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A Room of Her Own Foundation is currently accepting submissions to its annual book prizes for women writers. The To the Lighthouse Poetry Book Prize is given annually for a poetry collection; the inaugural Clarissa Dalloway Book Prize will be given annually for a book of “everything but poetry.” The winner of each prize will receive $1,000, publication by Red Hen Press, and up to $1,000 in travel expenses to promote the book. The deadline is next Tuesday, April 1.

Kate Gale, the managing editor of Red Hen Press and editor of the Los Angeles Review, will judge the Clarissa Dalloway Prize. C.D. Wright will judge the To the Lighthouse Poetry Book Prize.

Women poets may enter the To the Lighthouse Poetry Book Prize by submitting a manuscript of 48 to 96 pages (two-thirds of which must be unpublished); women fiction and nonfiction writers may enter the Clarissa Dalloway Book Prize by submitting a manuscript of 50,000 to 150,000 words. Novels, novellas, memoirs, biographies, young adult literature, and graphic novels are eligible. The entry fee for both prizes is $20; entrants may submit using the online submission system or by postal mail to A Room of Her Own, Attn: TTL or CD Book Prize, P.O. Box 778, Placitas, NM 87043.

Sarah Wetzel won the 2013 To the Lighthouse Poetry Book Prize, judged by Tracy K. Smith, for her collection River Electric with Light. The winner of the 2012 prize, chosen by Evie Shockley, was Leia Penina Wilson for her collection I built a boat with all the towels in your closet.

Founded in 2000, A Room of Her Own is a nonprofit organization that works to support women writers. Their mission is “to inspire, fund, and champion works of art and literature by women.” AROHO, which is committed to Virginia Woolf’s belief that “women need money and a room of their own if they are to write,” has channeled more than $1 million into awards, fellowships, and opportunities for women writers. Visit the website for more information.

Editor's Note: As of April 4, 2014, the deadline for both the To the Lighthouse Poetry Book Prize and Clarissa Dalloway Book Prize has been extended to July 31.

Have you tried writing a tanka, ghazal, or triolet? This week, try working in a form that’s unfamiliar to you. You can even adapt an existing draft to fit a form, or come up with your own constraints and pattern. For a list of forms and their descriptions, consult the list of Poetic Forms and Techniques compiled by the Academy of American Poets.

Brooklyn-based literary magazine and publisher A Public Space has announced a new international Emerging Writer Fellowship program for fiction and nonfiction writers. Three winners will receive $1,000, publication in the magazine, and a six-month mentorship with an established author.

In addition, fellows who are based in or visiting New York City will be given optional access to workspace in A Public Space’s Brooklyn offices for the duration of the six-month fellowship. The application deadline is April 15.

Writers from any country who have not yet published or been contracted to write a full-length book are eligible. Fiction and nonfiction writers may submit a previously unpublished short story or essay in English and a cover letter via Submittable by 5:00pm EST on April 15. Cover letters should include a short biography and discussion of a piece of writing that has been influential, along with contact information, the title and word count of the submitted work, and publication credits. There is no application fee. Visit the website for complete submission guidelines.

Winners will be notified by June 20. The fellowship period will run from September 1, 2014 to March 1, 2015. 

Established in 2006 by founding editor Brigid Hughes, A Public Space has published the early work of writers such as Leslie Jamison, Nam Le, Corinna Vallianatos, and Jesmyn Ward, who have since gone on to win major literary awards. “These fellowships continue that tradition,” the editors write. “Our focus when reviewing applications will be on finding writers who have not yet published or been contracted to write a book-length work, but whose writing shows exceptional promise.” 

A Public Space plans to award the fellowships twice yearly; the application period for the next cycle of awards will be September 1 through October 14. Visit the website for more information.

P&W–supported writer Beth Lisick is the author of five books, including the New York Times bestseller Everybody Into the Pool (Regan Books/Harper Collins) and, most recently, Yokohama Threeway and Other Small Shames (City Lights Publishers). This spring, Lisick will be part of the P&W–supported Sister Spit tour with RADAR Productions. She lives in Brooklyn.

Beth LisickWhat are your reading do's?
I always think about the type of event at which I’ll be reading and try to pick something I think will work in that venue. Is it a solo reading, group reading, cabaret-style show? Stuff like that. I mean, your work is your work and you only have so much to choose from, but I always think about it from an audience’s perspective (which I don’t do while I’m writing.) And sometimes I know I’ll give a better reading if it’s something I haven’t read out loud a bunch of times. I hate a canned reading.

And your reading don’ts?
Don’t ever, ever, ever, go on too long. The longest I will ever read is twenty minutes, but usually it’s more like fifteen with a Q&A or else some other dumb, surprise element I come up with.

How do you prepare for a reading?
I never over-prepare. I’ve learned not to get drunk or anything beforehand, but I also like to leave it open and see what it feels like once I get there. Some people are going to feel better if they’re totally prepared, but my favorite readings have always been when I leave a few things up in the air until the last minute.

What’s the strangest comment you’ve received from an audience member?
If bottles of gin are a “comment,” then that. If not, then “I worked with your dad at Lockheed Missiles and Spaces in 1978” was pretty good.

What’s your crowd-pleaser, and why does it work?
I don’t know that I have a crowd-pleaser. In between the poems or stories I’m reading, I try to be myself, be the person I am with my friends and my family. That always helps.

What’s the craziest (or funniest or most moving or most memorable) thing that’s happened at an event you’ve been part of?
I’ve been doing this for twenty years so a lot of shit has happened. I got booed by a very vociferous crowd when I opened for Neil Young. I’ve stage-dived and had my shirt torn off. I’ve made lifelong friends with people I’ve met at readings. I’ve completely had what felt like an aneurysm and forgotten what I was doing. I’ve been heckled by lesbians who were mad that I was a straight person on tour with lesbians. I’ve looked out in the audience and realized that there was somebody out there that I’d rather not have hear what I’m about to read and chickened out and changed at the last minute. And sometimes I’ve said fuck it and read it anyway.

How does giving a reading inform your writing and vice versa?
Reading out loud used to completely inform my writing because open mics were how I started writing in the first place. Over time that has changed, but I still read my stuff out loud to myself after I’ve written something. I want it to sound good. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t, but my favorite stuff always ends up being the stuff that sounds really killer and dynamic when it’s read out loud.

Photo: Beth Lisick. Credit: Amy Sullivan.

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

Amy Tan’s story “Two Kinds” follows a young girl who is pushed to become a musical prodigy but ultimately fails to excel. This week, consider your own history with music lessons. Did your family or school persuade you to learn to play an instrument? Did you get to choose your instrument or was it chosen for you? Did you teach yourself to play an instrument later in life? If you have never played an instrument, write about another activity you picked up (or were forced to pick up) during childhood.

Parades are usually exciting occasions for children and a source of aggravation for commuters. This week, write a story or scene centered around a parade. Try to show contrasting reactions to the event. Draw from your own memories of parades at different times in your life.

This week, in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, research the life of a saint and write a poem that incorporates some element of his or her story. It can be an image, a symbol (like Saint Patrick’s shamrock, the three-leafed plant he supposedly used to teach the doctrine of the Holy Trinity), or you might try writing a narrative poem. There are patron saints of headaches, florists, and bankers. Find the story that most interests you.

Last night, during a ceremony at the New School in New York City, the National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of its book awards for publishing year 2013.

Frank Bidart won in poetry for Metaphysical Dog (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won in fiction for Americanah (Knopf); and Sheri Fink won in nonfiction for Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Crown).

Amy Wilentz won the autobiography award for Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti (Simon & Schuster); Leo Damrosch won the biography award for Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World (Yale University Press); and Franco Moretti won the criticism award for Distant Reading (Verso).

The winners were chosen by a panel of established literary critics from a list of thirty finalists announced in January. The shortlist in poetry included Lucie Brock-Broido for Stay, Illusion (Knopf); Denise Duhamel for Blowout (University of Pittsburgh Press); Bob Hicok for Elegy Owed (Copper Canyon Press); and Carmen Gimenez Smith for Milk and Filth (University of Arizona Press). The finalists in fiction were Alice McDermott for Someone (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Javier Marias for The Infatuations (Knopf); Ruth Ozeki for A Tale for the Time Being (Viking); and Donna Tartt for The Goldfinch (Little, Brown). The finalists in nonfiction were Kevin Cullen and Shelly Murphy for Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice (Norton); David Finkel for Thank You for Your Service (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); George Packer for The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); and Lawrence Wright for Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (Knopf).

Anthony Marra won the inaugural John Leonard Prize, which honors a first book in any genre, for his novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth). Critic Katherine A. Powers won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing award, and fiction writer, essayist, and translator Rolando Hinojosa-Smith won the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

The National Book Critics Circle awards are given annually for books published in the previous year. For more information about the awards, visit the NBCC website or its literary blog, Critical Mass.

In the video below from Britain's Channel 4 News, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses race, love, hair, and Americanah.

Heather Dubrow, director of the Poets Out Loud reading series, holds the John D. Boyd SJ, Chair in the Poetic Imagination at Fordham University. A critic of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature, she has published six scholarly books, a coedited collection of essays, and an edition of As You Like It (as well as articles on pedagogy and educational policy). Wearing her other hat as poet, she is the author of a collection titled Forms and Hollows (Cherry Grove Collections), two chapbooks, and a play produced by a community theatre. The journals where her poetry has appeared include Prairie Schooner, the Southern Review, the Southwest Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and the Yale Review. Two of her poems have been set to music and performed, and one was featured  on the Poetry Daily site.)

After I’d taught for many years at Carleton College and the University of Wisconsin (and more briefly elsewhere), Fordham University offered me the John D. Boyd SJ, Chair in the Poetic Imagination—an appointment that I might well have accepted for that title alone. When I arrived, Elisabeth Frost was heroically directing both the Poets Out Loud readings and the contest whose winner, the POL Prize book, is published by Fordham University Press. But about a year later Beth decided to focus on the latter portfolio, her work as editor of the Poets Out Loud book series (she shortly afterwards expanded the program to include publishing a second book each year)—and I happily inherited the program of poetry readings.

If anyone else is in line for such an inheritance, hold out for a series like POL: I am fortunate to direct a program that benefits from having been alive and well for over two decades (we celebrated its twentieth anniversary with the gala event at Lincoln Center’s Rubinstein Atrium featuring J. D. McClatchy and Julie Sheehan and from all the work of Elisabeth Frost and earlier directors. And we benefit from being in New York, with its splendid supply of both distinguished and promising poets.

Of course, our metropolitan location has its downsides, too. Hotel prices and other expenses are steep enough that we can almost never invite out-of-town writers. Fortunately, the Jesuit commitment to poetry, exemplified by and perhaps itself inherited from Gerard Manley Hopkins, as well as the much appreciated support of Poets & Writers, keeps us afloat, though on a shoestring (if shoestrings, like those airplane cushions, can function as flotation devices). Another challenge of being in New York is that competition for audiences is intense here; in contrast, at, say, Carleton, the visiting writer was usually the only game in town. But we hold all the readings at Fordham’s campus in Manhattan, near Lincoln Center, which is readily accessible to people throughout the city, and we regularly attract audiences of about ninety to a hundred people, with nearly twice that for a few events.

I’ve happily continued many longstanding POL policies. We’re deeply and enthusiastically committed to diversity in the poetic styles and ethnicities of the readers and similarly committed to representing both established and emerging writers. In other words, POL refuses to be drafted into the poetry wars. Admission remains free. And our audience is also diverse, encompassing everyone from high school and university students from Fordham and around the city to very distinguished poets to members of the general public.

Taking over a series that was already going strong opened up possibilities for additional initiatives. Looking inwards to the Fordham community, we now encourage entering students to become familiar with POL from the get-go by connecting our September reading to the themes of First-Year Orientation. Looking outwards, we have an outreach to high school students from underserved communities; our current partners are Cristo Rey New York High School, the High School for Business, Enterprise, and Technology, and the organization Girls Write Now. Students from those groups participate in prereading workshops on the poets appearing that night—which those poets visit—before going to the reading itself. Like other members of the audience, they have the opportunity to enter drawings and win a free inscribed book by one of the evening’s writers. In the final event of the year, some of these high school participants read their own work together with a distinguished writer in what we call a poetry sandwich (in past years Edward Hirsch, Marie Howe, and Anne Waldman appeared in these sessions, while this year we look forward to Elizabeth Alexander’s participation); in 2014 we’ll be publishing poems by all the students in the workshops, not just those who read that night, on our site. And last year POL took its show on the road—or rather on the subway—by setting up another outreach, this time to senior citizens, by reading in a few residences.

Poets Out Loud has also been very pleased to build bridges to other poetry organizations. We’ve been cosponsoring events with the Poetry Society of America for two years now—this year’s readers were Frank Bidart and Jonathan Galassi. In 2013 Fordham initiated and co-organized a series of readings and discussions on the subject of Donne and Contemporary Poetry, with participants including the Barnard Women Poets series, the New York Public Library, and the John Donne Society; future events in the series are planned at the interdisciplinary organization Helix and Fordham itself.

Well, actually, we had a splendid program in that Donne and Contemporary Poetry series all set up in February at Fordham (Molly Peacock reading, Nigel Smith performing his settings of Donne poems), only to be snowed out. John Donne, Un-done, as he apparently wrote himself. But I assured his agent that the event is being rescheduled in the fall. (Visit www.fordham.edu/pol for a forthcoming announcement).

The touchstones for poetry that Emily Dickinson famously identified also aptly describe directing a poetry reading series. “If...it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me”—yes, that describes running a poetry series when an elaborately planned event like that one is cancelled or when one discovers the day before a reading that another group is widely announcing that it has booked the room assigned to us. On the other hand, Dickinson also declares of poetry, “I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off”—and the top of my head has been delightfully and delightedly blown off by the readings themselves and by the audience’s responses. Witness comments such as “Fantastic series. Has reignited my love of poetry” and “Much more entertaining than I had ever expected to find poetry” and "Poets Out Loud reminds me how and why I fell in love with poetry and why it will always be a part of me.”

Top Photo: Heather Dubrow. Photo Credit: Katie Lockhart. Middle Photo: J. M. McClatchy.  Photo Credit: Michael Dames. Bottom Photo: Julie Sheehan. Photo Credit: Michael Dames.

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 NewYork 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.

In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes describes the punctum as “that rare detail” in a photograph that strikes the viewer. This week, look through old photographs for a detail that captivates your attention. Write about this detail. Why does it draw you in?

Claremont Graduate University announced today that Afaa Michael Weaver of Somerville, Massachusetts, has won the annual $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his book The Government of Nature (University of Pittsburgh Press). The award, given annually to a midcareer poet, is one of the largest monetary poetry prizes in the United States.

Yona Harvey of Pittsburgh has won the $10,000 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for her debut poetry collection, Hemming the Water (Four Way Books). The award is given annually to a promising new poet for a first book.

The son of a sharecropper, Afaa Michael Weaver grew up in Baltimore where, after two years in the Army, he worked in factories for fifteen years before attending Brown University on a full scholarship. The Government of Nature is his twelfth poetry collection. “He essentially invented himself from whole cloth as a poet,” said chief awards judge Chase Twichell in a press release. “It’s truly remarkable." Weaver has received two Pushcart Prizes, the May Sarton Award, and fellowships from the NEA, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Pew foundation, as well as a Fulbright appointment in Taiwan. He is also a translator of Chinese poetry, having worked with poets from China and Taiwan. He teaches at Simmons College and in Drew University’s graduate program in poetry and poetry in translation.

Yona Harvey’s poetry and prose have appeared in jubilat, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast, Rattle, the Volta, West Branch, and elsewhere. She has received a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts residency and an Individual Artist Grant in Literary Nonfiction from The Pittsburgh Foundation. She is an assistant professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

Now in its twenty-second year, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award was established at Claremont Graduate University by Kate Tufts in memory of her husband, who worked in the Los Angeles shipyards and wrote poetry as his avocation. The award is given for a work published in the previous year by a poet “who is past the very beginning but has not yet reached the pinnacle of his or her career.” The Kate Tufts Discovery Award has been given annually since 1993. A ceremony for the winners will be held in Claremont on Thursday, April 10.

Finalists for the 2014 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award were Brenda Shaughnessy for Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press) and Brian Teare for Companion Grasses (Omnidawn). Finalists for the 2014 Kate Tufts Discovery Award were Kim Young for Night Radio(University of Utah Press) and Leila Wilson for The Hundred Grasses (Milkweed Editions). Along with Twichell, the judges were David Barber, Kate Gale, Ted Genoways, Carl Phillips, and Stephen Burt.

Marriane Boruch won the 2013 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and Heidy Steidlmayer received the 2013 Discovery Award.

Motels are frequently depicted in novels, TV, and film. This week, write a scene that takes place in a motel. Perhaps it's a seedy, roadside fleabag; a clean, well-maintained establishment with a dark history; or simply a familiar setting for a dramatic turning point in your narrative. You can weave it into a short story or use it as a starting point for a new piece. It can be inspired by your own experience or entirely imagined.

In “[The Lost Pines Inn would be a good name for a motel]” Lyn Hejinian generates a list of “good names” for motels, music groups, and streets. This week, create your own list of imaginative names for something and build a poem around your particular catalogue.

This week write about your experience commuting to work. Whether it's the hour-long drive, daily bus route, or your morning walk, try to think about routines you have developed over the years to make your commute productive or enjoyable. If you work from home, you can write about what it's like not having to commute, and how you turn your home environment into a work environment.

Last night in New York City, George Saunders took home the 2014 Story Prize for his collection Tenth of December. The coveted $20,000 award, now in its tenth year, honors short story collections published in the previous year.

Saunders beat out Andrea Barrett for Archangel (Norton) and Rebecca Lee for Bobcat and Other Stories (Algonquin), who each received $5,000. All three finalists read from and discussed their work with Story Prize director Larry Dark as part of the evening's event.

George Saunders discusses his work at the Story Prize ceremony.

Saunders, who lives in Oneonta, New York, is the author of six previous books, including the story collections CivilWarLand in Bad DeclinePastoralia, and In Persuasion Nation, which was a finalist for the Story Prize in 2007. Tenth of December (Random House), spent ten consecutive weeks on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list, reaching as high as the number two spot. Among numerous other accolades, Saunders received the 2013 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story and was included in Time's 2013 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

In his on-stage interview, Saunders discussed his process, the role of sound in his work, and how putting himself inside his characters and “turning to the truth” helps him find what he’s looking for in a character or story. Saunders, who once penned a 700-page novel before scrapping it to turn to stories, praised the short form in his acceptance speech, adding that often the smallest details of the human experience are what ultimately matter most. “We don’t have anything but those small motions of the heart and mind,” he said. “Short stories remind us of that.”

Dark and Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey selected the three finalists from among ninety-six books entered in 2013, from sixty-four different publishers. Three final judges—Stephen Ennis, director of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin; award-winning author Antonya Nelson; and Rob Spillman, founding editor of Tin House—chose the winner.

“George Saunders offers a vision and version of our world that takes into account the serious menace all around us without denying the absurd pleasures that punctuate life,” the judges said in a statement. “This book is very funny and very sad.”

Claire Vaye Watkins won the 2013 prize. The award is the largest first-prize amount of any annual U.S. book award for fiction.

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