreciative of the grant funding that Poets & Writers has given us. It lets us honor our poets’ time and work while allowing us to keep our monthly reading series free to the public. As one our recent readers commented, “Great atmosphere, great crowd, great readers and a check at the end—does it get any better?”

The New York Times called Roots Cafe, a South Slope, Brooklyn neighborhood hub for coffee, community, art, and music, “a cozy living room with a barista.” As of last November, it’s a living room with poetry readings. Melissa and I started the series because Roots, beloved by both of us, seemed like a perfectly convivial place for poets to gather and read for the public. And to our delight, each reading has drawn a crowd of Roots regulars, friends of the poets reading, locals, students, artists, and the odd Australian tourist.

In choosing our lineups, we focus on pairing emerging with established poets to create a diverse roster of readers while giving newer poets a platform. One of the best parts about the readings is the end, when the readers get to meet each other and express admiration and encouragement for each other’s work. Readers have included Bianca Stone, Adam Fitzgerald, Hafizah Geter, Morgan Parker, Danniel Schoonebeek, Emily Skillings, Matthew Rohrer, and many more.

Roots Poetry Series is always free, with beer and wine served in exchange for cash donations. (After all, where there are poets, there has to be wine.) Our next event will take place on Friday, August 18 at 8:00 PM, when we will welcome Kyle Dargan, Sara Jane Stoner, Mary Austin Speaker and Justin Petropoulos. And stay tuned for news about our November one year anniversary reading, for which we’re inviting back all of our Roots Poetry alumni for a roundup reading.

Finally, we are immensely grateful to Amanda and Christian Neill of Roots Cafe for providing a warm, vibrant home for poetry in South Slope, and to Poets & Writers for giving our readers something to put in their pockets on the way out. This is how art can keep getting made.

Read more about Roots and follow us on Facebook to find out about upcoming readings.

Photos: (top) Allison Geller, cocurator of the Roots Poetry Series. (bottom) Charif Shanahan reading his poems. Photo Credit: Mary Catherine Kinniburgh, Allison Geller.

Support for Readings & Workshops in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton, the A.K. Starr Charitable Trust, and Friends of Poets & Writers.

Submissions are currently open for several prizes in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, including the New Millennium Writings Awards, the Stone Canoe Literary Prizes, and the Room of Her Own Foundation Orlando Prizes. Their deadline is July 31. To view more contests with upcoming deadlines, visit the Writing Contests, Grants & Awards database.   

The New Millennium Writings Awards are given twice yearly for a poem, a short story, a short short story, and an essay. The winners in each category receive $1,000 and publication in the print journal and on the website. National Book Award finalist Maureen N. McLane will serve as guest poetry judge.

Using the online submission system, submit up to three poems totaling no more than five pages, a short story or essay of up to 6,000 words, or a short short story of up to 1,000 words along with a $20 entry fee by July 31. Multiple and simultaneous submissions are accepted. All entries are considered for publication. All participants receive a complimentary copy of the journal. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Established in 1996 by journalist Don Williams, New Millennium Writings is an annual publication that promotes the work of new and emerging writers.

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The Stone Canoe Literary Awards are given annually to a poet, a fiction writer, and a creative nonfiction writer who have a connection to upstate New York, and who have not published a book with a nationally distributed press. Winners in each category receive $500. An additional prize of $500 is also given annually to a U.S. military veteran. The editors of Stone Canoe will judge. Winners will be announced October 31.

Using the online submission system, submit three to five poems or a short story or essay of up to 10,000 words by July 31. Though entrants must have a New York State connection, the submissions themselves may be on any subject. There is no entry fee. All entries are considered for publication. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Stone Canoe is an annual publication of the Upstate New York YMCA’s Downtown Writers Center, which showcases the work of writers with an upstate New York connection. The publication aims to “promote a greater awareness of the cultural and intellectual richness that characterizes life in the region.”

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Sponsored by the A Room of her Own Foundation, the Orlando Prizes are given twice yearly for a poem, a short story, a short short story, and an essay by a woman writer. The winners will each receive $1,000 and publication in the Los Angeles Review.

Using the online submission manager, submit a poem of up to 36 lines, a short short story of up to 500 words, or a short story or essay of up to 1,500 words, along with a $15 entry fee by July 31. Multiple and simultaneous submissions are accepted. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

A Room of Her Own was founded in 2000 by Darlene Chandler Bassett and Mary Johnson. The nonprofit foundation's mission is "to inspire, fund, and champion works of art and literature by women."

The concept of the American road trip has compelled many writers—Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck, Tom Wolfe, Cheryl Strayed, Mark Twain, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name a few—to pen memoirs or novels exploring themes of exploration, adventure, and discovery. Take inspiration from this map of American literary road trips from Atlas Obscura, and write a short travel essay of your own. Recount your experience whether it’s making the journey from your front door to a neighbor's house, or to a city you’re never explored. Find the balance that feels right for you between observations of physical or geographical details, and the interior landscape of emotions and memories.

The longlist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was announced this morning. The annual prize of £50,000 (approximately $78,142) honors the best book of fiction written in English and published in United Kingdom during the previous year. This year, the list of thirteen semifinalists includes five writers from the United States: Bill Clegg, Laila Lalami, Marilynne Robinson, Anne Tyler, and Hanya Yanagihara. Writers from Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, India, Nigeria, and Jamaica complete the list.

The longlisted titles are Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape) by Bill Clegg; The Green Road (Jonathan Cape) by Anne Enright, who won the 2007 Man Booker Prize for her novel The Gathering; A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications) by Marlon James; The Moor’s Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing) by Laila Lalami; Satin Island (Jonathan Cape) by Tom McCarthy; The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press) by Chigozie Obioma; The Illuminations (Faber & Faber) by Andrew O’Hagan; Lila (Virago) by Marilynne Robinson; Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus) by Anuradha Roy; The Year of the Runaways (Picador) by Sunjeev Sahota; The Chimes (Sceptre) by Anna Smaill; A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus) by Anne Tyler; and A Little Life (Picador) by Hanya Yanagihara.

The judges—Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith, Frances Osborne, and Michael Wood—selected the thirteen titles from a list of 156 books. “The range of different performances and forms of these novels is amazing,” said Wood, chair of the judging panel. “All of them do something exciting with the language they have chosen to use.” Three of the semifinalists—Bill Clegg, Chigozie Obioma, and Anna Smaill—are debut novelists. The shortlist will be announced on September 15, and the winner will be named at a ceremony in London on October 13.

First awarded in 1969, the prize was originally restricted to writers from the British Commonwealth nations and Ireland. This is the second year that the prize has been open to writers of any nationality writing in English. Previous winners include Salman Rushdie, Hilary Mantel, and Richard Flanagan, who received the 2014 prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. To date, Flanagan’s book has sold almost eight hundred thousand copies worldwide.

The Man Booker Foundation also administers the Man Booker International Prize; the foundation announced earlier this month that beginning in 2016, the Man Booker International Prize and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize will merge to form one annual award for a single work of fiction translated into English. The winning author and translator of the reconfigured Man Booker International Prize will equally split a purse of £52,000.

Photos: Top row from left: Hanya Yanagihara, Marilynne Robinson, Bill Clegg. Bottom row from left: Laila Lalami, Anne Tyler.

Penelope Lively says, "History is in fact not so much memory as it is an examination of conflicting evidences. And this is the same for a fictional purpose: in any scene there can be as many accounts of a scene as there were people present." This week, write two separate accounts of a scene in which a crime is unfolding, witnessed by two people who are standing side by side looking out the same window. How might two individuals be compelled to notice different details? What might this reveal about their personalities and emotional states?

The "dog days" of summer typically refer to the hottest days around July and August. The term originates with the ancient Romans who associated this time of year with the brightest star Sirius—also known as the Dog Star—rising and setting in sync with the sun, supposedly making the days hotter. Explore other natural occurrences that coincide with summer—fire rainbows, foxfire, midnight sun—and write a poem in tribute to the hottest days of the year.

Authors, Publishers and Readers of Independent Literature (APRIL) is a Seattle-based literary nonprofit working to connect readers with independent literature, authors, and publishers. APRIL hosts a regular book club, bookstore bike tours, and an annual festival during one week in March. Frances Chiem, deputy director of APRIL, blogs about two events from this year’s festival which were supported in part by Poets & Writers. Chiem works in environmental advocacy, and her writing has appeared in Fanzine, Two Serious Ladies, and Washington Trails, among other places. She tweets at @f_e_chiem.

Wendy XuAPRIL has built more than one hundred events in four years with the idea that not all readings should consist of an author standing behind a podium. Sometimes you need a gimmick to draw in new audiences.

During March each year, APRIL celebrates authors and their works that are published outside of the Big Five for a week of goofy, fun, and intimate events meant to honor the vitality of great literature and the attention spans of audience members. APRIL has hosted storytelling competitions pitting poets, playwrights, novelists, and drag queens against each other; collaborations pairing theatre troupes with writers of short fiction; a literary séance for Gertrude Stein’s lover, Alice B. Toklas; readings with cheap food pairings, and more.

cast iron potatoes

The 2015 festival marked the third year APRIL has collaborated with Vignettes, a Seattle visual art series debuting new work in homes turned galleries for a night, to invite a dozen artists to respond to a poetry collection. This year, P&W-supported poet Wendy Xu’s You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013) spawned works like cast iron potatoes, a temporal sculpture of shattered china and sod, soft watercolors, and more.

This year also saw more visiting authors than ever before. Xu, along with other P&W-supported writers Shya Scanlon, author of Forecast (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2012) and The Guild of Saint Cooper (Dzanc Books, 2015), and Mary Miller, author of Big World (Short Flight/Long Drive Books, 2009) and The Last Days of California (Liveright, 2014), were brought to Seattle to join more than twenty authors from the Pacific Northwest for the week of performances.

shattered china and sod

The themed reading is, at its essence, a nerdy party hosted at the Hugo House—a Seattle literary establishment—with a full bar, a snack pairing, and decorations to evoke the mood of the occasion. So how to do that when there’s more than one visiting author? After the high point of the art show for Xu’s work, it was a tall order to deliver, but the apocalyptic scenes in both Scanlon and Miller’s novels provided a comically ominous inspiration for the reading. Fecund with rhododendrons to create a sort of funeral-like pulpit with backing music from band Youryoungbody covering David Lynch’s Twin Peaks soundtrack, the group sought to honor the metafictional science fiction of Scanlon’s newest novel and Miller’s evangelical tragicomedy.

"We want people to see readings as something more than hushed sit-down events for the literati. They can be fun and unintimidating ways to find new and relevant work you might not have connected with otherwise," says APRIL cofounder and managing director Tara Atkinson.

More than one hundred people served as witnesses to the speculations about the end of the world, dozens of them buying the small press books by the featured authors.

Photo 1: Wendy Xu; Photo 2: Cast iron potatoes inspired by Wendy Xu's poetry collection; Photo 3: Shattered china sculpture inspired by Wendy Xu's poetry collection. Credit: Tara Atkinson.

Support for Readings & Workshops events in Seattle 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.

This week, pick one thing you personally associate with summer: maybe it's eating a particular flavor of ice cream on a sweltering night, the whirring sound of a ceiling fan as you fall asleep, or the smell of sunscreen. Write an essay inspired by your recollections—think back to your earliest memory of the activity and the people or places connected to it. Reflect on how your relationship to this one summer specific sensation might have evolved over the years, and why it remains so vivid.

What happens when you've created and written a character who is so thoroughly realized that he or she is always, well, in character? This week, write a scene in which your character is caught doing or saying something shockingly out of character. What event or realization has caused this atypical behavior, and what is your character's response to being confronted about it? Will the consequences be immediate and dramatic, or gradual and subtly psychological?

Poet and translator George Szirtes says: "Nobody reads a poem to find out what happens in the last line. They read the poem for the experience of travelling through it." This week, choose a short poem—it can be one of your own or someone else’s—and cross out the last line. Read it again now without its last line, and imagine how the poem might take a different turn at this juncture. Write a continuation of the poem, allowing it to travel to an entirely new conclusion.

Marina Tristán is the assistant director of Arte Público Press at the University of Houston, where she oversees day-to-day operations with a particular emphasis in marketing and promotions for their books, authors, and programs. A native of Texas, she has worked for Arte Público Press for almost thirty years.

MARINA TRISTÁN

It has been gratifying to finally begin to see a shift in attitudes about the value of writings by Latinos (which is not to say that there aren’t any problems in the publication and distribution of books by diverse writers). We now have a U.S. Poet Laureate who is Mexican American! And in Houston—where Arte Público is based—the city’s first Poet Laureate was a Latina. Gwendolyn Zepeda held a two-year term from 2013-2015. Not surprisingly, we published her first collection of short prose almost ten years before, back in 2004.

Like all contemporary authors seeking to build an audience for their work, Gwen has read from and talked about her books at a slew of places around the country and in Houston, her hometown. We have been fortunate to collaborate with local community groups like the Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts (MECA), as we did in April to launch Gwen’s second poetry collection, Monsters, Zombies and Addicts (Arte Público Press, 2015).  

This reading was particularly poignant because Gwen grew up at MECA, singing and dancing in theatrical performances, designing sets, and working summer jobs. Her reading was a homecoming of sorts, and friends—old and new—laughed and cried with her. Clever and very funny, Gwen’s poetry reading was deeply personal and included musings on family, childhood remembrances, and societal expectations. One can only wonder what the future holds for Gwen: U.S. Poet Laureate? Pulitzer Prize winner? National Book Award finalist? Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, Arte Público will continue to do what it has done for the past thirty-three years: publish and promote Latino authors so that American culture includes, values, and reflects Hispanic contributions.

Photo: Marina Tristán    Credit: Carmen Peña Abrego

Support for Readings & Workshops events in Houston 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.

Submissions are open for the 2015 Dermot Healy International Poetry Prize, sponsored by the Five Glens Arts Festival in Manorhamilton, Ireland. The annual prize is given for a single poem. The winner will receive €1,000 (approximately $1,085) and publication on the festival website. Peter Fallon will judge.

Submit a poem of any length with a €5 (approximately $5) entry fee by July 24. Multiple submissions are accepted, and the prize is open to international writers. Submit via e-mail to competition@fiveglensartsfestival.com, or via postal mail to Dermot Healy Poetry Competition, 2 Old Orchard, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, F91A9N3, Ireland. Visit the website for the required entry form and complete guidelines.

Judge Peter Fallon is the publisher and founder of the Gallery Press, one of Ireland’s most well-established independent publishers. He is also the author of several poetry collections, most recently Strong, My Love (The Gallery Press, 2014). In 2009, Fallon judged the Fish Poetry Prize, and chose Annie Atkins as the winner for her poem “The Locksmith.” Fallon said, “I warmed to ‘The Locksmith’ for its innocence, for the purity of its lines and for the way it unfolds the drama of a relationship and its two protagonists.” Fallon’s explanation of his judging process can be read on the Fish Publishing website.

The Five Glens Arts Festival will be held from August 21 to August 23 in Manorhamilton, a castellated town on the northwest coast of Ireland. The winner will be announced at the festival. Patrick Deeley won the inaugural prize in 2014 for his poem “Vixen,” which can be read on the festival website.

Photo: Peter Fallon

Heidi Julavits's book The Folded Clock (Doubleday, 2015) takes the form of a diary, each entry beginning with "Today, I...." This week, write an essay starting with this same phrase, and recount a straightforward event or observation that occurred earlier in the day. Then allow yourself to stray from describing the basic details of that incident, and go on to explore other memories that spring to mind, reflecting on how this event may provide some unexpected clarity to your life.

Coco Chanel famously said, "Fashion has to do with the ideas, the way we live, what is happening." This week, focus on the way one of your characters gets dressed: Does he throw on the first thing he sees, or will it take hours for him to get ready? Is a typical outfit an accurate representation of his personality, or more of a disguise? Write a scene describing your character’s clothing in detail, and what is revealed about his demeanor through his attire.

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