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Supporting the Craft and Business of Excellent Writing
Volume 14, Number 8: September 2017
Editor: Erika Dreifus
Copyright (c) 2017 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 (NO ENTRY FEES; PAYING OPPORTUNITIES ONLY)
6. Blog Notes
7. Newsletter Matters

Greetings, Practicing Writers:

Can you believe that it’s September? There’s been a fair amount of troubling news this summer–most recently the destruction and damage caused by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey. Special thoughts go out at this time to any practicing writers in Houston and environs.

At the same time, there remain moments to celebrate. For one August week, for instance, I was immersed in a wonderful writers’ conference. (You’ll find a bit about that below, after a wonderful Q&A with Matthew Zapruder about his latest book, WHY POETRY.)

And this week, in my current “day job” role as an independent book publicist, I am focused on the official launch of Rabbi Shai Held’s two-volume THE HEART OF TORAH: ESSAYS ON THE WEEKLY TORAH PORTION, which is being published by The Jewish Publication Society. (If you’d like to be in touch about publicity for YOUR forthcoming book, please email me! http://www.erikadreifus.com/contact/.)

Meantime, I hope that you enjoy this issue. Stay safe and well, everyone, and all best wishes with your writing practices.


Addressing People’s Questions About (and Frustrations with) Poetry: Q&A with Matthew Zapruder

By Erika Dreifus

I’m delighted to present the latest PRACTICING WRITER q&a. This month’s feature with Matthew Zapruder also marks the first time we’ve spotlighted practicing writers who are siblings! (You may recall last year’s conversation with author Alexandra Zapruder: http://bit.ly/2vBi9Ii.)

For his part, *Matthew* Zapruder is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently COME ON ALL YOU GHOSTS (which was a NEW YORK TIMES Notable Book of the Year) and SUN BEAR. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a William Carlos Williams Award, a May Sarton Award from the Academy of American Arts and Sciences, and a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship in Marfa, Texas. An Associate Professor in the MFA program at Saint Mary’s College of California, he is also Editor at Large at Wave Books, and from 2016-17 held the annually rotating position of Editor of the Poetry Column for THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE. He lives in Oakland, California. WHY POETRY (Ecco Press) is his latest book.

Please welcome Matthew Zapruder!

ERIKA DREIFUS (ED): Okay, confession time: Again and again, WHY POETRY encourages readers to depart from a common practice: attempting to understand a poem by discerning what it is “about.” Your arguments on this are convincing, but I still feel a bit guilty, because generally speaking, trying to grasp the “about” is something I do almost by instinct. Moreover, I’m remembering that in my experience in prose workshops, anchoring a critique in the “about” can be helpful. So I guess what I’m wondering is this–how do you advise your students to craft critiques, assuming that the “about” question is not exactly central?

MATTHEW ZAPRUDER (MZ): I ask them to try to focus first on the poem itself. First, what is going on? What can we know about who is speaking, where the poem is taking place, etc.? Often that
information is available in the title and first lines. If it isn’t, that’s interesting and worth talking about too. Grounding ourselves in that way has two good effects. First, it gives basic information, without which the poem cannot be understood. Second, it reminds us that what is on the page is what we need to experience the poem. There is often a resistance to doing this, as if what is on the page cannot possibly be what the poet “really” means! It’s a bit time-consuming to have to try to convince people that poets mean what they say, but also absolutely essential.

Then, I ask them to look at the poem, and see what seems strange to them. What jumps out, in the language (like an unusual word, or use of a common word), or something formal? Usually that strangeness, that difference, is key to getting deeper into the poem. These sorts of conversations are so much more productive and interesting than immediately jumping to what the “theme” or big idea of the poem supposedly is. Ultimately of course we will end up talking about big ideas and meaning and even what the poem is “about,” but we will be grounded in the movement of the poem itself.

ED: At one point in WHY POETRY, you recall a time in your life when you “embraced the possibility that writing in rhyme and form would solve the problem of how to make a poem: follow the instructions, and learn how to write formal poems better and better, until [you] would become a ‘poet.’ To that end, you write, you “carried around a rhyming dictionary, writing terrible sonnets, lousy sestinas, atrocious villanelles, abysmal pantoums.” You say that you as though you were working, “which was good, but it was also painful and embarrassing.” You note: “I didn’t realize then that I was doing my own clumsy version of what art students do when they learn to paint. Now, whenever I go to the museum I usually see at least one of them with a sketchbook, copying the great paintings, and it makes sense to me.” Knowing what you know now: Would you repeat that apprenticeship if given the chance? Is it something that you recommend to others? To your students? Why or why not?

MZ: Yes, I would repeat it. It was a great way to teach myself. And I do (gently) recommend that to students. I’m not a big fan of the stern, “you have to learn to do formal poetry before you are allowed to make the poetry you want” type of advice. It’s patriarchal and annoying. And also not true. The last thing I want to do is to take the fun out of making art. But I do believe that this would be a good thing for anyone to try, at least for a little while. Who knows, maybe they will turn out to be formal poets! Or at least they will learn things about how a poem moves that they would not have otherwise.

ED: What’s your biggest hope for WHY POETRY?

MZ: Hm. I think actually I achieved my biggest hope, which was to prove to myself that I could complete a sustained book-length project that addressed directly the questions and frustrations people have with poetry. It was a very difficult project for me: I don’t concentrate that well, which is why writing poems (with their quicker movements, for which distractibility might actually be an
advantage!) is something I am better at. It was also an immensely complex and daunting topic. But it was something I wanted to do, and the fact that I was able to write the book in a way I can feel
(mostly) good about, is gratifying. Now, if people read it and get something out of it, that will mean the world to me too.

ED: You’ve recently completed a term (if that’s the correct word?) as poetry editor for THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE. Please tell us a bit about that experience–how you came to occupy that position and how you selected each week’s poem.

MZ: One day I got an email from the editor of THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, asking if I was interested. I was quite surprised, because Natasha Trethewey was doing [the job], and I didn’t realize it was an annually rotating position. The first thing I did was ask every publisher I knew, big and small, to send me books. The poems in the MAGAZINE are reprinted from recently published or forthcoming books, so I wasn’t reading any unpublished work. I was looking for poems that could function in that space, that would announce themselves amid a lot of prose. This eliminated a lot of great poetry, poems that work better in the context of a book, or when a reader is more prepared. I got better during the year at identifying those poems. They also had to be short-ish, to fit in that quarter page space. I read a lot each week: My office quickly filled with giant piles of books. I was looking also for a diversity of approaches, some poems that were more lyric or even obscure, some that rhymed or were otherwise formal, some that were overtly political, some written by more established poets and some written by younger ones. I just tried to mix it up and keep it interesting.

ED: What’s next for you?

MZ: What’s next for me is a very busy fall of touring, for WHY POETRY. I have events coming up in the Pacific Northwest, my current hometown Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, D.C. (where I grew up), Providence, Boston, etc. Anyone who wants to come say hi can see details at my website: http://matthewzapruder.com/events/.

ED: Thank you so much, Matthew!

Please visit Matthew Zapruder’s website, http://matthewzapruder.com, to learn more about him/his work. My thanks to Matthew and publicist Michael Taeckens for the advance reading copy of WHY POETRY.

It’s not online, but I’m simply going to share with you an excellent technique employed by Kathleen Graber in the poetry-manuscript workshop I was recently part of at the Vermont College of Fine Arts
Postgraduate Writers Conference.

Each of the five students in our workshop had submitted a 50-page manuscript ahead of the conference. Here is one of the instructions that Kathleen gave us before we convened (I am quoting with her permission):

“Draft a ‘blurb’ or ‘jacket copy’ for each of the manuscripts (other than your own, of course). How would you encapsulate this work? Your description should include in one or two paragraphs the main themes, concerns, and aesthetic approaches evidenced throughout the collection, as well as praise for those things that this poet does especially well.”

Most days, we shared those blurbs as we kicked off discussion of the manuscripts. What a wonderful (and positive) macro-level way to launch the day’s discussion and to help us frame comments on book-length projects.

You can learn a bit more about Kathleen Graber on her Virginia Commonwealth University faculty page: https://english.vcu.edu/person/kathleen-graber/

Deadline: September 18, 2017

“The Award for Excellence in Journalism recognizes professional reporting of outstanding merit that contributes in an exceptional way to the public understanding of psychoanalytic and psychological principles and phenomena. However, the $1000 award is broadly conceived. Nominated work need not be specifically about psychoanalysis or psychotherapy per se but can advance or challenge our understanding of human relationships/behavior and/or the life of the mind.”
Deadline: October 17, 2017

Based in Cassis, France, the Camargo Core Program annually selects 18 fellows (9 artists and 9 scholars/thinkers). “The Camargo Core Program offers time and space in a contemplative environment to think, create, and connect. By encouraging groundbreaking research and experimentation, it supports the visionary work of artists, scholars and thinkers in the Arts and Humanities. By encouraging multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches, it intends to foster connections between research and creation. The Camargo Foundation welcomes applications from all countries and nationalities.” NB: “A stipend of 250 USD per week is available, as is funding for basic transportation to and from Cassis for the Fellow for the residency. In the case of air travel, basic coach class booked far in advance is covered.” Also: “An informational webinar will be offered for interested applicants on September 14, 2017 at 11:00am EST (New york City), 5:00pm CET (France).” Details are available on the website.
Deadline: September 20, 2017
NO APPLICATION FEE UNTIL SEPTEMBER 20 ($5 fee thereafter, until October 31)

“SMOKELONG QUARTERLY is now accepting submissions for its 2018 Kathy Fish Fellowship for new and emerging writers. The fellowship honors Kathy Fish, a former editor here at SMOKELONG, a fantastic writer herself, and a continuing champion of new and emerging writers. The winner of the 2018 Kathy Fish Fellowship will be considered a ‘writer in residence’at SMOKELONG (note: position is virtual) for four quarterly issues (March, June, September, and December 2018). Each issue will include one flash by the Fellowship winner. The winner of the Fellowship will also receive $500.00, to be paid as follows: $100.00 on announcement of the winner, and $100.00 upon publication of each of the four issues in 2018. Fellows will have the opportunity to work with SMOKELONG staff and participate in online writing workshops. Writers who have not been published in SMOKELONG QUARTERLY and who do not have a published chapbook or book-length work in any genre (or are not under contract for such) are eligible to apply. We particularly encourage marginalized and diverse voices, such as writers of color, writers from the LBGTQ community and writers with disabilities.”
Deadline: September 15, 2017

“This two-year post-graduate residential fellowship at Kenyon College offers qualified individuals time to develop as writers, teachers, and editors. The fellowship provides an annual $35,150 stipend, plus health benefits.” The initiative is intended “to recognize, publish, and support extraordinary authors in the early stages of their careers. We believe that after two years, these KR Fellows will be more mature and sophisticated writers, teachers, and editors. As a result, they will be extremely attractive candidates for academic positions as well as for significant publishing opportunities.” Eligible candidates must possess an MFA or PhD in creative writing, English literature, or comparative studies completed between January 1, 2012, and September 15, 2017. They must also have “teaching experience in creative writing and/or literature at the undergraduate level.”
Deadline: November 1, 2017

“Each year, The Lindenwood Review offers an open contest with no entry fee. In past issues, we have offered contests for lyric essays, flash fiction, and prose poetry. For issue 8, we are happy to announce our Chapter One Contest, for first chapters of unpublished novels. The winner will receive $50, publication in issue 8 of The Lindenwood Review, and three contributor copies. Submissions will be accepted via Submittable from July 1 through November 1, 2017. Please read our full guidelines before submitting.”
Deadline: October 15, 2017 (received)

“The Marfield Prize, also known as the National Award for Arts Writing, recognizes the author of an outstanding nonfiction book about the visual, literary, media, or performing arts first published in the United States during the previous calendar year. This $10,000 prize is designed to recognize excellence in arts writing for a general audience and is one of the highest monetary awards for a single-author book. Established to generate broader interest in the arts among general readers, the award celebrates prose that is clear and inspiring, creating a strong connection with the arts and artists. First given in 2006, the prize’s endowment was established by longtime Arts Club member Jeannie S. Marfield in honor of Florence Berryman and Helen Wharton. Publishers, agents, or authors may submit books for consideration for the next award cycle.”
Deadline: September 17, 2017

“Nearly everyone has memories of a former sweetheart. Write your true story of an earlier love, in no more than 700 words. Tell us about someone whose memory brings a smile or a tear, or both….Your story may be heart-warming or humorous. Just tell about your earlier sweetheart as if you were talking to your best friend.” Cash prizes will be awarded: $100/$75/$50. “Winning stories will be posted (anonymously, if requested by author) on this website.”
Submissions: September 1, 2017 until February 28, 2018

“The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing [hereafter referred to as ‘the Prize’] alternates yearly between accepting unpublished fiction and nonfiction submissions.” This means that for fall 2017, fiction submissions will be considered. “Fiction submissions can take the form of a novel or a book-length collection of short stories.” Fiction submissions must be complete. “Candidates must be first-generation residents of their country. ‘First-generation’ can refer either to people born in another country who relocated, or to residents of a country whose parents were born elsewhere.” Additionally, note that “candidates must not have previously published a book of fiction 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.”
Submissions: September 1-October 1, 2017

“Initiated in 1998, Stadler Fellowships offer a recent MFA (or creative writing MA) graduate in poetry the opportunity to receive professional training in arts administration and literary editing. Stadler Fellowships are designed to balance the development of professional skills with time to complete a first book of poems. Stadler Fellows assist for twenty hours each week in the administration of the Stadler Center for Poetry and/or in the editing of West Branch, Bucknell’s nationally distinguished literary journal. Fellows also work as staff members and instructors in the Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets in June. The Fellowship stipend is $20,000. In addition, each Fellow is provided health insurance, office space in the Stadler Center, and housing. Depending on circumstances, Fellows are either housed in a furnished apartment in the Poet’s Cottage or provided with a stipend to seek housing on their own in Lewisburg.” NB: “To be eligible, an applicant must be at least 21 years of age, reside in the United States, have received an MFA or MA in creative writing (in poetry) no earlier than spring 2013, and not be enrolled as a student during the period of the residency. Persons enrolled in a college or university at the time of application are eligible. Poets who have published a full-length collection or have a collection accepted for publication are not eligible. (Please note: Poets with a PhD are no longer eligible.)”
Deadline: October 20, 2017 (received)

“Since its founding in 1992, Writers Omi at Ledig House has hosted hundreds of authors and translators, representing more than fifty countries. We welcome published writers and translators of every type of literature. International, cultural and creative exchange is a foundation of our mission, and a wide distribution of national background is an important part of our selection process. Guests may select a residency of one week to two months; about ten at a time gather to live and work in a rural setting overlooking the Catskill Mountains. Ledig House provides all meals, and each night a local chef prepares dinner. Daytime is reserved for writing and quiet activities, while evenings are more communal. A program of weekly visits bring guests from the New York publishing community. Noted editors, agents and book scouts are invited to share dinner and conversation on both creative and practical subjects, offering insight into the workings of the publishing industry, and introductions to some of its key professionals.”

“NASHVILLE REVIEW seeks to publish the best work we can get our hands on, period. From expansive to minimalist, narrative to lyric, epiphanic to subtle–if it’s a moving work of art, we want it. We hope to provide a venue for both distinguished and emerging artists.” Next reading period runs September 1 to October 1: “You may submit fiction, poetry, and nonfiction three times a year: January, May and September. We opt for shorter, more frequent reading periods so that we can provide quicker responses to our submitters….Submissions in all other genres are open year-round.” Pays: “We pay $25 per poem and song selection; $100 per selection for all other categories, including featured artwork.” See https://as.vanderbilt.edu/nashvillereview/contact/submit for more info.
“NINTH LETTER is accepting submissions of fiction from September 1 to November 30 and from January 1 to February 28 (postmark dates) We are accepting submissions of poetry and essays from September 1 to February 28 (postmark dates). Ninth Letter is published semi-annually at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. 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://www.ninthletter.com/journal/submit.
Another journal that begins receiving new submissions on September 1: SOUTHERN INDIANA REVIEW, which “presents a cross-section of emerging and established artists and writers whose work is both regional and national in scope and degree of recognition….The editors invite submissions of drama, fiction, interviews, nonfiction, and poetry.” Pays: “SIR pays contributors at two rates: $50 (five layout pages or fewer accepted for publication) and $100 (six layout pages or more accepted). Contributors also receive two complimentary copies of ‘their’ issue (with the option to buy additional copies at a reduced rate) and a year’s subscription to the magazine.” Check the journal’s website for more information: http://www.usi.edu/sir/submission-guidelines.
ONE STORY also reopens for submissions on September 1 (and will remain open until November 14). Seeks stories “between 3,000 and 8,000 words. They can be any style and on any subject as long as they are good. We are looking for stories that leave readers feeling satisfied and are strong enough to stand alone.” Pays: “$500 and 25 contributors copies for First Serial North American
rights.” See https://www.one-story.com/index.php?page=submit&pubcode=os for further info.
THE ARKANSAS INTERNATIONAL is scheduled to resume free submissions in September. “We welcome previously unpublished, unsolicited submissions of fiction, poetry, essays, comics, and works in translation.” Pays: “Payment will be reevaluated based on the budget of each issue. For issue three, contributors will be paid $20 a printed page (capped at $250) and in copies of the journal.” Guidelines are available at https://www.arkint.org/submissions/.
Also slated to reopen in September: SYCAMORE REVIEW. Note that “during contest periods we do not accept standard submissions in the contest genre. For example, during our fiction and poetry contest that runs from Oct. 1 – Nov. 15, we do not accept standard fiction or poetry submissions.” Pays: “two copies, and $50 per short story or non-fiction piece, or $25 per poem.” Guidelines page: https://sycamorereview.com/submissions/.
From KENYON REVIEW: “During the 2017 reading period, we will be accepting submissions from September 15th through November 1st, 2017. All submissions received during the reading period will be read. The response time will vary according to the number of submissions. We make every effort to respond to all submissions within four months of receipt. Please note that all submissions are considered for both the Kenyon Review and KROnline. We publish the best work we can find–this is the case for both KR and KROnline. The two are aesthetically distinct spaces. We urge our submitters to read and become familiar with both.” Pays: “upon publication.” Visit https://www.kenyonreview.org/submission/ for more information, including guidance on book-review queries.”
THE BLUE ROUTE, “an international literary journal for undergraduate writers,” is open for submissions until October 1. “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 clichéd, 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: “We pay twenty-five dollars upon publication. We acquire First North American Serial Rights, a one time, non-exclusive use of Electronic Rights, with all rights reverting to the author upon publication. We will archive your work online. If your piece is later published elsewhere, we expect that you will mention The Blue Route as the original publisher.” Check guidelines at https://widenerblueroute.org/submission-guidelines/.
For an upcoming open issue, Canada-based ROOM is considering “original short stories, poems, creative non-fiction, or art. ROOM publishes original work by women, including trans persons, gender-variant and two-spirit women, and women of non-binary sexual orientations.” Pays: “All contributors will be paid upon publication: $50 CAD for one page, $60 for two pages, $90 for three pages, $120 for four pages, $150 for five or more pages.” More information: http://roommagazine.com/submit. Deadline: October 31, 2017. (NB: You’ll find on the same page information about work that will be sought beginning November 1 for a subsequent “Queer Issue.”)
From THE SUN magazine: “We are looking for poems on the theme of love and justice. The selections will appear in a special section, guest edited by SUN contributor Crystal Williams, in an upcoming issue. Williams is a poet and essayist and an advocate for diversity and inclusivity in the arts. Our aim is to provide a space for writers to address this peculiar historical moment, the human condition, and our capacity to come together. Poems may be personal or political or both. We favor accessible language and thought, but we are open to poems that push boundaries and challenge readers. We especially want to hear from writers of color.” Deadline: November 1, 2017. Pays: $100 per accepted poem. Visit http://www.thesunmagazine.org/news/love-and-justice for the submissions link.

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, the Northwest Institute for Literary Arts, and Oklahoma City University. From 2014-2017, Erika served as Media Editor for Fig Tree Books LLC. . 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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