Word by Word

1.15.20

“‘To approach snow too closely is to forget what it is,’ said the girl who cried snowflakes,” begins Shelley Jackson’s “Snow,” an ephemeral project and “story in progress, weather permitting,” which is featured in the January/February issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. The story is  written in the snow in Jackson’s Brooklyn neighborhood, one word at a time, and then photographed and shared on Instagram. Taking inspiration from the ephemerality intrinsic to this project’s format, write a flash fiction story in which each word is composed on a surface—perhaps drawn in dust, penciled on a piece of scrap paper, marked on a whiteboard, or spelled out with pebbles or twigs. How do form and function intertwine with the idea of impermanence in your story?

Literary Community Outside the Box: Part Two

Last week, I highlighted the work of Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, and their long-running radio show. Today, I want to spotlight local writer Icess Fernandez Rojas, a member of Nuestra Palabra. Rojas is a masterful writer and blogger who focuses her efforts on all things fiction, in particular mystery and noir. A former journalist, she is a graduate of Goddard College’s MFA program and currently teaches in the English Department at Lone Star College-Kingwood.

Over ten years ago, Rojas created the blog Dear Reader, where she offers tips to fellow writers and welcomes them into her writing life. Recently, she expanded her blog into a weekly podcast of the same name. The podcast, hosted by Rojas, focuses on mental health and the writing life and acts as a guide to “help you write your best life.” Take some time, folks, to read and listen to what Rojas puts out. She is an unsung hero in our writing community.

Dear Reader: Mental Health and the Writing Life, a podcast hosted by Icess Fernandez Rojas.
 
Lupe Mendez is the literary outreach coordinator for Poets & Writers in Houston. Contact him at Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.

Upcoming Contest Deadlines

The first deadlines of the year for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translation contests have arrived. With a deadline of either January 14 or January 15, these awards include two residencies in rural Texas and financial support to pursue a creative project in a desert environment; all feature a prize of $1,000 or more.    

Asheville Poetry Review William Matthews Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Asheville Poetry Review is given annually for a single poem. The winner is also invited to read at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina. Ilya Kaminsky will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $20. 

Australian Book Review Calibre Essay Prize: A prize of $5,000 AUD (approximately $3,392) is given annually for an essay. A second-place prize of $2,500 AUD (approximately $1,696) will also be given. The winners will be published in Australian Book Review. J. M. Coetzee, Lisa Gorton, and Peter Rose will judge. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $25 AUD (approximately $17).

BkMk Press Ciardi/Chandra Prizes: Two prizes of $1,000 each and publication by BkMk Press are given annually for a poetry collection and a short story collection. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $25 ($30 for electronic submissions).

Colorado Review Colorado Prize for Poetry: A prize of $2,000 and publication by the Center for Literary Publishing is given annually for a poetry collection. Kiki Petrosino will judge. Deadline: January 14. Entry fee: $25 ($28 for online submissions).

Ellen Meloy Fund Desert Writers Award: A prize of $5,000 is given annually to enable a creative nonfiction writer “whose work reflects the spirit and passions for the desert embodied in Ellen Meloy’s writing” to spend creative time in a desert environment. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $15.

French-American Foundation Translation Prizes: Two prizes of $10,000 each are given annually for translations from French into English of a book of fiction and a book of nonfiction (including creative nonfiction) published during the previous year. A jury of translators and literary professionals will judge. Deadline: January 14. Entry fee: none. 

Literal Latté Fiction Award: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Literal Latté is given annually for a short story. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $10. 

National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowships: Grants of $12,500 and $25,000 each are given annually to translators of poetry and prose from any language into English. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: none. 

New American Press Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,200 and publication by New American Press is given annually for a book of poetry. Corey Van Landingham will judge. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $20.

Nowhere Magazine Travel Writing Contest: A prize of $1,000 and publication in Nowhere Magazine is given twice yearly for a poem, a short story, or an essay that “possesses a powerful sense of place.” Porter Fox will judge. All entries are considered for publication. Deadline: January 14. Entry fee: $25.

Public Poetry Contest: A prize of $1,000, publication in an anthology, and an invitation to give a reading in Houston is given annually for a single poem on a theme. This year’s theme is “Wicked Wit.” Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $15 to submit up two poems ($25 to submit three).

University of Notre Dame Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by University of Notre Dame Press is given biennially for a debut poetry collection by a Latinx poet residing in the United States. John Murillo will judge. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: none. 

University of Texas in Austin Dobie Paisano Fellowships: Two residencies, cosponsored by the Texas Institute of Letters, at a rural retreat west of Austin are given annually to writers who are native Texans, who have lived in Texas for at least three years, or who have published significant work with a Texas subject. The six-month Jesse H. Jones Writing Fellowship is given to a writer in any stage of his or her career and includes a grant of $18,000. The four-month Ralph A. Johnston Memorial Fellowship is given to a writer who has demonstrated “publishing and critical success” and includes a grant of $24,000. Deadline: January 15. Entry fee: $20 ($30 to enter both competitions).

WOMR/WFMR Community Radio Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest: A prize of $1,000 is given annually for a single poem. Marge Piercy will judge. Deadline: January 14. Entry fee: $15.

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.

The Double Surprises

Caption: 

In this New York Public Library video, assistant curator Charles Cuykendall Carter shows off Les Portes Fermées, ou, Les Doubles Surprises (The Closed Doors, or The Double Surprises), a new acquisition of the Pforzheimer Collection. The small nineteenth-century French toy book is comprised of seven miniature romance and trickery stories, each accompanied by an illustration with a door flap opening onto a surprise illustration that appears when the card is held up to the light.

Genre: 

That’s Bananas

Last month at the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair, Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan exhibited an artwork titled “Comedian” that consisted of a ripe banana duct-taped to a wall. Three editions of the piece—certificates of authenticity for the concept with replacement installation instructions of the banana specified by the artist—were sold, each for over $100,000. Gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin eventually had to remove the work as it became a safety risk due to crowds, but said of the piece, “‘Comedian,’ with its simple composition, ultimately offered a complex reflection of ourselves.” Write a short story that relies on an absurdist or comedic ingredient as the linchpin for its unfolding. How does your story bring into question the very definition of art, fiction, or storytelling?

The Rhythm Section

Caption: 

The Rhythm Section (HarperCollins, 2000), Mark Burnell’s first novel in his series featuring international spy Stephanie Patrick, has been adapted into a film. Directed by Reed Morano, the thriller about a woman who goes undercover as an assassin after her entire family is killed in an orchestrated plane crash stars Blake Lively, Jude Law, and Sterling K. Brown.

Genre: 

Building a Home

In Lee Matalone’s debut novel, Home Making (Harper Perennial, 2020), a woman moves into an empty house by herself while her estranged husband is dying of cancer. Throughout the story she grapples with tearing down and building both real elements and psychological concepts of home, navigating the memories, people, and places that constitute shelter, stability, and familiarity. “Can you be too old to run away from home? Can a full-grown woman run away from home? Can she run away from a home that was forced upon her? She should be allowed to, if that’s what she wants,” she writes. As thoughts of new beginnings arise with the new year, write a short story in which your protagonist is going through a period of transition, reevaluating the definition of home, and embarking on a fresh start. How are ideas of home formed in childhood, and how do we reconcile them as adults?

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