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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Using the online submission system, fiction writers may submit a previously unpublished story of up to 8,000 words with an $18 entry fee by October 31.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.

The Cambridge, Wisconsin–based literary magazine Rosebud is currently accepting submissions to its fifth biennial Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award for Imaginative Fiction. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication in Rosebud. The deadline is September 15.

Submit one copy of a previously unpublished short story of up to 4,500 words with a $10 entry fee ($15 to receive a copy of the prize issue) by postal mail to Rosebud Magazine, N3310 Asje Road, Cambridge, Wisconsin 53523. Checks can be made payable to the Rosebud/Shelley Award.

Works of literary fiction, as well as works of science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and “stories that reach beyond the boundaries of those genres” are eligible. Fiction writer Ray Vukcevich will serve as final judge.

Established in 1993 and staffed entirely by volunteers, Rosebud Magazine is a nonprofit organization that publishes works of poetry, fiction, and essays in three print issues each year. For more information and complete submission guidelines, visit the website. 

Time is what we call the brutal miracle that makes us grow old. Certain months of time remind us of falling in love, burying a loved one, or moving into a new house. This week, as we say goodbye to July, reflect on what August has meant to your life. Begin your poem with your childhood. Then describe how August has changed you and your perception of the world.

In July, P&W-funded fiction writer Alex Espinoza, author of The Five Acts of Diego León, was among the faculty at the annual Community of Writers at Squaw Valley conference in California. Laura Cerruti, Squaw Valley’s director of development, blogs about his visit.
 
Alex Espinoza“Do you love the Community of Writers?” asked Alex Espinoza, a workshop teacher at the forty-third annual Community of Writers. He was introducing the Published Alumni Reading Series, and the audience’s response rivaled the volume of the cheerleaders whose camp often shares our airspace in Squaw Valley—not bad for a group of writers ranging in age from early twenties to late eighties, and from first-timers to seasoned alumni.

Espinoza’s introduction set the stage for an electric evening in the Olympic Village’s Plaza Bar, where even the mountain seemed to be leaning in to listen. 
 
When a writers’ workshop reaches middle age, it becomes as defined by its alumni as by its current participants. Espinoza is an excellent example of this beneficial cycle. A graduate of the UC Irvine MFA program, Espinoza first attended the Community of Writers in 2004, returning in 2005. Community of Writers founder Oakley Hall directed the Irvine program for two decades, and Irvine MFAs have been attending the conference on special scholarships for many years (Ramona Ausubel, Michael Chabon, Richard Ford, Maile Meloy, and Alice Sebold—among others—also attended both programs, and Irvine MFA Louis B. Jones is now the co-director of the Writers Workshop). Espinoza is truly a link back to the origins of the Community of Writers.
 
Espinoza helped make this year’s workshops a life-changing experience, whether participants worked with him in group workshops, met with him during individual conferences, or attended his conversation with Dagoberto Gilb. Born in Tijuana, Mexico, and raised in suburban Los Angeles, Espinoza’s background speaks to a California experience that is often underrepresented in published work. His most recent novel, The Five Acts of Diego León (Random House, 2013), is broad in its scope of depicting an immigrant pursuing his dreams, but also completely grounded in time and place: Hollywood during its golden age.

Most importantly, Espinoza’s generosity to other writers embodies the spirit of the Community of Writers staff. Lisa Alvarez, co-director of the Writers Workshop, noted that, “He’s a consummate teacher. He really wants to support people the way he was supported.”

Photo: Alex Espinoza (center) at Squaw Valley.
Major support for Readings/Workshops in California is provided by The James Irvine Foundation. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Thirteen fiction writers make up the long list for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, which was announced this week in London. The winner of the prize—one of the most prestigious awards in literary fiction—will receive 50,000 British pounds, or approximately $75,000.

This year's so-called “Booker’s Dozen” includes Five Star Billionaire (Fourth Estate) by Tash Aw, We Need New Names (Reagan Arthur Books) by NoViolet Bulawayo, The Luminaries (Granta) by Eleanor Catton, Harvest (Picador) by Jim Crace, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman (Sandstone Press) by Eve Harris, The Kills (Picador) by Richard House, The Lowland (Bloomsbury) by Jhumpa Lahiri, Unexploded (Hamish Hamilton) by Alison MacLeod, TransAtlantic (Bloomsbury) by Colum McCann, Almost English (Mantle) by Charlotte Mendelson, A Tale for the Time Being (Canongate) by Ruth Ozeki, The Spinning Heart (Doubleday Ireland) by Donal Ryan, and The Testament of Mary (Viking) by Colm Tóibín.

According to the announcement on the Booker Prize Foundation website, this year’s judges—Robert MacFarlane, Martha Kearney, Stuart Kelly, Natalie Haynes, and Robert Douglas-Fairhurst—read 151 books, and “have found works of the greatest quality in places as distant from one another as Zimbabwe and New Zealand, Canada and Malaysia and from writers at the start of their careers (Eleanor Catton, aged 28, whose book The Luminaries weighs in at a whopping 832 pages) to those who have been at the writing game for many years (Jim Crace, aged 67)—and every stage in between.”

Seven of the long-listed books are written by women, three are debuts, and only Crace and Tóibín are previous Booker finalists.    

Founded in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is given annually for a book of fiction published in the previous year and written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the British Commonwealth, or the Republic of Ireland. Hilary Mantel took the 2012 prize for her novel Bring Up the Bodies, the second installment of her acclaimed Tudor trilogy; the first, Wolf Hall, won the prize in 2009.

A shortlist will be announced September 10 and the winner on October 15. In the meantime, check out an excerpt from finalist NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names, featured as part of the annual first fiction roundup in the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, and an essay by Ruth Ozeki—about the creation of her long-listed novel and the relationship between readers, writers, and characters—which appeared in the May/June issue.

The wind can toss a greasy napkin down a city street, stir dead leaves in the corner of an abandoned tool shed, or propel an ancient sailboat across an ocean. Every wind has unique and varied sounds, smells, and textures. Think of a moment in your life when the wind was particularly prevalent. Describe the wind as if it were a character with a distinct personality—strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. How did that wind influence your thoughts and feelings, and why was it so memorable? Write 500 words.

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.

Michael MedranoWe poets recognize an unusual reading gig when we see one. We’re used to reading in bookstores, coffee shops—even a hole-in-the-wall isn’t the least bit strange. And every space has its challenges; sometimes it’s the acoustics or an obstruction in the room, a giant beam blocking the view of the poet on stage. Some of the worst readings were ones with an active bar where people became loud and discourteous. But, let's face it: It is a bar and not everybody is a fan of poetry. Otherwise they’d be naming stadiums after poets and not banking institutions.

A great poetry experience can happen when you least expect it. For example, in 2000, when I was a student editor for Flies, Cockroaches, and Poets, I was asked to do a poetry reading at Sears in central Fresno. I was the only editor who was able to make it, since the others were either swamped with work or too afraid to read in a mall. In those days, I never cancelled readings. I’d read with the flu if I had to.

So there I was, the lone poet from F,C, & P, aboard the escalator on my way to Sears to give a reading in the men’s department. During the short ride up the electric staircase, I imagined a mic on top of the counter next to the cash register. That would be cool, I thought. I imagined reading above the people, families leaving their back-to-school-shopping behind, chanting for more of my poetry. Oh, the delusions of grandeur we make up for ourselves minutes before we hit the stage.

Four rows of seats were carved out of the socks and underwear section. The microphone stand was placed in front of the dressing room—for the grand entrance, of course! Behind the last row, two ladies from the catering company prepared appetizers. They were careful not to get grease on the stack of 501’s next to the cutting board. I sat and waited for thirty minutes. Nobody showed up! Discouraged, I put my poems away and proceeded to walk out. But then I stopped.

"Hey, can I read my poetry to you?" I asked the cook.

"Well, we’re going to pack up our stuff and go," the cook replied.

"Don’t be like that," her assistant said. "Let the boy read his poems."

Just then, I laid a grin not even Muzack could wipe off. I read poem after poem. I read for twenty minutes straight, shouting my poetry so the shoppers would know there was a poet in the house! They stopped too, some in confusion as they contemplated their coupons, but others smiled and nodded as they acknowledged my art.

Sure, the reluctant cook fell asleep during the reading, and the store manager asked me to keep the noise of my poetry down. I doubt my poems got in the way of their profits; and I bet at least one of those kids shopping with their parents would end up one day falling in love with poetry and thinking about the first poem they heard from a bumbling, amateur poet in the men’s department at Sears.

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.

The ping of a spatula. The rattle of dirty plates. A dropped spoon. Place the main character of your story or novel in a diner. Write a paragraph detailing the many sounds this character hears. Then have this same character receive devastating news via an anonymous letter delivered by the waitress. Write another paragraph about the sounds the character now hears. The two paragraphs should be very different. Tragedy changes us instantly in so many ways. 

Poetry harnesses the power of metaphors and similes to reach a part of humanity that is inaccessible to all other forms of communication. Think about someone you love. Spend 15 minutes making a list of their notable attributes—both flattering and incriminating. Describe those attributes using simple metaphors and similes to explain the complex feelings this person evokes within you.

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