Submissions Alert

These contests come to us via the Authors Guild’s monthly roundup:

FICTION CONTESTS

Drue Heinz Literature Prize
Eligibility: Writers who have published a novel or a book-length collection of fiction with a reputable book publisher, or a minimum of three short stories or novellas in magazines or journals of national distribution
Prize: $15,000 + publication
Deadline: June 30, 2022

POETRY CONTESTS

May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Book Prize
Eligibility: All poets
Prize: $1,000 + publication
Entry Fee: $30
Deadline: June 30, 2022

Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards
Eligibility: All writers
Prize: $1,000
Entry fee: $15
Deadline: July 1, 2022

Kingsley Tufts Award
Eligibility: Mid-career poets with a book published between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.
Prize: $100,000
Deadline: July 1, 2022

Kate Tufts Discovery Award
Eligibility: Poets with a first book published between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.Prize: $10,000
Deadline: July 1, 2022

MULTI-GENRE CONTESTS

New Millennium Writing Award
Eligibility: All writers
Prize: $1,000
Entry Fee: $20
Deadline: June 30, 2022

Los Angeles Review Literary Awards
Eligibility: All writers
Prize: $1,000 + publication
Entry Fee: $20
Deadline: June 30, 2022

Bellevue Literary Review Prizes
Eligibility: All writers
Prize: $1,000 + publication
Entry fee: $20
Deadline: July 1, 2022

Richard J. Margolis Award
Eligibility: Nonfiction writers of social justice journalism
Prize: residency at Blue Mountain Lake
Deadline: July 1, 2022

Contests can be a way to get your creative juices flowing and push your writing to the next level. If you have work you feel sings and dances, why not throw your hat in the ring? Write on!

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Something Wonderful

This week’s “Something Wonderful” is a lovely poem in celebration of Father’s Day. It reminds me of dipping my hand into the pocket of my father’s overcoat when I was a little girl and finding all sorts of treasures:

My Father’s Hats
Mark Irwin

Sunday mornings I would reach
high into his dark closet while standing
on a chair and tiptoeing reach
higher, touching, sometimes fumbling
the soft crowns and imagine
I was in a forest, wind hymning
through pines, where the musky scent
of rain clinging to damp earth was
his scent I loved, lingering on
bands, leather, and on the inner silk
crowns where I would smell his
hair and almost think I was being
held, or climbing a tree, touching
the yellow fruit, leaves whose scent
was that of a clove in the godsome
air, as now, thinking of his fabulous
sleep, I stand on this canyon floor
and watch light slowly close
on water I’m not sure is there.

Wishing all the fathers of our hearts and memories sunshine and joy!

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“Life Itself”

“What was any art but a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself – life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.” Willa Cather

“Life hurrying past us” — isn’t that what we are trying to capture in both our fiction and nonfiction? Among the biggest tools in our arsenal: the word choices we make.

A case in point: Suppose you’re describing a character entering a courtroom. You could simply say, “She walked into the courtroom.” But that’s wasted language — and a wasted opportunity. Instead of using “walked” — why not choose a verb that conveys more to the reader? A few contenders: ambled, bounced, lurched, limped, strolled, sauntered, strutted, sashayed, slithered, stumbled, tiptoed, wandered. You get the idea!

Or, try an exercise that Toby Stein, a seasoned writer and editor gave at a workshop hosted by the Write Group, and complete the sentence, Her handshake was…. Our group came up with a cornucopia of specifics: awkward, crushing, hesitant, weak, weary, sweaty, vigorous, flimsy, cool, deceptive, hostile, distant, solid, stolid, sullen, furtive, anxious. Each word conveys a different but revealing feeling to a reader. Here are more of Toby’s tips I’ve gathered to help us all make our pages sing and dance:

• Adverbs are weak cousins to nouns and verbs. Start out with strong nouns and verbs — and use adverbs sparingly.

• Fiction’s main goal is to create a protagonist that readers can identify with. The more specific your language, the more real your character becomes.

• Write your first draft fast enough to get your whole story out, then shift into revision mode. Revision = focused writing + making choices.

• A novel isn’t a photograph, it’s impressionistic. Each revision gives you the chance to paint a better picture by picking better nouns and verbs. If you’re just adding words without enriching the meaning or the effect, you’re not improving your story, you’re “disimproving” it.

• It’s very important “not to squander specifics:” Numbers, dates, times, and colors all add emotional and descriptive impact. Azure, royal blue, teal — each shade of blue colors your story a little differently, for example.

• 1+1=1/2. If you have two words or phrases, you diminish the impact of both, so choose one. The one that’s simplest is often the best choice. (Wow, this is a great insight — I’m applying it in my YA novel!) 

Great advice from an ace editor and writer. Thanks, Toby. Write on!

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Your Trail


“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for.” Louis L’Amour

As the writer of classic Westerns, our boy Louis knew a thing or two about trails. And his words of wisdom are a good reminder that wherever we’re traveling to isn’t really the point. In the end, it’ the journey that counts. As writers, it’s good to remember this now and again. Sometimes we can get so entranced with word counts or page counts or hitting our daily targets that we forget the desire that underlies it all—the real goal—becoming better writers.

So let’s think about the trail we’re on and enjoying the journey:

We’re enjoying the journey when we feel rested and eager to write—when we have ideas spilling out of us that we long to capture and share with the world.

We’re enjoying the journey when we have others walking beside us—when we take time to encourage our fellow scribes who may need our words of inspiration and a shot of our Adrenalin.

We’re enjoying the journey when we take time to savor its many pleasures. Sometimes this means exploring a byway that seems promising but make take us off our main road for a bit. It’s these little side trips that often lead to surprises that delight our readers.

We’re enjoying the journey when we don’t let bumps in the road knock us flat. When we don’t worry too much about a pass from a journal or an agent, but continue to believe in our work and its value.

We’re enjoying the journey when we realize that there’s nothing more fulfilling than grappling with something difficult that we really care about. And when we keep wrestling with it, until it really works.

So let’s keep our goals in mind—the end of the trail—what we’re aiming for. But let’s also enjoy the trail—let’s enjoy being on the road to improving our craft and creating better, truer, deeper stories. Write on!

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Making Magic

From Stephen King’s handbook,

“Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breath. Imagine, if you like, Frankenstein’s monster on its slab. Here comes lightning, not from the sky, but from a humble paragraph of English words. Maybe it’s the first really good paragraph you ever wrote, something so fragile and yet so full of possibility that you are frightened. You feel as Victor Frankenstein must have when the dead conglomeration of spare parts suddenly opened its watery yellow eyes….

“You go on to the third level, of course, and begin to write real fiction. Why shouldn’t you? Why should you fear? Carpenters don’t build monsters, after all; they build houses, stores, and banks. They build some of wood a plank at a time. You will build a paragraph at a time, constructing these of your vocabulary and your knowledge of grammar and basic style. As long as you stay level-on-the-level and shave every door, you can build whatever you like—whole mansions, if you have the energy….

“At its most basic, we are only discussing a learned skill, but do we not agree that sometimes the most basic skills can create things far beyond our expectations? We are talking about tools and carpentry, words and style…but as we move along, you’d do well to remember that we are also talking about magic.”

I love the no-nonsense, if-you-build-it-they-will come feeling of these words, don’t you? They help us remember why writing is called a craft: it’s a skill that we can learn and become better at. It takes time, it takes training, it takes self-mastery and discipline. It’s part skill, part magic. We can do this! And now, energized and inspired, let’s all write on!

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Chancing Failure

“All serious daring starts from within.” Eudora Welty

“If you risk nothing, you risk everything.” Geena Davis

Baseball fan or not, you’ve probably heard of Ty Cobb—one of the sport’s legendary players. His record for stealing bases—a risky business—stood for many seasons. The year he set that record, he stole 96 bases from under the noses of his opposing teams.

Ask most baseball fans if they know who Max Carey is, and most of them will shake their heads no. Like Cobb, Carey had lots of baseball talent. In a single season, he attempted to steal bases 53 times and succeeded 51 times—an amazing 96% success rate. To set his record of 96 stolen bases, Ty Cobb attempted steals 134 times—that’s a 71% success rate.

Yet it’s Ty Cobb whose legendary today and whose risk-taking earned him a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Why? Because he was bolder. He was willing to chance failure far more often than Carey, his closest base-stealing rival.

What’s the message here for us as creatives? Risk-taking may be a risky business, but it has its rewards! We risk rejection every time we submit a story to lit journals or email another query to an agent. But the more we put ourselves on the line and put our work out into the world, the better our chances of succeeding.

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run,” Babe Ruth, another baseball legend, once said. And the same goes for us. Every time we chance failure we’re bringing ourselves closer to success. Like the lottery, “You’ve got to be in it to win it.” Write on!

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So What!

If people don’t love or hate your work, then you really haven’t done that much.”                Tinker Hatfield

Love that name, “Tinker” — and love this quote! Tinker Hatfield is a well-known designer associated with Nike — a creative with a sharp eye and, I suspect, a sharp tongue. When I saw this pithy bit of wisdom, it really jumped out at me. It made me think of writing.

Unless we tuck our poetry and prose under our pillow at night or stuff it in a drawer or let it languish on our computers, we’re going to face rejection. Sure, some people are going to love what we do. But some won’t relish our subject or our style or our genre or our genre jumping or… You name it. All this called to mind a great sales formula:

SW Formula*

Some will
Some won’t
So what!
Someone’s waiting
Stick with it
Stop worrying

Some will —  Some people will like or even love what we do. That’s great, especially if some of them are editors, publishers, and agents.

Some won’t —  Some people will take a pass on us for one reason or another. Mostly these decisions prove to be unfathomable, so we’re better off seeing this as part of the territory.

So what! — We can wring our hands and turn the story of these naysayers into a tale of woe or we can do what Babe Ruth did. Whether he hit a home run or struck out, he just kept swinging.

Someone’s waiting —  Somewhere out there, someone receptive is waiting for our work. Every time we put it out there, we’re a step closer to finding out who it is — and that’s exciting!

Stick with it — Don’t quit, can’t fail. Let’s take this as a mantra. As long as we mine any constructive feedback we receive and keep on improving and digger deeper, we’re on the road to success. It may take a while, but if we stick with it, we’ll get there. So keep going!

Stop worrying — We don’t have any control over what other people think — whether they love or hate what we do. So let’s not get all angsty about it. Let’s focus on the power we do have and what we do control: our devotion to craft, our effort, and our attitude. Write on!

* The wonderful SW Formula comes to us via Dr. Rob Gilbert. Check out his fabulous Success Hotline podcast.

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Something Wonderful

The Zen poet sings:

All is left to her natural beauty,
Her skin is intact,
Her bones are as they are:
There is no need for the paints, powders of any tint.
She is as she is, no more, no less.
How marvelous!”

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Wild Thyme

Anna’s story from Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness by Dr. Qing Li:

“I have suffered from writer’s block on and off for many years. Just at the point at which I think I will never be able to get down another word and am in despair, I take myself off to the countryside to walk in nature. I have a place I always go to. The air there is very special and it is the first thing I notice. It’s full of wild thyme and rosemary, and often I just stand still and breathe. The smell is especially beautiful after there has been a gentle rain.

“Then I start to look around. As my eyes travel across the landscape, I can almost feel my brain untangling. I can’t tell you how many times I have got to the countryside after being bent over my work for weeks, unable to sort out a problem which just gets knottier the more I try to work on it, and solved it. The only solution for me is to be in nature. Sometimes it is as though the answer I’m looking for is right there in the trees and all I had to do was get there.”

What a magical place this writer’s personal refuge sounds like, doesn’t it? Full of the smells of wild thyme and rosemary. Delicious!

We may not be able to escape to the countryside whenever we hit a knotty writing roadblock, but we can still find solace and even solutions in greenery—a park, a patch of woods, a garden.

According to Dr. Li, Chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine, “Nature also has the power to help us solve problems and to break through creative blocks. Research at the universities of Utah and Kansas looked at the effect on creative reasoning skills of being immersed in nature for a number of days. The researchers concluded there ‘is a real cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time truly immersed in a natural setting’, and found that spending time in nature can boost problem-solving ability and creativity by 50 per cent.”

Wow! A 50 per cent increase in creativity just from immersing ourselves in nature! While total immersion isn’t always possible, we can still reap many physical and mental benefits by taking time to sojourn in green spaces and using all our senses to absorb their quiet, calming strengths. Even just looking at our indoor plants or a forest landscape picture can help untangle those knots or ours. Write on!

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Charming Gardeners

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”   Marcel Proust

This quote always makes me think of my wonderful family and friends — and how blessed and lucky I am to have them in my life. And one of those who’s a constant source of support is my beautiful sister Stephanie. Who could be a more wonderful and “charming gardener” than she?

I always look forward to staying in her apartment for a “sleepover” — so much fun! Since we’re sheltering at home, we always call each other at 11, just to check in and see how things are going. And then, at 4, we have a virtual “teatime” together — we both drink a “cuppa” and chat a bit. These two check-ins with Steph have really helped me stay grounded and to remember that in the midst of all this confusion, there’s someone I can count on and who can count on me.

Along with all my wonderful family and friends, my fabulous sister Stephanie has been such a gift to my writing life! Not only is she an ace editor who always gives me the benefit of her enormous skill and experience, she is a fount of enthusiasm and encouragement. When she’s excited about something I’ve written, I always hear it in her voice: I know it’s really good and get a tremendous lift! She’s always ready to help me make my words better and stronger.

Writing is often a solitary activity, it’s easy to forget all the “writing angels” who give us much-needed  — not just ideas and valuable suggestions, but also encouragement when we falter and need a boost.

We writers are sharing, caring people. So let’s take a few moments today to give a shout out to someone who’s helping making this rough road we’re on a little smoother, especially in these difficult days. So, thank you, Steph — you’re the best!

And now enriched and enlivened by acknowledging the “writing angels” whose wings flutter against our pages and shower them with stardust, let’s all write on!

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