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Join us for Why Bother? The Importance Of Literary Citizenship In The Creative Writing Workshop with instructor Jennifer Jean on Saturday, June 15th, from 2:00pm-5:00pm. 

The act of submitting your writing for critique takes courage. On the other hand, providing feedback that is simultaneously encouraging and rigorous is a skill which takes time to develop. The same can be said about processing said feedback. Add all of the different socio-cultural realities and personal experiences each of us brings into the classroom, and workshops become a space filled with both artistic possibilities and potentially damaging dynamics for a vulnerable writer.

In this free session—designed to bring together GrubStreet instructors and students—we will use Grub’s own What Makes a Good Workshop Citizen podcast as a springboard for a larger conversation. We will discuss ways in which we can help each other make writing workshops more inclusive and productive spaces. We will cover some of the issues that commonly arise during workshops and what each one of us can do to ensure that the end result serves everyone involved. Instructors and students will have an opportunity to bring examples of pedagogical approaches, feedback, in-class discussions, and social interactions that they’ve found to be either beneficial or detrimental. Toward the end of the session, you will be provided with concrete practices to become a good workshop citizen and strategies to build on the sense of community a successful class can create. Honesty, humility, and generosity will be at the heart of this gathering, so please come ready to contribute and to listen.

NOTE: Refreshments will be provided. Registration is required to attend and space is limited, so please make sure to enroll as early as possible.

Register here. 

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In anticipation of 75-degree-or-higher weather, endless waffle cones of ice cream, and later curfews, we’ve asked teen instructors to describe their upcoming teen class as a pop song. Our next instructor in our YAWP Summer Playlist series is Holly Thompson, author of the verse novels Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth, The Language Inside and Orchards, the novel Ash and picture books Twilight Chant, One Wave at a Time, and The Wakame Gatherers.



In our summer YAWP class Making Motion Poems, we'll be combining poetry and video using whatever smartphone or tablet tools we have to create moving poems. We'll study  this video  by Jamaal May of his poem "There Are Birds Here" which we'll be working with during the week, as well as his poem "I Have this Way of Being" that you can listen to here on SoundCloud. See Janet Lee's everything is poetry and listen to Sage Francis's "The Best of Times" on Spotify. See also the powerful Moving Poems videos Shoes without Feet by Caroline Rumley, My Body is Mine by Jade Anouka, and Semechki by Eta Dahlia to get a sense of the range of possibilities for blending poetry with video. Listen to the lines of Wrabel's poetry in The Village and Imogen Heap's poetry in Hide and Seek on Spotify. Bring your ideas, your words and your own visions for motion poems. See you in class!


Instructor Holly Thompson’s Making Motion Poems with Your Smartphone or Tablet begins Monday, August 5th. Sign up today! Scholarships are available.


Holly Thompson, originally from Massachusetts, is a longtime resident of Japan. She is the author of the novel Ash and three verse novels for young people: Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth, The Language Inside, and Orchards, winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. She is also author of the picture books Twilight Chant, One Wave at a Time, and The Wakame Gatherers and she edited Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories, a collection of 36 Japan-related short stories, including ten in translation. She writes frequently on Japanese culture and is a columnist for the ANA inflight magazine Wingspan. A graduate of the NYU Creative Writing Program, she writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction for children, teens and adults, serves as Regional Advisor of SCBWI Japan (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and teaches at Yokohama City University, Boston's GrubStreet, and UC Berkeley Extension.

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GrubStreet instructor Ben Berman discusses the challenges and joys of teaching poetry, as he prepares to lead professional development for teachers this summer.

This summer, I am very excited for the opportunity to lead some professional development for teachers through Mass Poetry. However, one of my rituals –whenever I begin preparing to teach anything – is to immediately doubt everything I know. I hear the word qualifications and think not accomplishments but reservations. And so even though I have been both a teacher and a poet for close to twenty years now, I would like to publicly admit that I find poetry very difficult to teach.

Poems can be hard to understand if we’re not used to reading them. Poems can be hard to understand even if we are used to reading them. They often require multiple readings and our undivided attention. Instead of compelling characters and dramatic storylines, they offer us interior landscapes and surprising associative leaps, words playing off one another in charged but subtle ways.

Then comes the challenge of finding the right poems for a particular class – poems that will speak to their emotional and philosophical concerns, poems that will both trouble and console them. Not to mention the difficulty of fostering an environment where the classroom truly feels like a community, where everyone feel connected, supported and challenged in order to take the creative risks to share their work (in its many phases) with others.

You can teach craft, of course, through exercises that focus on imagery or musicality, or by tracing how a poem moves or the relationship between content and form. And you can certainly offer some context behind various movements within the poetry world – to discuss Modernism, say, or Imagism or New Formalism before looking at individual poems. And it is always helpful, as well, to discuss poetic temperaments and the importance, say, of tolerating ambiguity and embracing contradictions.

And when the stars do align teaching poetry can feel truly transformative.

I once had a student spend an entire year drafting and revising a single poem on being bi-racial in the echo form (where the final word of each line is echoed and those echoes create an entirely new narrative.) It was a remarkable display of content working with form, as she explored the complexities of race and identity.

Another time, a teenager who was sick with cancer wrote an emulation of Nazim Hikmet’s Things I Didn’t Know I Loved, cataloguing everything she, too, loved despite being ill. She held herself up on crutches as she read us her poem, which was full of such grace and humor. And a year later, when the minister read her poem at her funeral, I felt so grateful to hear her voice one more time.

And there are all the small moments, too – a student giggling to himself after writing: “I love the uncomfortable silence/ between lightening and thunder;” a teenage boy realizing with great delight that he could turn an innocuous phrase into a suggestive double entendre with a simple line break; and all the times that I’ve sat back amazed by the sudden intimacy of a poetry workshop, of seeing strangers so engaged and invested in each other’s work.

Poetry has always felt incredibly personal to me. I wake up well before dawn every morning to read and write poems for reasons that I’m not sure I could fully articulate. I often have no idea what I’m doing or why I’m doing it – and that’s what makes it exciting. I sit down with half-formed ideas and tangled feelings and a cup or two of coffee, and, well, I’m not really sure what happens after that. It’s not exactly great fodder for teaching.

But I think that in my ideal world, teaching poetry would feel something like this.

When my older daughter was in preschool, there was one morning when she had “a really bad stomachache” and “really needed” to stay home, which meant spending the day with me while I taught some Creative Writing classes over at Brookline High School. She was thrilled about this until she actually got to the school and saw how big the students were. She clung to me after that, her head buried in my chest, and refused to let me put her down.

By the second class, she’d relaxed enough to watch some YouTube videos on my computer, while I “taught my lesson.” And as she grew less and less self-aware, she started turning up the volume on the computer, singing along to her favorite Hairspray songs and dancing in her seat.

My students quickly figured out that if my daughter caught them staring at her, she would shrink back behind the screen. So instead they snuck glances, not so much listening as overhearing, as her shyness gave way to joy and she crooned: Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now.

I want teaching poetry to feel like that.

So that for a brief while a classroom feels like an incredibly human place – filled with love and vulnerability, fear and laughter and song – so that my students and I can just kind of smile at one another, knowing that there’s nothing to say and that there is great weight to that kind of silence.

* An earlier version of this post appeared on the Mass Poetry website.

 

 

If you’re a teacher, join Ben Berman and Mass Poetry for professional development on teaching poetry this summer at Suffolk University.

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In anticipation of 75-degree-or-higher weather, endless waffle cones of ice cream, and later curfews, we’ve asked teen instructors to describe their upcoming teen class as a pop song. Our next instructor in our YAWP Summer Playlist series is E.B. Bartels, author of Good Grief: On Loving Pets, Here and Hereafter, forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.



My summer class Writing the Risky Sh*t is definitely best summed up by the song "Brave" by Sara Bareilles. In this class, you can be amazing, you can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug, as we write about the stuff that scares us, the stuff that takes a lot of courage to write about. Don’t run, stop holding your tongue and write about the things that maybe you've been told you shouldn't write about. This summer say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out, honestly I wanna see you be brave!



Instructor E.B. Bartels’s Writing the Risky Sh*t begins Monday, July 29th. Sign up today! Scholarships are available.

E.B. Bartels is a writer and teacher from Massachusetts. She has an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and her work has appeared in Catapult, Electric Literature, The Millions, The Toast, The Butter, xoJane, The Rumpus, Ploughshares online, and the anthology The Places We’ve Been: Field Reports from Travelers Under 35, among others. E.B.’s narrative nonfiction book, Good Grief: On Loving Pets, Here and Hereafter, a first-person journey through the world of loving and losing animals, exploring the singular nature of our bonds with our companion animals, and how best to grieve for them once they’ve passed away, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in spring 2021. She also runs the interview series Non-Fiction by Non-Men on the site Fiction Advocate.

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In anticipation of 75-degree-or-higher weather, endless waffle cones of ice cream, and later curfews, we’ve asked teen instructors to describe their upcoming teen class as a pop song. Our next instructor in our YAWP Summer Playlist series is Fox Welsh, who is currently working on a YA novel about queerness, mental health, and living outside the boxes we are expected to fit into.



Theme song: “Light On” by Maggie Rogers


“Oh, I couldn't stop it, tried to figure it out
But everything kept moving and the noise got too loud
With everyone around me saying, ‘You should be so happy now’”


Writing for me has always been a way to open up the parts of myself that are scared to be heard. It’s been about telling the story that I need to tell, not the one that I think will get me attention or make me look cool, but whatever is deeply embedded in my heart. That’s what July Week of Creative Writing will invite you to do. I won’t tell you what to feel, or how to express those feelings. I’ll help you uncover that story and give you the tools to tell it, whether that’s through poetry, fiction, non-fiction, long or short stories, or something completely different. I’m here to support you in your writing journey and help you be your best, most creative self, whatever that looks like.


“And I am finding out
There's just no other way
That I'm still dancing at the end of the day
If you leave the light on
Then I'll leave the light on”


Instructor Fox Welsh’s July Week of Creative Writing, Section C begins Monday, July 22nd. Sign up today! Scholarships are available.

 

Fox Welsh grew up in Chatham, Massachusetts and fell in love with writing of all kinds from a young age. They studied music production and engineering at Berklee College of Music, as well as performance poetry. During their time at Berklee, they became a reVERB Poets Slam Team member, competing at the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational. After completing their degree, they worked closely with poet Caroline Harvey in creating and teaching performance poetry workshops across the country. As they discovered their love of writing long-form stories, especially for children and young adults, Fox began taking classes at Grubstreet. Recently, Fox completed an MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. Fox is a queer, non-binary writer with a passion for lifting up the voices of those that are often not heard.

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By Katrin Schumann

Last year, I was thinking a lot about this question as it relates to writing: When is it okay to give in and give up?

Why? Because in the months before publishers began showing interest in my novel, The Forgotten Hours, I had seriously been considering changing careers and giving up writing altogether. This was a huge deal for me since I basically can’t do anything else (at least not well, and with enthusiasm).

It was a breakthrough to realize that I was the one who was setting my own goals. This meant I could choose to change those goals if I wanted to.

It was empowering to think that, in a crucial way, my happiness was a direct product of my own choices. After some soul searching, I decided I did in fact want to keep writing novels—that, really, I kind of had to, in spite of myself—and that to keep doing so while also maintaining my sanity, I’d have to give up on the need for recognition--in other words, the need to publish. So: writing would become a hobby--is that so terrible?

Right after that, I got a two-book deal.

Happy ending, yes, but over the past year it’s led me to think incessantly about how very close I’d come to giving up on the manuscript that is now going to become my second published novel. And I thought about all the writers out there who are struggling with their manuscripts and wondering whether or not they should quit.

I did an informal survey of some newly published writer friends and realized there are a few common problems, and a handful of common solutions.

You suspect your book has a faulty structure

Julia Phillips just published her stunning debut novel, Disappearing Earth, which got rave reviews in the New Yorker and NPR, among many others. It’s a complex story set in Kamchatka, Russia, with an unconventional plot—a series of loosely linked short stories that build on one another.

But before that novel saw the light of day, Julia toiled on another manuscript for seven long years, “before I understood the book had no plot. It had characters and themes and heavy mood, but I was never able to say in a sentence what it was actually about – what happened in it. Truly a relief to realize at the end that… it was okay to put it away.”

Our early drafts often meander or fizzle out, failing to deliver a satisfactory answer to a driving question. If you're lucky enough to identify the problem--either by yourself or with professional help--this is something that can be fixed, if you have the stamina and the heart to do it.

After working for a few years on The Forgotten Hours, I realized with abject horror that I’d chosen the wrong time period for my second storyline—the stakes simply weren’t high enough. Then, while vacuuming one day in despair, the solution to the problem came to me. This sudden clarity gave me the courage to tear the book apart and rewrite it. Without that kind of clarity, a writer risks tinkering endlessly without fixing the problem.

You simply can’t do anything else, so you carry on

Soniah Kamal was a writer on a mission when she wrote her debut, Unmarriageable. “I rewrote my first [novel] three times, each time tossing out 90,000 plus words. I was desperate to quit after ten years of trying to write it, but the novel was a promise I’d made my late grandfather,” she said.

Sometimes you can’t identify the problem(s) with your book, and still you can’t quit—even though you want to. You’re a little driven, maybe even a little unhinged; it’s okay. You need that slightly irrational passion to help you see such a massive project through to the end. Use that energy to keep trying.

Valerie Valdes, author of the forthcoming Chilling Effect, wrote one novel after another, giving each one up when it just didn’t feel right. “I wasn’t… deeply in love with any of them,” she explained. If you’re not obsessed with your characters, if you’re getting bored, move on. It allowed Valerie to discover stories that were stronger and would go on to find an audience.

But if you can’t let go, don’t.  You never know what might happen (see the end of this post).

Is it worth wrestling with your doubt?

At some point or another, most writers question whether their books are even interesting, let alone worthy of publication. Chip Cheek, author of the slyly subversive Cape May, told me, “Like it or not, I was writing a book about male desire (as if we needed another one of those, I worried at the time)...” He'd ask himself: is  this even relevant anymore? Will anyone be interested? For years he’d been working on something ‘serious:’ “I was dealing with murder and race, all this compelling stuff, but I kept getting sidetracked by the love stories.”

Despite his uncertainty, he realized he had to follow his own passions and preoccupations. “When I let go of how seriously I was taking myself, I was utterly obsessed. I would stay up all night writing [Cape May], sleep one or two hours, get up, and keep writing. I finished the first draft in two months,” he says. 

Noelle Salazar’s historical debut The Flight Girls was so complex in its execution she was often beset by doubt while editing: every change she made required another tweak elsewhere, and yet she still had to remain true to history. “I would get consumed by the task, sure I couldn’t do it, then positive I couldn’t do it well at the very least,” she says, “and then having last minute epiphanies and doing it despite all my self-doubt.”

It helps to have a few cheerleaders when you’re concerned about the direction your book is taking, or your ability to write the book you envision. Find some trusted readers who can give you a sense of whether it’s worth working through that painful self-doubt.

In desperation, Maureen Connelly, author of Lovely Little Things gave her manuscript to a friend to read: “In an act of disgust, I hit the send button and was certain I screwed up because I didn't hear from her right away. When I did hear, she was in her pj's all day and crying on the phone because she couldn't put it down and loved it. That made me re-assess!”

If you’re hearing some encouragement from readers you respect, keep at it. If critiques are reflecting your own concerns back at you, consider pressing the pause button.

Sometimes, it’s smart to recognize what you’ve learned and move on

Julia Phillips moved on from her first effort, and the experience gave her the confidence to write a novel that embraces an unconventional structure while still posing a driving question that ensnares the reader.

Nicole Bross, author of Past Presence, wrote an entire series before realizing that it just wasn’t working. She knew she had to put it aside. “It took a while, but I’ve come to terms with it, and everything I learned while writing it helped me on my journey to publication.”

This is a recurring theme: the pain of quitting, and the rejuvenation and energy of writing something fresh that puts to use what you’ve learned. 

Also consider…

Sometimes quitting just means taking a break. Years ago, I wrote a love story set in East Germany in the 1950s and 60s. I poured my heart and soul into it, but it stalled. In deep mourning, I put the book away.

And yet, I kept believeing that with some luck and maybe one more round of edits, I could breathe life back into it one day. When I sold my debut, I took the chance and pitched the old, beloved story... and that's how I got my two book deal. This Terrible Beauty is forthcoming Feb 18, 2020. And I just got the first cover concept, and well, it makes all the agonized waiting worthwhile.

Katrins's book THE FORGOTTEN HOURS is an Amazon Charts and Washington Post Bestseller. If you're interested in more from Katrin, you can sign up for her newsletter at www.katrinschumann.com

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In anticipation of 75-degree-or-higher weather, endless waffle cones of ice cream, and later curfews, we’ve asked teen instructors to describe their upcoming teen class as a pop song. Our next instructor in our YAWP Summer Playlist series is Katie Bayerl, author of A Psalm for Lost Girls.



My song would have to be “Wannabe” by Spice Girls. Because with YAWP, “the friendships never end.”

Collaborative, upbeat, sometimes awkward, always energizing and fun? GrubStreet and the Spice Girls have a surprising amount in common! (Or do they?) I chose this terrible, terrible theme song mostly in jest but also because I believe all of us writers “gotta get with our friends”—and that’s exactly what happens in the YAWP writing workshops! In my upcoming classes, you’ll write a lot and learn a ton (I’ll invite you to “tell me what you want, etc” so we can make the most of each day), and you’ll also spend lots of time sharing stories and inspiration with your peers. That's where the best ideas are born. You'll come away with many promising pages written and a sassy band of writer pals who are ready make the creative magic last forever… or, you know, at least until your next YAWP class.


Instructor Katie Bayerl’s So You Want to Write a Novel? begins Monday, June 24th and Crafting Scintillating Scenes begins Monday, July 29th. Sign up today! Scholarships are available.


Young adult author Katie Bayerl has built a career around words and teaching. She has taught writing in high schools, nonprofits, detention facilities, and online; served as Features Editor of a youth-generated magazine; directed the communications efforts of a Boston-based education nonprofit; and helped to capture the stories of dozens of schools and nonprofits in Boston and across the country.


She currently teaches classes for teens and adults at GrubStreet, with a focus on the novel. Katie holds two degrees in education and and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is a winner of the PEN New England/Susan P Bloom Children's Book Discovery Award and was honored to serve as the 2018 Michael L Printz Author in Residence and the 2018 Lois Lowry Fellow. Her debut young adult novel, A Psalm for Lost Girls (Putnam/Penguin) was named a top pick from Amazon and Book-a-Million, a "can't miss" by Boston Magazine, and a 2019 TAYSHAS selection by the Texas Library Association. Katie will read anything with great sentences, but she's especially in love with haunting literary fiction, atmospheric mysteries, and young adult fiction that tackles big questions with honesty, wit, and heart.

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The June 2019 edition of "Writing Life Essentials," a monthly hand-curated list of contests, grants, scholarships, submissions calls, and awards, with a focus on opportunities that are at least one of the following: local, free to apply, and/or committed to celebrating and supporting writers from historically marginalized communities. We do the research, so you have more time for what matters: the writing. Or, the summer solstice festivities. That matters too.

 

Contests & Awards

 

Stony Brook Undergraduate Short Fiction Prize

Fee: $0; Award: $1,000; Deadline: June 1st

A prize of $1,000 is given annually for a short story by a college student. The winner also receives a full scholarship to attend the Southampton Writers Conference in July, and their winning work will be considered for publication in Southampton Review. Using the online submission system, submit a story of up to 7,500 words by June 1st.

 

Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award

Fee: $0; Award: $2,000; Deadline: June 9th

Sisters in Crime presents: The Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award is an annual grant of $2,000 for an emerging writer of color. This grant is intended to support the recipient in crime fiction writing and career development activities. They may choose activities that include workshops, seminars, conferences, and retreats, online courses, and research activities required for completion of the work. An unpublished writer is preferred, however publication of several pieces of short fiction and/or up to two self-published or traditionally published books will not disqualify an applicant.

 

2020 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature

Fee: $0; Award: $50,000; Deadline: June 10th, 5pm EDT

The Vilcek Foundation is currently seeking immigrant applicants for the 2020 Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Literature from now until June 10, 2019 at 5pm EDT. Foreign-born literary artists working across a variety of genres are invited to apply, including fiction (novels, novellas, short stories, and graphic novels); nonfiction (memoir, creative nonfiction, general nonfiction, book-length journalism, and graphic nonfiction); and poetry. Applicants should have published at least one full-length book (not self-published), been born outside of the United States, and be 38 years of age or younger. Three winners will each receive a $50,000 unrestricted cash prize and will be honored at an awards ceremony in New York City in April 2020.

 

Towson University Prize for Literature

Fee: $0; Award: $1,000; Deadline: June 15th

A prize of $1,000 is given annually for a book of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction by a current resident of Maryland who has lived in the state for at least three years. Books published within the past three years or scheduled for publication in 2019 are eligible. Publishers, institutions, or individuals may submit three copies of a book or manuscript by June 15th.

 

American-Scandinavian Foundation Translation Prizes

Fee: $0; Award: $2,500; Deadline: June 15th

A prize of $2,500 and publication of an excerpt in Scandinavian Review is given annually for an English translation of a work of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction written in a Nordic language. A prize of $2,000 and publication is also awarded to a translator whose literary translations have not previously been published. Translations of works by Scandinavian authors born after 1900 that have not been published in English are eligible.

 

Bard Fiction Prize

Fee: $0; Award: $30,000; Deadline: June 17th

A prize of $30,000 and a one-semester appointment as writer-in-residence at Bard College is given annually to a U.S. fiction writer under the age of 40. The recipient must give at least one public lecture and meet informally with students but is not expected to teach traditional courses. Submit three copies of a published book of fiction, a cover letter, and a curriculum vitae by June 17th.

 

Louise Meriwether First Book Prize

Fee: $0; Award: $5,000 & Publication by the Feminist Press; Deadline: June 28th

A prize of $5,000 and publication by the Feminist Press will be given annually for a debut book of fiction or narrative nonfiction by a woman of color or a nonbinary writer of color. Submit a story collection, essay collection, novel, memoir, or manifesto of 30,000 to 80,000 words via e-mail by June 28th. There is no entry fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

 

Apply for Key West Literary Seminar’s Emerging Writer Award!

Deadline: June 28th, Fee:$12, Award: Full Tuition for January Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program, Round-trip Airfare, Lodging, A $500 honorarium

The Marianne Russo Award, Scotti Merrill Award, and Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award recognize and support writers who possess exceptional talent and demonstrate potential for lasting literary careers. Each award is tailored to a particular literary form. The Merrill Award recognizes a poet, while fiction writers may apply for either the Johnson Award (for a short story) or the Russo Award (for a novel-in-progress).Winners receive full tuition support for our January Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program, round-trip airfare, lodging, a $500 honorarium, and the opportunity to appear on stage during the Seminar. Writers of any age who live in the United States and have not yet published a book with a major publisher are eligible to apply.

Drue Heinz Literature Prize

Fee: $0; Award: $15,000, Deadline: June 30th

A prize of $15,000 and publication by University of Pittsburgh Press is given annually for a collection of short fiction. Writers who have published at least one previous book of fiction or a minimum of three short stories or novellas in nationally distributed magazines or literary journals are eligible.

 

28th Annual Hard Times Story Contest

Fee: 25$, Award: Varied for 1st -3rd Place, Deadline: June 30th,

Write about a difficult experience in your life, how you overcome this obstacle, and how you were changed by it. Winning stories will be chosen for originality and creative writing style. Stories should not exceed 5,000 words (double-spaced, 12 point font).

 

Fellowships, Conferences & Residencies

 

Apply for a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship!

Deadline: June 15th

Twenty-five (25) VSC fellowships open to ALL artists and writers living and working anywhere in the world. All applicants will be automatically considered for one of these twenty-five unrestricted awards. These awards are for residencies scheduled between September 2019 and May 2020. Every VSC residency opportunity includes private room, private studio space, all meals, and full access to our schedule of evening programs and events.

 

Maine Artist Fellowship

Fee: $0; Award: $5,000; Deadline: June 20th

A fellowship of up to $5,000 is given annually to a poet, a fiction writer, or a creative nonfiction writer who has lived in the state of Maine for at least one year. The fellow is expected to reside in the state for the year of the fellowship. Writers enrolled in a degree-granting program are ineligible. Using the online submission system, submit up to five poems of any length or up to 20 pages of prose and a résumé by June 20th.

 

Apply for the Fall 2019 Open City Muslim Communities Fellowship

Deadline: June 28th, 11:59pm EST

The Asian American Writers’ Workshop is now accepting applications for the Open City Muslim Communities Fellowship, a unique six-month opportunity for emerging writers of color from communities under attack from Islamophobia to publish narrative nonfiction about Muslim communities in New York City. We see this as a fellowship for writers of color based in NYC from Muslim and Arab, South Asian, and North and East African communities. Open City will offer a $2,500 stipend, skill-building workshops, and publishing opportunities to writers to write on the diverse Muslim communities of New York City.The fellowship session will begin in August 2019 and will end in February 2020.

 

Apply for the Fall 2019 Open City Neighborhoods Fellowship

Deadline: June 28th, 11:59pm EST

The Neighborhoods Fellowship is a unique opportunity for emerging Asian American writers to publish narrative nonfiction over the span of six months on the vibrant Asian American communities of New York City. For the Fall 2019 fellowship, this Open City Fellowship will offer a $2,500 grant, skill-building workshops, and publishing opportunities to writers to write about the vibrant Asian immigrant communities of New York City. The Fellowship spans six months, starting in August 2019 and ending in February 2020.

 

Fear No Lit’s Submerging Writer Fellowship

Award: Publication, Honorarium, Conference Registration, Book Planning

Deadline: June 1st - July 31st

Beginning on June 1st, the Submerging Writer Fellowship (SWF) from Fear No Lit will accept applications up until July 31st., The SWF will offer one writer chapbook publication, prize money, and more. Dedicated to the writers who feel left behind, down on their luck, and far from emerging, the SWF is here to pull one submerging writer out of the water. You’re eligible to apply if you have not yet had a book published, won no major awards/prizes, and currently not in an MFA/PhD program.

 

Jobs & Work Experience

 

Electric Literature Marketing and Development Assistant Position

Deadline: June 2nd

Electric Literature seeks a part time Marketing and Development Assistant to join our team. This position will assist the Executive Director to grow Electric Literature’s membership and donor base, and market its merchandise, publications, and programs to targeted audiences.

 

Town of Arlington Poet Laureate Application 2019

Deadline: June 3rd

After the very successful and exciting terms of Arlington’s second Poet Laureate, Cathie Desjardins,  the Town of Arlington seeks applications for the 2019-2020 Town Poet Laureate. Beginning May 15, 2019, applications are welcome from individual poets who are seeking the position. Applications are due no later than June 3, 2019.

 

JOB OPENING: Staff Writer at Boston College Magazine!

Under the direction of the Editor, the Staff Writer will develop, research, and write news and feature-length articles for Boston College Magazine. In addition, the Staff Writer will help with editing and fact-checking, and will develop value-added content for the magazine’s online edition. Requires: The qualified candidate will have a bachelor’s degree and at least one year of magazine writing and editing experience demonstrating the ability to write and edit with flair, accuracy, and skill. Experience in higher education is welcome, though not required. The Staff Writer is an outstanding writer, energetic reporter, and all-around brilliant communicator who contributes in a variety of important ways to Boston College Magazine.

 

Beacon Press Internships for People of Color

Deadline: July 31st

The Beacon Press Internships for People of Color program seeks to increase diversity and inclusiveness in the book publishing industry. Beacon Press offers internships in the Marketing, Publicity, Digital and Social Media, Production, and Editorial departments. We offer a wage of $16 an hour, and interns are expected to work for 12 weeks, with a 12–15 hour-per-week commitment and a flexible schedule. We are also happy to work with your school to help you earn college credits, when applicable.

 

JOB OPENING: Education Director at MassPoetry!

Deadline: July 31st

MassPoetry is seeking to hire an expert manager and experienced educator with a passion for poetry to serve as our full-time Education Director. The incoming Education Director will manage Mass Poetry's unique suite of poetry programs, build robust partnerships with middle and high schools across the state, and oversee the expansion of our Poet-in-Residence program, among other responsibilities. Mass Poetry is an equal opportunity employer committed to being a multi-cultural organization. Candidates from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Apply by July 31st!

 

General Submissions

 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS:The Bare Life Review

Deadline: July 31st

The Bare Life Review is pleased to accept unsolicited manuscripts in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry for publication in their print journal. They are committed to publishing work exclusively by immigrant and refugee authors, and to showcasing the immense—indeed, infinite—value and diversity of this literature. To this end, they accept work only from foreign-born writers living in the United States, and writers living abroad who currently hold refugee and/or asylum-seeker status.

 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: America and I: An Immigrant Story in the Age of Dissent. An anthology of immigrant writing

Deadline: August 31st

Please submit a story under 1000 words ONLY if you are a first- and second- generation immigrant to the US or an immigrant to another country as long as your story has a link to America as specified in the submission guidelines. We will consider submissions mostly in English, but will also consider a few stories in Russian if accompanied by an authorized English translation.

 

Submit to Gay Magazine!

Deadline: August 17th

Gay is a new publication partnership between Roxane Gay and Medium. They will be publishing work weekly, covering a wide variety of topics. We will also assemble ambitious, compelling quarterly themed issues. We are now accepting submissions, on a rolling basis, and look forward to hearing from new and established writers who possess original voices.

 

Submit to Chicken Soup for the Soul

Fee: $0 Deadline: Rolling

This long-running anthology is always looking for submissions for their upcoming topics. A Chicken Soup for the Soul story is an inspirational, true story about ordinary people having extraordinary experiences. Aside from stories, they’re looking for poems that tell a story. Please see the story guidelines before submitting.

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In the June 2019 edition of "Best of Boston," we bring you our top Boston lit events this month, curated from the Boston Literary District's event calendar, an essential source of literary happenings.



Transnational Series Presents: Abbigail N. Rosewood in conversation with Mira T. Lee

When: Tuesday, June 4th, 7pm; 279 Harvard St, Brookline

This reading is part of Brookline Booksmith’s Transnational Literature Series which focuses on migration, exile and displacement and works in translation.



Blair Hurley and Christopher Castellani at the Harvard Bookstore

When: Tuesday, June 4th, 7pm; 1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge

Harvard Book Store and GrubStreet welcome Pushcart Prize–winning novelist Blair Hurley and former Guggenheim Fellow and novelist Christopher Castellani for a discussion of their respective books, The Devoted and Leading Men.



Russ Lopez Presents the History of LGBTQ Presence in MA

When: Thursday, June 6th, 6pm; 700 Boylston St, Boston

Boston-based writer Russ Lopez will discuss his recently released history of the LGBTQ presence in Massachusetts, from the Pilgrims’ landing in Provincetown in 1620 through the defeat of the anti-trans referendum on the ballot in November 2018. Mr. Lopez illustrates how LGBTQ people have been a distinctive element in the life of the Commonwealth since the 17th century, challenging gender, sexual, and social norms even in colonial days.



Novel Generator Open House & Info Session

When: Thursday, June 6th, 6pm; 162 Boylston St #5, Boston

Thinking of applying to the Novel Generator? GrubStreet will host an informal Q&A session with instructor Annie Hartnett on Thursday, June 6th, 6:00-7:30 p.m., here at GrubStreet HQ, to answer any questions you have about the Generator, including the workload, the application process, what the program does and doesn’t entail, the schedule, the philosophy behind our approach, and anything else you have on your mind.



Lit Crawl Boston

When: Thursday, June 6th, 6pm; Back Bay Neighborhood

Lit Crawl Boston is set to return for Year 3 on Thursday, June 6, 2019. Come celebrate the city’s literary past, present, and future on a night of irreverent literary programming in Boston’s Back Bay. Over three evening sessions, intrepid readers will choose from a variety of unique literary events including games, performances, provocations and other oddities, all in surprising venues ranging from cafes and art galleries to barbershops and furniture stores. This moveable feast in one of the most walkable cities on the planet is FREE, and many of the events will offer free beer and wine.



The Great American Poetry Challenge

When: Thursday, June 6th, 7pm; 338 Newbury Street, Boston

Mass Poetry is excited to host The Great American Poetry Challenge at Lit Crawl Boston. Get ready to flex your poetry muscles in this competitive creative challenge! Attendees will be grouped into five teams, and each team will be appointed an established poet — Anna V.Q. Ross, Febo, Ben Berman, Enzo Silon Surin, or Colleen Michaels — as their team cheerleader.



Transnational Series Presents: Translating Japanese, Allison Markin Powell and Sawako Nakayasu in Conversation

When: Monday, June 10th, 6:30pm; 279 Harvard St, Brookline

The Transnational Series welcomes two prominent Japanese translators to discuss their work and their most recent translations. Allison Markin Powell is a literary translator, editor, and publishing consultant. Sawako Nakayasu is an artist working with language, performance, and translation – separately and in various combinations.



In Search of Stonewall, a Panel on LGBTQ Writing

When: Monday, June 10th, 7pm; 700 Boylston St, Boston

In collaboration with the Boston Public Library and the Boston Pride Committee the Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Review will host a Stonewall 50-themed panel discussion during Boston Pride week. The Review began publishing as the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review in 1994, the year of Stonewall 25. It changed its name in 2000 as it went “worldwide.” The magazine marks its 25th anniversary amidst Stonewall 50 with a collection of its best all-time essays on the Stonewall Riots: In Search of Stonewall.



FREE Brown Bag Lunch Writing Series

Wednesday, June 12th, 12:30pm; 162 Boylston St #5, Boston

Do you work downtown and want to fit some writing into your day? Or do you have a schedule that gives you free afternoons instead of evenings? Join our FREE Brown Bag Lunch Writing Series. Bring your lunch and come on over to GrubStreet on Wednesday, June 12 from 12:30pm-1:15pm. For 45 minutes, you’ll meet fellow writers and get your creative juices flowing with some cool writing exercises. Led by one of our award-winning instructors or ambassadors.



8th Annual Nantucket Book Festival

When: Thursday, June 13th-Sunday, June 16th; Downtown Nantucket

Nantucket Book Festival has established itself as a major summer destination for booklovers with impressive and eclectic line-ups of award-winning authors. The four-day Festival, June 13-16, will offer author readings, panel discussions and social events in an informal atmosphere that encourages conversations between writers and readers. Most of the events are hosted in town, within easy walking distance of the ferries.



Why Bother? The Importance Of Literary Citizenship In The Creative Writing Workshop

When: Saturday, June 15th, 2pm; 162 Boylston St #5, Boston

In this free session—designed to bring together GrubStreet instructors and students—we will use Grub’s own What Makes a Good Workshop Citizen podcast as a springboard for a larger conversation. We will discuss ways in which we can help each other make writing workshops more inclusive and productive spaces.



Transnational Series Presents: Aleksandar Hemon in Conversation with Claire Messud

When: Thursday, June 20th, 7pm; 279 Harvard St, Brookline

Two books in one in a flip dos-à-dos format: The story of Aleksandar Hemon’s parents’ immigration from Sarajevo to Canada and a book of short memories of the author’s family, friends, and childhood in Sarajevo. In the words of Colum McCann, “Aleksandar Hemon is, quite frankly, the greatest writer of our generation.” Hemon has never been better than here in these pages. And the moment has never been more ready for his voice, nor has the world ever been more in need of it.



Happy Hour Writing Session

When: Friday, June 21st, 5:30pm; 162 Boylston St #5, Boston

What's more satisfying than leaving work behind on a Friday afternoon? Rounding out the week with a free writing session, of course! Maximize that Friday feeling and kick off your writing weekend. Leave work behind on Friday, June 21st, from 5:30pm-6:30pm and come on over to Grub HQ. In 60 jam-packed minutes, you’ll meet fellow writers and get your creative juices flowing with some great writing exercises. Free drinks (beer, wine, coffee, water) and snacks provided.



Ocean Vuong at the Harvard Bookstore

When: Sunday, June 23rd, 7pm;  1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge

Harvard Book Store and GrubStreet welcome critically acclaimed writer Ocean Vuong—author of the award-winning poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds—for a discussion of his highly anticipated debut novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. He will be joined in conversation by writer and performer Melissa Lozada-Olivia, author of Peluda.



John Manuel Andriote presents Stonewall Strong

When: Tuesday, June 25th, 6pm; 700 Boylston St, Boston

Public health advocate John Manuel Andriotte finds in LGBTQ history patterns of resiliency, mutual support, and community that suggest to him heroism, seldom acknowledged but enormously instructive. His book, Stonewall Strong, being released in paperback in the spring of 2019, canvasses past triumphs like the Stonewall Riots in 1969, the delisting of homosexuality as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, and the emergence of ACT UP in response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s.



Are You Jungle Curious? Reading, Talk and Slideshow: Into the Jungle, Erica Ferencik

When: Tuesday, June 25th, 7pm; 685 Tremont St, Boston

Join Erica Ferencik for a brief reading from her new novel, Into the Jungle, which Publisher’s Weekly calls “[A] ferocious fever dream of a thriller,” as well as a talk and slide show on the Peruvian rainforest where she spent a month researching the book. She says, “The jungle is an iconic place, yet it’s so distant from most of our realities that it’s often reduced to mindless metaphors: it’s a jungle out there, the jungle of the mind, the heart and so on. But what about the real jungle, a place few of us have been? What makes it so terrifying, unique, inspiring, otherworldly?”



Portrait of an Artist & Poet: Deborah Ogden and Melissa Silva

When: Saturday, June 29th, 2pm; 191 Highland Avenue, Somerville

Deborah Ogden, Artist, and Melissa Silva, Poet will discuss the effect of Sound in Art and Poetry. Deborah Ogden is an Artist, Decorative Painter, and Bhakta Yogini, who specializes in creating Sacred Art for Sacred Spaces. Melissa Silva is a Poet living in the Boston area. She has studied Asian, Experimental, and Sound Poetry, as well as Fiction Writing, and Storytelling. She is a co-founder of the Poetry Sisters Collective, and was a member of the performing collective Storytellers in Concert.

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Writers often say that the workshop experience is crucial in developing their art. Creating a vibrant and productive workshop is not a matter of luck — there are things we can all do to be better workshop citizens. For this special edition of Sound Skeins, we asked a selection of the dedicated writers, authors, and instructors in our community what we should all be doing to ensure we become valuable, productive, and responsible members of any writing class. From focusing on writerly intent to embracing contradiction, overcoming shyness to toning down the diva in us, these snippets of advice provide a sound starting point.

Thanks to: 

Alysia Abbott, Chip Cheek, Nicole Terez Dutton, Jonathan Escoffery, Regie Gibson, Ethan Gilsdorf, Brionne Janae, Sonya Larson, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Ron MacLean, Sara Daniele Rivera, Matthew Salesses, and Dariel Suarez.

Find your favorite section quickly with these handy time codes:

What is Workshop Citizenship? 00:00 to 3:07
Stretch Beyond Shyness 3:08 to 4:21
Don’t Over-Talk 4:22 to 5:23
Embrace Contradiction 5:24 to 6:23
Have Conversations 6:23 to 7:12
Don’t be a Diva 7:13 to 8:59
Focus on the Writer’s Intent 9:00 to 12:30
Things to Avoid 12:31 to 16:17
Embrace All Genres & Styles 16:18 to 17:13
The Most Valuable Workshop 17:14 to 20:00
Addressing Race, Culture, & Bias 20:01 to 37:52
Workshop Magic  37:53 to 39:33

                        

Podcast Transcript:

Eson Kim: Welcome to a special edition podcast that focuses on the writing workshop. In recent months, writers around the country have been discussing what it means to be a good workshopper, especially when discussing unfamiliar and sensitive ideas. But what does it really mean to be a good workshop citizen? How might we put it into practice? We asked several GrubStreet staff members, instructors, and writers to find out. We’ll start with Jonathan Escoffery.

Jonathan Escoffery: I think what makes a great workshop citizen is someone who is conscientious, and is coming into the workshop prepared to meet other people where they’re at; to consider where other writers’ goals lie, so that you are not necessarily putting any kind of prior expectation onto other people’s work, or making any assumptions about their experiences or where they should be as writers. I think a good citizen listens to what his or her classmates say - I think a good workshop citizen asks more questions than makes assertions, probably, because a good workshop citizen is curious and wants to know more about the world and wants to know more about other people’s processes in a way that they can learn how to best create their own stories, and essays, and poems.

1:25

Eson Kim: Dariel Suarez has a similar philosophy.

Dariel Suarez: Someone who comes with an open mind, willing to learn and listen, and be challenged by new ideas or new ways of thinking about writing. I also think of someone who is going to try to keep in check some of their bias when it comes to cultural, social, political aspects of writing, simply because, I think, you know, writing is a global phenomenon and I think that it’s important to come into it with a certain, sort of a way of thinking in terms of discovery, and not so much of imposing our own experiences into it, but rather experience something new.

2:08

Eson Kim: Sara Daniele Rivera applies a little theater experience to answer this question.

Sara Daniele Rivera: There is this idea in a certain kind of theater where you are using movement to generate ensemble, and people might be walking around a room, and they always have to pay attention to the balance of the space. So if there a lot of bodies in one half of the space, you move to another one, if, you know, a lot of people are moving quickly, you rise up and you match their pace. And I think that’s a little what the creative workshop is like, in that we have to pay attention to what voices are being heard, and if you are dominating the workshop, and if you’re speaking up all the time, you’re not creating a balance of voices, and you’re not creating a balanced energy. So, I think that that comes from paying attention to the full group, rather than just paying attention to the story or the poem in front of you.

3:07

Eson Kim: Contributing can be difficult for the shy or quieter individuals. Alysia Abbott favors quality over quantity, but she does suggest a little bit of stretching outside your comfort zone.

Alysia Abbott: Some people process aloud, and some people process internally, and it doesn’t mean that that person who is maybe more quiet might not write more notes that could be helpful. But I do think that from the perspective of an active and interesting workshop experience, where comments can build on each other, I think it’s important to try to hear from everyone. Especially to hear from people whose point of view isn’t represented or hasn’t already been spoken. If they feel comfortable enough to say, “Well actually, I see things a little bit differently.” Sometimes that’s not easy, to speak out and make yourself vulnerable in that way. I think as an instructor, or as other workshop citizens, that you be open to that point of view, and not react to it defensively, you know, that you sort of try to consider it.

4:02

Dariel Suarez: For the quiet students, I think speaking up is just a way to get to know yourself, and your own view of writing. So, I think it’s a good exercise to speak in public, to speak in front of other people, to disagree with an instructor, which happens to me once and while in a classroom, and I love it when it happens, when they don’t agree with my view.

4:20

Eson Kim: Some people have the reverse problem, and are over eager to fill the silence. Regie Gibson has a suggestion for that.

Regie Gibson: I like to write down “W-A-I-T,” which is an acronym, it means “wait,” it’s an acronym for “Why Am I Talking?” Is what I’m saying right now important and germane to what’s going on, or do I just like to hear my own voice because I’ve got x-amount of people listening to me right now, and I can get on whatever literary soapbox I feel I want to get on. So, that I put always, up in the right-hand corner when I’m in meetings, “Why am I talking?” And I try not to say it, if I don’t think I absolutely have to say it.

4:58

Dariel Suarez: If you’re someone who has a tendency to speak a lot, which is completely fine, it is important to know when it is a good moment to speak up, meaning, you don’t have to have a comment about everything that we talk about in a story. You know, pick two or three things that you really want to talk about, and then talk about those things when they come up, and if they don’t, then bring them up. And then give space for others to speak up, but allow the space, at least give a pause.

5:22

Eson Kim: As with any discussions, sometimes there are disagreements. But it doesn’t mean we should shy away from them.

Sara Daniele Rivera: In workshop, contradiction is a huge opportunity for the writer, and I think that that’s an important thing. When you see people reading your work in drastically different ways, you can find the midpoint, you can figure out which point of view you prefer to align your work with. So I think that sometimes some of the richest feedback we get from workshop comes from people who don’t agree with each other.

5:51

Eson Kim: And according to Ron MacLean, these disagreements don’t need to be resolved.

Ron MacLean: There’s a tendency in a room to keep wanting to sort of argue a point, as if winning the point is what matters, and one thing I keep trying to remind students is that the goal here is not to come to agreement, the goal is to provide the most broad-based information we can to the writer, not to say, “Here are five things, and we agree on these four.” The agreement isn’t what matters, the information is.

6:21

Eson Kim: And Sonya Larson reminds us that it’s all about the conversations; That’s where the true value of workshop begins to reveal itself.

Sonya Larson: The magic of a workshop is the conversation. It isn’t simply the delivery of everyone’s input submitted to someone for which they can go home and chew on it. If that were the case then we could simply just send one another feedback by email and it would be done. I think that to play to the real strengths of having a group of smart people in a room discussing the same thing, is that the conversation itself, as it grows over the course of the hour, is richer than any one of those pieces of feedback, or all of them cumulatively; that they have to build on one another.

7:11

Eson Kim: But what if you really don’t like or enjoy the story that’s up for workshop? Chip Cheek has some guidance for that.

Chip Cheek: Even if you don’t like the story, and even if you think it’s bad, and you think the writer is very much a beginner, it is still incredibly beneficial for you to critique that story and discuss it as deeply as possible. It’s not only beneficial to the writer, it’s beneficial to you and your understanding of fiction. If you don’t like the way it works, it’ll help articulate your own taste for you. At GrubStreet, we say we have a “No-Diva” policy, and I definitely have that in my classroom. I think those are, to me, the most important things, to just, do not harm, be encouraging, even in master classes, find what’s really working, and then have an honest critique on the level of the writer’s intentions.

8:01

Eson Kim: Keeping that in mind, it’s always good to review workshop manuscripts with a little bit of humility and perspective.

Chip Cheek: I make this point: “What is a ‘Master’? How do we define what a ‘Master’ is?” And I make the point about, say, Alice Munro, everyone would say she’s a master, right? But you could also make a critique about her, as people have said that her prose is plain, or Flannery O’Connor, that her characters, you know, verge into characterization. Some writers are terrible at dialogue, that we think are masters. Some writers, like Henry Green, have no interiority. So, what you do, you try to find your heat, where you think the energy is in your stories, and let’s try to cultivate that, and it may be totally different from someone else’s energy and heat. So you know, I think by doing that, I’m encouraging the students to just really broaden their notion of what’s masterful and great.

8:59

Eson Kim: So we know we want to have engaging and thoughtful conversations about the work, but how do that? Especially if we’re new to the writing or to the workshop process. Brionne Janae gives us a good starting point.

Brionne Janae: I always try to look for the best line in the poem, you know, make sure I have a line in the poem where I say “Okay, this is the poem at it’s best,” and I mean it’s gonna be a little bit subjective to what I like to see, but at least I’m looking at what the writer has put on the page, and so this is their aesthetic, this is maybe what I think is their best, and then try to get the rest of the poem to arise to that level, you know, with that one line or with that one stanza. A phrase I’ve heard a lot in workshops is to “Go with what the poem wants,” so it’s not necessarily what the author wants, and it’s not what the rest of the table wants, but it’s what the poem itself wants. So that can be, you know, going with that best line or that best idea, and really making sure that that’s realized, or that the rest of that poem has risen to that occasion.

10:04

Eson Kim: And we shouldn’t lose sight of the writer in this whole workshopping process.

Alysia Abbott: Respecting the intent of the writer, really trying to understand what the purpose of the piece is, and that the purpose of the piece may not be the purpose of the piece you would write. But you want to be able to meet the writer on the train of their intent.

Eson Kim: Speaking of trains, Alex Marzano-Lesnevich reminds us not to derail workshop conversations by focusing on our personal preferences.

10:34

Alex Marzano-Lesnevich: Let’s say someone turns in a memoir in which there’s a long scene in which they talk about trains; it’s not good feedback to say “I loved that scene, I’m so fascinated by trains.” It’s equally bad feedback to say “I’m totally bored by that scene, I hate trains.” We don’t care how the reader feels about trains. Readers out there in the publishing world might end up caring, people have idiosyncratic responses to books. But when you’re a reader in a workshop, it’s not like being a reader out there in the world. It’s really trying to ascertain, usually through lens of craft, I think craft is often a shortcut to get us there, but it’s trying to ascertain what the story itself is trying to do, what the memoir itself is trying to do, and what the narrative purpose of that moment is, and kind of take it on its own terms, whether it’s succeeding or failing at what it’s trying to do, whether or not you like what it’s trying to do.

11:22

Eson Kim: It’s actually okay to use as a starting point how a piece makes you feel, or the impression it made on you, as long as your conversation doesn’t end there. Here’s Ethan Gilsdorf:

Ethan Gilsdorf: If students don’t know quite what to say about a work because they don’t feel comfortable with the literary, the language of literary criticism around identifying different aspects of the craft, they will tend to just have a personal reaction to something. They’ll say “Oh, I really could relate to that, it reminded me of the time when I was 16 and had this argument with my mom.” So they often have a personal reaction. I think on its face, you know, that’s not the worst thing to say, because at least it lets the writer know they’re struck a chord with somebody. (12:00) When I hear a writer, a fellow precedent, say something like that, what I’ll often say is, “So, can you bring that back to something on the page? Can you first of all show me where you most locked in to the story or the essay, where did you really feel like you were identifying the most with the character of the writer in the scene,” let’s say. And let’s talk about why, how did that writer do that effectively? So I try to help that writer, to sort of move beyond that personal reaction and try to identify what’s happening on the page.

12:29

Eson Kim: And since we’re trying to build a positive and artistically enriching environment, there are certainly some behaviors that are good to avoid.

Alex Marzano-Lesnevich: I never wanna see somebody rewrite it for the writer. There should never be a situation in which you’re literally crossing out this person’s sentences and substituting your voice. That, again, it’s almost like, it’s rude for one thing, but you’re talking over the writer, and that’s not the point, you’re not writing this person’s book. Your job as a workshop citizen is to help that person write the best version of their book as they can. And so you really want to take a step back in that moment, and try instead to reflect your reading experience: “Oh this was confusing to me,” “I couldn’t quite see what you mean by these words,” “This took me away from the main narrative that I thought we were in,” “Time is jumbled here,” whatever that is, rather than rewriting it.

13:20

Sara Daniele Rivera: Don’t use workshop time to focus on things like grammar. I’ve seen that happen too, when somebody wants to be like, Grammar Police, and that’s something that you can put in the comments, if you wanna circles somebody’s clauses usage or whatever. I will occasionally bring up something grammatical if I think that it can be helpful for the whole group, or if I think that it’s important in telling the story. “Look if you arrange the sentence, how it brings us into the action so much quicker.” But focusing on that in the workshop, or bringing it up every time, that’s not the kind of feedback that people are necessarily looking for, and at worst it can make somebody feel embarrassed and self-conscious. It’s not the most productive thing.

14:07

Chip Cheek: Any sort of like “I hate this,” it’s just never helpful to say that, even if you hate something, it will be clear if you put your squiggly line, and say “I don’t understand this,” or “This isn’t resonating with me,”but just not “I hate this,” cause that’s just saying that, you know, a lot of people “hate” James Salter, you know, but I think a lot of people would agree that he’s great, too. Also, I mean I guess maybe it’s not as bad, but even “I love this so much,” saying that you really like something? Great, you know, and tell us why, like try to articulate what is it about this that sort of, that’s speaking to you, because maybe that’s something that the writer is doing that they can sort of capitalize on, or it can help them as they are, as we all are, trying to not only just finish this one story, but trying to figure out where our heat is, and what our kind of aesthetic sensibility is. It can also, in the workshop, when someone is sort of effusively saying like “This is the best thing I’ve ever read, this is such genius” you know, it can kind of make other people in the class feel like oh, okay, great, you’ve never said that about my stuff, you know? There’s kind of a, you try to keep all competition out of a classroom obviously, there’s some of the healthy competition, like “oh my God, that story was so good, I wanna try to like do that too,” you know? Or get that kind of praise, but I think excessive keeping on of the love can be damaging, too, especially if it’s gonna blind a writer to some of the weaknesses in the story.

15:31

Eson Kim: Nicole Terez Dutton also reminds us not to read things into the work that we happen to know about the author.

Nicole Terez Dutton: Especially in poetry, people have a tendency to associate the speaker with the writer, and I think it’s important to remember that the speaker is not always the writer, or expressing the writer’s position or views on anything. We never want to be critical of the writer in so much as we know of their own personal history, and try to read that into the work and speak about that, I feel like that’s a really important thing to do in order to keep a space safe and productive.

16:12

Eson Kim: In every workshop, there’ll be a wide variety of manuscripts, and it’s important to give every one the same level of attention. It’s a total cop out to skimp on a mystery or romance story just because you don’t typically read those types of works.

Dariel Suarez: It’s still writing, it’s still literature, there’s still an intent behind it, there’s still a purpose to that piece of writing, and I think as a reader I can make some informed responses, I can have an informed response, to some extent. I think it is important to know if I’m not someone who is very well-versed in that particular genre because I do want the writer to understand that, where I’m coming from. And maybe you yourself could learn a little bit, I mean there are things you could learn from genre. I think that myself, I’m always intrigued by mystery writing, you know, because I don’t write mysteries, but I do have elements of suspense in my writing and I wanna learn how do those well, and sometimes mystery writers are much better than literary writers at this, and they write essays about it, and so you can always learn something,

17:08

Eson Kim: Speaking of learning, one of the most common misconceptions about the writing workshop is that your own workshop day will be the most valuable.

Jonathan Escoffery: I think students sometimes don’t realize that one of the best ways to learn how to become a really good writer is to read a lot, but also to read their peers work, because that’s when they turn on the internal editor in their minds, and that’s when they learn, “Hey, what’s working in this story, and why isn’t it working,” and then they have to actually articulate why a story is or is not working, and then they bring that back to their own work when they start either writing or editing their own work, and I think you don’t necessarily, as a student, think about that muscle that you’re building up in the workshop. So the more generously you give, you’re actually giving back to yourself, and I think whether you wanna think of it selfishly or selflessly, I think giving as generously as possible is the best thing you can do both for yourself and your fellow students.

18:10

Alex Marzano-Lesnevich: I think in workshops people think the day that will be most useful to them is the day that their work is up for workshop, and if it’s a good workshop, that is..

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