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“There is only one class in the community that thinks more about money than the rich, and that is the poor.” This observation by Oscar Wilde reminds us that no one is unaffected by money. Money heats our stoves, stitches our wounds, and clothes our children. Yet, people can perceive money—like art and religion—very differently. Think of a moment in your family history when money created tension. Focus on how individuals spoke, listened, and acted. Write objectively.

Juxtaposition creates tension, contrast, and intrigue. Think of two objects that don’t belong together next to each other: a cat skeleton and a shrimp cocktail, an antique coffee grinder and a wet scuba mask, a spare car tire on a floating iceberg. Once you choose your items, write the story that brought them together.

Think of your favorite meal. Write a poem about the recipe, describing how each ingredient and every action contributes to the final whole.  Evoke the five senses—from the sound of a whisk to the smell of paprika. Explore what this meal means to you and why. Write vibrantly, unless gruel is your thing.

Wendell Berry, the Kentucky–based poet, novelist, essayist, farmer, and activist, will receive the 2013 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award.

The award, announced yesterday, was given to Berry “in recognition of a lifetime of letters exploring how humans can live more harmoniously with both the land and each other.” Presented annually to an author for a complete body of work, the award is named in honor of the celebrated U.S. diplomat who played an instrumental role in negotiating the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords on Bosnia. The award will be presented to Berry at a ceremony in Dayton, Ohio, on November 3. Tim O’Brien, who won in 2012, will present the award.

berryBorn in Kentucky in 1934, Berry is a full-time farmer who has written more than fifty works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction “that explore themes of community, conservation, and the quiet power of living a simple and slower life.” His most recent works include New Collected Poems, the story collection A Place in Time, and the essay collection It All Turns on Affection, all published by Counterpoint Press in 2012. Berry was named the 2012 Jefferson Lecturer and received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2011.

“In a career spanning more than half a century, Wendell Berry has used poetry, fiction, and essays to offer a consistent, timely, and timeless reminder that we must live in harmony with the earth in order to live in harmony with each other,” said Sharon Rab, founder and co-chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation. “His writing has inspired readers to imagine the lives of people and things other than themselves—enemies, neighbors, plants, and animals—in order to advance the survival of humankind and Earth itself.”

“In a time that spends so many words and dollars upon conflict," Berry said, "it is encouraging to be noticed for having said a few words in favor of peace.”

Linda Nemec Foster blogs about the P&W supported event at UDetroit Cafe. Author of nine collections of poetry, including Talking Diamonds (finalist for ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year) and Amber Necklace from Gdansk (finalist for the Ohio Book Award). Linda Nemec Foster's work has been published in the Georgia Review, Nimrod, North American Review, and New American Writing. Cry of Freedom, her collaboration with musician Laszlo Slomovits, inspired by the poems in her chapbook, Ten Songs from Bulgaria, was released as a CD in 2013. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College.

The same day that the public announcement of Detroit’s bankruptcy was blasted around the world, I was invited to write this blog. Pretty ironic, eh? Not if you know anything about the D’s thriving and dynamic poetry scene. I currently live in west Michigan (Grand Rapids, to be exact), but I lived in Detroit for ten pivotal years in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Those were the years when I started writing poetry and began working on my degree in the country’s first low-residency MFA Program at Goddard College (this program that Ellen Bryant Voigt founded has subsequently moved to Warren Wilson College). There is another reason why the city has played a special role in my life--my first child, Brian, was born there in 1979.

Because of my personal connection to the D, I have maintained close relationships with a number of Detroit’s poets and writers. Through those connections, I have been invited to give readings, workshops, and conference presentations several times a year. Many of those events have been sponsored by Poets & Writers including my appearance on August 15, 2012, at the UDetroit Cafe. That was one very special night.

The venue was packed, the crowd was enthusiastic, and the host--Detroit poetry impresario M. L. Liebler--was a great M.C. His introductions were lively and so were the readers and performers. Besides your humble blogger, the program included the music of the RJ Spangler Trio with Larry Smith, performance poet Wardell Montgomery Jr., Detroit musician Keith Gamble, and poet Mary Jo Firth Gillett. Reading with Mary Jo was particularly wonderful: She’s a fine poet and a former student (she participated in a master level poetry workshop I taught at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1999). Everyone who took the stage was in terrific form. I read five poems including a long piece on my favorite movie star of all time, Barbara Stanwyck. It brought down the house. Who knew that I had a bit of the performance poet in me?

It certainly was a grand evening. Besides, there was someone in the audience that made it even more of a memorable event. Brian (yes, my son who was born in the D) was able to come to the reading and be part of that enthusiastic crowd. Unbeknown to both of us, there was an artist sitting nearby who drew a pen and ink sketch of us while we were talking before the readings: mother and son with the Detroit skyline in the background. He gave us the drawing gratis--”a gift from the D.”

Poets & Writers, with its Readings/Workshops Program, is the epitome of The Gift. The impact of its support that has benefited communities throughout the country is immeasurable. And for a community like Detroit--with everything it’s been through--the Program is a significant affirmation of the vibrant voices of poets and writers that care deeply about their city.

Photo: Linda Nemec Foster. Credit: Robert Turney.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Detroit is provided by an endowment established with generous contribution from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors, and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Asymptote, an online quarterly dedicated to literary translation, is currently accepting submissions to its inaugural Close Approximations translation contest. Two emerging translators will each receive $1,000 and publication in Asymptote.

Using the online submission system, submit five to ten pages of translated poetry or up to twenty-five pages of translated fiction with a ten-dollar entry fee by September 1.

Submissions must also include the original text, a cover page including the names and bios of both the author and translator, and—if the author’s work is not in the public domain—a statement confirming that the translator has obtained permission from the author or rights holder.

asymptote

Translations from any language into English are eligible. Works must be previously unpublished in English, and written by authors who have yet to appear widely in English. Preference will be given to translators early in their careers, who have published no more than one book-length work of translation.

Eliot Weinberger, known widely for his translations of Octavio Paz and Jorge Luis Borges, will judge in poetry. Howard Goldblatt, the translator of Nobel Prize–winner Mo Yan, will judge in fiction. The winners and finalists will be announced in the January 2014 issue. 

Founded in 2011 by Singaporean writer and artist Lee Yew Leong and coedited by an international team of editors, Asymptote publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama in translation, as well as visual art, criticism, and interviews. The journal has published works from fifty-four languages and seventy-five countries. Visit the website for more information and complete submission guidelines.

Mankind has often wrestled with the relationship between fate and self-determination. Write about a time in your life when your inner strength and perseverance changed the outcome. Next write about a time in your life when you believe fate played a role. Then write an essay about how this complex dynamic is manifested in your characters and creative nonfiction.  

Sometimes we are emotionally imprisoned by the ones we love. Overbearing parents, paranoid spouses, and needy children can make us—and our characters—feel trapped in an intolerable life. Write a scene where an antagonist in your writing leaves a loved one behind and begins life anew. Use details to express relief, guilt, and anger.

Beginning this year, Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester, England, will double the amount of its international literary prizes. The Manchester Writing Competition, which originally awarded one annual prize of £10,000 to a poet or fiction writer in alternating years, will now give two prizes of £10,000 (approximately $15,350) each to a poet and a fiction writer each year.

Poets may submit three to five poems totaling no more than 120 lines and fiction writers may submit a story of up to 2,500 words with a £17 (approximately $26) entry fee by August 30. Submissions are accepted via the online submission system or by postal mail. Writers from any country are eligible to enter.

Bernard O'Donoghue, Adam O'Riordan, and Fiona Sampson will judge in poetry; Alison Moore, Nicholas Royle, and Robert Shearman will judge in fiction. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Manchester on October 18.

Overseen by British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University has sponsored the writing prizes since 2008. Visit the website for more information and complete submission guidelines.

Writing poetry is an act of empowerment. Sit quietly at your desk. Think about what you’re most insecure about in life: being a good parent, making enough money, not being able to love fully. Write a poem about how you plan to overcome that insecurity.

StoryQuarterly, the literary magazine of Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey, is currently accepting submissions to its third annual fiction contest. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication.

Using the online submission system, fiction writers may submit a previously unpublished story of up to 8,000 words with an $18 entry fee by October 31. Jess Walter, the author of six novels and, most recently, the short story collection We Live in Water (Harper, 2013), will judge.

The winning story, along with the first and second runners-up, will be published in StoryQuarterly 46/47, a special double issue that will be overseen by author Paul Lisicky and released in Winter 2014. Christine Grillo of Baltimore, Maryland, won the 2012 prize for her story "Legendary and Non-Evolving." Amy Hempel judged.

Founded in 1975 as an independent literary journal based in Illinois, StoryQuarterly has been published by Rutgers University in Camden since 2008. Regular submissions are considered from September 1 through October 31. Visit the website for more information and complete guidelines, and check out StoryQuarterly Online to read stories from recent contributors.

P&W-supported writer Emily Rubin, author of Stalina and winner of the Sarah Verdone Writers Award, was recently profiled in Women You Should Know. She leads workshops for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City (see video here). We asked her to blog about the experience.

The flyers stated it simply:
Creative Writing Workshop
FOR CANCER PATIENTS, SURVIVORS, & CAREGIVERS
Mondays March 25, April 1, 8, 15, 22
This workshop will be led by Emily Rubin, a cancer survivor and author.

I started the workshops at Beth Israel Medical Center with the idea of giving something back to the hospital where I received treatment for breast cancer in 2008/9. As magnanimous as this might sound, I also had a subversive, experimental angle in mind. I wanted to offer an escape from cancer—a radical and fun alternative to the chemotherapy suite, radiation tables, and waiting rooms—even if it was only for a couple of hours a week.

While I was in treatment, my writing took a back seat to the rigors of the disease. My sparse diary entries ran the gamut of:  
January 28th. Cancer sucks. 
February 15th. Cancer really sucks. 
March 10th. I look like a freak.  
April 15th. Being bald (COMPLETELY!) is cool, but cancer still sucks. 
May 20th. Today a guy with a shaved head fist bumped me on a subway platform.

I consider myself lucky. My treatment was fairly standard for breast cancer: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. There was a very good chance all would be fine, and fortunately, so far, it is. But during that time I met many who were not so lucky. A good friend, Anne Childers, was diagnosed with cervical cancer. We were cancer “sisters” and found ourselves often pushed to edges of anger, fear, and frivolity. Her cancer took a terrible turn, and after a year of treatment Anne died with her family and boyfriend at her side. She was thirty-two years old. She may not be a survivor of the disease, but she survives within everyone who knew her.

After that I’d had enough of the disease, needed to distance myself from it, and get back to my life. I finished my first novel and found a publisher. At readings and in interviews, I never mentioned my illness as part of the journey to being published. But a nerve-wracking recurrence scare (fortunately negative) made me realize that cancer had left its mark, and I would be unwise to ignore the impact it had on my life. 

I explained to the six brave souls who turned out for the first workshop that the anxiety, fear, physical and psychological pain, passion, vulnerability, and fighting spirit they experienced in and around the illness would serve them well as writers. Being human is also a good qualification, but I encouraged them by saying they might have a slight edge over the rest of the species. 

I bring prompts, quotes, and photographs to inspire our writing sessions, which have been supported by funds from Poets & Writers, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and New York Community Trust. I encourage everyone to go as deep into the illness, or as far away from it, as they desire. The main thing is they have complete control over what they write. Everyone writes for thirty minutes around a common table.    

After receiving some bad news about her diagnosis, Caroline wrote about this photograph of lightning over New York:

lightningLightning knows no mercy. She strikes with precision and ruthlessness. Her skill is almost surgical, and yet catastrophic in her damage….Where is my agency in all this? Where are my thunderbolts? Oh that I had a quiver full of them like the Greek god Zeus that I could grab and hurl at the demons that now beset me. I need Hephaestus to smith them out for me with his band of mighty Cyclops—electric blue and pink bolts to counteract and heal the damage that these new blasts have done to me. Oh Prometheus, bring them gently to me with a bow of gold that I might take sure and steady aim.

Belinda was taken with a photograph of a giant chessboard, below:

I was just about to give up when Hamilton suggested we take a walk outside. We had been at the table for hours, it was a blur of posturing rhetoric and uncertainty so frustrating…. As I looked at the knight shamefully, I felt something trickle down the side of my face, something warm and slow, blood splattered onto the black and white square, it reminded me of snowflakes as my brain tried to take me home in my last moments. Peace process over in one move. 

giant chess boardOther prompts include:

--An experience with an insect.
--The coldest day.
--A time you did something dangerous.
--The worst advice you ever gave, or got.
--Someone or something you find annoying.

There is no bullshit with these folks. They don’t sweat the small stuff. They get right to it. As a result, the writing is fiercely honest and lyrical.

Photos: Top, Emily Rubin (credit: Billy Tompkins). Middle: Lightning (credit: Weegee). Bottom: Chess Game (Erika Stone).
Emily Rubin can be reached at emrubin@earthlink.net. 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 Cowles Charitable Trust, the Abbey K. Starr Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Sit quietly at your writing desk and look at an old photograph of a relative who has passed on. Examine the person's face. Study the person's expression. Analyze the person's posture. What about this person still lives on through your family? What about this person still lives on through you? Write without editing your thoughts.

P&W–supported poet Michael Medrano will blog about the literary climate in California's underserved Central Valley throughout the month of July. Medrano is the author of Born in the Cavity of Sunsets (Bilingual Press 2009). His poems have appeared in Askew; Bombay Gin; The Cortland Review; The Packinghouse Review; Rattle; and The Yellow Medicine Review among other publications. He is the host of Pakatelas, a literary radio show, streaming worldwide at www.kfcf.org, and hosts the Random Writers Workshop in Fresno, California.

IMichael Medranot seems there has always been poetry on the radio in Fresno. Preston Chase and Lee Underwood broadcasted their literary show in the late nineties, in a studio above the garage of a residential home, former headquarters of KFCF 88.1 FM. One time they welcomed poets Estela Molina, Tim Z. Hernandez, and yours truly to an hour of interviews and round-robin poetry. We were in our early twenties, squeaky, and reading from home-made chapbooks we sold at open mics for a couple of bucks.

Before Underwood/Chase there was Chuck Moulton—the poet who wrote Lion in the Fire—who was known for arriving to his live radio show later than his guests. According to current station manager Rych Withers, Moulton also fancied a false set of teeth he’d pop out of his mouth whenever he got the chance. Ah, the spontaneity of poets on the radio!

It was only a matter of time before I, too, was drawn to radio. After graduate school in Minneapolis, I got on the radio and featured my new poetry friends. That is how Pakatelas was born. During my initial year at KFCF, I recruited poet/screenwriter David Campos to co-host, and we developed into quite a team. We interviewed local and national writers including Lee Herrick, Sasha Pimentel, Daniel Granbois, and many others.

In the beginning we stuttered and frequently stopped takes. We were poets, after all, not radio DJ’s. Thank God for the pre-recorded show—otherwise we’d be radio losers scribbling poetry at some random coffee shop!

When David left to pursue an MFA at the University of California, Riverside, I wanted to try something different. A fan of talk radio, I decided to try the live format. I couldn’t tell you who my first live guest was—such is the energy of live radio—but writers who were reluctant to try the new setup were often surprised by how comfortable they were in the spontaneous format. I remember fiction writer Daniel Chacon’s startled face when I told him we were going live, minutes before the start of the show. Poor Corrine Hales was battling allergies, but she still kicked literary butt in the studio! On a recent show, I juggled two call-ins from the L.A. area along with the two guests in the studio, who were promoting a local poetry reading. It was hands down my most complex show to date.

“Pakatelas” comes from the title of an epic poem written by the late poet Andres Montoya. It is a Spanish term that comes from the ice factories Montoya famously wrote about. From what I’ve been told, "Pakatelas" is slang for “pack those things.” It also describes the manic energy poets experience when presenting a new poem at a reading—or the marriage between verse and the countdown from the board operator in the studio booth.

Photo: Michael Medrano.
Major support for Readings/Workshops in California is provided by The James Irvine Foundation. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

People change in life, so must your characters. Write a paragraph about your protagonist at age eight discovering a wounded sparrow on the sidewalk. Next write a paragraph about the same protagonist at age forty-two encountering the same sparrow. How are the reactions different? Write a third paragraph about why your character changed. That is the story of your protagonist.

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