“We deserve to have our wrongdoing represented as much as our heroism, because when we refuse wrongdoing as a possibility for a group of people, we refuse their humanity,” writes Carmen Maria Machado in her new memoir, In the Dream House (Graywolf Press, 2019), about the need to acknowledge the queer community as human beings who are multifaceted and morally complex. Think of someone who at some point has occupied a heroic role in your life and write an essay that attempts to represent all the dimensions of this person. What possibilities are you allowing for when you articulate a person’s flaws or mistakes instead of simply presenting the best version?
Arts & Letters, Flannery O’Connor Review
Submissions are open for the 2020 Bronx Recognizes Its Own (BRIO) grants. Administered by the Bronx Council on the Arts, each $5,000 BRIO grant provides direct support to a Bronx artist who demonstrates “compelling vision and original voice” and “high level of skill.” Grants are available across four categories—literary, media, visual, and performing arts—and literary applicants may apply in disciplines including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and illustrated text. Winners are encouraged to organize a one-time public service activity known as an Artists for Community Enrichment (ACE) event within a year of receiving the award. These events are intended to offer artists additional visibility, while also fostering connections between the artists and their communities.
Using only the Bronx Council on the Arts Submittable system, submit a short bio, a headshot, a résumé, proof of Bronx residency, and a writing sample of ten to forty-five pages of poetry, prose, or illustrated text by December 16. All samples must represent work created within the last five years. Decisions will be announced in May 2020, and winners will be formally honored in a ceremony in June. There is no entry fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines.
Launched in 1989, the BRIO program has offered grants to 481 artists, and distributed more than $1,500,000. Every year, the awards are judged anonymously by a panel of art professionals representing the different disciplines. In 2019, more than 40 artists received grants.
Do you believe in ghosts? Browse through the New York Times’ list of haunted hotels and National Geographic’s photo gallery of cemeteries with “views to die for” and think back to a hotel stay or cemetery visit from your own past that might have been tinged with something eerie in the air. Write an essay that centers on this haunting experience. What kind of decorative adornments, distinctive architecture, or imposing weather might have contributed to the mood? Was the tone of the visit tempered by more practical considerations and activities, or did you deliberately revel in the phantasmic atmosphere?
Every place has writers that reflect its culture. Literary place-making, I call it. If you want to know more about a place, you need to hear its stories. There are so many books to choose from, but here are just a few that celebrate New Orleans culture by writers who live, breathe, and love this city.
From a Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets (Runagate Press, 1998) edited by Kalamu ya Salaam. This anthology captures the diverse voices of New Orleans, celebrating the multi-ethnic tapestry of the city. Established and emerging writers of all ages are included in this extensive collection of poetry.
Monday Nights: Stories From the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans (University of New Orleans Press, 2016) edited by Fredrick Barton and Joanna Leake. The University of New Orleans MFA program in creative writing has produced some fantastic writers. The writers in this anthology took part in a Monday night workshop that has lasted over twenty-five years, where they met to share and discuss their work. Included are stories by graduates of the program, such as Rebecca Antoine, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, and Che Yeun, as well as faculty members, such as Fredrick Barton, Amanda Boyden, and M. O. Walsh.
N.O. Lit: 200 Years of New Orleans Literature (Lavender Ink, 2013) edited by Nancy Dixon. This book highlights the literature of New Orleans over the past two hundred years including prominent writers like Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams, but also historic writers like the poets of Les Cenelles, French Creoles of color who published the first anthology of African American literature in 1845. The book was made possible by grants from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.
The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans (LSU Press, 2013) by Susan Larson. For years, Susan Larson was the book editor for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and now hosts WWNO’s public radio program The Reading Life. Susan shares her wealth of knowledge for local bookstores, historic landmarks, current literary festivals, and more.
Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans (University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2011) by Freddi Williams Evans. This book explores the history of the Sunday gatherings of enslaved Africans at Congo Square beginning in the eighteenth century. Included are stories and descriptions of the songs, dances, and musical instruments of these gatherings. Congo Square is often considered the birth place of American music and continues to be a prominent venue for music festivals and community gatherings.Kelly Harris is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in New Orleans. Contact her at NOLA@pw.org or on Twitter, @NOLApworg.
“I don’t trust any readers! And readers shouldn’t trust any writers. We’re all scoundrels, down to the last.” —Kai Cheng Thom, author of I Hope We Choose Love