Poets & Writers Blogs

The Journey

Brian Evans-Jones immigrated to southern Maine from Hampshire, U.K. in 2014. He received his BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Warwick, U.K., and was poet laureate of Hampshire, U.K. from 2013 to 2014. He received his MFA from the University of New Hampshire in 2016. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Outlook Springs, Stoneboat Literary Journal, and the Cafe Review. Evans-Jones is a juried teaching artist in both Maine and New Hampshire, and teaches poetry and creative writing in schools, colleges, and community venues.

You are a poet—or you think you are: perhaps you have never been sure. After all, you don’t have the four or five books to your name that you thought you’d have by now. A couple of competition wins, an award or two, yes, but no book. It seems so complicated, so difficult, this business of getting published. You live in a small town, in a rural state, far away from the publishing centers of America; the editors and poets who throng there seem so far above you.

But you try. You enter awards, send to magazines. The magazines all say no. In April, you get a missed call, a New York number—probably a scam. There is a voicemail, from “Bonnie.” It’s not a scam. You have won Poets & Writers’ Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award—you are going to New York City.

Six months later, you arrive. The buildings are enormous, the streets teeming. You meet Bonnie Rose Marcus, director of Readings & Workshops (East) and the Writers Exchange, tiny and beaming, and go out for dinner with Joan Dempsey, the fiction winner, who fast becomes a good friend. Your nerves are tingling; you almost dread the thought of meeting your first guests tomorrow, these poets who have made it, who have books and books; these editors of famous magazines. What will you ask them, that won’t sound ridiculous? Will they look down on you, will they expect you to know all the poets and trends that you don’t?

Morning comes. Bonnie guides you; the streets seem less alien. The first meeting is with Patricia Carlin, poet and editor. You meet at a coffee shop, get a quiet table in the corner. You’re so nervous, you can’t remember what you said. It doesn’t matter. She’s gracious, interested, friendly. You talk about assembling collections, the benefits and downsides of small presses and regional presses, places to network. She asks if one of your winning poems is available for her magazine, and gives you her card.

Now you feel better. This is going to be okay—maybe even fun. In the next meetings, with agents and other fiction folk, you relax. From the sidelines, you see that all these people—big, important New York City people—are just people: interested in writers, passionate about literature, interested in you.

At dinner, editors from A Public Space, Four Way Books, and Hanging Loose Press discuss magazine life, small press life, poetry. You see that editors simply want their work to be thoughtfully read, the same as you do. Submissions, you realize, can be not a battle, but a communication—maybe even an offering. Someone will like your work—if you take the time to learn what they like first.

The days zoom by. Breakfast with a writer, coffee with an agent, lunch with another writer, tea with a publisher. You grow comfortable with the routine, with the city, with the important New York folk. You meet the president of Farrar, Straus and Giroux and feel entirely at your ease. You love hearing gossip about the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Kate Angus tells you eight small presses she thinks would appreciate your aesthetic. The tour of the New Yorker offices is unforgettable.

Suddenly, it’s the end. You’re going home, to your small town, your green and quiet state. Nothing has changed there—but when you sit in your placid town library, New York feels close. You start work on your manuscript. You are a poet. You are ready.

The Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award is generously supported by Maureen Egen, a member of the Poets & Writers Board of Directors.

Photos: (top) New York City skyline (Credit: Brian Evans-Jones). (bottom, left to right) R&W fellow Sreshtha Sen, R&W program assistant Ricardo Hernandez, R&W (east) director Bonnie Rose Marcus, 2017 WEX fiction judge Tania James, Joan Dempsey, Brian Evans-Jones, and 2017 WEX poetry judge Cynthia Cruz (Credit: Margarita Corporan).

Upcoming Contest Deadlines in Fiction and Nonfiction

Prose writers: If your 2018 resolutions involve submitting to more contests, you’re in luck! Below is a selection of fiction and nonfiction contests with a deadline of January 15. Each contest offers a prize of at least $1,000 and publication.

Hidden River Arts Sandy Run Novella Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Hidden River Arts will be given annually for a novella. The editors will judge. Entry Fee: $24

Literal Latté K. Margaret Grossman Fiction Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Literal Latté is given annually for a short story. Entry Fee: $10

Breakwater Review Fiction Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Breakwater Review is given annually for a story. Joan Wickersham will judge. Entry Fee: $10

Third Coast Fiction Contest: An award of $1,000 each and publication in Third Coast is given annually for a short story. Danielle Evans will judge. Entry Fee: $18

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 a participating literary agency. Entry Fee: $20

Moment Magazine–Karma Foundation Short Fiction Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Moment Magazine is given annually for a story that relates to Judaism or Jewish culture or history. The editors will judge. Entry Fee: $25

Australian Book Review Calibre Essay Prize: A prize of AUD $5,000 (approximately $3,800) and publication in Australian Book Review is given annually for an essay. A second-place prize of AUD $2,500 (approximately $1,900) is also given. Andrea Goldsmith, Phillipa McGuinness, and Peter Rose will judge. Entry Fee: $25

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. No entry fee.

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. Benjamin Rachlin will judge. Entry Fee: $12

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

Submissions Open for Graywolf Nonfiction Prize

Submissions are open for the 2018 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, given biennially for a nonfiction manuscript-in-progress by a writer not yet established in the genre. The winner will receive $12,000 and will work with the Graywolf editorial team to complete the project for publication.

Writers who reside in the United States are eligible; no prior publication is required. Submissions to the prize may include memoir, essay, biography, and history. Using the online submission system, submit a one-page cover letter, a two- to ten-page overview of the project, and at least 100 pages of the manuscript by January 31. There is no entry fee.

The editors will judge. “The [prize] emphasizes innovation in form, and we want to see projects that test the boundaries of literary nonfiction,” write the editors. “We are less interested in straightforward memoirs.”

Esmé Weijun Wang won the prize in 2016 for The Collected Schizophrenias, an essay collection that addresses the social, historical, medical, and spiritual aspects of schizophrenia. Angela Palm won in 2014 for her book about growing up in a small river town in rural Indiana, Riverine: A Memoir From Anywhere But Here. Margaret Lazarus Dean won in 2012 for Leaving Orbit: Notes From the Last Days of American Spaceflight, and Leslie Jamison won in 2010 for The Empathy Exams.

Founded in 1974, Graywolf Press is considered one of the leading nonprofit literary publishers in the country. The press is “committed to the discovery and energetic publication of contemporary American and international literature.” Visit the website for more information.

End of the Year Contest Deadlines: Fiction and Nonfiction

Fiction and nonfiction writers, with a just over a week left in 2017, consider submitting your best stories, essays, or full-length books to the following contests. Each award offers a prize of at least $1,000 and publication, and has a deadline of December 31.

River Styx Micro-Fiction Contest: A prize of $1,500 and publication in River Styx is given annually for a short short story. Entry fee: $10

Boulevard Short Fiction Contest: 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. Entry fee: $16

Tampa Review Danahy Fiction Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Tampa Review is given annually for a short story. The editors will judge. Entry fee: $20

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

Ashland Creek Press Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature: A prize of $1,000 is given annually for a book of fiction or creative nonfiction that focuses on the environment, animal protection, ecology, or wildlife. The winner also receives a four-week residency at PLAYA, a writers retreat located on the edge of the Great Basin near Summer Lake, Oregon. Unpublished manuscripts and books published in the past five years are eligible. Jonathan Balcombe will judge. Entry fee: $18

Lascaux Review Prize in Fiction: A prize of $1,000 is given annually for a novel published in the previous two years. Entry fee: $20

Livingston Press Tartt Fiction Award: A prize of $1,000, publication by Livingston Press, and 100 author copies is given annually for a first collection of short stories by a U.S. citizen. Fiction writers who have not published a short story collection are eligible. Entry fee: $20

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

Foundation of Contemporary Arts Announces New $40,000 Poetry Award

The Foundation of Contemporary Arts (FCA) has announced the new C. D. Wright Award for Poetry, an annual prize of $40,000 given to a poet over the age of fifty whose work “exemplifies Wright’s vibrant lyricism, seriousness, and striking originality."

The award, made possible through a $1 million gift from artists Ellsworth Kelly and Jack Shear, honors the memory of C. D. Wright, who died in 2016 at age sixty-seven. Wright received an FCA Grant in 1999, and went on to receive a MacArthur “Genius” Award, a National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Academy of American Poets Lenore Marshall Prize, among other accolades.

Of the prize, Wright’s husband, the poet Forrest Gander, said, “I’ve known that she was of signal importance to poets around the world—the first tribute/memorial organized for C. D. was in Stockholm—but the fact of this award coming from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, an advocate for all arts, that means the most to me.”

The C. D. Wright Award will be administered through the FCA’s nomination-based Grants to Artists program, which provides unrestricted cash awards to individuals in all artistic disciplines. Experimental poet Lisa Robertson will be the recipient of the inaugural award. Poets Tonya Foster and Peter Gizzi, the 2018 poetry advisors to FCA’s selection process, noted, “[Robertson’s] poems are compelling reads and never stint on intellection. They please as they muse and weave various affective philosophical speech acts.”

Founded in 1963 by artists Jasper Johns and John Cage, the Foundation of Contemporary Arts’ mission is to “encourage, sponsor, and promote innovative work in the arts” through its seven annual grant programs for individuals, groups, and organizations. Visit the website for more information.

Spunky Spirits Take the Stage at the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam

J. Sarah Gonzales is CEO of the national social justice consulting company, TruthSarita, LLC, which supports building collective power to dismantle inequity. She also serves as codirector of Spoken Futures, Inc., developing programs to create space for youth to address issues such as the school-to-prison pipeline, LGBTQ rights, and migrant justice through spoken word poetry. Gonzales is a published poet and currently works with the Cultural Centers at the University of Arizona.

Spoken Futures, a youth organization based in Tucson, Arizona, hosted the season kickoff of the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam (TYPS) on August 19, 2017, which featured P&W­–supported poet Bobby Wilson. Wilson’s work is heavily influenced by his Dakota heritage, and his spunky spirit and deep cultural roots resonated with the high school-aged youth. He led a writing workshop with about ten youths, moving them through the anxiety of writing and performing. By the end, all overcame their fears and signed up to compete in the poetry slam.

Held monthly at Bentley’s House of Coffee & Tea, youths from all over Southern Arizona come to listen, support, write, and perform in this incredibly welcoming environment. The slam is organized and hosted by TYPS coordinator Eva Sierra, a former youth participant who has joined the Spoken Futures staff.

There were about sixty people in attendance and judges were picked from the audience at random. Over the course of two hours, each young person got up to the mic and read poems about issues present in their everyday lives. Nathan spoke about growing up in foster care and group homes. Yasmin shared: “My childhood home now a construction site for stores, but what they don’t know, is that it was the house that built me.”

Wilson, a new transplant to Tucson, but a friend of many years to local organizers, also performed a set halfway through the slam. He roped in the audience with poems about his indigenous heritage, trauma from colonization, and dreaming our dreams. In his opening piece, he spoke about the national anthem: “I will not stand, I will not kneel. There are needles in our knees given to our grandparents by good God-fearing men and the women they own.” Wilson is raw, honest, and a kind person. He stayed late to talk to youth, and supported our work with his time and energy.

As youths learn to write about the inequities shaping their futures, we become more firmly dedicated to finding ways to keep this space funded and running. The TYPS kickoff was a huge success thanks to all our supporters! We are extremely excited for all the youth poets and featured poets we have lined up for the 2017-2018 season. Thank you to Poets & Writers, Bentley’s, and all our loving families and community who come together to support youth voice in southern Arizona. Read more about Spoken Futures, Inc. and the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam at spokenfutures.org.

Support for Readings & Workshops 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.

Photos: (top) J. Sarah Gonzales (Credit: Diana Toj). (bottom) Bobby Wilson (Credit: Hannah Manuelito).

December Poetry Deadlines

Poets—as 2017 comes to a close, why not end the year with a bang and submit to a poetry contest? Below is a list of contests for single poems, chapbooks, and full-length collections with deadlines during the second half of December. Each contest offers a prize of at least $1,000 and publication. Happy Submitting!

Deadline: December 20

String Poet Poetry Competition: A prize of $1,000 and publication in String Poet is given annually for a poem. The winner also receives an original music composition by a professional composer inspired by the winning poem, which will be performed at the Awards Ceremony in Spring 2018. Micheal O’Siadhail will judge. Entry fee: $18

Deadline: December 22

Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowships: Four prizes of $1,000 each and publication by the Poetry Society of America are given annually for poetry chapbooks by poets who have not published a full-length collection. Two fellowships are given to poets ages 30 and under, and two fellowships are given to poets of any age. Entry fee: $12

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

Deadline: December 30

New Issues Poetry & Prose Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by New Issues Poetry & Prose is given annually for a first poetry collection. The winner will also receive an honorarium of $500 and travel expenses to give a reading at Western Michigan University in Spring 2018. Poets who have not published a poetry collection of more than 48 pages are eligible. Cathy Park Hong will judge. Entry fee: $25

Deadline: December 31

The Moth Poetry Prize: A prize of €10,000 (approximately $12,000) and publication in the Moth is given annually for a poem. Three runner-up prizes of €1,000 (approximately $1,200) each are also given. The winners will also be invited to read at an awards ceremony in Dublin in Spring 2018. Daljit Nagra will judge. Entry fee: $13

Tampa Review Prize for Poetry: A prize of $2,000 and publication by University of Tampa Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Entry fee: $25

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. Entry fee: $30

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

If you’re ready to submit right now, check out these contests with deadlines TODAY (12/15/17).

Submissions Open for $10,000 Story Collection Prize

The deadline is approaching for the inaugural Hub City Press C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize. An award of $10,000 and publication by Hub City Press will be given annually for a debut story collection by an author living in the Southern United States. Acclaimed short fiction writer Lee K. Abbott will judge. The winning collection will be published in Spring 2019.

Writers currently residing in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, or West Virginia who have not published a full-length book are eligible. Using the online submission system, submit a manuscript of 140 to 220 pages, including at least six stories, with a $25 entry fee by January 1, 2018. Stories should not exceed 15,000 words each. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Of the new prize, Hub City Press founder and publisher Betsy Teter says, “We are thrilled to announce one of the most substantial short story prizes in North America and to honor C. Michael Curtis, who has been a great friend to Hub City Press over the years.” Established in 1995 in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Hub City Press is “committed to well-crafted and high-quality works by new and established authors from the American South.” C. Michael Curtis has been an editor of the Atlantic since 1963 and currently resides in Spartanburg.

An Industry of Writers and Our Greatest Freedom: A Snapshot From the New York Literary Scene

Winner of the 2017 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award for fiction from Poets & Writers, and one of the “5 More Over 50” debut authors in the November/December 2017 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, Joan Dempsey is the author of the novel, This Is How It Begins (She Writes Press, October 2017). She received an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles and was the recipient of a significant research grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. Her writing has been published in the Adirondack Review, Alligator Juniper, Obsidian: Literature of the African Diaspora, and Plenitude Magazine, and aired on National Public Radio. 

On a crisp, clear October morning, the three of us hustled down Vesey Street in Lower Manhattan, not wanting to be late for our meeting with Deborah Treisman, fiction editor at the New Yorker. We hurried past chain-link fences, shrouded to obscure what remains undone in the wake of 9/11. We waved away hawkers who propositioned us with memorial tours. We tried not to think about going up thirty-eight stories in the One World Trade Center building.

I was in Manhattan as the winner for fiction of the 2017 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers, which includes an all-expenses-paid whirlwind tour of the New York literary scene. Brian Evans-Jones, the winner for poetry and a fellow Maine resident, kept pace beside me. Both of us trotted along after Bonnie Rose Marcus, director of Readings & Workshops (East) and the Writers Exchange, who kept us on schedule as we rushed from one meeting to the next.

By the end of our six days, we’d gathered with nearly thirty people working in the literary world. The meeting with Treisman came on our second morning, but in hindsight it feels like the culminating event because it so well personifies the collective spirit of the week.   

The guard in front of the revolving doors at One World Trade Center tried to shoo us down the block, assuming we were there for the 9/11 tour. We stated our purpose and were suddenly inside the cavernous lobby, the ceiling an impossibly high sixty-five-feet overhead. Other guards scrutinized our IDs, photographed us, carefully searched our bags, and ushered us through the metal detectors. We made nervous small talk, each of us keenly aware that we were heading up into the sky that used to house the twin towers.

The New Yorker offices are as lovely as you might imagine: walls lined with framed cartoons and magazine covers, books and papers everywhere, the distinctive Irvin typeface gracing the signs that indicate who inhabits each office. Walls of glass abound, maximizing the sweeping views out to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and all the way uptown to the Empire State Building.

In Treisman’s office, she encouraged us to step right up to the window to get the full view; it was impossible not to think about those who had jumped. Far below, the twin reflecting pools occupy the footprints of the original towers. We talked about editing Alice Munro, the significance of fiction, and the gravity of fact-based journalism during the Trump era. “It’s no secret that we’re not fans of Trump,” Treisman said fiercely. I felt a similar fierceness—an urgency—in each of our meetings, an undercurrent of purpose that writers in gentler times are spared.

As we toured the New Yorker offices, a few people glanced up and smiled, but most were assiduously tending to their work. The quiet buzz of dedicated, brilliant, and creative industry I felt in that office was echoed in every other meeting that week. It filled me with a sense not of comfort, exactly, but of certitude. Literary artists continue to use words as writers have always used words: to speak truth to power, to inspire and bear witness, to exercise our greatest freedom. I am proud to be among them.

The Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award is generously supported by Maureen Egen, a member of the Poets & Writers Board of Directors.

Photos: (top) Joan Dempsey and Brian Evans-Jones at the New Yorker offices (Credit: Bonnie Rose Marcus). (bottom) Joan Dempsey and Brian Evans-Jones with judges for the 2017 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award Tania James and Cynthia Cruz (Credit: Margarita Corporan).

Submissions Open for New $20,000 Poetry Prize

Submissions are open for the Four Quartets Prize, sponsored by the T. S. Eliot Foundation and Poetry Society of America. Launched in November, the prize is given for a sequence of poems published in the United States in the past two years. The winner will receive $20,000.

Established in honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the U.S. publication of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, the prize will be judged by Linda Gregerson, Ishion Hutchinson, and Jana Prikryl. The prize is “first and foremost a celebration of the multi-part poem,” such as Eliot’s Four Quartets, Gwendolyn Brooks’s A Street in Bronzeville, and John Berryman’s 77 Dream Songs.

Submissions are open until December 22. Authors, publishers, and agents may submit four copies of at least fourteen pages of a poetic sequence published in a print or online journal, chapbook, or book in 2016 or 2017. Sequences published across multiple publications are eligible. There is no entry fee. Visit the website for the required entry form and complete guidelines.

The shortlist for the prize will be announced in New York City on April 12 at an event featuring actor Jeremy Irons at the 92nd Street Y. Three shortlisted finalists will each receive $1,000. The winner will be announced the following day.

The Poetry Society of America, based in New York City, is dedicated to promoting the place of poetry in American culture. The T. S. Eliot Foundation, based in London, is dedicated to celebrating poetry, literacy, and “all things Eliot.” The foundation also administers the annual £25,000 T. S. Eliot Prize, given for the best new poetry collection published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.

Making Ourstory

Nancy Agabian is the author of Princess Freak (Beyond Baroque Books, 2000) and Me as Her Again: True Stories of an Armenian Daughter (Aunt Lute Books, 2008), which was honored as a Lambda Literary Award finalist for LGBT Nonfiction and shortlisted for a William Saroyan International Prize. Her novel manuscript The Fear of Large and Small Nations was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Agabian teaches creative writing at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University and for Heightening Stories, a series of community-based writing workshops online and in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, New York where she lives.

Sitting at a folding table at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, I worry that I am not queer enough. Some of the texts I’ve brought in to teach the Creative Writing From Queer Resistance workshop feel like old friends, read long ago, but others I haven’t even read yet. We will consider them each week on what I conceive as a timeline of queer liberation: Stonewall; feminist lesbian liberation; AIDS and Act Up; trans, bi, and gender/sexual fluidity; and marriage equality. But isn’t categorizing ongoing activism into History with a capital H decidedly not queer? And how am I an expert on resistance? I’m a forty-nine-year-old bisexual cis woman still healing from an abusive relationship six years ago, undergoing menopause, and caring for my elderly parents. How will I speak to the young people who sit around the table with me?

We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired.  —Audre Lorde

The gallery walls are hung with images of naked bodies. Workshop participants, women and nonbinary, introduce themselves. A pattern emerges: They want to reconnect with their writing. They have felt alone in the current political moment. They have wanted a place where they can be all of who they are—in race, culture, religion, and identity—and where queerness is not the otherness in the room. Someone asks, “When we discuss the texts, do we have to analyze them, or can we talk about the feelings and experiences they call up in us?” Over the next few weeks, our conversations crackle and spiral, one person’s thoughts inspiring a response in someone else; people want to talk about their lives with each other as much as they want to write. 

The danger in writing is not fusing our personal experience and worldview with the social reality we live in, with our inner life.... What validates us as human beings validates us as writers.  —Gloria Anzaldúa

Halfway through the workshop, someone brings pumpkin chiffon cake on the evening we discuss Hunger (HarperCollins, 2017) by Roxane Gay, and it’s an experience. So is Gay: We have three other texts to discuss, but her descriptions of what she feels she deserves and doesn’t deserve in the way of love, as a survivor of gang rape, is enough for us. Someone says, “What she says about sexual violence in relation to queerness is something we don’t always want to admit.” We talk about accepting sexuality not as fixed biology, but humanity. Something shifts in me; I let go of my fear and find my purpose in holding the space.

My warmth was hidden until I found the right people with whom to share it, people I could trust.... —Roxane Gay

When someone asks, “Can we read non-American or non-Western texts?” I ask for their input. At our final workshop two folks bring in a nonfiction story called “The Woman Who Loved Women” from The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices (Anchor, 2003) by Xinran, and a science fiction short story called “The Worldless” about a genderless future by Indrapramit Das. As the pair discusses what compelled them about each piece, I realize that we all make our own queer herstories, shaped by the spaces we form together. The words of the authors we have read these past weeks are actually in conversation with us...and we speak back to them.

You will read words...that don’t ring true to you. Please, take a pen or pencil and cross them out. Write in a word you like better. And when that word doesn’t work for you anymore, use another word. —Kate Bornstein

Part of ourstory is language, which shifts and changes as we speak and write. As workshop facilitator, I strive to not take up too much room, but my feelings and experiences belong to our queer writing space too. As someone in the workshop says, “Showing up here is an act of resistance.”

The Creative Writing From Queer Resistance workshop will read from their work on Wednesday, December 6 at 6:30 PM at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. For more information about the reading, please visit the events page.

Support for the Readings & Workshops Program in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Frances Abbey Endowment, the Cowles Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photos: Taken during rehearsal at the Leslie-Lohman Museum, (top) Nancy Agabian, (middle) Priya Nair, (bottom) Katrina Ruiz (Credit: Maria Jose Maldonado).

December Poetry Contest Deadlines

Happy December! Poets, a new month means new opportunities to submit to the following contests with deadlines in the first half of December. Each contest offers a prize of at least $1,000 and publication.

Deadline: Saturday, December 3

Australian Book Review Peter Porter Poetry Prize: A prize of $5,000 Australian (approximately $3,810) is given annually for a poem. A second-place prize of $2,000 Australian (approximately $1,520) will also be given. The winners will be published in Australian Book Review. John Hawke, Bill Manhire, and Jen Webb will judge. Entry fee: $25 Australian (approximately $19)

Deadline: December 15

Willow Books Literature Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Willow Books is given annually for a poetry collection by a writer of color. Entry fee: $25

December Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,500 and publication in December is given annually for a group of poems. Luis J. Rodriguez will judge. Entry fee: $20

Public Poetry Poetry Contest: A prize of $1,000, publication on the Public Poetry website, and an invitation to give a reading in Houston, Texas, is given annually for a poem on a theme. This year’s theme is “Power.” Cyrus Cassells, Tony Hoagland, Raina J. León, and Sasha West will judge. Entry fee: $15

Hidden River Arts Trilogy Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Hidden River Review will be given annually for a group of poems. Entry fee: $17

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

November 30 Deadline for Short Story Prize

Submissions are currently open for the J. F. Powers Prize for Short Fiction, an award of $500 and publication in Dappled Things given annually for a short story that deals with faith and the afterlife. The Dappled Things editors will judge.

The editors are looking for “carefully crafted short stories with vivid characters who encounter grace in everyday settings—we want to see who, in the age we live in, might have one foot in this world and one in the next.” Using the online submission system, submit an unpublished story of up to 8,000 words by November 30. There is no entry fee. The winner will be announced in March 2018.

Dappled Things is a literary journal dedicated to providing a platform for emerging writers to “engage the literary world from a Catholic perspective.” Its editors seek writing that “takes advantage of the religious, theological, philosophical, artistic, cultural, and literary heritage of the Catholic Church in order to inform and enrich contemporary literary culture.” Visit the website for complete guidelines and to read previous winners’ stories.

Adopted Korean Writers Read for a Global Audience

Julayne Lee is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection, Not My White Savior (Rare Bird Books, 2018). She is a Community Literature Initiative scholar and a Las Dos Brujas alum. She has been published by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Cultural Weekly, and Korean Quarterly. As part of the Writ Large Press #90X90LA project in 2017, she hosted the first-ever reading with adoptees of color in Los Angeles and is launching a writing workshop for those who identify as adopted people of color or racially ambiguous. Lee is cofounder of Adoptee Solidarity Korea – Los Angeles (ASK-LA) and can be found on Twitter @julayneelle.

Since the 1950s, South Korea has produced approximately two hundred thousand overseas adopted Koreans. As we’ve entered adulthood, gathering and connecting through our shared experiences have played important roles in our identity formation and well-being. For some, writing has been a means to navigate our adoption journeys, which at times can be very isolating geographically and emotionally.

In October 2017, over two hundred and thirty adopted Koreans gathered from across the country and around the world to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Adopted Koreans Association – San Francisco (AKA-SF) with a conference. A reading with adopted Korean writers highlighted their experiences through poetry, memoir, and fiction.

The reading brought together authors Jessica Sun Lee (An Ode to the Humans Who’ve Loved and Left Me), Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello (Hour of the Ox), SooJin Pate (From Orphan to Adoptee), and former Fresno Poet Laureate Lee Herrick (Gardening Secrets of the Dead). I also shared poems from my forthcoming collection, Not My White Savior. Our writing documents a variety of perspectives and issues including imagining the Korean families we might have grown up in, interrogating the text of our adoption files, highlighting the approximately thirty-five thousand intercountry adoptees without U.S. citizenship, and questioning our place both with family and in America.

Regardless of some of us having met only via e-mail prior to the reading and having our own unique experiences, our writing resonated amongst one another and with the audience. In the discussion that followed the reading, attendees expressed how meaningful and validating it was to hear our honest, raw words. The emotion in the room signified how giving life to shared experiences that have been suppressed can help us release significant thoughts and feelings, and begin to heal. With an ever-increasing focus on mental health for adopted people, this reading was critical in validating our experiences and bridging the isolating divide some of us have experienced.

My hope is that the bonds we formed through our shared experiences will carry us forward to continue this important work of writing and healing, and in turn provide a means of healing for others in our community. While honesty in writing can be challenging, as Aspen Matis, author of Girl in the Woods (HarperCollins, 2015), has said, “Authenticity sings.” And sing we did.

Thanks to AKA-SF for hosting the reading and to Poets & Writers for sponsoring this important reading. 

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

Photo: Julayne Lee (Credit: Samantha Magat).

Upcoming Short Prose Deadlines

Prose writers, are you sitting on a short story, essay, or piece of flash fiction? With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, take some time before you fill up on turkey to fill out applications to the following contests with upcoming deadlines—each offering prizes from $1,000 to $20,000 and publication. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

Deadline: Tuesday, November 21

Literary Death Match 250-Word Bookmark Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication will be given annually for a short short story of up to 250 words. The winning story will be published on Literary Death Match bookmarks and distributed to events around the world. The winner and finalists will also be invited to read at Literary Death Match events. Roxane Gay will judge. Entry fee: $15

Deadline: Thursday, November 23

Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival Brooklyn Nonfiction Prize: A prize of $500 and publication on the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival website is given annually for a work of nonfiction that is set in Brooklyn, New York, and renders the borough's “rich soul and intangible qualities through the writer's actual experiences of Brooklyn.” There is no entry fee.

César Egido Serrano Foundation International Flash Fiction Competition: A prize of $20,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to attend an award ceremony in Madrid will be given annually for a work of flash fiction written in English, Spanish, Hebrew, or Arabic. Three runner-up prizes of $1,000 each and an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the award ceremony will be given to stories in each of the remaining languages. The winning works will be published in a prize anthology. There is no entry fee.

Deadline: Thursday, November 30

Fish Publishing Fish Short Story Prize: A prize of €3,000 (approximately $3,400) and publication in the annual Fish Publishing anthology is given annually for a short story. The winner will also receive a five-day short story workshop at the West Cork Literary Festival in July 2018. Entry fee: $26

Lascaux Review Prize in Short Fiction: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Lascaux Review is given annually for a short story. The winner and finalists will also be published in the 2018 Lascaux Prize Anthology. Entry fee: $10

Quarter After Eight Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Contest: A prize of $1,008.15 and publication in Quarter After Eight is given annually for a prose poem, a short short story, or a micro-essay. Stuart Dybek will judge. Entry fee: $15

Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Fiction Contest: A prize of $1,500 and publication in Louisiana Literature is given annually for a short story by a writer who has not published a full-length book of fiction. The winner also receives domestic airfare of up to $500, private lodging, and a VIP pass to the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival in March 2018 to give a reading. Jennifer Haigh will judge. Entry fee: $25

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines, and check out our Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more upcoming contests in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Happy Thanksgiving, and happy writing!