Deadline Approaches for Midway Journal Contest

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Posted 5.29.15 by Prize Reporter

Submissions are currently open for Midway Journal’s Monstrosities of the Midway Contest. A prize of $1,000 and publication in Midway Journal will be given for a single poem, a group of poems, a short story, or a work of nonfiction. Midway’s editorial staff will select a group of finalists, and award-winning poet Dorianne Laux will select the winner.

Writers are encouraged to submit work that “complicates issues of performance and identity.” Using the online submission manager, send up to five unpublished poems of up to twenty pages, or a piece of fiction or nonfiction of up to six thousand words, along with a $15 entry fee by this Sunday, May 31. Multiple entries will be accepted for publication. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Launched in 2007, Midway Journal is a Minnesota-based quarterly that aims to “act not only as a bridge between aesthetics (and maybe even coasts), but…to create a sense of place as well. And like any good fair, place is a relative term as the contents and attractions change frequently.”

Deadline Approaches for Munster Lit International Poetry Chapbook Prize

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Posted 5.28.15 by Prize Reporter

Submissions are currently open for the 2015 Munster Literature Center Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition. A cash award of €1,000 (approximately $1,090) and publication by Southword Editions is given for a poetry chapbook. Emerging and established poets from any country are eligible to apply.

One runner-up will receive €500 (approximately $545); both first- and second-place winners will receive fifty copies of their chapbooks. The winning chapbooks will be nominated for the U.K. Forward Prize for best poem and anthology, and winners will be invited to read their work at the 2016 Cork Spring Poetry Festival. The deadline to enter is May 31.

Submit a poetry manuscript between 16 and 25 single-spaced pages, along with a cover letter and a €25 entry fee, to foolforpoetry@munsterlit.ie. Poets based in the U.K. and Ireland may submit their manuscripts via postal mail to The Munster Literature Centre, Frank O’Connor House, 84 Douglas Street, Cork, Ireland. Multiple manuscript entries are accepted. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

The Munster Literature Centre established the Fool for Poetry Chapbook competition in 2005. Previous winners include Virginia Astley and Victoria Kennefick.

Founded in Cork, Ireland, in 1993, the Munster Literature Centre hosts festivals, workshops, readings, and other events to promote and celebrate literature.

Maps

Creative Nonfiction Prompt

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Posted 5.28.15 by Writing Prompter

This week, write a map leading to where you live. Start as close or far from your home as you wish and trace the paths, obstacles, and landmarks that lead you to your door. Think about who you're creating this map for and when they would have an occasion to use it. How would you describe the geography of your neighborhood to someone who's never been there? Consider the elements that are special to you and make where you live feel like home. For inspiration, read David Connerley Nahm's installment of Writers Recommend.

Picture a Story

Fiction Prompt

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Posted 5.27.15 by Writing Prompter

Take some time this week to discover the work of a well-known photographer. Whether you visit an exhibition at a museum or peruse the internet, look for photographs that capture your imagination. Examine a photograph closely and write the story you see in the frame. Rely heavily on descriptive language and offer details of the composition through your writing. What did the photographer keep in focus?

Latino and Filipino Poets Explore Cultural Mythologies

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Posted 5.26.15 by RW Blogger

Robert Francis Flor, PhD, is a Seattle native and cochair of Pinoy Words Expressed Kultura Arts. His poetry has been selected for Seattle King County's program “Poetry on Buses,” and has appeared in Soundings Review, Four Cornered Universe, and numerous other journals. He is currently completing a poetry chapbook, Alaskero Memories, and writes plays about the Filipino community in Seattle. Flor blogs about a P&W–supported reading he helped organize which took place at the Seattle Public Library this past April.

Robert Francis Flor

While most are familiar with Greek, Roman, Scandinavian, and Judeo-Christian mythologies, we often fail to recognize that people throughout the world have stories, journeys, villains, and heroes that shape their beliefs and behaviors.

Modern societies may overwhelm and impose their values on more traditional ones while wearing a mask of cultural superiority, even though ancient civilizations often have myths that share universal qualities. The late Joseph Campbell noted in Myths to Live By (Penguin, 1993) that when "old taboos (myths) are discredited, communities immediately go to pieces, disintegrate, and become resorts of vice and disease."

Pinoy Words Expressed Kultura Arts (PWEKA) and La Sala, two Seattle-based arts organizations from the local Filipino and Latino communities, aimed to cast a light on this issue through poetry by presenting readings that exposed the public to different mythologies.

With the help of two Seattle University student organizations—United Filipino Club and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán—and the Seattle Public Library, we hosted three Filipino poets and three Latino poets in two readings exploring their cultural mythologies.

The poets were all from the Pacific Northwest: Roberto Ascalon, Jim Cantú, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Emily Lawson, and Sam Rodrick Roxas-Chua. The City of Seattle's Office of Arts & Culture and Poets & Writers supported the events.

The poets delved into cultural mythological influences of both indigenous and shared colonial origins. Mexico and the Philippines both had lengthy histories with Spanish and American influences. Like many colonized parts of the world, they also had native cultures with unique mythologies. The readings also demonstrated ways that civilizations adjusted to and accommodated the insertion and overlay of myths from more dominant cultures. Jim Cantú’s poem "Sacred Mother" depicted the transformation of Tonitin, the "Mother Earth" Aztec goddess, into "Nuestra Madre Dame," Our Holy Mother, when Mexico fell to the Spanish conquistadors.

Chris Higashi, Seattle Public Library’s Manager for Literary Programs, said she was "so pleased to have taken on the event. It drew a diverse audience of eighty attendees, about eighty percent of whom were of the cultures represented in the poetry and under the age of thirty—not a typical audience for the library."

My sense is that the readings opened windows for many who attended. The question and answer periods that followed were filled with inquiries about identity and cultural poetry, accompanied by a general tone of gratitude for readings that recognized the importance of culture. One young Mexican-Filipina woman remarked she was "surprised and thankful” when she looked at the library events page and found it included something about and for her. The students at Seattle University have already indicated a desire for a similar presentation next academic year. I believe the reading touched something deep within the students and the community.

Watch the video from the event.

Photo: Robert Francis Flor. Credit: Lauren Davis.

Support for Readings & Workshops events in Seattle is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Making Connections

Poetry Prompt

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Posted 5.26.15 by Writing Prompter

Sometimes seemingly unrelated notions have surprising similarities. This week, take some strips of paper and write down the names of objects, places, and people. Throw them in a hat and draw out two at random. Then write a poem attempting to connect the two things you've selected. Perhaps you pick out "fireworks" and "lavender," or "honeybees" and "B. B. King"—stretch your imagination to its limits when considering their potential relationship. 

László Krasznahorkai Wins Man Booker International Prize

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Posted 5.21.15 by Prize Reporter

Hungarian fiction writer László Krasznahorkai has won the 2015 Man Booker International Prize. Krasznahorkai was presented with the £60,000 award (approximately $90,000) Tuesday evening at a ceremony in London. Kasznahorkai’s two English translators, George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet, will split the £15,000 translator’s prize.

The Man Booker International Prize is given biennially to honor a fiction writer who writes in English or whose work has been translated into English. This year’s judges were Nadeem Aslam, Elleke Boehmer, Edwin Frank, Wen-chin Ouyang, and Marina Warner.  The finalists for the prize were César Aira, Hoda Barakat, Maryse Condé, Mia Couto, Amitav Ghosh, Fanny Howe, Ibrahim al-Koni, Alain Mabanckou, and Marlene van Niekerk.

“Laszlo Krasznahorkai is a visionary writer of extraordinary intensity and vocal range who captures the texture of present day existence in scenes that are terrifying, strange, appallingly comic, and often shatteringly beautiful,” said chair of judges Warner. “The Melancholy of Resistance, Sátántangó and Seiobo There Below are magnificent works of deep imagination and complex passions, in which the human comedy verges painfully onto transcendence.”

Born in Gyula, Hungary in 1954, Krasznahorkai has written almost a dozen novels and short story collections, and his works have been translated into German, Polish, French, Spanish, and other languages. New Directions has published English translations of five of his novels. Krasznahorkai is perhaps best known for his 1993 postmodern novel The Melancholy of Resistance, which won numerous literary prizes, including the German Bestenliste Prize and the Kossuth Prize, which is the highest award given in Hungary.

Sponsored by the London-based Man Group, the Man Booker International Prize was established in 2005 and “highlights one writer’s continued creativity, development, and overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.” The Man Group also administers the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Recent winners of the Man Booker International Prize include Lydia Davis (2013), Philip Roth (2011), and Alice Munro (2009).

Personal Truths

Creative Nonfiction Prompt

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Posted 5.21.15 by Writing Prompter

In Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes says, “Any truth is better than infinite doubt.” This week, take a moment to reflect on what have become your personal truths, based on your own investigation and experience. Perhaps, as Christopher McCandless did in the Alaskan wilderness, you've discovered that “happiness is only real when shared.” Explore what you stand for, what you value, and how you measure your life experiences. Then express these thoughts in a personal essay.

Stranded

Fiction Prompt

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Posted 5.20.15 by Writing Prompter

This week, write a story in which one of your characters gets lost in an unfamiliar location with no one around to help him. How did he end up in this situation? Perhaps his car breaks down in the middle of the desert, or he's adrift in the Pacific Ocean after a shipwreck and is the lone survivor. Is he able to find his bearings? Does he manage to get to safety? Consider the perils of being stranded in an unforgiving and potentially dangerous environment.   

Sunflowers

Poetry Prompt

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Posted 5.19.15 by Writing Prompter

“They are everywhere—those sunflowers with the coal heart center,” Eve Alexandra muses in her poem “Botanica.” A symbol of loyalty and longevity, sunflowers are considered among the happiest of flowers, and provide energy in both nourishment and vibrancy. Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Gustav Klimt famously represented these flowers in works of art, and they have cropped up in poems by William Blake and Allen Ginsberg. This week, incorporate sunflowers into a poem. Consider their bright yellow coloring, their sturdy stalks, and their delicious seeds.  

Because it's More Interesting Than Happiness: Steven Church on Readings

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Posted 5.18.15 by RW Blogger

Steven Church is the author of The Guinness Book of Me: A Memoir of Record (Simon & Schuster, 2005), Theoretical Killings: Essays and Accidents (University of New Orleans Press, 2009), The Day After the Day After: My Atomic Angst (Soft Skull Press, 2010), and most recently, the collection Ultrasonic: Essays (Lavender Ink, 2014). A fifth nonfiction book will be released by Dzanc in 2016. He is a founding editor and nonfiction editor for The Normal School, and teaches in the MFA program at Fresno State.

Steven ChurchHow do you prepare for a reading?
I’ve given a LOT of readings, but I still get nervous. I like to have read through out loud what I’m planning to read, at least a couple of times, just to get the timing right and catch any parts that are hard to read. And a beer or two helps take the edge off.

What’s the strangest comment you’ve received from an audience member?
Recently someone asked me if there were stories that I didn’t tell or things I wouldn’t write about—to which I responded, “Yes.” But then she looked at me as if I was then going to tell her these things. I did not. I also had someone ask me once why writers “write about depressing things,” and the only response I had was, “because it’s more interesting than happiness?”

What’s your crowd-pleaser, and why does it work?
If I have the time, I like to try and get a couple of laughs from the audience as a sort of “buy in” for what I’m reading and because it tends to relax me; so I’ll often start with a lighter, more humorous essay before hitting them with the more emotional material. Lately I’ve started reading other people’s work as a kind of ice breaker.

What’s the craziest (or funniest or most moving or most memorable) thing that’s happened at an event you’ve been part of?
During a reading at Fresno State once, the power went out in the building and the only light in the room was from the emergency exit signs. Fortunately my colleague had a headlamp flashlight, so I gave the entire reading in the dark, using the headlamp. That was fun.

How does giving a reading inform your writing and vice versa?
Reading my work aloud is very important, as it is the only way to really hear the essay or the book the way I want it to sound in a reader’s head. I always catch mistakes or make revisions after reading a piece out loud; it’s become part of my writing and revision process.

What you probably spent your R/W grant check on:
Groceries and beer.

Photo: Steven Church   Credit: Jocelyn Mettler

Major support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the James Irvine Foundation. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Center for Fiction Announces Emerging Writer Fellowships

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Posted 5.14.15 by Prize Reporter

The New York City–based Center for Fiction has announced its 2015 Emerging Writer Fellows. The annual fellowships are given to emerging fiction writers of any age living in New York City “whose work shows promise of excellence.”

This year’s nine fellows are Naomi Feigelson Chase, Lisa Chen, Nicola DeRobertis-Theye, t’ai freedom ford, Anu Jindal, Stephen Langlois, Melissa Rivero, Samantha Storey, and Ruchika Tomar. The fellows were chosen from over five hundred applicants. Rene Denfeld, Patricia Park, and Ted Thompson judged. Visit the Center for Fiction website for bios of each of this year’s fellows.

As part of the fellowship, each writer receives a grant of $4,000; the option of mentorship with an editor; the opportunity to meet with agents who represent new writers; a Center for Fiction membership; free admission to all Center events for one year, including its Craftwork lecture series on writing; and a 30 percent discount on tuition for select writing workshops at the Center. The fellows will also each give two public readings as part of the Center’s annual program of events.

Emerging writers living in one of the five boroughs of New York City are eligible for the fellowship. The Center for Fiction defines “emerging writer” as one of any age who has not yet published a novel or short story collection with a major or independent publisher, and who is also not currently under contract to a publisher for a work of fiction. Eligible applicants may have had works of fiction published in magazines, literary journals, or online, though previous publication is not required. Writers in degree-granting programs are ineligible.  

Applications for the 2016 Emerging Writers Fellowship will open in the fall. Visit the Center for Fiction website for more information about the fellowship program.

Mothers

Creative Nonfiction Prompt

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Posted 5.14.15 by Writing Prompter

In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde remarks, "All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his." As we grow older, it is inevitable that we start noticing patterns of behavior or little quirks that remind us of our parents or guardians. Is there anything that you do that reminds you, or others, of the person who raised you? Perhaps you've perfected her bubbly giggle, or her signature side-eye glance. Maybe you've inherited her talent for crossword puzzles, or the way she bursts into song at any moment? Write a personal essay about those reminiscent traits that impact who you are today.

PEN Announces Literary Award Winners

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Posted 5.13.15 by Prize Reporter

This morning, PEN American Center announced the winners of the 2015 PEN Literary Awards. The annual awards, which total more than $150,000, honor emerging and established writers in seventeen categories including poetry, debut fiction, science writing, translation, biography, and drama. On June 8, the winners will be honored in a ceremony at the New School in New York City. The shortlists and complete list of winners can be found on PEN’s website. Below are the winners for a select few prizes:

Saeed Jones won the $5,000 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry for his collection Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House). Marie Howe, Mary Szybist, and Craig Morgan Teicher judged. The biennial award recognizes the work of an emerging American poet who shows promise of further literary achievement.

Joshua Horwitz won the $10,000 PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award for his book War of the Whales: A True Story (Simon & Schuster). Sue Halpern, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, and Carl Zimmer judged. The annual prize is given for a book of literary nonfiction on the subject of the physical or biological sciences published in the previous year.

Sheri Fink won the $10,000 PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction for her book Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Crown). Andrew Blechman, Paul Elie, Azadeh Moaveni, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, and Paul Reyes judged. The biennial award is given to an author of a book of general nonfiction published in the previous two years that possesses notable literary merit and critical perspective.

Denise Newman won the $3,000 PEN Translation Prize for her translation from the Danish of Naja Heather Cleary’s book Baboon (Two Lines). Lucas Klein, Tess Lewis, and Allison Markin Powell judged. The annual award is given for a translation of book-length prose from any language into English published in the previous year.

PEN will announce the winners of the $25,000 Prize for Debut Fiction, the $10,000 Art of the Essay Award, and the $5,000 Open Book Award at the Literary Awards Ceremony on June 8. Visit the PEN website for the shortlists. The winner of the $10,000 PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize and recipients of the $2,000-$4,000 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants will be announced later this month.

PEN American Center has administered its literary awards for nearly fifty years. Established in 1922, PEN works globally to defend freedom of expression and to promote international literature and culture.

Alternate Future

Fiction Prompt

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Posted 5.13.15 by Writing Prompter

Did one of your characters have a major turning point in her past? Is this event or decision crucial for this character's development? This week, take a scene you're stuck on and rewrite it as if that turning point had never occurred, and an alternate option was chosen. If your character moved to London because she was transferred by her company instead of moving back to her parents' house in Florida, how would this outcome deepen the evolution of this character? Think about what this character needs to face—what shortcomings, fears, and hindrances she needs to overcome—and force her to come to terms with these obstacles.