Emerging Writer Prize Open

Time to send in your submissions for the Emerging Writer Prize.

It’s free.

If you win, you get registration to attend the San Francisco Writers Conference over President’s Weekend in February.

Answer the prompt Why I write.

Send a couple pages of your best work or an excerpt from your best work.

Leave me laughing, crying, starving for more after I read your prompt response and your work.

And you too, could join the elite cohort of winners of the Victoria A. Hudson Emerging Writing Prize.

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Ruben Quesada Three by Five Part III

ruben 3Finishing up Three by Five’s interview with Poet Ruben Quesada.


VAH: The blank page stares back at you, what gets you over writers block?

RQ: Art is a big inspiration for me, so when I’m feeling blocked I turn to the works of art that might have inspired others. Usually something new will strike me about the painting and I’ll be able to start working. Music is helpful too. Anything from Mariah Carey to the Beach Boys to Wagner can provide inspiration.

VAH: What does your typical writing day include?

RQ: Right now, it includes a lot of revision since I’m getting my next manuscript ready. It includes reading, listening to music, or if I’m in the mood, having a movie playing in the background as I work.

VAH: What are your thoughts on the writing community – are there writing or author organizations you belong to or online sites ou frequent for community, conversing, networking or commiserating? And do you have some favorites?

RQ: I’m very active on Twitter, which has really given me the opportunity to connect with other writers and maintain friendships I’ve made with writers at AWP or Canto Mundo. Twitter is a great platform to talk about writing or just share about the work of other writers that I enjoy.

VAH:  Traditional or independent publishing? Or a little of both? What choices have you made and why did you go the way you have?

RQ: It depends on what your goals are in terms of writing. There are many wonderful independent publishers that support their writers and have helped get some terrific work out into the world. My first collection, Next Extinct Mammal, was with an independent press and that was a good experience. I’d like to be published by a bigger press as well. What is most important is to publish with people who you are comfortable with and would be proud to say published your work. Never publish with a press just because it’s a publication. Make sure it’s a good fit for both of you.

VAH: Best bit of advice to save another writer some anxiety or heartache?

RQ: Don’t spend too much comparing yourself to other writers in terms of career trajectory. Things happen at a different pace for everyone. Be ambitious; strive for more, work hard, and it will happen. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you want it to.

VAH: What’s next for you? Do you have a work in progress you can tell us about?

RQ: I’m finishing my second collection of poetry right now. I’m also working on a paper about queer horror movies called “The Horror of Heterosexuality.” I’m excited to have started some new poems that I think are the start of a third collection. I’m also working on video poems. My video poem “Dark Matter” was recently released by Poetryseen.com.  RubenQuesada w book cover

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I Remember

Author and playwright Mary H. Webb often used the prompt “I remember” in her writing groups and classes. Recently, the Military Partner’s and Families Coalition invited me to write a piece honoring the 3rd anniversary of the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Today is the 3rd anniversary from when that repeal went into effect.

“I remember” is a powerful and effective writing prompt when at a loss for how to begin either because the blank page is staring back or because the idea peculating in your mind is just too big to tackle. Try it next time you’re searching for just what to say as you create a piece of nonfiction. (Works for fiction too.)

Here is my post at MPFC.

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Ruben Quesada Part II, Three by Five Author Interviews

ruben 3Welcome to Part II of the three segment interview with Poet Ruben Quesada.

VAH: Ruben, do you have a favorite conference or writing event and what makes that event a favorite?

RQ: Just one? Vermont Studio Center was a great experience because you are given so much time and space to write. I also enjoy that it’s not just writers in residence at VSC. I had the chance to meet visual artists as well. Being able to speak with them about how they approached their work let me have new perspective on my process.

VAH: The opportunity to speak with others about how one’s “art” develops is also one of the draws for me when attending conferences or retreats. So often gems are traded from that experience of sharing the process of creation.

You write and teach writing – are you a full time writer or full time teacher?

RQ: I’d say if you are serious about writing, you are a full-time writer regardless of what else you do in life to make money. I’m also an assistant professor. I teach poetry, digital storytelling, playwriting, queer studies, composition, and screenwriting. Both teaching and writing are my occupations. Sometimes they compete for my time, but I make the time required for both because that what I want to do.

VAH: When you are the reader, What books or authors keep you up at night because you can’t put them down?

RQ: The Clerk’s Tale by Spencer Reece; Space, in Chains by Laura Kasischke; When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz; Hustle by David Tomas Martinez; Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.

VAH:  What book or series of books would you want if stranded on a deserted island and why?

RQ: Obviously they would have to books I would return to again and again, so I’d want some Ovid, Gabriela Mistral, Thomas Hardy, and W.H. Auden. I’m a fan of the quotidian and high art and these writers offer me insight into the high, the low, and everything in-between. I want to feel alive and be reminded of it when I read and that’s why I’d choose these writers.

VAH: That has to be one of my favorite questions in Three by Five as each author gives such interesting responses.

If there was a movie about your life and times, who would play you? What would the theme song be, and why?

RQ: Some friends and I were actually had a conversation about who would play us in movies and it was really difficult to come up with someone for me. There are not enough Latino actors working today. Perhaps an unknown actor would be best.

VAH: Ahh, an opportunity is out there then. Ruben, thank you for contributing your insights and comments with this second installment of Three by Five.

Read some of Ruben’s work at poetry blog The The Poetry.

The third interview installment will publish September 23rd. More from Ruben Quesada then!

Ruben Quesada is the author of Next Extinct Mammal (2011) and Luis Cernuda: Exiled from the Throne of Night (2008). He is Poetry Editor for Cobalt Review, Codex Journal and The Cossack Review. His writing has appeared in The  American Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, The Rumpus, and Superstition Review. He teaches English and creative
writing for the performing arts at Eastern Illinois University.

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Dr. Ruben Quesda @ Three by Five Part I

rubenThis month, Three by Five is happy to host Dr. Ruben Quesda, Ph.D. He is a Poet as well as an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing for the Performing Arts at Eastern Illinois University.


VAH: Ruben, Three by Five always starts with the inquiry why do you write?

RQ: I write because art and poetry are meant to push boundaries and discuss issues in the community that might be uncomfortable or that people might not want to discuss. The goal of my poetry is to cause conversation about race, queerness, death, and our human experience. We deal with big issues everyday, so writing is a way for me to process and try to understand them.

VAH: Some challenging topics to address. What do you do when the blank page stares back at you?

RQ: Art is a big inspiration for me, so when I’m feeling blocked I turn to the works of art that might have inspired others. Usually something new will strike me about the painting and I’ll be able to start working. Music is helpful too. Anything from Mariah Carey to the Beach Boys to Wagner can provide inspiration.

VAH: What inspired you to become a writer?

RQ: I published a poem anonymously in my high school paper during my freshman year and it caused quite a stir. I knew then that there was power in my writing. It was exciting. I continued writing and in my senior I won a high school writing competition sponsored by the Los Angeles Times. And it was that moment that I knew writing was all I wanted to do for a living.

VAH: What is your best advice for emerging writers who are discovering that writing is what they want to do for a living?

RQ: Read. Write. Repeat. It’s common advice, but it’s that way because it’s true. Write as much as you can. Read as much as you can. If you are interested in a particular style read all that you can about it and become an expert on it. I think it’s important to know the history of the style you are writing in, so that you know how you fit into the tradition, but also that you know how you are contributing something new to it as well.

VAH: Knowing and understanding the style of writing a writer is growing into is an important facet of the writer’s education. What are your thoughts on studying writing? You’ve an MFA – has the degree helped your career progress or development?

RQ: I do have an MFA. It was helpful in that it allowed me to explore poetry more closely and see what it excited in me as a writer. The MFA as a studio degree is about the creation of work, which is, of course, very useful. However, it doesn’t usually allow a lot of time for the consideration of theory and how your work fits in among a particular theory or historical moment. My time at Texas Tech for my Ph.D allowed me to make such considerations.

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Introducing Ruben Quesada @ Three by Five in September

rubenRuben Quesada – Poet and Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing for the Performing Arts at Eastern Illinois University

Dr. Ruben Quesada is founder and publisher of Codex Journal, poetry editor at The Cossack Review and Cobalt Review, and poetry editor at Luna Luna Magazine.

Founder of Stories & Queer, a non profit, traveling reading series whose mission is to create safe storytelling spaces for poets & writers of color in underrepresented areas of the country, he now serves as its creative consultant.

A Pushcart Prize nominee in poetry, his writing has appeared in The American Poetry Review, The California Journal of Poetics, Superstition Review, Guernica, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere.

Ruben has been a fellow and resident at CantoMundo, Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, Vermont Studio Center, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Santa Fe Art Institute, Lambda Literary Foundation Writer’s Retreat, and Idyllwild Arts Program.

Visit his webpage for info on a current call for submissions for Latin@ poets at any stage in their careers.

More about and from Dr. Ruben Quesada this month on days with a three.


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Ready Set – Emerging Writer Contest Kicks Off Soon!

The 2014 Emerging Writer Prize, awarding registration to attend the San Francisco Writers Conference in February 2015, will begin its reading period in just a few days. Are you ready?

Liz Hansen was the 2013 Emerging Writer Prize winner.

Liz Hansen was the 2013 Emerging Writer Prize winner.

Previous essays are posted so you can get an idea of what the judge (that would be me) is looking for. Why do YOU write? Every writer has a story there, how well, how original, how authentic you tell that in 600 words or less is what grabs attention and gets your entry out of the pile. But you also need an excellent writing sample. Because with the quality of writing this contest receives, sometimes it comes down to the writing sample to parse out who will rise to the top. Good luck. Looking forward to reading your words.

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Calls for submission, emerging writers and Three by Five

Thanks for surfing by and visiting. I’ve been on a bit of a break and am gearing back up writing. Please note the calls for submission and if one or more speak to you, I hope you will send in some work for consideration. Three by Five, the author and other interesting people interview series is looking for the next interviewee – so do get in contact if you’d like to be the featured interviewee during an upcoming month. The San Francisco Writers Conference is approaching in about 6 months – and this year I’ll be sponsoring the 8th annual emerging writer prize that provides one emerging writer with registration to attend the conference. If you qualify, please enter between September 8 and December 1.

More to follow -



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Review of Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet, A Portable Workshop

crafty poet coverDiane Lockward has published a writing conference masquerading as a book. The Crafty Poet, A Portable Workshop is a comprehensive collection of craft tips with

diane 4

accompanying poem and writing prompts for immediate application of what was presented in the craft tip. With 27 craft tips and and fifty-six poets contributing, this is a treasure trove of inspiration, challenge, and tutoring in the craft of creating poetry.

From an individual trying to improve through self-guidance and exploration, community workshops and writing groups, to class room instructors – poets and emerging writers alike will find worth and value in use of Lockward’s book as a resource or text.

The book is divided into ten poetic concepts covering the gamut from what generates material to revision  to recycling from the dregs and overcoming writers block. There is discussion of diction, sound, voice, imagery, layers, syntax, and lines. The Crafty Poet assumes a basic understanding of poetics, and is not for the beginner. A well-motivated and confident beginner would find this book useful though as an impetus for self-instruction. Unfamiliar terms and assumed knowledge serve as bread crumbs for deeper exploration into the craft of poetry creation. For the intended audience of the knowledgeable reader, each chapter is a delight on specific practice, review, or re-introduction on a poetic concept and application of craft.

An added jewel in each section is “The Poet on the Poem” which puts the reader in the room with Diane Lockward discussing with a poet a specific poem by that poet. Diane’s observances and the poet’s discussion loosely reflects the craft discussion for the preceding section in the book. More so, the reader hears from the poet’s own perspective what was driving that poem, what influences or experiences impact not only the poem but the work of the poet.

Sample poems (of which there are forty-five) are suggestions not end all be all answers for the prompts provided. This reflects the prompt as an entry not a destination in the creation of a poem. Consider the prompt for a particular craft tip as strategy for implementation not instructions for a particular “product” of poetic creation.

There are many formal programs for poetic instruction from community education, community college, graduate programs and writing conference workshops and retreats that immerse one into the writing community. Diane Lockward has gathered together a cornucopia of information that will educate, motivate, and inspire poets seeking rejuvenation, review and perhaps reminder on poetic concepts as well as provide the poetry student with digestible bites of craft education in a format that goes with the writer instead of the writer going to the class room or conference.

The Crafty Poet, A Portable Workshop is THE book, if I knew I’d be somewhere in isolation from the writing community, unable for whatever reason to take a class or attend a conference, stuck on a deserted island or a long train, plane, or other journey – this is the book I’d keep with me so I’d learn, be inspired and most importantly hone my own tools of the craft. You don’t need an environment of isolation to benefit from this book though – this is a resource the individual or a writing group will return to again and again.


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Poet Diane Lockward – Part III

Three by Five presents Part III and the conclusion to an interview with Poet Diane Lockward.

VAH: The blank page stares back at you, what gets you over writers block?

diane 1DL: I don’t wait for inspiration—I pursue it. That means showing up at the desk and being willing to write badly. Of course, there are days when I don’t feel like doing that, but I know that if I’m willing to do it anyhow eventually a poem will show up. I write on yellow legal pads, churning out pages and pages of garbage. Every few weeks I go over those pages and invariably find something worth saving and working on. I should probably mention that I’m not an everyday kind of writer. I know myself and my particular writing process well enough to know that I’m just not going to do that. I regard the non-writing days as gathering time. I do, however, spend a good deal of time each day doing something related to poetry.

VAH:  Brass tacks of the writing life – how do you keep up with what you send out and results of your submissions?

DL: I have a form where I list journals, poem titles, and dates as I send out submissions. As responses come in, I indicate the results on the form, circling the Acceptances, crossing out the Rejections. It’s a primitive system, but it works. I also indicate the length of time it took a journal to respond.

VAH: Diane, Do you have a favorite, inspiring quote and why it works for you?

DL: Anton Chekov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” That’s an important craft tip, beautifully said. It’s the old “show, don’t tell” advice, but in giving it, Chekov demonstrates what he means. Although Chekov was a prose writer, I keep his words in my head when I’m writing poems.

VAH: What does the typical Diane Lockward writing day include?

DL: I read poetry with breakfast—journals, books, anthologies. Then I check my email. I do some non-taxing exercises in front of the TV and watch the news. I get dressed. If it’s a writing day, I sit at my kitchen table with another cup of ginger tea, and I read some poems, steal an idea, an image, or a line and run away with it, free writing for 10-20 minutes. Then I devote some time to revising poems in progress. If there’s time, I run a few errands. Late afternoon I spend reading a novel or memoir. After dinner reading is usually a literary biography or a craft book.

VAH: I like the balance and informal structure to your work day. Writers are often working in isolation. What are your thoughts on the writing community – writing or author organizations you belong to or where online you frequent for community, online conversing, networking or commiserating? Do you have any favorite online sites?

DL: I strongly believe that we poets need to support each other’s work. We make up the majority of the audience for each other’s work. If we want people to buy and read our books, we need to do that for other poets. As the Poet Laureate of my town, I feel a responsibility to bring poetry into the community. Thus I run the two events I mentioned before—Girl Talk and the Poetry Festival. Both of these events give poets an opportunity to read in front of a packed room and to sell some books. These events also give area residents an opportunity to listen to some poetry.

I have also worked as a poet-in-the-schools and am on the roster of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. I have worked at every Dodge Poetry Festival since 2002 and I read at the one in 2006. Both my blog and my Poetry Newsletter are efforts to spread the word about poetry. I also put out a weekly Gazette for the women poets’ listserv I belong to—Wompos.

Right now I’m reading manuscripts for a book contest. And for the second time I’m a guest editor for Adanna, a literary journal which is putting out a special issue on Women and Food, so I’m reading submissions for that.

Although I know that social media gobbles up time, I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +. I don’t spend much time on either Twitter or Google +, but I like the poetry community that has become part of Facebook and have made good contacts there.

VAH: Social media can seem like a consuming job all by itself. Now for a couple bonus questions – what are three random non-writing related facts about you?

DL: My favorite dessert is Boccone Dolce. And I can make it. Three layers of meringue, each topped with melted chocolate, a layer of whipped cream, and sliced strawberries.

My favorite exercise is walking which I do with an iPod.

I feed goldfinches all summer. They have occasionally flown into a poem, for example, “April at the Arboretum.”

VAH: Boccone Dolce sounds tasty! How about a little known fact about you that will amaze or amuse?

DL: When I was a child, I would routinely eat an entire jar of dill pickles in one sitting. Then I drank the juice. A pickle juice cocktail.

VAH: Thank you Diane Lockward for taking some time with Three by Five. Coming on the 30th, a review of Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop (Wind Publications, 2013). diane 3

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