THE PRACTICING WRITER
Supporting the Craft and Business of Excellent Writing
Volume 13, Number 1: February 2016
Editor: Erika Dreifus
Copyright (c) 2016 Erika Dreifus
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IN THIS ISSUE:
1. Editor’s Note: What’s New
2. Article/Lessons Learned
3. Featured Resource
4. Upcoming/Ongoing Contests, Competitions, and Other Opportunities (NO ENTRY/APPLICATION FEES)
5. Submission Alerts!!! (NO READING FEES)
6. Blog Notes
7. Newsletter Matters
1. EDITOR’S NOTE: WHAT’S NEW
Dear Practicing Writers:
2016 is off to a pretty exciting start in this writer’s practice. A few highlights to share:
I spent an amazing January weekend visiting the Red Earth Creative Writing MFA program in Oklahoma City, where I led my ever-popular seminar on freelance writing (with a focus on “writing about writing”). And I had a wonderful time getting to know this extraordinary program/community. Keep reading in this issue for a Q&A with Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, the program’s director.
Other news: January has brought my second byline for one of my favorite publications (TABLET). And a new course that I’m teaching. And a new role as a blogger for Poetry Has Value: http://poetryhasvalue.com/post/138046490781/meet-phv-blogger-erika-dreifus.
And last, but perhaps not least: January has brought an anniversary giveaway. As some of you may remember, QUIET AMERICANS: STORIES was released five years ago this month. To honor this anniversary, I’m running a Goodreads giveaway. Enter to win one of five copies of the book. (I’ll even sign the winning copies!) And if you already own a copy, I thank you and ask if you might share the giveaway link with your reading communities: http://bit.ly/1Ky0KRX. (Giveaway ends at midnight on February 1.)
That’s (more than) enough about me. Let’s get on with the newsletter! And here’s wishing all of you a fabulous February with your writing practices.
P.S. With this issue, we embark on our THIRTEENTH year of publication. Some of you have been with us since February 2004; some of you are new subscribers. ALL of you are valued. Thank you for subscribing, sharing, and recommending the newsletter to others.
2. ARTICLE/LESSONS LEARNED: Q&A WITH JEANETTA CALHOUN MISH
Q&A with Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
By Erika Dreifus
As mentioned above, I spent a wonderful weekend in January visiting the Red Earth Creative Writing MFA (REMFA) program, a low-residency program based at Oklahoma City University. This program is directed by Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the 2015 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Minneapolis. Jeanetta continued to impress me throughout our correspondence in the months between AWP and my visit to the Red Earth program; during my days in Oklahoma City, it became increasingly obvious that I was not the only one to be dazzled by her many talents. And I became eager to host her for a Q&A here.
Jeanetta Calhoun Mish is a scholar, poet, and prose writer; she completed her PhD in American Literature in 2009 and has published critical articles on Lorna Dee Cervantes and Demetria Martínez, among others. Her most recent books are OKLAHOMELAND: ESSAYS (Lamar University Press, 2015) and a poetry collection, WHAT I LEARNED AT THE WAR (West End Press, 2016). Her 2009 poetry collection WORK IS LOVE MADE VISIBLE won the Western Heritage Award, the WILLA Award from Women Writing the West, and the Oklahoma Book Award. Her 2002 chapbook TONGUE TIED WOMAN won the national Edda Poetry Chapbook for Women contest sponsored by Soulspeak Press. She is editor of award-winning Mongrel Empire Press and contributing editor to the literary journal SUGAR MULE and to OKLAHOMA TODAY. She is Director of and a faculty mentor for the Red Earth Creative Writing MFA Program at Oklahoma City University.
Please welcome Jeanetta Calhoun Mish.
ERIKA DREIFUS (ED): Jeanetta, I can attest from direct experience that you have something very special in the Red Earth MFA program. Please tell us a bit about your vision for the program.
JEANETTA CALHOUN MISH (JCM): Our vision for the program (I say “our” because our English department chair, our dean, our faculty, and our students actively endorse it) is to create a true writing community — supportive, amiable, and engaged (both within the program and in the surrounding communities) — where writer-relationships that last years can be formed. We believe that it’s possible — preferable — to be rigorous in academics and craft while at the same time nurturing a supportive community. I think “rigorous” is often interpreted as requiring hostile competitiveness; we choose not to interpret it that way. Moreover, the Oklahoma cultural insistence on “good manners” goes a long way toward easing the often uncomfortable experience of a bunch of creative individuals learning how to get along with each other. I promote this communal aesthetic based on my own writing-life-history: I did not have a writing community for many years and when I found one (first with other Oklahoma writers and then in our MFA program), I was awed by how it improved my writing and my attitude to life in general.
ED: I know that it’s not uncommon for MFA program directors to telephone admitted students to welcome them/encourage them to attend. But I understand that you have a conversation with every applicant before the admissions decisions are made. Please tell us more about that.
JCM: The practice of visiting with applicants began accidentally: when someone queries about the program, I send an informative email, and in that email I offer to answer any additional questions or concerns by phone appointment. It turned out that talking to applicants was the best way to explain how a low residency program works and to ease worries about fitting a graduate program into their already busy lives (most of our students are nontraditional; most have full-time jobs and families).
I soon learned that talking to prospective students on the phone was a good way to gauge how they would blend into our community — to get a feel for those qualities of amiability and supportiveness. I also describe the ambiance of our program to prospective students — it could be that we’ve had prospects who weren’t interested in engaging with a new community during their MFA and so chose not to apply. I imagine our communal atmosphere is not everyone’s cup of tea. Have we ever turned anyone down based solely on those conversations? No, not yet. Would we ever turn down prospects whose writing samples were good but who seemed as though they might not thrive within our community? Maybe. We (faculty and students) are both protective of our Red Earth MFA community and concerned for every individual writer’s well-being.
ED: Since returning from my visit to the Red Earth MFA program, I’ve read your powerful book WORK IS LOVE MADE VISIBLE: POETRY AND FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHS (2009); next up is OKLAHOMELAND: ESSAYS (2015). Please tell us a bit about any current project(s) you’re working on these days.
JCM: Well, at this very moment, I’m taking a little bit of a breather, because my new poetry collection. WHAT I LEARNED AT THE WAR, will be out any day now from the wonderful people at West End Press. I have a very strange writer-tic: When I put a book to bed, I don’t write for about a month, and having two books out within a few months means that I haven’t been writing much lately, although I’m dutifully flagging submission calls. I am on the board of an Oklahoma literary nonprofit that is putting together an OKC LitFest for April — I’m helping identify and invite readers. I’m also doing book tours: Oklahoma in April, Texas and Oklahoma in the fall, and I hope to get to New York at some point for a working-class writing reading series a friend has started.
ED: As if you’re not busy enough, I learned while I was in Oklahoma City that you also run a small press! Details, please!
JCM: We (my husband and I) started Mongrel Empire Press in 2007, after a conversation with another Oklahoma poet — fueled by my husband’s monumental margaritas — about the difficulty of publishing vernacular Oklahoma writing. At the time, Village Books Press (owned by my friend and Oklahoma literary icon Dorothy Alexander) was (and is still) publishing Oklahoma-centered books, but there were more authors and books than she could keep up with. I discovered that I loved typesetting books and designing covers — it scratches the visual art itch. Our publications are in poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, regional/cultural history, and regional literary reprints. We are dedicated to developing and publishing regional authors, but we have also published writers from Oregon, Michigan, California, and Missouri. We just published our 38th book, by Greenfield Center (New York) Abenaki author Joseph Bruchac. (Editor’s note: Learn more about this press at http://mongrelempire.org.)
ED: What is perhaps the most significant “lesson learned” about the craft and/or business of writing that you’d share with our readers?
JCM: You don’t have to do it alone. Not any of it: writing, publishing, editing, promotion. Be a good literary citizen in your community — and your community will be good to you when you need help.
ED: Anything else you’d like to tell us?
JCM: I would like to say one more thing about the Red Earth MFA. I’m extremely proud that we have presented, since the program’s third residency, a free, community-service writing workshop. Initially, the workshop was held at a shelter for homeless women and their children. For the past two-and-a-half years, we’ve presented year-round weekly workshops at the Ralph Ellison Public Library in Oklahoma City, in an underserved community. The workshops are currently facilitated by three great writers: our assistant director, Rob Roensch, and two community volunteers, Timothy Bradford and Chad Reynolds. REMFA student volunteers do the teaching. It’s just another way The Red Earth MFA expresses its engagement with community and support for writers.
ED: Thank you, Jeanetta!
Please visit http://www.okcu.edu/artsci/english/redearthmfa/index to learn more about the Red Earth MFA program and http://tonguetiedwoman.com to learn more specifically about Jeanetta Calhoun Mish and her work.
3. FEATURED RESOURCE:
Among the things I appreciate about Claire Handscombe’s list of “99 Ways to Spread the Word About a Book You Love,” which recently appeared on Book Riot, is that it’s a perfect post for writers to share with their non-writing family and friends.
So, go to it, people!
4. UPCOMING/ONGOING CONTESTS, COMPETITIONS, AND OTHER OPPORTUNITIES OF INTEREST
ARTIST AT PINE NEEDLES RESIDENCY PROGRAM
Deadline: February 29, 2016
NO APPLICATION FEE
“The Artist at Pine Needles residency program invites natural history artists or writers to spend 2 to 4 weeks to immerse themselves in a field experience, gather resource materials, and interact with environmental scientists and the local community. The setting for the Artist at Pine Needles project is the James Taylor Dunn Pine Needles Cabin, located just north of the village along the St. Croix River. Applications will be accepted from writers and visual artists who focus on environmental or natural history topics. Participants will have an opportunity to interact with environmental scientists and to create links between their art, the natural world and the sciences. As part of the program, artists will be encouraged to design an outreach project to share their work with the local community and to contribute an original work for the benefit of the research station. Housing and rustic studio space is provided for the artists’ choice of a 2 to 4 week residency.”
CARRIAGE HOUSE POETRY PRIZE (in observance of Arbor Day 2016)
Deadline: March 1, 2016 (received)
NO ENTRY FEE
Final judge: Laura Boss
This competition is for previously unpublished poems that “contain reference to a tree or trees (not necessarily poems ABOUT trees). Any style or form.” Prize: $300 and publication in TIFERET journal; “The winner and possible runners up will be posted online….”
HEKTOEN GRAND PRIX ESSAY COMPETITION
Deadline: March 31, 2016
NO ENTRY FEE
“We invite you to submit an essay of no more than 1,600 words in length by March 31, 2016, for the Fourth Hektoen Grand Prix Essay Competition. The winners will receive prizes of $1,500 and selected participants will have their articles published in Hektoen International.” Two prizes will be awarded, one for a Military Prize “on a medical topic related to wars and veterans,” and the other for a General Prize “on any of the many other subjects currently featured” in the publication.
Deadline: March 15, 2016
NO APPLICATION FEE
“We’re thrilled to share the news of an incredible act of literary citizenship. An anonymous donor has funded a HippoCamp 2016 conference [for creative nonfiction writers] registration, valued at $389, for someone with financial need who otherwise could not attend the conference, which is scheduled for Aug. 12-14, 2016 in Lancaster, Pa. Also, Hippocampus Magazine will donate a pre-conference workshop and one of our TBA local restaurant friends will provide a gift certificate for dinner Saturday evening, for a total prize package valued at $478.” Two runners-up will receive $150 partial scholarships toward conference registration. The scholarship-competition essays by the winner and runners-up will appear in HIPPOCAMPUS MAGAZINE. Be sure to read the complete rules and eligibility conference on the website. (Learned about this one via Christi Craig, http://christicraig.com/.)
HOT METAL BRIDGE SOCIAL JUSTICE WRITING CONTEST
Deadline: March 25, 2016
NO ENTRY FEE (Tip Jar donations welcome, but not required)
This contest welcomes work in three categories: poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. See the guidelines for specifics (including judge names and bios) for each category. Prize (in each category): $50 and publication for the winner; publication for the runner-up. (via CRWROPPS-B, https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/CRWROPPS-B/info)
RIVER TEETH NONFICTION CONFERENCE STUDENT SCHOLARSHIPS
Deadline: March 1, 2016 (received)
NO APPLICATION FEE (“[Registration] fee is waived for scholarship applicants until after the scholarships are awarded.”)
“RIVER TEETH is offering four scholarships to students currently enrolled in writing programs (graduate or undergraduate). Registration fees will be waived for the recipients of the scholarships. All other expenses (travel, room, board) are the responsibility of the scholarship recipient.”
SPECULATIVE LITERATURE FOUNDATION WORKING CLASS WRITERS GRANT
Deadline: February 15, 2016
NO APPLICATION FEE
“This grant is awarded annually to assist working class, blue-collar, poor, and homeless writers who have been historically underrepresented in speculative fiction, due to financial barriers. We are currently offering one $750 working class grant annually, to be used as the writer determines will best assist his or her work.”
THRESHOLDS INTERNATIONAL SHORT FICTION *FEATURE WRITING* COMPETITION
Deadline: March 6, 2016
NO APPLICATION FEE
THRESHOLDS, devoted to the “reading, writing, and study of the short story form,” is holding a feature (non-fiction) contest that invites essays within two categories: “Author Profile,” on the life and work of a single short-story writer, and “We Recommend,” on “a collection, anthology, group of short stories, or a single short story.” There will be one grand prize of GBP 500 and two runners-up prizes of GBP 100, in addition to other (non-cash) prizes for the winners and shortlisted writers. Writers of any nationality, aged 16 and over, may enter. NB: “Copyright of the submitted essay remains with the author, but THRESHOLDS has the unrestricted right to publish any winning or shortlisted feature essays on its website and in any related material for PR purposes.” (via http://FundsForWriters.com)
DIANA WOODS MEMORIAL AWARD IN CREATIVE NONFICTION
Submissions: Month of February
NO ENTRY FEE
“Twice each year an author of a work of creative nonfiction will be selected for the DWM award by the Woods family, a member of the AULA MFA faculty in creative nonfiction, and a special guest judge. The winning submissions will be published in LUNCH TICKET and the recipient will receive $250. One author will be chosen for the Summer/Fall issue of LUNCH TICKET and one in the Winter/Spring issue.”
WORK STEW “MEMORABLE BOSSES” CONTEST
Deadline: February 15, 2016
NO ENTRY FEE
“Tell us about the manager who has affected you the most — for better or for worse No real names, please. Just vivid, juicy tales from your work life, past or present.” Prize: “$200 for the winner, to be announced on February 22, 2016. The winning entry, and perhaps some other entries, will be published…on Work Stew.”
5. SUBMISSION ALERTS!!!
From the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP): “Starting February 1, the WRITER’S CHRONICLE will be accepting material for our special 50th Anniversary year in 2017. Submit your critical appreciations of writers who have been extremely important in the last five decades, your photos and memories from past conferences, and historical material about AWP’s early days.” See http://eepurl.com/bMKkl5 for the call and https://www.awpwriter.org/magazine_media/submission_guidelines for more information about the WRITER’S CHRONICLE, including pay rate.
Also in the category of “writing on writing,” ELECTRIC LITERATURE has recently shared this call: “Electric Literature is now open to submissions of personal and critical essays, as well as humor, that reflect on the world of reading, writing, literature, and storytelling in all its forms. We’re particularly interested in pieces that examine the intersection of the literary world and other creative disciplines: film, fine art, music, video games, architecture–you name it.” Pays: “Payment for essays & humor pieces is $40. Length is up to you; most essays we publish fall between 1500-5000 words.” See the call at http://electricliterature.com/electric-literature-is-now-seeking-essay-submissions/.
Canada-based SUBTERRAIN seeks submissions on the theme of “Secrets”: “Poetry, fiction, nonfiction exploring the idea of secrecy. Personal, corporate, governmental, military — secrecy is used to cement personal relationships, to guarantee state security, to harbour knowledge. Some consider secrecy one of the main sources of human conflict. We intend to open the doors on the subTerrain confessional.” Deadline: February 15, 2016. Pays: $50/poem and $50/page of prose. http://subterrain.ca/about/35/sub-terrain-writer-s-guidelines
NINTH LETTER remains open for submissions until February 28. “We are interested in prose and poetry that experiment with form, narrative, and nontraditional subject matter, as well as more traditional literary work.” Pays: “$25 per printed page, upon publication, for accepted material, as well as two complimentary copies of the issue in which the work appears.” See http://ninthletter.com for more.
“FOREST AVENUE PRESS publishes page-turning literary fiction. Its titles are infused with a fresh, complex, sometimes nutty, and often-wondrous approach to storytelling. Legato Publishers Group, a division of The Perseus Books Group, is Forest Avenue’s distributor. We are open for unagented national submissions from January 1 to March 1, 2016. We are seeking one to three previously unpublished literary novels for publication in 2017/18 with a focus on realistic, contemporary fiction (set in the present).” Lots more helpful information available on this page: http://www.forestavenuepress.com/about/submissions/.
Attention, undergraduate writers! THE BLUE ROUTE is open for submissions until March 1. They’re looking for fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. “We want good, highly imaginative writing about contemporary life as you see it.” Pays: “We pay twenty-five dollars upon publication.” http://widenerblueroute.org/submission-guidelines/
TAYEN LANE PUBLISHING is now seeking short stories for its 2016 Articulated Press anthology. The collection, co-edited by Nora Boxer and Kelly Luce, aims to feature literary fiction from around the world. Maximum word count 5000; multiple story submissions fine. Contributors receive a $100 stipend, 2 hardcovers, 2 softcovers, and an e-book. Submissions remain open until 11:59 PM PST, Thursday, March 31, 2016. The anthology is slated for a Fall 2016 publication date, with national distribution through Ingram in 38,000 retail outlets as well as online. Tayen Lane’s mission is to challenge the status quo by publishing provocative, thought-provoking, beyond-the-mainstream books. Please see and follow our full submission guidelines at http://www.tayenlane.com/submission-call/.
THE FORGE LITERARY MAGAZINE is open to prose submissions (fiction and nonfiction). “While we are open to longer pieces, we prefer stories to come in below 3,000 words. We love flash and micro prose. Please send one previously unpublished piece and wait to hear from us before submitting another. Reprints are by solicitation only.” Pays: “We pay, upon publication, $0.05/words up to 1,000 words or minimum $20 and maximum $50. Writers outside the U.S. must be able to receive payment via Paypal.” See http://www.forgelitmag.com/flm/submit for more.
“LITBREAK is an online literary journal that publishes fiction, book reviews and essays of five hundred to five thousand words and poetry. We may also include thousand word excerpts from new novels or other material. All work submitted must be previously unpublished online.” Payment: “We pay all contributors. Payment is via your PayPal account. Payment will be on a case-by-case basis from $25 upward. We pay promptly on the first of every month for the previous month’s accepted submissions. There is no submission fee.” Visit http://litbreak.com for more. (via http://WritingCareer.com)
Resource alert: AuthorsPublish has compiled a list of poetry-book publishers who, for at least some part of the year, receive fee-free submissions: http://www.authorspublish.com/52-poetry-manuscript-publishers-who-do-not-charge-reading-fees/.
6. BLOG NOTES
The newsletter is published just once each month, but there’s *always* something new at our Practicing Writing blog: fresh market news, current contest and job listings, links to writing-related articles, newly-discovered craft and business resources, and so much more. Regular blog features include:
–Monday Markets for Writers
–Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer (formerly “Wednesday’s Work-in-Progress”)
–Friday Finds for Writers
Please visit, and comment! http://www.erikadreifus.com/blogs/practicing-writing/
And for those of you practicing writers who are interested in matters of specifically Jewish cultural interest, please also visit My Machberet (http://www.erikadreifus.com/blogs/my-machberet). For the curious, “machberet” is the Hebrew word for “notebook”.
7. NEWSLETTER MATTERS
Information contained in THE PRACTICING WRITER is collected from many sources, with the purpose of providing general references. It is researched to the best of our ability but readers should verify information when necessary and appropriate. THE PRACTICING WRITER and its editor/publisher disclaim any liability for the use of information contained within. Thank you for subscribing.
For updates and additional opportunity listings between newsletters, please check in with our “Practicing Writing” blog, http://www.erikadreifus.com/blogs/practicing-writing.
ABOUT THE EDITOR: Based in New York City, Erika Dreifus is the author of QUIET AMERICANS: STORIES, which is an American Library Association Sophie Brody Medal Honor Title for outstanding achievement in Jewish literature. A member of the advisory board for J JOURNAL: NEW WRITING ON JUSTICE, she has taught for Harvard University, the Cambridge (Mass.) Center for Adult Education, and the low-residency MFA programs in creative writing at Lesley University, the Northwest Institute for Literary Arts, and Oklahoma City University. In August 2014, Erika joined Fig Tree Books as Media Editor. Please visit http://www.erikadreifus.com to learn more about Erika’s work, and go directly to http://www.erikadreifus.com/quiet-americans/book-clubs/ to arrange for her to visit your book club!
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