Deadline Approaches for Modern Love College Essay Contest

Submissions are currently open for the New York Times Modern Love College Essay Contest. The prize is awarded to a current U.S. college student for an essay that “illustrates the current state of love and relationships.” The winner will receive $1,000 and publication in the New York Times Sunday Styles section and on nytimes.com. Four runners-up will also receive publication in the Times Sunday Styles section and on nytimes.com.

To enter, writers should e-mail a previously unpublished essay of 1,500 to 1,700 words along with their name, e-mail, phone number, college, and year of graduation to essaycontest@nytimes.com by Sunday, March 15. There is no entry fee. Daniel Jones, editor of the New York Times Modern Love column and author of Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (With the Help of 50,000 Strangers), will judge. The winner will be announced May 3.

The New York Times Modern Love column has sponsored its college essay contest two previous times—in 2008 and 2011—and received thousands of submissions each year from students representing hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the country. Caitlin Dewey won the 2011 prize for her essay “Even in Real Life, There Were Screens Between us,” and Marguerite Fields won the inaugural prize in 2008 for her essay “Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define.” The essays of previous finalists can also be read on the New York Times website.

For more information about the Modern Love column, read Jones’s article “How We Write About Love.”

Whiting Award Winners Announced

The Whiting Foundation announced the winners of the Whiting Awards yesterday. Now in its thirtieth year, the annual awards are given to ten emerging writers in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama. Each winner receives $50,000.

The 2015 winners in poetry are Anthony Carelli of New York City; Aracelis Girmay of New York City and Amherst, Massachusetts; Jenny Johnson of Pittsburgh; and Roger Reeves of Chicago. The winners in fiction are Leopoldine Core and Dan Josefson, both of New York City, and Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi of South Bend, Indiana. The winner in nonfiction is Elena Passarello of Corvallis, Oregon. The winners in drama are Lucas Hnath and Anne Washburn, both of New York City. The winners will participate in a reading tonight at BookCourt in Brooklyn.

Established in 1985, the Whiting Awards support “exceptional new writers who have yet to make their mark in the literary culture.” Previous recipients include poets Linda Gregg, Jorie Graham, Terrance Hayes, Li-Young Lee, Nathaniel Mackey, and Tracy K. Smith; fiction writers Lydia Davis, Deborah Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eugenides, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, ZZ Packer, and Tobias Woolf; and nonfiction writers Jo Ann Beard, Wayne Koestenbaum, Ian Frazier, and Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts.

Each year the New York City–based Whiting Foundation selects a small committee of writers, scholars, and editors to judge the prize. The judges, who remain anonymous, select the recipients from a pool of nominations the foundation solicits from writers, professors, editors, agents, critics, booksellers, and other publishing and theater professionals. There is no application process.

Photos, clockwise from top left: Anthony Carelli, Aracelis Girmay, Jenny Johnson, Roger Reeves, Elena Passarello, Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, Dan Josefson, and Leopoldine Core. (Whiting Foundation)

Empowerment

“Let it be known:  I did not fall from grace. / I leapt / to freedom.” The ending of Ansel Elkin’s poem "Autobiography of Eve" is packed with confidence. Write an essay reflecting on a time when you felt a similar sense of empowerment. Maybe you ended a stifling relationship, or went back to school to train for a new career? Write about the initial fear and the certitude of your actions.

A Room of One’s Own, Shared

Kara Krauze founded Voices From War in 2013 and teaches literature and writing in the workshop for veterans, along with writer Nathan Bradley Bethea, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Krauze has worked in publishing, the mental health field, and community organizing. A writer of fiction and creative nonfiction, her work has been published in Quarterly WestCenter: A Journal of the Literary Arts, Highbrow Magazine, the Daily BeastHypothetical Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. Krauze holds a BA from Vassar College in International Studies and a MA in Literary Cultures from New York University. Voices From War offers writing workshops for veterans and related literary programming.

I’ve been thinking of Virginia Woolf and her “moments of being,” the captured experiences and memories that press up, suddenly intense and vivid, and the “room of one’s own” she argued for as a necessary space to write (and of course there is her call for an income to make it possible—five hundred pounds, was it?). Mostly, I have thought of this space as literal. In New York City, perhaps not a whole room in our cramped living quarters, but at least a corner. Right now I’m thinking of the room where the Voices From War workshop meets, not in an apartment, not tucked away, but in a community center at the 14th Street Y in New York City. Instead of an empty room for solitude, the physical space is populated. Around the table are veterans from multiple generations, mostly men, a woman or two. Mark the participants’ ages and then the decades, and we can unpeel eras of war: Iraq and Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea. A lot of unknowns within a wide array of experiences, even among those with commonalities. But the space is shared and everyone has stories, some of which they will write about.

This has become more important to me than I expected, more important than I can even understand. These writers and their stories are the tiles in the mosaic of our history. Stories not yet written, stories (factual or fiction) not fully formed until they arrive from their authors on paper, later edited, shared, and revisited.

I’ve never been in an active war zone. I’ve never held a gun—a sentence that falls far short of the stories, absences, and significant details lurking behind its assertion. But when a student writes of wishing to cradle an M-5, I know just what he means. In the middle of that sentence—the words buoying the gun, holding it—I might have been writing about one of my babies, my children.

This is what I mean about the room: Virginia Woolf’s room, the room in our New York City East Village community center, a preschool by day (that a few years ago my own two boys attended) and now where veterans of varied ages and experiences (before, during, and after war) meet with me and my coteacher, Nate. Nate, who was deployed to Afghanistan and was posted in South Korea, is just one thread running quietly through the room—a fifty-year gap between instructor and the workshop participant who served there during his war. The room is a space we’ve made. We remake it each week, pushing away the noise of the outside world. 

Many individuals and key institutions help create that shared room with its white walls and empty space that suddenly fill with people, fill with words. The wonderful supporters at the 14th Street Y who understood and understand why this class matters. All of the participants in the workshop—from our start in season one in fall 2013, to this latest group, both returning and new, as we begin season four.

I am continually amazed, impressed, humbled, and educated by the individuals who have given their service in complex times and places, and who continue to serve in multiple ways. Jacob Siegel, a talented writer and veteran, helped launch seasons one and two. Nathan Bradley Bethea, who was a coteacher in season three, continues to share his insightful analysis and exceptional craft now teaching in season four. Designer eperez gave visual representation to Voices From War by designing our logo. The two smallest members of my family continue to teach me why and why not with their Lego battles on the floor, the toy soldiers on their desk, and in bed with their stories, still shielded from the all too real blood in the world.

A huge thank you to Poets & Writers, an invaluable supporter from our first workshop, for advocating again and again for writers and readers, for veterans, for voices shaping their stories and waiting to be heard. Poets & Writers and the 14th Street Y in Manhattan’s East Village give us the physical room that creates the interior room—a space of community, of voices shared that lift each other up and care for their words. These stories matter.

Photo (top): Kara Krauze, coteacher of Voices From War. Photo Credit: James Burry

Photo (right): Nathan Bradley Bethea, coteacher of Voices From War. Photo Credit: Yoonkyung Lim 

Photo (middle): Voices From War classroom photo. Photo Credit: Nathan Bradley Bethea

Photo (bottom): Group photo from the Voices From War "Literary Showcase" event with Veteran Artist Program.

Support for Readings & Workshops in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, A.K. Starr Charitable Trust and Friends of Poets & Writers.

Ultracrepidarian

2.26.15

The term “ultracrepidarianism,” or the habit of giving opinions and advice on issues outside one’s scope of knowledge, comes from a comment made by Greek artist Apelles to a shoemaker who criticized one of the artist’s paintings. The phrase “Sutor, ne ultra crepidam,” essentially means that the shoemaker should not judge beyond his own soles. This week, write an essay on the value of voicing opinions regardless of your expertise on the subject matter.

Cole, Dyer, Sullivan Receive Windham Campbell Prizes

The winners of the 2015 Windham Campbell Prizes for Literature were announced at a press conference this morning at Yale University. The international awards, administered by Yale's Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, are given to English-language writers of fiction, nonfiction, and drama for a body of work or extraordinary promise. Each winner receives $150,000.

The 2015 winners are, in fiction: Teju Cole (U.S./Nigeria), Helon Habila (Nigeria), and Ivan Vladislavić (South Africa); in nonfiction: Edmund de Waal (U.K.), Geoff Dyer (U.K.), and John Jeremiah Sullivan (U.S.); and, in drama: Jackie Sibblies Drury (U.S.), Helen Edmundson (U.K), and Debbie Tucker Green (U.K). Read complete bios of each winner here.

The Windham Campbell Prizes were established in 2013 by Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell to call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns. There is no submission process, and winners are determined by an international group of invited nominators, a jury in each category, and an anonymous selection committee.

In September, the winners will gather from around the world at Yale for an international literary festival celebrating their work. All events are free and open to the public.

“The Windham Campbell Prizes were created by a writer to support other writers," said Michael Kelleher, director of the program. “Donald Windham recognized that the most significant gift he could give to another writer was time to write. In addition to the recognition prestige it confers, the prize gives them just that—with no strings attached."

Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library houses the Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell Papers. For more information about the awards and winners, visit windhamcampbell.org.

Photos: Teju Cole, Geoff Dyer, John Jeremiah Sullivan.

Forgiveness

2.19.15

Forgiving someone can be difficult, and at times might seem impossible. We’ve all been asked to overlook mistakes, understand the blunderer’s side of the story, and trust that her intentions were pure. But when was the last time you listened to your own pleas and forgave yourself? If there’s something from the past that still upsets you, write a letter to yourself asking for forgiveness. If you feel you’ve achieved inner peace over an issue, write about what the journey was like to get to that state of mind.

Life on Mars

2.12.15

The interplanetary travel nonprofit Mars One is holding a competition for those eager to be the first humans to live on Mars. One of the finalists has said, “If I die on Mars, that would be an accomplishment.” Would you ever volunteer for such a mission? Do you have what it takes to survive on a desolate, desert planet? Write about how you’d feel if you got the opportunity to leave Earth. What would you miss, and what would you be glad to leave behind?

PEN Launches New Nonfiction Prize

PEN American Center has partnered with digital and television news network Fusion to establish the inaugural PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize. The $10,000 prize will be awarded annually to a “promising young writer of an unpublished work of nonfiction that addresses a global and/or multicultural issue.” Writers under the age of thirty-five who have published at least one nonfiction piece in a national periodical are eligible. The submission deadline is February 27.

Using the online submission manager, submit an original nonfiction manuscript of 8,000 to 80,000 words, along with a resume or CV that includes publication history, and a $35 entry fee. All entries will be read anonymously. Visit the PEN website for complete guidelines.

“Fusion is committed to supporting the next generation of journalists and writers,” said Fusion Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer Daniel Eilemberg. “We are thrilled to partner with PEN to reward excellence in literature and journalism while promoting free expression.”

The judges for the inaugural prize are distinguished writers Roxane Gay, John Freeman, and Cristina Henríquez. Gay is the co-editor of PANK magazine, and the author of the books AyitiAn Untamed State, and Bad Feminist. Her memoir Hunger will be published next year. Freeman is the former president of the National Book Critics Circle, editor of Granta magazine, and the author of The Tyranny of EmailHow to Read a Novelist, and most recently Tales of Two Cities: The Best of Times and Worst of Times in Today’s New York. Henríquez is the author of three books, including The Book of Unknown Americans, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 2014.

For over nintey years, PEN American Center has worked to protect and celebrate freedom of expression through writing. PEN runs numerous programs to support writers and confers over $150,000 in literary awards each year.

The winner of the PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize will be announced this spring, and will be honored at the PEN Literary Awards Ceremony in June. Questions about the prize can be directed to awards@pen.org.

Armchair Anthropologist

This week, write about a time when you were out of your element, immersed in a community or culture that you felt was very different from your own. Observe your own behavior as an anthropologist would. Write about how this relocation and disorientation affected the way you reacted to the people around you, and caused you to reflect on yourself.  

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