Agree to Disagree


The summer season is always ripe for trends that pair with warm weather like beaded necklaces, tie-dye T-shirts, and the bright orange Aperol Spritz cocktail. Some might revel in what’s in vogue, and others might scoff at the buzz. Now that the fall equinox is just around the corner, reflect on what’s been all the rage and pen a humorous essay declaring a controversial opinion about something trivial but trendy. Consider the reasons behind the proliferation of the fad of your choosing—Cronuts, standing desks, axe throwing bars—and then discuss why you find the craze overrated, absurd, or downright dangerous while interjecting personal history and experiences.

Applications Open for Black Mountain Institute Shearing Fellowships

Applications are now open for the Black Mountain Institute Shearing Fellowships. Hosted at the institute’s home at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the fellowships each include a $20,000 stipend, free housing in downtown Las Vegas, work space at the institute’s campus offices, and eligibility for health care coverage. The upcoming fellowships will take place during the 2020–2021 academic year; candidates may apply for residencies of one or two semesters. While the fellowship has no formal teaching requirements, incoming fellows will be expected to maintain a regular in-office presence and to engage with the Black Mountain Institute literary community.

The fellowship is open to emerging and distinguished writers who have published at least one critically-acclaimed book of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. Recent fellows include Hanif Abdurraqib, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Tayari Jones, Ahmed Naji, and Claire Vaye Watkins.

Using only the online application system, submit a one- to two-page cover letter, a ten-page writing sample, and a résumé or curriculum vitae by November 1. Finalists will be asked to submit copies of their books. There is no application fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

The Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute is “an international literary center dedicated to bringing writers and the literary imagination into the heart of public life.” Located within the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the institute is home to the Believer, a bimonthly magazine of literature, arts, and culture.

Photo: 2018–2019 fellow Claire Vaye Watkins

A Million Little Pieces


A Million Little Pieces (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2003), the controversial and fabricated best-selling memoir by James Frey, has been adapted into a feature film directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson. Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Odessa Young, the film focuses on the life of a young writer seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

The Illegible Layer


In Marguerite Duras’s 1985 essay, “Reading on the Train,” from the collection Me & Other Writing (Dorothy, a publishing project, 2019), translated from the French by Olivia Baes and Emma Ramadan, Duras writes about reading the first half of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace while on a train and feeling that in speeding through the story, she’d sacrificed a more intense, less narrative-driven understanding of the book. “I had realized that day and forever after that a book was contained between two layers superimposed with writing, the legible layer that I had read that day as I traveled and the other, inaccessible.” Write an essay about a beloved piece of literature in which you discuss both the legible layer and attempt to decipher or articulate a deeper resonance of the writing. What can you glimpse—in the story and in yourself—when you delve beyond the literal reading?

Submissions Open for Whiting Literary Magazine Prizes

Submissions are open for the third annual Whiting Literary Magazine Prizes. Launched in 2017, the prizes recognize publications that “actively nurture the writers who tell us, through their art, what is important.”. Three prizes will be given to print magazines and two to magazines publishing primarily online. Print publications can win up to $60,000, $30,000, and $15,000; digital publications can win up to $30,000 and $9,000. 

Across all categories, the award is dispensed over three years. Each magazine will receive an outright grant in the first year, followed by matching grants in the second and third years. The Whiting Foundation will also connect all recipients to expert advisors for consultation in matters such as fund-raising and marketing, and help organize meetings throughout the year for the winners to discuss shared challenges. 

This year the application for the prizes will include two rounds of review. Magazines are invited to submit a short-form application using the online portal by December 2. In February 2020 a limited number of applicants will be invited to complete an expanded application due in early April. There is no entry fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines and eligibility requirements

The Whiting Foundation hopes the financial and professional support offered by the grants will help the winners develop and achieve ambitious goals. Courtney Hodell, the foundation’s director of literary programs, notes the long-term results: “As the prize continues to mature, we see more clearly how critical these intrepid magazines are to developing and building healthy careers,” she says. “Supporting magazines benefits the entire literary landscape.” 

The 2019 print prizes went to the Common, American Short Fiction, and Black Warrior Review. The Margins and the Offing received the digital prizes. 

Founded in 1971, the Whiting Foundation believes in “identifying and empowering talented people as early as possible in their creative and intellectual development.” In addition to the Literary Magazine Prizes, every year the organization honors emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama with the Whiting Awards, and supports nonfiction writers completing works-in-progress with the Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grants. 

Maxine Hong Kingston and Celeste Ng


“Being born a writer, I had to tell, I had to blab these stories out.” Maxine Hong Kingston speaks about her award-winning book, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, (Knopf, 1976) and the power of imagination with Jeffrey Brown and Celeste Ng, who chose the book for PBS NewsHour’s Now Read This book club.


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