Poets & Writers Blogs

Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize Deadline Nears

Submissions are open for the tenth annual Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize. Given to a U.S. poet for a poem which “evokes a connection to place,” the prize includes $1,000, publication on the Zócalo website, and an invitation to read the winning poem at an awards event in spring 2021. Unexpected or unconventional interpretations of the theme of place are welcome. Poets are encouraged to consider places “of historical, cultural, political, or personal importance” and landscapes that may be “literal, imaginary, or metaphorical.”

Submit up to three poems of any length via e-mail by January 29th. The editors will judge. There is no entry fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Founded in 2003 and based in Los Angeles, Zócalo Public Square publishes journalism alongside essays and poetry and seeks to “connect people to ideas and to each other by examining essential questions in an accessible, broad-minded, and democratic spirit.” Recent winners of its poetry prize include Jai Hamid Bashir and Erica Gross.

United in 2021

Happy 2021! Yes, despite the pandemic and political unrest in our country— I still believe happiness is possible.

In these times, our arts communities can provide shelter from some of the anxiety we may feel when we follow the news on our televisions and smart phones. Art can provide a sense of support and inspiration. That’s why taking part in the United States of Writing initiative has been so rewarding. Writing can unite us wherever we live.

Part of my duties as a literary outreach coordinator has been to help support writers in New Orleans. This includes encouraging writers to apply for funding for their virtual events through the Readings & Workshops program’s mini-grants. Last year, the program funded writers in selected states and cities including New Orleans and its surrounding parishes as well as Detroit and Houston, where my fellow literary outreach coordinators Justin Rogers and Lupe Mendez are working to support their communities. We are proud to report that in 2020, the Readings & Workshops program distributed $2,450 in New Orleans, $3,250 in Houston, and $6,750 in Detroit.

I encourage writers and event organizers living in New Orleans, as well as other R&W–supported cities, to apply for a mini-grant. Currently, due to COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings, these grants are only supporting virtual events, which include readings, writing workshops, poetry slams, and panels. The aim is to support writers, and foster and sustain writing communities during these trying times.

Learn more about how to apply for Readings & Workshops mini-grants and feel free to reach out to me at NOLA@pw.org.

Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at NOLA@pw.org or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.

Upcoming Contest Deadlines

In these uncertain times, set aside a weekend to escape into your writing and submit to contests. With deadlines of January 30 or January 31, these awards include grants for women writers and a prize for a manuscript on the subject of music. All feature a cash prize of $1,000 or more.

AKO Caine Prize for African Writing: A prize of £10,000 (approximately $12,860) is given annually for a previously published short story by an African writer. Shortlisted writers will receive £500 (approximately $643). Writers who were born in Africa, who are African residents, or who have a parent who is African by birth or nationality are eligible. Deadline: January 31. Entry fee: none.

Austin Community College Balcones Prizes: Two prizes of $1,500 each are given annually for a poetry collection and a book of fiction published during the previous year. Deadline: January 31. Entry fee: $25 for poetry and $30 for fiction.

Black Lawrence Press Big Moose Prize: A prize of $1,000, publication by Black Lawrence Press, and 10 author copies is given annually for a novel. The contest is open to traditional novels “as well as novels-in-stories, novels-in-poems, or other hybrid forms that contain within them the spirit of a novel.” The editors will judge. Deadline: January 31. Entry fee: $25.

Crazyhorse Writing Prizes: Three prizes of $2,000 each and publication in Crazyhorse are given annually for a poem, a short story, and an essay. Yona Harvey will judge in poetry, Rumaan Alam will judge in fiction, and Sabrina Orah Mark will judge in nonfiction. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: January 31. Entry fee: $20 (includes subscription).

Fish Publishing Short Memoir Prize: A prize of €1,000 (approximately $1,170) and publication in the Fish Publishing anthology is given annually for a short memoir. The winner is also invited to give a reading at the West Cork Literary Festival in July 2021. Blake Morrison will judge. Deadline: January 31. Entry fee: €18 (approximately $21) for online entries or €20 (approximately $23) for postal entries.

Ghost Story Screw Turn Flash Fiction Competition: A prize of $1,000 and publication on the Ghost Story website and in the 21st Century Ghost Stories anthology will be given annually for a flash fiction piece with a supernatural or magical realism theme. The editors will judge. Deadline: January 31. Entry fee: $15.

Iowa Review Awards: Three prizes of $1,500 each and publication in Iowa Review are given annually for works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Tracie Morris will judge in poetry, Jamel Brinkley will judge in fiction, and Melissa Febos will judge in nonfiction. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: January 31. Entry fee: $20.

Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award: A prize of $1,200, publication by Main Street Rag, and 50 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. The editors and previous winners will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: January 31. Entry fee: $25 entry fee ($27 for electronic submissions).

Masters Review Short Story Award for New Writers: A prize of $3,000 and publication in Masters Review is given twice yearly for a short story by an emerging writer. The winning story will also be reviewed by a select group of literary agents. Writers who have published a book with a circulation of 5,000 or more copies are ineligible. Helen Oyeyemi will judge. Deadline: January 31. Entry fee: $20.

Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Individual Artists Grants for Women: Grants of up to $1,500 each are given in alternating years to feminist poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers who are citizens of the United States or Canada. The current round of grants will be awarded to poets and nonfiction writers. Deadline: January 31. Entry fee: $25.

New Millennium Writings New Millennium Writing Awards: Four prizes of $1,000 each and publication in New Millennium Writings are given twice yearly for a poem, a short story, a work of flash fiction, and a work of creative nonfiction. Previously unpublished works or works that have appeared in a journal with a circulation of under 5,000 are eligible. The editors will judge. Deadline: January 31. Entry fee: $20.

North Carolina Writers’ Network Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize: A prize of $1,000 is given annually for a short story. The winning story will also be considered for publication in Thomas Wolfe Review. Therese Anne Fowler will judge. Deadline: January 30. Entry fee: $25.

Regal House Publishing Terry J. Cox Poetry Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Regal House Publishing is given annually for a poetry collection. Martha Kalin will judge. Deadline: January 31. Entry fee: $25.

Schaffner Press Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Schaffner Press is given annually for a poetry collection, a novel, a short story collection, an essay collection, or a memoir that “deals in some way with the subject of music and its influence.” Deadline: January 31. 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.

COVID Vivid Interview: Joshua Nguyen

In the new year, I am keeping this series of interviews going, speaking with more Houston writers to ask how and what they’ve been doing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I continue to enjoy and receive comfort from their responses to this question:

What have you been doing since the pandemic?

This week, we hear from Joshua Nguyen. Nguyen is a Vietnamese American writer, a collegiate national poetry slam champion (CUPSI), and a native Houstonian. He is the author of the chapbook, American Lục Bát for My Mother, forthcoming from Bull City Press, and has received fellowships from Kundiman, Sundress Academy for the Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. Nguyen’s poetry has been published in the Offing, Wildness, American Poetry Review, the Texas Review, PANK, Auburn Avenue, Crab Orchard Review, and Gulf Coast magazine. Nguyen has been a guest on the Poetry Foundation’s VS podcast and Tracy K. Smith’s podcast The Slowdown. A bubble tea connoisseur who works in a kitchen, Nguyen received his MFA at the University of Mississippi where he is currently pursuing a PhD. You can find him on Twitter, @joshuanguyen03.

“Honestly, I don’t think I have written a poem since April. Don’t get me wrong, I have been shipping my manuscript out to open submission periods and book prizes, but in regards to new poems, it’s been hard to get into the excitement of creating forms. I have been writing more creative nonfiction. I think one reason why I have gravitated towards creative nonfiction during the pandemic is because it’s easier for my humor to come across in that form (in comparison to writing humor in poetry). And I think during these dark times, I need laughter more than ever. I also think that I have been afforded a kind of isolation with my thoughts which helps me come up with arguments, and counterarguments, for essays I’ve been writing. Most of my energy as a creative writing PhD student has been reading for my literature courses, creating lesson plans for the discussion sections I lead, working at my part-time job in the kitchen of a restaurant, and trying to stretch my butt in between Zoom classes so it doesn’t cramp up. I haven’t had time to write a poem, but I have had time to just sit and be alone with my thoughts whenever I’m resting my eyes between Zoom rooms. I am able to write those thoughts down at the end of the day, and then just turn them into essays.”

Photo: Joshua Nguyen.
 
Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

Nervous Ghost Press Prizes in Poetry and Prose Open for Submissions

The deadline is approaching for the 2021 Nervous Ghost Press Prizes for poetry and prose. Open to writers living in the United States, each award includes $1,000, publication by Nervous Ghost Press, ten author copies, and the opportunity to complete a reading tour in California. Through the press, the editors seek to “promote writing as a means of art and survival regardless of where someone is from, who they are, or what they write.”

Using only the online submission system, submit a manuscript for either contest with a $24 entry fee by January 31. Poetry manuscripts must be 48 to 128 pages. Fiction manuscripts must be 50,000 to 100,000 words. Michale Graves will judge in poetry and Debra Moore Muñoz will judge in fiction. All finalists will be considered for publication. In case of ongoing travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the reading tour may be replaced by a virtual tour. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Nervous Ghost Press was founded by writers Chad Lutz, Matthew Mejia, and Michael Nicholson and in 2019. The editors aim to publish “writing from the heart” and “strive to be a champion for positivity, growth, and lasting change.”

Necessary Evils

As 2020 fades and 2021 begins, I’m taking time to return to the poetry section of my bookshelf. I am happy to report that there are still more Detroit authors and books that I am eager to share with you. Today I’ll be highlighting Necessary Evils, a poetry collection by Aja Allante.

Necessary Evils is a self-published book that Allante put into the world at just eighteen years old in 2018. Allante describes the collection as “poems that express the idea that sometimes, bad things need to happen in order for progression and growth to occur.” She holds true to expressing this sentiment in poems such as “Father’s Day,” where the author openly confronts her feelings regarding her father and the impact of his actions on her life, yet still ends up wishing him a happy Father’s Day. This poem and “Stopwatch,” which includes the lines: “I am the house of horrors he sees in himself / in me / you can hear his soles tap dance / against the bottom of my stomach,” give readers a snapshot into the emotional tug of war family can sometimes present.

Allante launches into even more complex emotional battles, such as contemplating love, breakups, and the discovery of self. This young voice shows growth and maturity as the book goes on, even offering sound advice as exemplified in a letter to a younger version of herself: “Stop breaking through walls for people / who would not extend themselves / to open a door for you.” This poem seems to offer a way of looking ahead into the future for both Allante and the reader to reflect on.

Lastly, I can’t help but mention a poem that has become a favorite of mine as we move deeper into the COVID-19 pandemic titled “Homebody.” Though written years before, this poem perfectly conveys the lonely and sometimes cramped feeling of being stuck at home with others. “Windows turn into aching bones too stiff to open,” writes Allante. “Sneaking away in silence is impossible.”

I highly recommend this collection, and you can watch Allante read “Father’s Day” in this InsideOut Literary Arts video.

Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

Upcoming Contest Deadlines

Resolving to carve out more time for your creative practice in 2021? Ring in the new year by submitting to writing contests. With deadlines of either January 14 or January 15, these awards include two residencies earmarked for Texas writers, as well as an opportunity for a nonfiction writer to spend creative time in a desert environment. All offer a cash prize of $500 or more.

Asheville Poetry Review William Matthews Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Asheville Poetry Review is given annually for a single poem. The winner is also invited to give a reading at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina. Quincy Troupe will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $20.

Australian Book Review Calibre Essay Prize: A prize of $5,000 AUD (approximately $3,807) is given annually for an essay. A second-place prize of $2,500 AUD (approximately $1,903) will also be given. The winners will be published in Australian Book Review. Sheila Fitzpatrick, Billy Griffiths, and Peter Rose will judge. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $25 AUD (approximately $19).

Autumn House Press Rising Writer Prizes: Two prizes of $500 each and publication by Autumn House Press will be given annually for a debut poetry collection and a debut book of fiction by writers who are 36 years old or younger. The winners will each also receive a $500 grant for travel and book promotion. Matthew Dickman will judge in poetry and Maryse Meijer will judge in fiction. All finalists will be considered for publication. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $25.

Burnside Review Press Book Award: A prize of $1,000, publication by Burnside Review Press, and 10 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. Jennifer Chang will judge. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $25 (includes one title from the press’s catalogue).

Colorado Review Colorado Prize for Poetry: A prize of $2,000 and publication by the Center for Literary Publishing is given annually for a poetry collection. Sherwin Bitsui will judge. Deadline: January 14. Entry fee: $28 (includes subscription).

Ellen Meloy Fund Desert Writers Award: A prize of $5,000 is given annually to enable a creative nonfiction writer “whose work reflects the spirit and passions for the desert embodied in Ellen Meloy’s writing” to spend creative time in a desert environment. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $15.

French-American Foundation Translation Prizes: Two prizes of $10,000 each are given annually for translations from French into English of a book of fiction and a book of nonfiction (including creative nonfiction) published during the previous year. A jury of translators and literary professionals will judge. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: none.

New American Press Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,500, publication by New American Press, and 25 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. Quan Barry will judge. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $20.

North Carolina Writers’ Network Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition: A prize of $1,000 is given annually for an essay “that is outside the realm of conventional journalism and has relevance to North Carolinians.” The winning essay will also be considered for publication in Ecotone. Destiny O. Birdsong will judge. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $12 ($10 for NCWN members).

Poetry Society of Virginia North American Book Award: A prize of $1,000 will be given annually for a book of poetry published during the previous year. The winner will be invited to read at the spring festival of Poetry Society of Virginia in May 2021. Self-published books and books that have previously received any other awards are ineligible. Luisa Igloria will judge. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $35 ($25 for Poetry Society of Virginia members).

University of Texas Dobie Paisano Fellowships: Two residencies, cosponsored by the Texas Institute of Letters, at a rural retreat west of Austin are given annually to writers who are native Texans, who have lived in Texas for at least three years, or who have published significant work with a Texas subject. The six-month Jesse H. Jones Writing Fellowship is given to a writer in any stage of their career and includes a grant of $18,000. The four-month Ralph A. Johnston Memorial Fellowship is given to a writer who has demonstrated “publishing and critical success” and includes a grant of $24,000. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $20 ($30 to enter both competitions).

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.

‘Tis the Season for Reading

What word would you use to describe 2020? I pick the word: grateful. Despite this year’s challenges, writers in New Orleans and its surrounding areas have continued to create and contribute to a vibrant writing community that has found amazing ways to thrive in uncertain times. For this, I am grateful. If you’re looking for ways to support and give back, here are a few of my recommendations to help support the New Orleans literary community and its writers, and your own community:

Buy from local bookstores: Help stimulate your local economy and small businesses by shopping at your local bookstores. Circulate local dollars. Many have been able to transition to curbside pickup or online orders during the pandemic. Search for local bookstores in your area with the Literary Places database and read my post on New Orleans bookstores.

Purchase books by local authors: Ask your neighborhood independent bookstore or public library to point you in the direction of local writers. Or take it upon yourself to do a little online research, many writers have social media accounts you can follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you might even connect.

Sharing is caring: See news about a local writer online? Retweet, share, tag. Help promote your favorite writers and the city.

Donate to local literary organizations: Invest in the literary future of New Orleans by donating to organizations like One Book One New Orleans, 826 New Orleans, Runagate Press, and Friends of New Orleans Public Library. Find an organization (or writer) that reflects your passion and stuff their stocking with a donation of any size.

Help Poets & Writers support writers in New Orleans and beyond: Become a friend of Poets & Writers and help support the resources of this website and programs that give back to the literary community.

Finally, have a safe and healthy remainder of the year. We’ll return in 2021 with more literary news to share with you.

Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at NOLA@pw.org or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.

Year in Reflection: 2020

I am in awe of the effects of time on the city of Detroit as I write this final blog post for the year of 2020. A different world has taken shape since December of last year. The landscape of how writers and non-writers alike engage with the literary arts has changed just as much. In Detroit, streamed virtual events, online book sales, and Facebook Live panels have taken the place of in-person poetry nights, storytelling events, and all festivals. While a tough move for all of us, it has also afforded writers the ability to speak with wider audiences despite where they are physically located. Considering the long-standing transportation issues that exist within the city, there is a new sort of connectedness that has come from these virtual readings. Readings by Aricka Foreman, Nandi Comer, and Tommye Blount come to mind as highlights of 2020. 

I’ve found myself deeply appreciative of Detroit’s dedication to providing quality literary events and programming. I recall InsideOut Literary Arts’ Louder Than a Bomb Detroit Youth Poetry Festival, which pivoted to a completely online model just weeks after statewide shutdowns. That festival provided youth with numerous workshop and reading opportunities that allowed for direct reflection on the pandemic. I also remember M. L. Liebler’s virtual adaptation of the Detroit Lit Walk, which invited viewers to engage with seven artists from the comfort of their home. These examples and more represent the resiliency of writing as an art form, and sharing that writing as a form of expression. 

Great things have also come out of the United States of Writing this year! I have to commend Lupe Mendez of Houston and Kelly Harris of New Orleans for leading amazing events in their hometowns and allowing all of us to get a taste of their literary communities through this blog. Poets & Writers’ funding through 2020 Project Grants for BIPOC Writers and rolling out Readings & Workshops mini-grants for virtual events have given each of our cities the means to expand our literary communities like never before. We look forward to continuing this great work in 2021.

Justin Rogers is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Detroit. Contact him at Detroit@pw.org or on Twitter, @Detroitpworg.

Upcoming Contest Deadlines

Consider setting aside time this holiday season to submit to the last writing contests of the year. With deadlines of either December 30 or December 31, these awards, all of which offer a cash prize of at least $500, include opportunities for both manuscripts and published works. Plus, six of the contests require no entry fee. 

Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Awards: Four prizes of $500 each are given annually for a poetry collection, a first novel, a book of fiction, and a book of nonfiction (including creative nonfiction) by African American writers published in the United States in the previous year. The awards honor books that depict the “cultural, historical, and sociopolitical aspects of the Black Diaspora.” Publishers may nominate books published in 2020. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: none.

Boulevard Short Fiction Contest for Emerging Writers: A prize of $1,500 and publication in Boulevard is given annually for a short story by a writer who has not published a nationally distributed book. The editors will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: $16 (includes subscription).

Cleveland Foundation Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards: Three to four prizes of $10,000 each are given annually for a poetry collection, a book of fiction, and a book of nonfiction (including creative nonfiction) published during the previous year that “contribute to our understanding of racism and appreciation of cultural diversity.” Rita Dove, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Joyce Carol Oates, Steven Pinker, and Simon Schama will judge. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: none.

Codhill Press Poetry Award: A prize of $1,000, publication by Codhill Press, and 25 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. James Sherwood will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: December 30. Entry fee: $30.

Crosswinds Poetry Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Crosswinds is given annually for a single poem. Margaret Gibson will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: $20.

Florida Review Jeanne Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Florida Review is given annually for a chapbook of short fiction, short nonfiction, or graphic narrative. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: $25.

Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry Griffin Poetry Prize: Two prizes of $65,000 CAD (approximately $50,824) each are given annually for poetry collections published during the previous year by a Canadian poet or translator and by an international poet or translator. Finalists in each category receive $10,000 CAD (approximately $7,820) for their participation in the Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Readings held in Toronto. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: none.

Kallisto Gaia Press Acacia Fiction Prize: A prize of $1,200 and publication by Kallisto Gaia Press is given annually for a collection of short works of fiction. Richard Z. Santos will judge. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: $25 (includes a copy of the winning collection). 

Kallisto Gaia Press Saguaro Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,200 and publication by Kallisto Gaia Press is given annually for a poetry chapbook. ire’ne lara silva will judge. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: $25 (includes a copy of the winning collection).

Lascaux Review Prize in Short Fiction: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Lascaux Review is given annually for a short story. Previously published and unpublished stories are eligible. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: $15.

LitMag Virginia Woolf Award for Short Fiction: A prize of $2,500 and publication in LitMag is given annually for a short story. The winner will have their work reviewed by agents from Bankoff Collaborative, the Bent Agency, Brandt & Hochman, Folio Literary Management, InkWell Management, Sobel Weber Associates, and Triangle House Literary. The editors will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: $20.

Moth Poetry Prize: A prize of €6,000 (approximately $7,342) and publication in the Moth is given annually for a single poem. Three runner-up prizes of €1,000 (approximately $1,224) each are also given. The four shortlisted poets, including the winner, will also be invited to read at an awards ceremony at the Poetry Ireland festival in Dublin in spring 2021. Nick Laird will judge. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: €15 (approximately $18) per poem. 

Poetry Society of America Alice Fay di Castagnola Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication on the Poetry Society of America website will be given annually for a group of poems from a manuscript-in-progress. Elisa Gabbert will judge. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: $15.

Poetry Society of America Four Quartets Prize: A prize of $20,000 is given annually for a unified and complete sequence of poems published in the United States. in a print or online journal, a chapbook, or a book. Three finalists, including the winner, will receive $1,000 each. Carolyn Forché, Donika Kelly, and Arthur Sze will judge. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: none.

Poetry Society of America Robert H. Winner Memorial Award: A prize of $2,500 and publication on the Poetry Society of America website is given annually to a poet over 40 who has published no more than one book. Heid E. Erdrich will judge. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: $15.

Press 53 Award for Short Fiction: A prize of $1,000, publication by Press 53, and 50 author copies is given annually for a story collection. Kevin Morgan Watson will judge. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: $30. 

River Styx Micro-Fiction Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in River Styx is given annually for a short short story. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: $15 (includes a copy of the prize issue) or $20 (includes subscription).

Tupelo Press Dorset Prize: A prize of $3,000 and publication by Tupelo Press is given annually for a poetry collection. The winner also receives a weeklong residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Tyehimba Jess will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: December 31. Entry fee: $30.

Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell First Novelist Award: A prize of at least $3,000 is given annually for a first novel published during the previous year. The winner and two additional guest panelists (usually the winner’s agent and editor) will also receive lodging and travel expenses to attend the First Novelist Award Night at Virginia Commonwealth University in fall 2021. Deadline: December 30. Entry fee: none.

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.

COVID Vivid Interview: Reyes Ramirez

I’m continuing this series of interviews, asking Houston writers how and what they’ve been doing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been enlightening and heartwarming to hear these responses when I pose the question:

What have you been doing since the pandemic?

This week we hear from Reyes Ramirez, a Houstonian, writer, educator, curator, and organizer of Mexican and Salvadoran descent. Ramirez is the winner of the 2019 YES Contemporary Art Writers Grant, 2017 Blue Mesa Review Nonfiction Contest, and 2014 riverSedge Poetry Prize. His poems, stories, essays, and reviews have been published in Indiana Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, the Latinx Archive, december magazine, Arteinformado, Texas Review, TRACK//FOUR, Houston Noir, Gulf Coast, the Acentos Review, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. Ramirez is a 2020 CantoMundo fellow and 2021 Crosstown Arts writer in residence, and has been awarded grants from the Houston Arts Alliance, Poets & Writers, and the Warhol Foundation’s Idea Fund.

Here’s what he says:

“What have I been doing since the pandemic started? Well, I’ve been editing my collection of short stories titled The Book of Wanderers, which I’ll have some news to report about soon. I’m working on a collection of poetry that’s been kicking me around in terms of order and titles, but I’m loving the journey for the destination. I did a whole podcast with Houston creatives where we discussed career-based issues for the contemporary artist. Oh! I also received a Poets & Writers’ United States of Writing grant to organize a series of virtual readings focused on pop culture featuring Houston writers of color titled Houston Eyes, Silver Screens (HESS). It’s cofunded by the Houston Arts Alliance because I originally received a grant from them to organize a literary reading/pro wrestling event where pro wrestlers were going to perform parts of my short story. But this whole pandemic thing happened, and I had to cancel it. C’est la vie, lo que sea, oh well.

If you missed the first and second installments of HESS (on films and video games, respectively), it’s totally okay! Not only is the last one coming up on December 18 at 7:00 PM CT (on music with Miranda Ramírez, Aliah Lavonne Tigh, and José Eduardo Sánchez), but you can watch the other readings with captions in English and Spanish on my YouTube channel. Happy reading and writing!”

Photo: Flyer for December 18 Houston Eyes, Silver Screens virtual event.
 
Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

Deadline Approaches for Kresge Artist Fellowships

Applications are open for the 2021 Kresge Artist Fellowships, which offer $25,000 no-strings-attached grants and professional development to Detroit artists. Administered by Kresge Arts in Detroit, the fellowship program is open to artists in different disciplines each year; this cycle, Kresge will award ten fellowships to artists working in the literary arts, and ten to artists working in the visual arts. Literary arts may include arts criticism, creative nonfiction, graphic novels, poetry, spoken word, zines, or interdisciplinary work. Across disciplines, the fellowship program seeks to “recognize creative vision and commitment to excellence” and is available to emerging and established artists alike. Within the fellowship application, artists are invited to indicate if they would also like to be considered for the Gilda Awards—$5,000 no-strings-attached grants specifically designated for emerging artists—if they are not selected as fellows.

Using only the online submission system, complete a series of questionnaires and statements about your practice, biography, and community impact, and submit this information along with a resume and three to eight work samples by January 14. Residents of Michigan’s Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties are eligible. There is no entry fee. Work samples may be text, audio, or video files. An anonymous panel of both national and local artists and art professionals will judge. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Funded by the Kresge Foundation and administered by the College for Creative Studies, Kresge Arts in Detroit seeks to strengthen and celebrate the artistic communities in metropolitan Detroit. In addition to the Kresge Artists Fellowships and Gilda Awards, the organization also selects a single artist each year for the $50,000 Kresge Eminent Artist Award. Over the past twelve years, Kresge has dispensed over $6 million in funding to local artists.

Virtual 2020 New Orleans Words and Music Festival

Last month, Poets & Writers’ Readings and Workshops program, with support from the Hearst Foundation, cofunded three virtual literary events for the 2020 New Orleans Words and Music Festival. Due to the pandemic this year, instead of purchasing tickets, donations were suggested to attend virtual events. Proceeds from the four-day festival provide literacy resources for adults, education programs for incarcerated adults and teens, and free community programming in New Orleans through Words & Music’s parent organization, One Book One New Orleans. Here are the three events:

1. Queering the South: LGBTQ+ Writers on Home, Love, and History
A discussion and reading curated by New Orleans poet Brad Richard with a panel featuring Matthew Draughter, M’Bilia Meekers, and Megan Volpert.

2. Heartbreak, or Research? Poets on the Writing Process
A discussion and reading curated by Stacey Balku with panelists Elizabeth Gross, Skye Jackson, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Melinda Palacio, and Rebecca Morgan Frank.

3. The Power of Jazz and Place in Tom Dent Poetry: A Workshop With Skye Jackson
Writers from an earlier workshop hosted by Skye Jackson were invited to read their work, including Stacey Balkun, Joshua Benitez, Liz Granite, Sonny Miro, Kiana Naquin, and Lisa O’Neill.

Bonus: Poets, Presidents, and Pandemics: A Reading for These Times
Catch our literary outreach coordinators from Houston and Detroit, Lupe Mendez and Justin Rogers, read with Pulitzer Prize–winning author Tyehimba Jess for a virtual event I curated.

If you missed the festival or any affiliated events, you can view them at the YouTube channel for One Book One New Orleans.

Find out more about funding for events through the Readings & Workshops program.

Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at NOLA@pw.org or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.

Disquiet Prize Accepting Submissions

Submissions are now open for the 2021 Disquiet Prize. Sponsored by the Disquiet International Literary Program, an annual writers workshop held in Lisbon, the prize awards three fellowships for tuition to writers working in the genres of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction; a grand prize winner will additionally receive a travel stipend and housing in Lisbon for the duration of the workshop. In the event that public health conditions prohibit the conference from being held in 2021, winners will be offered the option to defer their fellowships to a future year or to accept an alternative cash prize of $1,000. All three fellows will also receive publication. The winning poet’s work will appear in the Common, and the work of the winning fiction writer and nonfiction writer will be published on the Granta and Ninth Letter websites respectively.

Submit up to six poems, totaling up 10 pages, or one story, novel excerpt, or essay of up to 25 pages with a $15 entry fee by January 15. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Established in 2010, the Disquiet International Literary Program “aims to deepen mutual understanding among writers from North America and writers from Portugal” and takes its name from Lisbon poet Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. A decision about whether or not the conference will proceed in 2021 will be announced on the workshop’s website in February.

COVID Vivid Interview: Ayokunle Falomo

Hey mi gente. Hope you’re all staying safe. I’m continuing this series of interviews with Houston writers during the COVID-19 pandemic, offering them a space to respond to this question:

What have you been doing since the pandemic?

This week we hear from Ayokunle Falomo who is Nigerian, American, and the author of the poetry chapbook African, American (New Delta Review, 2019) and two self-published collections. A recipient of fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and MacDowell, his work has been published in the New York Times, Michigan Quarterly Review, the Texas Review, New England Review, and elsewhere. Falomo’s readings have been featured on Write About Now and Houston Public Media. He holds a BS in Psychology from the University of Houston, a Specialist in School Psychology degree from Sam Houston State University, and is currently an MFA in poetry candidate at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program.

Here’s his response:

“Since the pandemic started, which feels like a decade ago now, I have mostly been (at)tending to the things that need it in my life. I’ve been reacquainting myself with beauty and truth. I’ve been learning. A lot about myself. I’ve been nursing a broken heart back to health. I’ve been teaching. I’ve been writing. I’ve been reading. A lot. I’ve been taking walks. I’ve been grieving the loss of the future I once imagined. I’ve been running. I’ve been cooking. I’ve been learning, slowly, how to embrace the future that’s mine now. I’ve been learning how to sit still. I’ve been grateful. I’ve been watching shows on Netflix. I’ve been resentful. I’ve been....”

Photo: Ayokunle Falomo.
 
Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.