Photo Op


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.

Roughhouse Friday


“Every conversation between us then had a way of spiraling into the same abyss. Real men were impossible to understand. Real men suffered. Real men were broken.” Jaed Coffin reads from his second memoir, Roughhouse Friday (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019), which is featured in Page One in the July/August issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, and talks about his experiences barroom boxing in Alaska with Kathryn Miles for Portland Public Library’s Literary Lunch series.

Up in Smoke

“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?

Summer Reading Recommendations


In this PBS NewsHour video, NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada highlight their favorite books for summer reading, which include Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Penguin Press, 2019), Jill Ciment’s The Body in Question (Pantheon, 2019), and José Olivarez’s Citizen Illegal (Haymarket Books, 2018).

End of June Roundup for Prose Writers

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

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines, and check out the Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more contests in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Meet Me in the Middle


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? 

The Future of Books


“The questions that I try to answer in the book, through fiction, are questions about people I knew when I was a child…I made up the answers because I could not access the real answers.” In this Entertainment Weekly video, De’Shawn Charles Winslow, author of the debut novel, In West Mills (Bloomsbury, 2019), speaks with fellow debut authors Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Sarah M. Broom, Linda Holmes, and Lisa Taddeo about the inspiration and evolution of their books. Winslow is featured in “First Fiction 2019” in the July/August issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Writer’s Library, Writer’s Life


“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?

Emilie Pine


Emilie Pine talks about fear of failure, connecting to readers, being open about grief and loss, and the power of storytelling with Ireland Unfiltered’s Dion Fanning. Pine’s debut essay collection, Notes to Self (Dial Press, 2019), is featured in Page One in the July/August issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo


“I think desire is at once the thing we think most about and also our most slippery secret, and I wanted to explore the nuance of that intersection.” In this Simon & Schuster interview, Lisa Taddeo discusses the intimate research done for her first book, Three Women (Avid Reader Press, 2019), which is featured in Page One in the July/August issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.


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