May/June 2015

Our sixth annual Writing Contests Issue offers advice from authors who judge literary competitions as well as the writers who win them; a look at shifting entry fees and prize amounts over the past decade of contests; interviews with poet Mark Doty, creative nonfiction writer Maggie Nelson, and Washington Post book critic Ron Charles; the anxiety surrounding prepublication praise; self-publishing tips; writing prompts; agent advice; and more. 



The Wild Unsayable: A Q&A with Mark Doty

by Maya C. Popa
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Whether he is writing poems, essays on the craft of poetry, or a memoir about his dogs, award-winning poet Mark Doty applies a passionate intellect that drives his readers deep into uncharted territory.

Finding the Words: A Q&A with Maggie Nelson

by Michele Filgate
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In her ninth book, The Argonauts, published this month by Graywolf Press, Maggie Nelson explores the frontiers of thinking about love, language, and family, adding to a stunning body of work unconstrained by labels of form and genre.

Special Section

The Judges

by Staff
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Nine frequent contest judges—who also happen to be some of the most productive writers and editors working today—offer advice and insight about what they look for in entries, how they winnow the piles, and what it takes to win.

Winners on Winning (and Losing)

by Staff
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A breakdown of the numbers behind our Grants & Awards section, including the total amount of prize money given each year, the cost of entry, and how writing contests have changed over the past ten years.

The Aha! Moment: 2014 Gulf Coast Nonfiction judge John D'Agata

by Michael Bourne
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What first struck John D’Agata as a flaw in Noam Dorr’s essay, “Love Drones,” turns out to be a strength that sets it apart, a big factor in D’Agata’s decision to select the piece as winner of the 2014 Gulf Coast Nonfiction prize.  

News and Trends

Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin

by Staff

With so many good books being published every month, some literary titles worth exploring can get lost in the stacks. Page One offers the first lines of a dozen recently released books, including Toni Morrison’s Gold Help the Child and Charles Simic’s The Lunatic, as the starting point for a closer look at these new and noteworthy titles.

Literary MagNet

by Travis Kurowski

Literary MagNet chronicles the start-ups and closures, successes and failures, anniversaries and accolades, changes of editorship and special issues—in short, the news and trends—of literary magazines in America. This issue’s MagNet features Rattle, Poetry International, the Moth, Grain, and Barrelhouse.

The Written Image: Home for an Hour

by Staff

In Home for an Hour, an interdisciplinary collaboration between artist Adam Moser, writer Jacob Paul, and photographer Sarah Martin, seven couples are given free rein inside Moser’s apartment, while Paul composes stories about how the guests spend their time there.

The Practical Writer

Blurb Anxiety: The Sometimes Painful Process of Asking for Prepublication Praise

by Shelly Oria
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Having to approach other authors, some with weighty reputations, and ask for the time-consuming favor of writing a blurb can be an unexpected source of anxiety. A debut author shares her experience with part of the publishing process that many...

The Literary Life

The Time Is Now

by Staff
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Writing prompts and exercises in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction employing kindness, strange connections, and the timeless wisdom of Special Agent Dale Cooper.

Rethinking Rejection: Notes from the Slush Pile

by Reagan Upshaw
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The assistant poetry editor of Able Muse offers his thoughts on coming to terms with the inevitability—and impersonality—of rejection in the world of literary magazines.