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Submissions are currently open for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, sponsored by Claremont Graduate University. The $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Award is given annually to honor a poetry collection by a midcareer U.S. poet; the winner will also spend a week at Claremont Graduate University in California giving readings, lectures, and workshops. The $10,000 Kate Tufts Discovery Award is given annually to honor a first book of poetry by “a poet of genuine promise.”

Poets, publishers, agents, or friends may submit eight copies of a poetry collection published between September 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, with a list of previously published work and the required entry form by July 1. There is no entry fee. The preliminary judges are Charles Altieri, Jennifer Chang, and Brian Kim Stefans. David Barber, Stephen Burt, Kate Gale, Wendy Martin, and Chase Twichell will serve as final judges.

The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award offers one of the world’s largest monetary prizes for a single poetry collection. Established in 1993 by Kate Tufts, the widow of poet Kingsley Tufts, the prize is meant to “enable a poet to work on his or her craft for awhile without paying bills.” The Kate Tufts Discovery Award was started one year later in 1994.

Previous winners of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award include Afaa Michael Weaver, Marianne Boruch, Timothy Donnelly, Chase Twichell, D. A. Powell, Matthea Harvey, and Tom Sleigh. Recent winners of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award include Yona Harvey, Heidy Steidlmayer, Katherine Larson, Asturo Riley, Beth Bachmann, Matthew Dickman, and Janice N. Harrington. Read more about the 2014 winners on the G&A blog.

Photo: Kate Tufts

Whether or not you're a die-hard soccer fan, you're probably noticing the intensity with which people are focusing on this year's World Cup. These types of international sporting events tend to bolster one's sense of national pride. Have you ever felt united with others through such a large-scale sporting event? Do you feel like cheering on a team with a large group of people gives you a sense of community and belonging? Write a short personal essay reflecting on the subject.

This past Friday a South African couple finished a sixty-five-hundred-mile journey by rowboat from Morocco to New York City. It took them six months to paddle their twenty-three foot vessel, named Spirit of Madiba in honor of Nelson Mandela, across the Atlantic Ocean. This week, write a story about what you imagine such a journey would be like. Consider the dangers of crossing such a massive body of water, and what it would feel like to spend that much time sharing such a small space with another person.

In Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale, the Little Mermaid must make sacrifices in order to become a human, including drinking a potion that gives her legs in exchange for her tongue. This week think about what you would be willing to sacrifice to have the chance to live the life you always dreamed of. Write a poem about the process of making the sacrifice, whether magical or ordinary, and the emotions that surface after it is complete.

Ana Laurel is a writer who has been working as Voices Breaking Boundaries’ managing director since January 2013. She graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English from the University of Houston-Downtown in 2012. During her time at UH-D, she served as general editor of the Bayou Review, the school's literary and visual arts magazine, president of Sigma Tau Delta (International English Honor Society), and was a regular presenter at UH-D's annual Gender Conference. Upon graduation, she was awarded the 2012 Senior Portfolio Prize, the school's highest honor for English majors.

Ana LaurelWhat makes your organization and its programs unique?
Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB) is a special organization for many reasons, but what makes us most unique is the subject matter we tackle and the structure through which we tackle it. Since 2009, VBB has been producing the thematic-based living room art series which aims to find common threads between two seemingly disparate regions (focusing around Houston, Texas and South Asian cities such as Karachi, Pakistan), in order to foster a greater sense of compassion, understanding, and awareness. With additional support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and The National Endowment for the Arts, and with support from Poets & Writers, we have been able to expand this structure into a multi-year series called Borderlines that explores North American (Mexico-US-Canada) and South Asian (Afghanistan-Pakistan-India-Bangladesh) border regions through art. Within each year of our three-year Borderlines series, VBB produces two large living room art productions in residential Houston homes showcasing art created by local and international artists including: two film screenings tackling social issues faced by those in the two border regions we’re exploring, community arts workshops introducing Houston community members to self-expression and healing through the arts, and an interactive website, art catalogue, and documentary granting global access to the content and art covered during the year.

What recent project and/or program have you been especially proud of and why?
I am particularly proud of our very first community arts workshop with the Mamas del Northside from Houston’s historic Near Northside district. As VBB began to work deeper and more closely with different Houston communities, we knew that in addition to bringing high-quality, international art into underserved communities, we would also need to work with them to develop their own artistic talents for self-expression. Then, they would be able to enjoy and appreciate art from a critical perspective. For our inaugural community arts workshop, we teamed up with our community partner, Avenue CDC, and created a workshop based around Mamas del Northside, an amazing group of women who had just begun to meet and discuss what they could do to improve their homes, families, and community. Most of the women were stay-at-home mothers who spoke very little English and had never written creatively before. As we quickly found out, since becoming wives and mothers, they had not even had an opportunity to speak about their own experiences. Though the workshops only lasted a few weeks, and some women only came sporadically due to obligations at home, those who did attend changed dramatically in their time with our experienced facilitator, Stalina Villarreal. The workshops were full of laughter, tears, anger, and poetry. Every woman that came left with her own journal to keep, and it is my genuine hope that they use them to continue writing and discovering themselves as women, mothers, and human beings—and that they continue letting me hang around to witness it.

What’s the craziest (or funniest or most moving or most memorable) thing that’s happened at an event you’ve hosted?
The most memorable thing that happens (though working in this line of work, there are many!) for me during our season is always the evaluation dinner that takes place at the end of our Writing for Self-Discovery (WSD) teacher workshops. The WSD teacher workshops are free and open to teachers in the Houston area who are interested in sharpening their teaching skills, strengthening their writing skills, and exploring themselves through writing. At our most recent evaluation dinner in May, the two facilitators and I all sat down to eat with the workshop participants. We discussed their progress since beginning the workshops in February. One of the teachers began to cry, explaining that this year was the hardest for her in thirteen years of teaching because the stress (from testing, the school district, etc.) had culminated to a very fine edge that semester, and she found herself truly struggling in the classroom. Then she explained how our workshops came into her life at the exact right moment to fill her with the hope she needed to continue to help children attain the education they deserve. Her words are better than mine, but she told me that the workshops allow her the time and space to think about and forgive who she was and who she is, and help her siphon off and tackle the stresses from everyday life so that she has space in her heart and mind for the needs of her students. That moved me because that’s what we want in our teachers—that kind of dedication, compassion, and commitment to their students and their education, and someone to whom the needs of children will always take precedence. I was just so grateful she let me share in that moment.

How has literary presenting informed your own writing and/or life?
I’m very fortunate because I came into VBB as a writer with a deep passion and respect for language, and now, as the managing director (and only full-time employee), I get to attend all of our arts writing workshops that take place in the community and in schools. While I don’t attend every single session, I usually join them for the first, the last, and one or two in the middle. I get to be around beginning writers (like Mamas del Northside), seasoned writers (from teacher workshops), and young, unfiltered writers (in youth workshops).  In addition, I get to take in the expertise our facilitators bring to the table. Not only do the workshops expand my own capacity to imagine and feel in both my life and writing, but they also inspire me to actively pick up my pen and journal at the end of the day when I’ve worked over nine hours and am completely drained. Because no matter what, I don’t deal with a peer group full of hormones and cliques, a classroom full of students who need constant attention and compassion, or a home full of children and a husband whose needs always come before my own.  If all the participants in our workshops can pick up their pens and journals after all of that, so can I.

What do you consider to be the value of literary programs for your community?
Language and literacy are important because they help us express ourselves to each other and through that shared expression, we are able to build communities. Without it, we lose touch with each other, and the ties that bind our communities fall apart. In 2000, Sehba Sarwar decided that she didn’t like what was happening in her home country and wrote a poem to express her distaste. Writing became her form of protest and through that poem, she drew together four other women writers and artists who banded to form Voices Breaking Boundaries, an organization I am now a part of today, almost fifteen years later. These five women created a legacy and lineage of women who continue working and fighting to ensure that language and literacy are not lost, and that all of our stories will continue to be told. After all the trends and gadgets come and go, our stories, told to each other or on paper, will continue on and carry our histories and lessons to the generations that follow. Every community deserves the chance to take part in such a timeless legacy.

Photo: Ana Laurel   Credit: Ana Laurel

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

PEN American Center has announced the shortlist for its annual literary awards, which this year will give nearly $150,000 in prize money to established and emerging writers and translators. The awards are given for works of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, translation, and children’s books.

“The PEN Literary Awards bring together writers, editors, and members of the literary community to celebrate the ultimate fruit of free expression: great literature,” said PEN Executive Director, Suzanne Nossel. “These shortlists represent a remarkable array of diverse talents.” In May, PEN issued the first longlist for the awards, in an effort to bring greater attention to the books submitted for the prizes.

The final winners will be announced on September 29 in New York City at the PEN Awards Ceremony, cosponsored by the New School.

On Wednesday night, PEN also announced Ron Childress as the winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. The biennial prize, founded and funded by novelist Barbara Kingsolver, is given for an unpublished novel by an author whose work “addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships.” Childress will receive $25,000, and his novel And West Is West will be published by Algonquin Books in Fall 2015. Terry McMillan, Nancy Peral, and Kathy Pories judged.

Established in 1922, the New York City–based PEN American Center works to “ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to make it possible for everyone to access the views, ideas, and literature of others.” PEN American Center has administered its Literary Awards for almost 50 years.

Below is a full list of finalists in each category:

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize ($25,000): To an author whose debut work—a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2013—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth), Anthony Marra
Brief Encounters With the Enemy
(The Dial Press), Saïd Sayrafiezadeh
Everybody’s Irish
(FiveChapters Books), Ian Stansel
Godforsaken Idaho
(Little A/New Harvest), Shawn Vestal
The People in the Trees
(Doubleday), Hanya Yanagihara

Judges: Charles Bock, Jonathan Dee, Fiona Maazel, and Karen Shepard

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000): For a book of essays published in 2013 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem the essay form imparts to literature.

Forty-One False Starts (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Janet Malcolm
Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls
(Little, Brown and Company), David Sedaris
The Faraway Nearby
(Viking Adult), Rebecca Solnit
Critical Mass
(Doubleday), James Wolcott

Judges: Geoff Dyer, Stanley Fish, Ariel Levy, and Cheryl Strayed

PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000): For a book of literary nonfiction on the subject of the physical or biological sciences published in 2013.

The End of Night (Little, Brown and Company), Paul Bogard
Five Days at Memorial
(Crown), Sheri Fink
High Price
(Harper), Carl Hart
Surfaces and Essences
(Basic Books), Douglas Hofstadter & Emmanuel Sander
Wild Ones
(Penguin Press), Jon Mooallem

Judges: Akiko Busch, Rivka Galchen, and Eileen Pollack

PEN Open Book Award ($5,000): For an exceptional book-length work of literature by an author of color published in 2013.

Duppy Conqueror (Copper Canyon Press), Kwame Dawes
Leaving Tulsa
(University of Arizona Press), Jennifer Elise Foerster
domina Un/blued
(Tupelo Press), Ruth Ellen Kocher
Cowboys and East Indians
(FiveChapters Books), Nina McConigley
Ghana Must Go
(Penguin Press), Taiye Selasi

Judges: Catherine Chung, Randa Jarrar, and Monica Youn

PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography ($5,000): For a distinguished biography published in 2013.

Lawrence in Arabia (Doubleday), Scott Anderson
Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Linda Leavell
Margaret Fuller
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Megan Marshall
American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Deborah Solomon
A Life of Barbara Stanwyck
(Simon & Schuster), Victoria Wilson

Judges: James Atlas, Lisa Cohen, and Wendy Gimbel

PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing ($5,000): To honor a nonfiction book on the subject of sports published in 2013.

Collision Low Crossers (Little, Brown and Company), Nicholas Dawidoff
The Sports Gene
(Current), David Epstein
League of Denial
(Crown Archetype), Mark Fainaru-Wada & Steve Fainaru
The Emerald Mile
(Scribner), Kevin Fedarko
Their Life’s Work
(Simon & Schuster), Gary M. Pomerantz

Judges: Joel Drucker, Chad Harbach, and Jackie MacMullan

PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing ($5,000): To a writer for an exceptional story illustrated in a picture book published in 2013.

Train (Orchard Books), Elisha Cooper
Tea Party Rules
(Viking), Ame Dyckman
The King of Little Things
(Peachtree Publishers), Bil Lepp
(McSweeney’s McMullens), Jon & Tucker Nichols

Judges: Mac Barnett, Ted Lewin, and Elizabeth Winthrop

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000): For a book-length translation of poetry into English published in 2013.

Even Now: Poems by Hugo Claus (Archipelago), David Colmer
Diaries of Exile
by Yannis Ritsos (Archipelago), Karen Emmerich & Edmund Keeley
Collected Haiku of Yosa Buson
by Yosa Buson (Copper Canyon Press), Takako Lento & W.S. Merwin
Paul Klee’s Boat
by Anzhelina Polonskaya (Zephyr Press), Andrew Wachtel
Cut These Words Into My Stone: Ancient Greek Epitaphs
(Johns Hopkins University Press), Michael Wolfe

Judge: Kimiko Hahn

PEN Translation Prize ($3,000): For a book-length translation of prose into English published in 2013.

An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman (New York Review Books), Elizabeth & Robert Chandler
by Anna Seghers (New York Review Books), Margot Bettauer Dembo
The African Shore
by Rodrigo Rey Rosa (Yale University Press), Jeffrey Gray
The Emperor’s Tomb
by Joseph Roth (New Directions), Michael Hofmann
Autobiography of a Corpse
by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (New York Review Books), Joanne Turnbull & Nikolai Formozov

Judges: Ann Goldstein, Becka McKay, and Katherine Silver

Photo: Ron Childress, credit PEN American Center

Some families are gung-ho about holding regular family reunions, while others would prefer not to go through the ordeal of rounding everyone up. This week, write about a family reunion you've attended, or one you've heard stories about. Was the event hosted by your family or someone else's? Did everyone go on a trip together, or did it take place at someone's house? There is bound to be some drama when families get together, so don't forget to include some juicy details!

For the tenth and final installment of this summer's Winners on Winning series, we spoke with Jessica Hollander, who won the 2013 Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Short Fiction for her debut story collection, In These Times the Home is a Tired Place. The annual prize includes $1,000 and publication by the University of North Texas Press. Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Hollander received her MFA from the University of Alabama, where she currently teaches English, composition, and creative writing.

How has winning this award impacted your career?
The most exciting part about winning has been engaging with the larger writing community. Getting reviews and interviews and being invited to participate in readings and events is invigorating and has certainly gotten my writing more exposure. I’ve also received a handful of contacts from agents and editors, and I recently signed with an agent.

Has winning this award, or previous awards, changed the way you approach your work?
I think winning the award has reinvigorated my enthusiasm to experiment with short stories. I took risks in structure and language in this collection, and winning the award has encouraged me to continue to do so. There’s such a range of publishing opportunities for collections, so many small and university presses with varying aesthetics, so it’s not necessary to think about a mainstream market. I like taking risks from story to story and focusing on what’s exciting me about the writing.

Have you ever entered a contest that you didn't win?
I’ve entered tons of contests that I didn’t win. In These Times the Home is a Tired Place had been turned down by several contests and presses before winning the Katherine Anne Porter Prize. There are so many different aesthetics out there, so many different readers and judges, and there’s no way to predict who might love your work. It’s a lesson I learned when submitting to literary journals, when it would sometimes take a dozen tries before placing a piece. Not to mention I’ve disliked many books that received praise by others, and I’ve loved books that others have hated. Of course rejections still hurt enough that it can be hard to write for a day or two. I try to accept that disappointment is inevitable.

What advice would you offer to writers thinking of submitting to writing contests?
Don’t count on anything in this writing life, but throw your name in the hat as much as you can afford. I suggest first having your writing workshopped by experienced writers you trust, and it doesn’t hurt to get stories or novel excerpts published before sending full books to contests. These things can help you weather rejections better. Because the writing world is insanely competitive. My whole experience being a writer, from applying to graduate schools, getting published in magazines, winning contests, and now seeking tenure-track employment, has taught me to not be too emotionally invested in the outcome of anything. Getting published or winning a contest is the second most satisfying thing that can happen to a writer, but the most satisfying has to be writing itself.

To read more from winners, check out the previous weekly installments of our Winners on Winning series.

Photo: Jessica Hollander, credit Richard Mocarski.

Descriptions offer clarity, and the more detailed your descriptions of events, places, and people, the more fully the reader can experience the emotion and ambiance you are trying to establish. This week, make loads of detailed lists. Make them everywhere you go: the supermarket, your car, the park, your bedroom. Use all five senses to classify where you are, how you're feeling, and what those feelings make you think of. When you're writing a scene about a sticky summer morning on the bus, you'll be able to look back at your list and use the notes you made about the condensation on the windows, or the crying child in the seat behind you.

Often times we go through our days thinking about what we have to get done rather than how we are feeling. We push through feelings of discomfort or fatigue, thinking if we don't pay them any attention they'll go away. Today, try to pay more attention to the messages of your body. Pause and ask your body, "What do you want?" Listen for the response. Write a poem about the experience of tuning in to these physical messages.

Submissions are currently open for the second annual Prada Feltrinelli Prize, cosponsored by the Italian fashion house Prada and the Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore. The winner or winners will each receive €5,000 (approximately $6,783) and publication in Prada Journal, a digital anthology distributed through the Prada website. The annual award is given for a short story.

Using the online submission system, submit a story of 10 to 20 pages in any language by June 24. There is no entry fee. The story should focus on the question, “What are the signs of a changing world? And what situations can we envision? Taking a good look at the details might give us the answer.” Representatives from Prada and Feltrinelli Editore, along with an international jury, will judge the contest. The winner will be announced by December 31, and the full terms and conditions can be read on the Prada website.

The inaugural winners of the prize were Mattia Conti of Molteno, Italy; Leisl Egan of Melbourne, Australia; Angel Mario Fernández of Soraluze, Spain; Sarah Harris Wallman of New Haven, Connecticut; and Peng Yang of Beijing, China. They each received €5,000, and were honored at an event at the Prada Epicenter in New York City in October 2013. At the event, excerpts of their stories were read aloud by writers and actors Jonathan Ames, Zoe Kazan, Anthony Mackie, Jay McInerney, and Gary Shteyngart. Over 1,300 entries in over 30 languages were submitted for the 2013 prize. The 2013 Prada Journal can be downloaded from the Prada website and read in both the original language and in English. Of the five winning entries, two were written in English, one in Italian, one in Spanish, and one in Mandarin Chinese.

Four of the five inaugural winners, from left to right: Sarah Harris Wallman, Peng Yang, Mattia Conti, Leisl Egan.

Photo credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images North America

Golda Solomon is a spoken word performer, professor, and the poet-in-residence at Blue Door Gallery. Her poems have been published in the Mom Egg, Heal: Between the Pages of These Folks We Seek a Panacea, the 35th Anniversary of Blind Beggar Press’ Collector’s Edition Anthology, Out of Africa, Fiber Plus, Sacred Visions, and Narratives x4. She is the author of Flatbush Cowgirl (CM Graphic Design, 1999) and Medicine Woman of Jazz (World Audience, 2012). She produced the poetry and jazz compilation albums First Set, Word Riffs, and Takin’ It To the Hollow. Solomon created From Page to Performance workshops and ArtSpeak: Poetic Responses to the Walls, writing workshops (partially funded by Poets & Writers), at Blue Door Gallery.

In 2008, I moved to Yonkers, New York, and came across Blue Door Gallery, a quaint gallery on a main street next to a boarded-up building. Giving back to community and nurturing diversity is essential to who I am. I began as a volunteer, facilitating writing workshops, and with the help of Poets & Writers, I became Blue Door Gallery's poet-in-residence, and ArtSpeak was born.

The ArtSpeak workshops give participants an opportunity to use exhibitions as writing prompts and inspiration. A packet is distributed that contains an agenda with the current exhibition program, ArtSpeak Walk (which includes questions, poems, and readings related to the artwork), an explanation of ekphrastic writing, and an evaluation form.

I facilitate eight workshops each calendar year, as well as two in the community outreach summer program. Each workshop is two and a half hours and allows leisurely viewing of the art with ample time for first draft free-writing and sharing in a welcoming atmosphere. Recent workshops have included an additional From Page to Performance workshop hour. Friends, family, and community members are invited to witness our “raw” work. On occasion, the artists attend, answer questions, and are invited to write—a rewarding experience for all.

It’s been said that I am playfully stubborn in my determination to bring out the best in all who are there. My background in communications has taught me how to help those with public speaking jitters and I personally understand what it’s like to have anxiety. As a child, I stopped playing the piano because of my fears and I try my best not to let that happen to anyone in my care. As one participant remarked, “For me, this was the best workshop/writing experience I’ve ever had. The group of writers was as varied as our ages and it gave the event incredible energy. I also felt free of my fears. In this workshop, I allowed myself to read my poem without quivering.”

It is gratifying and a privilege to work with these writers and receive positive feedback. One member noted, “This need to accept my creative side is the invaluable part of the ArtSpeak experience for me. The other part is working with visual art and having this art as prompts to stir my words."

Blue Door Gallery has included ArtSpeak poems in publications and honored the artists with three ArtSpeak chapbooks. The gallery will soon inaugurate Blue Door Quarterly with writings from each ArtSpeak workshop. These publications have offered an opportunity for established writers and emerging poets to be published together. Support from the Readings & Workshops program of Poets & Writers has helped establish Blue Door Gallery as a cultural center in downtown Yonkers. On these streets of grit and energy, I am proud to be known as the ArtSpeak lady. I am always teacher and learner.

Photos: (top) Golda Solomon, (middle) Golda Solomon and ArtSpeak Class.  Photo Credit: Maureen Hatch.

Photo: (bottom) Golda Solomon. Photo Credit: Zak Sherzad.

Support for Readings/Workshops in New York is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, with additional support from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

In his poem "Lament," Thom Gunn writes, "I think back to the scented summer night / We talked between our sleeping bags, below / A molten field of stars five years ago: / I was so tickled by your mind's light touch / I couldn't sleep, you made me laugh too much, / Though I was tired and begged you to leave off." This week, try and remember one of those nights when you and a loved one stayed up all night, too busy telling stories and enjoying each other's company to sleep. Write a scene that encapsulates the feeling of the quote above, whether it's set during a summer camping trip with a best friend, catching up with a cousin during a family reunion, or just an average weeknight spent staying up past your bedtime with your siblings or parents.

For the ninth installment of our Winners on Winning series, we spoke with Jacob Newberry, who won the Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Contest in nonfiction for his essay What You Will Do. The prize, given annually in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, includes $1,000 and publication in Ploughshares. Newberry is originally from the Mississippi coast, and is a PhD student in creative writing, with an emphasis in poetry, at Florida State University.

Has winning this award, or previous awards, changed the way you approach your work?
The awards I've won, and this one in particular, have given me a very tangible validation for my writing. I think we can all understand how nice this might feel when it's never happened, but it's more than a nice feeling: It's an important form of motivation. There were many times when I was just starting to write when I'd convince myself that I wasn't any good at it at all. In the first workshop I ever took, which was when I was working on an MA (not in creative writing), most of the people in the class were workshop pros and were actually quite hostile toward me. They took a lot of opportunities not just to tear down the work (which needed tearing down) but to really tear down my ambition altogether. At the time, I was new enough to writing that it was pretty damaging. The effect was that I stopped believing in my skills as a writer for a while, though I never stopped writing.

Once I started winning awards and seeing things in print, though, I stopped doubting and fearing my ambition. And if that self-doubt ever creeps up on me again, I can remember that I had the same feeling of worry and panic and confusion when I was writing the pieces that won these awards, and so I should spend the energy on the writing and not on unfounded panic. 

The bottom line is that winning hasn't changed the way I write. If it had, I suspect it would be only for the worse. As I said, it's really been a way of mitigating the self-doubt that all writers experience when we're not writing. So when I step away from the page, that's when the self-sabotage might begin. The difference now is that I just don't let it begin at all. 

Have you ever entered a contest that you didn't win?
I've entered plenty of contests that I didn't win. Not winning those contests actually gave me a better sense of perspective once I did start winning. All awards are about quality writing to a large extent, of course, but there's also a really unknowable percentage of it that's just chance. Who are the first readers of your submission, and what if their taste is simply different from yours (or the final judge's)? What effect does submitting late or early or right in the middle have on the time and attention given to your piece? What if the editor tells you she absolutely loves your poem about Jerusalem, but she just published some Jerusalem poems last issue, and now it's too soon to revisit that topic? (The last one happened to me.) 

What advice would you offer to writers thinking of submitting to writing contests?
Save your very best work and submit it only to contests that you'd be proud to win or place in. If winning that contest would be an important enough achievement for you and the contest requires a fee, then pay it. Otherwise, never pay for a contest that doesn't give you a subscription in return. 

For more Winners on Winning, read the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, and check back next Wednesday for a new installment.

This week the oldest man on earth, Alexander Imich, passed away at the age of 111. Although he was certified as the world's oldest man, there are sixty-six women who are older than he was. This week, create a character who is one of the oldest people on earth. You could choose to write about the passing of the torch to the new oldest man in the world, or you could focus on one of the sixty-six oldest women. Consider how this person feels about being over a century old, how many historical events this character has lived through, and how this character has managed to live so long.

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