Northwestern University’s Poetry and Poetics Colloquium proudly announces a partnership with Northwestern University Press for the inaugural Drinking Gourd chapbook poetry prize, a first-book award for poets of color. This will be an annual award combining the efforts of Northwestern’s Poetry and Poetics Colloquium and Northwestern University Press in celebrating and publishing works of lasting cultural value and literary excellence.
Seeking to showcase the work of emerging poets of color, volumes in the Drinking Gourd series will be selected by a panel of distinguished minority poets and scholars and will feature a short introduction by a senior minority writer. Our first prize chapbook will be introduced by the renowned poet, Ed Roberson, who will also publish an accompanying chapbook of new work to launch the series.
Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize Guidelines:
Winner receives $350 prize money, publication by Northwestern University Press in Fall 2012, 15 copies of the book, and a featured reading. Results announced in March 2012.
Judging will be conducted by a panel of senior minority poets and scholars assembled by the Northwestern University Poetry and Poetics Colloquium.
Poets of color who have not previously published a book-length volume of poetry. Simultaneous submissions to other contests should be noted. Immediate notification upon winning another award is required.
Reading period begins January 15, 2012. Manuscripts must be received by January 15, 2012. To be notified that your manuscript has been received, please enclose a self-addressed, stamped postcard. The winner will be announced on March 15, 2012.
- Send two copies of a single manuscript. One manuscript per poet allowed.
- Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope to receive notification of results.
- Author’s name should not appear on any pages within the manuscript. Copy One must include a title page with the author’s brief bio (200 words, maximum) and contact information: author’s name, postal address, e-mail address and telephone number. Copy Two must include a cover sheet with the title only.
- Manuscript must be typed single-sided with a minimum font size of 11, paginated and 25-35 pages in length.
- Manuscript must include a table of contents and list of acknowledgments of previously published poems.
- Manuscript must be unbound. Use a binder clip—do not staple or fold. Do not include illustrations or images of any kind.
- Manuscripts not adhering to submission guidelines will be discarded without notice to sender.
- Due to the volume of submissions, manuscripts will not be returned.
- Post-submission revisions or corrections are not permitted.
$10. Enclose check with submission, made payable to Northwestern University.
Direct Packet to:
Northwestern University Poetry and Poetics Colloquium and Workshop
Drinkg Gourd Prize Chapbook Series
Univeristy Hall 215
1897 Sheridan Rd.
Evanston, IL 60208
Attn: Susannah Young-ah Gottlieb
Illegal downloading has wreaked havoc on the music industry, DVD sales have suffered - are ebooks the next? And wouldn't you know it, my alma mater, the University of Michigan, leads the charge of copyright infringement - they tried to give their students and professors access to a digital version of the works of J. R. Salamanca. Wait, you've never heard of him? Well, he did have a bestseller - fifty years ago. Luckily, the Authors Guild was there to sue and set those Wolverines right, the lawless scoundrels.
Now, I don't want to diminish the works of Mr. Salamanca, I would be lucky to sell as many books as he has. But Kevin Smith, Duke's Scholarly Communications Officer (sweet title), notes that the last transaction in their libraries for Salamanca's work from the list was 2004 - when it was sent to "high-density storage." There had been no transactions for the decade prior. Smith points out that Salamanca is far more likely to find new readers via HathiTrust than any alternative the Authors Guild presents.
The Authors Guild is picking battles that are easy to find when the real threats are elsewhere. Michigan, and the other research library members in HathiTrust , aim to preserve books by digitizing them with the help of Google Books. On the side, they sought to provide digital copies of books in the public domain or whose copyright owners could not be found, so called "orphan works." Apparently some of the orphans weren't quite so orphaned. But the real threat to authors and the industry is peer-to-peer file sharing, far more likely with current bestsellers than with anything that could approach orphan status. It's like the music industry going nuts over a copyright dispute regarding Elgar's Sanguine Fan while millions of Rihannadownloads are what they're really worried about. Of course, the peer-to-peer sharing is harder to stop or even identify and makes for poor headlines - hey, we sued Bill from Kankakee for downloading Harry Potter! But what the Authors Guild is doing now is of questionable value, despite the gloating.
I assume you’re up to speed on Occupy Wall Street, but have you heard about Occupy Writers? It’s a website with a fast-growing list of over 1,200 writers (Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Noam Chomsky, Ursula Le Guin, Michael Cunningham and Northwestern faculty Gina Frangello and Stuart Dybek) who have publicly declared support for the Occupy movement.
Created by author Jeff Sharlet and journalist Kiera Feldman, the site now hosts “occupy writings.” Lemony Snicket’s piece, “Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance” has been tweeted wildly; my favorite parts are numbers ten and eleven:
10. It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view.
11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.
Alice Walker’s piece praises Princeton professor and activist Cornell West—one of OWS’s most vocal supporters—who was arrested last Sunday:
what a joy it is
to hear this news of you.
that you have not forgotten
what our best people taught us
as they rose to meet their day:
not to be silent
To anyone who believes that writers should also be public intellectuals, this site is bound to feel important. As Francine Prose said in a recent Guardian story: "Since this movement started, I've been waking up in the morning without the dread (or at least without the total dread) with which I've woken every morning for so long, the vertiginous sense that we're all falling off a cliff and no one (or almost no one) is saying anything about it."
I find the list is refreshingly diverse. New York Magazine might have sniffed that it “tends toward the small-press published, lefty magazine editors, and generally highbrow types,” but at least it admits that “It's not without big, big names (Elizabeth Wurtzel, Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker, James Wolcott of Vanity Fair, Ann Patchett, Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan).
Personally, whenever I see the names Dorothy Allison, Barbara Ehrenreich, Rick Moody, Elissa Schappell, Jonathan Lethem, Barbara Kingsolver, Gloria Steinem, Ayelet Waldman, and Chicagoans Dan Sinker, Zoe Zolbrod, and Sara Paretsky on a list, it’s one I want to be part of. In fact, I may start looking askance at favorite writers not on the list. (I’m looking at you, Michael Chabon, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Pam Houston.)
If you support OWS and have published a book or are a magazine editor, you can add your name. There’s a backlog (because they verify identities), but new names are constantly being added. Follow news at @occupywriters on Twitter.
Digital revolution or not, the transformative powers of fiction give me hope: that lives are not meaningless; that great worlds can be built; that disbelief can be suspended—even if one is full of disbelief; that individual experience is a blessing not a curse; that Maslow and Tony Robbins might have a point but such sentiments are best offered without analysis or sensationalist appeals; that acknowledgments of triumph, adversity, courage, pith, and romance help us beat back whatever beleaguering monotony exists in our diverse realities; that perspective cannot be confused with truth; that poignant aspects of privacy can be shared when we feel as though we’ve tripped on a sidewalk alone; and that while some stories may only be palliative there are many that cure our cultures of the disconcerting plagues that can hardly be identified to great effect any other way than by means of a big, beautiful book.
My faith in fiction is like an eternal flame that shines as a small true light in the darkness of this despairing life.
But form? Jesus. I have absolutely no faith in form right now. None. I don’t want to upset you but you might as well know sooner rather than later. I want you to have some chance of recovering from the blow. Did you know that advertisements are likely going in e-books? Seriously. No joke. Commercials will be in your book. There’s no more meditative sanctum. No private reprieve from incessant marketing efforts by piggy-backing enterprises that cater to personal data sets.
Even if there are those among us who enjoy an advertisement that holds redeeming aesthetic appeal, I don’t think many people relish the thought of brazen intrusions upon a reader’s world. But deal with it as best you can. Any sacred sense you have about the culturally-refined experience a reader and writer share across time by way of the pages of a book is pretty much going the way of all things.
It all sounds fairly ridiculous, but I have to lend a wee bit of sympathy to the poets and their spontaneous protest, though, to be sure, I’m not of the mind that PDA and stripping are brilliant, original, or even interesting manners of protesting the obscene amount of cash the Poetry Foundation received and spent on the slick new Apple Store—I mean, Poetry Center.
To me, the Poetry Foundation calling the cops and pressing charges makes me leery of visiting the place. I was supposed to go to the Zurita reading, and I'm thinking of going to another next week, though now I am not sure I want to (what if I accidentally disrupt the reading Will I get manhandled by goons?). It’s not that I totally sympathize with the protesters, but I do think their actions were harmless enough to be ignored. Pressing charges seems a bit draconian. Let it go, Poetry Foundation, while you still have a shred of credibility.
I'm no expert on the digital revolution's effect on fiction; you'll have to read more of Nath's entries for that. I do, however, have some experience in negotiating and drafting contracts. A recent New York Times article details Amazon's recent forays into publishing and cutting out traditional publishers and sneaks in the elimination of the agent, too. The agent is charged with, among other matters, helping the author find a publisher and negotiating on the author's behalf. The outlook was not all rosy.
The first author the story discusses, Kiana Davenport, signed with a division of Penguin books and received a $20,000 advance. Hey, not bad. Before she finished that novel, she published an e-book of short stories on Amazon. She refused a demand to remove the e-book, so Penguin canceled her contract for the novel and has threatened to sue unless Davenport returns the advance. It is not clear if Davenport had an agent (although she likely did for the novel). It is clear that defending a lawsuit is expensive, even if you win. In summary: author makes good with contract from big publishing house, tries to e-publish on the side, loses contract and faces lawsuit and loss of advance. Perhaps Davenport's tale will have a happy ending, but so far so bad. I wonder if an agent gave advice about the e-book, and what it was.
The second author, Laurel Saville, is presented as the success story. She self-published a memoir, paid Publisher's Weekly to be included in a list of self-published authors, got a postiive review from the magazine, and received an offer from Amazon to re-publish the work, with a different title, with no advance and otherwise undisclosed terms. Strangely, the Times states that the lack of advance means that "[i]n essence, Amazon has become her partner." Seville, who didn't use an agent, adds that "I assume they want to make a lot of money off the book, which is encouraging to me." But all publishers want to sell lots of the their books and make a lot of money doing it. Authors generally get royalties when their books sell, and traditional publishers sometimes pick up self-published works. What makes Amazon more of a partner than a regular publishing house? Without knowing the terms of Saville's agreement, it is impossible to know whether she will be getting more royalties than traditional publishers agree to. What she may gain is Amazon's desire to give the book more publicity than it otherwise would. In summary: author self-publishes book, pays for advertising, gets picked up by Amazon with terms that are impossible to compare but worse up front than traditional houses give, and appears to misunderstand the business model.
This is not to say that Amazon is bad, that publishers are good, or that agents either would have helped in these cases or are in general jolly, generous folk. Agents might be gate-keepers who miss good writing and make money off books they didn't write. However, as President Obama - and now everybody else - likes to say, let us be clear. Amazon is out to make money, just like traditional publishers. Amazon has hired experienced negotiators who know the ins and outs of book contracts. Most authors will be far outmatched in any negotation. Moreover, like Davenport, most authors are not prepared to anticipate and address legal ramifications that may arise with untraditional modes of publication.
In summary: e-publishing might be a wonderful opportunity for authors to "get their work out," and Amazon might step in where other publishers won't, but beware the possible pitfalls. And don't assume that dispensing with an agent is just an easy way to save money.
The perfect bookstore is not perfect because it meets every expectation of what a bookstore should be, as if it conformed to some platonic notion of completeness. Nor is it perfect for exceeding any and all reasonable expectations thrust upon it. Rather, perfection derives from the expectations a bookstore places upon itself, expectations that supplant any preconceptions of what a bookstore ought to be. All that the book lover sees, in this case, is the store in front of him, and he’s so overwhelmed by what it has to offer that he can’t quite remember what it was he expected to begin with.
I feel this way every time I visit the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore on the University of Chicago’s campus. The Co-Op’s selection is wide, deep, and, most significantly, 100 percent garbage-free. It’s in a basement, and color-coded paths taped to the stone floor map its sections. The enthralled browser is sure to bump his head on one of the many exposed pipes. It is what one might expect from a bookstore found inside the business end of a wardrobe: ultimately indescribable in any way other than magical.
I recently read Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn, a novel whose plot and cast of characters call to mind a most complimentary adjective: Dickensian. With Dickens on my mind, and influenced by the wonder of the Seminary Co-Op, I picked up a copy of Robert Douglas-Fairhurst’s Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist, supposedly an account of Dickens’s early career that ignores the inherited wisdom of Dickens lore. As an aspiring novelist, I’ll take any stitch of Dickens I can get my hands on; it is likely enough to teach by osmosis to be well worth the price.
I would like to say that I had been yearning for more Russian literature in my wanderings, but that would be the sort of lie worth telling only as a punch line. Instead, meandering through the stacks at Seminary Co-Op, I stumbled upon a copy of Turgenev’s Virgin Soil. I was fond of Fathers and Sons as an undergraduate and am still waiting to be convinced that Russian novelists don’t hold the key to the universe.
To round out my purchases, I picked up a copy of Stuart Dybek’s Childhood and Other Neighborhoods. I long ago loaned a copy of Childhood to a friend, and only slightly less long ago gave up on the hope of seeing it returned. Besides, one needs no excuse to walk out of a Chicago bookstore with a Dybek collection in hand.
Like so many other bookstores, the Seminary Co-Op lines its checkout counter with potential impulse buys. The cynic would expect to find here the flavor of the week memoirist or a variety of recycled self-help information. Not so at Seminary. The book that caught my eye and stimulated my impulse was Irish Writers on Writing edited by Eavan Boland. Walking out of the Seminary Co-Op, I was convinced once again of the bookstore’s perfection. With an armful of only four books, I held strong to the conviction that only a perfect bookstore can leave you feeling simultaneously satisfied and invigorated, eager to consume monuments of unageing intellect.
 N.B. The Seminary Co-Op will be moving a block east of its current location in the very near future. It is this author’s opinion that, if you are at all able, you should make a pilgrimage to the current location before that move happens. However, it is also this writer’s opinion that cultural eulogies are as obnoxious as they are useless. Consider this a love letter to the only version of the Co-Op any of us has ever known. The writer of this love letter understands that, as is true of any love worth expressing, adoration of The Way Things Were without an eager eye on the way they will be is no love at all.
After the past week of Indian-summer weather, fall has officially arrived in Chicago. Since I’m a fiction writer and also a sucker for organizational tools, autumn usually means book release events, and registering for the AWP conference. But this year, I’m also trying to apply my organizational zeal to my reading and writing life.
To that end, I set up a “literary” list in my Twitter stream, downloaded several new, free e-books, and am taking stock of my literary magazine-submissions (or, if I’m being honest, the lack thereof).
There are two schools of thought about submitting creative work for publication; one is that publication should not be your ultimate goal—that you should only submit a piece when it’s been through dozens of drafts, and feels “ready” beyond a shadow of doubt; (if a piece of writing is ever really done is another story). The other says after giving a piece due rewriting, it’s best to get the thing out the door while it’s still a living/breathing document, and not strangled by revision. The best approach likely depends on the writer’s personality. Since I tend towards obsessive editing and shyness with my work, for now I’m taking the “get it out the door” approach.
Which brings us to submission logs. Do you other writers keep one? I have an Excel spreadsheet that lists titles of works to submit, magazines to submit to, dates submitted, and the responses. If you haven’t yet created this terribly useful tool, this blog post explains how, noting: “The key to getting published–besides having tight stories and cultivating good networks of relationships with editors and publishers–is simply to have lots of pieces going out all the time.” And Nanci Panuccio, founder of NYC’s Emerging Writers Studio, provides detailed advice (per local writer Joe Meno) here.
The most helpful provide context and depth, like this site, which ranks magazines according to how many Pushcart Prizes were awarded to each over the previous year.
Poets and Writers also maintains a large, alphabetical list of mags that specify genre, the reading period dates, and if simultaneous submissions are allowed. Choose your favorites, organize them by tier, (you might not be quite ready to hit up the New Yorker) and you’re off and running. Well, almost. You still have to actually write.
Which reminds me—the danger with “organization” is that it sounds a lot like “procrastination.” And if I'm going to come clean, here I must admit: my own organizing sessions cluster oddly around deadlines.
What is fiction? A book? A story? A craft? A solitary artistic endeavor? A meeting of minds? I don’t know. What I know is that the digital revolution affects our assumptions about what forms fiction can take.
Before we get going on this exploration of pomp and circumstance I’ll give you my background as a writer so you have some sense of whatever bias to which I’m blind. I decided to write one day while reading The Great Gatsbyor Tender is the Night—one of those prodigious Fitzgerald novels—at my grandmother’s summer cottage on Long Island. My parents, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, perhaps a cousin, and my sister were all laid out on their backs with books on a hot summer afternoon. The sounds of pages turning, cowbirds singing in the grapevine, and large screens shifting on light breezes in syncopation with waves were all I heard for an hour after lunch. I was the youngest. While I was very much enjoying whichever novel determined the entire trajectory of my life that day before fifth grade, mainly I was bored and wanted to go down to the beach. I was not allowed to swim alone so I said, “Mom?” She said, “Read.”
I lay back on a green, sun-warmed, jungle flora print 70s, bedspread, oppressed by maternal directive, and thought, “This is so boring. No one’s talking. Everyone I care about is here but there’s no interaction. They’re all just reading.” Then my eureka moment came. If you want to have any kind of interaction with a chemist, an English scholar, a teacher, a social worker, a nurse, two biologists, and a pianist, well, then you’ll likely have to write a book. They’re all introverted readers and have absolutely no interest in communicating with anyone directly. I very much wanted to communicate with the people I held most dear. So it was decided: I’d write.
I’d already been writing for at least three years but not with any formal ambition. Having galvanized my conviction and admitted my dreams to an interested third party I was rather surprised to be told again, “Read.” Why? What on earth would reading have to do with writing? But whether or not there happened to be any logic in it at all dominant forces prevailed and I read. I won’t say I read everything because I spent a great deal of energy and effort avoiding all the books that constitute what anyone means when they say they’ve read everything. But. I read all the other stuff and loved it.
Okay. By high school I was taking myself and everything else rather seriously and allowed myself to be influenced by the following books on the writer’s life. I recommend all of them. But. When reminiscing about that era I might also be apt to recommend the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack so take this list for what it is: Aspects of the Novelby E.M. Forster, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, and—during what may or may not have been a drug-addled, new-agey period of my life if I were not currently in rather covetous defense of a license to practice pharmacy— The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. During my more recent MFA work I was introduced to Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin. If you haven’t read A Room of One’s Ownand you’re trying to become a writer I don’t know what you’re doing and I can’t help you.
It’s funny. When I was in high school diligently reading all these books and more I only ever imagined I was going to be writing books. To me, at that time, books were stacks of nice paper bound with perfectly respectable covers. I mean, what else could they be? But even as I was oh so diligently indoctrinating myself to the concrete aspects of a writer’s reality things were changing, quickly.
I do not think that any of the books I read that discuss writing ever really said you had to assemble a bunch of sheets of paper and put a cover on them to post a bit of work for sale and sharing. So. Without being able to ask explicit permission of Forster, Woolf, Brande, Cameron, or Le Guin (who I know would say it’s perfectly fine to plunge headfirst into the production of reflowable content), I think we’ll just go ahead and assume here at the outset that fiction can be liberated from our assumptions of physicality.
Roque Dalton, that great poet and cult figure, wrote that poetry, like bread, is for everyone. I truly want to believe that, though many seem either alienated or frustrated by poetry.
Aside from a poetry workshop at the Evanston Public Library, I have only taught basic college composition. Such a task requires that I teach students some basic rhetoric and push them to revise their essays until their work resembles something akin to college level English. There is no need for poetry in my lectures or assignments, yet it finds its way in. This is because I like poetry. I try to slip it in whenever possible, even when it serves little to no purpose.
Last April, National Poetry Month, I took the email addresses of willing students and sent them a poem a day for thirty days. I told them this was not anything they needed to know for class, but they should look at it as an online conversation about poetry. It is, I said, my mission to show people that poetry can be fun and interesting. One student asked me why he needed to read poems for a comp class. A fair question. Well, I asked, why not? His answer was long and rambling but here’s the gist: poetry is an elitist, antiquated art with little appeal to the average reader outside of grad school.
So let’s address this. Yes, poetry can seem an elitist art form, what with its insular groups gathering at readings; yes it can intimidate, what with those seemingly arbitrary line breaks and metaphors; yes it can seem a bit antiquated, especially when it rhymes, but really have we come so far that we no longer need poetry? Maybe we don’t need it for a comp class, or a science class for that matter, though I might respond to such allegations with examples from the metaphysical poets, whose argument and response poems provide some of the finest examples of how to persuade. To the science student: read Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” and then let’s talk.
Okay, maybe not everyone is eager to read Old Uncle Walt, and I don’t pretend that my love of poetry makes me anything special, but I do want to believe Dalton was right. Agreeing for a minute that poetry is like bread—for everyone—then why shouldn’t there be all sorts of breads? And there are. Rye, white, wheat, sourdough… certainly a bread exists to cover all tastes. So why shouldn’t poetry, equally as varied, appeal to all readers?
I tried to introduce my students to poems that I thought they would enjoy, and I encouraged them to share poems with me. Subsequently, I have read much of the poetry of Tupac Shakur, but I have also gotten positive feedback on the Langston Hughes, Mina Loy, and Yehuda Amachai poems I emailed. Overall, I felt the poem-a-day project was a success, though I am sure no one liked every poem I sent. Regardless of the small efforts I make, it seems that there’s a lot of hostility against poetry. Conversely, there is no shortage of arrogance from some of the people I meet who claim to either love poetry, write it, or both. They are happy to be part of the exclusive clique. So is it any surprise that my students, as well as some of my family, friends, and many of my enemies, are less given to reading poems?
My goal of starting a larger conversation about poetry—the way it can uplift, inspire, amuse, annoy, and perhaps alter one’s life—seems noble to me, though I may too be in that arrogant, elitist camp without realizing it. If so: so be it. I’ll live with such charges. Nevertheless, look for my daily email (those interested) next April. Maybe I can convince a few more students that a poem is not a puzzle, an assignment, a headache, a chore, or an enemy.