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Collin KelleyP&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.

Write a poem that explores how you were named and the meaning of your name. Include at least one bold lie.

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.

Snip apart a draft of one of your poems, line by line or in chunks. Rearrange the elements and rerecord the original work.

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:
Peter Campion
Claudia Emerson
Paul Guest
Kimberly Johnson

Eleanor Lerman
Maurice Manning
Bill Porter (translation)
D. A. Powell
A. E. Stallings
Matthew Zapruder
Cynthia Zarin

In fiction:
Bonnie Jo Campbell
Jonathan Dee
Christie Hodgen
Clancy Martin
Valerie Martin
Karen Russell
David Vann
Lara Vapnyar
Brad Watson

In creative nonfiction:
Eula Biss
Mary Cappello
John D’Agata

Rosemary Mahoney
Katherine Russell Rich
Patricia Volk

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.

The Washington State–based literary journal Bellingham Review is offering an extension for submissions to its poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction contests. Having received fewer submissions than they have in the past, the journal opted to accept entries until April 15.

Judging this year's entries will be poet Lia Purpura, author of King Baby (Alice James Books, 2009); fiction writer Adrianne Harun, author of the story collection The King of Limbo (Mariner Books, 2002); and creative nonfiction writer Ira Sukrungruang, author of Talk Thai: The Adventures of a Buddhist Boy (University of Missouri Press, 2010).

Last year's winners were Jennifer Perrine for her poem "When the Dazzle Isn't Gradual," Jacob Appel for his story "Bait and Switch," and Angela Tung for her essay "An Old Man on the Frontier Loses His Horse," selected by Allison Joseph, Jess Walter, and Rebecca McClanahan, respectively.

Complete guidelines for entry and samples of work published in the journal are available on the Bellingham Review Web site.

Just before National Poetry Month kicked off last week, word began to spread about a major new poetry prize out of Canada. The fifty-thousand-dollar Montreal International Poetry Prize, funded by an anonymous donor, isn't honoring a poet's lifetime achievement or a major new book, but a single poem.

The prize purse is highly unusual for a single-poem competition—similar contests tend to offer a few thousand dollars, at most. (The winning poem and forty-nine finalists will also be published in a "global anthology" by Véhicule Press in the fall, and an e-book featuring one hundred additional poems is planned, as well.) We asked prize director Len Epp how he might respond to writers skeptical of the magnitude of this new contest, which Epp hopes will be able to offer the same amount annually.

"I would tell them that single works of art are often given a much greater value than fifty thousand dollars," Epp wrote in an e-mail, "and that we're trying to tell the world that a poet who can produce an excellent poem deserves an excellent reward as much as any other artist. To doubt this is to undervalue poetry in a very unfortunate way."

He added that the prize organization has "done a lot of work to establish our credentials, and we are proud of our advisory and editorial boards," which include international poets Valerie Bloom, Stephanie Bolster, Frank M. Chipasula, Fred D'Aguiar, Michael Harris, John Kinsella, Sinéad Morrissey, Odia Ofeimun, Eric Ormsby, Don Paterson, and Anand Thakore, and fiction writer Ben Okri. Former U.K. poet laureate Andrew Motion will judge.

The contest, looking to cull entries from international poets writing in "the various Englishes of the world," will charge an entry fee based on a sliding scale (writers in designated developing countries may pay a lower rate) ranging from fifteen to twenty-five dollars. When asked why the competition is charging a fee, Epp responded, "While we are actively seeking traditional forms of support through big sponsors and patrons, we are also committed to a self-sustaining community funding model, which would maximize our independence. As with all other poetry competitions that charge fees, entry fees go towards covering our costs, improving the prize, and guaranteeing its future."

In addition to awarding the prize, the organization has long term ambitions to provide direct funding to poets and establish a global poetry center.

More information about the Montreal International Poetry Prize and details on how to enter are available on the prize Web site. The deadline is July 8, and a discounted entry fee is available for poems submitted by April 22.

In the video below, Motion reads two poems at the 2006 Dodge Poetry Festival.

Take a cue from Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, which tells a single narrative in ninety-nine ways, and write a poem based on what happened just after you got up this morning. Then use one or more of these filters to revise the poem: onomatopoeia (integrating the sounds of your morning into the language of its telling), litotes (a supremely understated start to the day), overstatement (embellishing every detail), olfactory (emphasizing the morning's smells), tactile (emphasizing the morning's physical feel), gustatory (emphasizing the morning's particular taste).

Take a book off the shelf and write down the opening line. Then substitute as many words as possible with your own words, keeping the syntax and parts of speech intact. Then keep writing. Performing this kind of literary "Mad Lib" often creates a useful starting place for a story, especially when the sentence contains an intersection of character, setting, and situation. Or try using these opening lines, from Faulkner, García Márquez, and Plath, respectively:

Through the [concrete noun], between the [adjective] [concrete noun], I could see them [verb ending in "ing"].

It was inevitable: the scent of [adjective] [plural noun] always reminded him of the [noun] of [adjective] [noun].

It was a [adjective], [adjective] [season], the [same season] they [transitive verb, past tense] the [family name, plural], and I didn't know what I was doing in [city].

This week's fiction prompt comes from fiction writer Eleanor Henderson, whose first novel, Ten Thousand Saints, will be published by Ecco in June.

The finalists for the Man Booker International Prize have been announced, but if one nominee's wishes were honored, the shortlist would have to be clipped further. Best-selling author John le Carré has refused his nomination for the prize honoring achievement in fiction, saying simply that, while flattered by the recognition, he does not compete for literary awards.

Despite le Carré's request to be removed from the list of contenders, he could still be given the honor, which is offered at the discretion of a judging panel. "Le Carré's name will, of course, remain on the list," says chair of the judges Rick Gekoski. "We are disappointed that he wants to withdraw from further consideration because we are great admirers of his work."

Unlike its sister award, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, the International Prize does not accept outside nominations. The finalists and winner of the sixty-thousand-pound prize (approximately ninety-six thousand dollars) are determined by a closed judging process.

In addition to le Carré, the finalists for the seventh annual award are Wang Anyi and Su Tong of China; Juan Goytisolo of Spain; James Kelman and Philip Pullman of the United Kingdom; Amin Maalouf of Lebanon; David Malouf of Australia; Dacia Maraini of Italy; Rohinton Mistry of India and Canada; and U.S. authors Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, and Anne Tyler. The winner will be announced on May 18 at the Sydney Writers' Festival in Australia.

In the video below, the Daily Beast's Tina Brown speaks with Roth about the future of the novel as a literary form.

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