Our annual Inspiration Issue features essays on writing about trauma as a subversive act, finding inspiration in rejection, the art of collaboration, the importance of publishing black writers, and our twelfth annual look at the year’s best debut poets; plus writing prompts for the new year, advice from agent Anna Ghosh, an interview with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, information about more than a hundred contests with upcoming deadlines, and more.
Our annual look at the most exciting first books of poetry published in 2016, including Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong and nine others.
A writer recalls his family’s history of depression as well as his own, and explores how writing through the darkest periods can serve as inspiration.
Body Snatchers: The Bloody Work of Love, Redemption, and the Writer
A poet and novelist investigates the “bloody” work of rummaging, severing, and rooting for parts of real-life people in order to create stronger characters in fiction—and to find more empathy in oneself.
The Long Thaw: How a Concussion Revolutionized My Writing Life
When a writer suffers a serious concussion as a result of a car accident, she fears she might never write again. What she discovers instead on the long journey to recovery is a whole new writing practice.
Open to Interpretation: Fifteen Notes on Form and Failure
A composer and writer discusses the inspiration behind his play Emmett Till a river, which employs the Japanese theater form Noh, and the ways in which artistic practice can succeed through failure.
Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory
Developed in Sanskrit literature, rasa theory is an intense, visceral, and emotional response to viewing or reading a work of art. It can also help artists and writers effectively represent and harness emotions, creating suspense and surprise in...
Writing about trauma is sometimes called “navel-gazing,” particularly for women writers. An essayist and memoirist confronts this stigma, and calls on writers to explore their personal traumas and truths.
A poet and novelist investigates the “bloody” work of rummaging for parts of real-life people in order to create stronger characters in fiction.
News and Trends
A new literary trend is gaining traction across the country: Silent Book Clubs, parties in which a group of people gather at a bar, library, or private home to read together silently.
“The M Word: Muslim Americans Take the Mic,” a new series of readings and events from PEN America, aims to give voice to Muslim American writers and advance the conversation about the challenges that Muslims face today.
With so many good books being published every month, some literary titles worth exploring can get lost in the stacks. Page One highlights the first lines of a dozen recently released books, including Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women and Kevin Wilson’s Perfect Little World, offering a glimpse into the worlds of these new and noteworthy titles.
The Louisville Story Program, a nonprofit dedicated to publishing unheard voices in Louisville, Kentucky, focuses on book projects in which community members tell their stories. Their latest project, We Can Hear You Just Fine: Clarifications From the Kentucky School for the Blind, features essays from seven visually impaired teenagers.
Small Press Points highlights the innovation and can-do spirit of independent presses. This issue features Los Angeles–based Phoneme Media, which publishes poetry in translation, with a focus on books from lesser-known countries and those written in uncommon languages like Isthmus Zapotec and Uyghur.
Literary MagNet highlights an author alongside the journals that have published that author’s work. This issue’s MagNet features Aaron Gilbreath, who takes us through five journals that first published essays appearing in his debut essay collection, Everything We Don’t Know (Curbside Splendor).
Novelist Catherine Lacey’s latest book, The Art of the Affair: An Illustrated History of Love, Sex, and Artistic Influence, maps romantic entanglements, collaborations, and friendships between famous writers and artists, and features original artwork by Forsyth Harmon.
The Practical Writer
Learning From No: Finding Inspiration in Rejection
After having a story rejected by several literary magazines, contributing editor Michael Bourne discusses the lessons he learned from the experience, including the feedback and notes for revision he received from editors that helped him write—and...
Anna Gosh answers readers’ questions—from why poetry agents are seemingly nonexistent to whether or not it is possible to be “too young to write.”
The Literary Life
Vision, Interpretation, Play: A Portrait of Collaboration
The often playful process of writer-artist collaboration is explored through a close examination of the book Alphabetique: 26 Characteristic Fictions by poet Molly Peacock and visual artist Kara Kosaka.
Swimming to the End: A (Plot) Twist in the River
A precarious attempt to swim across the Hudson River helps a fiction writer explore the pathways of plot—through shifting currents, pain and exhaustion, and an unanticipated twist.
Writing Badly: The True Source of Inspiration
A useful skill for one’s writing practice is the ability to write badly. A poet explains how allowing ourselves to write badly is not only generative, but can also break the habit of self-censorship and can lead to our best work.
The Time Is Now: Writing Prompts and Exercises
Compose a series of poems addressed to an unknown person, write a story with an unexpected arc, or predict the future—three prompts to spark your creativity.
Novelist Elizabeth Nunez discusses the historical and contemporary challenges that black writers face in the publishing industry, and urges publishers to address those challenges by publishing more diverse authors.