Well, I’m back from my visit to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts and reading from my Phillis Wheatley poetry book-in-progress, The Age of Phillis.
Plus, I ate three lobster rolls while I was up there, and I’m not ashamed in the least. I’m telling you, those New Englanders know how to cook them some seafood. They are not playing. Eating at least one lobster roll on a visit to New England is obligatory, like eating a three-piece wing snack (with roll and fries) if you travel to the West End of Atlanta.
It was pretty scary to read from this project, since these poems are mostly new and I am so used to reading from my last book, Red Clay Suite. Sometimes when I read the new poems, I think about Miss Phillis and all those other African people who were taken as slaves as children or teenagers and I get choked up. And then, I feel silly and I have to tell myself, “Honorée, you need to get yourself together.”
Anyway, I am back to the writing full-time, which means it’s back to the hustle, and the end of October deadlines. If you are a writer, then you know that October is the month for it all: prize announcements, prize deadlines, job announcements, and job application deadlines.
Here’s a great prize announcement: one of my poet-friends, Jericho Brown, just won the Mrs. Giles Whiting Award for his first book of poetry, Please. (That’s Jericho’s young, fine, brown self up at the top of the page.) He also won a huge chunk of cash, FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. Don’t hate: I’ve read the book and it’s so good, it made me mad I didn’t write it. Here’s a link for you to buy it and read it and get mad, too.
If you are on the job market and a creative writer, you need to get a membership to the Associated Writing Programs–or AWP, for short. Some people have said that AWP actually stands for All White People, but it’s gotten a lot more diverse in recent years. I remember when I first started going to the AWP Conference back in 2001, I used to make sure I wouldn’t show up to the conference cocktail parties in a black and white outfit–I was scared somebody would hand me a plate of hors d’oeuvres to circulate around the room.
The AWP has come a long way. They even have more than two black people –and other than Rita Dove, too–as featured presenters each year at the conference. Now, if they could just stop scheduling all the “diverse”—you know, the gay, black/African American, Latino, Asian, etcetera—scholarly and reading panels on the SAME DAYS AT THE EXACT SAME TIMES (so that I have to walk out of one “diverse” panel before it’s done in order to enter another “diverse” panel when it’s halfway over), I could leave my AWP stankitude by the side of the road, once and for all.
If you are a creative writer and you are just now getting your AWP membership, you are on “CP Time” for real—regardless of your ethnicity. But, you know, better late than never; I know that frequently, I have to wait until the end of the month paycheck if there’s a membership fee. Here’s the link for the AWP membership page. You not only get the Job List with your membership, you get a bunch of other yummy things. I promise you, it is worth it, if you want to get your hustle on–and I know you do.
Here are a few other things for you to remember.
When you send in your job application letter, you need to print the letter on your college or university letterhead. Or, if you aren’t employed yet or you are no longer in school, print the letter out on very nice white paper with some cotton content and preferably, watermarked.
Also, do not use the phrase “references available on request” on your curriculum vita—a fancy name for resume—when you send it in with your letter. No one’s going to bother to request your references when you aren’t famous; your references’ names need to be on that vita already. If you don’t put the names there, that just looks arrogant, and your arrogance translates into your stupidity. I’m just saying.
And make sure that anybody you have asked to write you a letter of recommendation actually likes you and feels enthusiastic about you and your work. You don’t want a one-paragraph letter of recommendation for a job, or worse, one of those Ralph Ellison Invisible Man letters. You gotta read the book to figure out what I’m talking about. It’s not a good scenario, though.
You would be surprised at how many people out there will write a letter of recommendation for anything with a pulse, so you need to be careful about who you are choosing to speak on your behalf. You want a referee to indicate that you are special, not some fill-in-the-blank random person standing around on the corner, talking ’bout, “I’m gone write me some poems.”
Now, on to the October 31st prize deadlines. I know I’m giving these to you at the last minute, but for real, there are at least one hundred somebodies out there who love to wait until the eleventh hour. You know who you are: you feed off the adrenaline and the stress. It gives you such a sweet, funky rush, don’t it? Oh, I know, baby; I know.
Remember that because you are so close to the deadline, you need an official postmark on the envelope containing your contest materials. Don’t just drop your stuff off in the mailbox after hours and think that’s going to get it.
So, you need to either 1) stand in line at the post office and see–with your own eyeballs– the postal worker actually date-stamp your submission envelope, or 2) you need to use the 24-hour automated system that some post offices have in the lobby; that gives a date-stamp as well.
I’m sorry if I am insulting your intelligence, giving you these elementary instructions, but I am shocked how many people aren’t taught this. (That would be me, back in the day. It was just sad. I just don’t know how I made it through.) Look, I’m just trying to keep your feelings from getting hurt, ’cause I love you.
Alright, here’re some really juicy contests with October 31 deadlines.(Just click on the link to take you to the website). A couple of these might have November 1 deadlines, but you need to just get them in one day early, anyway, so please don’t be complaining that I mislead you:
I’m traveling again tomorrow, driving this time, down to my beloved South. I can’t wait. It’s just been so long and for a GRITS Sister like me, when I stay away, I just go crazy. There’s a little Anthony Hamilton below for you to listen to, so you can understand how truly happy I am.
For now, Bon Weekend. That’s French, y’all.