THE PRACTICING WRITER
Supporting the Craft and Business of Excellent Writing
Volume 14, Number 1: February 2017
Editor: Erika Dreifus
Copyright (c) 2017 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 FEES; PAYING OPPORTUNITIES ONLY)
5. Submission Alerts!!! (NO SUBMISSION/READING FEES; PAYING CALLS ONLY)
6. Blog Notes
7. Newsletter Matters
1. EDITOR’S NOTE: WHAT’S NEW
Greetings, practicing writers:
If it’s time for the February issue, it’s time for me to wish us all a very happy anniversary: The first issue of THE PRACTICING WRITER went out to a small group of subscribers at the end of January 2004. It included a feature article titled “Practicing Writers: Five Telltale Signs”; a batch of a mere five contest/competition listings; and a brief calendar of upcoming writing conferences.
Obviously, the newsletter has changed and grown over the last 13 years. As Volume 14 begins, more than 5000 subscribers are signed up. Feature articles and interviews continue to focus on the craft and business of excellent writing, with an emphasis on fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. But listings have expanded from contests and competitions to calls from literary journals and presses. And to add value to this newsletter in an ever-increasing resource landscape, we limit those literary listings to opportunities and venues that do not charge writers fees to have their work considered AND that compensate writers beyond copies–with cash.
Importantly, the newsletter remains ad-free; I am “paid” for this service by subscribers’ interest and appreciation. And by the success stories that you share with me. (A reminder: I’m always thrilled to hear about good things that result when writers follow up on a lead they’ve discovered in this newsletter. You can reach me via this contact form: http://www.erikadreifus.com/contact/.)
Thank you all for being part of the history of THE PRACTICING WRITER. Now, let’s get on with the first issue of our fourteenth year!
P.S. Planning to attend the #AWP17 conference next month? Please consider adding this Thursday evening offsite event to your calendar (it’s free, but please register in advance): http://ushmm.org/events/memory-transferred. (If you can’t make it, please note that the event will be live-streamed and recorded.) And if you’ll be in the New York City area on Tuesday, February 21, I’ll be on this panel: “Still the People of the Book? A Discussion of Jewish Book Publishing Today.” Details for that: https://www.facebook.com/events/738287203012956/ .
2. ARTICLE/LESSONS LEARNED: Q&A WITH MIKE SCALISE
“Raucous Family Memoir Meets Medical Adventure”: Q&A with Mike Scalise
By Erika Dreifus
My memory is usually pretty good, but I honestly cannot recall when Mike Scalise and I began corresponding. In my recollection, we connected back in the early years of this newsletter; Mike wrote to express his appreciation. Eventually, we met “IRL.” I’m a big fan of Mike and his work, and I’m thrilled to be able to host him for a Q&A here this month, where we “talk” mainly about THE BRAND NEW CATASTROPHE, his new memoir just out from Sarabande Books.
Mike Scalise’s work has appeared in AGNI, INDIEWIRE, NINTH LETTER, THE PARIS REVIEW, WALL STREET JOURNAL, and other places. He’s an 826DC advisory board member, has received fellowships and scholarships from Bread Loaf, Yaddo, and the Ucross Foundation, and was the Philip Roth Writer in Residence at Bucknell University. His memoir, THE BRAND NEW CATASTROPHE, was the recipient of The Center for Fiction’s 2014 Christopher Doheny Award.
Please welcome Mike Scalise!
ERIKA DREIFUS (ED): This book is being advertised as “raucous family memoir meets medical adventure in a heartfelt, hilarious debut that explores the public and private theaters of illness.” Let’s begin with a brief explanation of the illness, shall we?
MIKE SCALISE (MS): Yeesh–here goes. The easiest way to say it is, “I’m a former ACROMEGALIC who is now HYPOPITUATARY due to a PITUITARY APOPLEXY.” What that means is, for a time in my early twenties, my body produced excess growth hormone due to a tumor on my pituitary gland (acromegaly) that I was unaware of. One night, that tumor burst in the brain (apoplexy!) which shorted out my pituitary gland entirely. So now my body doesn’t produce hormones at all (hypopituitarism). Each element of my condition isn’t terribly uncommon on its own. But the combination of them all, together, in one body, it is very rare. Which has been interesting.
ED: It seems to me that a challenge for many memoirists who write about illness is negotiating how to avoid having suffering and trauma overwhelm the narrative. THE BRAND NEW CATASTROPHE truly is enlivened by “raucous family” and “hilarious” elements. How consciously did you strive to avoid having pain and misery suffuse this memoir (as they very well might have)? What craft advice (or similarly “balanced” illness memoirs) might you recommend to memoirists facing similar challenges in their own work?
MS: Good question. I always had that balance in my life, even before my illness–the humor knocking up against the pathos, however you want to describe it. Which could be why I didn’t see my own story very well in the weightier, more forthright memoirs I read (and loved). Depictions of pain have a ceiling, at least for me. I could only figure out so many interesting ways to write “This hurt. I was very scared.”
Life moves at its own pace around that pain, and normal, daily humiliations encroach upon it, which I felt so acutely while I was going through all this stuff. Exploring that was far more interesting to me, and gave readers a more of an entry point than delving into the pain or fear may have. Your brain might be bleeding, but your breath can still be horrid enough offend people, too.
As for models, I’d advise memoir writers to hunt down “I didn’t know you could do that” books–works that give your story permission. I had a running rotation of memoirs, both prose and graphic, that managed that same balance you’re talking about in a way that surprised me, but also let me know it was okay to feel how I felt about my own story: Donald Antrim’s THE AFTERLIFE was a big one, but so was Philip Roth’s PATRIMONY, Julia Wertz’s DRINKING AT THE MOVIES, Susanna Kaysen’s GIRL, INTERRUPTED, Jeffrey Brown’s FUNNY MISSHAPEN BODY, and Deb Olin Unferth’s REVOLUTION. That last one kind of saved me.
ED: Please tell us a bit about the prize that this book has already won–the Christopher Doheny Award–and its role in publication with Sarabande Books.
MS: Christopher Doheny, from what I’ve learned, was a rare soul and staunch lover of literature who lived with cystic fibrosis into his thirties, which is a rare thing. After his death in 2013, a bunch of people who worked alongside him at Audible.com banded together with the Center for Fiction to start this award as a way to recognize stories about illness and family, but also to keep his memory and sensibilities alive. It’s hard to do justice to what a humbling honor it is to be associated with that effort. The more I learn about Chris, the more I think we would have been good friends.
As for Sarabande, they offered to publish THE BRAND NEW CATASTROPHE following the Doheny Award announcement in 2015, and if I get to talking about how wonderful its been working with them, I won’t stop, and it will become very, very obnoxious here in the interview. So I’ll just say its been the best professional relationship I have ever had and leave it there.
ED: Am I correct in assuming that your wife has already read the book? Have other family members and medical professionals depicted in the book read it yet? Tell us about their reactions?
MS: My wife HAS read the book, many times, over many years. She’s a pretty private person, and it hasn’t always been easy for her to have the raw parts of our life together open to everyone. But she’s been far more understanding, and generous, and encouraging with this process than she needed to be. Friends and family as well, which I have to say is surprising. It’s not a normal request, to ask someone to be A-OK with your version of their life, as they live it, in a book, for everyone to buy. No one should be okay with that, and some of my family definitely struggled with it along the way. I struggled with it too. My feeling is: whatever your response to being depicted in a memoir is, it’s the right one.
With my doctors who have read it, it’s sparked a really unexpected conversation, one I don’t think they often get to have with most patients, who they see for only about 30 minutes every few months. In some senses, the book presents a more detailed account of acromegaly, or hypopituitarism, and its been great to open that up to my doctors. We’ll see what happens with it, but so far so good.
ED: How is your health these days?
MS: Good! I’m actually healthier than I’ve been since this all happened (knock on wood). My medications have plateaued, I’m getting really strong care from my specialist, and I’ve been able to finally build the life my illness requires in a way that I’m happy about, which hasn’t always been the case. Work life is finally where it needs to be. Writing life is getting there. Life-life is a wild, maddening variable, but when won’t it be?
ED: Indeed. Thank you so much, Mike!
You can find THE BRAND NEW CATASTROPHE at http://amzn.to/2jeUF68 and http://bit.ly/2i78V0p. I’m grateful to Mike and to Sarabande Books for the advance galley that they provided me.
3. FEATURED RESOURCE: LITMED
It had been a long time since I visited the LitMed (Literature, Arts, and Medicine) database, but the Q&A with Mike prompted me to look it up anew.
“The Literature, Arts and Medicine Database (LitMed) is a collection of literature, fine art, visual art and performing art annotations created as a dynamic, comprehensive resource for scholars, educators, students, patients, and others interested in medical humanities. It was created by faculty of the New York University School of Medicine in 1993. The annotations are written by an invited editorial board of scholars from all over North America.”
4. UPCOMING/ONGOING CONTESTS, COMPETITIONS, AND OTHER OPPORTUNITIES OF INTEREST
ANDERSON CENTER 2017 JEROME EMERGING ARTISTS RESIDENCY FOR MINNESOTA AND NEW YORK CITY ARTISTS
Deadline: February 15, 2017
NO APPLICATION FEE
“Through the financial generosity of the Jerome Foundation of St. Paul, residency-fellowships for the Jerome Emerging Artists Residency at the Anderson Center are awarded to emerging artists in all disciplines who live in Minnesota and New York City. There is no exact and singular definition of an emerging creative artist. This residency supports those artists who show significant potential, yet are under-recognized. Examples of recognition include exhibitions, critical reviews, commissions, performances, grant awards, residencies, fellowships, publications, and productions. References, individuals familiar with an artist’s work, are also an important component of the eligibility decision. Career stage is a factor but not a limiting one. Many emerging artists fall in the early career category but not all do. Age is not a factor in determining an emerging artist. The term emerging refers to artistic development, professional accomplishment, and recognition.” Included: “room, board, quiet workspace, travel expenses and a weekly stipend.” NB: The center offers residencies of two weeks or month; “Preference is given to those applying for month-long stays.”
WILLIAM FOSTER HARRIS PRIZE FOR YOUNG WRITERS
Deadline: March 1, 2017 (noon)
NO ENTRY FEE
“The University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, in recognition of the Professional Writing Program’s 65th anniversary in the college, invites submissions for the 2017 William Foster Harris Prizes for Young Writers.” A $500 award will be given for a short story of up to 2000 words by an undergraduate student currently enrolled in a U.S. college or university. (A $500 award will also be made for a shorter story by a high school student.)
NATAN BOOK AWARD AT THE JEWISH BOOK COUNCIL
Deadline: March 1, 2017
NO ENTRY FEE
“The Natan Book Award at the Jewish Book Council brings Natan’s values of infusing Jewish life with creativity and meaning into the intellectual arena by supporting and promoting a breakthrough book intended for mainstream audiences that will catalyze conversations around the issues that Natan grapples with in its grantmaking. These issues, broadly understood, are the reinvention of Jewish life and community for the 21st century; changing notions of individual and collective Jewish identity; and the evolving relationship between Israel and world Jewry. In order to have a meaningful impact and to reflect Natan’s innovative approach to Jewish philanthropy, the Natan Book Award pioneers a new model in literary philanthropy, capitalizing on a key leverage point in a book’s trajectory: its marketing and publicity. The Award is a two-stage award, offering at most a total of $25,000, to be divided as follows: a cash award to the author of $10,000, to be used during the writing process; and customized support for the marketing and publicity strategy for the book, up to $15,000. *This is a pre-publication award and the prize winner will be announced prior to the book’s publication date.*” NB: Submissions are currently being accepted for nonfiction books already under contract that are “ideally scheduled for publication between November 1, 2017 and October 31, 2018” by “a recognized commercial publisher,” although “academic publishers are also acceptable in certain cases where the book is intended to appeal to mainstream audiences.” Read the detailed guidelines online.
RBC/PEN CANADA NEW VOICES AWARD
Deadline: April 21, 2017
NO ENTRY FEE
“The RBC/PEN Canada New Voices Award supports and celebrates new Canadian writers. Young unpublished writers are invited to submit short stories, creative non-fiction, journalism, and poetry to a jury of distinguished PEN Canada members for a chance to win $2,000 CAD and mentorship from a Canadian author.” NB: “Writers who have published books may not enter but those with publishing contracts for forthcoming books may enter. Candidates must not have had any book published during the entire duration of the award. Writers who have published pamphlets, or whose work has appeared in magazines and journals may enter….All texts submitted must remain unpublished during the entire duration of the award.”
REFLEX FICTION INAUGURAL CONTEST
Deadline: February 28, 2017
NO ENTRY FEE
“Welcome to Reflex Fiction, a quarterly, international flash fiction competition for stories between 180 and 360 words. The inaugural competition is now open for submissions.” Cash prizes: GBP 100/50/25 “or the equivalent in your local currency.” Check the rules and guidelines for details about publication for winning and longlisted stories.” (Thanks to http://shortstops.info for pointing me to this one.)
RESTLESS BOOKS PRIZE FOR NEW IMMIGRANT WRITING
Deadline: February 28, 2017
NO ENTRY FEE
“The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing [hereafter referred to as ‘the Prize’] alternates yearly between accepting unpublished fiction and nonfiction submissions.” The prize is currently accepting NONFICTION submissions. “Nonfiction submissions must consist of either a complete manuscript, or 100 sample pages plus a detailed proposal that includes a synopsis and an annotated table of contents. All submissions must be in English (translations welcome).” Eligibility: “Candidates must be first-generation residents of the United States. ‘First-generation’ can refer either to people born in another country who relocated to the U.S., or to American-born residents whose parents were born elsewhere.” Additionally, note this regarding nonfiction submissions, which are what will be considered in 2016. “Nonfiction candidates must not have previously published a book of nonfiction with a US publishing house.” Agented submissions welcome. Prize: “The winner will receive a $10,000 advance and publication by Restless Books in print and digital editions. We expect to work closely with the winner and provide editorial guidance.”
SPECULATIVE LITERATURE FOUNDATION WORKING CLASS/IMPOVERISHED WRITERS GRANT
Deadline: February 28, 2017
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.”
TULSA ARTIST FELLOWSHIPS
Deadline: March 1, 2017
NO APPLICATION FEE INDICATED
“The Tulsa Artist Fellowship continues to cultivate Tulsa’s arts community through the support of literary arts. National and local writers are invited to continue their practice within the Fellowship. The Tulsa Artist Fellowship will award up to 15 fellowship positions in the program to writers within various genres and in various stages of their creative practice. A number of positions will be reserved for Alaska Native, Native American, and Native Hawaiian writers. Fellowships are merit-based, not project grants, and will include an award of $20,000. Housing will also be provided to non-local artists. The position lasts for two years, with an option to renew for a third year.” (via Anna Leahy, https://www.facebook.com/amleahy)
WAX POETRY AND ART SOCIALLY ENGAGED POETRY CONTEST #2
Deadline: March 31, 2017
NO ENTRY FEE TO ENTER ONE POEM (fees apply for multiple submissions)
Prizes: “1st place, $70 CAD. 2nd place, $20 CAD. 3rd place, $10 CAD. Intended Publication date: Summer 2017.” NB: No simultaneous submissions.
MARY WOOD FELLOWSHIP
Deadline: March 1, 2017
NO APPLICATION FEE
“The Mary Wood Fellowship at Washington College is awarded in even-numbered years to a female-identifying writer—in poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction—who has published at least one book. The Mary Wood Fellow spends approximately three days at Washington College, during which she holds individual conferences with select female undergraduate creative writers. The Fellow also gives a public reading and a craft talk. The Fellowship includes a $1500 stipend, overnight accommodations, and travel. The Fellowship enables female creative writing students at Washington College to work with and learn from successful female writers who spend several days on campus.”
5. SUBMISSION ALERTS!!!
WILLOW SPRINGS has some good news for nonfiction writers: Submissions are fee-free for nonfiction submissions during the month of February. (Sorry, fictionists and poets–it looks as though the $3 reading fee still applies to you!) Pays: “We pay contributors $100 per published long-form prose piece, $40 for short prose (up to three stories, each under 750 words, can be included per submission), and $20 per published poem (up to 6 can be included per submission).” You’ll find details at http://willowspringsmagazine.org/submit/.
England-based YORK LITERARY REVIEW “is a journal of new writing and criticism, and its very first issue will be published this spring. For this issue, we’re looking for the best new fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews from both established and new writers. We are also interested in submissions of visual art to be featured alongside new writing.” Deadline is coming up soon: February 7, 2017. Pays: “All contributors will receive an honorarium.” NB: “More innovative writing is strongly encouraged.” Visit http://blog.yorksj.ac.uk/yorkliteraryreview/ for more information.
MILKWEED EDITIONS is currently open to manuscripts of literary nonfiction. “We publish primarily works of literary nonfiction that focus on nature and the environment, a deeply felt sense of place, and/or the relationships between human and natural communities. We publish few works of memoir that do not bear a direct connection to these themes, and we are not interested in literary biographies or in manuscripts written for an academic, business, or scientific audience. Please submit a query letter with three opening chapters (of a full-length book) or three representative essays (of a collection).” Deadline: February 15, 2017. See http://milkweed.org/submissions for more information.
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.
From PARKS & POINTS: “In April, we will host an online poetry series in honor of National Poetry Month. We invite poetry submissions that reflect upon nature, outdoor exploration, and accompanying moments of adventurousness or self-reflection.” Deadline: March 1, 2017. Pays: “We will offer an honorarium of $15 per poem.” Visit http://www.parksandpoints.com/poetry/ for more information.
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.” Check https://widenerblueroute.org/submission-guidelines/ for more.
THE JOURNAL OF COMPRESSIVED CREATIVE ARTS “is looking for, as you might guess, ‘compressed creative arts.’ We accept fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, mixed media, visual arts, and even kitchen sinks, if they are compressed in some way. Work is published weekly, without labels, and the labels here only exist to help us determine its best readers.” Pays: “We pay writers $50 per accepted piece and signed contract.” Deadline: March 15, 2017. Please visit http://matterpress.com/submissions/ for more information.
“THE SUNLIGHT PRESS is a digital literary journal that provides a home to new and established voices. We welcome creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, reviews, photography, and artist reflections on their craft. We want to hear the ways people turn toward light and hope, whether it is through the arts, culture, spirituality, or humor, and also how they respond to the darkness and navigate unknown spaces. Epiphanies are born from the ordinary and the extraordinary; whether it’s a reflection unfolding during a morning walk, after the loss of a loved one, or in the middle of unexpected laughter, we want to know about these moments.” Considers personal essays, fiction (which they say “includes flash-fiction pieces, short stories, poetry”), reviews (of books and more), photography, and material for an “artists on art series.” Pays: Guidelines indicate that this a paying venue; upon inquiry in a Facebook group I learned that payment is currently $25. An awards program is also being developed. Reprints are considered, but there is no payment for reprints. See http://www.thesunlightpress.com/submissions/ for more information.
“SIDE STREET PRESS publishes novels, novellas, memoirs, short story collections, poetry and essays where the city of Chicago and its characters play a central role. In short, we want to see well-written manuscripts with Chicago as the setting. Side Street Press accepts unsolicited manuscripts from both published and unpublished authors. All material must be submitted electronically. One to two books will be published each year.” Submissions may be made January-March and August-October. See http://www.sidestreetpressinc.com/ for more info.
And another reminder: FIG TREE BOOKS (where I am Media Editor) reads agented and un-agented submissions year-round. Looking for novels (including YA) and nonfiction (including memoirs) “that chronicle and enlighten the beautiful and sometimes challenging mosaic of the American Jewish Experience.” Visit https://figtreebooks.submittable.com/ for more info.
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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