Contests, Gilchrist, and a Poem: Mini-Memoir

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 go to the About section of this blog, or just click here, you can find an announcement of a new contest from Memoir (and) journal I reviewed here.

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,

tug-of-war follows.

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.

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About Shirley Hershey Showalter

Author of memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. Blogging about Magical Memoir Moments and Jubilación -- vocation in the second half of life.
This entry was posted in Personal Reflections, Tips, Writing Tips and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Contests, Gilchrist, and a Poem: Mini-Memoir

  1. Barbara Josenhans says:

    Hmm…maybe after this upcoming audition is over I will need a new challenge. Since I do my best practicing under pressure, perhaps I need to consider writing under pressure too. Intriguing…

  2. Barbara Josenhans says:

    Hmm…maybe after this upcoming audition is over I will need a new challenge. Since I do my best practicing under pressure, perhaps I need to consider writing under pressure too. Intriguing…

  3. Barbara Josenhans says:

    Hmm…maybe after this upcoming audition is over I will need a new challenge. Since I do my best practicing under pressure, perhaps I need to consider writing under pressure too. Intriguing…

  4. shirleyhs says:

    Go for it, Barbara! You have a great sense of story and good comic timing. Your blogs could provide you with a great source of inspiration for some longer memoir pieces. Even fb entries, like the exchange between you and a friend about your feelings of being the younger sister of two stars. It might even be time to think about writing about Alicia. You've got talent–and not all of it is musical. Being a musician will help you with the part that is hardest for me–structure.

  5. shirleyhs says:

    Go for it, Barbara! You have a great sense of story and good comic timing. Your blogs could provide you with a great source of inspiration for some longer memoir pieces. Even fb entries, like the exchange between you and a friend about your feelings of being the younger sister of two stars. It might even be time to think about writing about Alicia. You've got talent–and not all of it is musical. Being a musician will help you with the part that is hardest for me–structure.

  6. shirleyhs says:

    Go for it, Barbara! You have a great sense of story and good comic timing. Your blogs could provide you with a great source of inspiration for some longer memoir pieces. Even fb entries, like the exchange between you and a friend about your feelings of being the younger sister of two stars. It might even be time to think about writing about Alicia. You've got talent–and not all of it is musical. Being a musician will help you with the part that is hardest for me–structure.

  7. Chelsea says:

    Really enjoy seeing your own photos and the personal reflections! Interesting poem, it's also kind of Mary & Martha, right?

  8. Chelsea says:

    Really enjoy seeing your own photos and the personal reflections! Interesting poem, it's also kind of Mary & Martha, right?

  9. Chelsea says:

    Really enjoy seeing your own photos and the personal reflections! Interesting poem, it's also kind of Mary & Martha, right?

  10. Chelsea says:

    Really enjoy seeing your own photos and the personal reflections! Interesting poem, it's also kind of Mary & Martha, right?

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