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Supporting the Craft and Business of Excellent Writing
Volume 12, Number 2: March 2015
Editor: Erika Dreifus
Copyright (c) 2015 Erika Dreifus


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1. Editor’s Note: What’s New
2. Article/Lessons Learned
3. Featured Resource
4. Upcoming/Ongoing Contests, Competitions, and Other Opportunities
5. Submission Alerts!!!
6. Blog Notes
7. Newsletter Matters
Greetings, practicing writers:

Ah, March. The promise of spring to the winter-weary among us.

And the promise of more. It’s an especially busy time for me in my “day job” at Fig Tree Books (http://FigTreeBooks.net). This new publishing company, which focuses on fiction about the American Jewish experience, will release its first book this month: NPR commentator Alan Cheuse’s PRAYERS FOR THE LIVING, which features an extraordinarily beautiful foreword by Tova Mirvis. We’ll be publishing one book each month in April, May, and June, too, so you can imagine how excited we are. I should mention that we remain open for novel submissions – agented and non-agented – throughout the year. See http://figtreebooks.net/submit-a-manuscript/ for more on that, and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter edited by, ahem, yours truly: http://figtreebooks.net/fig-tree-books-updates/.

Meantime, March awaits. As does the rest of this issue. Enjoy it, and here’s wishing each and every one of you fulfillment and success with your writing practice!

(ED note: Back in 2009, I wrote a short article titled “Craft Tips Culled from Contest-Judging.” During a recent visit to the New York Society Library to lead a session on “Writing Contests 101,” I had an opportunity to revisit that piece. I thought it might be worth sharing again here, since we’ve had *many* subscribers join us in the years since it was first published.)

Craft Tips Culled from Contest-Judging

By Erika Dreifus

As some of you may remember, my writing practice recently expanded when I was invited to judge a short fiction competition. I am very grateful to have been asked to take on this role, and I am eager to see the winning stories announced.

One of the most interesting aspects of reading the nearly two dozen finalist pieces that were forwarded to me was the opportunity to reflect, once again, on what makes a story “succeed.” Since I was required to comment on each winning story – touching on why I’d selected it as well as offering some ideas on what might further improve it – I had ample reason to revisit some of the lessons I have absorbed over the years about the craft of fiction. And so, this month, I thought I’d share five tips on how to strengthen a story based on my recent immersion in an array of short fiction contest entries.

1. Give your story a title. A title can help pique a reader’s attention and ease her transition into the story. (And from this judge’s admittedly idiosyncratic viewpoint, it simply seems more appropriate to award a prize to a specific story rather than to “Untitled.”)

2. Unless you have a specific purpose – such as writing a story *entirely* in direct dialogue – it’s a good idea to vary the direct and indirect approaches. Incorporating direct dialogue provides an opportunity to render characters more distinct through their individual word choice, dialect, and cadence. Indirect dialogue can be especially useful for summarizing information that need not be presented word for word.

3. Again, unless you’re seeking to attain a specific effect, vary sentence structure and sentence length. Same goes for paragraphs. Shake things up! Everything – words, sentences, paragraphs – is a tool in your writerly toolbox. Use it all to maximum effect!

4. In the case of the competition I judged, writers had the option to begin the story with a prompt that presented a first-person narrator-character looking into a mirror. Ordinarily, however, having a character look into a mirror and describe his or her eyes, hair, teeth, etc., is not a very useful technique. Unless, perhaps, you wish to heighten the sense of your character’s narcissism (or self-criticism).

5. It’s a rare successful story that is composed of a character’s unsituated memories/ruminations.

And one last tip, although I know we all hear it all the time: proofread, proofread, and proofread again. You do not want a judge stopped mid-read by misplaced apostrophe marks. Now, go forth, write, and submit!

Initially published in the October 2009 issue of THE PRACTICING WRITER.

As Jessica Piazza explains:

“I’m a poet, professor and book club facilitator living in Los Angeles. Recently, I was inspired by the poet Dena Rash Guzman’s personal challenge to send her poetry to paying markets in 2015. I was so inspired, in fact, that I decided to spend the next whole year submitting poetry ONLY to paying journals and markets, and recording what happens in this blog. I also decided to use this space to simultaneously explore deeper questions of poetry’s value and worth (monetary or otherwise.)

Luckily for everyone, I won’t be doing it alone. Here you’ll find posts about my experiences over the year, but also lists of paying markets, interviews with and advice from editors and publishers who pay poets, and essays by esteemed friends and colleagues who have opinions on the subject or are participating in this experiment themselves.

I think it’s worth it to spend a year thinking about the system and figuring out what’s broken and how we can fix it. I think it’s worth it to ask what poetry is worth.”

Go take a look at Jessica Piazza’s POETRY HAS VALUE site. I can practically guarantee that you won’t regret it.

American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) Conference Scholarships
Deadline: According to the website, the application will be available on March 1, 2015; deadline is April 1, 2015, 10 pm Eastern.

“A generous grant from Amazon.com has made it possible to offer scholarships to writers who are serious about starting or continuing a nonfiction freelance writing career. They will benefit from attending the largest conference focused strictly on independent nonfiction writing, packed with the opportunities to network with hundreds of professional writers, editors, and agents – AND hear from impressive speakers including numerous editors and literary agents, scores of published award-winning authors and multi-credentialed writers.” Up to ten scholarships will be awarded for the New York City conference, which takes place April 30-May 2, 2015. Scholarships provide registration waivers and more. Eligibility: “Scholarships are available to nonfiction freelance writers including accomplished bloggers, book authors and those contributing original work to print and/or online periodicals. ASJA members may apply, but preference will be given to nonprofessional writers at early stages of their careers.”
Common Good Books Annual Poetry Contest
Deadline: April 4, 2015

“Last year, love was all you needed to enter the Common Good Books annual poetry competition. This year, love is not required—but you do need to revive the lost art of letter-writing. The theme of this year’s competition is ‘Dear You,’ and the bookstore is looking for poems in the form of letters–and they don’t have to be nice ones, either. (Just poetic.) (And to real, living people.) Proprietor Garrison Keillor has upped the prize money to $5,000, which will be divided into three $1,000 grand prizes and four $500 prizes for ‘poems of merit’ This surely makes the bookstore’s competition one of the most lucrative in the country for a single poem. Last year’s competition, with prizes of $4,000, drew more than 1,000 entries.” Contest is open to anyone living in the United States.
McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns First Novel Prize
Deadline: March 15, 2015

“Each year, The Writer’s Center awards $500 to the author of the best first novel published in the previous calendar year. Conceived and funded by board member Neal P. Gillen, the McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns Prize honors three dedicated writers and members of The Writer’s Center faculty – Ann McLaughlin, Barbara Esstman, and Lynn Stearns – each of whom unselfishly nourish and inspire students and fellow writers.” NB: “All first novels published in print in 2014 are eligible, including those published by major, independent, and self-publishing presses. Only American authors publishing in English are eligible. Non-eligible books include short story collections, flash fiction, memoirs, biographies and books published solely in electronic format.”
Modern Love College Essay Contest
Deadline: March 15, 2015

From The New York Times: “We’re inviting college students nationwide to open their hearts and laptops and write an essay that describes what love is like for them today.” Prize: “The winning author will receive $1,000 and his or her essay will be published in a special Modern Love column [in] May 2015, and on nytimes.com”
The Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship for Writers
Deadline: April 1, 2015

“The Marguerite and Lamar Fellowship for Writers will be offered for the fall semester of 2015, the fellowship to begin the first of September and to end the first of December. During this period of time, the Smith/McCullers Fellow will reside in a spacious private apartment in Carson McCullers’ childhood home, the Smith-McCullers House. The Fellow will be provided with a stipend of $5000 to cover costs of transportation, food and other incidentals. Fellowship recipients will be required to introduce or advance their work through reading or workshop/forum presentations. The Fellow will work with the McCullers Center Director to plan a presentation near the end of the residency.”
STRUCTO Magazine Psalm Translation Contest
Deadline: April 5, 2015 (midnight GMT)

“For the last few years Structo’s poetry editor Matthew Landrum has run a contest which asks for free translations of biblical psalms during the season of Lent. Last year we helped to run the competition, and in the process received some top-notch submissions from authors across the world. Some were religious; some were secular. Some kept close to the source material; others made bold departures from the original. The results were striking. We ended up publishing the winner and two others in issue 12. Two of these went on for Pushcart Prize nominations. Now with Lent upon us again, we’re opening submissions for a second year of the contest. The winner gets publication in issue 14 of STRUCTO, US$150, and a two-year subscription.” NB: “You needn’t know any original languages or have any (or any particular) religious affiliation, just a willingness to tussle with this lovely, enduring, ancient poetry. Entries will be judged by panel on originality, musicality, accuracy (to the psalm’s spirit), and aesthetic.
Bevel Summers Prize for the Short Short Story
Submissions: March 15-31, 2015

“The Bevel Summers Prize in the Short Short Story will open to stories of up to 1,000 words on March 15, 2015. The winner will receive a $1000 prize and be featured prominently on Shenandoah’s fall 2015 issue.”
Waterman Fund Alpine Essay Contest
http://www.watermanfund.org/essay-contest/enter-essay-contest/ AND
http://www.watermanfund.org/essay-contest/conditions-and-limits/ (for detailed terms/conditions)
Deadline: April 15, 2015

“Guy and Laura Waterman spent a lifetime reflecting and writing on the Northeast’s mountains. The Waterman Fund seeks to further their legacy of stewardship through essays that celebrate and explore issues of wilderness, wildness, and humans through the Fund’s annual essay contest. In conjunction with the Museum of the White Mountains’ exhibit on Woman and the Mountains, the 2015 essay contest invites emerging writers to explore the question of who the stewards of wilderness are. Statistically, more men than women explore professional careers in the stewardship of wilderness and public land management. What, if any, bearing does the gender of stewards have on our shared and individual perceptions of, and relationship to, wilderness? Do you find a difference in how men and women experience and steward wilderness, personally or professionally? Alternately, does the spirit of wilderness transcend anything so human as gender? Is there a relationship between gender, wilderness exploration, and the management of these invaluable public lands? Emerging writers are encouraged to explore the interplay between men, women, and wilderness, with particular regard to how this shapes our individual and cultural perceptions and stewardship of wild places.” Prize: “The winning essayist will be awarded $1500 and published in Appalachia Journal. The Honorable Mention essay will receive $500. Both essays will be published on our website as well.”
Wergle Flomp Humor Contest
Deadline: April 1, 2015

Contest from WinningWriters.com for humor poems. First prize: $1,000. Ten awards of $100 each. Online publication.
Wesleyan Writers Conference Scholarships & Fellowships
Deadline: March 20, 2015
NO APPLICATION FEE (“If your attendance at the conference is contingent on your receiving financial assistance, you do not need to send the $100 deposit with your fellowship or scholarship materials.”)

“Scholarships are awarded competitively, and applicants are judged on the basis of promise shown in their work. Entries should consist of a work in one genre: fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Several scholarships provide full tuition, room, and board, but most offer smaller awards, covering a part of the Conference tuition. Several teaching fellowships are available and are awarded to outstanding applicants who have completed book-length manuscripts.”
In early February, Stanford University Press announced the launch of a new imprint, REDWOOD PRESS. “Under this name – a nod both to Stanford University’s home in Palo Alto (it’s a coastal redwood tree) and the Press’s new Redwood City headquarters – the Press will publish thought-provoking nonfiction and stimulating fiction for the general reader. Open to both academics as well as non-academic writers – journalists, novelists, and other influential voices – this imprint is geared toward big ideas and broad audiences.” See http://stanfordpress.typepad.com/blog/2015/02/introducing-redwood-press.html for more information and a link to the press release.
Attention, undergraduates: THE BLUE ROUTE is open for submissions until March 15. Considers poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. “We want good, highly imaginative writing about contemporary life as you see it. We’re not interested in genre writing (romance, detective, horror, sci-fi) unless it somehow rises above the conventions associated with those types of writing. If your writing is cliched, inspired by TV, emphasizes end rhyme above all else, has flat characters, exhibits a general insensitivity to the beauties and subtleties of language, it will not find a place in this journal.” Pays: $25. http://widenerblueroute.org/submission-guidelines/
COFFEE HOUSE PRESS’s spring submissions period opens March 1 (and runs until March 31). “Coffee House Press publishes literary novels, full-length short story collections, poetry, creative nonfiction, book-length essays and essay collections, and the occasional memoir. CHP does not accept submissions for anthologies. CHP also does not publish genre fiction such as mysteries, Gothic romances, Westerns, science fiction, or books for children.” NB: Appears to be closed to poetry submissions. http://coffeehousepress.org/submission-guidelines/
March is a month when Australia-based KILL YOUR DARLINGS accepts submissions of original writing (June, September, and December are other open-submission months). “We encourage those who wish to submit essays, feature articles or reviews to email a pitch”; note that you may “send through pitches at all times.” Pays: “Print rates are negotiated with the editors on commission, however our minimum payment for a lead feature commentary is $550, commentary is $200, fiction is $250, and reviews $200 (for all of which we subtract $50 for a discounted yearly subscription, or renewal of an existing subscription).” See more at: http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com/submissions/
BLACKBIRD remains open for submissions until April 15. Pays: “after publication.” http://blackbird.vcu.edu/v13n2/submissions.shtml
At WAG’S REVUE, the spring submission window is open “from the beginning of March to the beginning of May.” Pays: “WAG’S REVUE compensates its writers $100 per piece (interview, poem or group of poems, essay, or short story).” http://www.wagsrevue.com/submit
RUMINATE magazine, which “publishes work with both subtle and overt associations to the Christian faith as well as work that has no direct association,” reopened to nonfiction submissions on February 16 (and will remain open until August 15; fiction submissions are open until May 15). Pays: $15/400 words plus contributor copies. See http://www.ruminatemagazine.com/submit/submission-guidelines
SPIDER ROAD PRESS “seeks submissions to our 2016 anthology, Approaching Footsteps: Four Novellas by Women. Beginning on February 15th, we will be considering submissions of unpublished, suspenseful literary novellas by women writers. Novellas should be 9,000- 13,000 words long (40-60 pages). We seek well-crafted fiction in which the plot strengthens the characterization. Novellas featuring protagonists from traditionally under-represented communities are particularly encouraged. One submission per writer allowed. We have a small staff, so it could take us up to five months (after the final submission date) to contact authors regarding acceptances and rejections. Payment upon publication: $50 and two free copies of the collection.” Deadline: May 15, 2015. More info: https://spiderroadpress.submittable.com/submit/39224
Published by The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), THE WRITER’S CHRONICLE has reopened for submissions. Pays: “$14 per 100 words for accepted manuscripts,” on publication. https://www.awpwriter.org/magazine_media/writers_chronicle_submission_guidelines
Reminder: The CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL anthologies are ALWAYS looking for submissions on various themes (currently, there are three book projects listed with March deadlines). And they pay! Check in once every so often at http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topics.
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
–Sunday Sentence

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”.
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 and the Northwest Institute for Literary Arts. 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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