Poetry Is Not For Wimps

poet is the amen

She said in no uncertain terms, “I hate poetry, it simply bores me and is for wimps”.

Then she wrote a poem since she had an ocean of words to tell her story, and it felt overwhelming, so she thought to try her hand at telling the truth, stripped down and naked through a poem.

She wrote another poem and sent it for me to read. She published that poem. Then she wrote a third poem and read it out loud to a group of writers. Everyone sat stunned.

Not a wimp in that room.

Most people feel like poetry is a breed unto itself, a woman’s preference, a form that does not demand as much as a novel or a memoir from the craftsman. Think again.

Poetry doesn’t have to conform to limits or formats. Poems can be as long as a book, such as Paradise Lost, or simply two lines long, like Ezra Pound’s In a Station of the Metro. It can be 300 pages long as in the revolutionary Dante’s Inferno. Poems don’t have to rhyme or follow any kind of structure or they can be rigidly formatted. Poetry is limitless in its possibilities. For many, poetry is probably the most flexible literary genre.

Introduction to Poetry—Billy Collins

 I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide                                                  or press an ear against its hive.                                                                                                                     I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem’s room and feel the walls for a light switch.                                                                                                   I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author’s name on the shore.                                                                                                                                                               But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it.       They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.

billy collins

For those writing 250 pages of something they may get lost in, or have dropped the thread and are trying to stitch the chapters together, stop. Open a new Word Document and try a poem that captures the heart of the book you are writing. It will rearrange the furniture of your thinking so that when you go back to your novel or memoir, or your non-fiction piece of brilliance, you have new crisp eyes to see with. Or maybe like our woman who hates poetry, you will discover the power of your own words in a new way.

And then again, just listen to a bit of poetry that sends your body into a visceral convulsion that rearranges your very cellular nature.   When you hear this poem read by its author, Dominique Christina, winner of the Women of the World Poetry Award, I assure you, you may think differently about a poem from this moment on. This poem is NOT for wimps.

Writer’s and Competition

A writer is up against thousands of other writers who hope for, work for and dream of the same thing:  Getting published.  Getting recognized.  Having some acknowledgement for their labors of love.   Writing competitions are a great way to hone your skills, beef up your writing muscle and get a bit of a thicker skin in the world of writing.  And you can make money if you put your shoulder to the wheel.  Competitions make you get very detailed and concise, they make you edit better, and they offer you a community of people who can give you feedback in some cases.  You can win a chance to have a publisher publish your work, you can get an editor, win cash prizes, win writing paraphernalia that you might not afford otherwise and a myriad of other things.  But most of all you get to practice your art and by conforming to the guidelines of any competition you can be more focused and dig deep into your own creativity.  So, this competition is one of the largest prizes in short story competition.  Dive in.  Get out there.  Be brave. Write.

The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award: $38,000 Grand Prize

The most valuable prize for short stories is now open to submissions. Created by a bank magnate and a newspaper publisher, the prize is worth £30,000, or $38,000 in U.S. dollars

The deadline for this year’s contest is September 28th, 2017.

As we wrote last year, you have to do a bit of legwork to be eligible for the contest. Primarily, you need to participate in the U.K. or Ireland literary community by publishing a short story by an “established” publisher in the region. This may mean you need to plan on entering next year’s contest, focusing on getting published this year. That seems to be a big part of the goal of the contest; to encourage participation in the U.K. literary scene by writers around the world.

If you’re not a U.K. citizen, don’t worry. Most of the winners have come from abroad. They seem to truly want to encourage diverse writers from around the world to participate in the contest.

According to their website:

“The prize, worth £30,000 to the winner, is an international award, founded in 2010, that is open to any story of up to 6,000 words written in English. Stories need to have been either previously unpublished or only published after 31 December 2016. Five other authors shortlisted for the award will each receive £1,000. The prize is administered by the Society of Authors. To be eligible, the author must simply have a record of prior publication in creative writing in the United Kingdom or Ireland..”

The deadline to submit is September 28th, 2017. Be sure to read the complete rules before submitting, to make sure that you are eligible.

To learn more, read this page.

Homage to a Great Editor

The relationship between a writer and his or her editor is a marriage that takes commitment, creativity, trust, care and honesty. One of the most profound and volatile relationships between writer and editor was between the Maxwell Perkins and the mercurial author, Thomas Wolfe. After working as a reporter for The New York Times, Maxwell Perkins joined the publishing house of Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1910. Perkins wished to publish younger writers. Unlike most editors, he actively sought out promising new artists; he made his first big find in 1919 when he signed F. Scott Fitzgerald. Its publication as This Side of Paradise (1920) marked the arrival of a new literary generation that would always be associated with Perkins. Fitzgerald’s profligacy and alcoholism strained his relationship with Perkins. Nonetheless, Perkins remained Fitzgerald’s friend to the end of Fitzgerald’s short life, in addition to his editorial relationship with the author, particularly evidenced in The Great Gatsby (1925), which benefited substantially from Perkins’ criticism.

It was through Fitzgerald that Perkins met Ernest Hemingway, publishing his first major novel, The Sun Also Rises, in 1926. Perkins fought for it over objections to Hemingway’s profanity raised by traditionalists in the firm. The commercial success of Hemingway’s next novel, A Farewell to Arms (1929), which topped the best-seller list, silenced colleagues’ questions about Perkins’ editorial judgment.

The greatest professional challenge Perkins faced was posed by Thomas Wolfe‘s lack of artistic self-discipline. Wolfe wrote voluminously and was greatly attached to each sentence he wrote. After a tremendous struggle, Perkins induced Wolfe to cut 90,000 words from his first novel, Look Homeward, Angel (1929). His next, Of Time and the River (1935), was the result of a two-year battle during which Wolfe kept writing more and more pages in the face of an ultimately victorious effort by Perkins to hold the line on size. At first grateful to Perkins for discovering and mentoring him, Wolfe later came to resent the popular perception that he owed his success to his editor. Wolfe left Scribner’s after numerous fights with Perkins. Despite this, Perkins served as Wolfe’s literary executor after his early death in 1938 and was considered by Wolfe to be his closest friend.

In the movie, Genius, which shines light on the relationship between Perkins and Wolfe, there is a small exchange between this bonded twosome that sheds light on a universal theme for writers. As in the life of all great writers, beginning writers or hopeful writers, we circulate a thought over and over again:  What if I am trivial?  What if, as the world burns down around us each day, while I labor at my typewriter, in my journals or on scraps of paper, what if what I do is inconsequential?

The story is never inconsequential. It has been that way for all storytellers from the moment we sat around fires, huddled in the dark, listening to the wolves outside the firelight, and one man begins to tell a story, simply so we are not so afraid of the dark.  What if one story is someone’s needed light?  What if your story is in fact just exactly what the world needs now?

An Editor is the most intimate relationship we can have as a writer.  The level of trust, sensitivity and ruthless honesty in this relationship has made or broken many a writer.  And a bad editor can pull the plug on passion, disrespect the author’s keen talent in the service of grammar or spelling, or hold you up and make your work even better, helping you hone your story, and ultimately yourself.

A good editor is a marriage partner and knows how you think, how you are moved, where your strengths and weaknesses are and makes you better, stronger and more publishable, even when you lose faith in yourself.

 

 

Writing Contests: A Great Jumpstart

Contributed by S. Kalekar

Here is a list of awards and grants for writers, for a variety of genres, demographics and experiences. There are competitions for writing for diversity and social change, themed writing, translations, a residency in China, and some prestigious awards. Some are for published work. All pay writers and none charge an entry fee.

The 4th Crystal Ruth Bell Residency

This is a call for a funded residency in Beijing for November and December 2017. They want proposals from artists, including poets and writers, for projects to pursue in Beijing around the theme of ‘Care’. The proposal should reflect some of the things Crystal Ruth Bell’s interests and driving forces: generosity, loyalty, friendship, justice and bikes.
Value: $1,000 research stipend, living/working space, travel and Visa costs, material and production stipend and a research stipend, open studio exhibition
Deadline: 17 July 2017
Open for: Individuals and duos of all nationalities
Details here.

Betjaman Poetry Prize

This is for 10-13-year old poets in the UK. Students must write a poem on the theme ‘Place’, widely interpreted; no restrictions on style or length. Teachers can enter their whole class.
Value: £1,000 (£500 for the winner and £500 for the English department of their school); £50 each for two runners-up; Eurostar tickets to Paris, Brussels or Lille for the top three poets; book tokens, poetry workshop and publication; teachers who enter their classes join a prize draw to win a poet visit
Deadline: 31 July 2017
Open for: 10-13-year-old poets who are residents of the UK
Details here.

Starkey Flythe Jr Poetry Prize

This is for poets in Georgia or South Carolina. It celebrates Starkey Flythe Jr.’s commitment to poetry in the CSRA and the surrounding region. Send up to 3 poems of up to 30 lines each.
Value: $500, $250
Deadline: 31 July 2017
Open for: Poets in Georgia or South Carolina
Details here.

Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival

This is for UK residents. Write a short story (up to 2,000 words) or poem (up to 600 words) with the title ‘Being There’. The work must reflect the theme, directly or indirectly.
Value: First prizes are £1,000 for 17+ years; £250 for 12-16-year-olds; £100 for 7-11-year-olds
Deadline: 31 July 2017
Open for: All ages, professions and nationalities resident in the UK from 7+ years of age
Details here.

Speculative Literature Diverse Writers/Diverse Worlds Grants

The Diverse Writers grant is to support new and emerging writers of speculative fiction from underrepresented groups, including writers of color, disabled, women or working-class writers. The Diverse Worlds grant is for work that best represents a diverse world, irrespective of the writer’s background. Writers may apply for both grants. Preference will be given to proposed book-length works (novels, short story collections). See their guidelines for other grants through the year.
Value: Two grants of $500 each
Deadline: 31 July 2017
Open for: Underrepresented writers, and writers whose work represents a diverse world
Details here.

Duende Translation Contest

This is the magazine’s first ever competition for translated poetry. Send 1-3 poems, up to 6 pages.
Value: $300, $150
Deadline: 31 July 2017
Open for: All translators
Details here.

International Kosciuszko Bicentenary Competition

This competition celebrates the bicentenary year of the Polish humanitarian hero, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, in Australia. Entries can be in Polish or English. Entries can be in literature, music and graphic arts, and are in two categories – adults, and high school students (aged 12-18). Submit original poems or stories (up to 1,000 words). Entrants may submit up to 3 works, provided they depict 3 different episodes of Kosciuszko’s life.
Value: AU$1,000, AU$500, AU$300 for adults; AU$300 for children
Deadline: 31 July 2017
Open for: Adults and high school students (aged 12-18)
Details here.


GAWP! Green Alphabets Writing Prize

This prize, for inspirational writing about the environment, is free for writers under 16; others have to pay for entry. Choose any letter of the alphabet, and use it in any form of writing (prose or poetry; can include visual art) on a green theme. Submit poems up to 40 lines or prose up to 500 words.
Value: £200 for under-16s
Deadline: 31 July 2017
Open for: All writers; free for those under 16
Details here.

Leeway Foundation’s Art and Change Grant

This is for women or trans artists, including writers, working in the Delaware Valley region, who are working on art for social change project that impacts a larger group or community. Writers should have financial need and the project must be supported by a change partner (person, organization or business that is part of the project in some way).
Value: $2,500
Deadline: 1 August 2017
Open for: Those who identify as women or trans artists, in the Delaware Valley region
Details here.

Delaware Division of the Arts: Individual Artist Fellowships

This is for Delaware creative artists. Eighteen disciplines are offered for Fiscal Year 2018, including fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry and playwriting. Writers are awarded $3,000 and $6,000 for the Emerging and Established categories; the $10,000 Masters category is open for Dance, Jazz and Music categories for the 2018 round of applications.
Value: $3,000, $6,000
Deadline: 1 August 2017
Open for: Delaware artists aged 18 or above
Details here.

Costa Short Story Award

This is one of the most prestigious competitions for UK writers. Submit a story of up to 4,000 words. There is no set theme, but the writing should be bold, different and original to stand out. Entrants must be able to attend the awards ceremony if they are shortlisted. Value: £3,500, £1,000, £500
Deadline: 4 August 2017
Open for: UK residents aged 18+; see guidelines for detailed residency requirements
Details here.

Pockets Annual Fiction Contest

This is a Christian children’s magazine, for 6-12-year-olds. There is no set theme for the short story. It must be 750-1,000 words. Hard copy submissions only.
Value: $500 and publication
Deadline: Postmarked no later than 15 August 2017
Open for: All writers except past winners
Details here.

Harville Secker Young Translators’ Prize

This is a prestigious prize by Harville Secker, an imprint of Penguin Random House – publishers of Haruki Murakami, Karl Ove Knausgaard, J M Coetzee and Jo Nesbo.  Korean will be the focus language for this year’s prize. Entrants must translate a selected short story by Han Yujoo. Up to two translators can translate the text. Hard copy submissions only.
Value: £1,000, a selection of Harvill Secker titles, participation in a Writers’ Centre Norwich mentorship with the translator Deborah Smith
Deadline: 28 August 2017
Open for: Translators aged 18-34, from any country
Details here.

PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writers Fellowship

This award is for a work-in-progress by a children’s/young author writer, who is in financial need, and who has had at least one children’s/YA book published in the US – the novel must have been warmly received by critics, but not generated a sufficient income to support the author. The judges will be looking for candidates whose work has not yet got broad readership. Applicants must send 50-75 pages of their work-in-progress as part of the application. No graphic novels or picture books.
Value: $5,000
Deadline: 15 September 2017
Open for: Children’s/YA fiction writers in financial need, who have had at least one book published by a US publisher
Details here.

Cha International Poetry Prize 2017

This prize celebrates the 10th anniversary issue of Cha and the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, and is in collaboration with PEN Hong Kong. Each poem must be a translation of (or an adaptation of/a response to/a comment on) a text from/about Hong Kong or China, written originally in English or Chinese, into a poem that is about contemporary Hong Kong. Poets can submit up to 2 poems, of up to 60 lines each.
Value: $1,501; $800; $400; five Commended Prizes, each $100, and publication
Deadline: 15 September 2017
Open for: All poets
Details here.

Awards for published work

The Asher Literary Award

This is a biannual award for a female Australian writer, whose published work (fiction, literary non-fiction – biography, autobiography, essays, histories, literary criticism or analytical prose but excluding edited and compiled publications – children’s literature, poetry, creative writing for performance, screen or new media) carries a strong anti-war message. The work may be published overseas during the eligibility period. Entries must be publicly available prior to or at the time of entry.
Value: AU$12,000
Deadline: 19 July 2017
Open for: Female Australian citizens or permanent residents aged 18 or over
Details here.

Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award

This award, in three categories – fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry – honors a first published work in that genre by a US or Canadian writer. Winners are invited to tour several of GLCA’s member colleges for readings, visiting classes, lecturing, conducting workshops and publicizing their books. Entrants must commit to visit member colleges that extend invitations.
Value: At least $500 for each college visited, and travel expenses, stay and hospitality
Deadline: 25 July 2017
Open for: US or Canadian writers who have had their first work published in the US or Canada
Details here.

PEN/Edward and Lily Tuck Award for Paraguayan Literature

The award for published work carries a cash stipend of $3,000 for the living author of a major work of Paraguayan literature. Both established and emerging writers are eligible. Another $3,000 is given to the winning translator in order to bring the work from Spanish or Guarani to the English-speaking world. For the current cycle, they are accepting works of published Paraguayan fiction.

Value: $3,000 for a writer and $3,000 for a translator
Deadline: 15 August 2017
Open for: Paraguayan writers and translators of published fiction
Details here.

The Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

This prestigious award for an African-American author’s published work of fiction (novel or a collection of short stories) published in 2017; galleys will also be accepted. The nominee must be a rising author, yet not widely known for their work.

Value: $10,000
Deadline: 15 August 2017
Open for: African-American US citizens
Details here.

Hearing Voices?

right and left brin best

 The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.  Pablo Picasso

Ok, now that I have your attention I am going to launch out into the world of channeling. Maybe I will simply, first, debunk what is now such a common term that it is entirely misunderstood.  And before you say to yourself, “this is not relevant to me as a writer or even a person”  please keep reading.

For a hundred years or so the idea of channeling was associated with mediums who heard information from the dead. Our world was made better by people like Edgar Cayce, who was a groundbreaker and healer. Then thirty years ago people like Darryl Anka and Esther Hicks came on the scene and rocked the world with messages for interstellar beings and trans-dimensional beings. People all over the world now post greetings and information from aliens, angels, and even their version of God, as in Neale Donald Walsh. These “voices” are all talking through the individual and about the shift in human consciousness.

photo of Edgar Cayce Darryl anka  esther hicks   mary Jonaitis

But, this is a rich a fertile discussion that I will not be having here. What I am talking about in this post is the link or the channel between our minds and our high self, our essential self. Shifting from thinking to feeling and realizing that feelings are the palette you create from is key to writing that is only good to writing that is timeless. And without that communication line open and flowing, a writer has a pretty tough time tapping into his or her muse. The mind is a steel vice to pure creativity. The heart is the bridge and the road to all-knowing, to endless creativity and to the world of feelings.

A work of art, which did not begin in emotion, is not art.
Paul Cezanne

Let’s rethink this idea of channeling. I think the best illustration is that if we can understand that as humans we vibrate at a certain frequency when we think, a different frequency when we are in love and yet another frequency when we are meditating, then we have choices about where we dial into ourselves.

Like an old-fashioned radio we have many channels that we can tune into within our own being.   We can choose lower frequencies, which are mind centered, about over thinking and worry, comparing and jealousy, mental agitation, over planning and over editing our stories as writers. But not one writer would say that these lower vibrational states makes writing good or even fun. It is a give away that we are in our solution based, over working mind if we have any of the following experiences when we write: Self-criticism, doubt, over-thinking our story, going back over and over to read the paragraph we just crafted, worry about edits, boredom. Oh, I can write a whole post on either boredom or getting up to do the laundry, the cat box, or needing a nap.

And here I am not referring to needed timelines, outlines, editing or the blooming second, third or tenth draft requirements once you get your story down. These are places where our left-brain is a mastermind. I am talking about the creative process that leaves a mark on what you write that lingers with the world. I am talking about tapping into the voice that is your true voice as a writer.

We can change the channel to a heart centered one, to an open flow of intuition, instinctive writing, allowing the characters to write themselves, the story to unfold and all we have to do is navigate the weather that higher vibrational frequencies offer us in the creation of art and story.

So, unlike the medium or the channelers of Angels like Doreen Virtue, of Abraham an entity group of souls who speak through Esther Hicks, or the entity called Michael who have been guiding me for thirty years through my friend Mary Jonaitis, we can channel our high self, our deepest knowing every minute of every day. We can each cultivate the skill of changing channels, thus changing vibrational frequency to allow the floodgates to the Universe to open to us as writers.

And just like a radio, when you change the channel to a new program the other programs are still there, still broadcasting, still entertaining other people in the world tuned to that channel. We are simply choosing to shift the channel out of the mind and the lower vibrational realms of the mind and elevate our frequency to the other voices in us that are there all the time: Intuition, Spirit, Past Lives, Inner Child, Spirit Guides and the Source of who we are. When we allow this shift to occur as a writer…well the story will write you so hang on to your hat.

And of course in the culture that is addicted to the “10 steps to our higher self” or the “4 keys to channeling”, there is no hard and fast answer to how to shift into a state of higher vibration and channel the innate knowledge and abilities that are part of who your are. Each of us has to come to the place of discovering what it takes for you to make the leap out of the mind as a writer to cultivating a heart frequency that will allow you to journey anywhere and hear many voices. Here are my three favorite practices in my life that reboots my creative juice.   These will help you find your own process of changing the channel as a writer.

meditating cat

Meditate – For twenty minutes before you sit to write, meditate. I don’t mean empty your mind I mean calm it down. Shift from left-brain planning to simply focusing on things you love. You can walk, garden, meditate in the shower for that matter. But make a conscious shift from the solution oriented brain energy to the love in you. Think of what you are grateful for, for the animals who protect you, the children that you either have or want and anything that stimulates your heart. Create your own spiritual practice to unleash the amazing writer in you.

dance to joy

Music – I posted about Beethoven last week and that 30 min loop of C sharp music will activate the right brain and the heart. But you have favorite music that puts you in a great mood, makes you want to dance, brings you to tears and fills you with joy. Joy is the love frequency, so crank up the music and dance. Then light a candle, say a prayer, pour a cup of tea and write.

automatic writing best

Automatic Writing – This form of writing, which I will do an entire post on, is where you allow yourself to write about anything and everything and don’t stop to read, punctuate, edit. In fact you don’t stop at all.  Start with a question like: “How am I today” or “Where does my heart want to go in this next chapter I am writing?” Then let it rip. Don’t stop, allow the muses to do the work for you. You will be astonished at what your muse, your higher self, tells you if you only listen to the voice.

Ok, these are my top three favorite ways to start my day even if I am not facing a five-hour stent at the computer, a deadline or being seized by inspiration to write to you about channeling. We have a dozen channels to tune to in our life and most of us know two of them, maybe. Explore and find out how vast you are and how much support is in your inner realms for your writing.

Turn Of The Wheel

risking writing.jpg

This past year has been a remarkable year as a Ghostwriter and Writing Coach.    Two books I ghostwrote for have been picked up by both publishers and the film industry.  So I have branched out in my offerings and have started to represent authors as a literary agent and help to get the book in the hands of the right publisher.

The industry for writers has changed in an unparalleled way in just one year.   Mainstream publishers are nearly impossible to query with your book or writing, freelance writers are priced out by non-english speaking countries who charge 75% less than the states, and vanity press and self publishing options are dominating the market of publishing.  So in the next few weeks I am going to address how each of these changes affect you as a writer, as a freelancer, storyteller, screenwriter or editor.

“Publishing is a business. Writing may be art, but publishing, when all is said and done, comes down to dollars.” -Nicholas Sparks