THE PRACTICING WRITER
Supporting the Craft and Business of Excellent Writing
Volume 11, Number 2: March 2014
Editor: Erika Dreifus
Copyright (c) 2014 Erika Dreifus
We value our subscribers, and we protect their privacy. We keep our subscriber list confidential.
PLEASE PASS THE NEWSLETTER ON–in its entirety–to your writing friends, students, and teachers. If you’d like to share news about a particular competition or a submission alert with other writers, please credit THE PRACTICING WRITER for the find. Thanks for respecting the efforts of your volunteer editor/publisher!
Having trouble reading this issue? Have the formatting gremlins been at work again? The current newsletter is available to all at http://www.erikadreifus.com/newsletter/current. Subscribers only many access archived issues at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/practicing-writer.
This newsletter is sent by subscription only. For instructions on subscribing or unsubscribing, please scroll to the end. Thank you!
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
5. Submission Alerts!!!
6. Blog Notes
7. Newsletter Matters
1. EDITOR’S NOTE: WHAT’S NEW
Greetings, practicing writers!
At the moment I feel almost as though I’m one of a very few writers who is NOT attending this year’s conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP). I hope that those of you who *are* taking part in the events in Seattle are enjoying yourselves. And I hope that anyone who may be feeling a bit left out of things will find that this newsletter mitigates that!
This issue contains another bumper crop of no-fee competitions and paying submission opportunities. But I’m especially pleased to present in this newsletter a Q&A with novelist Jenn Crowell. I admire Jenn so much, and I’m confident that you will, too.
Happy March to all,
ARTICLE/LESSONS LEARNED: Q&A with JENN CROWELL
Q&A with Author and Activist Jenn Crowell
by Erika Dreifus
Jenn Crowell is another author I’ve come to know through a series of Internet exchanges, mainly via Twitter. I was honored to be asked to “blurb” her new novel ETCHED ON ME (Washington Square Press), which was published in early February. Here’s what I had to say:
“In ETCHED ON ME’s Lesley Holloway, Jenn Crowell has created a protagonist whom I wish I could meet off the page. Confronted with abuse, stigma, and shame, Lesley takes real risks to do more than survive her circumstances: She changes them. Along the way, Lesley draws strength from a small but hardy cast of supporting characters we’d also all benefit from knowing in everyday life. In the hands of an author lacking Crowell’s skill, the novel might risk falling into stereotype and caricature. But Crowell deftly maintains control–unflinching, authentic, and empathic–throughout. I’m confident that readers will be as impressed with Lesley Holloway (and with Jenn Crowell) as I am.”
My confidence continues as I present this Q&A with Jenn about her new novel.
Jenn Crowell is the critically acclaimed author of the novels NECESSARY MADNESS, LETTING THE BODY LEAD, and, most recently, ETCHED ON ME. She holds an MFA and a Post-Graduate Certificate in the Teaching of Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and is a former Berlin Film Festival Talent Campus Fellow in screenwriting. Jenn lives near Portland, Ore., with her husband and young daughter. Please welcome her to THE PRACTICING WRITER.
ERIKA DREIFUS (ED): Jenn, you’d published two novels by the time you were 24. Only later did you enroll in an MFA program. Please tell us what inspired you to pursue the MFA and what influence your graduate work at Antioch University-Los Angeles’s low-residency program had on you as a writer.
JENN CROWELL (JC): Many people were surprised that I chose to go back for an MFA after having published multiple novels. My response to them was: “Just because I’m a professional doesn’t mean I don’t have more to learn about the craft of fiction.” Aspiring writers often think that once you’ve “made it” in career terms you magically know everything, but each book presents its own challenges and forces you to utilize new techniques in service to the story.
As for my choice of MFA route, I knew from the get-go that a low-residency format would best suit my circumstances. When I went online and read Antioch’s residency seminar descriptions, and saw lectures on [topics such as] queer writing and bipolar disorder’s impact on the creative process, I just knew that it was my kind of learning environment!
With low-residency programs, you get out of them what you put into them, but the one-on-one interaction with professors is priceless. If you look at the acknowledgments for ETCHED ON ME, you’ll see a long litany of thanks to each person I worked with, along with their individual contributions: nurturing of poetic language, education in the art of the scene jump cut.
My final term there was nothing short of revelatory. I came into it with my novel almost completed, but my mentor Leonard Chang read it and leveled with me: I was hiding from the heart of the story. I sat down the very next day and, for the first time, Lesley’s voice poured out of me.
ED: At last check, your Twitter bio identified you as a “mental health activist and author.” Please tell us a bit about how your activism informs your writing and vice-versa.
JC: Although I had been vision-impaired since birth, had struggled with anxiety and depression, and had been hospitalized for bipolar disorder, I did not focus on disability rights until well into my adult life. When my daughter was a year old, two events catapulted me into mental-health activism.
First, I read a news story about Fran Lyon, a young woman in the UK who was facing the removal of her own daughter at birth due to her previous history of self-harm. I’m a recovered self-harmer, so this shook me to the core, and became the inspiration for writing Lesley’s story.
And then, during one of my terms at Antioch, I relapsed and had to go inpatient for the first time in five years. As if that wasn’t traumatic enough, I was sexually assaulted on the unit where I was staying. When I went to police and eventually entered litigation against the hospital, the response I received was essentially: “So what? You were a psychiatric patient.” They treated me as flawed goods to whom abuse made no difference, so I had to fight to prove I was damaged – ironically, at the same time I was writing about Lesley’s fight to prove she wasn’t.
Ever since we settled out of court, I’ve told that story to anyone who’ll listen. I’ve given lectures at alternative psychiatry symposia. I call out licensed psychologists on their blog posts that dismiss traumatized women as “borderlines.” I raise a lot of hell on Twitter (I was reluctant to rant at first, but every time I do, someone messages me to thank me for speaking out). I think there are tremendous intersections between written witness and active praxis. “Narrative” isn’t just an abstract literary term. It’s the way in which way advocate and present our truths in a culture hell-bent on denying and minimizing them.
ED: I’ll quote some of my own “blurb” for this next question: “In the hands of an author lacking Crowell’s skill, the novel might risk falling into stereotype and caricature. But Crowell deftly maintains control–unflinching, authentic, and empathic–throughout.” The question is this: How anxious were you about that risk of falling into stereotype and caricature (or perhaps even worse, over-sentimentality)? How do you recommend other writers work to avoid similar potential pitfalls in their own work?
JC: I’m so flattered to hear you compliment me on avoiding that pitfall, because I worried about it constantly while writing ETCHED ON ME! I think my saving grace was Lesley’s voice. My initial drafts were written in third-person, and they came perilously close to stereotype due to their distance from her. But as soon as I let her speak in her own naturally snarky, streetwise North London dialect, the book’s potentially overwrought melodrama took on a punchy, poignant brightness. Gallows humor has saved my life on numerous occasions, and Lesley’s use of it allowed me to strike a balance between intense emotion and wry detachment.
I think it’s important to not fear letting your characters emote; I’ll take fierce feeling over chilly irony any day. The key lies in harnessing specificity, in finding that fresh, particular expression which only your narrator would use, to keep your scenes bold rather than belabored.
ED: What was the greatest challenge you encountered in writing ETCHED ON ME?
JC: I suppose a better question might be, “What *wasn’t* a challenge?” This book really pushed me to my outer edges – a brutal but fulfilling stretch. I had to break through so many resistances: to writing Lesley in first person (I honestly thought I couldn’t do it!), to laying bare some explicit but essential material (the sex scenes and labor/birth scene being prime examples), and, most critically, to allowing the most tortuous parts of the plot to unfold.
ED: What is your greatest hope for ETCHED ON ME as it reaches readers?
JC: First, I’d like readers to take delight in my scrappy, irrepressible Lesley – to see her as a charming, capable, and deserving young woman, a human face not just of mental illness and victimization, but also of recovery and resiliency.
Second, I’d like this fictional narrative to connect readers with and raise awareness of discrimination against mothers with mental illness. Fran Lyon’s situation was not an isolated one; a pregnant Italian woman with bipolar disorder recently had her baby taken into foster care after she gave birth while on a business trip to London. And lest anyone think this is a UK-only phenomenon, a study based at the University of Pennsylvania found that parents with mental illness are almost three times more likely to face child protection proceedings than those without. It’s easy to tune out a statistic, even a sobering one, but experiencing a struggle like Fran’s or Lesley’s through an engaging medium like fiction will hopefully give that information heart and nuance.
ED: Anything else you’d like us to know?
JC: Since your readers are also writers, I thought I’d offer a bit of iconoclastic advice that runs counter to the usual obligatory suggestion for budding authors: “Don’t believe in yourself.” Have confidence in your capabilities, sure; have faith that you’ll get that novel finished. But remember: it’s not about you, or your talent. I got plenty of rejections for ETCHED ON ME that complimented my literary skill profusely, but lamented that the book was too dark, too discomfiting, too edgy, too heated.
And every time I got one, I silently thanked that reader for the compliment and resolved to keep fighting for my dark horse of a book – whether that meant asking my agent to query another editor, or eventually self-publishing if no house made an offer. Whatever it took. That was how unshakeable my belief was: not in Jenn, the former teenage novelist-turned-Twitter-hellraiser, but in Lesley, the 22-year-old pregnant North Londoner whose voice was a privilege and a gift to channel. Crafting and holding space for a narrative enlightens and heals. If you believe in anything, believe in that.
ED: Thank you, Jenn.
Please visit http://www.jenncrowell.com/etched-on-me/ to learn more about Jenn and her book.
FEATURED RESOURCE: DISABILITY ETIQUETTE
Jenn’s activism has inspired me not only to think more carefully about my own word and sentence choices, but it has motivated me as well to look for resources relating to writing and disability. This search led me to the “Disability Etiquette” page of the National Disability Rights Network. See especially the items on “Reporting and Writing About People with Disabilities” and “Words Matter.”
4. UPCOMING/ONGOING CONTESTS, COMPETITIONS, AND OTHER OPPORTUNITIES OF INTEREST
American Library in Paris Visiting Fellowship
NO APPLICATION FEE INDICATED
“The American Library in Paris Visiting Fellowship was created in 2013 to nurture and sustain a heritage as old as the Library itself – deepening French-American understanding. The Visiting Fellowship offers writers and researchers an opportunity to pursue book projects in Paris for a month or longer while participating actively in the life of the American Library. The Fellowship award, a stipend of $5,000 is intended to cover travel and housing costs for the Visiting Fellow. He or she will be expected to present the work-in-progress to the public in a weekday evening talk at the Library, and to conduct one or two workshops for Library members on a subject of common interest….Fellowship applicants should be working on a book-length project, fiction or non-fiction, which resonates with the Library’s Franco-American traditions and interests and which might benefit from an extended presence in Paris. The Library’s collections and research resources, its reading rooms, and its community of book-minded people may also be an asset to the Visiting Fellow. There are no deadlines for applications, and no specific time periods for the fellowship, except that they may not take place in July and August and are occasionally subject to constraints in the annual calendar. The Library expects to award one or two such Fellowship grants every year.” (h/t http://twitter.com/lucekel)
American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) Conference Scholarships
Deadline: April 1, 2014 (10 p.m. Eastern time)
NO APPLICATION FEE INDICATED
“The ASJA Educational Foundation is delighted to offer aspiring nonfiction writers the opportunity to apply for scholarships that will enable them to attend ASJA2014: Expand Your Reach. 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. “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.”
Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowships
(formerly the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships)
Submissions: March 1-April 30, 2014
NO APPLICATION FEE INDICATED
“Established in 1989 by Ruth Lilly to encourage the further writing and study of poetry, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship program has dramatically expanded since its inception. Until 1995, university writing programs nationwide each nominated one student poet for a single fellowship; from 1996 until 2007, two fellowships were awarded. In 2008 the competition was opened to all U.S. poets between 21 and 31 years of age, and the number of fellowships increased to five, totaling $75,000. In 2014, the Poetry Foundation received a generous gift from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund to create the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowships, which increased the fellowship amount from $15,000 to $25,800.” The fellowships “are intended to encourage the further study and writing of poetry.”
McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns First Novel Prize
Deadline: March 15, 2014
NO ENTRY FEE
“Each year, The Writer’s Center awards $500 to the a 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 2013 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.”
Salt Cay Writers Retreat Merit Scholarship Contest
Deadline: April 1, 2014
NO ENTRY FEE
“The winner of the Salt Cay Writers Retreat Merit Scholarship Contest will be invited to attend the Salt Cay Writers Retreat with all program and tuition fees covered (travel and retreat hotel accommodations are not included).” About this conference (which takes place in the Bahamas): “While the Salt Cay Writers Retreat curriculum is particularly suited for advanced fiction writers, memoirists, and narrative non-fiction writers, any author who wishes to take their writing to the next level is welcome to join us for a memorable week of writing and instruction October 20-25.”
The Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship for Writers
Deadline: April 1, 2014
NO APPLICATION FEE
“The Marguerite and Lamar Fellowship for Writers will be offered for the fall semester of 2014, 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.”
Waterman Fund Alpine Essay Contest
http://www.watermanfund.org/essay-contest/conditions-and-limits/ (for detailed terms/conditions)
Deadline: April 15, 2014
NO ENTRY FEE
“The Waterman Fund announces its seventh annual essay contest with a new theme centered on the value and identity of wilderness fifty years after the Wilderness Act of 1964. With the conservation and preservation efforts of the last fifty years, the value of wilderness has also changed. Has the increasing awareness and stewardship of public lands shifted our personal and cultural understandings and needs for wild places? How and why, if at all, does Wilderness still matter? What Wilderness and wilderness mean are open to question and interpretation by nonfiction essay contestants.” Prize: “$1,500 (in the form of a check) and the winning essay printed in Appalachia Journal.”
Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest
Deadline: April 1, 2014
NO ENTRY FEE
“Submit one humor poem. This poem should be your own original work. You may submit the same work simultaneously to this contest and to others, and you may submit a work that have been published or won prizes elsewhere.” Awards: “First Prize, $1,000; Honorable Mentions, 10 awards of $100 each.”
Wesleyan Writers Conference Scholarships & Fellowships
Deadline: March 20, 2014
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.”
Zocalo Public Square Poetry Contest
Deadline: April 1, 2014
“Since 2012, the Zócalo Public Square Poetry Prize has been awarded annually to the U.S. poet whose poem best evokes a connection to place. ‘Place’ may be interpreted by the poet as a place of historical, cultural, political, or personal importance; it may be a literal, imaginary, or metaphorical landscape. We are looking for one poem that offers our readers a fresh, original, and meaningful take on the topic. Like everything else we feature, we are most on the lookout for that rare combination of brilliance and clarity, excellence and accessibility. Please take a look at our winning entries from 2012 and 2013.” Winning poet receives $500. NB: “The winning poem becomes the property of Zocalo Public Square.” (h/t http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/CRWROPPS-B/info for the reminder about this contest)
5. SUBMISSION ALERTS!!!
INDIANA REVIEW will close to general submissions on March 10, 2014. “IR publishes 6-10 stories, 40-60 pages of poetry, 1-2 nonfiction pieces, and 6-12 book reviews per issue, as well as art inserts when funding allows. We look for poems, stories, and nonfiction that are well-crafted and lively, have an intelligent sense of form and language, assume a degree of risk, and have consequence beyond the world of their speakers or narrators. We also welcome interviews with established writers.” Pays: “Payment for publication is $5.00 per page ($10.00 minimum), two contributor’s copies, and the remainder of a year’s subscription.” http://indianareview.org/submit/guidelines/
COFFEE HOUSE PRESS’s spring submissions period opens March 1 (and runs until April 30). “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. Please note: Coffee House Press is not currently accepting unsolicited poetry submissions. Please check [the] web page periodically for future updates to this policy.” 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: “Rates are negotiated with the editors on commission, however our minimum payment for quarterly edition and special-feature content is $200 (of which we subtract $50 for a discounted yearly subscription, or renewal of an existing subscription).” See more at: http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com/submissions/
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
BLACKBIRD, “an online journal of literature and the arts,” will close to submissions on April 15. Pays: “after publication.” http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/v12n2/submissions.shtml
ROOM magazine, “Canada’s oldest literary journal by and about women,”
is considering “polished, unpublished writing on any theme for our upcoming issue.” Deadline: April 30, 2014. “We pay $50 for up to 2 pages, $60 for 3 pages, $80 for 4 pages, $100 for 5 pages, $120 for 6+ pages, and $250 for cover art. Contributors also receive two copies of the issue in which the work appears and a year’s subscription to Room.” See http://roommagazine.com for more info.
WORDRUNNER eCHAPBOOKS is currently open for submissions of “small fiction collections” by one author for publication in June 2014. “Stories may be flash or longer…totalling a minimum of approximately 8,000 and a maximum of 18,000 words…..We would like at least five stories, but no more than 20 (if flash fiction). They need not be linked, but it would be a plus if they belong together for some reason, be it theme, location or character/s. We will also consider novel excerpts for this echapbook.” Submission deadline is May 21, 2014. Payment is $65 for collections. http://www.echapbook.com/submissions.htm
ALSO from WORDRUNNER eCHAPBOOKS: “Submissions are open for memoir/personal narrative collections…through December 31. There is no publication schedule. If you send us something brilliant, we will want to publish it, as time allows….At least one-fourth of the collection should be previously unpublished, either in print or online. (But no stories need be previously published.)” Pays: $65 for collections. http://www.echapbook.com/submissions.htm
Attention, undergraduates: THE BLUE ROUTE reopened for submissions on February 1. 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: $20. http://widenerblueroute.org/submission-guidelines/ (h/t http://twitter.com/duotrope)
RATTLE, which publishes “unsolicited poetry, translations, and essays,” is now paying $50 plus a one-year subscription. NB: “We’re currently seeking submissions from Poets of Faith for our Fall 2014 issue.” Much more information is available at http://www.rattle.com/poetry/submissions/guidelines/.
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
–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 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:
–Call for Applications: Daniel Pearl Investigative Journalism Initiative
–Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat
–From My Bookshelf: The Exiles Return, by Elisabeth de Waal
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 JUSTCE, 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. 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!
This newsletter may be duplicated/forwarded as long as it remains unaltered and is replicated in its entirety. If you find this information valuable please pass the newsletter along to your writing friends. Thank you!
To receive alerts when new newsletter issues are available, please subscribe by sending a blank e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Need to leave us? We’ll be sorry to see you go. To unsubscribe, please send a blank e-mail to email@example.com