Amanda Lee Koe’s debut novel, Delayed Rays of a Star (Nan A. Talese, 2019), begins with a photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt at a party in Berlin in 1928, a chance snapshot of Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl during their early years of celebrity. Koe’s novel explores each of their lives and worlds, as they navigate womanhood in Berlin, Hollywood, the Alps, and Paris. Taking inspiration from this idea of drawing narrative—both historical and mythological—from a single image, search through your old photos and select one that depicts a few people from your past. Consider the period and its conventions, and research news events that were occurring at the time. Write a personal essay that examines your relationship with each person and their relationships with one another while also weaving in historical events and your memories about the particular occasion.
“A plume came and a plume went,” said NASA scientist Paul Mahaffy about the possibility of a sign of life detected on Mars after a startling spike in the amount of methane gas found in a crater prompted excitement. A second test a few days later, however, came up with nothing. Write an essay about a time when something occurred which gave rise to a certain expectation, and then the situation did not pan out as hoped. What was the progression of emotions involved? How did your interactions with those around you fluctuate over the course of your experience?
Submissions are currently open for several awards given for works of fiction and nonfiction, including the Autumn House Press Literary Prizes, the Moth International Short Story Prize, and the Lascaux Review Prize in Flash Fiction. All of the contests are open for submissions until June 30.
Autumn House Press Literary Prizes: Two prizes of $1,000 each and publication by Autumn House Press are given annually for a book of fiction and a book of creative nonfiction. Each winner also receives a $1,500 travel and publicity grant. Aimee Bender will judge in fiction, and Paul Lisicky will judge in nonfiction. Entry fee: $30.
Hidden River Arts William Van Wert Fiction Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Hidden River Review of Arts & Letters is given annually for a short story or a novel excerpt. Entry fee: $17.
Lascaux Review Prize in Flash Fiction: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Lascaux Review is given annually for a work of flash fiction. Previously published and unpublished stories are eligible. Entry fee: $15.
The Moth International Short Story Prize: A prize of €3,000 (approximately $3,411) and publication in the Moth is given annually for a short story. A second-place prize of publication, a weeklong retreat at the Circle of Missé in Missé, France, and a €250 (approximately $284) travel stipend; and a third-place prize of €1,000 (approximately $1,137) and publication are also given. Kit de Waal will judge. Entry fee: $17.
University of North Texas Press Katherine Anne Porter Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by University of North Texas Press is given annually for a collection of short fiction. Entry fee: $25.
University of Pittsburgh Press Drue Heinz Literature Prize: A prize of $15,000 and publication by University of Pittsburgh Press is given annually for a collection of short fiction. Writers who have published at least one previous book of fiction or a minimum of three short stories or novellas in nationally distributed magazines or literary journals are eligible. Entry fee: none.
Willow Springs Books Spokane Prize for Short Fiction: A prize of $2,000 and publication by Willow Springs Books is given annually for a short story collection. Entry fee: $27.50
This past Sunday, Nik and Lijana Wallenda, seventh-generation members of the Flying Wallendas circus family, walked a 1,300-foot wire tightrope suspended between two skyscrapers, twenty-five stories above Times Square in New York City. “It was hard to hold it together,” stated Nik in an interview in the New York Times, describing the emotionally intense moment when he met his sister in the middle of the wire, before they carefully passed each other and then continued their separate ways to opposite ends. Write a personal essay about a time when you met someone face-to-face for an intense confrontation. How did the anticipation build as you got closer to meeting, and how was the tension released?
“A writer’s library is more than just a collection of books. It is also a piecemeal biography of that writer’s life,” writes James P. Blaylock in his essay “My Life in Books: A Meditation on the Writer’s Library” in the July/August issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. This week, write a personal essay that follows a timeline of five or six books that have been benchmarks in your life, or played pivotal roles in some way. Who were the people in your life when you read each book, what were your geographical surroundings, and what were some of your major accomplishments, issues, or concerns at the time? What are the thematic links that lead from one book to the next?