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Award-Winning Poems: Summer 2017

Jendi Reiter

Welcome to my summer selection of award-winning poems, highlights from our contest archives, and the best new resources we've found for writers. These quarterly specials are included with your free Winning Writers Newsletter subscription.
In this issue: "Thinking of You" by the 11th-century Chinese poet Su Shi, illustrated by Julian Peters.
—Jendi Reiter, Editor

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Deadline This Month!
Deadline: June 30. 3rd year. Co-sponsored by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of The Frugal Book Promoter, and BookBaby. $6,000 in prizes, including three top awards of $1,500 each. Categories:

  • General Fiction (includes literary and genre fiction)
  • Young Adult Fiction
  • Creative Nonfiction & Memoir

Fee: $60 per entry. Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche will judge, assisted by Lauren Singer and Annie Keithline. See the winners of our second contest and enter here.

Also open now, our Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest will award $4,000 in prizes.

Award-Winning Poems Selected by Jendi Reiter

by Aimee Baker
Winner of the 2016 Akron Poetry Prize
Entries must be received by June 15
This long-running award for poets at any stage of their career gives $1,500 and publication by the University of Akron Press. Baker's wrenching sequence of poems is taken from her prizewinning collection Doe, which is based on details from missing person and unidentified person (Jane Doe) case files of over 60 women in the US.

by Kara van de Graaf
Winner of the 2016 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award
Entries must be received by July 8
This prestigious contest from Southern Illinois University Carbondale gives $2,500 and publication. Van de Graaf's Spitting Image was the most recent winner. In this brief but complex poem, the "clean, pliable" trussed hen contains a sharp surprise, not unlike the woman who struggles with the double bind of wanting to be both enticing and emotionally authentic.

by Sarah Stickney
Winner of the 2016 Emrys Press Chapbook Prize
Entries must be received by July 15
Launched in 2016, this contest for a poetry chapbook manuscript gives $1,000, publication, and a one-week residency at the Rensing Center in South Carolina. Stickney's Portico was the inaugural winner. "Be ready to leave," she advises in this severe but ultimately hopeful poem about the price we pay for transformation.

by Henry Wei Leung
Winner of the 2016 Omnidawn First/Second Poetry Book Contest
Entries must be received by July 17
This $3,000 prize includes publication by Omnidawn, a well-regarded independent press with an interest in experimental and politically relevant writing. Leung's winning collection Goddess of Democracy is forthcoming in October 2017. Written in 14 fragmented sentences or interrupted prose poems, this poem interrogates the paradoxes of broken ideals, freedom and exile, and loving your country enough to defy its leaders.

by Candace Black
Winner of the 2016 Violet Reed Haas Prize
Entries must be received by August 31
This open poetry manuscript contest awards $1,000 and publication by Snake Nation Press, a well-established small literary press in Georgia. Black's Whereabouts was the most recent winner. In this Southwestern pastoral, the history and implements of warfare can remain on the margins (for now) of a child's exploration of her native landscape, though their shadow intrudes into the adult's memories.

Read more award-winning poems.

The 2017 Autumn House Press Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction Contests

Postmark deadline: June 30

Autumn House Press is now accepting full-length manuscripts for our annual Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction contests! The winner in each genre will receive book publication, a $1,000 advance against royalties, and a $1,500 travel/publicity grant to promote their book.

Judges for 2017 are:

See our complete contest guidelines.

Congratulations to last year's winners: Jane Satterfield's Apocalypse Mix (poetry), Andrew Bourelle's Heavy Metal (fiction), and Katherine McCord's RUN SCREAM UNBURY SAVE (nonfiction). Enjoy this selection from Apocalypse Mix:

Why I Don't Write Nature Poems
Because I'm always wearing the wrong shoes, I rarely stray from the path. There's recollect, there's tranquility and the way the trains punctuate each hour, shrill the shaken fields. Let's bide a bit here, thinking why we love them—the tracks, the transit, a train's a metaphor for so many things in life. Like me, too busy eyeing up the buffet from the back of the line to consider a phalanx of phlox, the tabby stray cavorting in the hedge. I don't see a cow meadow as any kind of invocation. Am drawn to the satellite dish disrupting the view. To the one swatch of sky where the haze hangs. Because, truly, the one time I tried, the saddled mare extended an answer. The hoof on my foot a fine form. Because the genius of the place can drop a scroll of sycamore bark at my feet, and I still can't translate his tongue. Slow study. What happens in the ditch, the dun. Because a cicada's buzz in the topmost branch is all the intel left to get, trilling, a telling: here, here, I am here.

Rattle Poetry Prize

Rattle Poetry Prize

Deadline: July 15

The annual Rattle Poetry Prize is once again offering $10,000 for a single poem to be published in the winter issue of the magazine. Ten finalists will also receive $200 each and publication, and be eligible for the $2,000 Readers' Choice Award, to be selected by subscriber and entrant vote.

With the winners judged in a blind review by the editors to ensure a fair and consistent selection, an entry fee that is simply a one-year subscription to the magazine—and a runner-up Readers' Choice Award to be chosen by the writers themselves—the Rattle Poetry Prize aims to be one of the most writer-friendly and popular poetry contests around.

We accept entries online and by mail. See www.rattle.com for the complete guidelines and to read all of the past winners.

Enjoy "Veins" by Julie Price Pinkerton, winner of the 2016 Rattle Poetry Prize:

During my annual physical, I tell my doctor that I'm starting to gross out
over how bulgy the veins on my hands are getting. Look at them, I say,
they're like lounging blue sea worms.

Write NEW POEMS This Summer with Two Sylvias Press

This Supportive and Inspiring 4-Week Online Poetry Retreat was created by poets for poets.

WHAT YOU NEED: Access to email and a desire to write new poems.

WHAT WE PROVIDE: Poem prompts, sample poems, a Two Sylvias Press publication (your choice), a softcover journal created specifically for retreat participants, creativity suggestions, and reflection questions/activities to guide and inspire. All prompts, writing exercises, and inspiration sent daily or weekly to your email (your choice!)

AND at the end of the retreat, the editors at Two Sylvias Press also critique two of your poems and offer ideas on where to submit them!

Space is Limited.

All levels of poet welcome (from beginning to published author)
Supportive, nurturing, and helpful feedback to sustain your creativity and your journey as a poet.

To Register for July or August sessions, visit:

Kirkus Bestows Starred Review on De Facto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland

Judy Juanita's De Facto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland was featured as Book-of-the-Month at KIRKUS REVIEWS in March. From the coveted starred review:

This extraordinary set of autobiographical essays gives insight into a black woman's life in the arts: everything from joining the Black Panthers to avoiding African-American chick lit.

Juanita (Virgin Soul, 2013) grew up in Oakland, California, in the 1950s. She remembers a "goody-goody" childhood of reading, spelling bees, and chores. America at the time was "a Jell-O & white bread land of perfection and gleaming surfaces," she notes in her essay "White Out"; the only blacks on screen played mammies and maids. She joined the Black Panthers at San Francisco State in 1966 and became a junior faculty member in its Black Studies department—the nation's first. In perhaps the most powerful piece in the collection, "The Gun as Ultimate Performance Poem", written after the death of Trayvon Martin, Juanita sensitively discusses the split in the Black Panthers over carrying guns. She liked guns' symbolic associations and even kept one in her purse while working at a post office. But she now recognizes the disastrous consequences of romanticizing a weapon: "It was Art. It was Metaphor. It was loaded with meaning and death." In another standout, "The N-word", she boldly explores the disparate contexts in which the epithet appears: in August Wilson's play Fences, in comedy routines, and intimately between friends. "It's not problem or solution; it's an indication," she concludes. The title essay contends that black women are de facto feminists because they're so often reduced to single parenting in poverty. Elsewhere, she discusses relationships between black men and women, recalls rediscovering poetry as a divorcée with an 8-year-old son in New Jersey ("Tough Luck", which includes her own poems), remembers a time spent cleaning condos, and remarks that Terry McMillan has ensured that a "black female writer not writing chick lit has an uphill challenge."

The author refers to herself as "an observational ironist," and her incisive comments on black life's contradictions make this essay collection a winner.

Buy De Facto Feminism at Amazon

Vacui Magia by L.S. Johnson

Winner of the 2016 North Street Book Prize for genre fiction

Dwarves and golems, Fates and minotaurs, metamorphoses, murder, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. L.S. Johnson delivers a provocative and original short story collection that ingeniously blends myth and nightmare. Whether it concerns the efforts of an infertile witch to construct a golem-baby, or a daughter's quest to understand a father's guilt and a mother's supernatural infidelities, or a woman's violent association with a group of possibly imaginary but nonetheless dangerous little men, each story in this remarkable collection demonstrates the limitless capacity of intelligent speculative fiction to enthrall, inspire, and amaze. Available now at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. Read a free excerpt.

"I can say without hesitation, reservation or exception that this is a collection full of brilliantly written and powerfully affecting stories, each of which profoundly impressed me in different ways ... Johnson's Vacui Magia is a book that never goes quietly, and it is wonderful for it." – The Future Fire Reviews

Return of the Slacker: Original poetry by Jim DuBois

Jim DuBois

To slack:
1. to make loose, or less tense or taut, as a rope; loosen.
2. to become less tense or taut, as a rope; to ease off.

1. an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment.

A slacker:
1. a person without ambition.
2. a person who gives up the idea of ambition in order to become less tense or taut, and to make the world less tense.

Return of the Slacker—read it online now!

Edisto Stranger by C. Hope Clark, On Sale Now

Just released! Book Four in the series. A cold case heats up...

A dead man in Big Bay Creek, spring break, and a rogue FBI agent would be enough to drive Chief Callie Jean Morgan to drink...if she hadn't already quietly crawled inside a bottle of gin to drown her sorrows over a life ripped apart by too many losses. When her investigation into the stranger's death heats up an unsolved abduction case, Callie finds herself pitted against the town council, her son, the agent, and even the raucous college kids enjoying idyllic Edisto Beach. Amidst it all, Callie must find a way to reconcile her grief and her precious taste for booze before anyone else is killed.

"Those who haven't read any of C. Hope Clark's books are short-changing themselves. You can't begin a C. Hope Clark book and then put it down." - Clay Stafford, author and filmmaker, founder of Killer Nashville and publisher of Killer Nashville Magazine.

"Hope Clark has created another fascinating heroine in former Boston PD detective Callie Morgan. Her books are fast-paced mysteries set against the backdrop of a tiny South Carolina island where murder never happens—or so the locals would like to believe. I'm happy to recommend it." - Kathryn R. Wall, author, the Bay Tanner mysteries

Buy now at Amazon

Jendi Reiter's Two Natures Honored in National Indie Excellence Awards

Jendi Reiter's debut novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press, 2016) was one of two finalists in the LGBTQ Fiction category in the 2017 National Indie Excellence Awards.

Two Natures offers a backstage look at the glamour and tragedy of 1990s New York City through the eyes of Julian Selkirk, an aspiring fashion photographer. Coming of age during the height of the AIDS epidemic, Julian worships beauty and romance, however fleeting, as substitutes for the religion that rejected him. His spiritual crisis is one that too many gay youth still face today.

Read Jendi's guest post at Prism Book Alliance: My Top Writing Distractions and How I Deal With Them. An excerpt:

I'm a control freak. I have this fantasy that if I game out every possibility before writing a scene, I'll never reach that dreaded moment when I realize the story has gone in the wrong direction. This. Doesn't. Work.

Did you grow up in a family or peer group where you were humiliated for making mistakes while learning? Those bullies are never going to see your tossed-out first drafts.

I learned from writing Two Natures that there's no substitute for running the experiment in real time—let my characters try the action and see if it's really plausible from their point of view. When the self-doubt gremlins won't leave my head without a fight, I listen to The Eagles: "Maybe someday you will find/That it wasn't really wasted time."

Favorite New Resources

Here are some of our favorite newly added resources at Winning Writers. For a full list, see our Resource pages.

Platform for distributing review copies in multiple e-reader formats 

User-friendly guide to setting up a WordPress blog 

Kartika Review
Online literary journal for Asian Pacific Islander American perspectives

Curated, genre-sorted archive of book trailers helps boost publicity for your new books

Web Hosting Rating's Top 100 Web Design Resources
List of sources for fonts, graphics, stock photos, logo editors, and more

Writer Advice
Writers' resource site hosts contests with modest prizes 

Writing in the Margins: Sensitivity Readers Database
Freelance editors specializing in accurate and unbiased representation of marginalized groups


Favorite New Books

Linda McCullough Moore

Grace abounds, though sentimentality may be skewered, in these sparkling stories about women taking stock of their flawed relationships with husbands and families—and often finding a surprising bit of information that shifts their longstanding narrative of their lives. A self-lacerating quip or satirical observation of human nature will be followed by a moment of raw loneliness or unexpected kindness that turns the reader's laughter to tears and back again.

Jamaal May

The award-winning poet's second collection from Alice James Books explores bereavement, masculinity, risk, tenderness, gun violence, and the unacknowledged vitality of his beloved Detroit, in verse that is both muscular and musical. Nominated for the 2017 NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry.

Gail Thomas

This elegantly crafted, life-affirming chapbook won the 2016 Charlotte Muse Prize from Headmistress Press, a lesbian-feminist poetry publisher. Thomas' verse knits together several generations of women, from her once prim and proper suburban mother descending into Alzheimer's, to her young granddaughter surrounded by gender-bending friends and same-sex couples. She grounds their history in earthy details like the taste of asparagus, locks of hair from the dead, and old newspaper clippings of buildings raised and gardens planted by blue-collar forebears. The centerpiece of the collection, "The Little Mommy Sonnets", poignantly depicts a sort of reconciliation at the end of a thorny relationship, where differences in ideals of womanhood fall away, and what's left is the primal comfort of touching and feeding a loved one.

Patrick T. Reardon

Plain-spoken and poignant, this memoir in verse pays tribute to a brother who committed suicide, and ponders the unanswerable question of why some survive a loveless upbringing and others succumb. Pat and David were the eldest of 14 children born in the 1950s-60s to an Irish-Catholic family in Chicago. Immersion in the church trained the author to search for sacred beauty in times of suffering and mystery, yet the weight of parental and religious judgments overwhelmed his brother. The collection is illustrated with archival family photos that prompt the poet's hindsight search for clues to their fate.

Selections from Our Contest Archives

"Weather Report"
by Guy Kettelhack

First Prize
2004 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse

"Mason City Ladies' Sewing Circle"
by Mary Ann Wehler

Second Prize
2004 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest 

"The Wizard"
by Gordon Phipps

Second Prize
2003 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest 

by Marianne Sciucco

Honorable Mention
2007 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest 

"Black Market Human Organs"
by Brian L. Perkins

Honorable Mention
2003 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest 

"I Once Closed My Eyes"
by Robert Klaslo

Honorable Mention
2005 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest 

See the complete archive of winning entries from our contests.

Guy Kettelhack

PSA: Education

ProLiteracy, the largest adult literacy and basic education membership organization in the nation, believes that a safer, stronger, and more sustainable society starts with an educated population. For more than 60 years, ProLiteracy has been working across the globe to create a world where every person can read and write. Learn more.

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"Thinking of You" by Su Shi, illustrated by Julian Peters

Julian Peters kindly shares with us this white-gouache-on-black-paper sketch inspired by "Shiudiao Getou", a famous poem by the 11th-century Chinese poet Su Shi (or Su Tungpo).

This drawing illustrates the last line of the poem: "Though thousands of miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together." The translation of the poem is found on Wikipedia.

Thinking of you

Mid-autumn of the Bing Chen year
Having been drinking happily over night
I'm drunk
So I write this poem
Remembering my brother, Zi You

When will the moon be clear and bright?
With a cup of wine in my hand, I ask the clear sky.
In the heavens on this night,
I wonder what season it would be?

I'd like to ride the wind to fly home.
Yet I fear the crystal and jade mansions
are much too high and cold for me.
Dancing with my moonlit shadow,
It does not seem like the human world.

The moon rounds the red mansion,
Stoops to silk-pad doors,
Shines upon the sleepless,
Bearing no grudge,
Why does the moon tend to be full when people are apart?

People experience sorrow, joy, separation and reunion,
The moon may be dim or bright, round or crescent shaped,
This imperfection has been going on since the beginning of time.
May we all be blessed with longevity,
Though thousands of miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.

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