Poets & Writers Blogs

Whiting Award Winners Announced

At a ceremony tonight in New York City, the Whiting Foundation announced the recipients of its 2019 Whiting Awards. The annual $50,000 awards are given to emerging poets, fiction writers, nonfiction writers, and dramatists on the basis of “early-career achievement and the promise of superior literary work to come.”

The ten winners are poets Kayleb Rae Candrilli, Tyree Daye, and Vanessa Angélica Villarreal; fiction writers Hernan Diaz, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and Merritt Tierce; nonfiction writers Terese Marie Mailhot and Nadia Owusu; and dramatists Michael R. Jackson and Lauren Yee. Find out more about the winners at the Whiting Foundation website, and read excerpts of their work at the Paris Review.

Since establishing the awards in 1985, the Whiting Foundation has awarded $8 million to 340 emerging writers. Previous winners include poets Terrance Hayes and Jorie Graham and fiction writers Colson Whitehead and Denis Johnson. Last year’s winners included poets Anne Boyer and Tommy Pico, fiction writers Patty Yumi Cottrell and Weike Wang, and nonfiction writer Esmé Weijun Wang.

The annual awards are not open to submissions. A group of writers, professors, editors, agents, critics, booksellers, and other literary professionals nominate writers; a smaller panel of writers, scholars, and editors select the winners. In addition to the Whiting Awards, the Whiting Foundation administers grants to creative nonfiction writers, scholars in the humanities, literary magazines, and people who work “to preserve, document, and disseminate the timeless cultural heritage that is under threat around the world.”

Photos clockwise from top left: Kayleb Rae Candrilli, Tyree Daye, and Vanessa Angélica Villarreal; fiction writers Hernan Diaz, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Lauren Yee, Michael R. Jackson, Nadia Owusu, Terese Marie Mailhot, and Merritt Tierce.

Masterpiece of the Day: Write Treatment Workshops

Maryann DeLeo is a filmmaker and writer. She has been attending the Write Treatment Workshops at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York led by Emily Rubin for more than two years.

I was listening to a talk and the speaker said, “Are your days masterpieces? Make every day a masterpiece.” I thought of my days, and my first reaction was, No, my days are not masterpieces. Then I had a flash of Wednesdays at the writing workshop! Those days—they are masterpieces.

And it’s not just for the writing. It’s because of Emily Rubin, who leads the P&W–supported Write Treatment Workshops at Mount Sinai Cancer Centers. A fellow writer, Emily brings her love of literature, art, dance, theater, and music to the class. Her enthusiasm for the arts is evident with her weekly show-and-tell—holding up a catalogue from the latest exhibition she’s seen, or the playbill from a recent theater experience. She bursts into the room at Mount Sinai with so much to tell us about what’s happening in the world. I want to go to everything she tells us about. One student says to her, “You know about everything.”

Then Emily gets down to business: writing. She brings prompts that give us a way in to the writing or not. We can jump off from there, or we can go it alone writing about anything that comes up in our minds.

Each Wednesday she patiently unpacks our stories, one by one. She only looks slightly askance when a writer hems and haws about their “masterpiece” of the day. She wants each of us to stand tall and read with confidence.

I don’t know how she does it but she always finds something in the story that’s good storytelling, good writing. She takes the pages we write in our blue notebooks to heart. “You’re publishing your writing when you read it here,” she says. I breathe that in. If Emily says so, it is so. So we read, we publish, we get to be heard, by our own ears and by a dozen others.

We have created something, and Emily loves it into existence. It’s not that every piece will go on to loftier goals but for those minutes we read, we have Emily’s attention and all the other writers (although there is one writer who groans when he sees all I’ve written telling me, “You’ve written a novel!”). We have managed to get on our conference table soapbox and express who we are this day, this afternoon, these few hours. This is no small gift.

When I was in treatment for my cancer, I spent many afternoons lying on my bed, too weary to get myself up and out. Then I saw a flyer for one of Emily’s workshops. I didn’t go the first time I saw the flyer, but a seed was planted that maybe, someday, I could go. It was something to aspire to. When I get my energy back, I’m going, I told myself.

While still in treatment and fed up with lying about, there was that first Wednesday I got myself to the conference room at West Fifteenth Street. I was a bit shy but as soon as I saw Emily smiling, welcoming me into the room, the jitters went away. I became a regular. I’ve been attending the workshops for more than two years. I’m hooked. When I don’t go, I feel my day is not a masterpiece, something is missing from Wednesday.

I’ve filled many blue notebooks. I’m always startled at what comes out during the hours I’m writing. I didn’t know I thought that. Where did that come from? Some of my notebook writings move on, progress, and expand. And some I file away, to be continued.

I never just fling anything I write on Wednesday away. It’s all for something, even if it’s just for me to reflect on a part of my life I haven’t looked at before. It’s all part of my story.

There’s a quote Emily gave us by Natalie Goldberg that stays with me: “We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded.... We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived.”

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.

Photo: Maryann DeLeo at the 2019 Womens March in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Eileen Kenny).

Silence Out Loud at New Settlement

Camryn Bruno is a nineteen-year-old Queens-born spoken-word poet and model who resided in Trinidad and Tobago but returned to New York in 2018. Currently a sophomore at York College in New York, she is the 2019 New York City Youth Poet Laureate, the 2017 Trinidad and Tobago First Citizens National Poetry Slam Champion, and the 2017 Ms. Tobago Heritage Personality Queen. Bruno is internationally recognized and has performed at various festivals in the Caribbean and is a two-time participant of the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival. Her poems explore social issues that affect youth and she is a passionate advocate for the rights of women, people of color, and other historically marginalized groups.

When I think of workshops, I think of them as discussions around a table a few hours every week until it’s time to showcase what we’ve learned. However, when I was asked to participate in New Settlement’s Silence Out Loud poetry workshop in the Bronx, I knew that the workshop would provide something more than just roundtable discussions. Poet and teacher Roya Marsh is no stranger to me. As the poet-in-residence at Urban Word NYC, she is the one responsible for bringing the female-identifying youths of the Bronx together to take part in these workshops.

Commuting from Queens wasn’t a problem for me on a Thursday afternoon because I knew that I was going to a place where I would feel welcomed and have fun with young women who were just like me—eagerly using the literary arts as a form of healthy therapy, using our pens to effectively express emotions. After ensuring we were all in a safe space, we spoke about our “roses and thorns” for the week.

The compelling stories that were told always led us to engaging conversations. Marsh provided us with weekly writing prompts that we shared at the end of each workshop. One of the prompts that stood out to me was: “What does safety mean to you?” As women, this question was something we all struggled with answering on the first go, but eventually we were able to write down some thoughtful responses.

The Poets & Writers–supported workshop at New Settlement has given me and other young women the opportunity to speak truths about the issues that affect us every day, by providing a safe space for us, and encouraging us to use our voice to stand up for ourselves and create revolutionary noise for all to hear.

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.

Photo: Camryn Bruno (Credit: Tajae Hinds).

Lammy Finalists Announced

Lambda Literary has announced the finalists for the thirty-first Lambda Literary Awards. Established in 1989, the annual awards—also known as the “Lammys”—recognize and honor books published during the previous year by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender writers. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on June 3 at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. Special awards will also be given to recognize writers who “have left an indelible mark on LGBTQ literature.”

“In the ongoing work of LGBTQ equality, literature plays a distinct and powerful role—offering roadmaps for loving, fighting, and thriving,” says Sue Landers, executive director of Lambda Literary. “We are thrilled to announce [this year’s] finalists, which reflect our community’s vast and continually evolving brilliance.”

This year Lambda Literary will give out awards in twenty-four categories, including a new award for Bisexual Poetry. Other categories include fiction, mystery, horror, memoir/biography, drama, anthologies, and LGBTQ Studies, A panel of more than sixty judges selected the finalists from a group of over a thousand books. Visit the website for the complete list of finalists.

Winners last year included Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties (Graywolf Press) for Lesbian Fiction, CAConrad’s While Standing in Line for Death (Wave Books) for Gay Poetry, and C. Riley Snorton’s Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity (University of Minnesota Press) for Transgender Nonfiction.

Based in Los Angeles, the Lambda Literary Foundation has been a resource for LGBTQ writers since 1987. With a mission to “nurture and advocate for LGBTQ writers,” the organization hosts an annual writing retreat and literary festival, publishes an online magazine, and runs educational programs, among other initiatives.

Read more about the organization in Jonathan Vatner’s article “Lambda Literary Looks to the Future” from the September/October 2018 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Pen Parentis and the Power of the Literary Salon

Curator and cohost of the Pen Parentis Literary Salons, Christina Chiu is the author of Troublemaker and Other Saints (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001), which was nominated for the Stephen Crane First Fiction Award, won the 2002 Asian American Literary Award in fiction, and was chosen for Alternate Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. Her stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Tin House, the New Guard, Washington Square Review, Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World (Penguin Books, 2004), and many others. Chiu received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. She is currently working on short stories and a memoir.

The mission of Pen Parentis is to provide critical resources for working writers to help them stay on creative track after starting a family. The salon reading series is a crucial part of this mission. Not only does it give our authors a platform, but it connects them with a community. Writing can be isolating without a community, and it can be challenging to stay connected when one becomes a parent.

Aside from the salons, Pen Parentis has a weekly meet-up every Friday morning. Often, first time authors come, love what we do, return to future salons, then decide to become title members. I curate the series by theme and authors choose which salon resonate with them and their work. There are three, sometimes four, authors at each event. Very often, these clusters form tight bonds; they become lasting and meaningful friendships, ones in which authors can support and help one another.

For the March 2018 Immigrant/Immigration salon, we featured authors Susan Muaddi Darraj, Marguerite Bouvard, and Sarah Gambito. I spoke with Marguerite recently, and she mentioned how fond she was of her fellow readers. She had just finished reading Susan’s short story collection A Curious Land: Stories From Home (University of Massachusetts Press, 2015). “The book was superb and I bought copies for friends,” Marguerite said. “It gives a wonderful new perspective on Palestine and women. The author is truly gifted.”

Pen Parentis builds a family, and like with any family, it’s important to be as inclusive as possible. One of our core values is inclusion, and we strive for this in every possible way. We showcase a balance of men and women, people of color, gender nonconformity, and various family situations, while still maintaining an effortless grouping based on a theme that does not single out but rather includes these usual outliers into the general conversation, leading to a much richer dialogue for all.

The support from Poets & Writers has been a major part of the salon’s growth. Not only does it lend credibility to what we do, but it makes it possible to offer authors an honorarium. This helps to transform a regional reading series into a nationally-recognized literary organization. I have been able to offer something toward transportation and lodging for authors located outside of the metropolitan area, and more importantly, something rare in the literary world—acknowledgement. Authors are often expected to read for free, but the honorarium lets them know that their time and work is appreciated and valued. The success of the Pen Parentis salon is furthered by the support of Poets & Writers. Thank you!

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.

Photo: Christina Chiu (Credit: Aslan Chalom).

Writing for Myself and With Others: My Experience With the AWA Method

Brad Buchanan is professor emeritus of English at Sacramento State University. His poetry, fiction, and scholarly articles have appeared in nearly two hundred journals, and he is the author of two collections of poetry: The Miracle Shirker (Poets Corner Press, 2005) and Swimming the Mirror: Poems for My Daughter (Roan Press, 2008), as well as two academic books. His third book of poetry, The Scars, Aligned (A Cancer Narrative), is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. He cofacilitates a P&W–supported writing workshop run through the University of California Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. He was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma in February 2015, and underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016, which involved temporary vision loss and a slow recovery. He is currently in remission.

I didn’t know how badly I needed to be part of an Amherst Writers & Artists-method writing workshop until I’d begun cofacilitating one myself.

Before I explored the possibility of creating a workshop intended for people who were, like me, dealing with issues related to illness, disability, and recovery, I had never heard of the Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) method. When I approached Terri Wolf, program manager at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and my current cofacilitator, about doing something for people who needed a place to write about their challenges, she introduced me to the basic principles of AWA: you give only positive feedback, ask no questions of the writer, treat the piece of writing as if it were fiction, and generally create a safe space for writers to say whatever is on their mind. Facilitators give prompts, but leave writers free to ignore them if there’s something else that needs to get written that day. (More details about this method and its genesis are contained in Pat Schneider’s book Writing Alone and With Others, which explains the rationale and protocols for the method she pioneered with lower-income women in Amherst, Massachusetts.)

Perhaps most importantly for me, the AWA method stipulates that facilitators write and share their work with the rest of the group. Knowing that I would, if nothing else, have a new piece of writing to show for my two-hour workshop sessions was incentive enough for me to come to the first sessions with a sense of pleasurable, if nervous, anticipation.

As it turned out, things went very smoothly. The truth was, I had really just been the catalyst for a revival of an AWA-style writing group that had begun more than ten years ago, but had fractured and eventually dissolved as people’s day jobs took their toll. Many of the new group’s participants were veteran writers and hardy workshoppers, and had mastered the finer points of workshop etiquette that I tended to forget (don’t address the writer as “you,” for instance).

I wrote happily and easily with the group, rather surprised at the way everyone seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere Terri and I had created. I didn’t worry much about what I was writing; my first workshop poem, for instance, was about my cat, Amaryllis—a fine creature, and even in her way an emotional support animal for me, but not exactly literary dynamite.

It took me three workshop sessions to unclench enough to start writing about my complicated, dammed-up feelings concerning my stem cell transplant. The writing prompt that triggered the first real breakthrough for me was a simple one: My cofacilitator asked us all to recall experiences in our lives as if looking through a photo album, and to select one mental photograph that meant something to us, and then write.

I had no trouble at all choosing mine: It was an actual photograph that showed me and my brother James in street clothes and football helmets. The poem begins by describing the scene. Then, the focus shifts to my brother, who is in front of me, evidently acting as my faithful blocker (hence the poem’s title “Pass Protection”):

he is my gargoyle
and gatekeeper
giving me time to look around

The more I wrote, the more I realized what the photograph really meant for me: My brother was acting as my protector, just as he would, much later, as my stem cell donor.

I couldn’t read this little allegory of sibling interdependence aloud without getting choked up. At the time, I was more than a bit embarrassed; after all, I was supposed to be the facilitator, not the weeper-in-chief. Yet as I reflected on what had been happening in the workshop’s earlier meetings, I realized that someone had shed tears during each session, and that by “losing it,” as they say, I was actually simply paying my overdue entrance fee into the collective.

As I write this, a few weeks later, I can’t think of anyone who is still coming to the group who hasn’t displayed the same visible and audible emotions in front of people they would, in any other context, consider strangers. Within the safe, shared, egalitarian space we had established, people could let go of their shame and inhibitions, if only briefly. I no longer need to rely on mere intellectual approval of the AWA method; I have seen proof of its effectiveness and have benefited from it myself, both as a writer and as a recovering cancer patient.

Support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the California Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photo: Brad Buchanan (Credit: Brad Buchanan).

PEN Announces 2019 Literary Award Winners

At a ceremony last night in New York City, PEN America announced the winners of its 2019 Literary Awards. This year the organization awarded more than $370,000 to writers and translators for books and literary works published in 2018. 

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah took home the biggest prize of the night, the $75,000 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, for his debut story collection, Friday Black (Mariner Books). The annual award is given for a book of any genre for its “originality, merit, and impact.”

The $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection went to Will Mackin for Bring Out the Dog (Random House), and Michelle Tea won the $10,000 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for Against Memoir: Complaints, Confessions, & Criticisims (Feminist Press). Nafissa Thompson-Spires received the $5,000 PEN Open Book Award for her novel, Heads of the Colored People (Atria). The annual award is given for a book of any genre by a writer of color. 

PEN America also honored poet, essayist, and novelist Sandra Cisneros with its Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. Cisneros, the author of several books, including the acclaimed novel The House on Mango Street, will receive $50,000. The organization also awarded its inaugural $25,000 PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award to Kenneth Lonergan; the annual award honors the year’s best writing for performance.

PEN America started its award program in 1963 to “celebrate literary excellence, encourage global discourse, champion important voices, and bring new books to life.” Visit the PEN website for a complete list of winners, finalists, and judges.

Photo: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum Open for Residency Applications

The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center in Piggott, Arkansas, is open for applications for its 2019 writer-in-residence position. The resident will be provided with private lodging in Piggott during the month of June, access to the studio where Ernest Hemingway worked on A Farewell to Arms, and a $1,000 stipend. The writer-in-residence will also serve as mentor for a weeklong retreat at the center and will be expected to give one or two readings.

To apply, send a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and writing sample to Dr. Adam Long at adamlong@astate.edu by February 28. Candidates with an MA or MFA in a relevant field are preferred. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Established in 1999, the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center aims to contribute to “the understanding of the regional, national and global history of the 1920s and 1930s eras by focusing on the internationally connected Pfeiffer family of Piggott, Arkansas, and their son-in-law and regular guest, Ernest Hemingway.” Kate Osana Simonian was awarded the inaugural residency in 2018.

Photo: The barn studio at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center where Ernest Hemingway wrote several short stories and part of A Farewell to Arms.


Deadline Approaches for Memoir Essay Prize

Creative Nonfiction is currently accepting submissions to its essay contest on the theme “Memoir.” The winner will receive $2,500 and publication in Creative Nonfiction. Two runners-up will receive $500; all entries will be considered for publication in the “Memoir” issue of the magazine, which will be published in 2020.

Using the online submission system, submit a previously unpublished essay of up to 4,000 words with a $20 entry fee by February 25. “Submissions must be vivid and dramatic; they should combine a strong and compelling narrative with an informative or reflective element, and reach beyond a strictly personal experience for some universal or deeper meaning,” write the editors. “We’re looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice; all essays must tell true stories and be factually accurate.”

Established in 1993 by Lee Gutkind, Creative Nonfiction was one of the first literary magazines to exclusively publish the genre. Each issue addresses a specific theme, such as “Intoxication,” “Dangerous Creations,” and “Science and Religion.” Edited in Pittsburgh, the quarterly aims to demonstrate “the depth and versatility of narrative nonfiction” and show how “smart, engaging narratives can make any subject fascinating and meaningful.”

End of February Contest Roundup

As we head into the holiday weekend, consider submitting to these writing contests, all of which are open to poets, fiction writers, or nonfiction writers. Each contest offers a prize of at least $1,000 and publication and has a deadline of February 28.

Association of Writers & Writing Programs Award Series: Two prizes of $5,500 each and publication by a participating press are given annually for a poetry collection and a short story collection. In addition, two prizes of $2,500 each and publication by a participating press are given annually for a novel and a book of creative nonfiction. Entry fee: $30

Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Prize: A prize of €1,000 and publication in the Fish Publishing anthology is given annually for a short short story. Entry fee: €14

Glimmer Train Press Fiction Open: A prize of $3,000, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of the prize issue is given twice yearly for a short story. A second-place prize of $1,000 is also given. Entry fee: $21

Glimmer Train Press Very Short Fiction Award: A prize of $2,000, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of the prize issue is given twice yearly for a short short story. Entry fee: $16

National Poetry Series Open Competition: Five prizes of $10,000 each and publication by participating trade, university, or small press publishers are given annually for poetry collections. Publishers include Beacon Press, Ecco, Milkweed Editions, Penguin Books, and University of Georgia Press. Entry fee: $35

Red Hen Press Women’s Prose Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Red Hen Press is given annually for a book of fiction or nonfiction by a woman. Entry fee: $25

Tupelo Press Snowbound Chapbook Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Tupelo Press is given annually for a poetry chapbook. 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.

Memory, Lyric, and Line: Workshops for Kinship Elders

Nordette N. Adams received an MFA in poetry from the University of New Orleans. Her poetry has appeared in Rattle’s Poets Respond series, Unlikely Stories Mark V, Quaint Magazine, About Place Journal, Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, and included in social justice curricula. Her essays have been referenced in multiple books and journals and media outlets including HuffPost, Pajiba, SheKnows, NOLA.com, Slate, Vox, and the Washington Post.

Ms. Lodonia, a white-haired senior citizen, recites from memory a poem written by her mother. Ms. Charlotte comes with verses of a Halloween poem she’s penned and a meditation on her visit to India. Ms. Mary, Mr. Lloyd, and Ms. Quencell listen to lines of a ballad. Their faces brighten as they recall their youth, and Mr. Francis, who is blind, weighs every line, every lyric he hears. When he adeptly analyzes a verse, other workshop members nod in agreement. These were the participants who sat in my Friday workshop series last October and November at the Kinship Senior Center in New Orleans—most past seventy—some struggling to recapture memories, others with memories sharp as crystal.

My goal with the workshop series, sponsored by Poets & Writers, was to engage seniors with poems I believed they could access and explore. Too often people are afraid to discuss poems much less attempt to write them, so I opened the series with a bit of fun, a type of Name That Tune music game with selections from decades the seniors were likely to remember. I told them that song lyrics are the kissing cousin of poetry. After hearing part of a song, the seniors named it and at least one artist who had covered the song. The first person to answer scored a point. Three songs later, they discerned what the songs had in common and guessed, based on the song selections, the subjects of the poems we discussed that day.

The first week, songs were narratives about fathers, the next week mothers, and by the last week, songs of political protest. Often, after a few bars, one or two seniors would start singing along, sometimes with great gusto which led to laughter and the sharing of life stories. Then I would introduce them to poems with the same themes as the song selections by both well-known and locally-known poets. Participants might observe a poem’s form or lack of form. Did they hear rhyme or feel a rhythm? What was the speaker’s attitude toward the subject, and did the poem move them? Seniors offered profound insight into darker poems as well as witty takes on lighter poems. I asked them to write a few lines of their own on the theme of the day or to try writing something in a similar style, blues for example.

I hoped to plant a seed, to help them remember a former love of verse, or to discover a new love. I believe the workshop series succeeded in sparking an appreciation for poetry in its different shades and colors. The seniors were grateful for the sessions, and I am grateful to Poets & Writers for making the workshops possible for them, and for me.

Support for the Readings & Workshops Program in New Orleans is provided, in part, by a grant from the Hearst Foundations. Additional support comes from an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others, and from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photos: (top) Nordette N. Adams (Credit: Nordette N. Adams). (bottom) Workshop participants with Nordette N. Adams.

Upcoming Contest Deadlines for Writers

Writers: The deadline approaches for several writing fellowships and contests. Each contest offers a prize of at least $1,000 and is open to poets, translators, or writers of fiction and nonfiction.

Salem State University’s Claire Keyes Poetry Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Soundings East is given annually for a group of poems. Sean Thomas Dougherty will judge. Entry fee: $10. Deadline: February 15.

New American Press Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by New American Press is given annually for a book of poetry. Sara Gelston will judge. Entry fee: $25. Deadline: February 15.

Hidden River Arts Willow Run Poetry Book Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Hidden River Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Entry fee: $22. Deadline: February 15.

Ruminate’s William Van Dyke Short Story Prize: A prize of $1,500 and publication in Ruminate is given annually for a short story. Entry fee: $20. Deadline: February 15.

Cagibi Macaron Prize: Three prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Cagibi will be given annually for a group of poems, a story, and an essay. Major Jackson will judge in poetry, Chantel Acevedo will judge in fiction, and Sheila Kohler will judge in nonfiction. Entry fee: $18. Deadline: February 15.

Furious Flower Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Obsidian, the literary journal of Illinois State University, is given annually for a group of poems that explore Black themes. A. Van Jordan will judge. Entry fee: $15. Deadline: February 10.

Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine: A prize of £1,000 (approximately $1,300) and publication in the Hippocrates Prize anthology and on the website is given annually for a poem on a medical theme. A prize of £1,000 is also given for a poem on a medical theme written by a health professional. Entry fee: $10. Deadline: February 14.

Center for Fiction’s New York City Emerging Writers Fellowship: Fellowships of $5,000 each, membership to the Center for Fiction in New York City, and access to writing space at the center are given annually to fiction writers living in New York City who have not yet published a book of fiction. Entry fee: None. Deadline: February 15.

Milkweed Editions Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry: A prize of $10,000 and publication by Milkweed Editions is given annually for a poetry collection by a poet currently residing in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, or Wisconsin. Entry fee: None. Deadline: February 15.

Academy of American Poets Ambroggio Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe is given annually for a book of poetry originally written in Spanish by a living writer and translated into English. The poet and translator will split the prize. Rosa Alcalá will judge. Entry fee: None. Deadline: February 15.

Sarabande Books Morton and McCarthy Prizes: Two prizes of $2,000 each and publication by Sarabande Books are given annually for collections of poetry and fiction. Each winner will also receive a two-week residency at the Blackacre State Nature Preserve and Historic Homestead in Louisville, Kentucky. Sarah Gorham and Jeffrey Skinner will judge both prizes. Entry fee: $29. Deadline: February 15.

Center for Documentary Studies Documentary Essay Prize: A prize of $3,000 is given biennially for an essay that demonstrates a “reliance on documentary methods, specifically immersive fieldwork, research, and interviewing conducted over periods of time.” The winning essay will be featured in the center’s print and digital publications and will also be placed in the Archive of Documentary Arts at the Rubenstein Library at Duke University. A panel of writers, editors, and documentary artists will judge. Entry fee: $50. Deadline: February 15.

Academy of American Poets Raiziss/de Palchi Fellowship: A fellowship of $25,000 and a five-week residency at the American Academy in Rome is given biennially to a U.S. translator for a work-in-progress of modern Italian poetry translated into English. Maria Frank, Giorgio Mobili, and Michael Palma will judge. Entry fee: None. Deadline: February 15.

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

Latinx Poetry Series at Bronx Community College

Vincent Toro’s debut poetry collection, STEREO.ISLAND.MOSAIC. (Ahsahta Press, 2016), was awarded the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award and the Sawtooth Poetry Prize. He is a Poets House Emerging Poets Fellow, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in Poetry, and winner of the Caribbean Writer’s Cecile de Jongh Literary Prize and Repertorio Español’s Nuestras Voces National Playwriting award. Toro is a professor at Bronx Community College, a contributing editor at Kweli Journal, a writing liaison for the Cooper Union’s Saturday Program, and participates in school programs for DreamYard and the Dodge Poetry Foundation.

When Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta and I started the Latinx Poetry Reading Series at Bronx Community College (BCC) back in 2016, our intention was to provide the students in our Latino Literature classes the opportunity to have direct contact with some of the writers they were studying. What began simply as a means of adding dimension to our curriculums quickly became so much more.

Ninety-six percent of the students at BCC are students of color. Sixty-three percent of that population is Latinx. A great many of these students are first or second generation immigrants. In contrast, the majority of the faculty is white, and outside of the Latino Literature classes, Latinx authors and texts are grossly underrepresented on class reading lists. This makes the school’s Latino Literature classes one of the few places in which they can find themselves, their own cultures and histories, represented in the curriculum.

The lack of access to writing by, for, and about Latinx people extends itself beyond the campus and into the Bronx. As of 2016 (when Barnes & Noble in Co-op City closed its doors), the Bronx, a territory with 1.5 million residents, has exactly zero bookstores. Even our college lacks a physical campus bookstore (it was closed during the 2017-2018 school year). The message to the students, and to the Bronx community at large, is that literature—both that which reflects their experience and any other kind—should not be considered important in their lives.

Nevertheless, our students cannot contain their excitement when they begin reading Latinx texts in their classes. In all my years as an educator, the Latino Literature classes at BCC are the only classes where the students regularly do not want to leave when time is up. Students who formerly claimed to never read anything that wasn’t assigned in a class suddenly ask me for further reading suggestions.

This enthusiasm is only amplified when we get them in a room with Latinx poets. At each of the BCC Latinx Poetry Series readings, I survey the audience to see how many of them are attending a poetry reading for the first time. As it stands, about ninety percent had never experienced a live poetry reading. Yet during these readings and the Q&A sessions that follow, they’re riveted. They keep the poets there long after the reading is over to take pictures with them, get books signed, and ask more questions. This year, after an hour, I had to drag the poets away from students so they could catch their train. Many students have asked where they can find more poetry readings afterwards.

Clearly, there is a need for these kinds of literary and cultural events at the school and in the Bronx. But because BCC has an underserved population of people of color in an underserved borough of people of color, there are no resources to support these events. It is only with the assistance of Poets & Writers that we are able to provide compensation for our guest poets. Now in its third year, the BCC Latinx Poetry Series has hosted some of the most exciting and important Latinx poets currently working in the United States. We have been visited by Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Nancy Mendez Booth, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Bonafide Rojas, Raquel Salas Rivera, Roberto Carlos Garcia, and BCC’s own Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta, who is a widely published author, associate professor in the English Department, and coorganizer of the reading series.

We are already in the early planning stages for next year’s reading. It is our hope that the series will be around for many years to come and that over time its audience will build, drawing in more members of the college and the public while helping to fulfill the need for greater support of Latinx literature in the Bronx and beyond.

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) Vincent Toro (Credit: David Flores). (bottom) BCC students with Vincent Toro, Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta, and guest poets Raquel Salas Rivera and Roberto Carlos Garcia .

Deadline Approaches for Veterans Writing Award

Submissions are open for a new writing contest for U.S. veterans and their families. The inaugural Veterans Writing Award, which is sponsored by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and Syracuse University Press, will be given for a debut novel or short story collection.

The contest, which will award the winning entrant a $1,000 cash prize and a publication contract with Syracuse University Press, is open to U.S. veterans and active duty personnel and their immediate family members. Manuscripts do not need to directly depict military experience; the judges are interested in “original voices and fresh perspectives that will expand and challenge readers’ understanding of the lives of veterans and their families.” Women veteran writers and veterans of color are encouraged to submit.

The deadline for the award is February 15. Submit a fiction manuscript of up to 90,000 words with a cover letter that details the branch of service of the entrant or their family member. There is no entry fee for submissions, which can be e-mailed to vwasubmissions@syr.edu or mailed to Syracuse University Press, 621 Skytop Road, Suite 110, Syracuse, NY 13244. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

The Veterans Writing Award Advisory Board will select the finalists, and award-winning novelist, short story writer, Vietnam veteran, and former Syracuse University faculty member Tobias Wolff will choose the winner. The winning entry will be announced in September of 2019.

Submissions Open for Lambda’s Markowitz and Córdova Prizes

Lambda Literary is currently accepting submissions for the Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging LGBTQ Writers and the Jeanne Córdova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction. The annual awards are given to LGBTQ poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers.


The Judith A. Markowitz Award is open to emerging writers who identify as LGBTQ and have published one to two books of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. Two winners will receive $1,000 each. Using the online application system, submit a writing sample of up to 10 pages of poetry or 20 pages of prose with a nomination statement (applicants may be self-nominated). There is no application fee.

The Jeanne Córdova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction is open to trans/gender nonconforming writers and lesbian/queer-identified women. The winner will receive $2,500. Writers must have published at least one book and should display a commitment to “nonfiction work that captures the depth and complexity of lesbian/queer life, culture and/or history.” Using the online application system, submit a writing sample of up to 20 pages from a published book, a sample or outline from a work-in-progress of no more than 10 pages, and a nomination statement (applicants may be self-nominated). There is no application fee.

The deadline for both awards is February 15. Jeanne Thornton and Mecca Jamilah Sullivan won last year’s Markowitz Award; Melissa Febos received the Jeanne Córdova Prize.

Lambda Literary Foundation, which is based in Los Angeles, has been a resource for LGBTQ writers across the country since 1987. The organization is dedicated to “nurturing and advocating for LGBTQ writers” and runs several programs, fellowships, and events. The Judith A. Markowitz Award was established in 2013, while the Jeanne Córdova Prize was established last year.

Read more about Lambda Literary in Jonathan Vatner’s article “Lambda Literary Looks to the Future” in the September/October 2018 issue of Poets & Writers.