Call for Submissions: Permafrost’s First Annual Book Prize in Fiction

 

 

Permafrost Magazine, the farthest north literary journal for writing and the arts, located at 64° 50′ N (198 miles from the Arctic Circle), is now accepting submissions for its First Annual Book Prize.  Check it out!

Also, take a look at the latest issue, which is out now!

We are proud to announce that we are now accepting submissions for the 1st Annual Permafrost Book Prize in Fiction!

Click here to submit!

 

Prizes:

The winner will win $1,000 and publication of their manuscript through the University of Alaska Press.

Eligibility:

We welcome manuscripts from all living writers the world over who are writing in English. Writers can be both published and unpublished. However, we will not consider manuscripts that have already been published elsewhere or have been self-published. We do accept simultaneous submissions, but please notify us immediately via email if your manuscript is accepted elsewhere. No past or present student or paid employee is eligible to enter the Book Prize Contest.

When to Submit

We are currently accepting submissions; the deadline ends on December 1, 2014.

Manuscript

Manuscripts must be a minimum of 150 pages long. All entries will be read anonymously. Please include two cover pages: the first listing only the title of the manuscript, the second including the author’s name, mailing address, telephone number, and email address. An acknowledgements page may be included also if the author wishes.

We accept only electronic submissions through our Submittable page.

Entry Fee

We ask a $20 entry fee to submit your manuscript to the contest.

Notifications

A winner should be selected by May 1, 2015. Results will be emailed shortly thereafter.

Judge

Our judge for the contest will be Benjamin Percy, whose works include Red Moon, Refresh, Refresh, The Wilding, and The Language of Elk.

Questions?

Please address inquiries to the editors at editor@permafrostmag.com.

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Eschewing Genre in Creative Nonfiction: Richard K. Nelson’s Make Prayers to the Raven

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Make Prayers to the Raven: A Koyukon View of the Northern Forest by Richard K. Nelson is a documentation of the plants and animals that frequent the forests of interior Alaska. It’s true that this book is about a place I am currently enthralled with. It’s also true that there’s a soft spot in my heart for any book about plants and wildlife. However, what makes this book really interesting is the ways in which Nelson eschews nonfiction genres to come up with something all his own.

This book could have been a narrative of his experiences living in a Koyukon village in the 1970s. It wasn’t. It doesn’t occur in chronological order and doesn’t have much of a narrative arch. Instead, the book is structured in chapters such as “The Birds” and “Ecological Patterns and Conservation Practices” with subheadings for individual species and phenomena. This sets the tone for the work feeling like a guidebook to the forest.

Instead of listing facts about animals and plants, however, Nelson draws on a multitude of sources in order to give a greater picture of how the Koyukon people view and interact with the world around them. He uses the research of anthropologists who have come before him, anecdotes from his experiences of living in the village, and excerpts from his own journal. The effects of these sources are interesting. What is structured and presented as a catalog of facts about the forest becomes a little less black-and-white. This is apropos given the nature of Koyukon beliefs and knowledge about the forest, which is up for interpretation and change based on personal experience. It is also appropriate given Nelson’s awareness of his own status as an outsider, which makes him wary of speaking for the Koyukon people. By using this variety of resources including his own experiences and journal entries, he can give his readers the same impressions that he had without putting words in other people’s mouths.

Nelson as the writer is interestingly placed in this book. For a book that uses anecdotal evidence and journal entries for much of its information, the narrator is surprisingly absent. This is because all of the personal writing and experience that Nelson uses is always about something other than himself. His journal is only used to further give information and rarely gives his own ideas or thoughts. Nelson very consciously positions himself as an outsider in the village and the culture about which he is writing, and he does a good job of keeping himself an outsider in the book that he writes.

The end result is that this book is not an anthropological study of the Koyukon people, or a wildlife guide to the forest of Interior Alaska, or a narrative about Nelson’s experiences there. Instead, there’s a melding of these possibilities. For me as a writer, it made me think a little more broadly about the ways that I can structure and inform my nonfiction. Nelson shows that the structure, the sources used, and the position of the I do not need to all line up to one traditional standard genre. Instead, using these things in unconventional ways can allow us as writers to come to greater truths than following convention alone.

 

*This post is part of a series on the craft of writing called Reading for Writers.  This series examines a variety of authors to ascertain the choices they’ve made in their writing and the effects of those choices so that we as writers can make better decisions in our own writing.

Reading for Writers: Eva Saulitis’ into great silence

Toward Larger Truths:

Using Poetry in Creative Nonfiction

“Alaska. As a college student, a dream for me of blue-white tundra, wolves, caribou, moose, indigenous hunters: wilderness. A dream of emptiness, silence” (3).  With this first line in her first chapter of Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss among Vanishing Orcas, Eva Saulitis presents her reader with an idealized, poetic view of the place she is about to bring us.  With these images and sentence fragments, she paints us a lyrical picture of the place we will come to know and study through her.  Though she writes about scientific research and the imminent extinction of a group of transient killer whales, Saulitis uses poetry and poetic language throughout her account to allow her reader to feel her connection to Prince William Sound and to experience that same level of connection and loss.

Throughout into great silence, Saulitis weaves poetry and lyrical language throughout the text.  She begins her book with an epigraph of poetry by Dylan Thomas.  She also begins her prologue with lines of poetry by W.S. Merwin.  With these two epigraphs, Saulitis sets the stage for a book about science which the reader knows will not be a typical research book.  Though into great silence recounts her days as a field biologist studying whales and includes much of her research, she chooses to begin her book and her prologue with poetry.  This shows her reader that she will be narrating this story not only through the lens of a scientist, but also through the lens of a poet.

Saulitis continues to use epigraphs to insert poetry into her narrative throughout the book.  In particular, she uses the epigraphs to frame points of especially poignant emotion. For example, she begins Chapter 18, “Beast and Beauty,” with two lines of poetry by Cyrus Cassells.  This is a small cue to the reader that this chapter will be one of the most evocative in the book.  In this chapter, Eva slowly realizes the true effects of the Valdez oil spill.  As she says, “Every zooming skiff, every blackened beach, every harassment of whales triggered ire, until it seemed the oil was inside me” (92).  She goes on to compare the scene to a “war zone” (92).  This realization that some of the worst fears of the researchers are becoming reality is one of the most emotional moments in the book and Saulitis uses Cassells’ poetry to highlight that.

Saulitis uses a poetic epigraph again to begin the last section of the book, titled, like the book itself, “Into Great Silence.”  On page 179, Saulitis begins Part 4 of her book with a poetic quote from Li-Young Lee.  This section of the book is by far the most emotional.  Saulitis begins to leave her day-to-day accounts of research behind and allows herself to ruminate on the emotions and repercussions connected to the loss that she is witnessing and the grief that she is feeling.  She becomes more introspective and more speculative, trading in scientific research for meditations on death, loss, and ultimately hope.

Saulitis also chooses to begin her second to last chapter with poetry by Peggy Shumaker.  In this chapter, Chapter 47, Saulitis begins to write in present tense.  This is a chapter in which she uses some of the most introspective, reflective language.  It is in this chapter that she revisits her battle with cancer and relates it back to the story of the whales.  She reflects on the process of writing the book.  At the very end of the chapter we see Saulitis as the author who began the book  meeting herself as present author directly and telling us how her views have changed.  Not only does she begin the chapter with poetry, she rewrites the poetry as the title of the chapter.  The poem that she uses ends with the line, “In a language lost to us/god is singing” (239).  She chooses to name this chapter “In a Language Lost to Us, Eyak Is Singing.”  These poetic devices set her reader up for a very poignant ending.

Saulitis does not only use the poetry of others in her account of her whale research and the loss of the pod.  She also brings her own poetry into the retelling.  This happens most often in Saulitis’ use of letters to her parents and her own journal entries from the time.  These things give the reader a penetrating look into the narrator’s relationship with the world around her.  Her letters are often strikingly evocative.  Saulitis makes a real effort to pull those around her into her world.  For example, in her letter to her parents, she writes, “The hemlocks, gray-barked and bearded with lichen, remind me of ancient men in Tai Chi poses.  Gnarled, wind-scoured, half alive, they seem to hold each cry, each gasp of the Sound under oil, under boats, under trash, under storms, like memory given form.  When I lean my body against one, I’m dizzy from their knowledge” (80).  This kind of lyrical language does not just describe the place to the reader, but makes the reader also feel the connection and emotion attached to this place as if we are there with Saulitis and feeling the same sense of connection and attachment.

The emotion and passion with which she writes to her parents also comes through in her journal entries.  Amid a myriad of observations about wildlife, one journal entry muses, “If I sat here all day, what would fill these pages?  Out of nowhere, a helicopter.  Clouds sink and rise, wind rises and stills, the air becomes moister and cooler.  It’s impossible to predict what will happen next” (135).  This kind of imagery and introspection is incredibly effective.  It is clear in both her journal and in many of her correspondences that she is of that place.  There’s an immediacy about those passages that brings the reader into the experience.  In these instances, the reader can feel the place and Saulitis’ connection to it in a very powerful way.  Additionally, the speculation that she engages in here allows the reader to feel the possibility that the place holds.

This kind of lyrical language is juxtaposed with more straightforward accounts of her scientific studies.  She gives not only detached scientific explanations, but also an emotional sense of loss.  This juxtaposition comes to bear on both the factual portions and the poetic portions of Saulitis’ writing.  The lyrical portions are given a sense of authority when they are seen next to the research of a scientist who has been studying the place and the whales for years.  The scientific portions are made much more poignant and the reader connects with them much more when they are placed alongside poetic accounts.  Saulitis gives us not only facts on a page, but these facts are given meaning and weight through her use of poetry and poetic language.  Rather than undermining the validity of the scientific research that Saulitis did, it intensifies it.  The poetry and the science both become more authentic and more true.

Saulitis becomes most lyrical and introspective at the very end of her book.  She begins her last chapter writing:

Fine mist falling, fog down to the decks of boats in the harbor. On the breakwater, shags and herons cluster, hunch-shouldered against gusts.  I see them through the spaces in his ribs.  I stare down into the cradle of his rib cage, basket of bones, hoop of barrel staves, empty frame… I want to crawl inside, huddle at his skull’s base, a dark, secret place, to listen (241).

The strength of this writing is in the way it plays with images and lyricism.  We can feel the sense of longing and loss inherent in the way Saulitis talks about the space between ribs and wanting to crawl inside.  But we can also feel the sense of hope and connection in the resiliency of the hunch-shouldered herons and listening.  This echoes the feelings and imagery that she uses at the very end of the book in which she writes, “That what’s broken can be mended. That what’s shattered can be made whole.  That what’s damaged can be repaired. That the end of the story is ‘and then –‘  And then there was Eyak. Always and forever. Amen” (245).  In this, she closes the book much in the same way she began it, through the lens of a poet, someone who felt on a very special level a connection to a group of whales and a place and wants to bring that connection to the reader.

As writers of nonfiction, we can use these devices in our own writing as well.  Like Saulitis, we can include poetic epigraphs to heighten the poignancy of our nonfiction stories.  We can also use poetic language, such as metaphors, to share not only the factual details of our experiences but also the emotional facets.  We can juxtapose the lyrical, emotional language of our areas of expertise or personal experience to give our readers a fuller, more true picture of the events.  The use of poetic language in nonfiction can serve to enhance the experiences we are sharing with our readers.  Evocative, lyrical language can help take stories off the page and make them more visceral and relatable for our readers.

into great silence is also available on amazon.com.

A Mess o’ News

For those of you keeping track at home, you’ll notice that it’s been nearly two months since I posted.  It’s been a whirlwind around here and my poor little Lightning Droplets blog had been put on the backburner because of it.  Lots of exciting things have happened, though, and I’d like to share!

My last post was in November, when I — bravely? insanely? masochistically? — took on my first NaNoWriMo in the middle of my first semester of an MFA Program and my first semester teaching college composition.  I did not reach the goal of 50,000 words, but I did feel like I accomplished a lot.  I started a novel I’m quite excited about and reached my all time daily peak (6,000 words in one day!) and even my monthly best at 17,165 words on one piece (I did write a few other things in November).  You might know from my Write Fast post that I am not a fast writer, but in November, I averaged over 500 words a day.  This is about the same word count as Tom Robbins, who is a favie fave of mine, so I am feeling pretty good about that.

Also in November, I found out that I won a grant!  The grant pays for my class to publish a collection of essays written by my students.  It also pays for me to go to two writing conferences.  So, anyone going to AWP this year will see me there!  Woohoo for a free week in Seattle!  I’ll also be going to the Pacific Rim Conference on Literature and Rhetoric in Anchorage, so that will be a nice little weekend, too.

By the time the end of the semester rolled around, I had been nominated for Best of the Net, published in Yemassee, Flash Frontier, Exegesis, and Saw Palm (forthcoming), written 15 solid pieces in three different genres, done two panel presentations, a roundtable discussion, two craft papers, a position paper, and two Prezis, contributed to the WriteAlaska website, produced a full-length book with my students, read 18 books,submitted work to sixty literary magazines, and drank many, many pints of Alaskan beer.

You can see why my little blog here has been neglected.  I have lots planned for next semester as well, but Lightning Droplets will hopefully get a little more attention as I settle in more to my new life and my new home in the Arctic.

Update: Also, just to let people know, I have joined Amazon’s Affiliate Program. So… Lightning droplets is now a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Call for Submissions: Permafrost Magazine

Permafrost Magazine is now accepting submissions.

Permafrost Magazine is the farthest north literary journal for writing and the arts.   Founded in 1977, Permafrost is housed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks MFA program and run by dedicated creative writing graduate students. We publish a winter print issue as well as a spring online issue, both of which feature compelling poetry, fiction, and literary nonfiction by established writers and new voices alike.  In Alaska, our unique environment shapes our perspective, but Permafrost seeks original voices from all over the world.

Submit

Regular submissions for the print edition are read between September 1 and December 15. All pieces receive three independent readings from our staff of volunteer readers, all of whom are graduate students or faculty in the English Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The average turn-around for regular submissions is approximately three months.

If your submission arrives after our December 15 deadline, it will then be considered for the May online edition.  The deadline for submissions to the online edition is April 15.

You can submit by mail or online here: http://permafrostmag.submishmash.com.  Please note that we are charging a $3 fee for submitting online, which is comparable to the cost of postage and mailing materials and helps offset some of the journal’s expenses.

To submit by mail, send to:
Permafrost
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Department of English
P.O. Box 755720
Fairbanks, AK 99775-0640

ALWAYS ENCLOSE AN SASE.
Your work will not be returned or responded to without one.

Contributors will receive one copy of the issue in which their work appears. Additional copies can be purchased at the reduced price of $5.

Email submissions will not be read.

PROSE (FICTION AND NON-FICTION): Typed and double-spaced with author’s name, address, phone, and email at the top of page one, with each page after numbered with name at top. We welcome prose submissions of less than 8,000 words (more if it’s really great). Notify us if you’d like your manuscript returned. Always include an SASE.

POETRY: Typed with author’s name, address, phone, and email at the top of each page. Poetry does NOT need to be double spaced; please submit it as you would like it to appear. Poems of more than one page should have the author’s last name, along with page number, at the top of each following pages. No length maximums, as we like the idea of publishing something truly epic. Please do not submit more than five poems at once. Include an SASE.

ARTWORK: Photographs, drawings, cover art, etc. will be considered.

Don’t be discouraged if your first submission is not accepted, and please specify if your submission is simultaneous.Permafrost also sponsors literary contests for fiction and poetry.

Racking up More than Just Rejections

Inspired by a list of 100 Best Ways to Becoming a Better Writer on thecopybot.com, I decided in July that I was going to follow Number 66: Rack up Rejections.  I set off on a crazy adventure in which I submitted work to 30 literary magazines in 30 days.  At the time, I was really just expecting to get some practice in the litmag scene and also start steeling myself to the idea that if I wanted to write, I’d have to come to terms with being rejected.

It turns out, I learned more than I could have ever expected.  It was such a powerful learning experience that I am doing it again this month.

I have been racking up the rejections.  They are trickling in slowly due to slow response times.  This is kind of nice so that I don’t have to hear 30 No!s all at one time.  But I haven’t been getting only negative responses, either.

Flash Frontier, a purveyor of fine flash fiction, accepted a piece I wrote long ago about Alaska for their August 2013 Issue: Snow.

And that’s not the only positive response I’ve gotten.  More news on that front as the publications come out!