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Supporting the Craft and Business of Excellent Writing
Volume 11, Number 10: November 2014
Editor: Erika Dreifus
Copyright (c) 2014 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:

The year is speeding by. Hard to believe that almost immediately upon sending this newsletter out I’ll need to begin working on the annual December feature (reading recommendations from writers you’ve seen me talk to in these pages during the past year and those whose work I’ve covered elsewhere).

But let’s savor November first. Including this issue’s Q&A with John Vanderslice.

Have a terrific month, everyone, and whether you’re doing NaNoWriMo or anything else, all best with your writing practices.

“Upping the Challenge”: An Interview with John Vanderslice

by Erika Dreifus

I met John Vanderslice through his wife, Stephanie, with whom I’d become acquainted through some AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) activities. (I can still visualize John and Stephanie and their two [then-little] boys sitting at a nearby table in a Chicago coffee shop during the 2004 AWP conference.) I’ve admired John’s writing and have long followed his blogging efforts. Today I’m here to introduce John’s wonderful new book of Nantucket-set linked short stories: ISLAND FOG (Lavender Ink).

John Vanderslice teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Arkansas, where he also serves as associate editor of TOAD SUCK REVIEW magazine. His fiction, poetry, essays, and one-act plays have appeared in SEATTLE REVIEW, LAUREL REVIEW, SOU’WESTER, CRAZYHORSE, SOUTHERN HUMANITIES REVIEW, 1966, EXQUISITE CORPSE, and dozens of other journals. He has also published short stories in several fiction anthologies.

Please welcome John Vanderslice!

ERIKA DREIFUS (ED): John, the most obvious connecting thread that weaves throughout ISLAND FOG is the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, where the stories take place. How did this commonality emerge? Did you set out to write diverse stories–in temporal setting, character, and style–that all took place in one location? Or did you realize at some point that, among all your writings over time, you had created this cluster of work set there?

JOHN VANDERSLICE (JV): More the latter. With my wife and her family, I’ve visited Nantucket several times since the mid-90s. My early trips amounted to just soaking in the physical surroundings and the exotic quality of the place. For a boy from below the Mason-Dixon line, this tiny little island 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, with its pronounced New England look and feel, and yet at the same time with visitors coming to it from all over the world, was just a revelation.

Eventually I realized that, as a fiction writer, I could and should write about the place. So on one trip, early in the “aughts,” I began a series of stories set on the island. Contemporary stories. Writing a book was the furthest thing on my mind. I just wanted to write some stories. And I did. Six in all, and I eventually published half of them. I thought I was done.

Many years later, on a 2011 trip, I realized that Nantucket, with its rich and abiding history, is the perfect locus for historical fiction. So I started a series of historical stories. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I could combine those stories with the earlier ones and make a complete Nantucket book.

ED: The opening story, “Guilty Look,” takes place back in 1795, and you note in the book’s front matter that it is rooted in a true incident: the Nantucket Bank robbery of that year. It also one of the two longest stories in the book (I’ve seen it described as a novella). How did you realize/know that “Guilty Look” would evolve into a short story (if a longish one) rather than, say, an historical novel?

JV: That’s a good question. Even though “Guilty Look” is the first story in the collection, it’s the last one I wrote. I knew by that point that I had a book of Nantucket stories on my hands, so it would never have occurred to me to try to start a Nantucket novel at the same time. Turned out, as happens so often when I write, that what I thought would be an average length piece became a lot longer as I started working through the event. But rather than stretch it out to novel length I decided to do a little creative curtailing of the real historical situation in order to adequately dramatize it in a long short story–and thus keep it for the collection.

ED: What was the biggest challenge–craft-wise–that you encountered in writing any of the stories in this book?

JV: As you yourself know so well, part of the joy of historical fiction is exploring a previous time period, getting to know it well enough that you can credibly use that period for a story. I kind of upped the challenge for myself by placing my historical stories in three different centuries. I spent a lot of time researching what names were popular during a given time period and what songs, what products would have been sold, what clothes worn, and what vehicles used, etc. All the different daily details that make up the body of a story. While this a pleasure–and absolutely necessary (you don’t want to make an embarrassing mistake)–it also took a lot of time. And I ran into some dead ends. For instance, I was unable to find where the exact street location of the Nantucket jail in the late 1700s, and I had to make that decision for myself. Maybe the greatest craft challenge though was to stay focused on my story in each story. To render details only as the story itself demanded, so that the fiction came across as just that, not a collection of historical facts. Since each story started in my head as an idea about a character in a given situation, not as an idea about a time period, this proved ultimately doable.

ED: Please tell us how you came to work with your publisher, Lavender Ink.

JV: I don’t have a sexy story! Once I had put my collection together, and realized how much I believed in it, I was determined to find a publisher, not just send queries to agents and hope things panned out.

So I researched every single small press publisher listed as open to fiction on the Poets and Writers database. It’s a fantastic database, an incredible resource. Lavender Ink (among several others) looked like a possible fit, so I sent them the manuscript and other information, per their guidelines. Many months later I got an email from Bill Lavender saying the press liked the book and was interested in publishing it.

ED: What is your biggest hope for ISLAND FOG as it meets readers?

JV: Of course my biggest hope is simply that readers find the book to be engrossing. But beyond that I hope readers are able to pick up on what a unique and beautiful place Nantucket is. It’s like nowhere else in this country. I can’t think of single place in America–even the Deep South–that feels so proud of and indebted to and simultaneous with its past. While the island changed from 1795 to 2005 in some obvious ways, on a deeper level, the level of identity, it has remained remarkably the same. I try to suggest that, that continuity, in many of the stories.

ED: Anything else you’d like us to know? Or parting advice to share?

JV: Oh, a couple things, I guess. The book has the title it does because the story “Island Fog”–bizarre though it is (or perhaps because it’s bizarre)–still ranks in my mind as the best thing I’ve ever done. And I’ve written a lot since! So I’m really happy that it carries the day as the title story of the collection. Second, I would urge anyone who has yet to visit Nantucket to do so pronto. And don’t just visit; don’t just grab a coffee and go shopping; or visit an auction. Instead, linger on a beach. Go for a long run. Bike out from central Nantucket to ‘Sconset. Walk through a rain shower. Study a sunset. Have a tangible physical experience. That’s what good fiction is built on, after all.

ED: Good advice–and I know that because I’ve had the good luck of visiting Nantucket a few times myself. Thanks, John!

To learn more about John Vanderslice and Island Fog, please visit http://johnvanderslicebooks.com.

My thanks to John and Lavender Ink for the advance digital galley.

Sure, it’s nice to see one’s own resource(s) topping a list like this one. But that’s not the reason I’m sending you over to Nina’s list. Yes, there are some resources recommended there that are likely already familiar to you. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll also find at least one or two useful new items–and some advice that worth hearing again.

“10 Resources for Writers and Bloggers”

Bay Area Discovery Museum Artist-in-Residence Program
Deadline: December 15, 2014 (for residencies to take place March-May 2015, on the theme of “Sky”)

“The Artist-in-Residence program is part of our seasonal arts programming which provides our visitors the opportunity to discover the world around them in new and innovative ways. By encouraging families to explore diverse materials, tools, and techniques, we create an environment that stimulates creativity, and allows our visitors express their feelings, thoughts, and ideas through art. We invite artists–visual artists, musicians, composers, media artists, architects, poets, scientists, dancer/choreographers, writers, builders, naturalists, puppeteers, storytellers, actors, playwrights, etc.–to propose residencies and projects which support and enhance our 2014-2015 arts program. As outlined below, our arts program is based on quarterly themes. We look to the artists to propose how to best engage with these themes, from the type of residency proposed to its duration. Thus, there is no minimum duration for a residency; projects may take place at any time throughout the course of the 3 month theme.” Payment: “Artists-in-Residence will be supported by stipends starting at $1,000, the exact size of which will be determined by the cost of the project not to exceed $20,000.”
W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction
Deadline: December 1, 2014

“This award honors the best fiction set in a period when the United States was at war. It recognizes the service of American veterans and military personnel and encourages the writing and publishing of outstanding war-related fiction. Donated by William Young Boyd II.” Prize includes $5,000. Novel must have been published “during the year prior to the award.”
Commonwealth Short Story Prize
Deadline: November 15, 2014

“The Commonwealth Short Story Prize brings stories from new and emerging voices, often from countries with little or no publishing infrastructure, to the attention of an international audience. You don’t need an agent, just an internet connection to submit your unpublished story of 2000-5000 words. Entry is free. Stories translated into English are also eligible. Each year, we select five winning writers from five different Commonwealth regions who share a total prize money of GBP15,000. The overall winner receives GBP5,000, one of the highest amounts for an international short story prize open to unpublished writers. Regional winners receive GBP2,500. This year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize is part-funded by The Sigrid Rausing Trust. Commonwealth Writers partners with the literary magazine Granta to give winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize the opportunity to be edited and published by Granta online.”
GENEii Writing Contest
Submissions: November 1- December 31, 2014 (received)

“The GENEii Writing Contest is for factual articles: either family history or local history, character sketches, or memoirs. Winning entries capture a sense of a family’s experience(s), the character of a locality, or reveal an individual’s character and personality. We feel the best articles help illuminate the human drama – and will also illuminate the era, and/or the historical or social context of the subject. Prizes are awarded in two categories. Category 1 is for articles between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length. Category 2 is for articles under 1,000 words in length. Both categories are for family history or local-history stories, memoirs, or character sketches. Submissions may be either unpublished or previously published.” NB: “Entrants grant SCGS the one-time right to publish their articles in the SCGS journal The Searcher; and/or the SCGS website; and/or to publish their article in an anthology of winning entries. Previously published articles should include permission to reprint from the prior publisher.” Cash prizes range from $25 to $200.
David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction
Deadline: December 1, 2014

“A prize and $1,000 honorarium is awarded every year for the best book in American Historical Fiction published in the preceding year. The Trust purchases many books and distributes them to the Selection Committee. However, any publisher or author may ensure our consideration by submitting a copy directly to us at the address indicated on our Contact page.”
Long-Term Ecological Reflections: Writers-in-Residence Program
Deadline: December 1 (for the spring retreats)

“The Long-Term Ecological Reflections program hosts two Writers-in-Residence Programs at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest–the Blue River Writing Fellowship and the Andrews Forest Writing Residency. Each program occurs twice a year. Creative writers whose work reflects a keen awareness of the natural world and an appreciation for both scientific and literary ways of knowing are invited to apply for the Andrews Forest Writers Residency. The Blue River Fellowships are offered to well-established writers by invitation.”
J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award
Deadline: December 10, 2014 (received)

“The J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, in the amount of $30,000, will be given annually to aid in the completion of a significant work of nonfiction on a topic of American political or social concern. Recognizing that a nonfiction book based on extensive original research often overtaxes the resources available to its author, the project envisions the award as a way of closing the gap between the time and money an author has and the time and money that finishing a book requires.” NB: “Applicants for the award must already have a contract with a publisher to write a nonfiction book.”
University of Manitoba Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture Writer and/or Storyteller-in-Residence
Deadline: November 7, 2014

“A professional writer and/or storyteller is sought for the position of Writer/Storyteller?in?Residence at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture. The three-month residency, from September 8 to December 8, 2015, will require the successful candidate to spend approximately 16 hours per week providing mentorship and practical artistic advice to developing writers and storytellers at the University of Manitoba, to give a limited number of readings and/or performances on campus, and to lead an informal non-credit workshop. The remaining time is to be devoted to the writer or storyteller’s own artistic projects. The successful candidate will receive a salary of $15,000.00 CAD, plus rent-free accommodation and return transportation to Winnipeg. There may also be a separate additional residency from January 3 to April 3, 2016, subject to availability of funds, so applicants are encouraged to mention their availability during this period as well.” NB: “Candidates of all nationalities are encouraged to apply; however, full proficiency in English is required, and publications or performance credits in English would be an asset.”
UNT Rilke Prize
Deadline: November 30, 2014

This is an “annual award of $10,000 recognizing a book that demonstrates exceptional artistry and vision written by a mid-career poet and published in the preceding year.” For this year’s prize, eligible books must have been published between November 1, 2013, and October 31, 2014. “Entrants must have published at least two previous books of poetry and be U.S. citizens or legal resident aliens of the United States.”
Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets
Deadline: December 1, 2014

“The Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets will only accept ‘first book’ submissions from African writers who have not published a book-length poetry collection. This includes self-published books if they were sold online, in stores, or at readings. Writers who have edited and published an anthology or a similar collection of other writers’ work remain eligible. An ‘African writer’ is taken to mean someone who was born in Africa, who is a national or resident of an African country, or whose parents are African. Only poetry written in English is eligible. Translated poetry is accepted but a percentage of the prize will be awarded to the translator.” Prize: “The winner receives USD $1000 and publication through with the University of Nebraska Press and Amalion Press in Senegal.”
WAG’S REVUE will be open for submissions until the end of November. “Open reading periods are held from the beginning of March through the end of May and from the beginning of September through [the] end of November.” Pays: “WAG’S REVUE compensates its writers $100 per piece (interview, poem or group of poems, essay, or short story).” See http://www.wagsrevue.com/submit.
November is an open reading period month for the team at BLACK LAWRENCE PRESS, which will consider “submissions in the following categories: novel, novella, short story collection (full-length and chapbook), poetry (full-length and chapbook), biography & cultural studies, translation (from the German and the French), and creative nonfiction.” See http://www.blacklawrence.com/submissions-and-contests/open-reading-period/ for details.
“WORDTECH COMMUNICATIONS LLC welcomes submissions of book-length and chapbook-length poetry manuscripts from residents of the United States. Unlike most poetry publishers, we do not charge reading fees. All chosen manuscripts are published under a royalty contract….Our reading period for full-length manuscripts is November-December 2014.” Note that WordTech selects and publishes books through six imprints, each of which has a different focus. You are encouraged to suggest “which imprint you feel fits your manuscript best.” http://www.wordtechcommunications.com/deadline-list.htm
THE PEDESTAL MAGAZINE will be accepting submissions November 3-30. Pays: $40/poem, $40/hybrid-multi-genre work, and $.01-$.02/word for “mock or meta-academic” work, described in the guidelines: http://thepedestalmagazine.com/submitguidelines.php
MSLEXIA, a UK-based “magazine for women who write,” plans a New Writing section on the theme “Earth Songs”: “Our planet is under threat. This is an opportunity to celebrate its intricate marvels – in fiction or poetry only – or to mourn or rail against their loss.” Submission deadline: December 9, 2014. Pays: “The basic rates for New Writing are GBP25 per poem, and GBP15 per thousand words of prose.” https://www.mslexia.co.uk/info/submit.php
“TINCTURE JOURNAL is a quarterly e-book literary journal, featuring fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction from Australia and the world. There is no thematic focus. Our aim is to provide a space for both new and experienced writers to publish their work.” They’re currently open for submissions in fiction, nonfiction, and scripts. NB: “We would particularly like to see some more English writing from Asia and the Pacific.” Pays: “All published writers will be paid, generally a fixed amount, although certain commissioned pieces or longer pieces might attract a higher rate. The payment rate varies based on the length of your piece and previous sales, but is generally in the range of $20-100 AUD.” See http://tincture-journal.com for more information. (via http://twitter.com/Duotrope)
BLACKBIRD re-opens for submissions November 1 and will remain open until April 15, 2015. Considers poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and plays. Pays: “after publication.” See http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/v13n1/submissions.shtml for guidelines.
From THE MASTERS REVIEW: “Submissions for our New Voices category are open year round. New Voices are open to any new or emerging author who has not published a work of fiction or narrative nonfiction of novel length. Authors with short story collections are free to submit. We accept simultaneous and multiple submissions but ask that you inform us immediately if your story is accepted elsewhere. We pay New Voices authors $0.10/word up to $200 and do not charge submission fees, but are highly selective.” They appear to be looking for fiction or narrative nonfiction up to 5,000 words. Visit http://mastersreview.com for more information.
“CAMROC PRESS REVIEW is booked to the end of 2014 and is now reading for its seventh and final year of publication. It’s been a great ride, one I’ve enjoyed immensely. There are 52 Wednesdays to fill. When that’s done, submissions will close and CPR will be on autopilot, sailing into its sunset. Writing accepted for publication next year will earn $100, payable upon acceptance. Those writers will also be eligible for the Editor’s Favorite Award, which will increase to $5,000 for 2015, shared equally if more than one is selected. We’re looking for micro prose or poetry that moves us to joy or sadness or anger or any other real emotion that illuminates the human condition. We especially like to see writing with layers or subtext that deepens what it makes us feel. Send us writing that provides an emotional jolt, work that pierces and surprises us. Of course, we never know what that will be until we see it.” http://bit.ly/1sa9Hd0
“PROLIFIC PRESS is now accepting full-length poetry, fiction, and non-fiction manuscripts for book publishing (no sample chapters please). We do not charge reading fees. Decisions are based on several factors including the popularity of the author, the market for similar books at the time of distribution, and the features of the book including quality, size, and genre. Emerging authors are OK. Full publishing comes with a token cash advance and a standard royalty contract.” http://prolificpress.com/book-submissions/
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
–Wednesday Work-in-Progress
–Friday Finds for Writers
–Sunday Sentence

Please visit, and comment! http://www.erikadreifus.com/blogs/practicing-writer.

And for those of you practicing writers who are interested in matters of specifically Jewish literary/cultural interest, please also visit My Machberet (http://www.erikadreifus.com/blogs/my-machberet). (For the curious, “machberet” is the Hebrew word for “notebook”.)

Recent posts there include:
–Stunning Sentences Drawn from JLit
–Pre-Shabbat Literary Links
–From My Bookshelf: Bernard Malamud’s THE ASSISTANT
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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