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Write a story about the worst moment of your life (such as a loss or a betrayal) as though it happened to someone else. Instead of focusing on the moment itself, set the story the day before it happened and create a character very different from you to stand in for yourself. Write the story using a third-person omniscient narrator to exploit the tension between the reader’s knowledge of what’s to come and the protagonist’s complete lack of awareness of what’s to come. Consider ending the story before the impending doom arrives.

The International Jerusalem Book Fair has announced the twenty-fifth winner of the ten-thousand-dollar Jerusalem Prize, given biennially since 1963. Novelist and short story writer Ian McEwan will be given the award honoring "freedom of the individual in society" at the festival this February.

"McEwan’s protagonists struggle for their right to give personal expression to their ideas and to live according to those ideas in an environment of political and social turmoil," the prize jury said in a statement. "His obvious affection for them, and the compelling manner in which he describes their struggle, make him one of the most important writers of our time. His books have been translated into many languages and have enjoyed world-wide success—particularly in Israel, where he is one of the most widely-read of foreign authors."

McEwan, who lives in London, joins previous honorees—all male with the exception of Simone de Beauvoir and Susan Sontag—including Jorge Luis Borges, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Haruki Murakami. Author of the Booker Prize–winning novels On Chesil Beach (Nan A. Talese, 2007) and Amsterdam (Nan A. Talese, 1999), his most recent novel is Solar (Nan A. Talese, 2010).

In the video below, McEwan discusses his latest work.

What is something you are afraid to write about in your own poems, either because it is too personal, or because you feel it is cliché? Create a character—a swarthy bum, a baker, a dog—and write a narrative poem in which your character addresses this topic. Let the fact that the poem isn’t really about you be freeing.

Memorious, the six-year-old online literary journal, is open for poetry entries to its annual art song contest. One poet will have her work set to music by composer Luke Gullickson and performed at an event in Chicago, cosponsored by local group Singers on New Ground (SONG). The winning poem, along with a recording of the musical adaptation, will also be published in Memorious.

"The last quarter-century has seen an explosion of American composers writing art songs for our own time and nation," writes SONG director Eric Malmquist in an introduction to the genre of the art song—technically a poem set to music for voice and piano. "Composers are still setting poetry to music, but many are also setting non-poetic works, including newspaper columns, recipes, listings from 'missed connections' on Craigslist, and crazed writings found on a Chicago bus."

Inspired? Poets can submit via e-mail three to six poems, each of no more than thirty lines, or one long poem of no more than one hundred lines along with a brief bio (there is no entry fee). The deadline is February 12.

For more about the project, entry guidelines, and an audio-visual experience of the winning poem from last year—"Blackwater" by Jill McDonough with musical composition by Randall West—visit the Memorious blog.

Choose three people who you know well and write a detailed character description of each one. Now change the gender, name, and a few physical traits of each one. Begin a story with all three characters standing in the rain outside of a house on fire.

The keepers of Robert Frost's family farm in Derry, New Hampshire, where the poet lived from 1900 to 1911, have opened their inaugural formal poetry contest. Sponsored by the trustees of the Robert Frost Farm and the Hyla Brook Poets, a workshop group that holds a reading series at the historic site, the competition is calling for poems written in meter—any metrical form is welcome.

One winner will receive one thousand dollars and an invitation to read in the Hyla Brook series at the Frost Farm, a program that has hosted poets such as Maxine Kumin, Rhina Espaillat, and Wesley McNair. Serving as judge will be William Baer, former editor of the no-longer-published poetry journal the Formalist.

The entry fee is five dollars a poem, and writers may submit as many works as they like—via snail mail—by April 1. Complete guidelines are posted on the Robert Frost Farm Web site.

In the video below, a short film by Doug Williams interprets Frost's poem "Into My Own," originally published as "Into Mine Own" in New England Magazine during the time Frost lived at the Derry farm, in 1909.

The Story Prize announced today the shortlist for its seventh annual award, an honor worth twenty thousand dollars. The finalists are Anthony Doerr for his fourth book, Memory Wall (Scribner); Yiyun Li for her third book, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl (Random House); and Suzanne Rivecca for her debut, Death Is Not an Option (Norton), all of whom have received support from multiple sources that has bolstered their writing.

Doerr, author of the short story collection The Shell Collector, the novel About Grace, and the memoir Four Seasons in Rome, is a recipient of fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He also received the New York Public Library's Young Lions Award in 2003 for The Shell Collector.

Li, who received the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship last September, is also recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award. From abroad, she has been recognized by the Munster Literature Centre with its Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and by the Guardian, with its First Book Award, for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. She is also the author of The Vagrants, a novel.

Currently a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in Boston, Rivecca has also received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and spent time as a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University.

John Freeman, editor of Granta; author Jayne Anne Phillips; and Marie du Vaure, book buyer for California's Vroman's Bookstore will select the winner to be announced live on March 2 at an event (open to the ticket-holding public) in New York City. The runners up will each receive five thousand dollars.

In the video below, Doerr discusses how his grandmother influenced his latest book, radio days, and the best time to write.

Write an erasure poem: Rip out one or two pages from a magazine or newspaper. Read through them, underlining words and phrases that appeal to you and that relate to each other. Using a marker or Wite-Out, begin to delete the words around those you underlined, leaving words and phrases that you might want to use. Keep deleting the extra language, working to construct poetic lines with the words you’ve chosen to keep.

The Center for Fiction is currently accepting applications for a new grant and residency program designed for emerging fiction writers who reside in the five boroughs of New York City. Housed in a 1930s-era building in midtown Manhattan, the organization is offering eight fellowship awards of three thousand dollars each and one year of time to write in its writing studio (beginning on May 15) to non-student writers who have not published and are not under contract to publish a book.

In the studio, accessible seven days a week at all hours, each writing fellow is afforded a desk with the requisite outlets, Wi-Fi capability, and access to a wireless printer, as well as a locker. Writers can also make use of a reference library, lounge area, and kitchenette. The fellows will also be offered a mentorship with a freelance editor, a chance to participate in two readings, and free admission to the center's events and lectures.

Applications, which must be e-mailed, are due on January 31 and should contain a resumé, a work sample of up to ten thousand words, and proof of residency. Full guidelines are posted on the Center for Fiction Web site.

Writing with a specific reader in mind helps clarify a writer's voice—we all know how to tell stories to our friends, and we all intuitively understand the points and details of the story that will interest them the most. Borrowing Jack Kerouac's method from On the Road, write a fictional story in the form of a long letter to a friend. Choose someone you know well, but also be sure to choose a person who has no knowledge of the setting or plot of your story (so you don't take any details for granted).

A consortium of indie outfits—the Journal of Experimental Fiction, the press Civil Coping Mechanisms, and trade publisher Pig Iron Press—are reintroducing the Kenneth Patchen Award, given for a novel that echoes the innovative spirit of the late fiction writer and poet. Created in the 1990s by Pig Iron, the prize offers one thousand dollars, publication of the winning novel manuscript, and twenty author copies to boot.

Submissions opened on January 1 and will be accepted until July 31. Entries should be sent as a Word document or PDF via e-mail, and must be accompanied by a twenty-five-dollar entry fee payable through PayPal; for complete guidelines, e-mail the Journal of Experimental Fiction. The winner, selected by Ukrainian American avant-garde writer Yuriy Tarnawsky, will be announced in September.

In the video below, Patchen reads his poetry amidst images of the writer's New York City. A contemporary of John Cage, T. S. Eliot, and William Carlos Williams, Patchen is the author of more than forty books of poetry, prose, and drama including Before the Brave (1936), Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer (1945), and The Journal of Albion Moonlight (1941).

Check back on Thursday, January 6, for our first fiction writing prompt. We'll post a new fiction prompt or exercise every Thursday to keep you writing all year long!

Choose a favorite poem written by somebody else, type a copy of it, delete every other line from the poem, and write your own lines to replace those you’ve deleted. Next, delete the remaining lines from the old poem so that only your lines remain. Read what you have, and revise it, adding new lines to fill in the gaps.

Two Texas establishments are looking to honor books authored by home state poets and fiction writers. Recently published writers from Texas or who write about Texas themes could be eligible for prizes ranging from twelve hundred dollars to six thousand dollars.

Texas Christian University's biennial TCU Texas Book Award, which offers a prize of five thousand dollars, is open until December 31 to books of prose "about Texas" that were published in 2009 and 2010. The award has recognized one writer of literary fiction or creative nonfiction since the inaugural prize in 2003, Stephen Harrigan's Gates of the Alamo (Knopf, 2000), which was set in nineteenth-century Texas (others have been given to research-based nonfiction writers).

The Texas Institute of Letters is also seeking literary standouts in poetry, short fiction, and the novel for its literary awards. The six-thousand-dollar Jesse H. Jones Award is given for a novel or short story collection, and two one-thousand-dollar awards are given for a first book of fiction and a published short story. One volume of poetry is recognized with the twelve-hundred-dollar Helen C. Smith Memoiral Award, and a writer of nonfiction (including creative nonfiction) will receive the Carr P. Collins Award of five thousand dollars. Eligible titles, published in 2010, should be submitted directly to the judges by January 8, 2011.

And for Texas writers of any publishing stripe longing for time to write? Now might be the time to check out the residency fellowships offered by the University of Texas at J. Frank Dobie's former ranch house west of Austin. The application deadline is January 15, 2011.

Britain-based indie Holland Park Press is holding its first, free competition for a short story, with a prize of one hundred pounds sterling (roughly $150) and publication in the press's online magazine. The King of Tuzla Short Story Competition, named after the press's recently published novel by Dutch poet and fiction writer Arnold Jansen op de Haar, is open to stories set in a conflict zone similar to the one the author creates in his book, set during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia (Tuzla is a city in Bosnia and Herzegovina that witnessed a civilian massacre in 1995).

Eligible stories, limited to one thousand words, should approach a narrative from the point of view of a single main character and must be set in the past or present, but not the future. "Your tale could unfold, for example, during the troubles in Northern Ireland," the press states in its guidelines. "It could just as well describe life in a refugee camp during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, or take place in the present time inside a remote village in Afghanistan."

The deadline for entries is December 31, and stories must be sent via e-mail. Instructions on how to compile a submission are available on the press's Web site.

In the video below, King of Tuzla author Arnold Jansen op de Haar, also an ex-soldier, gives a tour of his writing space and reads from his published works.

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