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Deep within us, we have desires or goals we might be nervous about bringing out into the open for whatever reason. Maybe we feel embarrassed or that we can't compete with those who have already mastered the skill we seek to learn. You might have felt this way when showing your writing to someone for the first time—or maybe you still haven't shown your writing to anyone yet. This week, think about whether there are any factors that make it difficult for you to share your work. If you've taken the leap and put yourself out there, write about what that felt like. If you have yet to do so, write about what's holding you back.

The Man Booker Prize Foundation announced the longlist today for the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. This year marks the first time in the prize's history that any author, irrespective of nationality, with work written originally in English and published in the United Kingdom, is eligible to win.

The longlist includes Howard Jacobson, a former Man Booker winner, for J (Jonathan Cape); two previously shortlisted authors, Ali Smith for How to Be Both (Hamish Hamilton) and David Mitchell for The Bone Clocks (Sceptre); and the Anglo-Indian writer Neel Mukherjee for The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus). The American writers making the longlist are Richard Powers for Orfeo (Atlantic Books), Siri Hustvedt for The Blazing World (Sceptre), Joshua Ferris for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking), and Karen Joy Fowler for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent’s Tail). British writers Paul Kingsnorth for The Wake (Unbound) and David Nicholls for Us (Hodder & Stoughton); Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan for The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus); and Irish writers Joseph O’Neill for The Dog (Fourth Estate) and Niall Williams for History of the Rain (Bloomsbury) round out the list.


The panel of six judges is chaired by British philosopher A. C. Grayling. The decision to expand the prize this year has been controversial; previously the prize was restricted to authors from Britain and other countries in the Commonwealth, as well as Ireland and Zimbabwe. Last year, Eleanor Catton, a novelist from New Zealand, won the prize for her 832-page novel The Luminaries. At 28, Catton was the youngest recipient of the award in its forty-five-year history. 

The shortlist will be announced on September 9, and the winner—who will receive a £50,000 (approximately $85,177) purse—will be announced on October 14.

Photos: Fowler (left), Ferris (right)

Some people slow down in their golden years, taking it easy and enjoying the family and friends they've gathered around them in the comfort of their community, while others try to continue to live like their younger selves. This week, write a story about an older person who still has the mindset and physical stamina of a twenty-something. How does this affect her interactions with her peers? What are her secrets? Is she one of those people who wishes to live forever, or does she simply make a habit of staying healthy? Think about how a person's biological age and true age are related and what happens when they are in conflict.

It's easy to get bogged down by the ideas behind the poem you are writing, losing sight of the harmonic structure of the words themselves and the rhythm of lines and pauses. This week, chose a poem that you love and memorize it. Say it to yourself over and over again, until it escapes the page and makes a home in your body. Try not to think about how the poet would want it to sound—concentrate instead on how it sounds in your voice, how it inhabits you. Once you get comfortable with the process, try this with your own poems.

Hitchhiking can seem scary to those who have never done it before. But, as Jack Kerouac famously portrayed in On the Road, it is also a cheap and interesting way to get from one place to another if you don't have a car. Have you ever hitched a ride, or do you know someone who has? Write about the experience. If you have never hitchhiked, write about your feelings on the subject—whether you'd ever try it, or why you've decided it's something you would never do.

We've all heard the advice "write what you know," which encourages us to write characters like ourselves or people who are close to us. This week, write from the perspective of a character that is your complete opposite. First, make a list of all the qualities you identify with yourself, and then make a list of qualities on the other end of the spectrum. For example, if you are a woman who lives in the country, write from the point of view of a man who lives in the city. Try to avoid using stereotypes to describe this character's actions or ideas, and instead try to embody this character—climb inside his or her head and live there a while.

Nineteenth-century poet Walter Savage Landor's "On Love, on Grief" packs a punch in its brief simplicity: "On love, on grief, on every human thing, / Time sprinkles Lethe's water with his wing." Not only is the poem sonically beautiful, it also takes a cliché (time flies) and transforms it. As writers, we may occasionally stumble upon phrases or situations we want to write that are considered cliché. This week, take one of the clichés you often feel drawn to and try to refresh it.

The Young Translators’ Prize, sponsored by Harvill Secker, a British imprint of Random House, is currently open for submissions. The annual prize is given to an emerging translator, ages 18 to 34, for the translation of a specific story into English. The winner will receive £1,000 (approximately $1,360), a selection of Harvill Secker titles, and airfare and lodging to participate in the Crossing Border Festival held in November 2014 in The Hague, Netherlands. The winner will also be invited to participate in the British Center for Literary Translation’s mentorship program with translator and judge Shaun Whiteside.

This year’s prize will be given for a translation from the German of the story “Der Hausfreund” by German fiction writer Julia Franck. Submit a translation with the required entry form by postal mail to Harvill Secker, Random House Group Limited, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA, England. The postmark deadline is August 1; there is no entry fee. Joint translations are eligible. Translators who have not published a book-length work of translation are eligible. Fiction writer A. S. Byatt, translators Sally-Ann Spencer and Shaun Whiteside, and Harvill Secker editor Ellie Steel will judge. The winner will be chosen in September.

Julia Franck has published two novels in German: The Blind Side of the Heart (Vintage Books, 2009), about a German family during the Cold War, and Back to Back (Vintage Books, 2013), about a German family during World War I and II. English translator Anthea Bell has translated her novels into English. Franck said in an interview with the British organization Booktrust, “Translations are a gift—especially if we can’t read other languages. Reading is always a chance to learn about other lives, cultures, and human beings. Through language we can get to know another way of thinking, a way of looking, and when a book strikes us, it is as if we have a few hours of a completely different life.”

Established in 2010, the prize is cosponsored with the British Centre for Literary Translation and, starting this year, the Goethe-Institut London. The prize, which honors translations from different languages each year, has been awarded to translators of Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish.

Lucy Greaves of Bristol, England, won last year’s award for her translation from the Portuguese of Adriana Lisboa’s story “O sucesso.” Ninety-two entries from nine countries were submitted for the prize. Greaves’s winning translation can be read on Granta, which has published the translations of all four previous winners.

Photo: Julia Franck, credit Mathias Bothor

Paula Rodenas is the author of The Random House Book of Horses and Horsemanship and a freelance writer for numerous magazines and newspapers, including Town & Country, Travel & Leisure, and the Horse Directory. She has edited books for Arco and Exposition Press and received awards from the Press Club of Long Island. She teaches creative writing for local adult education programs, and for more than twenty years has led the Merrick Senior Center’s Creative Writing Workshop, a sixteen-week program sponsored by Poets & Writers and the Town of Hempstead Department of Senior Enrichment. A lifelong horse lover, much of her subject matter as a writer has involved horses and she currently contributes to a thoroughbred racing column for a magazine in Long Island, New York. Rodenas has been invited to many foreign press trips for her work as a journalist.

Anyone who believes senior citizens cannot learn and improve should think again!

I have been leading a creative writing workshop for people ages sixty and up at the Merrick Senior Center for more than twenty years. I’ve always enjoyed one-on-one relationships with other writers and this workshop allows me the opportunity to share and appreciate the progress of the participants.

Each week I give an assignment, but I emphasize that it is more of a guideline than a “must.” We have produced poetry, prose, memoirs, fiction and, for the stage, short dialogues or mini-plays that we call “vignettes.” The work is read aloud and critiqued by members of the group with a positive approach, building upon the foundation as opposed to tearing it apart.

The program presently runs for sixteen weeks each year between late February and mid-June, and meets once a week for two hours. At the end of the sessions, we hold a presentation at our local community theater, the Merrick Theater and Center for the Arts, offering free admission to the public, followed by an informal coffee hour. This enables the writers to mingle with the audience. We also publish a booklet in the fall entitled, “Musings of Maturity” which contains our most recent writings. We thus have two venues, one audio and one visual, in which to feature our work.

Our program has been well-received within the community. In 2012, we were featured in a special weekend edition of the Long Island newspaper, Newsday. In 2013, we made the front page of the Herald Weekly. Our theater presentations have been recorded and sent to nursing homes, and “Musings of Maturity” is shared with local libraries.

What makes our group special is a strong camaraderie that makes it feel like family. Deep emotions are often revealed—there are tears and laughter. Older writers draw on a lifetime of experience and wisdom. Our participants have an optimistic outlook, remembering the past, but also thinking ahead. Writers of any age need support and encouragement, and it has been a pleasure to see senior writers develop and gain recognition in the community.

Photo: Paula Rodenas and the Merrick Seniors.  Photo Credit: Nat Watson.

Support for Readings & Workshops in New York is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, with additional support from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

This past weekend the sky was filled with sparkling bursts of light. A symbol of celebration, these explosive light shows often bring up unexpected emotions in people viewing them. What do fireworks make you think of while watching them? Do they make you feel nostalgic, excited, or uneasy? Think of a memory or a strong feeling, and write about it.

Do you live in a tourist town, or a town that sees a surge in population during a particular season? Maybe there is a town you visit when you're on vacation. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live there year-round? This week, write a story set in a tourist town, trying to write from the perspective of a local. How does this character, or the locals in general, feel about the tourists? Is this really a friendly town, or does it just seem friendly to vacationers?

In Contre Sainte Beuve,  Marcel Proust writes: "In reality, as soon as each hour of one's life has died, it embodies itself in some material object, as do the souls of the dead in certain folk-stories, and hides there. There it remains captive, captive forever unless we should happen on the object, recognize what lies within, call it by its name, and so set it free." This week, practice being a "namer." Recognize what lies deep within the objects you come in contact with, and try to conjure up a name that fits. Write a poem about a name you came up with that you find particularly inspiring.

P&W supported Frances Shani Parker, author of Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes (paperback, e-book). Parker is a Michigan-based eldercare consultant, writer, hospice volunteer, blogger, and former school principal.

Have you noticed all the negative stereotypes that bombard us about older adults? Too often, this group is portrayed as unattractive, senile, useless, and sexless. A former school principal, when I surveyed fourth graders about the kinds of people they expected to see at a nursing home, they said residents would be old, sick, grouchy, slow, not too smart, and nosey. If these children’s perceptions continue, they can easily grow up to become the stereotypes they believe. Think about some of the older adults you know who have fallen victim to this illusion. Negative stereotypes have influenced how they view themselves in addition to the natural decline in some of the ways they function. They may have more dependence on others, lower levels of risk taking, and decreased self-esteem, due to poorer health.

FSParker

Although youthfulness is admired and flaunted, there are many older adults who are not living the negative stereotypes. They refuse to focus on assumptions about how their lives should unfold. I wanted them to tell their stories, pay tribute to themselves, and motivate others in the process. Facilitating a Poets & Writers workshop seemed like the perfect catalyst for using the power of written words to promote productive aging. An eldercare consultant active with several senior organizations, I was sponsored by the Presbyterian Village of Brush Park Manor, an independent living community in Detroit. That’s how the Stories of Successful Aging After 60 writing workshop came into being and how a shared vision became a reality.

Most potential workshop participants were somewhat intimidated by the prospect of writing personal stories. Reading them aloud before a group presented another layer of concern. To help guide the process, I attended an exercise class with residents before the workshop started, so we could build trust and bond together. A few weeks later, I read original poems for them during their African American history program. My hope was to inspire them to gain the confidence to write and share their own thoughts and feelings. By the time our five workshop sessions began, we had sixteen excited older adults ranging in age from 60 to 93. Storytellers at heart, they were eager to celebrate and share with others what it meant to age successfully.

I was impressed with the diversity and intimacy of their revelations. Many had conquered and continued to prevail over major obstacles while maintaining an optimistic outlook on life. Surviving cancer, heart and kidney transplants, drug addiction, and raising grandchildren were only a few of their victories. They also mentioned spending quality time helping others, enjoying family activities, and working new jobs. Developing talents and hobbies, traveling, and, of course, dating further enhanced their busy schedules. An enlightening collection of stories representing their personal truths evolved through their focused introspection.

References to religious explanations for passing life tests were frequent. Testimonies included receiving numerous blessings, having prayer partners, reading the Bible, and just being alone talking to Jesus. Their praise of a higher power was so strong that it became common during rehearsal readings for someone to shout a religious affirmation such as, “Give God the glory!” or “Thank you, Father!” when other writers read their stories. One man included the partial singing of, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” as part of his presentation. A woman disclosed that music talks to her with, “I’m Gonna Make It After All” being her favorite gospel song.

A lovely luncheon recognized workshop honorees who received and read aloud from their uplifting collection of stories. Each writer also accepted a special certificate of achievement. Several stated they would be sharing their collections and certificates with family, church members, and friends. Now others will benefit from their passionate efforts. Proud older adults savored well-earned praise for their involvement in a writing workshop where we all learned more about ourselves, one another, and aging.

Photo: Frances Shani Parker  Credit: Maurice Sanders

Support for Readings & Workshops in New York is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, with additional support from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

German writer and statesman Johan Wolfgang von Goethe insisted that "The greatest genius will never be worth much if he pretends to draw exclusively from his own resources," and that "every one of my writings has been furnished to me by a thousand different persons, a thousand different things." This week, think about the people, ideas, and things that have influenced you throughout your life. What would you say your biggest influence has been? Write an essay reflecting on how your influences have shaped you into the person you are today.

The Library of Congress’s Poetry and Literature Center is accepting nominations for the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry. The biennial prize is given for a poetry collection written by a U.S. citizen and published in the previous two years, or for lifetime achievement in poetry. The winner will receive $10,000 and will give a public reading in the fall.

Publishers may submit four copies of a book published in 2012 or 2013, along with the required entry form and a suggested $50 contribution to the Library of Congress by postal mail to Bobbitt Prize, Poetry and Literature Center, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20540. The postmark deadline is July 31. Books published in a standard edition of at least 1,000 copies are eligible. A collected or selected work is eligible only if it contains at least 30 poems previously unpublished in a book. A three-person jury and the Librarian of Congress, James Billington, will judge.

Established in 1990, the Bobbitt prize is given by the family of Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt (1910-1978). Bobbitt, who worked at the Library of Congress in the 1930s, was the late President Lyndon B. Johnson’s sister.

Gerald Stern won the 2012 Bobbitt Prize for Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992 (Norton, 2010). Other winners of the prize include James Merrill, Louise Glück, A. R. Ammons, Kenneth Koch, Frank Bidart, W. S. Merwin, and Lucia Perillo.

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