Write a prose poem, a poem that doesn't use line breaks to convey its meaning. Read [the siren's story] by Barbara Jane Reyes for an example.
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New Hampshire outfit Bauhan Publishing has launched a first book prize in honor of the late May Sarton. The winning poetry collection will be published in 2012 in celebration of Sarton's one hundredth birthday, and will appear in conjunction with a reissue of her collection As Does New Hampshire, originally published in by Bauhan 1967.
State poet laureate W. E. Butts, author of Sunday Evening at the Stardust Café (First World Library) and Movies in a Small Town (Mellen Poetry Press), will judge. The winner will receive one thousand dollars as well as one hundred copies of the published book.
Book manuscripts, which should be accompanied by a twenty-five-dollar entry fee, are due on June 30. Full guidelines are available on the Bauhan Web site.
A feminist, advocate for social justice, and contemporary of writers such as Virginia Woolf and H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), Sarton authored more than fifty books of poetry, fiction, and memoir. In the video below, Sarton reads her poem "My Sisters, O My Sisters."
Eavesdrop on two people having a conversation in a public place. (Avoid small-talk, conversations about the weather.) Write down exactly what they say, including their "ums," "uhs," "likes," and stutters for two pages. Then rewrite that page, using only dialogue, but making it more suited for the literary page; clean it up, keeping the sentiments, but getting rid of all the inconsequential words and lines, and even changing the language to make it more engrossing. (Try to find the subtext behind what they’re saying and what you observed about them while listening.) Compare the original and the revised dialogue. The revision will still be boring, as most people’s conversations are, but the point is to see how fictional dialogue is not the same as spoken dialogue.
This week's fiction prompt comes from fiction writer Teddy Wayne, author of the novel Kapitoil (Harper Perennial, 2010).
The Pulitzer Prizes in letters have been announced, with two women writers snagging literary honors. U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan, praised for her "witty, rebellious and yet tender" verse, won for her collection The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (Grove Press). The winner in fiction, Jennifer Egan was honored for the "big-hearted curiosity" of her novel A Visit From the Goon Squad (Knopf), which also recently won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
The finalists in poetry are Maurice Manning for The Common Man (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and Jean Valentine for Break the Glass (Copper Canyon Press). Jonathan Dee and Chang-rae Lee received citations in fiction, for The Privileges (Random House) and The Surrendered (Riverhead Books), respectively.
Also of note, writer and doctor Siddhartha Mukherjee won the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction for his "biography" of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies (Scribner), "an attempt to enter the mind of this immortal illness, to understand its personality, to demystify its behavior."
In the video below, Egan discusses her novel on PBS NewsHour.
P&W-SPONSORED WRITER: Delia Tomino Nakayama
HOST ORGANIZATION: St. Anna's Episcopal Church
From October 18 to November 15, 2010, poet Delia Tomino Nakayama held five free "PoetryProcess" workshops at St. Anna's Episcopal Church in New Orleans. We asked Nakayama how she approaches workshopping.
What's your writing critique philosophy?
A lot of good comes from refraining from giving critique in workshops if the students are open to such an idea. An air of unconditionality then permeates the environment, and people can really go places they don't normally go and explore different ways of writing without feeling scrutinized. “Good” examples, writing exercises, and time spent writing together in silence can guide people in a gentle way to reach their potential. I also feel that the answers people are looking for regarding their work are usually inside of them, though it might take some time to find. Those answers are apt to be more appropriate than another person's, as the writer really knows the writing.
What is the strangest question you’ve received from a student?
“Do I really belong here?”
My answer was: “Of course!”
This person didn't really feel like a “writer” yet. Anyone who wants to write, whether they have or not in the past, “belongs” in any workshop I give.
How does teaching inform your writing and vice versa?
The knowledge I have as a writer and human being comes out as I teach, and though I knew that I “knew” something, my insights go through an actualization process where I am verbalizing what I know viscerally/subconsciously.
I think about how it was when I was starting out as a poet and writer, and how I doubted myself. I also remember getting bad and discouraging critiques. That process of development as a writer informs how I teach. I try to be as sensitive as possible to each student and give people a lot of space to move in, so they don't feel monitored or limited. I also do a lot of encouraging and praising. I don't say something is great if it isn't great (to me) or butter people up gratuitously, but I always aim to be positive and supportive. Praise and encouragement works.
I have had the great luck to teach some very talented writers who I have thought of as “better” poets than myself (though I don't really like to use that word and compare in that way), and those people have inspired me and challenged me to write more and “better.”
What has been your most rewarding experience as a writing teacher?
Teaching children and young adults poetry is the most satisfying for me. Giving a child a notebook and a pen, and letting him or her just write is amazing. It's like watching a flower bloom before your eyes.
What are the benefits of writing workshops for special groups, such as teens, elders, the disabled, and veterans?
For groups of people that don't feel heard, or feel misunderstood, writing is a powerful tool to get clear on how they feel and see things, express those feelings effectively, and find an outlet where they can communicate and tell their stories to others in an interesting, engaging way. Writing empowers people and gives voice to stories, and perhaps even secrets, that need to be brought to light.
Support for Readings/Workshops events in New Orleans 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.
P&W-SPONSORED WRITER & PRESENTER: Collin Kelley
For the next few weeks, poet Collin Kelley, author of After the Poison, Slow to Burn, and Better to Travel, and curator of both the Poetry Atlanta reading series and the Georgia Center for the Book reading series will be blogging about his experience as a longtime R/W-sponsored writer and presenter of literary events.
In February 2005, I wrote my first grant approved by Poets & Writers, Inc., when it expanded its Readings/Workshops program to the Atlanta area. The recipient of that grant, Cherryl Floyd-Miller, hadn’t asked for any money, but deserved it for her many years of selfless and uncompensated work as a writer in the city. We had a standing-room-only audience that night at the Barnes & Noble on the Georgia Tech campus, and I was thrilled to be able to put a check in Cherryl’s hand.
Asking a writer to pay airfare, hotel (or sleep on an uncomfortable sofa), and other expenses with no compensation other than the “glory” and “honor” of being asked to read becomes more and more abhorrent to me the longer I’m in the business of words. Even if the writer is just coming from across town, they are giving up their time, paying $3-plus for gas and providing experiences for audiences.
Whether the poet is coming from Boston or Los Angeles (such was the case with January Gill O’Neil and Steven Reigns, respectively) or just around the corner (the newly-crowned Women of the World Poetry Slam champion Theresa Davis or local favorite Karen Head), my belief is that they all deserve to be paid.
Let’s face it: Unless some book-loving heiress has died and bequeathed her fortune, most literary organizations are struggling. And not just because of the recent economic downturn, but since time began. It’s not that people don’t value literature; it’s just often taken for granted as always being there. Writers are usually left in the gray area of trying to balance doing what they love and keeping the lights on in their dens.
Support for Readings/Workshops events in Atlanta is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.
Welcome to Readings & Workshops, a new blog which will showcase the fabulous literary contributions that Readings/Workshops program participants make to their communities. Check back regularly to read highlights of events we’ve supported through our R/W grant program and dispatches from the writers and literary presenters we’ve partnered with in New York State, California, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New Orleans, Seattle, Tucson, and Washington, D.C.
For a taste of what R/W is all about, check out this video, which documents a writing workshop at New York’s Goddard Riverside Community Center. We’ve funded this workshop since 2001, making it one of our longest-running writing workshops for seniors, and most of the participants have attended consistently for more than a decade. You’ll understand why when you watch the video.
Lionel Shriver, who some posit is among the greatest living American writers, finds her Orange Prize–winning novel recognized for another honor this spring. The film adaptation of We Need to Talk About Kevin, starring Tilda Swinton—an actress with more than a few literary films under her belt—is up for the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. (Meanwhile, the Independent reports, Shriver has not seen the film and will not go to Cannes, though she was not opposed to the adaptation of her book.)
The novel, Shriver's seventh, took the 2005 Orange Prize, given since 1996 for a novel by a woman of any nationality. We Need to Talk About Kevin, which was rejected by dozens of publishers before finding break-out success, was also voted the Orange Prize "winner of winners" in a public vote last summer. (Shriver dismissed the subsequent honor, however, telling the Independent, "I'm critical of the Orange people on this front. The more prizes you give, the more meaningless they become.")
Whether the story of Kevin will be recognized with another honor will be revealed on the final day of Cannes, May 22.
The two-year-old Sunday Times Short Story Award, given by the U.K. weekend newspaper for a single story, goes this year to an American author. Anthony Doerr, who won the Story Prize in March for his second collection Memory Wall, took the thirty-thousand-pound prize (nearly fifty thousand dollars) for "The Deep," set in 1920s Detroit.
Doerr's story, set in 1920s Detroit, centers on a boy with a hole in his heart who lives among salt miners in a world that "continually drains itself of young men." It originally appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story's Fall 2010 issue.
Also honored are stories by Will Cohu ("East Coast—West Coast"), Roshi Fernando ("The Fluorescent Jacket"), Yiyun Li ("The Science of Flight"), Hilary Mantel ("Comma"), and Gerard Woodward ("The Family Whistle"). Each was given five hundred pounds (about eight hundred dollars).
Last year's inaugural Sunday Times Short Story Award winner was seventy-eight-year-old New Zealand author C. K. Stead, for his story "Last Season's Man." In order to be eligible, authors, regardless of nationality, must have had work previously published in the United Kingdom.
In the video below, actor Damian Lewis reads an excerpt from Doerr's winning piece.
Choose a social-media Web site, and click on the profile of a person you don't know. Look at his photos, interests, and friends. Give this person a new name, and write a story about something you imagine happened to him ten years in the past, an event that altered the course of his life.
Among the ten finalists for the one-hundred-thousand-dollar International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award are three American writers, the same number that hail from the librarian-driven award's home country. Barbara Kingsolver is shortlisted for her novel The Lacuna, Yiyun Li for The Vagrants, and Joyce Carol Oates for Little Bird of Heaven, all published in 2009.
Representing Ireland (with a touch of New York City) are the novels Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, and Love and Summer by William Trevor. Also shortlisted are Michael Crummey of Canada for Galore and Australian writers David Malouf for Ransom, Craig Silvey for Jasper Jones, and Evie Wyld for After the Fire, a Still, Small Voice.
The titles were selected from a pool of 162 books nominated by librarians around the world, and for the first time since 2000, no translations appear on the shortlist (the Guardian's books blog probes the issue). The winner, selected by an international panel of writers, will be announced on June 15.
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation named yesterday the winners of its 2011 fellowships for writers in the United States and Canada. The writers receiving awards, which last year averaged $36,867, are most in the middle stages of their careers, with two or more books published. Award amounts vary based on a writers' individual budget requests.
The fellows are, in poetry:
Bill Porter (translation)
D. A. Powell
A. E. Stallings
Bonnie Jo Campbell
In the video below, fiction fellow Lara Vapnyar, who emigrated from Moscow in the early nineties, describes her experience as a writer in America.
Take a standard medical form from a doctor's office and fill it out in the persona of a character you're working on. Generating even basic information—the name of her street, her family's medical history, her emergency contact—may lead to new insights about her life and her background that you can explore later.
This week's fiction prompt comes from fiction writer Eleanor Henderson, whose first novel, Ten Thousand Saints, will be published by Ecco in June.