The Illegible Layer

9.12.19

In Marguerite Duras’s 1985 essay, “Reading on the Train,” from the collection Me & Other Writing (Dorothy, a publishing project, 2019), translated from the French by Olivia Baes and Emma Ramadan, Duras writes about reading the first half of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace while on a train and feeling that in speeding through the story, she’d sacrificed a more intense, less narrative-driven understanding of the book. “I had realized that day and forever after that a book was contained between two layers superimposed with writing, the legible layer that I had read that day as I traveled and the other, inaccessible.” Write an essay about a beloved piece of literature in which you discuss both the legible layer and attempt to decipher or articulate a deeper resonance of the writing. What can you glimpse—in the story and in yourself—when you delve beyond the literal reading?

Submissions Open for Whiting Literary Magazine Prizes

Submissions are open for the third annual Whiting Literary Magazine Prizes. Launched in 2017, the prizes recognize publications that “actively nurture the writers who tell us, through their art, what is important.”. Three prizes will be given to print magazines and two to magazines publishing primarily online. Print publications can win up to $60,000, $30,000, and $15,000; digital publications can win up to $30,000 and $9,000. 

Across all categories, the award is dispensed over three years. Each magazine will receive an outright grant in the first year, followed by matching grants in the second and third years. The Whiting Foundation will also connect all recipients to expert advisors for consultation in matters such as fund-raising and marketing, and help organize meetings throughout the year for the winners to discuss shared challenges. 

This year the application for the prizes will include two rounds of review. Magazines are invited to submit a short-form application using the online portal by December 2. In February 2020 a limited number of applicants will be invited to complete an expanded application due in early April. There is no entry fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines and eligibility requirements

The Whiting Foundation hopes the financial and professional support offered by the grants will help the winners develop and achieve ambitious goals. Courtney Hodell, the foundation’s director of literary programs, notes the long-term results: “As the prize continues to mature, we see more clearly how critical these intrepid magazines are to developing and building healthy careers,” she says. “Supporting magazines benefits the entire literary landscape.” 

The 2019 print prizes went to the Common, American Short Fiction, and Black Warrior Review. The Margins and the Offing received the digital prizes. 

Founded in 1971, the Whiting Foundation believes in “identifying and empowering talented people as early as possible in their creative and intellectual development.” In addition to the Literary Magazine Prizes, every year the organization honors emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama with the Whiting Awards, and supports nonfiction writers completing works-in-progress with the Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grants. 

Maxine Hong Kingston and Celeste Ng

Caption: 

“Being born a writer, I had to tell, I had to blab these stories out.” Maxine Hong Kingston speaks about her award-winning book, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, (Knopf, 1976) and the power of imagination with Jeffrey Brown and Celeste Ng, who chose the book for PBS NewsHour’s Now Read This book club.

Open House

“I saw the book as another kind of house. How did I want the reader to pass through it? What room would they enter first, and how should that room feel?” writes Sarah M. Broom about the structure of her debut memoir, The Yellow House (Grove Press, 2019), in “The New Nonfiction 2019” in the September/October issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. Write a memoiristic piece, or revisit one already in progress, and work on constructing it like a house that the reader must pass through. Plan out the points of entry and exit, and organize different sections or vignettes to be experienced as rooms visited one after another.

Going the Distance

8.29.19

What would motivate you to walk thousands of miles? Last month, researchers released data that tracked an arctic fox that had made a trek of over two thousand miles across the frozen Arctic Ocean from Norway to Canada over the course of seventy-six days, most likely prompted by a search for food or a new habitat. Write a personal essay about a time that you traveled a long way—traversing a great physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual distance—to achieve something that was of utmost importance to you. What motivated you along the way? How did the trials of the journey compare with the end result?

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