Poets & Writers Blogs

Writing in Detroit

As we near the end of September, temperatures in Detroit are falling with leaves highlighting the end of the summer season. Safety concerns regarding COVID-19 are still lingering, meaning beloved and well-known Detroit festivals such as the annual African World Festival and Dally in the Alley have been canceled. These festivals are networking hubs for local writers and artists alike so it is unfortunate that they can’t be held this year. Despite these cancellations, writers are still documenting this ever-changing new era with their words and sharing work through virtual events like the ninth annual Detroit Lit Walk hosted by M. L. Liebler and Jenifer DeBellis, which provided a daylong literary experience.

There is also a buzz among the writers and organizers of literary events who have been applying for Poets & Writers’ Project Grants available for BIPOC writers in Detroit, Houston, and New Orleans—applications are due by September 30! The grants provide funding for one-, two-, or three-session projects and can be used to cover any cost associated with your project. Read more about the guidelines and apply here!

As we move into October and look for ways to help writers stay connected, I am excited to be hosting Writing in Detroit, a virtual reading on October 23 sponsored by Poets & Writers. Writing in Detroit will feature Christiana Castillo, Devin Samuels, and Scheherazade Washington Parish. Each writer will share original work and say a few words about how living in Detroit has influenced their writing. I believe these three writers will offer a unique insight into how our city’s culture finds its way into our words. Register for your virtual seat and tune in on October 23 at 4:00 PM EST.

For more upcoming events, check out the Literary Events Calendar.

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

Deadline Approaches for TulipTree Publishing Underdogs Story Contest

Submissions are open for the TulipTree Publishing Underdogs Story Contest. The editors seek work in any genre—fiction, nonfiction, or poetry—that responds to the “underdog” theme of the fall/winter issue of TulipTree Review. “It’s easy for the powerful, the strong, and even just the loud to get our attention, but we would argue it’s much more satisfying when the underdog lands in the spotlight for upsetting the odds.” The winning writer will receive $1,000 and publication in TulipTree Review.

To submit, e-mail a work of fiction or nonfiction of up to 10,000 words or a poem of any length with a $20 entry fee by September 23. There is no limit on the number of entries per writer, and entry fees may be submitted by PayPal or by mail. All entries are considered for publication. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

TulipTree Publishing was established in 2015 with the mission to “tell stories that need to be told.” In addition to printing a biannual literary journal, the organization also publishes an annual story anthology and a series of books dedicated to raising funds for various social causes.

Katrina Fifteenth Anniversary Virtual Reading

On August 26, I curated a virtual reading highlighting New Orleans writers to remember, as I said at the event, all the people, all the cultural places, all the businesses, all the family artifacts, all the schools, all the neighborhoods, and the ways of being that were lost physically and dismantled systematically by Hurricane Katrina. It is hard to believe, but August 29 marked the day the levees broke in New Orleans fifteen years ago.

To commemorate the occasion, Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy, Tom Piazza, Alison Pelegrin, José Torres Tama, Lolis Elie, and Asia Rainey read from their work and shared their experiences. Fourteen-year-old New Orleans saxophonist Akeel Salah Muhammad Haroon treated us with a performance to close the evening.

Readings & Workshops program coordinator Ricardo Hernandez, who helped with tech support, said of the event: “The featured readers were all incredible. I was especially moved to hear Lolis Elie read from “The Whys” and I looked up the piece so I could quote it accurately: ‘Some of us came back because we didn’t believe that the insurance company that we’d dutifully paid for decades would cheat us in our hour of gravest need. (If Dante Alighieri had endured the inferno of our flood, he would have kindled a special fire for insurance companies!)’”

Curating this event was fun but challenging, especially with the added pressure of doing this virtually and praying for no tech hiccups. Luckily it all worked out and our virtual audience was pleased. My goal was to highlight all the ways Hurricane Katrina impacted the city’s writers. It was hard to curate because so much is at stake with a reading that represents the loss and trauma of an entire city. I was happy that each writer brought a different voice and perspective to the reading.

Thank you to all of those who joined us on Facebook for the live event. If you missed the reading, you can watch it here. There is also a wonderful piece written by Joshua Barajas for PBS NewsHour about our event.

Writing about Katrina can be painful, but mostly it is a celebration of what makes New Orleans so special. As Saloy says in the PBS NewsHour piece, “We’re not just authors. We are the carriers of our culture.”

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

COVID Vivid Self Interview

This COVID Vivid blog series has been a real treat to work on these last couple months, and so, what was supposed to be only five entries will now be extended for a few more. So far, you have heard from Katherine Hoerth, Daniel Peña, Melissa Studdard, and Jonathan Moody. And now I will spin the question on to myself:

What have you been doing since the pandemic started?

“I have been trying to keep it together. I’ll be honest: I’ve been praying. I’ve been cooking. I’ve started three little gardens and built things for my kid. I’ve been playing with my two year old and trying my damnedest not to go down the rabbit hole of what-ifs when it comes to reading about the pandemic on social media.

I’ve also spent a little bit of time trying to write, but sometimes, I just stare at my screen. I’ve been buying useless things and binge-watching shows, and fighting and then making up with my wife, and trying to lose myself in good music. I was lucky enough to get the month of June off (I am an eleven-month contract employee in my local school district) and as of this writing, I am knee-deep in creating updated lesson plans for teachers in my district as well as creating two sets of digital lessons for students under the scenario that they won’t have access to their teachers online. It is tough trying to plan for teachers and students in a situation where we are totally blind as to what might happen next. If you haven’t seen how Texas is handling COVID-19, it’s not pretty.

I am entirely in alert mode. I am in hurricane warning mode. It’s like I stay up at night listening to the house, listening to my daughter sleep, maybe writing late into the night or working on curriculum, but I am lucky if I get a full night’s sleep. I am working on trying to build routines to take better care of myself, but honestly I have always sucked at it. It is easier for me to tend to other people. I probably look a wreck. I know I look a wreck. But everything is a slow movement. I am learning every day to take better care of myself. I am reading more. That’s where I begin.”

And speaking of reading, if you don’t already have your copy of the September/October 2020 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, check out the piece published online about Spanish-language and bilingual creative writing programs, “Writing in Spanish Elevates Academia” by Enma K. Elias.

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

Upcoming Contest Deadlines

The first contests of the fall season include opportunities for established and emerging writers alike. With deadlines of September 15, September 17, or September 18, all feature a cash prize of $1,000 or more.

Cave Canem Foundation Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize: A prize valued at approximately $2,500 is given annually for a poetry chapbook by a Black poet. The winner will receive $500, publication by Jai-Alai Books, and a weeklong residency at the Writer’s Room at the Betsy Hotel in Miami, Florida; the winner will also give a reading at the O, Miami Poetry Festival in April 2021. Mahogany L. Browne will judge. Deadline: September 15. Entry fee: none.

Gulf Coast Barthelme Prize for Short Prose: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Gulf Coast is given annually for a work of short prose. Jenny Offill will judge. Deadline: September 15. Entry fee: $15 (includes subscription).

Gulf Coast Prize in Translation: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Gulf Coast is given in alternating years for a group of poems or a prose excerpt translated from any language into English. The 2020 prize will be given for poetry. Urayoán Noel will judge. Deadline: September 15. Entry fee: $15 (includes subscription).

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Writing Fellowships: Fellowships of approximately $50,000 each are awarded annually to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers on the basis of achievement and exceptional promise. Citizens and permanent residents of the United States and Canada with a significant and appropriate record of publication are eligible. Deadline: September 17. Entry fee: none.

Manchester Metropolitan University Poetry and Fiction Prizes: Two prizes of £10,000 (approximately $12,740) each are given annually for a group of poems and a short story.  Deadline: September 18. Entry fee: £18 (approximately $23) 

University of Wisconsin Press Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes: Two prizes of $1,000 each and publication by University of Wisconsin Press are given annually for poetry collections. Carmen Giménez Smith will judge. Deadline: September 15. Entry fee: $28.

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.

September Events in Detroit

Leaves are flirting with fall colors all across Michigan as we walk into September. I am excited to see more virtual events being planned out in advance, and I hope a few of these that feature Detroit writers make it on to your calendar.

On September 2, PEN America is facilitating a panel discussion in collaboration with the Authors Guild and the NYC Literary Action Coalition to speak about how literary organizations are surviving and responding to COVID-19. Moderated by Cheryl Davis of the Authors Guild, Detroit’s own Nandi Comer of Allied Media Projects will be one of the panelists sharing their experiences. I think that this panel will be rich with tips and tools for anyone working within a nonprofit organization, literary or otherwise.

The Zell Visiting Writers Series presented by the Helen Zell Writers’ Program with support from the University of Michigan’s Department of English Language and Literature is going with a virtual platform on September 3 to offer a reading and Q&A with Kaveh Akbar. This is an opportunity not only for the Detroit community, but those who can access the event online worldwide to take part in this renowned reading series.

Pages Bookshop has steadily hosted their visiting artist series virtually this summer. There is an upcoming event scheduled for September 15 featuring novelist Sharon Harrigan in conversation with Kelly Fordon. In addition, Pages is still open for business online!

Finally, on September 20, M. L. Liebler and Jennifer DeBellis, in collaboration with the Detroit Writers’ Guild, will host the ninth annual Midtown Detroit Lit Walk via Facebook Live—although there won’t be any walking involved this year. The reading will feature Shonda Buchanon, Brian Gilmore, and Alison Swan, just to name a few.

For more upcoming events, check out the Literary Events Calendar.

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

Opportunities for poets and fiction writers abound in August’s last contest deadlines. These awards all feature a cash prize of $1,000 or more and close on August 30 or August 31. Good luck!

Aesthetica Creative Writing Award: Two prizes of £1,000 (approximately $1,235) each and publication in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual are given annually for a poem and a short story. The winner in poetry also receives a membership to the Poetry Society in London, and the winner in short fiction receives a consultation with the literary agency Redhammer Management. Both winners receive a subscription to Granta and a selection of books from Bloodaxe Books and Vintage Books. Deadline: August 31. Entry fee: £12 (approximately $15) for poetry or £18 (approximately $22) for a short story.

Baton Rouge Area Foundation Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence: A prize of $15,000 is given annually to an emerging African American writer for a book of fiction published in the current year. The winner also receives travel and lodging expenses to attend an awards ceremony and participate in educational outreach events in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in January 2021. Deadline: August 31. Entry fee: none.

Black Lawrence Press St. Lawrence Book Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Black Lawrence Press is given annually for a debut collection of poems or short stories. The editors will judge. Deadline: August 31. Entry fee: $25.

Ex Ophidia Press Poetry Book Prize: A prize of $1,000, publication by Ex Ophidia Press, and 15 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. Sharon Cumberland, Gregory C. Richter, and Richard-Gabriel Rummonds will judge. Deadline: August 31. Entry fee: $25.

Gemini Magazine Flash Fiction Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Gemini Magazine is given annually for a short short story. The editors will judge. Deadline: August 31. Entry fee: $6.

Grid Books Off the Grid Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Grid Books is given annually for a poetry collection by a writer over the age of 60. Marilyn Nelson will judge. Deadline: August 31. Entry fee: $25.

Journal of Experimental Fiction Kenneth Patchen Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Journal of Experimental Fiction and JEF Books is given annually for an innovative novel.  Deadline: August 31. Entry fee: $25.

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 a writer who has not published a novel (writers who have published story collections are eligible). The winning story will also be sent to literary agents from the Bent Agency, Carnicelli Literary Management, Compass Talent, Fletcher & Company, and Sobel Weber for review. Deadline: August 30. Entry fee: $20.

Munster Literature Centre Fool for Poetry International Chapbook Competition: A prize of €1,000 (approximately $1,090) and publication by the Munster Literature Center is given annually for a poetry chapbook. The winner will also receive accommodations to give a reading at the Cork International Poetry Festival in March 2021. Deadline: August 31. Entry fee: €25 (approximately $27).

Omnidawn Publishing Open Book Prize: A prize of $3,000, publication by Omnidawn Publishing, and 100 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. Brian Teare will judge. Deadline: August 31. Entry fee: $27.

Talking Gourds Fischer Prize: A prize of $1,000 is given annually for a single poem. The winner also receives $500 in travel expenses to attend the Talking Gourd Awards in Telluride, Colorado, in October. Claire Blotter will judge. Deadline: August 30. Entry fee: $10 ($25 for three poems).

University of New Orleans Press Publishing Lab Prize: A prize of $10,000 and publication by University of New Orleans Press is given annually for a short story collection or a novel. Deadline: August 31. Entry fee: $28.

Utica College Eugene Nassar Poetry Prize: A prize of $2,000 is given annually for a poetry collection published in the previous year by a resident of upstate New York. The winner will also give a reading and teach a master class at Utica College in April 2021. Deadline: August 31. 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.

 

We Remember Hurricane Katrina: A Virtual Reading

August 29 marks the day the levees broke in New Orleans fifteen years ago. To commemorate the occasion, I am curating a multi-genre reading to remember the lives that were lost and changed by Hurricane Katrina, and the city that was abandoned and continues to thrive. The writers invited for this reading represent the vast stories and experiences of the storm.

The featured readers for our virtual event include:

Lolis Eric Elie, New Orleans native and Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker, who most recently joined the writing staff of the Amazon series The Man in the High Castle and has written for the OWN series Greenleaf and HBO series Treme.

Alison Pelegrin, author of Waterlines (Louisiana State University Press, 2016) and professor in the English department at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Tom Piazza, author of the post-Katrina manifesto Why New Orleans Matters (Harper Perennial, 2008) and a principal writer for the HBO drama series Treme, which explores the aftereffects of Katrina in New Orleans.

Asia Rainey, New Orleans native and veteran artist with a resumé spanning twenty years in spoken word poetry, music, theater, television, visual arts, and film.

Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy, professor of English at Dillard University and author of Second Line Home (Truman State University Press, 2004) and Red Beans & Ricely Yours, which won the 2006 PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Prize and the 2005 T. S. Eliot Prize in poetry.

José Torres Tama, writer and poet exploring anti-immigrant hysteria in his written work and solo theater show Aliens, Immigrants & Other Evildoers.

We will also have music performed by fourteen-year-old New Orleans saxophonist Akeel Salah Muhammad Haroon.

The reading will be livestreamed on the Poets & Writers Facebook page on Wednesday, August 26 at 6:00 PM CDT. Hope to see you there!

Photo: Flyer for the Fifteenth Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina virtual reading.
 
Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at NOLA@pw.org or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.

Submissions Open for Gotham Writers Manuscript-to-Market Fellowships

The deadline is approaching for the inaugural Gotham Manuscript-to-Market Fellowships, presented by the Gotham Writers Workshop. Designed to support “people of color who have completed a book manuscript (or nonfiction book proposal) and are ready to go to market with their book,” the fellowships will be awarded to three writers each year. The winning writers will receive admittance to the Gotham Writers Conference, a seat at a pitching roundtable with two agents, a Gotham course on publishing, a one-on-one agent evaluation session, and a query letter coaching session. Each year at least one fellowship will be awarded to a Black applicant.  

Using only the online submission system, submit the first ten pages of a fiction or nonfiction manuscript or a nonfiction book proposal and the project’s query letter by September 8. There is no entry fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

The Gotham Writers’ Workshop was founded in 1993 by New York City writers Jeff Fligelman and David Grae as a home for writing courses. In the years since, the workshop has expanded into online courses, published a series of books on the craft of writing, held events across New York City, and, most recently, debuted the Gotham Writers Conference in 2019. This year’s conference will be held online from October 16 to October 18; winning fellows may choose to attend this year or in 2021.

COVID Vivid Interview: Jonathan Moody

If you are just jumping on to this blog, thank you for coming along for the ride. I have had the pleasure to speak with local Houston writers about how their lives have changed during the pandemic, in particular, how their writing lives have been altered. It has been a difficult time, to say the least, but there have been some new, positive aspects as far as accessibility and inclusion for literary events, and as you’ll see below, family time. For this series, I reached out to writers and posed one simple question:

What have you been doing since the pandemic started?

So far we have heard from Katie Hoerth, Daniel Peña, and Melissa Studdard, and this week I bring you, poet Jonathan Moody.

Jonathan Moody is a Cave Canem alum and received his MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. His poetry has appeared in African American Review, Borderlands, the Common, Crab Orchard Review, Harvard Review Online, and other publications. He is the author of The Doomy Poems (Six Gallery Press, 2012) and Olympic Butter Gold, which won the 2014 Cave Canem/Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize. For the upcoming school term, Jonathan will join the English department faculty at South Houston High School. He lives in Pearland, Texas with his wife and three sons.

Here is what Jonathan had to say:

“Before the Coronavirus pandemic, my gruesome teaching schedule didn’t permit me to hydrate as much as I should. I always knew water was essential for the kidneys, but I had no clue that it cushions the brain and the spinal cord. The headaches and lower back pain that caused me distress have now dissipated. I also start each day taking immune boosters: echinacea, elderberry, and Vitamin C. And I’ve stuck to a consistent workout regimen that includes wind sprints and knee taps, as well as calisthenic exercises like push-ups, plyometric push-ups, and chest dips. Now that I’m in much better shape, I’m less complacent when it comes to meal prepping and cooking creative dishes like feijoada, patatas bravas, and flan. One change that I’m most proud of is how Avery Langston, my six-year-old son, demands that I, my wife, and the Moody Twins—Aiden and Aristin—eat dinner together every night as a family.”

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

Deadlines Approaches for Stories Out of School Flash Fiction Contest

Submissions are open for the 2021 Stories Out of School Flash Fiction Contest, presented by the Academy for Teachers. The annual prize was founded to inspire “honest, unsentimental stories about teachers and the rich and complex world of schools.” The winning writer will receive $1,000 and publication in A Public Space.

Using only the online submission system, submit a short story of 6 to 749 words and an author bio by September 1. The main character or narrator of the story must be a K–12 teacher. Jonathan Lethem will judge. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

The Academy for Teachers organizes master classes and other enrichment programs for New York City educators. In pursuit of the mission to “raise respect for the teaching profession,” the academy also maintains several special projects, including a chapbook series where prominent writers reflect on their most influential teachers, and, since 2018, the Stories Out of School Flash Fiction Contest.

Photo: Contest judge Jonathan Lethem

Skazat and the Living Room in July

As summer swiftly sweeps through Detroit, I’ve been keeping an eye out for more virtual events. Today I want to highlight two virtual readings I was able to attend in July that have more events coming soon.

Skazat! Poetry Series at Sweetwaters is based in Ann Arbor, a short drive from Detroit and a regular destination for many of us. Skazat! has been around for as long as I can remember and is hosted by Scott Beal. Beal is the author of >Wait ‘Til You Have Real Problems published by Dzanc Books in 2014 and The Octopus published by Gertrude Press in 2016. Additionally, Beal is the winner of a 2014 Pushcart Prize for the poem “Things to Think About.” Beal has invited me to read for the series a few times in the past which have been great experiences, so it is encouraging to see it continuing virtually. On July 28 Skazat! featured Jon Sands, winner of the 2018 National Poetry Series, selected for his second poetry collection, It’s Not Magic (Beacon Press, 2019). This event offered a light-hearted open mic and then a powerful reading by Sands, all via Zoom. Skazat! will be returning in October following an annual late-summer break.

M. L. Liebler has established the Living Room Online Literary Series during Michigan’s stay-at-home orders. Liebler is known for many reading series in the Detroit area and has overseen publications such as the Wayne Literary Review with Wayne State University’s Department of English. The Living Room Online Literary Series features three artists. In July, we heard from this Gary Metras, author of White Storm (Presa Press, 2018); Laura Hulthen Thomas, University of Michigan’s RC creative writing director; and a personal favorite and Detroit native, Aurora Harris. Liebler will be returning with this series on August 16 with Mark Doty, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Mary Jo Frith Gillett. Find the series on Facebook to join the event!

Both of these series offered a relaxing yet relevant listening party for me last month. With the open mics and the diverse featured readers, I was happy to attend and definitely will have their upcoming events on my calendar!

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

Bring in mid-August by submitting to contests with deadlines of August 15 or August 20. These poetry and fiction awards all offer cash prizes of $1,000—or $500 with the opportunity to receive two cases of craft beer!

Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales Poetry Prize: A prize of $500, publication by Broadkill River Press, 10 author copies, and two cases of Dogfish Head craft beer are given annually for a poetry collection written by a poet living in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., or West Virginia. The winner is expected to attend a reading and award ceremony at the Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Delaware, on December 12. Lodging is provided, but travel expenses are not included. Edgar Kunz will judge. Deadline: August 15. Entry fee: none.

Grayson Books Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Grayson Books is given annually for a poetry collection. Brian Clements will judge. Deadline: August 15. Entry fee: $25.

Kallisto Gaia Press Poetry and Short Fiction Prizes: Two prizes of $1,000 each and publication in the Ocotillo Review are given annually for a poem and a short story. Chip Dameron will judge the Julia Darling Memorial Poetry Prize; Charlotte Gullick will judge the Chester B. Himes Memorial Short Fiction Prize. Deadline: August 20. Entry fee: $20 (includes a copy of Ocotillo Review).

Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Red Wheelbarrow is given annually for a single poem. The winner will also receive 20 copies of a letterpress broadside of the winning poem. Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar will judge. Deadline: August 15. Entry fee: $15.

The Word Works Tenth Gate Prize: A prize of $1,000, publication by the Word Works, and 50 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection by a poet who has published at least two full-length books of poetry. Lee Ann Roripaugh will judge. Deadline: August 15. 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.

Lessons From New Orleans

How are you doing? This is an essential question for all of us. In New Orleans, asking such a question could still mean how are post-Katrina? Recovery. Resilience. These are words attached to the city’s brand. However the reality for many people, in particular writers and artists, is still arduous.

The world can learn from New Orleans during the coronavirus pandemic without deeming it a “Katrina moment.” Our moment was our moment but the lessons about government failure, natural disasters, and depending on strangers for survival are applicable. We know how education systems can change overnight.

For many in New Orleans and the surrounding affected areas, the pandemic adds more weight to an already heavy living. But New Orleans has the writers, researchers, artists, stories, food, land, and music that tell stories of humanity and point a way to the light.

August 29 marks fifteen years since the levees broke in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. I am excited to be curating some virtual events with Poets & Writers, including a reading dedicated to remembering the impact the storm has had on the people and culture of this city.

Follow my Twitter feed, @NOLApworg, for more details and updates for this event and more from New Orleans. I’ll also share about upcoming events in our other United States of Writing cities: Detroit and Houston.

Photo: Flyer for the Hurricane Katrina anniversary reading.
 
Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at NOLA@pw.org or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.

Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence Open for Submissions

Submissions are open for the 2020 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Sponsored by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, this annual award “serves to inspire and recognize rising African-American fiction writers of excellence at a national level.” Given for either a novel or a collection of short stories published in 2020, this award includes a $15,000 cash prize. The winner will also receive the opportunity to attend the prize ceremony in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and participate in educational outreach events at schools and after-school programs in the area; travel expenses are funded by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

Mail a completed registration form and eight copies of a published book or galley to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation offices by August 31. Anthony Grooms, Edward P. Jones, Elizabeth Nunez, Francine Prose, and Patricia Towers will judge. There is no entry fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

In honor of the late Ernest J. Gaines, a cherished Louisiana writer, recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, and National Book Critics Circle Award winner, this contest is now in its fourteenth year. The winner of the 2020 book prize will be selected in November of this year, and the awards ceremony will take place on January 28, 2021. Previous winners of the award include Victor LaValle, T. Geronimo Johnson, Jamel Brinkley, and Bryan Washington.