Poets & Writers Blogs

End of May Contest Roundup

As the month of May winds down, the deadlines for several book contests in poetry and fiction are quickly approaching. Each prize compiled below offers at least $1,000 and publication of the winning manuscript.

For fiction writers, the BOA Editions Short Fiction Prize and the University of Georgia Press Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award both offer a prize of $1,000 and publication for a short story collection. Peter Conners will judge the BOA Short Fiction Prize, while Lee K. Abbott will judge the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award. The deadline for both contests is May 31.

Meanwhile, the Elixir Press Fiction Award offers $2,000 and publication for a short story collection or novel. The press’s editors will judge; the deadline is May 31. The annual Gival Press Novel Award offers publication and $3,000 for a novel; the judge is anonymous and the deadline is May 30.

On the poetry side, three contests—the Anhinga Press Anhinga–Robert Dana Prize for Poetry, the Backwaters Press Backwaters Prize, and the Oberlin College Press FIELD Poetry Prize—each offer publication of a full-length poetry manuscript. Evie Shockley will judge the $2,000 Anhinga­–Robert Dana Prize for Poetry; the deadline is May 30. Henri Cole will judge the $2,000 Backwaters Prize, and the editors of Oberlin College Press will judge the $1,000 FIELD Poetry Prize; the deadline for both contests is May 31.

For a look at more writing contests with upcoming deadlines, visit our Grants & Awards database and submission calendar. Full submission details, including eligibility guidelines, manuscript length requirements, and entry fees, are available on the contest websites.

Write! Look! Listen!: UC Merced's Merritt Writing Program Reading Series

Write! Look! Listen! is the creative writing reading series of the Merritt Writing Program (MWP) at the University of California in Merced. Since 2006, Write! Look! Listen! has featured readings and guest workshops with locally and nationally recognized poets, fiction writers, journalists, and nonfiction writers. The series features ethnically and aesthetically diverse readers in order to give students a sense of the full range and vibrancy of contemporary American writing. MWP faculty members organize, publicize, and host readings and workshops that are free and open to students, faculty, staff, and the public. Current principal organizers include: Andrea Mele, Susan Varnot, Dawn Trook, and Callie Kitchen. Contributors to this blog post include: Andrea Mele, Dawn Trook, and Paul Gibbons.

What makes your organization and its program unique?
Andrea Mele: The Merritt Writing Program at UC Merced includes composition courses, Writing in the Disciplines courses, and Writing Minor courses in Professional and Creative Writing. MWP faculty created the Write! Look! Listen! Series, as well as our undergraduate Creative Writing Conference and Collaboratorium, both of which are supported by the Writing Program, UC Merced’s Center for Humanities, and Poets & Writers’ grants.

Merritt Writing ProgramWrite! Look! Listen! invites regionally-based writers of national acclaim to campus for readings and workshops. These readings and workshops are free and open to the public, and are well attended by students, faculty, and staff. WLL strives to bring writers of diverse genres and backgrounds who reflect the diversity of our own campus, and who will connect with students on both subject and craft levels. Attendees and participants often comment on the ways in which they can relate to the authors’ experiences, and how this motivates their own writing, confidence, and commitment to their craft. Recent guests include David Mas Masumoto, Steven Church, David Campos, Paula Treick DeBoard, Lawson Inada, and the Hmong American Writers Circle.

UC Merced’s Creative Writing Conference and Collaboratorium is a day-long event, which includes morning workshops, and afternoon participant and keynote readings. Students and faculty from UC Merced and nearby Merced and Modesto colleges come together for a day of collaboration—in teaching creative writing, composing it, revising, and sharing. The event generates excitement and inspiration pedagogically and creatively, and additionally reflects the Merritt Writing Program’s commitment to community engagement and diversity of educational and artistic experience. Keynote readers highlight the region’s diversity of authors and genres. Past readers include Lee Herrick (Fresno’s Poet Laureate), Soul Vang, Rachel Starnes, and Carole Firstman.

What recent project and/or program have you been especially proud of and why?
Dawn Trook: Whenever we bring the Hmong American Writers Circle to UC Merced, I feel very moved. These readings always bring out a diverse and large crowd, and it's exciting to celebrate a community whose native language didn't have a written form, so they are claiming their voices in new (and beautiful) ways. 

What’s the craziest (or funniest or most moving or most memorable) thing that’s happened at an event you’ve hosted?
Trook: When Peter Orner connected to our students in his Q&A as if he was talking to a group of writers, talking to them like equals. It really empowered them and made them feel like they were a part of a writing community.

How do you cultivate an audience?
Trook: Facebook and word of mouth seem to be the best ways. Writing program faculty promote events in their classes, and publicize events on news and social media platforms.

Merritt ParticipantsHow has literary presenting informed your own writing and/or life?
Paul Gibbons: Coteaching for the Collaboratorium has taught me all over again how to take advantage of teachable moments and how to include students. Because you’re not teaching alone, the sessions can resemble the best panel discussions—where people are all trying to understand and engage in a dialectic that benefits everyone in the room. And then the panel dissolves to one focused discussion among us, writer to writer instead of teacher to students. We use that energy to write and revise and share. At the end of the day, these sessions make me want to write more and teach better—that’s the lift from the teaching in the Collaboratorium, the momentum you get for both writing and teaching.

Trook: In a town isolated from big cities, it's kept me connected to the larger writing community. It's always great to be able to support a writer's work by bringing them to speak and read.

What do you consider to be the value of literary programs for your community?
Trook: Opening students to a variety of styles, experiences, and cultural perspectives beyond the scope of our creative writing faculty is invaluable.

Mele: The Creative Writing Conference and Collaboratorium brings together students from Central Valley colleges and universities. We value our institutional relationships, and work to create a larger sense of community by hosting students and faculty from around the valley. We hope to invite more universities to participate in future conferences.

Photo (top): David "Mas" Masumoto. Photo credit: Andrea Mele.  
Photo (bottom): Fall Faculty Reading (left to right) Andrea Mele, Erik Habecker, Tom Hothem, Orisa Santiago Morrice, Yu-Han Chao, unknown, and Brigitte Bowers. Photo credit: Paul Gibbon.

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.

Northwestern University Launches Translation Prize

Northwestern University Press (NUP) and the university’s Global Humanities Initiative have launched the $5,000 Global Humanities Translation Prize for a translation-in-progress of a non-Western literary or scholarly text. Northwestern University Press will publish the winning manuscript.

The sponsors hope the prize will help promote important texts in non-Western traditions and languages, humanistic scholarship in infrequently translated languages, and underrepresented and experimental literary voices. “The press’s partnership with the Global Humanities Initiative is part of our long tradition of bringing exceptional translations of important works to an English-speaking audience,” said NUP director Jane Bunker. “We expect that this award will bring a renewed measure of academic prestige to the craft of translation itself.”

The prize is one of the few awards in the United States that offers book publication of a translation-in-progress. “Most prizes are for works that are already published, leaving the onus on translators to fund themselves until the work is done and then with no firm path to a publisher,” says JD Wilson, NUP’s director of marketing and sales. “We’re extremely proud to be partnering with a program that will fund translation in process.”

Translators may submit up to 25 pages of the proposed translation along with the corresponding original text; a proposal that describes or summarizes the work to be translated; a curriculum vitae; a timeline for completion; contact information for three references; the rights status of the previously published work; and a list of any competing editions from other publishers. Submissions must be sent via e-mail to ghi@northwestern.edu by August 1. The winner will be expected to complete the manuscript nine months after the prize is awarded. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Established in 1893, Northwestern University Press is dedicated to publishing works of “scholarly and cultural value,” and has a long history of publishing translations of scholarly work, poetry, fiction, and drama. The Global Humanities Initiative, which was founded in Fall 2015, is committed to bringing much-needed attention to the “rich humanistic traditions of the non-West, but also to the relevance of those traditions for global development and public policy.”

A selection of translations published by Northwestern University Press.

Han Kang Wins Man Booker International Prize

South Korean author Han Kang has won the Man Booker International Prize for her novel The Vegetarian. The £50,000 prize, announced on Monday at a ceremony in London, will be split between the author and her translator, Deborah Smith. This is the first year that the prize was given for a single work of fiction, and was open to writers of any language whose books have been translated into English.

Han Kang beat out an impressive and diverse shortlist for the prize, which included Italian author Elena Ferrante for The Story of the Lost Child, the fourth and final volume of her Neapolitan Novels; José Eduardo Agualusa of Angola for A General Theory of Oblivion, which was written in Portuguese; Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk for A Strangeness in My Mind; Robert Seethaler of Austria for A Whole Life; and Yan Lianke of China for The Four Books.

The Vegetarian, Han’s first book to be translated into English, is a dark novel about a woman who stops eating meat and wants to become a tree. From the Man Booker International website: “Fraught, disturbing, and beautiful, The Vegetarian is a novel about modern day South Korea, but also a novel about shame, desire, and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.”

Han Kang is the author of two novels, The Vegetarian and Human Acts, both published in the UK by Portobello Books, in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Han was born in Gwangju, South Korea, and moved to Seoul at age ten. Her writing has won the Yi Sang Literary Prize, the Today’s Young Artist Award, and the Korean Literature Novel Award. She currently teaches creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.

British translator Deborah Smith began studying Korean in 2010. Her other translations include Kang’s second book, Human Acts, and Bae Suah’s The Essayist’s Desk and The Low Hills of Seoul. Smith recently founded Tilted Axis Press, a nonprofit publishing house focused on translations from Asia and Africa.

The Man Booker International Prize was created in 2005 to highlight “one writer's overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.” Until this year, the award was given biennially to a living author for a body of work published either originally in English or available widely in translation. The prize is now awarded annually for a single work of fiction, translated from any language into English and published in the UK.

Photo: Deborah Smith (left) and Han Kang (right) at the Man Booker International Prize ceremony in London. Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Seventh Annual Poets & Writers' Connecting Cultures Reading in New York City

Jyothi Natarajan is an editor and writer based in New York City who has worked in publishing and journalism for the past ten years. She is now managing editor at the Asian American Writers' Workshop, where she edits the Margins and runs a fellowship for emerging writers. As someone invested in the intersection of writing, social justice, and education, she helps run IndyKids, a social justice-oriented newspaper written by youth ages nine to thirteen. 

The Poets & Writers' seventh annual Connecting Cultures Reading took place on April 27, 2016, before a generous audience at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Ten writers representing P&W–supported organizations Jack Arts, Inc., Kundiman/Adhikaar, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Union Square Slam, and Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon gathered to celebrate the diverse literary communities of New York City and Poets & Writers' Readings & Workshops program.

When K Sloan, a singer-songwriter hailing from Detroit, opened the reading with a song, the audience fell into a stunned silence—her voice was just that powerful. "Down, down, down, bring it down," began the lyrics to "Ancestor Song," which Sloan wrote as part of Jack Arts, Inc.’s writing workshop Creating Dangerously. “I wrote these lyrics in response to a prompt asking us, ‘What would it look like to walk with your ancestors? What would you say to her?'” said Sloan. 

Joining K Sloan on stage was Sara Abdullah, an indigenous Arab/Iranian/Pin@y mestiza queer Muslima living the diasporic hustle, whose stunning poems were also generated from the Creating Dangerously workshop.

An experimental, performance-based writing workshop for women of color led by a rotating cadre of instructors including Virginia Grise and Kyla Searle, Creating Dangerously received support from Poets & Writers’ Readings and Workshops program, which has provided fees to writers who lead workshops that serve underrepresented audiences since Poets & Writers was founded in 1970. The Connecting Cultures Reading brought together writers who had participated in five such workshops. This year’s reading marked the first time Poets & Writers has featured work from multilingual workshops, bringing writers together with translators to help share immigrants’ stories, like Babita Chhetri.

Chhetri grew up in Darjeeling, India and had been doing childcare and housework for a family in Singapore for nearly a year when she decided she needed to escape from her employer’s exploitation and abuse. Underpaid and overworked, Chhetri did something most workers wouldn't have the strength or courage to do: She ran away from her employer. She had accompanied the family on a summer holiday in New York City and at the crack of dawn, Chhetri crept out of the building they were staying in, forced to leave her flip-flops behind.

"I felt everyone's eyes on me: here was a scared woman in wet pajamas, barefoot, carrying a small bag in her hand. Where could she be going?” Chhetri, who has been in the United States for the past nine years, read on stage from a letter she wrote in Nepali addressed to her daughter and son in Darjeeling. The audience was in tears. Her story was one of ten that were told through letters as part of a workshop called A Letter Home, organized by Kundiman and Adhikaar and led by writers Meera Nair and Muna Gurung.

Through the workshop, Nepali and Tibetan women expressed their experiences as domestic workers, immigrants, mothers, sisters, and daughters. Dolly Sharma joined Chhetri on stage to read her own letter, while the audience followed along with English translation printouts, all the while dabbing their eyes with tissues.

The night shifted from Nepali to Spanish when Adriana Mora, from Aguascalientes, México, and María Guaillazaca, who moved to New York from Ecuador nine years ago, read before the packed audience. Both women participated in a writing program organized by the National Domestic Workers Alliance in which they wrote in Spanish, responding to the idea of home—whether it was where they feel at home, other people’s homes, or the experience of working in someone’s home.

Other highlights from the evening included poet Sam Rush, who began writing poems after developing progressive hearing loss. Rush, who has been a part of Union Square Slam’s writing workshops, read poems that played with their realization of how many words each word could be, leaving the crowd dizzy with the emotional heft of their wordplay. Also a part of Union Square Slam, poet, screenwriter, and essayist Taylor Steele stepped on stage and immediately moved the mic aside. Her slam poems filled the room and left goose bumps in their wake.

Closing the evening were two writers from the Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon (WWBPS): Amber Atiya and Jacqueline Johnson. WWBPS, which is now celebrating its fifth anniversary, offers women writers of all levels space to create and share poetic work.

By the end of the evening the room felt much smaller. The stories and words shared so courageously gave even the audience members the strength to say hello to strangers, and share words with the writers who had moved them to tears.

Photo: (top) Readers from the Seventh Annual Poets & Writers' Connecting Cultures Reading. (middle) Dolly Sharma and Babita Chhetri. (bottom) Sam Rush. Photo credit: Alycia Kravitz.

Support for Readings & Workshops 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 & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the A.K. Starr Charitable Fund Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Ed Roberson Wins Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize

The Poetry Foundation announced today that Ed Roberson has won the 2016 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. The annual award of $100,000 honors the outstanding lifetime achievement of a living U.S. poet.

“In both language and in life (his studies have taken him to Alaska, South America, Africa and Bermuda), Ed Roberson is an explorer,” says Poetry magazine editor Don Share. “Working at a healthy remove from the precincts of professional critics and tastemakers, but admired deeply by them, Roberson’s ten books of poetry take readers, as they have taken the poet himself, to every corner of the vivid labyrinth of life.”

Based in Chicago, Roberson has written several poetry collections, most recently To See the Earth Before the End of the World (Wesleyan University Press, 2010). His experimental poetry is influenced by visual art, spirituals and the blues, as well as his extensive travels: Roberson has climbed mountains in the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Andes, explored the upper Amazon jungle, and motorcycled across the United States, amongst many other travels. He has received the Lila Wallace Writers’ Award, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Award, and the 2016 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry.

Established in 1986 by Ruth Lilly and sponsored by the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation, the Ruth Lilly Prize is one of the most prestigious American poetry awards and among the largest literary honors for English language works. Adrienne Rich won the inaugural award, and recent winners have included Alice Notley, Nathaniel Mackey, and Marie Ponsot.

At the Poetry Foundation website, listen to an audio recording of Ed Roberson discussing his work.

Photo credit: Anya Schultz for the Daily Californian.

Deadline Approaches for Little Bird Writing Contest

Submissions are currently open for the Little Bird Writing Prize,  given each spring for a short story. The winner will receive an award of $1,000 and publication in the annual short fiction anthology Little Bird Stories. A first and second runner-up will each receive $250, as well as publication in the anthology. Writer Lisa Moore will judge.
A bonus prize of free admission to contest founder Sarah Selecky’s Story Intensive, an online creating writing class featuring guest lectures from Margaret Atwood and George Saunders, will also be awarded to one entrant, chosen at random.

Using the online submission system, submit a story of up to 2,500 words and a $25 application fee, which includes a subscription to Little Bird Stories, by May 27. The story must incorporate one of the daily writing prompts or “story dares” featured on the contest website. For example, the 2015 winning story, “Paradise,” by Neil Smith, used this prompt: “Write a scene that uses layers and layers of clichés intentionally.”

Now in its sixth year, the Little Bird Story Contest was founded by fiction writer and writing instructor Sarah Selecky to support “innovative and emerging fiction writers.” In addition to daily writing prompts and the Story Intensive, Selecky also offers an online fiction workshop, revision tutorials, and homework for writers. She publishes Little Bird Stories each year; a percentage of each subscription goes to the Pelee Island Bird Observatory. For more information, visit the website or e-mail Selecky at support@sarahselecky.com.

Finding Our Voice After War

Mario Bonifacio writes short fiction. He served for ten years in the U.S. Army, both active and reserve, as a field artillery and cavalry officer, including a combat deployment to Iraq. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York and has participated in the Voices From War writing workshop since 2014.

Back when war was a concept that only existed to me in history books or on the news, I wrote for myself—well, for myself and for the strangers who were out there, faceless, and felt things similar to me, even if they never read my work.

I chose active duty in the U.S. Army in 2003 and my writing slowed. Being trained for war, training a platoon for war and, eventually, war itself, all pulled my thoughts outward; reflections that could have once filled notebooks now remained on Texas shooting ranges and ambling desert roads in Iraq. The external world I’d chosen was dangerous and not to be taken lightly, but as I'd learn in the years that followed, so was ignoring the internal conflict that inevitably followed many of us home.

When I returned home from war, I focused on my professional reintegration, which was far from easy but a welcome distraction and enough to convince myself that I was happy—that to be walking and breathing was all I needed to be happy. To be anything but seemed a crime against the memory of those unlucky enough to have not made it back. But I knew enough to understand my happiness was worthy of distrust, like the way you feel when entering a rush hour subway car with what seems like too many available seats.

I joined the Voices From War workshop, sponsored by Poets & Writers, at first, to remain connected to other veterans, not yet convinced I wanted to write about my time serving or the issues I, and veteran friends, faced while readjusting. I obviously knew there was writing out there about the Iraq War, in addition to movies and other media, but I passively avoided it. The world beyond the military offered no shortage of lessons to learn, so why use my limited facilities to hear others speak about something I had already experienced firsthand? Much of it was pretty terrible anyway—inaccurate and exaggerated.

It was the other participants in Voices From War who convinced me that this wasn't a problem to be avoided, but rather one to be solved—a problem that would persist until we rose up to tell our version of the story. After all, no one but us had the memories to draw upon, to become the voices from the war in Iraq.

After completing my first few works and participating in my first readings, both in conjunction with the workshop, I was able for the first time to see those faceless readers I'd once imagined—people who might never have heard a war story directly from the source, people who feel they don't have a voice, and people I served alongside who, for many reasons, cannot tell their own stories.

In the most literal sense, our story doesn't exist unless we write it down. And I very much want our stories to exist.

Photos: (top) Mario Bonifacio. Photo credit: Christina Garofalo. (bottom) Voices From War workshop participants. Photo credit: Kara Frye Krauze.

Support for Readings & Workshops 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 & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, the A.K. Starr Charitable Fund Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Deadline Approaches for BOMB’s Poetry Contest

Submissions are currently open for the BOMB magazine poetry prize, which is given biennially for a group of poems. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication in BOMB magazine. Bhanu Kapil will judge.

Using the online submission manager, submit up to five poems totaling no more than 10 pages and a $20 reading fee, which includes a one-year subscription to BOMB, by May 15. Simultaneous submissions are accepted. The winner will be announced on July 31. For questions, e-mail firstproof@bombsite.com.

Bhanu Kapil is the author of five full-length hybrid works of poetry and prose, including Schizophrene (2011) and Ban en Banlieue (2015). She teaches writing at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and at Goddard College’s low-residency MFA program.

Founded in 1981, BOMB is an independent nonprofit magazine that publishes conversations between artists of various disciplines; original works of fiction and poetry; novel excerpts; and first-time translations into English. The magazine also sponsors a fiction prize, which is given in alternating years. Previous winners of BOMB’s poetry contest include Daniel Poppick, Steve Dickison, Amanda Auchter, J. R. Thelin and Matthew Reeck. 

Andrea Barrett Wins Rea Award

The Dungannon Foundation announced yesterday that Andrea Barrett is the winner of the 2015 Rea Award for the Short Story, which honors a U.S. or Canadian writer who has made a “significant contribution to the discipline of the short story as an art form.” Barrett will receive $30,000.

“Andrea Barrett has continually enlarged the geography of her imagination, and her lucky readers have been the beneficiaries of those explorations, experiencing, as her characters so often do, the way our own small pasts bear on our own small present,” wrote judges T. C. Boyle, Bill Henderson, and Karen Shepard in a press release. “Barrett offers us the news from other worlds as a way to understand our own…. And she accomplishes those broad thematic implications with a precise and quietly intelligent style that surprises and disturbs and gratifies. That deceptive formal modesty keeps our focus on the world at the fiction’s heart and produces testimonies designed to celebrate the attested rather than the attester. The result has been a body of stories that like all great fiction expands our knowledge, brings us more fully into contact with the suffering of others, and supplies intense and gorgeous pleasure.”

Barrett is the author of six novels and three story collections, most recently Archangel (Norton, 2013). Her 1996 collection, Ship Fever, won the National Book Award, and her 2002 collection, Servants of the Map, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She teaches at Williams College and in the MFA program at Warren Wilson College, and is particularly known for her historical fiction, the intertwining of characters across books, and her interest and use of science in her work.

Established in 1986 by writer Michael M. Rea, the Rea Award has been given in recent years to T. C. Boyle, Elizabeth Spencer, Richard Bausch, and Charles Baxter. Rea established the award to “foster a literary cause, to ennoble the [short story] form, to give it prestige.” The Washington, Connecticut–based Dungannon Foundation—also founded by Rea—also sponsors the Rea Visiting Writers and Rea Visiting Lectures series at the University of Virginia, as well as the Selected Shorts program at Symphony Space in New York City.

Listen to Barrett's 2013 interview with Studio 360, produced by PRI and WNYC Radio.

Photo Credit: Barry Goldstein

Joy Williams Wins PEN/Malamud Award

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation announced today that Joy Williams has won the 2016 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. The annual award of $5,000 “recognizes a body of work that demonstrates excellence in the art of short fiction.”

One of the most respected contemporary short fiction writers, Joy Williams is the author most recently of The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories, published last fall by Knopf. Williams’s short fiction is known for its crisp, elegant prose, dark wit, and ability to seamlessly permute from the real to unsettlingly unfamiliar. Richard Ford, a member of this year’s PEN/Malamud selection committee, said that Williams’s stories are “incandescent, witty, alarming, often hilarious while affecting seeming inadvertence (but not really) in their powerful access to our human condition. She is a stirring writer and has long been deserving of the Malamud Award.”

Williams is the author of five story collections, four novels, and two works of nonfiction. She has received the Rea Award for the Short Story and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and her books have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, she currently resides in Key West, Florida, and Tucson, Arizona. 

Williams will receive her award and read from her work at a ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., on December 2.

Now in its twenty-eighth year, the PEN/Malamud Award was established in 1988 to honor the short fiction author Bernard Malamud, who died in 1986. The 2016 selection committee for the award included H. G. Carillo, Richard Ford, and Margaret Talbot. Previous recipients include Saul Bellow, Lorrie Moore, Adam Haslett, George Saunders, and Deborah Eisenberg. 

Call Me Libertad: Poems Between Borders

Christina Fialho is an attorney and cofounder/executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC). In the fall of 2015, she invited P&W­–supported writer Alicia Partnoy to lead a writing workshop at the CIVIC annual retreat, and in this blog she shares about the resulting anthology Call Me Libertad: Poems Between Borders, which collects writing and artwork by people in immigration detention, and their family members and allies. Fialho also blogs for the Huffington Post, and her writings have appeared in MSNBC.com, the Washington Timesthe Hill, among other publications. She has produced an award-winning documentary and non-narrated shorts, which have appeared on NPR and in the Ambulante Film Festival in Mexico. She has received fellowships from Echoing Green and the Rockwood Leadership Institute. Fialho serves on the Board of the ACLU of Southern California.

Call Me Libertad book cover

Twenty years ago on April 24, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, ushering in an era of mass detention and deportation of immigrants. A few months later, the president signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. Together, these laws doubled the number of people in U.S. immigration detention from 8,500 each day in 1996 to 16,000 in 1998. The immigration detention system is now a multibillion dollar industry that detains 34,000 people per day and enriches private prison corporations and local governments at taxpayer expense.

Call Me Libertad: Poems Between Borders, which I coedited with Alicia Partnoy and Kristina Shull, is the first book to combine the voices of people in immigration detention with their family members and allies to give unprecedented insight into immigration detention. This multilingual book of poetry and art grew out of a writing workshop taught by P&W–supported poet and memoirist Alicia Partnoy for the organization CIVIC. The authors include Sylvester Owino (who spent nine years in detention), Eldaah Arango (whose father was detained and deported), and Katherine Weathers (who visits people in immigration detention).

"Writing about the abuses against us was the only way to let it out, slowly, so slowly. It is still coming out," writes Owino. The suffering that millions of immigrants have experienced in U.S. immigration detention over the last twenty years cannot be justified. This book, published by CIVIC, is an effort to liberate our political imagination so that we may build together a country without immigration detention. Reserve your copy here.

Photo: Call Me Libertad: Poems Between Borders anthology cover design by Art24 photography and design with art by Marcela Castro.

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 Deadline: Malahat Review Poetry Award

Submissions are open for the Malahat Review’s 2016 Far Horizons Award for Poetry, given biennially for a single poem by an emerging poet. The winner will receive $1,000 Canadian and publication in the Malahat Review. Steven Heighton will judge.

Writers who have not yet published a full-length poetry collection are eligible. Submit no more than three poems of up to 60 lines each with a $30 entry fee, which includes a one-year subscription to the Malahat Review, by May 1. The winner will be announced in July and interviewed for the review’s monthly e-newsletter and website. Submissions can be made via e-mail to horizons@uvic.ca, or by postal mail to University of Victoria, P.O. Box 1700, Stn CSC, Victoria, B.C. V8W 2Y2, Canada. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Judge Steven Heighton has written more than ten books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, most recently the story collection The Dead Are More Visible (Knopf, 2012). “Right now the poems that most compel me are the ones that choke me up—poems that could rip the heart out of a wheelbarrow,” says Heighton in an interview with the Malahat Review. “I’m also gravitating toward work that emerges from the nightmind, as I call it—poems born of dreams and hallucinations. Weird, oneiric stuff. By the same token, I’m tired of poems that seem primarily to be auditioning for a collegial constituency, demonstrating the poet’s fluent familiarity with the films, songs, shows, apps, etc. that he or she knows colleagues to be co-immersed in. Intertextuality of that kind can be brilliant and effective, for sure, but only in the context of work emerging from some deeper psychic impulse.”

Recent winners of the prize include Laura Ritland, whose poem “Vincent, in the Dream of Zundert” was chosen by Julie Bruck from almost eight hundred submissions; and Kayla Czaga, whose poem “gertrude stein loves a girl” was chosen by Mary Dalton from more than five hundred submissions.

Established in 1967, the Malahat Review is based at the University of Victoria in Canada. The journal publishes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, and administers several contests each year.

Balakian, Nguyen Win Pulitzer Prizes

Today in New York City, the Pulitzer Prize board announced the winners and finalists of the 2016 Pulitzer Prizes. Of the twenty-one categories, the prizes in letters are awarded annually for works of literature published in the previous year by American authors.

The winner in poetry is Peter Balakian for his collection Ozone Journal (University of Chicago), a collection of poems “that bear witness to the old losses and tragedies that undergird a global age of danger and uncertainty.” The finalists were Diane Seuss for Four-Legged Girl (Graywolf) and Elizabeth Willis for Alive: New and Selected Poems (New York Review Books).

Viet Thanh Nguyen won in fiction for his debut novel, The Sympathizer (Grove), “A layered immigrant tale told in the wry, confessional voice of a “‘man of two minds’—and two countries, Vietnam and the United States.” The finalists were Kelly Link for Get in Trouble: Stories (Random House) and Margaret Verble for Maud’s Line (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). 

Prize administrator Mike Pride announced the winners and finalists at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Each winner receives $10,000. A complete list of winners and finalists in each of the twenty-one categories, including journalism, literature, and drama, is available on the Pulitzer Prize website.

The 2015 winners included poet Gregory Pardlo and fiction writer Anthony Doerr.

Hungarian-American newspaper publisher and journalist Joseph Pulitzer established the Pulitzer Prizes in 1911, and the first prize was administered in 1917. In celebration of this year’s centennial, the Pulitzer board has partnered with individuals and organizations across the country for its Campfires Initiative, which hosts events with the aim “to inspire new generations to consider the values represented by Pulitzer Prize–winning work.” 

Nominations for the 2017 prizes will open in May.

Creative Writing for the Underserved: Ideas, Inspiration, Revelation

On March 31, 2016, during the AWP Annual Conference & Bookfair in Los Angeles, Poets & Writers brought together P&W–supported teaching artists Dorothy Randall Gray, Michael Kearns, Mike Sonksen, and Leilani Squire for the panel presentation “Creative Writing for the Underserved: Ideas, Inspiration, Revelation.” Panelists spoke about best practices, what motivates them to do what they do, and how teaching writing to underserved groups has enriched their writing lives. Below are some highlights from the conversation, as compiled by Readings & Workshops (West) director and panel moderator Jamie Asaye FitzGerald.

Classroom Approaches

"I look at longevity as a starting point, and have them write about all of the 'selves' that have gotten them to where they are today."
—Michael Kearns, who works with GLBT seniors

"We spend a lot of time just talking, working through issues, then do a timed writing. I listen and witness. That's a big part of it."
—Leilani Squire, who works with veterans and their family members

"I begin the class with three minutes of silence. I work with teenage identity and bring in poems about that. I've had them read [Paul Laurence] Dunbar's 'We Wear the Mask.' I've even had them make a mask, think about the layers of their identity and list them. I try to show them how poets are always talking to each other and that they are part of the conversation. I also use a little hip-hop, documentaries, current events."
—Mike Sonksen, who works with teens

"Sometimes these populations don't want to feel because it hurts too much. I try to get them to connect with their feelings. Music and visuals help. One reward for doing the writing is letting the kids be DJ and pick out the songs. To get them to open up, be silly, bring a visual, ask an easy question like 'What's your favorite food?' or 'What do you want to eat when you get out of here?'"
—Dorothy Randall Gray, who works with incarcerated youth, women, and the homeless

The Effect on Their Writing Lives

"If I tell them to write deeply, to go for the jugular, how can I not do that myself?"
—Squire

"My stakes are higher. I am deepened by them."
—Kearns

"Not only do I have to deal with the truth; I have to face my own truth. I believe in sticking a pen in my own vein. As they tell their stories, I tell my stories."
—Gray

On Self-Care

"Being in the trenches is taking care of myself. Dealing with horror, pain, and abuse—it's contradictory, but it is comforting that I can hear and be empathetic.... And I have my daughter when I feel overwhelmed."
—Kearns

"You get worn out. Performing poetry and doing freelance writing helps. I keep my writing career active. Then there are the two kids who really get it, there's the e-mail from a kid five years later, and the kid who stays after class to help clean up."
—Sonksen

"Meditation. Adjusting my own beliefs. Compassion is a big part of it, and being as gentle and loving as possible."
—Gray

"I have to walk in centered, whole, and confident or I'll get beat up. I'm a practicing Buddhist. I go to Native American lodges, which helps me gain answers to questions I ask. I cuddle with my dog."
—Squire

Hopes for Their Students

"I hope they find a home in their hearts, where they feel loved and safe."
—Gray

"I hope their voices get louder, not softer; more authentic, more hopeful; more of who they are and not less—because that can often happen as one ages."
—Kearns

"I hope they come to a place of acceptance, understanding; of being listened to, witnessed; to come to some sort of wholeness. My agenda is to promote peace."
—Squire

"I try to give them the tools they need to lift themselves up. Ultimately, I'd like to create lifelong readers and writers. But mainly I use writing as a bridge to help them build identity and future hope."
—Sonksen

We are pleased to be able to support writers who work with underserved groups. For more information about whether your event might qualify for Readings & Workshops support, please see our guidelines or contact us.

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