Without the Kalamazoo Gazette Literary Award Competition of 2007, I would not be writing this blog. Each year the announcement of the award kicks me into gear again, and I review what I have written that might fit. The writing itself happens throughout the year, often in 2-3 day retreats at Gilchrist, the Fetzer Institute retreat center. Here you sit at a window of your own brick hermitage and invite your dreams to come, your memories to return.
I have tried a few other contests. I won an honorable mention in the creative nonfiction/memoir category at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Workshop in 2007 and in 2008 won an honorable mention and the chance to read my essay at the San Francisco Public Library though the Soul-Making Literary Contest, sponsored by the PEN women of San Francisco and broadcast on the PBS outlet there. I chose not to travel to San Francisco to do this, but the encouragement inspired me to keep writing.
Now that my friends and readers know I enjoy contests, they send me notices of them. The purpose of this blog is to share some of these notices and invite you, gentle reader, to consider entering one of your own.
My friend and neighbor Hope, who says she wants to be my agent, sent me this Cheerios children’s book contest announcement.
My friend Susan sent me an announcement of the contest at Writer’s Digest. If you win, you not only get a cash prize but also a free trip to New York and a meeting with agent and editor.
If you subscribe to any writer’s magazine, Poet and Writer’s, Writer’s Digest, The Writer and The Writer’s Chronicle, you can learn about scores of contests in every season of the year. Many of these publications have electronic newsletters to alert you about deadlines and guidelines.
And this website aggregates contest announcements from all of the above! You can just click on the month that gives you enough time your article and find several contests willing to receive it.
Will I submit any of my own writing to any of these contests? Only if I can get a few weekends set up at Gilchrist. Better get on the calendar!
I leave you with a poem published in the Gilchrist Newsletter, which you can subscribe to free here.
L e a v i n g P r a i r i e H o u s e
At Gilchrist Retreat Center, September 8, 2008
The Lancaster County country woman in me
enjoys buffing countertops clean,
wants to fling open the windows,
work up a sweat, imitating the ladies of the
sewing circle who came to clean our house
after one of Mother’s miscarriages. Within minutes
the new shine on the kitchen floor matched
the triumphant shine of their eyes.
The contemplative in me is a wilder animal,
needs to be coaxed to come out,
needs to put an arm around the waist of the country woman,
bring her to this rocking chair for a rest,
take her dishrag in hand and remind her of Brother Lawrence
baking bread with prayers,
slowly, with great attention to every sense,
awake to the every-day miracles
of muscle, earth, air, wind, and fire
that make ordinary work possible
When these two go at it, the country woman and the monk,
So I rise early before the dawn. I clean one area of the hermitage at a time.
First the new sheets, bursting smooth from caresses of all four corners,
Covered with prayers for the next pilgrim.
While I work, the sun shows up, spreading
slow, golden light across the pale sky.
I offer my applause and thanks for another day,
sitting with the last cup of coffee
in the velvet rocker in front of the fireplace,
contemplating the spent ashes of three riotous fires.
The poet’s image of the fire fusing with the rose holds my attention
As my hands take up the dust bin and brush.
When John the caretaker comes to help take my baggage to the car,
I am ready, smiling and happy.
The country woman wipes her hands one more time on her apron
while inside her Brother Lawrence whispers:
this morning is all you have.
The only difference between this morning and
the last morning is that today
you know the time.
You know the place.
Adirondack chair overlooking the prairie at Gilchrist.
I am responding to reader requests to offer more stories from my own life as well as to offer writing tips for other memoir writers. Let me know if this kind of post hits the mark, or not, for you.