Call for Submissions: Missives to Mothers

Adams Media, Inc., (publishers of A Cup of Comfort and The Rocking Chair anthologies), is looking for stories written as letters for a new book. Tentative title: Letters to My Mother: Tributes to the Women Who Gave Us Life—and Love. The book is scheduled for publication in late 2006, and will contain “true stories written by people of all ages—who celebrate the valuable lessons learned from the mothers in our lives.”

Be sure to read the very detailed guidelines, including links to sample letters. Some important points: letters “should have a clear beginning, middle, and end,” and run 500-750 words. You can submit previously published material, “with the exception of stories that have been or will be published in a mass market anthology (print) distributed in North America.” You may submit multiple letters. Electronic submissions are preferred. Deadline: May 14, 2006 (Mother’s Day here in the United States).

Payment is low: $10, on publication. “The author whose letter is chosen as the most inspirational will receive $100. The best letter submitted by a child will receive $50.” You’ll also receive a copy of the book when it is published.

And if you’re writing a letter for Mom anyway….

Weekend Reading

The new (May-June) Poets & Writers is available, and, as usual, some of its excellent content is online.

1) The current Contester column, by Thomas Hopkins, details the sad story of “The Collapse of Neil Azevedo’s Zoo [Press].” (See my previous post on the subject, too.)

2) Literary agent Scott Hoffman answers Kevin Larimer’s questions in “Q&A: Scott Hoffman’s Reasons to Rep” (see what semi-encouraging news Hoffman has for first-time novelists).

3) I told you that the James Frey saga was still with us. It comes up in the Hoffman Q&A, and there’s an entire piece on “The Literature of Lies”, by Joe Woodward, in this issue too.

Geraldine Brooks on Facts and Fiction

How often do you get to hear a Pulitzer prizewinner talk about her work-in-progress two days after she has won the prize for her last book? That’s what happened yesterday, when Geraldine Brooks spoke to a (very crowded) audience at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study here in Cambridge. Brooks is an Institute Fellow this year, and her (pre-scheduled) talk focused on “Making Fiction From Fact.”

I thought I’d share some of my notes from the talk:

1) In discussing the “factual” background to her work-in-progress, currently titled The People of the Book, Brooks cited William Styron, who noted that “While it may be satisfying and advantageous for historians to feast on rich archival material, the writer of historical fiction is better off when past events have left him with short rations.” That’s the case for Brooks’s current project, which isn’t as richly “documented” to date as, say, March (the book that just won the Pulitzer) was. For that book, one of Brooks’s research resources was the 61-volume set of journals left by Louisa May Alcott’s father.

2) Reprising some themes I remembered from her New York Times Writers on Writing piece, “Timeless Tact Helps Sustain a Literary Time Traveler,” Brooks stressed the primacy of empathy in the historical fiction writer’s toolbox. Emotions, she suggested, remain constant from generation to generation.

3) Detailing her own process, Brooks told us that the first thing she needs to do is find a voice for her character. The voice then reveals who the character is. This tells Brooks how the character acts. And what the character does leads Brooks to her research needs. She said that Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier had told her that halfway through writing his novel he made himself a rule: he would not go to the library until he needed to know at least 3 things. Apparently he was becoming too immersed in research. Let the story drive the research, Brooks advises.

4) In a delightfully digressive moment, Brooks (a former journalist) shared her views about the still-present James Frey story. She, for one, seems to wish the book would be off all the nonfiction lists. Calling his book nonfiction, she says, sets the bar too high for people who are trying to do the real thing: write nonfiction. Real nonfiction has to cope with the messiness of life in ways that fiction does not. If his book is considered nonfiction, she suggests, everyone will expect nonfiction writers to “accomplish’ things that are really in the realm of fiction. And those nonfiction writers who can write exemplary seamless stories are devalued when Frey is held up as their peer.

After the talk, the Institute held a reception to honor Brooks. With champagne. (That’s where I snapped the photo.)

And Still More on the Online Poetry Spotlight

If you thought you’d missed your chance to submit a poem for The Writer magazine’s Online Poetry Spotlight, you’ll be happy to know that until May 15 you can submit a poem for expert critique in the second “session.”

If your entry is selected for critique (provided by several award-winning poets) you’ll receive a one-year subscription to the magazine. The poem (with critiques) will be posted on the Web site’s Poetry Spotlight forum in June. The best Spotlight poem posted on the Web site in 2006 will receive $100. There’s NO ENTRY/READING FEE.

More guidelines/submission instructions available here.

More MFA News

Just found out about another new low-residency MFA program. Hamline University’s low-residency MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults will hold its first residency in January, 2007. Looks like I have another program to add to the directory in our primer.