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Submissions are currently open for ScreenCraft’s 2015 short story contest. A prize of $1,000 and a consultation with an Academy Award­–winning writer and a Hollywood literary manager will be given for a short story or novella with “special cinematic potential.” One second-place winner will receive $300 and a consultation with a literary manager, and ten finalists will receive publication on ScreenCraft’s website and will have their stories submitted to ScreenCraft’s network of literary magazines and publishing professionals.
ScreenCraftUsing the online submission system, submit an original short story or novella of up to twenty thousand words along with a $39 entry fee by December 5, or with a $49 entry fee between December 6 and the final deadline of December 19. For an additional $50, writers will receive professional feedback on their work. Writers over the age of eighteen, who have not earned more than $50,000 from professional writing services for film or television in the previous year, are eligible to apply. Multiple submissions are accepted. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

The judges are Emily Cooke, senior editor at Harper’s; Valerie Cates, executive story editor at Random House Films; Cheston Knapp, managing editor of Tin House; and Diana Ossana, Academy Award–winning screenwriter of Brokeback Mountain, which she adapted from a short story. Ossana notes that she is looking for “stories that resonate emotionally, in any direction. I’ll be looking for stories that move me, that are structurally sound, and that have compelling characters.”

Founded in 2012, ScreenCraft is an independent screenwriting consultancy “dedicated to helping screenwriters and filmmakers succeed.” ScreenCraft hosts regular live events in New York City and Los Angeles, a variety of annual screenplay and short story competitions, destination residencies, and an annual fellowship program.

Imagine that you’ve been chosen to be the representative of your neighborhood and tasked to fill a time capsule that will be sealed and buried for one hundred years. Write a letter to future inhabitants who may unearth and open your time capsule. Describe the items you've included and explain their value and importance in the world today. Would you choose technological products, favorites books, or personal photographs or letters? What would you hope to offer the future through your selections?

In Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature's Most Memorable Meals (Harper Design, 2014), Dinah Fried’s photographs are inspired by passages from some of her favorite classic and contemporary works of literature. Create a reversal of Fried's project by imagining the fictitious life story behind a meal. Look through some photos of complete meal spreads from different time periods, countries, and types of establishments and choose a photograph that piques your storytelling instincts. Develop a unique character, setting, and situation inspired by the food, tableware, and mood in the photograph.

In Writers Recommend, Camille Rankine shares that her ideas and inspiration come from “eavesdropping on the world.” This week, collect phrases from overheard conversations, the radio, TV, or magazine articles. When you have a quiet moment, read over your notes and pick one quote that especially sparks your imaginative impulses. Write a poem that uses the found quote as a first line. Explore your immediate reactions and emotions, and allow those feelings to develop the tone of the lines that follow.

Linda B. Adams is director of the Gouverneur Public Library in New York, where she wears many hats; one of which is running writing programs for teens and tweens. She holds an MA in English and is a member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the Academy of American Poets, and the Horror Writers Association. In her spare time Adams writes stories and novels that she hopes people will read one day and that will keep them up at night. You can follow her @lindabwriter on Twitter.

Public libraries have become the hubs of their communities. In many small towns in the upper reaches of New York State, they may be the only place where people of all ages can gather. And one thing libraries gather is stories; our shelves are full of books that tell the stories of our humanity, whether they be nonfiction, memoir, or the truths wrapped in the imagination of fiction. So much of the time, we forget that stories are not just in books, that they are within us all, and we are living them every day.

As a writer and library director, my goal is to bring writers and writing programs to the small corner of the universe that is Gouverneur. With a small budget, this is not always an easy task. However, thanks to funding from Poets & Writers, we were able to do just that. Michael Czarnecki provided programs at the Gouverneur Library centered around story and our interconnected humanity. A poet and oral memoirist, Michael has a gift for encouraging and bringing out the stories of others. In his Palm of the Hand workshop, he shared a technique that helped to pull stories out of ourselves: flashes of moments in our lives that serve to illuminate the whole.

Whether those who attended the workshop planned a genealogy project, a journal, a memoir, or just wanted to rediscover themselves, they learned that they could write their own stories. Those of us who are writers know how difficult the work is. But we are willing to do that work; many of us need to. The people who attended this workshop would not have described themselves as writers, however, after the workshop, they all left with a small memoir and the discovery that, to some degree, we are all writers.

Michael, along with Sue Spencer, brought home how important story is and the many forms it takes with their program All One Song, which featured Sue’s percussion as a complement to Michael’s oral memoirs and photography. Audience participation was welcome and encouraged. The performance opened a window through which the audience could sense their own connection to nature and its rhythms.

Michael also shared stories of growing up in the 1960s in his performance piece See, It Was Like This. For some attendees, that period in our history was just that. For others, Michael’s stories brought back their own coming-of-age memories. From tales of hitchhiking and being one with nature to watershed moments, he kept the audience’s interest. But those who attended know it was more than that. I could see the way his stories sparked memories and shared experience; it was a palpable thing. Michael is a master at getting at the common heart of us all. He has a way of speaking that draws people in, makes them feel that his stories are their own. And to some extent, they are. We are the stories we tell; we are the stories we share.

Photo: Sue Spencer and Micheal Czarnecki.   Photo Credit: Rachel Hunter, Property of Gouverneur Tribune Press.

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 the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Think of a song that you would consider a lifelong favorite, even if your love for it now is attributed more to a strong sense of nostalgia than to your current musical tastes. Does hearing the song unexpectedly on the car radio or in a restaurant suddenly transport you to a different time or instantly change your mood? Write a personal essay about the memories you have associated with the song, and how the lyrics might have resonated with a certain significance in your past. How has your understanding and appreciation of the song evolved?

Development team Bit Byterz is currently in the process of completing creation of Memoranda, a video game inspired by twenty of Haruki Murakami's short stories. The game employs Murakami's trademarks of bizarre surrealism and characters who are in search of something they’ve lost. Continue this chain of inspiration by writing a short story revolving around an object or person—or even something more conceptual—that has been lost. Allow your scenes to unfold as a series of puzzles and problems to solve, as your main character journeys to locate the lost item.

This week, listen to a poem new to you—by a contemporary poet or a bygone poet—and jot down the words, phrases, and images that are most striking or memorable to you. Then write your own poem inspired by this list of words. How do you transform someone else's poetic intuition and choices into a work that demonstrates your personal idiosyncrasies and specific aesthetic sense?

Author Charlie Vázquez is the director of the Bronx Writers Center at Bronx Council on the Arts. He is one of the founding members of the Latino Rebels bloggers and writers collective, as well as the New York City Coordinator for Puerto Rico’s Festival de la Palabra, which makes it possible for him to work with prize-winning journalists, novelists, and poets from around the world. You can follow him on his Facebook author page or @CharlieVazquez on Twitter.

Last week, I had the very unique fortune of being invited to read with Nuyorican pioneers Sandra María Esteves, Americo Casiano, and Gloria Fontánez at the Countee Cullen New York Public Library in September. This was organized by Lorraine Currelley of Poets Network & Exchange, Inc., and was funded by the Poets & Writers Readings & Workshops program. It was an added honor to participate in the resulting Q&A, which gave members of the community in attendance the opportunity to ask us questions regarding our history and methods of creating poetry and fiction.

Each writer had a completely individualized approach to writing and its implicit politics of voice and identity. It was fascinating to listen to my fellow panelists’ processes as a writer who works with scribes across multiple disciplines. Sandra and Americo began in the earliest years of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe movement, and Gloria came into writing out of the pure love of storytelling. I began my writing process far away from home during my years on the West Coast—as a way to connect with my Puerto Rican roots.

I ran a reading series in the East Village (PANIC!) upon my 2006 return to New York City, as a way of networking with other writers, as social media was expanding. I wasn’t able to pay my featured presenters then, but as director of the Bronx Writers Center, I’m now able to compensate my writers. It has made a massive difference. The Bronx Writers Center is dedicated to fostering literary culture in the Bronx and administers the Bronx WritersCorps program, which mentors at-risk youth living in shelters in some of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods.

Those of us who take writing seriously know it’s hard work, and although I continue to make myself available for free when youth and teen mentoring is involved, it’s wonderful to get paid for something you spend years of your life trying to perfect.

Photo:  Charlie Vázquez. Photo Credit: Rebecca Beard

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.

The National Poetry Series has announced the winners of its annual Open Competition. Each of the five winning poets will receive $10,000 and publication in 2016 by a participating trade, university, or small press.

The 2015 winners are Justin Boening’s Not on the Last Day, But on the Very Last, selected by Wayne Miller, to be published by Milkweed Editions; Jennifer Kronovet’s The Wug Test, selected by Eliza Griswold, to be published by Ecco; Melissa Range’s Scriptorium, selected by Tracy K. Smith, to be published by Beacon Press; Danniel Schoonebeek’s Trébuchet, selected by Kevin Prufer, to be published by University of Georgia Press; and Joshua Bennett’s The Sobbing School, selected by Eugene Gloria, to be published by Penguin.

Established in 1978, the Princeton, New Jersey–based National Poetry Series is a nonprofit dedicated to “promot[ing] excellence in contemporary poetry” by publishing five poetry books annually through its Open Competition. Previous notable winners of the prize include Terrance Hayes, Adrian Matejka, Marie Howe, and Eleni Sikelianos.

In December 2013, the National Poetry Series was in danger of closure due to lack of funds, but has since been revived and has increased the monetary amount of its Open Competition awards from $1,000 to $10,000. For more information about the organization, visit the National Poetry Series website.

(Photos from left: Justin Boening, Jennifer Kronovet, Melissa Range, Danniell Schoonebeek, Joshua Bennet)

Research a paranormal story or legend native to your community. Write an essay that meditates on its origins, its historical context, how it characterizes your community today, and what reservations or questions it stirs up in you. Whether you’re the deepest skeptic or the most willing believer, how you engage with these supernatural tales can reveal a lot about your mind and imagination.

This week, create your own unique holiday, then write a piece of flash fiction about it. Include any traditions or customs that may be involved, and the story behind them. Is the main event a special feast, a bacchanalia, or a time to let loose an alter ego? Is it a day of celebration or contemplation? Explore what this holiday represents for the people who observe it.

After All Hallows’ Eve comes All Saints’ Day. The good news: Hagiography is a treasure trove of unique material for poems. Write a poem in the voice of a famous saint who has returned for this day. What would he or she make of the modern world? Would the remnants of present-day Halloween festivities leave the saint perplexed, mystified, even horrified? Challenge yourself to make the common rituals of modern life seem foreign and charged with possible meaning.

Readings & Workshops intern JoAnna Schindler blogs about her experience attending the P&W–supported Los Angeles Poet Society (LAPS) Summer Poetry Academy taught by poet and musician Juan Cardenas at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore. LAPS was founded in 2009 by poet Jessica Wilson Cardenas to fuse the diverse communities of poets, writers, booksellers, and publishers of Los Angeles County into a unified social and literary network.

Juan Cardenas, Jessica Wilson Cardenas, Bee Spaethe

Tucked into an ordinary strip mall in Sylmar, California, cohabitating with a Fresh & Easy and a Denny’s, is one of the Angeleno literary community’s most prized gems: Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore. Founded in 2001 by current Los Angeles poet laureate Luis J. Rodriguez and his wife Maria Trinidad Rodriguez, Tia Chucha’s is a cultural arts center and bookstore that hosts workshops, classes, and events in literature, visual art, music, and dance to unify and empower the community.

This small but vital space is where P&W–supported instructor Juan Cardenas of the Los Angeles Poet Society (LAPS) and cofacilitator Jessica Wilson Cardenas immersed an intergenerational group of teens and adults in the session’s theme: ekphrastic poetry—poetry written in response to another piece of art.

I identify as a fiction writer, but my poetry rarely reaches an audience, let alone the page! With their unmistakable enthusiasm for everyone’s ideas and work, regardless of experience level, Juan and Jessica created a safe space for me and the other workshop participants to take some of our first steps into writing poetry.

We wrote down words, phrases, and images that intrigued us from a poem by Catherine Wagner, which included things like polar bears floating, red race cars, and lemon highlights. After sharing our notes, which to my surprise, varied a great deal from person to person, we wrote poems. Though inspired by the same work of art, our poems were diverse and distinct, ranging from descriptive to introspective, and formal to prosaic.

Juan Cardenas and student

After easing us into ekphrastic poetry with the first exercise, Juan asked us to write two more poems: one inspired by the mural “Healing Through the Arts” on Tia Chucha’s exterior, and another influenced by the live guitar playing of guest artist Nelson Alburquenque. Juan encouraged us to write anything that came to us, as long as it was an elaboration or response to the original piece of art.

Again, each of us unearthed from these same pieces of art vastly different stories and epiphanies: where I saw the haze of a Los Angeles sunset, Malayna, one of the adult participants, saw the clear blue skies of a rural spring; where I heard the echoes of a car stereo, my P&W colleague, Jamie, heard the cry of a hawk.

The LAPS workshop celebrated the cultivation of individual voice and vision. As we studied other artworks, the emphasis was not on what they were supposed to mean, but what we saw, heard, and felt. This was an especially refreshing change for me. Currently, I study literature at UCLA, where we are more often asked to unveil a work’s historical, social, and political significance, rather than reflect on our personal experience of the piece.

As for writing poetry, this intergenerational workshop reminded me that in order to participate in any art form, whether or not it is one’s chosen medium, we must first give ourselves the chance to—without restraint, without judgment. That is the first brave step.

Photo 1 (left to right): Workshop leaders Juan Cardenas and Jessica Wilson Cardenas hold up copies of Poets & Writers Magazine donated for the event, with P&W program associate Bee Spaethe. Photo 2: P&W-supported workshop leader Juan Cardenas with a teen student. Credit: Jamie FitzGerald.

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

Write a letter to a friend you’ve lost touch with for at least ten years—perhaps you haven’t spoken to each other because of a falling-out or one of you moved to a new town. What do you remember about the last time you saw this person? Reflect upon the ways in which you have changed and remained the same from who you were ten years ago. Examine the emotions that surface when you think about this old friend and your relationship, and the physical places that your memories take you.

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