Poets & Writers Blogs

An Interview With Jennifer Patterson

Jennifer Patterson is a grief worker who uses words, threads, and plants to explore survivorhood, body(ies) and healing. She is the editor of Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices From Within the Anti-Violence Movement (Riverdale Avenue Books, 2016), facilitates trauma-focused writing and embroidery workshops, and has had writing published in places like OCHO: A Journal of Queer Arts, the Establishment, HandJob, and the Feminist Wire. She is also the creative nonfiction editor of Hematopoiesis Press, which has their first issue out this month. A queer and trans affirming, trauma-informed herbalist, Patterson offers sliding scale care as a practitioner with the Breathe Network as well as through her own practice Corpus Ritual Apothecary. Recently, she finished a graduate program with a thesis focused on translating embodied traumatic experience through somatic practices and critical and creative nonfiction. You can find out more at ofthebody.net.

What makes your workshops unique?
The workshops I offer are multi-dimensional. They’re grounded in writing through, with and about trauma (however people define that for themselves), and in reading other people’s writing about trauma and violence. There’s a somatic approach so we attend to the wisdom in our bodies that we sometimes forget, which might look like lying on the ground and breathing deeply. We hold space for each other in a way that feels really loving, expansive, and honestly, these days, it feels necessary and transformative. I’ve offered them in LGBTQ centers, at harm reduction clinics, in veterans hospitals, and universities. We’re living in a burning world and a lot of us have always felt that singe so it helps to unpack it on the page and turn it into something. I mean, trauma is always on the page but centering it in this way, I think, gives people permission to do the work they have been wanting and needing to do.

What techniques do you employ to help shy writers open up?
First, I thank people for showing up. Showing up is the hardest part especially when you’re inviting people to show up and write about their hardest experiences. I try to let go of demands and expectations and I let people know that they never have to share out loud if they don’t want to. (And actually, more times than not, most, if not all people share out loud.) We build a shared altar. I bring a freshly brewed herbal tea to calm nervousness and support the heart. I remind everyone that wherever they are and whatever comes out of the pen, for that moment, is just right. There’s plenty of time for editing—these workshops are for digging inside and generating.

What has been your most rewarding experience as a teacher?
Mostly just hearing from people that they felt more connected to their writing practice and, in turn, to themselves. That they feel heard and understood. That they felt something in their body soften or move around just a little.

What affect has this work had on your life and/or your art?
I recently finished a thesis (and soon to be manuscript) on trauma, somatic writing and embroidery—using stitch as a metaphor for making and remaking the wound—and it was incredibly difficult work so I’ve been taking a little breather. Some weeks the only time I write is in the workshop, which feels a bit funny to admit. But I also get to remember how writing supports me feeling more in my own life, more alive.

As someone who has been digging into my own history of trauma as well as collective trauma for years, it feels nice to be connected to other people doing similar work. As a younger writer, I felt so ashamed about the directions my writing took, particularly in wanting to write about violence I had experienced, so I feel really alive when I get to shape these spaces and invite other writers into them. I’m also just incredibly inspired by the quality of writing that I get to experience in these workshops literally every week. I get to remember how many incredible writers there are out there just looking for a room to write in.

Photo: Jennifer Patterson (top). Class materials (bottom). Photo credit: Jennifer Patterson.

 

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 Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the A.K. Starr Charitable Trust, and Friends of Poets & Writers.

Finalists for Tufts Poetry Awards Announced

Claremont Graduate University has announced the finalists for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Both awards are given for poetry collections published in the previous year; the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award is given to a midcareer poet and the $10,000 Kate Tufts Discovery Award is given for a debut poetry collection.

The finalists for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award are Vievee Francis for Forest Primeval (Northwestern University Press), Tyehimba Jess for Olio (Wave Books), Ada Limón for Bright Dead Things (Milkweed Editions), Jamaal May for The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books), and Patrick Rosal for Brooklyn Antediluvian (Persea Books).

The finalists for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award are Derrick Austin for Trouble the Water (BOA Editions), Rickey Laurentiis for Boy With Thorn (University of Pittsburgh Press), Jordan Rice for Constellarium (Orison Books), Ocean Vuong for Night Sky With Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press), and Phillip B. Williams for Thief in the Interior (Alice James Books).

“Poetry has the power to remind us of what is truly significant, worthy, and lasting in our culture,” said Lori Anne Ferrell, the director of the Tufts Poetry Awards. “This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards at Claremont Graduate University, and once again we honor the careers of talented poets, both new and midcareer, who are finalists for these distinguished awards. Their voices—diverse, compassionate, challenging—represent America at its best.”

The judges for both prizes are Don Share, Elena Karina Byrne, Terrance Hayes, Meghan O’Rourke, and Brian Kim Stefans. The winners will be announced in February and honored at a ceremony in April in Los Angeles.

Established in the early 1990s, the Tufts Poetry Awards honor the memory of Kingsley Tufts. Recent winners of the Kingsley Tufts Award include Ross Gay, Angie Estes, and Afaa Michael Weaver. Recent winners of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award include Danez Smith, Brandon Som, and Yona Harvey.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Francis, Jess, Limón, Rosal, May.

Deadline Approaches for Bayou Magazine Contests

Submissions are open for the annual Bayou Magazine Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry and James Knudsen Prize for Fiction. The winners will each receive $1,000 and publication in Bayou Magazine. The deadline is January 1.

Using the online submission system, submit up to three poems for the Kay Murphy Prize or a story or novel excerpt of up to 7,500 words for the James Knudsen Prize by January 1. The entry fee is $20, which includes a one-year subscription to Bayou Magazine. All entries will be considered for publication. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Myung Mi Kim will judge the Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry. Kim has written several poetry collections, most recently Penury (Omnidawn Publishing, 2009).

Anne Raeff will judge the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction. Raeff has published a novel, Clara Mondschein’s Melancholia (MacAdam/Cage, 2002), and most recently the story collection The Jungle Around Us (University of Georgia Press, 2016). Read Raeff’s interview with Bayou Magazine in which she talks about her work as a teacher, as well as how her writing reckons with family history and the effects of war and violence on individual lives.

Recent winners of the Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry include Seann Weir for “Plans to Disembark,” Marco Maisto for “The Loneliness of the Middle Distance Transmissions Aggregator,” and Madeline Vardell for “Nude to Pink.” Recent winners of the James Knudsen Prize for Fiction include Barrett Bowlin for “Hands Like Birds on Strings,” Michael Chin for “Practical Men,” and Michael Gerhard Martin for “Shit Weasel Is Late for Class.”

Established in 2002, Bayou Magazine is housed at the University of New Orleans and published twice a year. The magazine publishes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Photos: Myung Mi Kim, Anne Raeff

World Beat Center’s Kwanzaa Festival in Balboa Park

Johnnierenee Nia Nelson is an award-winning author of five books of Kwanzaa poetry and two other volumes of poetry to promote social change. She serves as the San Diego County Area Coordinator for California Poets in the Schools, and teaches for San Diego's acclaimed Border Voices Poetry Program. She was the featured poet in the fifth annual El Cajon Friendship Festival with her creation of “A Taste of Kwanzaa” and a featured guest on KPBS’s “These Days” and “The Lounge.” Nelson also performed at San Diego City College in collaboration with Urban Bush Women and at the grand opening of San Diego’s new state-of-the-art Central Library.

Johnnierenee Nelson“Light the candles
beat the drums
pour the libation
for Kwanzaa comes

Bring forth the poet
let her speak
the message of Kwanzaa
the knowledge we seek.”

For the past several years, thanks to support from Poets & Writers, I have been the featured poet at the World Beat Center's annual Kwanzaa festival held in beautiful Balboa Park—the crown jewel of San Diego. Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration of community, culture, and kin, which begins December 26 and ends January 1. Kwanzaa, created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, is based on the year-end “first fruits” harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years. It is a family-focused observance steeped in African tradition and replete with rituals such as “drum call,” “ancestral roll call,” and a candle-lighting ceremony using seven candles (three red, three green, and one black), which represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa including pouring of libation and karamu (our feast consisting of African, African American, and Caribbean cuisine). Kwanzaa was explicitly designed to reaffirm and restore our rich African heritage.

Armed with a museum-quality kalimba, one of the many, many African names for what is known in America as a thumb piano, I (aka the Kwanzaa Poet) get to express with the resonating rhythm of this musical instrument the pride and the love I have for this progressive and uplifting holiday as a hush falls upon an audience awed by its chimes and my hypnotic chants and murmurings. Simply put, I love Kwanzaa. It has so much meaning and significance; so much to offer. I love its symbols, rituals, principles, and emphasis upon family. I love its history; the fact that it was created during the black nationalist movement of the 1960s as an act of cultural self-determination.

This year marks the fiftieth birthday of Kwanzaa and for several nights I get to perform such poems as “People in Me,” “Black Gold,” “Kwanzaa Is Rich,” “How I Rejoice,” and “Going the Distance”—poems found in the five volumes of poetry that I created in tribute to this revered commemoration.

The Kwanzaa festival is welcoming. All people are invited to “Come to the Kwanzaa table”—a table laden with fruits and vegetables (representing the fruits of our labor), African artifacts, and other symbols of Kwanzaa, such as the unity cup and the bendera (our flag also in the Pan-African colors of black, red, and green). The beauty and genius of Kwanzaa is in its centerpiece—its seven core principles (the Nguzo Saba), which begins with unity and ends with faith—values sorely needed in today’s climate of divisiveness and turmoil.

Kwanzaa celebrants are encouraged to don traditional West African and reggae attire, which creates a flurry of bright and bold colors, and vibrant geometric designs characteristic of the mud cloth, kente and Kuba cloth, and reggae fashions that friends and family members adorn. Elaborate and elongated African head wraps, as well as leather sandals typify the garments that guests wear. The plethora of sights and sounds associated with this colorful occasion along with the smells of healthy African and Caribbean vegetarian foods served at the World Beat Center’s karamu exemplify community-building and networking at its best.

Last year's festival attracted more than eight hundred celebrants. Each night's program begins with a drum call, a rendition of the African American National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and a prayer delivered in Twi, the ancestral language of the Akan people in West Africa. In addition to my poetry performances, this festival incorporates stilt dancing, drumming, singing, storytelling, live music, traditional African dancing, and capoeira (a martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music). Cultural fufu for all!

“How I rejoice in the blackness of Kwanzaa
midnight black like Mother Africa
ebony black like.........”

Photo: Johnnierenee Nelson.  Photo credit: Ben Nelson.

Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation and the Hearst Foundations. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

NEA Announces Creative Writing Fellowships

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced the thirty-seven recipients of its 2017 Creative Writing Fellowships in poetry. Each of the fellows will receive $25,000 for writing, research, travel, and general career advancement. The annual grants are given to emerging and established writers and alternate between poetry and prose.

The recipients, who hail from nineteen different states, are:

Hadara Bar-Nadav
Michael Bazzett
Josh Bell
Joshua Bennett
Emma Bolden
Jesús Ignacio Castillo
Darin Ciccotelli
Diana Marie Delgado
Jose Hernandez Diaz
Melanie Figg
Jennifer Elise Foerster
Landon Godfrey
Amorak Huey
James Kimbrell
Ruth Ellen Kocher
Edgar Kunz
Nick Lantz
Nancy Chen Long
Chris Martin
David Tomas Martinez
Ted Mathys
Matt Morton
Angel Nafis
Hieu Minh Nguyen
Kathryn Nuernberger
Morgan Parker
Emmy Perez
Hai-Dang Phan
Camille Rankine
Lauren Russell
Danez Smith
Patricia Smith
Monica Sok
Melissa Stein
Corey Van Landingham
Jeanann Verlee
Hope Wabuke

“The NEA has an excellent record of supporting writers who have gone on to have impressive literary careers,” said NEA Director of Literature Amy Stolls. “With their talent and diverse backgrounds, this year’s Creative Writing Fellows will add to our country’s rich literary history.” The fellows were selected from a pool of more than eighteen hundred applications.

The 2018 fellowships will be given to prose writers; the application deadline is March 8.

 

PEN Announces Literary Awards Longlists

PEN America has announced the longlists for its 2017 PEN America Literary Awards in fiction, creative nonfiction, and translation. Each year PEN awards more than $150,000 to writers of poetry, fiction, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, translation, and drama.

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000)

The semifinalists are The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood (Graywolf) by Belle Boggs; Known and Strange Things (Random House) by Teju Cole; Against Everything (Pantheon) by Mark Greif; A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind (Simon & Schuster) by Siri Hustvedt; The Girls in My Town (University of New Mexico Press) by Angela Morales; Soul at the White Heat (Ecco) by Joyce Carol Oates; Becoming Earth (Red Hen) by Eva Saulitis; Ethics in the Real World (Princeton University Press) by Peter Singer; Far and Away: Reporting From the Brink of Change (Scribner) by Andrew Solomon; and Hungry Heart (Atria) by Jennifer Weiner.

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000)

The semifinalists are Insurrections (University Press of Kentucky) by Rion Amilcar Scott; We Show What We Have Learned (Lookout) by Clare Beams; The Mothers (Riverhead) by Brit Bennett; The Wangs vs. the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Jade Chang; When Watched (Penguin) by Leopoldine Core; Hide (Bloomsbury) by Matthew Griffin; Homegoing (Knopf) by Yaa Gyasi; Tuesday Nights in 1980 (Gallery) by Molly PrentissHurt People (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) by Cote Smith; and Wreck and Order (Hogarth/Crown Publishing) by Hannah Tennant-Moore

PEN Open Book Award for a book in any genre by a writer of color ($5,000)

The semifinalists are Blackass (Graywolf) by A. Igoni Barrett; Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt (Tim Duggan) by Yasmine El Rashidi; The Book of Memory (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) by Petina Gappah; The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James) by Jamaal May; Behold the Dreamers (Random House) by Imbolo Mbue; What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours (Riverhead) by Helen Oyeyemi; Look (Graywolf) by Solmaz Sharif; Problems (Coffee House) by Jade Sharma; Cannibal (University of Nebraska Press) by  Safiya Sinclair; and Blackacre (Graywolf) by Monica Youn.

The finalists in several categories will be announced on January 18, and the winners will be announced February 22. The debut fiction and essay awards, as well as the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and the PEN/Nabokov Award, will be announced live at the PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on March 27 in New York City.


For the complete list of semifinalists, including those in the categories of poetry and prose in translation, visit the PEN America website.

The Storytellers of Kew Gardens

Leslie Shipman is a poet whose work has appeared in BOMB Magazine, the Kenyon ReviewTinderboxMid-American ReviewLaurel ReviewCosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and anthologized in Best New Poets. Formerly the assistant director of the National Book Foundation, she is now a freelance consultant specializing in project and event management for arts and literature nonprofits.

The F train takes about an hour to get from my home in Red Hook, Brooklyn to the Kew Gardens Community Center in Queens, site of a long-running, multigenre creative writing workshop for seniors, sponsored by Poets & Writers. Kew Gardens, like most neighborhoods in Queens, is a vibrant community of Latinos, Asian Americans, and an aging population of Jewish refugees who fled Germany after World War II and settled in this middle-class area. The hour on the train is useful. I anticipate the work my students will bring, and think about what craft element I want to introduce.

I work with a small group of ten or so women, ranging in age from mid-sixties to mid-eighties, who are writing poetry, fiction, and memoir. They’re good writers. Serious writers. Writers who are interested in an honest critical response to their work, and ways they might improve it. The range of life experience in this classroom is breathtaking, and I frequently feel more like a student than a teacher, as I read their stories and learn about their lives.

At the end of every class, I give them a writing prompt to help generate new work between classes. Usually it’s a simple exercise that asks them to describe something. The twist is that they can’t describe it from their own point of view, they have to describe it from, say, their mother’s point of view, or their childhood best friend’s point of view. I do this to help them separate themselves from their narrator, so they can feel what it’s like to create a voice that’s distinct from their own, to create a narrative persona, even in memoir.

I also emphasize thinking about sentences. In a class where the students are working in different genres, sentences are what unite us. Words are the building blocks, but sentences, in all their structural complexities, are our raw material. We talk about syntax, and delay of information. We talk about how to create drama and tension, and how syntax can heighten these crucial elements of a poem or story.

With this in mind, I asked them to create a persona to describe their childhood bedrooms. All of their responses to this exercise were fascinating. One writer lingered over the way the light played on her ceiling. I asked if she was familiar with the magic lantern scene in Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust. She wasn’t, but she managed to evoke a similar magic in her own description of the interior light of her bedroom as a child, evoking nostalgia, love, and a difficult relationship with her sister.

The gratitude I feel in working with these older writers is sustaining. I’m the lucky one, privileged to be a small part of their development as writers, to witness their lives in words, and to help shepherd their stories into the world.

Photo: Leslie Shipman. Photo credit: Elena Alexander.

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 Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the A.K. Starr Charitable Trust, and Friends of Poets & Writers.

Kia Corthron Wins First Novel Prize

At a ceremony last night in New York City, the Center for Fiction announced Kia Corthron as the winner of the 2016 First Novel Prize. Corthron, who will receive $10,000, won the prize for her debut novel, The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter (Seven Stories Press). The annual award is given for a debut novel published in the previous year.

Kia Corthron has written and produced more than fifteen plays, and written for television shows such as The Wire. The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter is her first novel, and tells the story of two pairs of brothers growing up during the Civil Rights Movement. Corthron lives in Harlem, New York.

The finalists for the prize were Emma Cline for The Girls (Random House), Nicole Dennis-Benn for Here Comes the Sun (Liveright), Yaa Gyasi for Homegoing (Knopf), Krys Lee for How I Became a North Korean (Viking), Kaitlyn Greenidge for We Love You, Charlie Freeman (Algonquin Books), and Garth Greenwell for What Belongs to You (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Each finalist will receive $1,000. The longlist for the prize was announced in July and included twenty-five debut novels.

This judges for the 2016 prize were Chris Abani, Kate Christensen, Rivka Galchen, Kate Walbert, and Viet Thanh Nguyen, who won the 2015 prize for The Sympathizer (Grove Press).

Previous winners include Tiphanie Yanique for Land of Love and Drowning (Riverhead Books) in 2014 and Margaret Wrinkle for Wash (Atlantic Monthly Press) in 2013.

The Center for Fiction, established in 1820 as the Mercantile Library, is devoted to encouraging people to “read and value fiction and to support and celebrate its creation and enjoyment.” Based in New York City, the organization administers several literary prizes and fellowships, runs reading groups and writing workshops, and hosts events in its space.

 Photo: Kia Corthron

Submissions Open for Hazel Rowley Prize for Biographers

Submissions are now open for the Biographers International Organization (BIO) Hazel Rowley Prize, given annually for a proposal by a first-time biographer. The winner receives $2,000, a detailed manuscript reading by an established agent, a yearlong membership in BIO, and publicity through the organization’s website and newsletter, Biographers Craft.

Hazel RowleyCitizens or permanent residents of the United States and Canada writing in English who are working on a biography that has not been commissioned, contracted, or self-published—and who have not yet published a biography, history, or book of narrative nonfiction—are eligible. To apply, fill out the online entry form and upload a book proposal, résumé, and writing sample in one document totaling no more than 20 pages with $50 application fee by December 31. The winner will be announced during BIO’s 2017 conference in Boston on May 19.

First awarded in 2014, the prize is named for the late Hazel Rowley (1951–2011), the author of four biographies and a generous supporter of the Biographers International Organization. Previous winners of the prize include Holly Van Leuven for her biography of actor Ray Bolger, and Robert Marshall for his biography of New Age author Carlos Castaneda.

Biographers International Organization is the world’s only literary organization dedicated to biographers and biography. Founded in 2010, the organization “informs, supports, promotes, defends, and advocates for its members.” For more information about the prize, visit BIO’s website

(Photo: Hazel Rowley)

Emma Tao White on Writing With Seniors

Emma Tao White was born in Shanghai and came to the United States at age ten, living in the Midwest until she completed her education. For twenty years, she juggled a medical career and managed a family of five children. In her forties, she returned to school and became a licensed clinical psychologist. She now lives in San Francisco, where for the last ten years, she has facilitated writing groups for seniors in senior centers, senior housing, and adult day health centers including the P&W–supported Project Access at the Coronet Apartments. Over the same time period, she has been writing her own life stories.

Senior Writers

For several years, I’ve facilitated writing groups at adult day health centers and senior apartment buildings where the participants range from the elderly and/or disabled with good cognitive and physical functioning to those who have approached dementia and need assistance with the physical act of writing. Writing abilities range from retired professional writers to those who need assistance to write due to brain injury, muscle disease, or arthritis. 

One of the most enthusiastic writers, who I have dubbed “Happy Camper,” has a severe stutter. Each week, he writes a page or more detailing the highlights of his week. With public transportation, he often gets around the entire Bay Area. He frequently expresses joy and appreciation for this group: “I am glad we have an outlet to explore and put down our thoughts and ideas on our journey of life.”

Another writer I call the “Doughnut Man” developed Baker’s Lung from making doughnuts for over thirty years. Since he was still too young for social security, he went on to a second career as a security guard. A few years ago he had a stroke that left him with expressive aphasia that hampered his ability to find and say words. With persistent effort, he has noticeably improved. He shared in his writing how after trying different jobs as a young man, he found doughnut making the most satisfying. 

After having a stroke about twenty years ago, one woman uses the class to practice her handwriting. Her concentration is admirable whether she is practicing her name, numbers, or the ABCs. Another participant writes romantic poems in Spanish, based on song lyrics she remembers from her youth. And yet another participant began her autobiography years ago, and at ninety-two, she still has the ambition to write a book about her colorful life that began in Scotland when her father, a graduate student from China, married his landlady’s daughter. She stopped work on her manuscript just as the Cultural Revolution was to begin.

One of our most prolific writers is a professional entertainment writer in her home country. In the beginning, she wrote about her delight with her cat and how they live together. Then she began to write about her childhood, her health, and what she finds satisfying as she ages. She said she does not want to just “extend arms and open mouth” in her old age.

Among the various immigrant groups in the Bay Area, the elderly Asian immigrants arrived at different ages, some when they were young while others were brought over by their children who came first to study and become established. They get the most pleasure from being around family on weekends and holidays, eating and laughing together. Because many of them live in social circles of other Asian immigrants, they do not see the upheaval of having survived wars and traversed continents as worthy writing material. Or perhaps they have buried their traumatic memories and moved on.

One man recounted how he arrived in this country with his young children and worked for the same company until he retired. After being widowed, he’s very content living with his son. One day, tears streamed down his face as he wrote about how he wished he could see more of the world with his wife, a longing perhaps he had not acknowledged before.

Those who write gain a sense of satisfaction in being able to put their thoughts down on paper, and have a place to voice their feelings and opinions, and at the same time, preserve their precious memories. With the realization that their time on earth is finite, this activity provides a means to leave a part of themselves to others. With their varied backgrounds, the writing group gives them a chance to write and share the rich and full lives they have lived and are living.

Photo: Senior writers reading.  Photo credit: Emma Tao White.

Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation and the Hearst Foundations. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Upcoming Prose Contest Deadlines

Do you have a work or fiction or nonfiction ready to submit? As we head into the weekend, consider submitting to the following contests—which offer prizes of up to $10,000 and have deadlines within the next two weeks.

University of Iowa Press Iowa Prize in Literary Nonfiction: Publication by University of Iowa Press will be given for an essay collection; Meghan Daum will judge.
Deadline: December 10
Entry Fee: $10

Friends of American Writers Literary Awards: A prize of $4,000 will be given for a book of fiction or nonfiction published during 2016 by a writer who is a resident of the Midwest (or who previously resided in the Midwest for at least five years) or whose book features a Midwestern setting.
Deadline: December 10
Entry Fee: None

Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest: A prize of $10,000 and publication in Creative Nonfiction will be given for an essay on the theme of “The Dialogue Between Science & Religion.” A $5,000 runner-up prize will also be awarded.
Deadline: December 12
Entry Fee: $20

Willow Books Literature Awards: A prize of $1,000 will be given for a book of fiction or creative nonfiction by a writer of color. Story collections, novellas, novels, essay collections, and memoirs are all eligible.
Deadline: December 15
Entry Fee: $25

Chautauqua Institution Chautauqua Prize: A prize of $7,500 will be given for a book of fiction or creative nonfiction published during the previous year. The winner also receives a weeklong, all-expenses-paid summer residency at Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York.
Deadline: December 15
Entry Fee: $75

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. Visit our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

BuzzFeed Announces 2017 Emerging Writer Fellows

BuzzFeed has announced the recipients of its second annual BuzzFeed Emerging Writer Fellowships. Four nonfiction writers will each receive $12,000 and career mentorship from BuzzFeed’s senior editorial staff. Beginning in January, the fellows will spend four months in BuzzFeed’s offices in New York City or Los Angeles and focus on writing personal essays and cultural criticism.

The 2017 fellows are: Jennifer Hope Choi, a Brooklyn, New York–based creative nonfiction writer who is currently at work on a memoir, and whose writing has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, the Atlantic, and elsewhere; Frederick McKindra, a writer based in Brooklyn, New York, who is at work on a novel, and whose writing interrogates the intersections between race, sexuality, gender, and socio-economics; Nichole Perkins, a writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, whose pop culture writing and personal essays have appeared in Vulture, Fusion, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere; and Pier Dominguez, a writer from Colombia whose cultural criticism and pop culture essays have appeared in Newsday, Remezcla, Univision, and elsewhere. Read more about the fellows.

BuzzFeed’s editorial staff selected the 2017 fellows from a pool of more than three hundred applicants. Saeed Jones, BuzzFeed’s executive editor of culture, launched the BuzzFeed Emerging Writer Fellowship program in 2015 with a mission to “diversify the broader media landscape by investing in the next generation of necessary voices.” The inaugural fellows were Chaya Babu, Tomi Obaro, Neila Orr, and Esther Wang.

Read our exclusive interview with Jones about the first year of the program and his goals for its second year. 

(Photos from left: Jennifer Hope Choi, Frederick McKindra, Nichole Perkins, Pier Dominguez)

Missing You: Honoring Loss and Resilience in South Tucson

Teaching artist Marge Pellegrino recently led a series of P&W–supported writing workshops for the YWCA’s La Escuelita’s summer program. Pellegrino has written about grief and resilience for children. Since 1999, she has directed programming for the Owl & Panther expressive arts project that serves refugees impacted by torture, trauma, and traumatic dislocation. Her book Journey of Dreams (Frances Lincoln Press, 2009) is a Smithsonian Notable Book, Southwest Best Book, and Judy Goddard Award winner for excellence in young adult literature. Her book Too Nice (Magination Press, 2002) is available in five languages.

Missing You Workshop Cohort

The neighborhood surrounding the House of Neighborly Service’s La Escuelita knows loss. Many of the youth who participate in the YWCA’s La Escuelita summer camp have family members who have died too young. Some have relatives who have been incarcerated. Some youth come from mixed-status or undocumented families who are separated from loved ones by deportation.

The series of five P&W–supported “Missing You” writing workshops invited neighborhood youth from five to seventeen years of age to explore new ways to hold memories and reach out to those they love. They played with writers’ tools to create a small body of work that tapped spatial and linguistic intelligences. They let their illustrations fuel a “simile portrait.” They felt the cadence in their “I Miss/I Remember” list poems. They composed letters to the people they love and imagined how the voice of that person might sound in an answer. Some of the participants were particularly engaged when they stitched together narratives that captured details of a time they spent together with the person they miss.

One morning they wrote about the metaphorical trash in their lives on scraps of colored paper. They ripped the paper up, put the small pieces in a blender with water, “transforming trash into treasure,” and created a beautiful handmade paper cover for their book, which held their own story of resilience. Their last exploration held up gratitude. They wrote about things they valued about a brother, a tio, abuela, or the mother who loved them, in order to feel how gratitude can lift their spirits, like the last line of a great poem.

Each workshop ended in sharing within the cohort—a time when their words traveled on sound, when they could see others respond to what they had kept tucked in their hearts. A time when the writing and sharing could break through the isolation caused by a buildup of grief and separation. Hearing the others’ stories let them know they weren’t alone with these feelings.

The series culminated in a shy and proud reading for the community elders.

Photo: La Escuelita “Missing You” workshop with Marge Pellegrino.

Support for Readings & Workshops events in Tucson is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Fiction and Nonfiction Deadline Roundup

Planning to do some writing over the holiday weekend? Have something ready to submit? Here are a few upcoming deadlines for prose writers (and a few more for poets, too)—including publication prizes for individual stories and essays, chapbook and full-length book awards, and academic fellowships.

Narrative Fall Story Contest: A prize of $2,500 and publication in Narrative is given annually for a short story, a short short story, an essay, or an excerpt from a longer work of prose of up to 15,000 words. A second-place prize of $1,000 and publication is also awarded.
Deadline: 
November 30
Entry Fee: 
$24

Fish Publishing Short Story Prize: A prize of €3,000 (approximately $3,360) and publication in the annual Fish Publishing anthology is given annually for a short story of up to 5,000 words.
Deadline: 
November 30
Entry Fee: 
$25

Arcadia Press Chapbook Prize: Three prizes of $1,000 each, publication by Arcadia Press, 25 author copies, and distribution to Arcadia subscribers are given annually for a poetry, fiction, and nonfiction chapbook of 15 to 45 pages.
Deadline: 
November 30
Entry Fee: 
$20

W. Y. Boyd Literary Award: A prize of $5,000 is given annually by the American Library Association for a novel published in 2016 that is set in a period when the United States was at war.
Deadline: 
December 1
Entry fee:
None

Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction: A prize of $1,000 is given annually by the Langum Charitable Trust for a book of historical fiction published in 2016.
Deadline: 
December 1
Entry fee:
None

Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown Writing Fellowships: Seven-month residencies at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, are given annually to four poets and four fiction writers who have not published a full-length book in any genre. Each fellowship includes a private apartment and a monthly stipend of $750. For fellowships from October 1, 2016, through April 30, 2017, using the online submission system submit up to 35 pages of fiction (include a synopsis if submitting a novel), a personal statement
Deadline: 
December 1
Entry Fee: 
$50

Stanford University Wallace Stegner Fellowships: Ten two-year fellowships, five in poetry and five in fiction, are given annually to emerging writers. Each fellowship includes a $26,000 annual stipend, a tuition waiver, and health insurance. Submit 10 to 15 pages of poetry or a fiction manuscript of up to 9,000 words, composed of two short stories, one short story and a novel excerpt, or a novel excerpt.
Deadline: 
December 1
Entry Fee: 
$85

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. Check out our latest roundup of poetry deadlines, and for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, visit our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar.

End of the Month Poetry Contest Deadlines

As the month of November winds down, the deadline approaches for several poetry contests. Whether you’re looking to submit a single poem or a full collection, here are contests with a deadline of November 30—all of which offer a prize of at least $1,000 and publication.

If you have a full-length poetry manuscript ready to send out, consider submitting to the National Federation of State Poetry Societies Stevens Poetry Manuscript Competition; the White Pine Press Poetry Prize; the Bear Star Press Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize, given to a writer residing in a state west of the central time zone; the Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Competition; or the Burnside Review Press Book Prize, judged by Ada Limón. The Cider Press Review Book Award is also open for submissions and will be judged by Anne Harding Woodworth; the winner will receive $1,500 and publication.

The University of Georgia Press is also accepting submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts to its Georgia Poetry Prize; in addition to $1,000 and publication, the winner will receive travel expenses to give readings at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Georgia State University, with a $1,000 honorarium for each event. David Bottoms will judge.

For writers looking to publish their first book of poetry, the BOA Editions A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize is open for submissions. The winner will receive $1,500 and publication; Brenda Shaughnessy will judge. New Issues Poetry & Prose is also open to submissions for its annual Poetry Prize. The winner will receive $2,000 and publication; David Rivard will judge.

For poets over the age of fifty, check out the Two Sylvias Press Wilder Series Book Prize. Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Convy will judge.

The University of North Texas’s Rilke Prize is given for a poetry collection published in the previous year by a mid-career poet. The winner will receive $10,000 plus airfare and lodging to give readings at the University of North Texas and the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex in April 2017. U.S. poets who have published at least two previous poetry collections are eligible.

And if you only have a few polished poems, not to worry! Poetry International is accepting submissions for its annual C. P. Cavafy Poetry Prize, given for a single poem. The Munster Literature Center Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, given annually for a poem, includes €1,000; publication in Southword; a weeklong residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, Ireland; and up to €600 in travel expenses, as well as lodging and meals, to give a reading at the Cork International Poetry Festival in Cork, Ireland, in February 2017. Mary Noonan will judge.

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines and submission details. For more upcoming contests, visit our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar.