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The end of October is fast approaching, and with it comes not only Halloween but also a number of contest deadlines. Today we’re rounding up poetry contests with October 31 deadlines that offer at least $1,000 and publication. Whether you have a single poem, a chapbook-length collection, or a full-length manuscript ready to submit, don’t let these passing deadlines haunt you.

If you’re looking for a contest for a single poem, submit to the James Hearst Poetry Prize, which includes $1,000 and publication in the Spring 2017 issue of the North American Review. Award-winning poet Major Jackson will judge. Submit up to five poems along with a $20 application fee, which includes a subscription to the North American Review.

Ready those chapbook manuscripts and submit to the Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize, which includes $1,000 and publication by Tupelo Press. The winner will also give a reading at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival in Connecticut. Poet Maggie Smith will judge. Submit a manuscript of 20 to 36 pages with a $25 entry fee.

Kentucky-based Finishing Line Press hosts an annual open chapbook prize of $1,000 and publication. Submit a manuscript of up to 30 pages and a $15 entry fee.

Looking to publish a full-length book? Elixir Press sponsors an annual prize of $2,000 and publication for a poetry collection. A second-place prize of $1,000 and publication is also awarded. Jane Satterfield will judge. Submit a manuscript of at least 48 pages with a $30 application fee.

The Vassar Miller Prize awards $1,000 and publication by University of North Texas Press annually for a poetry collection. A. E. Stallings will judge. Submit a manuscript of 50 to 80 pages with a $25 entry fee.

Visit the prize websites for complete application guidelines. For more contests with upcoming deadlines, visit the Grants & Awards Database, and check out the Submission Calendar.

“Self of steam,” “from the gecko,” and “lack-toes intolerant” are examples of the verbal errors that became points of inspiration for editor and writer Daniel Menaker, whose book collaboration with cartoonist Roz Chast, The African Svelte: Ingenious Misspellings That Make Surprising Sense (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), is featured in News and Trends in the November/December issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. Keep your eyes peeled for a verbal error in signs or newspapers, or think back to one you remember encountering in the past—perhaps even song lyrics you once misheard. Write a short essay inspired by the poetry of the mistake noting the memories, images, and idiosyncrasies that allow the error to “make surprising sense” to you.

Fanny Longfellow, wife of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, tragically perished in 1861 when her dress caught on fire. The combination of long dresses, flammable materials, oil lamps and the open flames of fireplaces and candles—in addition to the chemicals and toxic materials used in the manufacturing of many types of clothing—increased the frequency of fashion-related ailments and accidents in the nineteenth century. Write a spooky short story in which a character’s downfall is brought about by her wardrobe choices. Read about lead makeup, toxic socks, hatters poisoned by mercury, and arsenic dyes in this National Geographic piece on “Killer Clothing” for further inspiration. 

Last week, in a surprising decision, Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Dylan is the first musician to win the award and in its citation the Swedish Academy, which administers the prize, credited Dylan with “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Whether you agree with the decision or not, examine some of Dylan’s lyrics. Then, write a poem that begins with a line you find compelling. 

Natalia Mount is a dynamic cultural producer with extensive experience in arts leadership, innovative programming, development and communications. Mount has worked at nationally significant institutions such as MoMA PS1 and Clocktower Productions, both in New York City. Currently, Mount is the executive director of Pro Arts in Oakland.

Pro Arts Gallery Hybrid Series Once a month, poets, writers, visual artists, and musicians come together at Pro Arts Gallery in downtown Oakland and collaborate on a cross-genre presentation of new work entitled the Hybrid Series. To date, Pro Arts has hosted poets and writers Sara Mumolo, Emily Hunt, Harmony Holiday, Norma Cole, Gillian Olivia Blythe Hamel, Candace Eros Díaz, and Louise Mathias.

Conceived and curated with the aim to serve as a departure from the more conventional mode of presentation of material, the Hybrid Series swaps the standard practice of same-genre groupings—such as the poetry reading, artist talk, music performance or lecture—for that of a community gathering, a format that is open, fluid, and accessible to diverse audiences. The main idea of the Hybrid Series is to actually connect ideas, text, image, and sound. We believe that the hybridization across life-spheres and aesthetic experiences yields positivity and promotes cultural symbiosis and plurality across genres, elevating the artist above the hierarchies inherent in the myopic nature of academically grounded work. Along with our other programs, the Hybrid Series at Pro Arts is designed to expand the possibilities for experimentation and innovation in contemporary art. After only four installments of this series so far, we are convinced that the platform we have created to accommodate the series can and will continue to foster new collaborations among artists. 

To give a taste of what you might expect should you attend, I will summarize here our first Hybrid Series event that took place on March 12, 2016. We opened the night with an artist talk by Adia Millett who discussed her practice as it related to her solo exhibition entitled Re-Connect (installed at Pro Arts at the time). Topics that prompted larger conversation with the audience revolved around questions related to feminist aesthetics, abstraction, and community identity. Next, Elisabeth Nicula presented her new work entitled Sense Memories, an exploration into image and experience. For Sense Memories, Nicula searched through her hard drive and cell phone for snapshots that she had forgotten, treating her digital cache as a source of found objects that are discrete moments from her life, remembered by machinery. Human memories are imperfect, exaggerated, or conflated, but exist in the fullness of an inner life.

SL Morse performed “The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus”—a conceptual rendering of the seminal work translated into Morse code. SL Morse performs modernist literature through Morse code translations from text to musical notation for a drum kit. “The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus” followed the arc of the essay, where Sisyphus is condemned to ceaseless, pointless labor, has a temporary reprieve, then returns to pushing a heavy rock up a hill that always falls down, finally reconciling himself to his fate that absurd labor is preferable to nonexistence.

Last, audiences enjoyed a reading by Oakland-based poet Sara Mumolo, who read from her collection of poems, Mortar (Omnidawn, 2013). In accompaniment to her reading, Sara chose to screen various repetitive yet entertaining videos, found on the internet and YouTube. This gesture both complemented her words and provided another access point to her ideas. By straddling both worlds (text and moving image), Sara was able to break away from the mold of a traditional format for poetry reading—shifting her perspective, the perspective of the audience, and the notion of what poetry reading might entail.

Photo: Pro Arts Gallery Hybrid Series.  Photo credit: Pro Arts.

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.

In a surprising decision out of Stockholm this morning, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for, in the words of the Swedish Academy, which administers the prize, “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Dylan, 75, is the first musician to win the award, and the first American to win since novelist Toni Morrison, in 1993. The decision comes as something of a shock to the literary world: Although Dylan has been included in prize predictions for the past few years—along with perennial favorites Don DeLillo, Haruki Murakami, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and the poet Adonis—his chances were considered outside at best, as, some argue, his work misses the mark in the categories that the prize traditionally honors—poetry, novels, and short stories.

In the wake of the announcement, the literary Internet is grappling with this very question. At Literary Hub, Lisa Levy considers Dylan's artistic identity and the “Poet vs. Songwriter vs. Showman” debate. At the Guardian, meanwhile, Richard Williams defends the Academy’s decision, extolling the many reasons why Bob Dylan deserves the Nobel.

Naturally, many writers also took to Twitter as the announcement came in. Salman Rushdie tweeted: “From Orpheus to Faiz, song & poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice.” Mary Karr also showed support of the decision:

Others were not so supportive.

The Washington Post rounds up more writers’ responses to the Nobel decision.

Dylan, who was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1941, has written and recorded dozens of albums “revolving around topics like the social conditions of man, religion, politics and love,” the Academy writes. “The lyrics have continuously been published in new editions, under the title ‘Lyrics.’” In addition to his records, Dylan has also produced experimental work like Tarantula, a 1971 collection of prose poetry, and the 1973 compliation Writings and Drawings. The first volume of his autobiography, Chronicles, was published in 2004.

The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded since 1901 to writers who have produced “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.” In that time, 114 writers have received the award. (Only 14 have been women. This year, every Nobel Prize, across all disciplines, went to men.) Belarussian journalist Svetlana Alexievich won last year’s prize; French novelist Patrick Modiano won in 2014; and Canadian short story writer Alice Munro won in 2013. The annual prize carries with it a purse of 8 million Swedish kronor, or approximately $900,000.

In announcing the prize this morning, Sara Danius, a literary scholar and the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, called Dylan “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition,” comparing him to Homer and Sappho. When asked if the decision to award the prize to a musician meant an expansion of the definition of literature, Danius responded, “The times they are a-changing, perhaps.”

What do you think? Weigh in with a comment below, or send us a tweet @poetswritersinc.

As creative nonfiction writers, we face the difficult task of trying to capture people we know, often intimately, as characters. Here’s a prompt to help. Pick someone in a piece you’ve been working on. Choose the sense memory that best personifies your relationship with that person, the one moment or event that most purely embodies your particular dynamic. Write it as a scene. From that scene (my mom teaching me to bake bread as a little girl), list the qualities (capable, patient, encouraging) that person embodied and the emotions you felt (reverent, curious, happy). Every time you write a scene with this person, think about how the actions and dialogue exemplify the qualities and emotions on your list. Or if it is a scene in which this person behaves in a surprising way, focus on how the qualities and emotions in that scene are the opposite of your expectations.

This week’s creative nonfiction prompt comes from Sarah Tomlinson, author of the father-daughter memoir, Good Girl (Gallery Books, 2015). Read Tomlinson’s installment of Writers Recommend for more inspiration.

For the first time in the United States, bees—seven species that are native to Hawaii—have been placed under protection on the endangered-species list. Write a short story in which a seemingly commonplace animal species suddenly becomes endangered or extinct. Do your storytelling instincts take you to environmental activism, a futuristic sci-fi universe, or an adventure in the wilderness? Or perhaps, to an apartment scene in which this news seems, for the time being, to have no bearing on the characters?

Craig Czury has spent three decades conducting poetry, life-writing, and writing as healing workshops in schools, universities, community centers, juvenile detention centers, homeless shelters, and mental hospitals. Czury is a lecturer at Albright University, an editor, publisher, tireless arts advocate, and the author of over twenty books of poetry, most recently, Thumb Notes Almanac: Hitchhiking the Marcellus Shale (FootHills Publishing, 2016), a poetry documentary woven from his hitchhiking interviews and observations taken while hitchhiking through the heart of "fracking" in his home region of Northeastern Pennsylvania. He is the cohost and artistic director of the Old School Poetry Series at the Springville Schoolhouse Art Studios, where he lives, works, and plays bocce.

By Craig Czury


Because I will never know where it is you find
your courage to speak without fear of punishment
   fear of ridicule  or invasion

Because I am always a stranger  new in town
                        new in school  new among best friends

But when we speak to each other from that place
inside ourselves where we're not afraid
      even if it's the kitchen where we don't sleep at night
our words don't turn back on us like a cracked mirror
in the world that wears masks


Because when your voice sifts through me
I need to talk with you from a familiar table
               table set by the silenced  not allowed voices

so we can sit  talk and find out where we are

I’ve been a road dog for poetry ever since I was awarded the First Book Award from the Montana Arts Council in 1980. Invitations to conduct poetry writing workshops in schools began coming in and I found out that I was really good at stepping into a classroom and exciting students with language, getting them to write their own poems. For the next twenty-five years I made my living as an itinerant poet in schools, prisons, homeless shelters, mental hospitals, and community centers through various state arts councils and arts foundations, until No Child Left Behind knocked us all out of the water. In 2005 I went back to school to get an MFA in creative writing at Wilkes University and began teaching as an adjunct professor at Albright College, a small private school in Pennsylvania—not at all the same game as stepping into a room, making it spontaneously combust with poetry, and driving off to my next unknown excitement.

With the publication of my new book, Thumb Notes Almanac: Hitchhiking the Marcelus Shale, I took a leave of absence from my college teaching, bought a ’99 Volvo station wagon to bunk in, and, thanks to my publisher Michael Czarnecki of FootHills Publishing for introducing me to Poets & Writers, and my agent Kimberly Crafton, I set up a reading series throughout upstate New York. Within six months, I rolled into Cuba, Peru, Rome, Macedon, Utica, Bath, Endicott—global names of towns fitting the global consciousness of poetry. The salary I earned from my P&W–sponsored workshops and readings, afforded me airfare to Italy for a reading tour in May and June, where Thumb Notes Almanac had been translated and published into Italian. And when I returned, P&W kept me afloat to not only work on my next book of poems, but to encourage others, in out-of-the-way communities, to explore and take more seriously their own writing.

In the words of poet Carol Elaine Deys at Books Etc. in Macedon:

Expansive, eternal and occasionally soundless
in the world of choice - the every day world -
the world which requires us to sustain.
We write.
We determine as whole and well on Planet Earth.
We sustain, because we must.
The Voice of the Poet remains intact despite all
rumors to the contrary -
and we shall be blessed because of it.

Photos: Craig Czury.  Photo credit: Kimberly Glemboski

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

Taking inspiration from the “Dear President” feature in the September/October issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, in which fifty American poets and writers were asked to write several sentences addressing the next president, write a short poem of address that starts with the words, “Dear President.” Touch upon one or two of the most important issues to you about contemporary society and/or government. Share any advice, wisdom, wishes, or requests.

The National Book Foundation has announced the finalists for the 2016 National Book Awards. The annual prizes are given for books of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and young people’s literature published in the previous year. The winners receive $10,000; each finalist receives $1,000. The winners will be announced on November 16 at an awards ceremony in New York City.

The finalists in poetry are:
Daniel Borzutzky, The Performance of Becoming Human (Brooklyn Arts Press)
Rita Dove, Collected Poems 1974–2004 (Norton)
Peter GizziArcheophonics (Wesleyan University Press)
Jay Hopler, The Abridged History of Rainfall (McSweeney’s)
Solmaz SharifLook (Graywolf Press)

Mark Bibbins, Jericho Brown, Katie Ford, Joy Harjo, and Tree Swenson judged.

The finalists in fiction are:
Chris Bachelder
The Throwback Special (Norton)
Paulette JilesNews of the World (William Morrow)
Karan MahajanThe Association of Small Bombs (Viking)
Colson WhiteheadThe Underground Railroad (Doubleday)
Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn (Amistad)

James English, Karen Joy Fowler, T. Geronimo Johnson, Julie Otsuka, and Jesmyn Ward judged.

The finalists in nonfiction are:
Arlie Russell HochschildStrangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (The New Press)
Ibram X. KendiStamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Nation Books)
Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (Harvard University Press)
Andrés Reséndez, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Heather Ann ThompsonBlood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy (Pantheon Books)

Cynthia Barnett, Masha Gessen, Greg Grandin, and Ronald Rosbottom judged. 

The longlists for the awards were announced in September. 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).

This past weekend, the New York Review of Books published an exposé in an attempt to uncover the true identity of the Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, provoking anger and criticism from those in support of the writer’s wish to remain anonymous. Have you ever wished for anonymity, or do you imagine that you might in the future? Drawing examples from your own experiences with writing and private versus public life, write a personal essay about the issues at stake in this situation, such as celebrity authors, sexism, and the changing relationship in contemporary culture between artist and audience. 

Submissions are open for the sixth annual StoryQuarterly Fiction Prize, given for a short story. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication in Issue 50 of StoryQuarterly. Alexander Chee will judge.

Using the online submission system, submit a story of up to 6,250 words with a $15 entry fee by October 15. All entries will be considered for publication. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Judge Alexander Chee is the author of two novels, most recently the historical epic The Queen of the Night (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016). “I speak to so many young writers who still have various cynical ideas about how one gets ahead,” said Chee in a February interview with the Toast. “Really, just do your best work, stand up for yourself, stay close to your excitement. Yes, the asymmetry between effort and reward in writing is the hardest part of it in many ways—the things you work on forever that receive little or no acknowledgement or pay, the things written quickly that pay enormously or that fly around the Internet, viral—but just keep writing.”

Established in 1975 and based at Rutgers University in Camden, StoryQuarterly publishes fiction and nonfiction. The journal, edited by writer Paul Lisicky, is released quarterly in print and administers a fiction contest in the fall and a nonfiction contest in the spring. Previous winners of the Fiction Prize include Nafissa Thompson-Spires for her story “Heads of the Colored People: Four Fancy Sketches, Two Chalk Outlines, and No Apology,” Anne Ray for her story “The Pool,” and Janet Peery for her story “No Boy At All.”

Other fiction contests with upcoming deadlines include the University of Louisville’s Calvino Prize, Cutthroat’s Writing Awards, Boston Review’s Aura Estrada Short Story Contest, and Omnidawn Publishing’s Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Contest. For a full list of upcoming contests, visit the Grants & Awards database.

Photo: Alexander Chee; Credit: M. Sharkey

Last week, after a swarm of almost one hundred small earthquakes in the Salton Sea region, California’s Office of Emergency Services issued an earthquake advisory to Southern California residents warning of the potential of a larger earthquake occurring on the San Andreas fault. Write a short story in which the main plotline’s background includes the looming threat of a major earthquake. How does this create tension in the atmosphere and bring out different personality traits in each character?

The first Nobel Prize winner of 2016, announced in the Physiology or Medicine category this week, was awarded to Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi. Ohsumi is a cell biologist who won the prize for his studies of autophagy, Greek for “self eating,” a process in which the cells in our body break down or destroy, and then recycle, certain component parts. Write a poem inspired by the workings of the human body at a cellular level. You may find ideas by looking at different vocabulary and terminology, or drawing connections between cellular functions and processes to situations in your emotional life and interpersonal relationships.

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