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This week, have a character stumble upon an abandoned object that is oddly out of place. Perhaps a wedding ring is spotted dangling from a tree branch on an afternoon hike, or a stack of family photographs are found stuffed in a handbag for sale at a thrift store. Write this scene into one of your stories. Does your character recognize this item? Does he or she keep it, or try to find the owner? Consider this object's potential for complicating this character's life, perhaps by adding a subplot, or unexpectedly affecting the main plot of your story.

Digital poetry is a form of electronic literature that necessitates the use of computers to display and interact with the work. Heavily influenced by concrete and visual poetry, digital poetry includes use of hypertext, computer generated animation, coding, and holograms. This week, look into some of the digital poems in the Electronic Literature Collection and brainstorm how you'd create one of your poems digitally. If you have programming skills, or know someone who does, put your plan into action and create your own piece of electronic literature!

Submissions are currently open for the Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest. An annual award of $1,000 and publication in Creative Nonfiction is given for an essay on a specified theme. This year’s theme is “The Weather.” The runner-up will receive $500. Essays should “combine a strong and compelling narrative with an informative or reflective element, and reach beyond a strictly personal experience for some universal or deeper meaning.” The editors will judge. 

Using the online submission manager, submit a previously unpublished essay of up to 4,000 words along with a $20 entry fee—or $25 to receive a four-issue Creative Nonfiction subscription—by May 11. Submissions are also accepted via postal mail to Creative Nonfiction, Attn: WEATHER, 5501 Walnut Street, Suite 202, Pittsburgh, PA 15232. All entries are considered for publication. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Founded in 1993 by Lee Gutkind, Creative Nonfiction was the first literary magazine to exclusively publish “high quality nonfiction prose,” and remains the largest literary publication in the genre. Past contributors include prize-winning authors Annie Dillard, Gordon Lish, Francine Prose, and C. K. Williams. For more information about the contest, e-mail information@creativenonfiction.org, or call (412) 688-0304.

Beth Gorrie volunteers her time as Executive Director of Staten Island OutLOUD. She spearheads the organization’s program planning and has adapted over twenty-five global classics for OutLOUD’s spoken-word performances. As an actor during the first few years of her working life, she performed with the Chicago Theatre of the Deaf and served as an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Chicago. In New York City, she appeared in a variety of Off-Off Broadway productions and in a series of film installations by award-winning filmmaker William Lundberg, a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship. Gorrie attended Columbia University Law School where she was an editor of the Journal of Law & Social Problems, and spent a summer in rural India on a human rights fellowship. She is a former partner in a leading New York law firm and has participated in community service in Harlem.

What makes your programs unique?
Staten Island OutLOUD gathers neighbors to explore global literature together, and to share ideas. Our first event took place shortly after September 11, 2001 when we had a deep need to gather together.

Since then, Staten Island OutLOUD has grown and has continued that spirit with a varied series of grassroots gatherings. Throughout the year, we host free events to explore global literature, our diverse backgrounds, our history, and our mutual concerns. OutLOUD is entirely volunteer-driven.

We operate on a small budget, but we’re very productive. Since our establishment in September 2001, we’ve served over 23,000 participants with over six hundred free events, in twenty-one languages.

What recent project have you been especially proud of, and why?
From September 2014 through March 2015, Staten Island OutLOUD hosted a series of forty community events about Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird. When we started planning our series a year earlier, we never guessed how timely it would be, following the July 2014 death of Eric Garner, an African-American neighbor of ours who died in police custody.

Our “Mockingbird” series explored national and local civil rights history, together with music and poems from the Civil Rights Movement, and from the Depression years in which the novel is set.

Tensions ran high during the months after Garner’s death, but our series fostered thoughtful discussions. Staten Islanders talked, listened, and considered the many facets of the crisis.

What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened at an event you’ve hosted?
Adults with special needs sometimes attend Staten Island OutLOUD programs. At one event when we discussed a variety of twentieth-century poems, a woman with mental disabilities gathered her courage to comment on a poem by Dylan Thomas. She had never spoken in public before, and she knew that the audience included teachers, attorneys, and other professionals. Everyone encouraged her, and as she spoke, she began to hold herself more confidently, and her voice grew stronger. Everyone was moved when she read, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

What are the benefits of writing workshops for special groups?
Staten Island OutLOUD’s work proves that when people have a forum and a stimulating entrée for conversation, they respond thoughtfully. Stereotypes can fade and real communication can begin. Our work with teens and with elders underscores the value of writing workshops for those members of our community. Our writing workshops have enabled people to find their unique voices. For teens who may have manifested behavior problems before they began our workshops, some of those problems began to ebb as they focused their energy on writing and as they gained confidence in their work. Elders who had never done any creative writing before participating in our memoir and poetry workshops have drawn real satisfaction in exploring their writing talent, in reflecting on their life experiences, and in recognizing how powerful their pens can be.

Photo: (top) Beth Gorrie at Huckleberry Finn at High Rock workshop. Photo: (bottom) Cast of Moby Dick marathon reading. Photo Credit: Staten Island OutLOUD.

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

When was the last time you looked through old pictures? This week, set aside some time to revisit photographs of yourself from the past. Pick one and write an essay from the point of view of your younger self. Try to recall what you were feeling in that moment. Have your feelings changed over the years?

Submissions are currently open for the inaugural Pleiades Press Editors Prize for Poetry. A prize of $2,000 and publication by Pleiades Press, with distribution by Louisiana State University Press, will be given annually for a poetry collection. The winner will also be invited to read at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. The editors will judge.

Using the online submission manager, send a poetry manuscript of at least 48 pages with a $25 entry fee, which includes a poetry collection published by Pleiades Press, by May 4. Submissions may also be sent via postal mail to Pleiades Press, Department of English, Martin 336, University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO 64093.

Established in 2000, Pleiades Press is housed at the University of Central Missouri. The press releases several poetry books each year and also publishes the literary journal Pleiades. For the past fifteen years, the press has also administered the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize. Recent winners include Adrian C. Louis, Katie Bichkham, Abigail Cloud, Katy Didden, Bruce Snider, and Julianna Baggott.

This week, think about what types of stories you write most often and the elements you tend to use when building your story. Then, write a story in a genre you've never tried before being sure not to employ any of your usual techniques. If your stories don't often include romantic themes, make romance a main plot point. Instead of always writing in the first person, try third person omniscient. Even if you've already discovered your favorite style of writing, it's good to dust off other instruments in your literary arsenal every now and then.

Submissions are currently open for the Malahat Review’s Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction, given biennially for a short story by a writer who has not yet published a full-length work of fiction. The winner will receive $1,000 Canadian (approximately $830) and publication in the Malahat Review. Elyse Friedman will judge.

Submit a story of up to 3,500 words with a $30 entry fee, which includes a subscription to the Malahat Review, by May 1 via e-mail to horizons@uvic.ca or via postal mail to the Malahat Review, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 1700, Station CSC, Victoria, B.C. V82 2Y2, Canada.

Judge Elyse Friedman has written three novels, a short story collection, and a poetry collection. In an interview with the Malahat Review, Friedman says, “I don’t think writers should ever aim for a place on any spectrum. Real writers don’t aim. They open and spill. And their words find the place where they’re supposed to be. My writing tends to be accessible and there’s usually a plot involved, often a high-concept premise, but I like to read all kinds of writing. I don’t care if there’s plot, or if the writing is difficult or the narrative is disjointed—as long as there’s truth and rhythm and talent.” Friedman cites Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain,” J. D. Salinger’s “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” Vladimir Nabokov’s “Symbols and Signs,” and Steven Millhauser’s “In the Reign of Harad IV” as amongst her favorite short stories.

Established in 1967, the Malahat Review is one of Canada’s oldest literary journals. Housed at the University of Victoria, the journal publishes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and administers several annual and biennial contests. Recent winners of the Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction include Kerry-Lee Powell for her story “Palace of Brine,” and Zoey Peterson for her story “Next Year, For Sure.” The prize was first awarded in 2007.

Photo: Elyse Friedman (George Gooderham)

Music and poetry both use sounds and lyrical passages to stir up emotion. This week, put on a piece of classical or instrumental music with a pen and paper nearby. While listening, jot down any ideas that come to you, any emotions you experience, any images you see. Once the piece ends, play it from the beginning and start writing a poem that embodies the music. Let your syntax mirror the music's movement, your sounds blend and layer like the instruments in an orchestra, and your themes evoke the story within the piece of music you've chosen.

Alanna Lin Ramage is a writer, songwriter, and artist-in-residence at the Los Angeles Little Tokyo Branch Library, where she hosts innovative, community-building events and workshops at the Los Angeles Department of Writing and Power (LADWP!*). She has studied poetry with Thomas Sayers Ellis and poetics and performance theory with Jon Wagner and Mady Schutzman at California Institute of the Arts. Ramage composes original lyrics and music for film and television. This year sees the release of a cover album inspired by the Beatles in tandem with publishing her first collection of poems about monastery wildlife in Northern California.

Alanna Lin Ramage

A few years ago, in a fit by candlelight, I came up with a syllabus for a workshop called Alters/Altars. It was designed to help a person write and explore their way into an alter ego—the poetic self that feels its own voice and power while feeling all, but not revealing all.

In February of this year, thanks to support from Poets & Writers and the Little Tokyo Branch Public Library, I was able to teach a five-week version of the workshop in downtown Los Angeles.

One premise I was working with included the physical effect of writing as a physical act. For each class, participants would read their pieces aloud and receive positive feedback from the group. In some cases the reading would be formal, at the front of the room. On other days, I had readers stand in the middle of a group circle that echoed words or phrases as the story unfolded. One writer noticed that she read to a mostly quiet circle. She later commented that she realized she had to read "painfully slowly" to give listeners a chance to register her words more fully. She reread her piece to us and we happily listened to every word.

In another exercise, we gave alternate names to one another. The unspoken invitation was: “What name suits me in your opinion? What is my sonic incarnation? Do you really think it’s ‘Bubby?’”

The first workshop started with participants reading personal biographies or ads, and then writing fictional personal ads for someone other than themselves. The exercise allowed us to get to know each other while ascertaining each person’s unique writing style. Week two’s life stories were especially intense, offering glimpses into epic quests for love and destiny. Week three featured hypothetical after-life sequences from each person—revealing visions of beautiful, earthy, sublime, and often hilarious realities to come.

Alters/Alters Photo CollageWe had a dynamic, talented, and punctual group. It was a pleasure to discuss personal creative journeys, hear the mix of angst, frustration, wisdom, confidence, and steady determination that characterized each person. The group had great discussions about what makes a “healthy writer” versus what makes a “happy writer.”

My favorite session of the workshop included an assignment that asked participants to write about a sublime or transcendent moment. The results were diverse and fantastic. There was a great relationship-ending-epiphany story, an excellent dim-sum-as-travel-as-exploration-of-life story, a profound unity-with-wild-crustaceans story, and a stirring overcoming-self-while-overcoming-mountain story.

The session made me think about how creative anxiety can sometimes blind us to the larger themes we've experienced in life. It may keep us from sharing the stories we’ve already lived or from inventing stories that might express what we know.

So how do we move past this anxiety? Decide what themes are important to you based on your life experience. Once you have: Write on! (OK, that was a bad pun. I’m a workshop leader—it’s allowed.)

Writing alters you. Be brave and do the work; you just might tell a riveting story as you sacrifice your fears.

Photo 1: Alanna Lin Ramage; photo 2: Alters/Altars workshop. Credit: Alanna Lin Ramage and Anne Rieman.

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

Submissions are currently open for two essay prizes: the Notting Hill Editions Essay Prize and the Southampton Review’s Roger Rosenblatt Comic Essay Prize. The deadline for both prizes is May 1.

The Notting Hill Editions Essay Prize is given biennially for an unpublished or published essay. The winner will receive £20,000 (approximately $30,370), and five finalists will each receive £1,000 (approximately $1,518). The winning essays will be published in an anthology to be published in October 2015. The winners and finalists are required to attend the award ceremony at Kings Place in London on October 3, 2015. Travel expenses are not covered.

Using the online submission system, submit an essay between 2,000 to 8,000 words with a £20 (approximately $30) entry fee by May 1. Essays published in a print or online journal between January 1, 2014, and April 30, 2015, are eligible; essays published in a book are ineligible. Visit the website for complete guidelines. Eileen Battersby, Michael Ignatieff, Phillip Lopate, Adam Mars-Jones, and Raymond Tallis will judge. Watch a video of judges Ignatieff, Lopate, and Mars-Jones discussing the art of the essay at the 2015 Jewish Book Week in London.

Judge Michael Ignatieff won the inaugural prize in 2013 for his essay “Raphael Lemkin and Genocide.” The runners-up were J. T. Barbarese, Belle Boggs, Leslie Jamison, Andrew O’Hagan, and Sameer Rahim. Notting Hill Editions established the prize in honor of the English essayist William Hazlitt (1778­–1830). Devon, England­–based Notting Hill Editions exclusively publishes essays, and is committed to “the vital role essays have had in our literary, artistic, philosophical, and political cultures.”

The Roger Rosenblatt Comic Essay Prize, launched this year by the Southampton Review, will be given annually for a humorous essay. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication in the Summer 2015 issue of the Southampton Review. Patricia Marx, a former writer for the New Yorker and for Saturday Night Live, will judge.

Using the online submission system, submit an essay of up to 5,000 words with a $15 entry fee by May 1. On the journal’s website the editors write, “We won’t even try to tell you what we’re looking for. The comic impulse resists definition, and we like it that way. But if your comic muse has led you to an essay that you consider a match, throw caution to the wind and send it to us.” All entries will be considered for publication. The winner will be announced by June 15. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Published twice yearly by Stony Brook Southampton, the Southampton Review publishes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

This week, think back to the most memorable meal you've ever had. What made it so unforgettable? Perhaps it was the food, the company, the setting, the occasion, or an awkward moment. Write a personal essay about this meal and the symbolism surrounding it. 

Nominations are currently open for the 2015 American Literary Translators Association’s National Translation Awards (NTA) in poetry and prose, and the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize. Individual prizes of $5,000 are awarded annually to book-length works of translation published during the previous year.

For the National Translation Awards, publishers and translators are invited to nominate translations from any language into English. The Lucien Stryk prize accepts nominations of book-length translations of Asian poetry or Zen Buddhist texts into English. The NTA and Lucien Stryk prizes are sponsored by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) to support the organization’s goal of advancing the quality and art of literary translation.

For both the NTA and Lucien Stryk awards, PDF files of translated books should be uploaded using the online submission manager by May 1. Submissions are judged according to the “literary significance of the original and the success of the translation in recreating the artistry of the original.” For complete guidelines and eligibility requirements, visit the ALTA website.

This year’s award-winning translators and finalists will be honored at the thirty-eighth annual conference of the American Literary Translators Association in Tucson, Arizona. Judges for the 2015 NTA in prose are Pamela Carmell, Jason Grunebaum, and Anne Magnan-Park. The judges in poetry are Lisa Rose Bradford, Stephen Kessler, and Diana Throw. The 2015 Lucien Stryk prize judges are Lucas Klein, Janet Poole, and Stephen Snyder.

Now in its seventeenth year, the National Translation Award is the oldest prize for a work of literary translation. This year marks the first time the prize will be given in both the poetry and prose categories. Last year, Eugene Ostashevsky and Matvei Yankelevich won for their translation of Russian poet Alexander Vvedensky’s An Invitation For Me to Think (New York Review Books, 2013).

The Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize was established in 2009 to “recognize the importance of Asian translation for international literature,” and is named for acclaimed translator of Asian poetry and Zen Buddhist Lucien Stryk. The 2014 winner was Jonathan Chaves for his book Every Rock a Universe: The Yellow Mountains and Chinese Travel Writing (Floating World Editions, 2013), which includes the first complete translation of Chinese poet Wang Hongdu’s Comprehending the Essentials of the Yellow Mountains.

ATLA will also award four to six travel fellowships of $1,000 each to emerging translators to attend the ATLA conference in Tuscon on October 28. Submissions are open until June 1. Fellowship eligibility requirements and application guidelines are available online.

For inquiries, e-mail ALTA managing director Erica Mena at erica@literarytranslators.org.

Samuel Ace is the author of three collections of poetry: Normal Sex (Firebrand Books, 1994), Home in Three Days. Don’t Wash. (Hard Press, 1996), and most recently, Stealth (Chax Press, 2011) co-authored with Maureen Seaton. His work has been widely anthologized and has appeared most recently in Aufgabe, Black Clock, the Atlas Review, Mandorla, Volt, Rhino, Versal, Trickhouse, Eleven Eleven, Tupelo Quarterly, the Volta, and Troubling the Line: Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics.

Samuel Ace

A transplanted New Yorker, I moved to Tucson in 1997. It is often said that people move to the desert to burn out karma. Perhaps that is true. I certainly have passed through several lifetime transformations here under the scorching sun, the blooms of ocotillo, and the fresh smell of creosote after summer rains. I had long harbored a fantasy about living in the desert but thought that the move was temporary.

Before coming here, I visited the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center, then a tiny cottage on the border of the university. I somehow understood that Tucson had a long tradition of drawing in writers from around the country, and thought yes, it would be a good place to land for a while. Once I arrived, I found that I was not wrong.

Not only did Tucson have a vital literary community, it had many diverse writing communities. The city, in the midst of a state full of deeply problematic politics, seemed to offer an antidote. The crossroads and richness of the border, of indigenous communities, languages, queerness, experimentation, scholarship, activism, and more saturate this small city in the desert. Those traditions have only gotten richer and more visible over the years. Poets & Writers funds many of the organizations that have added to that diversity. During the season (August through May), one can easily attend three to five readings a week in Tucson.
Fred Moten

In 1996, Tenney Nathanson and Charles Alexander, director of Chax Press, founded POG, a collective of poets, literary critics, and practitioners of other art forms in Tucson. They hoped to offer public programming and other related events designed to promote appreciation of and engagement with avant-garde work in a variety of media, especially poetry and multi-disciplinary art. I joined the Board of Directors of POG for a short time in the early 2000s, then rejoined the Board a few years ago. Besides original board members Nathanson, Alexander, and Cynthia Miller, the following diverse group of writers and artists make up our current board: Farid Matuk, Steve Salmoni, Susan Briante, Johanna Skibsbrud, John Melillo, Teré Fowler-Chapman, and Brian Blanchfield.

POG has always showcased innovative poets and artists from around the United States and beyond, including Bernadette Mayer, Fred Moten, Alice Notley, Anne Waldman, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Nathanial Mackey, Ariana Reines, Giovanni Singleton, Heriberto Yepez, Roberto Tejada, and over a hundred more. Our readings traditionally pair a local poet with someone from outside of the Tucson area. POG has also hosted workshops and artist talks; the recent inPrint Symposium in February featured Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. and Kyle Schlesinger. The POG & Friends reading, now an annual tradition, is designed to build community and has fostered a greater sense of kinship among Tucson’s diverse literary venues.

POG also collaborates regularly with other Poets & Writers-funded organizations, including the Intermezzo Reading Series, Casa Libre en Solana, the Tucson Festival of the Book, the University of Arizona Poetry Center, and the University of Arizona English and Writing MFA programs. Just this month, our most current collaboration with the Tucson Poetry Festival enabled us to bring Claudia Rankine to Tucson. 

The desert brings transformation and gifts. For this poet, those gifts have come in multitudes through the writers who make Tucson their home and the writers who touch down for a short visit. Many have come and stayed. None leave untouched by what is found here.

Photo (top): Samuel Ace     Photo Credit: Samuel Ace
Photo (bottom): Fred Moten    Photo Credit: Samuel Ace

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.

Sometimes we pick up a book or read an article at the exact moment it's so needed. This week, write a story in which one of your characters is going through a difficult time and picks up a book that changes his outlook. Have your character become so connected with the book that he feels like it was written for him. Who knows, maybe it was?

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