On the Radar – April Edition

Tin House will once again be awarding both full (includes room and board) and tuition scholarships for our Summer Workshop. For 2017, we are pleased to announce an expansion of the number of scholarships offered, from thirteen to fifteen. This was made possible by a private donation that was inspired by a talk given by Kiese Laymon during our 2016 Summer Workshop. As the focus of that lecture was a discussion on who is given access to literary institutions such as Tin House, this donation was intended to encourage writers of color to seek fellowships for the workshop.” (I was there for Kiese’s talk. It was a relief, an unburdening, and thoughtful. He said publicly what POC there were speaking to each other about privately. While I was disappointed that as usual a writer of color was the only one to bring up questions of accessibility, I am glad to see something came from it.Deadline for Scholarship applications: April 1

Australian Book Review welcomes entries in the 2017 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize, one of the world’s leading prizes for an original short story.” (I got long-listed for this one last year.) Deadline: April 10

KSF Artists of Choice supports artists in the creation of new work by providing financial support (£10k / $10k)  and mentoring. Open to artists who have exciting, creative and unique projects across the genres of Musical Theater, Dance, Film and Theater.” Deadline: April 14

The MacDowell Colony provides time, space, and an inspiring environment to artists of exceptional talent.” Deadline for Fall 2017 residencies: April 15

“April 15 is the deadline to submit to the Kundiman Mentorship Program with Paisley Rekdal and Alexander Chee.”

SLICE magazine welcomes submissions for short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.” Reading period open from April 1 – June 1

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Other Side of the Desk

I’m reviewing applications for an artist residency program. I’m collecting my thoughts here as I go so others can benefit from my perspective for their own applications and for myself as I work on my own revisions. The most convincing case for ruthless editing is made by being a reader. Here goes:

-If you’re from a marginalized community, I am paying attention and want to score you highly. Just don’t Meek it up.

-If you’ve never been to a residency, I want to help you go.

-All I look for from a resume or CV is continual involvement, effort, and learning. Not publication in The New Yorker.

-That’s not totally true. Maybe that’s all I look for but I do notice if there are honors and publications I recognize. Too many of them and it does give me the feeling that this person is swimming along just fine and will do so with or without this residency. Too few and I wonder if it’s due to the quality of the writing.

-If your resume is full of sales and retail jobs, dates you attended universities but did not graduate, no universities at all, I give you serious consideration. I want to say yes to you even more than someone with an MFA.

-I switched to reading writing samples first. I was reading work plans and resumes first just because they appeared first in the package, but I think this it’s more impartial not to read those first.

-I’m not a grammatician or even a great copywriter, but if your grammar and spelling distract me – as in, I’m reading and thinking, “there should be a comma there,” or “that’s supposed to be plural,” then it’s hard to get past that and into the story.

-A writing sample is great if it can make me forget that I’m judging 43 applications and reading about 430 pages today and makes me want to keep reading this one.

-Less is more. Five adjectives to describe a thing and you’re killing me, Smalls. Pick the sharpest one. A building can be low-ceilinged, wood-framed, decrepit, newly-built, etc. but which one is the one the reader must absolutely know? Which one, if you leave it out will leave a hole in the reader’s understanding?

-Long descriptions of the setting, arbitrarily placed, make me aware that you’re world-building. Why here, why now, when it comes to descriptions of setting. If the character is getting from one physical place to another, I think that’s a good spot to slip in the setting. Or if they’re waiting. It does double-duty by marking the passage of time. Triple-duty would be if what’s being described is crucial to the plot or an understanding of the character.

Tangent: A good place to describe a doctor’s office would be as the characters are waiting to be called. Not when they go in to see the doctor about their test results. A patient who is a fashion editor will notice the Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Cosmo on the side table. She’ll notice the receptionist’s billowy chiffon blouse in last season’s emerald green. A physical trainer would notice the bit of jiggle in the receptionist’s arms through her sheer sleeves that he’d have her do shoulder presses for. He might notice the slimness of the white chairs, like something out of The Jetsons, and doubt the strength of the skinny chrome legs against his 275lbs body. He might notice the gray carpeting as he slides his gym bag under his seat. An electrician might notice the nest of cords in the corner. He might notice the receptionist’s desk where he would cut a hole no bigger than the bottom of a bottle of Heineken and use those tiny clamps he pocketed off the job site to run the cords through. A visual artist might notice the uninspired choice of Monet’s water lilies on the wall, the abundance of morning light coming through the windows, the museum white walls in this office. Now, if the receptionist plugs her cell phone in a power strip and a spark jumps and catches on her blouse…way better ways to do this, but you get the idea. I could have chosen instead to describe the flat screen blaring CNN, the white bookcases with no books, the decorative teal baskets on the shelves, the philodendron on the window sill. I chose not to because those details don’t do the double and triple-duty I want my sentences to do.

Another tangent. There’s something they teach in pro-wrestling. If an opponent has been “working” your knee for a minute, you can’t just get up on both feet as if you weren’t just getting hit. You limp. You scurry away to a corner of the ring to gather yourself. Later in the match, you wince when your leg is hit. Wrestlers have to remember their injuries for the story of the match. Same in fiction. If a henchman just came to collect a payment a character is short on and lets them off with a warning, the sense of worry and pressure can’t disappear when he leaves or another person enters. It has to keep pressing. Even as the next thing happens, that concern must lurk. The injury must be remembered.

-I’ve read 5 pages in an hour. My husband is randomly singing, asking if I want coffee, wondering aloud if we should get an under the door draft stopper. (We should.) I’m also getting hungry and would like to stop reading. There’s a TV on in the background with Italians singing Jesus Christ Superstar. You’re not competing with other writers, you’re competing with the real world around the reviewer.

Bewertungs-set, vektor smileys

-There’s nothing better than a character backed into a corner who makes a move to get out of it that turns out to be the wrong move. That shit never gets old.

-Actually, the only thing better is a character that makes a “bad” decision involving money.

-As a reviewer, I completely ignore reference letters and references.

-The question I grapple with when looking at something with a great premise and uneven execution is: can they make something good great? Not even this piece in particular. Can they become the type of writer that can do that? Catch where their story is weak and strengthen it. (I’m still learning that myself.)

-A great artist statement tells a story. Themes and theories and contextualizing and synthesizing…oh sorry. Fell asleep. Because it’s deadly boring.

-A great work plan is plain and direct. It says this is what I’m working on, this is where I am right now, this is where I want it to go, and this is what I need from you to keep working on it. Boom. The more quantifiable, the more I believe you got this. Of course, there are some things you’re not sure about. Maybe you have some ideas and you need time to try them out, toss them out, try others. That’s fine. Tell me. And of course, even if you have a plan it could completely change. Mine has at every residency. That’s fine too. Rarely are artists asked for deliverables. My responsibility as a reviewer is to make suggestions on who I believe would best make use of the gift of a month of time to write based on their intent. Have strong intention.

-Writing samples from people with MFAs are like the super perky kids that sit in the front row, not a hair outta place, pencils sharpened to even lengths. Like alright, I get it. Relax, b.

-Writing samples from people without MFAs are like that kid that wows with great, fresh ideas, but then their term papers look like they were in Saw 15, there’s so much red scribbled across it. And you’re like dammit, Kenneth, you know what? Go sit with Margaret in the front row and learn how she doesn’t do these things you do. (Full disclosure: I am a Kenneth.)

-If I look up to check what page I’m on, I stop reading. No matter how much I’d like to read everyone’s full sample. #wastehertime was a 2016 hashtag, thanks.

-I wonder how shocked this White lady lawyer who lives in Harlem now whose application is the first one I rated “superior” as opposed to “competent” would be if I met her. I don’t say this as a reflection of her, maybe she wouldn’t be shocked at all. It’s a reflection of how everything I do, even this, is affected by my race, class, ethnicity. By how those things are interpreted.

-The more submissions I read, the quicker I can tell if the submission has “it.” As Nas only needs one mic, I only need one page.

-I forgot how hard this can be. To make the best decisions for the writers and the organization. Also, how many hours this can take. I’m always glad to have contributed my time at the end, but I always forget how much time will be required when I begin.

On the Radar – March Edition

The Tulsa Artist Fellowship (TAF) recognizes excellent artists and writers and provides them the resources to live and work in Tulsa and contribute to its vital visual and literary art scene. The TAF provides an unrestricted stipend of $20,000, free housing and workspace to visual artists. The TAF encourages artists from all across the country to apply and requires all fellows to reside in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the duration of the fellowship.” Deadline: March 1

The Lit Fest Fellowship for Emerging Writers covers the full cost of tuition for a Master Workshop. Lighthouse will be awarding four fellowships for Lit Fest 2017 to advanced writers of fiction (1), poetry (1), dramatic writing (1)*, and creative nonfiction (1) who haven’t yet published a book-length work and who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a weeklong or weekend Master Workshop.” Deadline: March 1

The Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize is a writing competition sponsored by Selected Shorts. This long-running series at Symphony Space in New York City celebrates the art of the short story by having stars of stage and screen read aloud the works of established and emerging writers. Selected Shorts is recorded for Public Radio and heard nationally. The 2017 Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize will be judged by Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies. The winning work will be performed and recorded live at a Selected Shorts performance at Symphony Space in May 2017, and published on Electric Literature. The winning writer will receive $1000 and a free 10-week course with Gotham Writers.” Deadline: March 1

Gulf Coast reads general submissions, submitted by post or through the online submissions manager, from September 1 through March 1.”

The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts offers approximately 70 juried residencies per year to visual artists, writers, composers, and interdisciplinary artists from across the country and around the world.” I made some wonderful friends during my residency at KHN that I still see. I worked on drafts of essays, scribbled towards my novel, and read James Baldwin. Deadline: March 1

The Millay Colony will award one Virtual Residency each year. This residency is specifically for working artists and/or artists with children who could benefit from the support of a residency in modified form. The ‘Virtual Resident’ can participate in one of The Millay Colony’s month-long residency on weekends or no less than four total days during that month at the colony and will receive a stipend of $1,000 to assist in securing time off/childcare/art supplies or other resources necessary to the making of new work.” Deadline: March 1

The Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize awards $1000 and publication in Hunger Mountain. This year’s judge is Matt Bell. Deadline: March 1

From Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling: “Bestselling novelist (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents) and children’s (The Tia Lola Stories) author Julia Alvarez will share with us her new picture book, ‘Where do they go?’, a beautifully crafted poem for children that gently addresses the emotional side of death.” March 4

The National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowships program offers $25,000 grants in prose (fiction and creative nonfiction) and poetry to published creative writers that enable recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and general career advancement.” The program alternates between genres – this year prose is up. Deadline: March 8

The Kerouac Project provides four residencies a year to writers of any stripe or age, living anywhere in the world…Each residency consists of approximately a three month stay in the cottage where Jack Kerouac wrote his novel Dharma Bums. Utilities and a food stipend of $1,000 are included.” I was the Fall 2016 resident and it was amazing. I miss that house, the wonderful community of artists that support the house, and the slowness of my life during those three months to think, read, and flesh out ideas. So very much. This is fertile ground. Deadline: March 12 

2017 Nelligan Prize. “$2,000 & publication in the fall 2017 issue of Colorado Review will be awarded for the best short story.” Deadline: March 14

Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA) was founded by Elmaz Abinader, Junot Díaz, Victor Díaz and Diem Jones in 1999. Each envisioned an arts organization that could change the landscape for writers of color by supporting individual writer growth, creating a platform for community engagement and providing a workshop and mentor focus to expand writing opportunities. Over 2,000 writers from around the globe have participated in VONA. VONA now makes its home at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and offers workshops in fiction, poetry, memoir, essay writing, speculative fiction, genre writing, political content in poetry-fiction-prose, LGBTQ narrative, travel writing, playwriting and a residenciy in prose & poetry.” Deadline: March 15

The Annual Kimbilio Retreat is held each July on the Taos campus of Southern Methodist University.  For seven days, selected Fellows and Faculty gather in the Carson National Forest to read, write, and learn from each other.” Deadline: March 15

Prairie Schooner Book Prize. “It’s time to get your poetry or short fiction manuscript ready for this year’s book prize. We welcome manuscripts from all writers, including non-U.S. citizens writing in English, and those who have previously published volumes of short fiction and poetry. Winner of the prize receives $3,000 and publication through the University of Nebraska Press.” Deadline: March 15

The James Jones Fellowship awards “a prize of $10,000 is given annually for a novel-in-progress by a U.S. writer who has not published a novel. Runners-up will receive $1000.” Deadline: March 15

1st Annual Eliza So Finish-Your-Book Fellowship. The goal of the fellowship is to give a writer time and solitude to help finish a book that is already in progress. The fellowship includes room and board at Las Vegas’ Writer’s Block for the month of June 2017, along with a $500 food stipend and $400 toward airfare. There is no fee to apply.” Deadline: March 15

The 2017 Pinch Literary Awards. Deadline March 15

Narrative’s Winter 2017 Story Contest “is open to all fiction and nonfiction writers. We’re looking for short shorts, short stories, essays, memoirs, photo essays, graphic stories, all forms of literary nonfiction, and excerpts from longer works of both fiction and nonfiction. Entries must be previously unpublished, no longer than 15,000 words, and must not have been previously chosen as a winner, finalist, or honorable mention in another contest.” Deadline: March 31

BCTR is looking for composers and lyricists of color interested in having their new musical developed this year as part of its third season. The new musical must be able to be performed with a multiethnic cast and require no more than 8 actors. The winning submission will have a workshop this fall as part of BCTR’s third season at the Bingham Camp in Salem, Connecticut under the artistic direction of Devanand Janki.” Deadline: March 31

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On the Radar – February Edition

“The Bread Loaf Conferences offer an array of programs that are part of a tradition that started in 1926 with the first Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.” They offer financial aid, a fellowship, and a few scholarships to make it more feasible for writers that aren’t financially rolling in it to attend. Deadline: February 15

The Anderson Center provides retreats of two to four weeks duration from May through October each year to enable artists, writers, and scholars of exceptional promise and demonstrated accomplishment to create, advance, or complete works-in-progress.” New York City and Minnesota artists: apply for the month of August. It is Jerome Foundation funded. I was a resident in August of 2016 and it was a great space where I met some really interesting fellow artists and did a dizzying amount of revision on a story in my collection. Deadline: February 15

The Dora Maar Summer/Fall Fellowship offers:
• One to three months in residence at the Dora Maar House.
• A private bedroom and bath, and a study or studio in which to work.
• Round-trip travel expenses to Dora Maar House.
• A grant based upon the length of stay at Dora Maar House. Deadline: February 15

Apply to the 2017 NYC Emerging Writers Program. Nine writers will receive a one-year fellowship during and:
“• A grant of $5,000
• The option to engage in a mentorship with a selected freelance editor
• The opportunity to meet with agents who represent new writers
• A Center for Fiction membership that includes borrowing privileges for our collection of new fiction and fiction-related titles
• Free admission to all Center events for one year, including tickets to our First Novel Fete and benefit dinner as space allows
• 30% discount on tuition at select writing workshops at the Center
• Two public readings as part of our annual program of events and inclusion in an anthology distributed to industry professionals
• A professional headshot with a photographer for personal publicity use” Deadline: February 15

Epiphany Magazine‘s annual Spring writing contest has some bad-ass judges. Deadline: February 20

Tax Preparation for Artists. “Are you ready for April 15? This in-person workshop will not only help you get prepared for the upcoming tax deadline, but will also give you the tips and tools you need to keep your receipts, expenses, and business records organized throughout the year.” February 22

The BAU at Camargo Arts Residency “supports the development of work in the Visual Arts (including photography, video and new media), Creative Writing, Dramatic Writing, Performance and Musical Composition.” Deadline: February 28

The Restless Books Prize for Immigrant New Writing awards $10,000 and publication “for an outstanding debut work by a first-generation American author.” They alternate between fiction and non-fiction every year. This year it’s non-fiction. Deadline: February 28

“AWP sponsors the Award Series, an annual competition for the publication of excellent new book-length works.” Deadline: February 28

The Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers is “open only to writers whose fiction has not appeared, nor is scheduled to appear, in a print publication with a circulation over 5,000. (Entries must not have appeared in print, but previous online publication is fine.) Most entries run from 1,000 to 5,000 words, but any lengths up to 12,000 are welcome.” Deadline: February 28

Ninth Letter is published semi-annually at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. We are interested in prose and poetry that experiment with form, narrative, and nontraditional subject matter, as well as more traditional literary work.: Deadline: February 28

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Episode 237: Glendaliz Camacho!

I spoke with John King in the last days of my three-month residency at the Kerouac House.

The Drunken Odyssey

Episode 237 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk to fiction writer Glendaliz Camacho near the end of her residency at the Kerouac House in Orlando.

glendaliz-camacho Photo by Linda Nieves-Powell


Check out Glendaliz’s work:

Reinaldo Arenas’s story “The Glass Tower” appears in Mona and Other Tales


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On the Radar – December Edition

Yaddo is a retreat for artists located on a 400-acre estate in Saratoga Springs, New York. Its mission is to nurture the creative process by providing an opportunity for artists to work without interruption in a supportive environment.” Application deadline: January 1

The Steinbeck Fellows Program of San José State University (SJSU), which was endowed through the generosity of Martha Heasley Cox, offers emerging writers of any age and background the opportunity to pursue a significant writing project while in residence at SJSU.” Application deadline: January 2

Glimmer Train is “looking for stories about families of all configurations” for its November/December Family Matters contest. Submission Deadline: January 2

“For the past 31 years, NYFA has awarded fellowships of $7,000 to individual originating artists living in New York State and/or Indian Nations located in New York State. 2017 NYSCA/NYFA ARTIST FELLOWSHIP CATEGORIES: Crafts/Sculpture, Printmaking/Drawing/Book Arts, Nonfiction Literature, Poetry, Digital/Electronic Arts.” Application deadline: January 25

“Each January since 2003, The Iowa Review has invited submissions to The Iowa Review Awards, a writing contest in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Winners receive $1,500; first runners-up receive $750. Winners and runners-up are published in each December issue.” Submit between January 1 – 31 

“Submissions are now open for the DISQUIET Prize for writing in any genre. Three winners will be published in Guernica (fiction), NinthLetter.com (non-fiction) or The Common (poetry). One grand prize winner will receive a full scholarship, accommodations, and travel stipend to attend the seventh annual DISQUIET International Literary Program in Lisbon taking place June 25- July 7, 2017.” Submission deadline: January 31

2017 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest. “The contest is open to all writers who have not yet published a book of fiction. Submissions must be 1,200 words or fewer.” Submit between January 1 -31

“In Fall 2017, the Bellevue Literary Review will publish a special theme issue, seeking high-caliber poetry, fiction, and nonfiction that explore the concept of family—the primary latticework and laboratory of human nature.” Submission deadline: January 31

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The Exorcist


My father is a believer. He believes in the eternity of the soul, the temporariness of bodies. “You are a gardener,” he’d tell me, “and your life is a plot of dirt you’re renting.Your work is to grow the most beautiful garden you can.” That’s it? I’d ask. That’s it, he’d answer. My father believes in reincarnation, in his own visions, in Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan in the Mexican desert. My grandmother believed in Christmas, birthdays, and not knocking on people’s doors because it was rude so that made her a half-in, half-out Jehovah’s Witness. I considered Islam after reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X when I was twelve. My grandfather never mentioned God. My aunt hung rosaries from her bedposts when diabetes and lupus were gaining on her. Despite being as Dominican as plantains and salami, my uncle’s name is Moses Levy. I don’t know if he still wears it, but for many years a Star of David hung from his neck, invisible below the neckline of his shirts. My family didn’t have a unified and fixed spiritual or religious identity. Maybe that’s what made The Exorcist the most terrifying movie to me.

I considered rewatching The Exorcist to better explain what about the movie itself still scares me, but as I wrote this in the back apartment in the Kerouac House on an overcast day with that creepy-ass Spanish moss hanging off the trees and no yelling, car horns, or stereos to drown out the creaks of the house, I said fuck no. Demonic possessions, teleportation mishaps, child murderers burned alive by the PTA always happened in nice little neighborhoods like College Park. As a kid growing up in the late 80s and 90s in New York City scary movie scenarios were a relief. Poltergeists don’t go into the projects. There’s not enough real estate for a crazy caretaker. No killer sharks in the Bronx Zoo. We had drugs and crime, sure, but the ‘burbs had basements and houses with too many windows and doors that no one locked.

Other movies came close to The Exorcist, but The Fly was driven by human desire. Nightmare on Elm Street was creepy but campy. Amityville and Poltergeist made me lose sleep because the source of fear wasn’t a body, form, or face I could identify. A Freddy. A Jeff Goldblum. The people in supernatural horror films were terrorized by things they couldn’t see or explain with the worldview that kept them safe. Fear psychologically isolated people, creating the feeling that no one else could see this monster but them. It is terrifying to be alone with the truth. Even if other people glimpsed it or felt it, they could escape it or deny it, but these families in horror films could not. The Exorcist prompted more existential questions than the movies with boogeymen who attacked indiscriminately.

I asked myself some of those questions, growing up as an only child, raised by my grandparents. Playing monopoly by myself, paying myself rent for landing on Park Place, I wondered, why have I been singled out to suffer? If I have been chosen to endure torment, how will I get free? Is an end to my suffering even possible or am I doomed? These are fundamental, frightening questions we ask ourselves, God, and religion. Granted, maybe not at eleven years old, but my demons and poltergeists, the sources of my torment, seemed to be the circumstances of my life.

There’s a scene in The Exorcist where Father Damien asks, “why this girl?” Father Merrin answers, “the point is to make us despair; to see ourselves as…animal and ugly. To make us reject the possibility that God could love us.” To see the very worst of ourselves is horror. The possibility of hurt so deep, love cannot reach it, there, that is Hell.

The Exorcist raised the possibility that my family was wrong in their religious disorderliness. The pre-Conquest spirituality my dad believed true? Wrong. We lived in a cosmic version of Survivor and whatever god outwitted, outlasted, and outplayed was the right one. The Exorcist made a pretty good case for Catholicism’s version of things. Jehovah, Allah, Krishna. All wrong. We weren’t all worshipping the same being in the end. That’s what people who couldn’t handle the truth told themselves. Like a good child of the public school system, I was sure there was only one right answer and we got it wrong. What if the Devil wasn’t symbolic? What if God was unimaginatively and disappointingly literal? What if all those self-righteous, Bible thumpers I’d argued with for years were right and God is super Catholic. What if the essence of our world is unfair and the right god is a cruel, conservative one? What if choosing incorrectly, not being chosen, or casual devotion was enough to be eternally fucked? It wasn’t any demon or the Devil that scared me in The Exorcist. It was God.