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Submissions are open for the sixth annual InkTears Short Story Prize, given for a short story. The winner will receive £1,000 (approximately $1,500), and his or her story will be e-mailed to the InkTears readership.

Using the online submission system, submit a story of 1,000 to 3,500 words with a £6 (approximately $9) entry fee by November 30. Both unpublished and previously published stories are eligible. The winner, runner-up, and four finalists will be announced by March 30, 2015.

Founded by writer and technology entrepreneur Anthony Howcroft in 2009, InkTears is a website devoted to short fiction. Readers receive a story via email each month. In a short video posted in May 2014, Howcroft—who chairs the judging panel for the prize—offers advice to writers who are submitting to the short story contest: Make it a story only you can tell; read the rules; show, don’t tell; make sure to use a consistent point of view; and focus more on the story than on its grammar.

Tom Serengeti won the 2013 prize for his story “Messenger to Riverlea.” For the 2013 competition, InkTears received over five hundred submissions.

Looking back, can you pick out a moment in your life that was altered by a simple action or pure happenstance? Perhaps someone you met under unfortunate circumstances (a fender-bender, at the doctor's office) ended up becoming a close friend of yours. Maybe, as a result of getting hopelessly lost, you discovered a diner that serves the best cherry pie you’ve ever had in your life.  This week, write an essay about one of these instances. Or, if you’ve had multiple experiences of this nature, try and string them all together in the same piece. 

At a ceremony Thursday night in New York City, the winners of the 2014 National Book Awards were announced. The awards, now in their sixty-fifth year, are given annually for books published in the previous year in the categories of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people’s literature.


Louise Glück won the award in poetry for her collection Faithful and Virtuous Night (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Phil Klay won the award in fiction for his debut short story collection, Redeployment (Penguin). Evan Osnos won the award in nonfiction for Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and Jacqueline Woodson took the award in young people’s literature for Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books). Each winner receives $10,000.

The finalists in poetry were Fanny Howe, Maureen N. McLane, Fred Moten, and Claudia Rankine. The fiction finalists were Rabih Alameddine, Anthony Doerr, Emily St. John Mandel, and Marilynne Robinson. Read a complete list of finalists here, as well as the longlists from which they were chosen.

Earlier in the evening's programming, the National Book Foundation awarded Kyle Zimmer, founder of the Washington, D.C.–based children’s literacy nonprofit First Book, with the 2014 Literarian Award, given for outstanding service to the literary community.

Legendary science fiction and fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin, meanwhile, received the foundation’s annual Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. “Ursula Le Guin has shown how great writing will obliterate the antiquated—and never really valid—line between popular and literary art,” said Harold Augenbaum, the executive director of the National Book Foundation, in a statement. “Her influence will be felt for decades to come.”

In receiving the award, which was presented at the ceremony by Neil Gaiman, Le Guin spoke of the importance of writing in a capitalist society, in which books are often considered commodities rather than works of art. She called upon writers to harness their art as tools of resistance and change: “The profit motive is often at odds with the aim of art…” she said. “The name of our beautiful reward is not profit, it is freedom.”

Top: Glück, Klay, Osnos, Woodson. Bottom: Le Guin.

Surrealism seeks to express the workings of the mind and imagination free from conscious control of reason and convention. This week, try to write a surrealist scene for a story you’ve been working on. To start, you could take a dream you’ve had recently and rewrite it, swapping the characters in your story for the characters in the dream. Read up on symbolism, and consider what certain types of images or events mean in dreams. Use this Dream Dictionary as a resource.

Do you have a message for the world? Something that you wish you could scrawl on the side of a building in spray paint, or paste up on a billboard for all to see? This week, write the poem that’s itching to get out of you. Imagine what the words would look like ten feet tall and try to embody that power on the page.

Marcia Arrieta blogs about her experience teaching a P&W–supported writing workshop series at Elizabeth House, a place of refuge for homeless pregnant women and their children in Pasadena, California. Arrieta is a poet, artist, and teacher, whose work appears in Of/with, Alba, Rivet, So to Speak, 13th Moon, Eratio, Catch & Release, Alice Blue, Melusine, Osiris, Web Conjunctions, Sugar Mule, Cold Mountain Review, Dusie, and the Last VISPO Anthology, among others. The author of one poetry book, triskelion, tiger moth, tangram, thyme (Otoliths, 2011), and two chapbooks, experimental: (Potes & Poets, 2000) and the curve against the linear/An Uncommon Accord (Toadlily Press, 2008), she received an MFA in poetry from Vermont College. Over the years, she has led numerous writing workshops at Franklin High School and John Adams Middle School in Los Angeles, and The Women’s Room and Centennial Place in Pasadena. Arrieta edits and publishes Indefinite Space, a poetry/art journal.

Marcia ArrietaIn the first poetry/writing workshop in a series sponsored by Poets & Writers at Elizabeth House in Pasadena, California, a young mother writes about a hummingbird:

She looked at me and then flew away.
That’s when I knew on the floor—I shouldn’t stay.

Five weeks later at the culminating reading and book publication of Writing from Elizabeth House, a hummingbird hovers in the center of the cover collage. The hummingbird, a symbol of goodness, sweetness, and light, became a symbol for us of perseverance, writing, and communication, as did Maya Angelou’s powerful poem “And Still I Rise.”

The mission of Elizabeth House is “to provide shelter, hope, and support to homeless pregnant women and their children, addressing the physical, emotional, spiritual, and economic needs in a nurturing atmosphere.”

When I first arrived there to lead my workshop, I learned that not only would I have eager, creative young women around the table, but also their babies—ranging in age from weeks old to six months. Needless to say, we had a lively time between the reading, discussing, writing, and sharing of our work, and the babies—sometimes crying, nursing, content, yelling, sleeping (ah, for the baby sleeping!).

Elizabeth House writing workshopThroughout the workshops, several women told me they were so happy to be writing again and in touch with their creativity. One woman expressed her gratitude for the workshops since they were exactly what she needed at this time in her life, with a six-month-old and her uncertainty as to a job and place to live after Elizabeth House. Another woman revealed she never wrote or read poetry, but by the final workshop, she was able to express herself in a beautiful poem entitled “Life.”

At the reading, the audience was very impressed with the quality of the women’s work—especially the honesty and depth of thoughts and emotions expressed. The book I created for them will always be a reminder of their time at Elizabeth House.

I was amazed and inspired by these young women—their lives, their babies, their writing. It was a privilege to work with them and learn of their dreams, struggles, and strength. I think I brought them optimism and hope through the literature we analyzed and the biographies of the poets and writers we studied—Maya Angelou, Joy Harjo, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Edgar Lee Masters, Emily Dickinson, Jimmy Santiago Baca, and Audre Lordemany of whom also experienced difficult times, but ultimately triumphed.

Photo (top): Marcia Arrieta. Credit: Kevin Joy. Photo (bottom): Elizabeth House workshop participants and Marcia Arrieta (at right). Credit: Kali Ratzlaff.

Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

As Thanksgiving draws closer, it’s a time to be thankful for what you have and to think of those who are in need. Is there an organization you volunteer for in your community? Are there times you wish you had a helping hand from someone? This week, write an essay about what giving and receiving support means to you. 

This past Sunday marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. To celebrate, eight thousand helium balloons were released into the night sky over Berlin. This week, write a story that takes place in Berlin on the day of the ceremony. Perhaps one of your characters grew up with the Berlin Wall up. Maybe one of your characters is traveling across Europe and just happens to be in Berlin that day. In your story, break down some personal barriers between characters, or try to unite them on a common ground.   

The next time you catch a glimpse of your shadow, study it for a while. Observe how it moves when you move, how it looks in different kinds of light. Think about what it would feel like if one day you looked for it and it wasn’t there. Write a poem to your shadow as if it were an old friend.

Eugenia Leigh is the author of Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows (Four Way Books, 2014). The recipient of fellowships and awards from Poets & Writers, Inc., Kundiman, Rattle, and the Asian American Literary Review, Leigh serves as the Poetry Editor of Kartika Review. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is currently a PhD student in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The book tour was a risk. On good days, we called it an investment. Averaging early thirties, we were young enough to “stop everything and do this!” but old enough to be concerned about our finances. We decided against crowdfunding, dug into our savings, and reminded each other, “you only live once.” We would never publish first books again.

The four tour-bound poets—Michelle Chan BrownCathy Linh CheSally Wen Mao, and I—found each other through Kundiman, a nonprofit organization that serves emerging Asian American writers and instills in its fellows, an irrepressible belief that their words matter.

Book tours, we discovered, were a lost art. With few contemporary examples to emulate, we fashioned our tour from imagination. We created haphazard lists of venues, cities, and people we know or sort-of-used-to-know. The lists gave birth to the Honey Badgers Don’t Give a B**k Tour, our homebrewed, multi-week, poetry performance on wheels.

We woke early on futons and air mattresses (and once a yoga mat) strewn across the homes of strangers and friends. While we rewarded ourselves with the occasional Red Lobster feast or a quick dip in a lake, the tour was hardly a glamorous affair. We spent our long drives catching up on sleep or on freelance work, plus tweeting and tumbling so our moms could keep track of us, up and down the east coast.

When Joseph O. Legaspi, one of Kundiman’s founders, invited us to read with acclaimed poet Patrick Rosal as part of New York City’s Bryant Park Word for Word series, we jumped at the chance—especially when we learned that the Poets & Writers Readings and Workshops program would fund the event.

With over two hundred people in attendance, the Word for Word reading was our largest gathering on tour. It was a life-giving privilege not only to perform, but also to be financially compensated for a performance at the Bryant Park Reading Room, a space created during the Great Depression to welcome the out-of-work masses.

Several nights later, at one of our final readings in a Washington, D.C. bar called Petworth Citizen, only one person showed up. A community activist whom none of us knew personally.

Michelle, Cathy, Sally, and I exchanged surprised glances as we had nearly resigned to packing up without doing a reading at all. Then we resolutely pulled our chairs into a circle to include our new friend, plus Michelle’s husband, our second and only other audience member. We took turns performing our poems in that circle with as much energy as the first time. Then, we thanked the woman who sat with us by gifting her signed copies of each of our books.

I understood then that the fuel we had received in New York City took us through D.C. and to numerous other communities. It would not be a stretch to say our small gesture was an extension of the gifts first given to us by organizations such as Kundiman and Poets & Writers.

The extension continued when, a few weeks after the tour, I moved to Chicago and became one of the friends with an air mattress, as I hosted Cathy Che and poets Jess X. Chen and Paul Tran on a stop for their visual poetry tour, Lights Trauma Revelation. I read my poems, as one of four local poets, for their performance at the Marble Room, a Chicago reading series that hosted us in a Wicker Park dance studio, tucked under a train station. And there, Poets & Writers showed up once again to fund part of the reading.

I joked recently that I get paid as a poet when a stranger writes to say he resonates with my book, or when an old college friend finds a copy at an independent bookstore.  But with the Readings & Workshops program's generosity, I'm blessed and grateful to receive occasional financial compensation, as well. Whether friend or funder, I want to thank you, dear supporters, for your continued confidence in the importance of our words.

"Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows" - Book Trailer from Jess X Chen on Vimeo.

Photo (top): Eugenia Leigh. Photo Credit: An Rong Ku

Photo (bottom): Patrick Rosal, Cathy Che, Eugenia Leigh, Sally Wen Mao. Photo Credit: Honey Badgers Don't Give a Book Tour Tumbler page

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 Foundation, A.K. Starr Charitable Trust and Friends of Poets & Writers. 

Support for Readings & Workshops events in Chicago and Washington, D.C. 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.

We all have music artists that we connected with in our youth. But as time goes on, our music tastes tend to change. This week, pick a song you haven’t listened to in over ten years and give it another try. Write a short personal essay about your reaction to the song. What was it about that song that made you connect with it at the time? Do you still like it as much as you did then? If not, what do you think that says about how you’ve changed as a person?

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder, treason, and plot.” This rhyme commemorates the failure of the plot to assassinate King James I of England on November 5, 1605. The plot’s failure was due in part to the arrest of Guy Fawkes, who was guarding explosives placed beneath the House of Lords. This week, learn about a treasonous plot that was foiled and write a short story about it. Retell the historical event as it happened, or use the facts as inspiration for an original story involving your own characters.

Submissions are open for the Table 4 Writers Foundation’s third annual grants, given annually to fiction and nonfiction writers over the age of twenty-one. The winner will receive $5,000 and two runner-ups will each receive $2,500.

The grants are given for short stories, essays, or novel or memoir excerpts that somehow deal with New York City. To apply, submit four copies of four to ten pages (or 1,000 to 2,500 words) with the required entry form and a $10 entry fee via postal mail by November 15. Applications should be mailed to 1650 Broadway, Suite 405, New York, NY 10019.

The Table 4 Writers Foundation established its writers grants in 2012 in honor of restauranteur Elaine Kaufman. Kaufman, who passed away in 2010, ran an Austro-Hungarian bar on the Upper East Side of New York City for over forty-seven years. The restaurant was a favorite among writers, journalists, and editors. Kaufmann, who always sat at table four, was known for offering support and advice to writers.

The 2014 recipients will be announced in February and celebrated at the foundation’s annual spring gala in New York City. The 2013 recipients are Matthew Perron, Kurt Pitzer, Danny Thiemann, Jennie Yabroff, and Karen Yin. They each received $2,500, and their winning entries can be read on the foundation’s website. The foundation received over one hundred entries for the 2013 contest.

Photo: Elaine Kaufman

In Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Rosencrantz muses, “We might as well be dead. Do you think death could possibly be a boat?” If you were to imagine death as something tangible—an object, a location, or a living thing—what would it be? Write a poem meditating on why this particular thing symbolizes loss, and the coming of an end.

For over forty-five years, the Katonah Poetry Series (KPS) has hosted nationally and internationally acclaimed poets in the welcoming and intimate setting of the Katonah Village Library in Northern Westchester County. Each reading is followed by an interactive Q&A session, as well as a reception and book signing. The distinguished poets who have appeared over the years include six poets laureate of the United States, six poets laureate of New York State and sixteen winners of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Billy Collins, U.S. poet laureate from 2001-2003, directed the series for seventeen years and continues to serve on the poetry advisory board. The series draws an audience, not only from Northern Westchester, but also the greater Tri-State region. The series provides a valuable service to the community—hearing live poetry is an important experience that differs from reading a poem on the page. KPS believes it is important to broaden the audience for poetry, and reaches out to regional high schools and colleges. The series is pleased to take part in creating a vibrant and intellectual literary community of readers, writers, and educators.

How many years and poets does it take to make an incredible reading series? In the case of the Katonah Poetry Series (KPS), forty-seven years, six U.S. poets laureate, sixteen Pulitzer Prize winners, and a host of renowned poets. This lively poetic scene would not be possible without vital support from grantors like Poets & Writers, a dedicated group of poetry lovers of all ages, and the wonderful venue of the Katonah Village Library.

The series began in 1967 with Robert Phillips showing up at the library with a gallon of wine, some cheese, and a poet in tow. When Bob left to join the faculty at the University of Texas, he handed the baton to Billy Collins. A few years later, prompted by the small turnout at a Samuel Menashe reading, I offered, as good friends tend to do, to help Billy with the series. I didn’t realize that I would inherit most of the organizational duties due to his 2001 inauguration as U.S. poet laureate! After my stead as Co-director, Director, and now as Poetry Advisor, I continue to be nourished by my involvement in the series and fondly refer to it as my personal MFA program. As Billy Collins aptly said, “If you sat on the steps of the Katonah Village Library for the past twenty-three years [and now forty-seven!] without moving, nearly every notable American poet would walk by you."

The intimate, informal atmosphere of our readings, and the book signing reception that follows, encourages everyone to interact with each other and the featured poet. Visiting poets often comment on the vibrancy and enthusiasm of our audience. Not only have we built an audience, but along with them, a thriving community of readers and writers.

Some highlights:

• Stephen Dunn’s reading two weeks after September 11, 2001, which audience members said helped them cope with the tragedy

• The Ilya Kaminsky reading in 2003 moved people to tears

• Many moments of laughter provoked by Billy Collins, Kay Ryan, Ellen Bass, and other poets

• A young mother with leukemia who credited the series with upgrading her quality of life as she underwent treatment

• Dylan Thomas’s "A Child’s Christmas in Wales" recited by James Navé every December, a community ritual drawing families and folks of all ages

Given the current strength of KPS, it is hard to believe that in the 2009-2010 season, the series came close to losing solvency. Help came in the unlikely guise of a September 2010 article in the New York Times, “Even Poetry is Undergoing Setbacks.” Surprisingly, unsolicited checks arrived from as far away as California! With those funds and the creation of a new Executive Committee, the series was revived. KPS now offers four annual readings, as well as some additional community events and workshops. The Katonah Poetry Series also has a new media presence to take it into the twenty-first century, including a website (featuring unique poet interviews), a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and coming soon—Instagram! Our recent Billy Collins reading attracted nearly three hundred people, and we are confident that we will be celebrating our fiftieth anniversary in 2017. Does that make us one of the oldest— and newest— reading series in the United States? Please “friend us” and we’ll look forward to welcoming you to the KPS family.

Photo: (top) Committee members from left: Van Kozelka, Director of Katonah Village Library; Leisha Douglas, Ph.D., KPS Poet Advisor; Julie Nord, KPS Publicity; Andy Kuhn, KPS VP; Moira Thielking, KPS President; Marlene Gallagher, KPS; Stephen Peeples, KPS Treasurer; Jessica Bennett, KPS; Barb Chintz, KPS.
Photo: (2nd from top) Ellen Bass reading from her new collection, Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014).
Photo: (3rd from top) Billy Collins Reading.
Photo: (bottom) Billy Collins connecting with fans. Photo Credit: Leslye Smith, Studio Smith Photography.

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.

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