Genre: Creative Nonfiction
Most people will sit through dozens of interviews throughout the course of their lives. This week, write a piece reflecting on your own history as an interviewee. When did you sit through your first interview? What was your worst experience in an interview? Do you have any pre-interview routines? This exercise may provide a miniature arc of your career, or it may inspire you to reflect on some previously unexplored memories.
New Memoir Contest Open to Writers Over Fifty
The Huffington Post, the AARP, and Simon & Schuster have teamed up to launch a new memoir contest for writers over the age of fifty. One grand prize winner will receive $5,000 and a publishing contract with Simon & Schuster.
Writers born before December 31, 1964, and who are residents of the United States may submit a synopsis and the first 5,000 words of a memoir by February 15. Submissions must be sent electronically via e-mail. There is no entry fee.
Complete guidelines and eligibility requirements can be found here.
Ten finalists will be invited to submit their complete memoir by June 15. Final manuscripts should be between 20,000 to 50,000 words in length. The winning work will also be excerpted in AARP The Magazine and will be featured on the Huffington Post website.
Judges will include editors from each sponsor, including the Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington and Huff/Post 50 editor at large Rita Wilson, a top editor from Simon & Schuster, and AARP editorial director Myrna Blyth. “We’re searching for the next great memoir,” says Blyth. “We want to find a gifted writer who can tell a remarkable story of his or her life. We believe this memoir contest could really be the chance of a lifetime.”
The winner will be announced in September. To receive a list of contest results, entrants may send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to AARP & Huff/Post 50 Memoir Contest Winner’s List Request, 601 E Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20049.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
The Words of Others
Start with a quotation that stirs you. It can be a passage from a book, a line from a letter, or a statistic from a newspaper. Use this as a springboard for the rest of your writing this week. Do you agree with the quotation? What role does it play in your life? Do you feel indignation at the statistic? Explore your own opinions and values through the words of another writer, or by confronting the implications of a primary source.
New Book Prize Aims to Right the Wrongs of Past Awards
In an effort to celebrate great books of long ago that were overlooked by major American literary prizes such as the National Book Awards and the Pulitzer Prizes, online literary magazine Bookslut has launched its own new award.
The Daphnes will posthumously honor books published decades ago, starting with the year 1963, in order to “right the wrongs of the 1964 National Book Awards," editor Jessa Crispin writes on the Bookslut blog. “If you look back at the books that won the Pulitzer or the National Book Award, it is always the wrong book. It takes decades for the reader to catch up to a genius book, it takes years away from hype, publicity teams, and favoritism to see that some books just aren’t that good.”
The Bookslut team has begun compiling nominations of some of the best books published in 1963—very few of which even made the NBA shortlist—which in fiction included The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, V by Thomas Pynchon, and Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, among others (John Updike's The Centaur took the fiction prize that year). Notable nonfiction works of the year included Fire Next Time by James Baldwin and Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt (the award went to a biography of John Keats); and while a John Crowe Ransome anthology took the prize in poetry, other 1963 collections included 73 Poems by E. E. Cummings, Reality Sandwiches by Allen Ginsburg, Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law by Adrienne Rich, and All My Pretty Ones by Anne Sexton.
The editors are currently seeking more nominees for the best books of 1963, in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children’s books. Nominations can be sent via e-mail to Jessa Crispin.
A panel of judges in each category, comprised of writers chosen by the editors, will read each nominated book and vote on the winner.
Stay tuned to the Bookslut blog for more updates about the award, and in the meantime check out an interview with Crispin by Dustin Kurtz of independent publisher Melville House.
Clues to History
Look up the etymology of one of your favorite words and consider its complex and surprising history. The word clue, for instance, developed from the word clew, a ball of thread used to guide a person out of a labyrinth (literally or figuratively). In a page or so, try to weave your personal past with a word while incorporating elements of its etymological development. When did you pick up on a clue that would help you out of a figurative labyrinth?
Summer Literary Seminars Accepting Submissions
Submissions are currently open for the annual Summer Literary Seminars (SLS) contests in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Held this year in affiliation with Fence Magazine, the prizes in each category include an all-expenses-paid trip to attend one of SLS’s writing programs in Kenya, Lithuania, or Montreal. The deadline is February 28.
The winners in poetry and fiction will have the choice of attending a two-week program in Vilnius, Lithuania, from July 13–26, or in Nairobi-Lamu, Kenya, in December, and will have their work published in Fence Magazine. The winner in nonfiction will have the choice of attending either of the two-week programs or the annual SLS workshop in Montreal from March 27–30. The programs include writing workshops, seminars, readings, walking tours, and other cultural events. Each prize includes airfare, tuition, and housing.
Second-place winners in poetry and fiction will receive a full tuition waiver for the two-week program of their choice; third-place winners will receive a 50 percent tuition discount. All qualifying entries will automatically be considered for a variety of additional prizes sponsored by SLS. All entrants will also receive a yearlong subscription to Fence Magazine.
Dorothea Lasky will judge in poetry, Aimee Bender will judge in fiction, and Phillip Lopate will judge in nonfiction.
Submit up to three poems, a short story or novel excerpt of up to twenty pages, or a work of creative nonfiction of up to twenty pages, with an $18 entry fee, by February 28. Submissions can be sent via e-mail or by postal mail to Summer Literary Seminars, Unified Literary Contest, English Department, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., Montreal, Quebec H3G 1M8 Canada.
Visit the SLS website for more information about the programs and complete contest guidelines.
E. R. Braithwaite
Empathy for Shortcomings
Though people typically make every effort to appear confident, accomplished, and cheerful to others, we all have flaws and shortcomings. Many people, in fact, are defined on some level by their imperfections. From a fear of flying and substance abuse problems to shopping addiction and weight issues, the inner lives of the people you write about are just as compelling as how they dress or what they say. Write five hundred words about one of your shortcomings, and describe in detail how it affects your life and changed you as a person. Being honest about your life will make you a more empathic writer when characterizing the flaws of others.