Indiana Review Launches Fiction Book Prize

Submissions are currently open for the Don Belton Fiction Reading Period. Sponsored by Indiana Review and Indiana University Press, a prize of $1,000 and publication in the Blue Lights Books series will be given for a story collection, novel, or novella. The editors and Michael Martone will judge.

The editors seek “literary fiction that has an intelligent sense of language, assumes a degree of risk, and has consequence beyond the world of its narrators.” Using the online submission manager, submit an unpublished manuscript of up to 80,000 words with a $25 entry fee, which includes a one-year subscription to Indiana Review, by May 31. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Established this year, the prize honors award-winning fiction writer and teacher Don Belton, who died in 2009. Belton wrote the novel Almost Midnight (Beech Tree Books, 1986) and edited the anthology Speak My Name: Black Men on Masculinity and the American Dream (Beacon Press, 1995). Listen to poet Ross Gay read his elegy for Belton, “Spoon.”

(Photo: Don Belton)

Falling Into Step

5.17.18

What happens when a flower blooms before its pollinator emerges? As global warming transforms the earth’s climate, spring has begun to arrive earlier in certain places. In turn, some plants and animals whose behavioral patterns, such as migratory and reproductive cycles, are triggered by seasonal changes are falling out of step with each other. Think of a time in your life when you have felt out of step with the world around you, perhaps just slightly behind or a little too far ahead. When did you first notice the misalignment and how did you break free of it? Did you need to make an effort to adapt yourself? Reflect on your emotional state during this time, and how the people around you might have helped you through this phase. 

In Praise of Quiet

5.16.18

“It wasn’t the twists and turns that kept me reading, although there are some of those. It was the language of daily life,” writes Leesa Cross-Smith in “Some Room to Breathe: In Praise of Quiet Books” in the May/June issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. In the essay, Cross-Smith describes her favorite reading experiences with books that offer up calmness, quietude, and stillness. Write a short story that lowers the stakes, in volume, pace, and drama. What is the value in allowing your characters the time and space to slowly observe and reflect upon their surroundings, to dwell on sensorial details? How does your writing change when you focus on the smaller and deeper explorations of truth?  

The Nose Knows

5.15.18

Would you describe the smell of an herb as simply “musty” or “like old rainwater in the hollow stems of bamboo?” In a study published earlier this year in Current Biology, linguists compared a group of indigenous Malay hunter-gatherers with a neighboring group that depends on trade and agriculture, and tested their ability to name odors. The researchers found that the hunter-gatherers were much more adept at articulating the subtle qualities of different odors because of their direct reliance on the forest’s animals and plants for survival. This week, write a poem that explores the contrasts between scents in natural outdoor spaces versus cultivated environments. Instead of circular or synonymous descriptions, focus on inventing specific and colorful phrases. 

Upcoming Poetry Deadlines

Poets, consider submitting your poems, chapbooks, and full-length collections to the contests below, which offer prizes ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 and publication. The deadline is May 31.

Anhinga Press Anhinga–Robert Dana Prize for Poetry: A prize of $2,000, publication by Anhinga Press, and 25 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. The winner is also invited to participate in a reading tour at select colleges in Florida. Entry fee: $25

Munster Literature Center Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition: A prize of €1,000 (approximately $1,230) and publication by the Munster Literature Center is given annually for a poetry chapbook. The winner receives accommodations and some travel expenses to give a reading at the Cork International Poetry Festival in February 2019. Entry fee: €25 (approximately $30)

Backwaters Press Backwaters Prize: A prize of $2,500, publication by Backwaters Press, and 30 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. Kwame Dawes will judge. Entry fee: $30

Bridport Arts Centre Bridport Prize: A prize of £5,000 (approximately $7,000) and publication in the Bridport Prize anthology is given annually for a poem. A second-place prize of £1,000 (approximately $1,400) and publication is also given. Daljit Nagra will judge. Entry fee: £9 (approximately $13) 

Southern Poetry Review Guy Owen Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Southern Poetry Review is given annually for a poem. Entry fee: $20 

Milkweed Editions Max Ritvo Poetry Prize: A prize of $10,000 and publication by Milkweed Editions is given annually to a U.S. poet for a debut poetry collection. Entry fee: $25

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines, and check out the Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more contests in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

The Winding Roads of Poetry and Art

Mong-Lan, a Fulbright scholar and recipient of a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, has published seven books of poetry, most recently, Dusk Aflame: poems & art (Valiant Press, 2018), and three chapbooks. Her poetry has been awarded the Juniper Prize and the Pushcart Prize, and has been included in anthologies such as the Best American Poetry series. Mong-Lan is also a visual artist, musician, Argentine tango dancer, performer, and educator. She left her native Vietnam one day before the last evacuation of Saigon.

I’m grateful that Poets & Writers has cosponsored me for three events: The Poets in Play poetry reading at the Soup Full Café in Corning, New York; a poetry writing workshop a day later at the ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes; and a convivial reading at Wheeler Hill hosted by poet Michael Czarnecki of FootHills Publishing, which published my most recent chapbook, Tone of Water in a Half-Filled Glass. Finally, I taught a workshop for the Watkins Glen Writers Group, and later gave a reading. Through the generosity of Poets & Writers, I was able to promote my seventh book, Dusk Aflame: poems & art, and new chapbook.

This was my first time participating in programs, readings, and workshops in upstate New York. I found everyone to be kind, curious, and inquisitive. My events in Corning, Wheeler Hill, and Watkins Glen have gone remarkably well with lively, attentive audiences. In each of the readings, in addition to reading and performing my poetry, I also performed several tangos and sang, accompanying myself on the guitar. My multimedia performances included recordings of my jazz piano arrangements which played in the background while I recited my poems. Workshop participants were refreshingly open with a willingness to read and experience diverse writers, and a desire to talk about and discuss new ideas and strategies. Some audience members joined me from one event to the other, driving the long, winding roads from town to town.

Without Poets & Writers’ cosponsorship, I would not have been able to make this tour to upstate New York. Thankfully, Michael and Carolyn Czarnecki of FootHills Publishing hosted me in their rustic off-the-grid home on Wheeler Hill during most of my time there. Michael, with his indefatigable energy and generosity, drove me to and from readings and workshops, and introduced me to his friends and colleagues. I’ve met wonderful poets and writers such as Steve Coffman, Mary A. Hood, and Martha Treichler, who studied with Charles Olson all those years ago. I’ve enjoyed sharing my writing, books, art, knowledge, and teaching with this community, and am deeply grateful.

Support for the Readings & Workshops Program 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.

Photo: Mong-Lan with her book covers (Credit: Mong-Lan).

Fiction and Nonfiction Contests With May 31 Deadlines

Prose writers, polish up your stories, essays, and full-length manuscripts by May 31! The following contests offer prizes of at least $1,000 and publication.

Bridport Arts Centre Bridport Prize: A prize of £5,000 (approximately $7,000) and publication in the Bridport Prize anthology is given annually for a short story. A second-place prize of £1,000 (approximately $1,400) and an additional prize of £1,000 (approximately $1,400) for a work of flash fiction are also given. Monica Ali will judge. Entry fee: £10 (approximately $14) for fiction and £8 (approximately $11) for flash fiction.

Elixir Press Fiction Award: A prize of $2,000, publication by Elixir Press, and 25 author copies is given annually for a short story collection or a novel. Amina Gautier will judge. Entry fee: $40

University of Georgia Press Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by University of Georgia Press is given annually for a collection of short fiction. Lee K. Abbott will judge. Entry fee: $30

Nowhere Magazine Travel Writing Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Nowhere Magazine is given twice yearly for a short story or essay that “possesses a powerful sense of place.” Porter Fox will judge. Entry fee: $20

BOA Editions Short Fiction Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by BOA Editions is given annually for a short story collection. Peter Conners will judge. Entry fee: $25

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines, and check out the Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more contests in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Office Hours Writing Workshop: Poetry as Political Act

Sarah Sala’s debut poetry collection, Devil’s Lake, was a finalist for the 2017 Subito Press Book Prize and her poem “Hydrogen” was featured in the Elements episode of NPR’s hit show Radiolab. She is the series facilitator for Office Hours Poetry Workshop, and coproduces AmpLit Fest with Lamprophonic and Summer on the Hudson.

Office Hours Poetry Workshop emerged from the deep need for a program that supports and elevates post–MFA writers. The goal: to build a no-fee workshop that accommodates full-time work schedules, childcare needs, and celebrates writers who are POC, LGBTQ+, women-identified, adjunct instructors, and any and all combination. More than anything, I wanted to compensate our writers. The Poets & Writers’ Readings & Workshops grant became a profound way to do so.

In many ways, publishing has left poetry behind. Some magazines charge fees to submit work, and often can’t afford payment upon publication. I regularly see venues advertise $100 pay for fiction or nonfiction pieces and only $25 for poems. While I recognize this scale is often based on word count, it speaks volumes about the legitimacy of poetry in the modern arena.

June Jordan said that poetry is a political act because it involves truth telling. Very often this means writing through a lens counter to mainstream culture, embodying our power and vulnerabilities on the page, and practicing radical empathy with fellow artists. For this reason, it was an immense pleasure to introduce the Office Hours Spring Showcase fellows at the Bureau of General Services–Queer Division (BGSQD).

With Marco DaSilva’s visionary art installation “My Quaint Struggle” as backdrop, Sanj Nair captivated the audience with works that delved into identity, agency, and womanhood. Marty Correia’s pieces skillfully wrestled with human relationships—queer and familial— then brought forth the magical properties of DaSilva’s golden altar by dubbing them “authority panels.”

Next, Yanyi read his self-described “soft prose poems”—rich and particular renderings of the domestic. Caitlin McDonnell’s lyric narratives confronted the reality of gun violence in America and presented a tapestry of inventive first lines from novels she’s written and/or abandoned. Holly Mitchell’s lush writing strode between epithalamion and coming-of-age in a conservative landscape.

Paco Márquez rounded out the night with sinuous poems from his new chapbook, Portraits in G Minor (Folded Word, 2017), and treated the audience to the Spanish and English versions of a Pablo Neruda poem he recently assisted William O’Daly in translating from Book of Twilight (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), a recent publication of Neruda’s debut book, Crepusculario.

Overall, the evening was overwhelmingly restorative. Here, in New York City, and at the Bureau, we make our home among friends as we seek to change the status quo.

Support for the Readings & Workshops Program 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 Frances Abbey Endowment, the Cowles Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photos: (top) Sarah Sala (Credit: Talya Chalef). (middle) Sanj Nair (Credit: Sarah Sala). (bottom) Yanyi (Credit: Sarah Sala).

My Mother’s Laugh

5.10.18

“Sometimes my mouth opens up and my mother’s laugh jumps out, a parlor trick.” Kate Zambreno’s Book of Mutter (Semiotext(e), 2017) is a meditation on memory and grief that takes the form of fragments, lyric essay, poetry, memoir, reflections, and criticism. At the book’s core is the death of Zambreno’s mother and the author’s piecing together of their relationship and its bearing on her childhood and identity. In the Creative Independent, Zambreno writes about working on the book over the course of thirteen years: “As for what sustained me to keep going with it, I think it was just that itch—to not only figure out why I wanted to write about my mother, but also why I couldn’t.” Think of an inherited trait or a specific aspect of a relationship you have with a parent or guardian figure that seems difficult or impossible to explain. Write a personal essay that attempts to explore this subject by drawing in references to art and literature, old photographs, memories, and other fragmentary materials.

Outlaws

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s classic 1953 dystopian novel about a future in which books are outlawed and burned by firemen, has recently been adapted into a feature film. The book, which was written during the McCarthy era, has often been interpreted as a warning against state-based censorship and the dangers of illiteracy and conformity in a society where people are obsessed with technology and mass media. Write a short story in which a totalitarian government has enforced a ban on some aspect or invention of society that has long been considered integral for human expression. How does the government justify its stance and exercise control? Are the people both victims of suppression and somehow complicit in its enforcement? What type of characters might reside in the liminal gray area between hero and villain?

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