I’ve gotten a lot of good writing news recently, so I thought I’d round it all up to share with you in a post here. As any experienced writer can tell you, sending work out for publication or pursuing literary opportunities of any sort involves a lot of rejection, and learning to process that rejection is one of the major challenges of being an artist in a capitalist society. And let me tell you, I’ve logged hundreds of rejections in my submission tracking spreadsheet, so when the good news rolls in it seems appropriate to celebrate.
First off, on March 12th I was accepted to the Tent Creative Writing workshop at the Yiddish Book Center, which oddly enough happens to be my birthday (the workshop is free to all accepted, by the way, so I strongly encourage any Jewish writers reading this to apply next year). Judaism is a pretty significant part of my identity, but I didn’t feel particularly connected to the Jewish community I grew up in, and I’ve been yearning for a way to connect with other Jews who share my values and interests the past few years. I can imagine no greater gift than spending the first week of June reading, writing, and engaging in critical conversation with some 20 other members of the tribe(s).
And just a few days into my 29th year, I received the news that Poet Hilda Raz awarded 1st place in the Vandewater Award for Poetry to my suite of closeted queer gangster poems: Luciano Serafino’s Safe House, Luciano Serafino’s Lover, and Luciano Serafino’s Assassin. The $650 award is selected by an independent judge for one to three poems by a graduate student in the Ohio State MFA Program in Creative Writing. It’s also the largest amount of money anyone’s ever given me just for writing poems (as opposed to teaching), which feels pretty great! Congratulations to the other Vandewater winners, Megan Peak and Cait Weiss, who are also taking home cash money!
Last fall, I made a guest appearance on Ohio State English: The Podcast to talk with writers Colleen Morrissey and Zachary Leven and podcast host Haley Cowans about about how various forms of online publication have effected the larger literary conversation. Haley also interviewed Ohio State Creative Writing Professor Lee Martin about his blog, The Least You Need to Know. Sitting down with these brilliant folks really got me thinking, and if you’re interested in blogging or online publishing, I expect it will be worth your time to listen in, now that the recording is available here.
Privilege and chance both play pretty significant roles in the whims of the publishing world, but when I get this much good gay Jewish poetry news at once, I have to think I’m doing something right. As a white male middle-class writer I’ve had access to educational and editorial opportunities that a lot of folks can only dream of, and while I hope to contribute to changing those inequalities, there’s no way I can wish away my privilege. However, my conviction in the purpose of my writing and my sense of its audience has really grown over the past year or so, and I think that’s a major factor in all this good news, too. Perhaps the best news is that you’ll be able to experience that sharpened sense of voice and identity through poems appearing over the next few months in Forklift, Ohio, Harpur Palate, Meridian, Muzzle, Ninth Letter, and Winter Tangerine Review.