In “Racial Markers and Being Marked” by Will Harris, a Craft Capsule essay published in September, he writes about racial markers in poetry and walking the fine line between rendering your own experience and risking fetishization. Harris presents Monica Youn’s poem “Study of Two Figures (Pasiphaë/Sado)” and discusses how she frames an argument about race through two mythical figures. Youn writes about her own experience as a poet while examining what it feels like to include her “Asianness” in the poem: “Revealing a racial marker in a poem is like revealing a gun in a story or like revealing a nipple in a dance.” Choose a myth you identify with and write a poem where a part of you is revealed through the story or characters of the tale.
If you enjoyed our Hurricane Katrina Anniversary virtual event, join us on Thursday, October 29 as we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the NOMMO Literary Society of New Orleans with a Facebook Live event.
NOMMO began as a workshop for Black writers in 1994 led by Kalamu ya Salaam in New Orleans. The workshop had high profile writing guests including Amiri Baraka, Toi Derricotte, and Terrance Hayes. Many consider it the foundation for similar writers workshops that would come soon after, such as Cave Canem and VONA. NOMMO dismantled formally after Hurricane Katrina but many of the participants continue their writing pursuits with success. Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jericho Brown was one of NOMMO’s early participants.
The upcoming virtual event will include Jericho Brown, Karen Celestan, Jarvis DeBerry, Freddi Williams Evans, Ayo Fayemi-Robinson, Keturah Kendrick, Marian Moore, and Kalamu ya Salaam. The panel will discuss the need for building community as writers, the cultural impact of New Orleans, and the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina and how it is applicable to our current pandemic.
Register for Unique and Unified: Celebrating the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the NOMMO Literary Society here!
To learn more about NOMMO, read my previous post about its history.Photo: NOMMO Literary Society anniversary event flyer. Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at NOLA@pw.org or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.
If November doesn’t already feel high stakes enough, consider submitting to some writing contests. With deadlines of either November 1 or November 2, these awards include opportunities to publish both individual stories and poems, as well as book-length works. All offer a prize of $1,000 or more.
Alice James Books Alice James Award: A prize of $2,000 and publication by Alice James Books is given annually for a poetry collection by a poet residing in the United States. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: November 2. Entry fee: $30.
Briar Cliff Review Writing Contests: Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Briar Cliff Review are given annually for a poem, a short story, and an essay. The editors will judge. Deadline: November 1. Entry fee: $20 (includes a copy of the magazine).
Fiction Collective Two Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize: A prize of $15,000 and publication by Fiction Collective Two, an imprint of University of Alabama Press, is given annually for a novel, short story collection, novella, or novella collection. U.S. writers who have published at least three books of fiction are eligible. Joyelle McSweeney will judge. Deadline: November 1. Entry fee: $25.
Fiction Collective Two Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Contest: A prize of $1,500 and publication by Fiction Collective Two is given annually for a novel, short story collection, novella, or novella collection. U.S. writers who have not previously published a book with Fiction Collective Two are eligible. Vi Khi Nao will judge. Deadline: November 1. Entry fee: $25.
Gotham Book Prize: A prize of $50,000 will be given annually for a book of fiction or creative nonfiction about New York City or that takes place in New York City published in the current year. Anna Akbari, Ric Burns, Stephanie Danler, Christina Greer, Tom Healy, Mitchell Moss, Patricia Park, Melissa Rivero, Safiya Sinclair, and Dennis Walcott will judge. Deadline: November 1. Entry fee: none.
Malahat Review Open Season Awards: Three prizes of CAD $2,000 (approximately $1,490) each and publication in Malahat Review are given annually for a poem or group of poems, a short story, and an essay. Rebecca Salazar will judge in poetry, Philip Huynh will judge in fiction, and Lishai Peel will judge in creative nonfiction. Deadline: November 1. Entry fee: $40 (includes subscription).
Nina Riggs Poetry Foundation Poetry Award: A prize of at least $1,000 will be given annually for a single poem that examines relationships, family, or domestic life that was published in a book or magazine in the last three years. Deadline: November 1. Entry fee: none.
North American Review James Hearst Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in North American Review is given annually for a single poem. Maggie Smith will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: November 1. Entry fee: $23 (includes an issue of North American Review).
Reed Magazine Edwin Markham Prize for Poetry: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Reed Magazine is given annually for a poem or group of poems. Matthea Harvey will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: November 1. Entry fee: $20 (includes a copy of the prize issue).
Reed Magazine Gabriele Rico Challenge for Creative Nonfiction: A prize of $1,333 and publication in Reed Magazine is given annually for an essay. Suzanne Rico will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: November 1. Entry fee: $20 (includes a copy of the magazine).
Reed Magazine John Steinbeck Award for Fiction: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Reed Magazine is given annually for a short story. Rita Bullwinkel will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: November 1. Entry fee: $20 (includes a copy of the prize issue).
Weight of the Earth: The Tape Journals of David Wojnarowicz edited by Lisa Darms and David O'Neill collects the recorded diaries of the artist, activist, and writer from 1981 through 1989 examining his life, art, and dreams. The cassettes hold a string of different modes of speaking through ideas in real time—going from stream of consciousness, to searing argument, to meditations on death, to divagations between poems and phone calls—producing a record of a singular artist’s mind in a crucial moment in history. Record yourself for two minutes each day this week and untether your thoughts in real time. How do your ideas unfold without the stop-and-go of composing the right sentence? At the end of the week, transcribe and arrange your recordings into an essay of fragments surrounding a theme.
In The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot (Graywolf Books, 2007), Charles Baxter writes about the recurring theme in fictional works of disappointment even after satisfying a great achievement, stating examples such as Willa Cather’s My Mortal Enemy, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Shakespeare’s Macbeth, where, for example, Lady Macbeth becomes unhappy and more paranoid after having been crowned queen. Baxter asks, “What if wishes and fantasies turn out in some cases to be more powerful than their real-life satisfactions?” Write a story where your character is driven by a single desire, but is unsatisfied and more conflicted after achieving their goal.
Hey mi gente, I will get right to the point. This series of interviews has been enlightening and inspirational these last few months and so what was supposed to be only five entries will now be extended. So far, you have heard from Katherine Hoerth, Daniel Peña, Melissa Studdard, and Jonathan Moody. Although I have answered already, I am in a new place (as I’m sure we all are each day of this pandemic) and will again answer the question I’ve been asking other writers:
What have you been doing since the pandemic started?
“I am adding myself as a double entry for one very brutal reason: I know what the pandemic has cost me. My mother died from complications due to COVID-19 earlier this month on October 1. She died at the age of eighty-six.
What have I been doing since the pandemic started? Trying to do all the things I said I was doing in the last post but more importantly, trying my damnedest to keep my family alive and well. I have to admit, a part of me feels like I have failed. In truth, there are so many feelings about this pandemic and how it has treated my family and many people of color.
I spent the last month or so, from August 25 to the start of October, in such distress. We were dealing/planning for the possibility of two storms in the Gulf of Mexico (my heart and candles are lit for folks in Lake Charles and to Kelly Harris, our literary outreach coordinator in New Orleans, as always staying in “hurricane mode” can wear on you), and my parents telling me they had a cold, which later turned out to be COVID-19. To this day, I don’t know how my father got it. He took care as much as he could (especially in the third most Republican county in Texas, where I have witnessed people not following social distancing measures with full care), but to no avail, my mother caught it.
I have spent time thinking. I have spent time thinking about how COVID-19 affects families. As this double storm was a thing, I think about the last conversation I had with my mother on August 25. I called to convince my folks to come up to Houston after Galveston initiated a voluntary evacuation. My mother told me, “no mijo, we will stay here, I don’t know if I have this thing and if I do, I don’t want to give it to you or Jasminne or mija.” My mom knew my wife is immunocompromised and she couldn’t think of even giving it to her two-year-old granddaughter. So they stayed home. She got worse. She went to the ER. She was treated. It didn’t work and she died.
I have spent time writing. The day we found out that she was being admitted to the hospital, they told us she tested positive. My father and I were stunned. We spent three hours together in a waiting room and so I had to rush to get him tested. He tested positive and we had to quarantine for two weeks. To keep from going crazy, I was posting daily updates on Twitter and on Facebook. I was writing curriculum for my day job. Now that my mother is gone, I have had to take notes about how to transfer information for bills, insurance policies, contact numbers, etc.—all the process of laying someone to rest. I even wrote my mother’s obituary.
I honestly don’t know what else I will do during the pandemic. I mean, I know I will do what I can do to try to stay alive, but so far, all I can really see is managing things one day at a time. I know I will take care of my father who has been shattered at the guilt of infecting his partner of forty-six years (even after I explain how transmission is a community thing) and try my best to find peace for my wife and child.
What am I doing during the pandemic? Trying to find light and pass it on to others, just like my mom taught me to do.”Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.
In Airea D. Matthews’s “etymology,” she writes to explore the meaning of her name and its pronunciation. Published for the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day in 2019, Matthews explains the origin for the poem and how she used a nickname during open mics to make it easier for hosts to pronounce her name: “I realize now it was one of the many ways I’d learned to make myself smaller in space, less pronounced.” What is the personal history of your name? How has it been encountered in different spaces? Write a poem that seeks to trace the etymology and personal history of your name.
Trick-or-treating may not be on the table this year, but October’s final writing contests may offer their own sweet rewards. Each of these opportunities awards a prize of $1,000 or more, with a deadline of October 31. Good luck!
American Poetry Review Honickman First Book Prize: A prize of $3,000 and publication by American Poetry Review is given annually for a first poetry collection. The winning book is distributed by Copper Canyon Press through Consortium. Ada Limón will judge. Entry fee: $25.
Comstock Review Chapbook Contest: A prize of $1,000, publication by the Comstock Writers Group, and 50 author copies is given annually for a poetry chapbook. Michael McAnaney will judge. Entry fee: $30.
Conduit Books & Ephemera Minds on Fire Open Book Prize: A prize of $1,000, publication by Conduit Books & Ephemera, and 30 author copies is given annually for a book of poetry. The editors will judge. Entry fee: $25.
Elixir Press Poetry Award: A prize of $2,000 and publication by Elixir Press is given annually for a poetry collection. John Nieves will judge. Entry fee: $30.
Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Competition: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Finishing Line Press is given annually for a poetry chapbook. All entries are considered for publication. Entry fee: $15.
Indiana Review Blue Light Books Prize: A prize of $2,000 and publication by Indiana University Press is given in alternating years for a collection of poetry or a collection of short fiction. The 2021 prize will be awarded in poetry. The winner will also receive travel expenses to read at the 2021 Blue Light Reading in Bloomington, Indiana. Entry fee: $20.
PEN/Faulkner Foundation Award for Fiction: A prize of $15,000 is given annually for a book of fiction published during the current year. Four finalists will each receive $5,000. The winner and finalists will also be invited to read in Washington, D.C., in May 2021. Entry fee: none.
Persea Books Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Persea Books is given annually for a first poetry collection by a woman who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The winner also receives a six-week, all-expenses paid residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy. Entry fee: $30.
Poetry Society of the United Kingdom National Poetry Competition: A prize of £5,000 (approximately $6,350) and publication on the Poetry Society of the United Kingdom website is given annually for a single poem. A second-place prize of £2,000 (approximately $2,540) and a third-place prize of £1,000 (approximately $1,270) are also given. The winners will also be published in Poetry Review. Poems written in English by poets from any country are eligible. Neil Astley, Jonathan Edwards, and Karen McCarthy Woolf will judge. Entry fee: £7 (approximately $9) for one poem, £4 (approximately $5) for each additional poem.
Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award: A prize of $3,000, publication by Red Hen Press, and a four-week residency at PLAYA in Summer Lake, Oregon, is given annually for a poetry collection. Jeffrey Harrison will judge. Entry fee: $25.
Red Hen Press Quill Prose Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Red Hen Press is given annually for a short story collection, a novel, or an essay collection by a queer writer. Amber Flame will judge. Entry fee: $10.
River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by University of New Mexico Press is given annually for a book of creative nonfiction. Megan Stielstra will judge. Entry fee: $27.
Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000, publication by Tupelo Press, and 25 author copies is given annually for a poetry chapbook. Entry fee: $25.
Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards: Three prizes of $1,000 each are given annually for works of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The winners will also receive scholarships to attend a workshop at the Tucson Festival of Books in March 2021. Entry fee: $20.
University of North Texas Press Vassar Miller Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by University of North Texas Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Entry fee: $25.
Sabrina Orah Mark’s Paris Review column Happily features essays inspired by fairy tales and motherhood, including “It’s Time to Pay the Piper,” which reimagines our current reality through the children’s story “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.” Through incantatory sentences and the framing of our reality through a fantastical lens, it asks whether the reason for the pandemic, corrupt leaders, and environmental collapse has a link to the story of the piper, who collects payment by robbing the village of its children. Pick a fairy tale you are familiar or enchanted with and write an essay that uses the structure of that story to explain an event in your life. How do well-known characters and themes help add meaning to the subject matter?
Hamtramck is a small city in Wayne County that is surrounded by the city of Detroit. It is one of the many cultural hubs of southeastern Michigan, home to large Middle Eastern and South Asian communities. Hamtramck has been influential to numerous Detroit writers who have taken up residence there and enjoyed the company of welcoming bakeries, coffee shops, and bookstores. I have personally spent quality writing time at Cafe 1923 and Book Suey.
I recently had an opportunity to speak with Hamtramck native and high school student Katja Rowan about how the city has influenced her writing. Rowan is a dancer, violinist, and writer who participated in virtual panels, readings, and workshops this summer as a member of InsideOut Citywide Poets’ new Performance Troupe. Rowan became serious about her writing in middle school. “I realized writing can be more than just something I like to do,” she says. “It can be powerful and can make a change.”
Rowan enjoys the closeness felt between residents in Hamtramck and the diversity of the city. “Hamtramck has made me aware of different perspectives because there are so many cultures and backgrounds to learn from,” she says.
Rowan also discussed how Detroit offers artists on stage and on paper support, and how the community comes together in a strong way. The dynamics of both Hamtramck’s physical tight-knit nature and Detroit’s supportive community are valuable gems for residents in the area. The thinking and creating that comes from this support is inspiring and has the potential to inform the wider world on how an encouraging environment can influence art and be enriching for all.
Rowan is currently working on a project that she hopes will inform her community and the wider world on “Queer Narratives of Joy,” the running theme of her novel-in-progress. “Queer folks face a lot but I also want to highlight some of the beauty and joy,” she says. “I want to create for queer readers like me who want to read those positive narratives too.”Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.