The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Archive for the tag “writers”

Upcoming Contest Deadlines

Winning or placing in a contest brings writers validation, publicity that gives weight to resumes and platforms, some handy prize money, and free copies of anthologies/magazine issues containing the winning entry that can be handed out at book fairs and conventions. We can’t enter them all or we’ll go broke paying the entry fees. My suggestion: if you’re just getting started, don’t try the most prestigious contests first because your competition will include widely known authors. Look for those where you have your best chance in terms of that competition and the contest theme.

Upcoming Deadlines:

  • Bellevue Literary Prize – Poetry and Prose. Three prizes of $1,000 each. Works about health, healing, illness, body, and mind. Online submission system. $20 entry fee. July 1 deadline.
  • Boston Review – Poetry. $1,500 and publication for a poem or group of poems. Up to five poems on no more than ten pages. $20 entry fee. June 1 deadline.
  • Glimmer Train – Short story award for new writers. Prize of $2,500 and publication for winning story between 1,000 and 12,000 words. $18 entry fee. Submit between May 1 and June 30.
  • Lost Horse Press – Idaho Prize for Poetry. $1,000 and publication. Submit manuscript of at least 48 pages. $20 to $30 entry fee depending on whether you submit by mail or online. May 15 deadline.
  • New American Press – New American Fiction Prize. $1,000 and publication. Submit a selection of short stories, flash fiction, novella or novel of at least 100 pages. $25 entry fee. June 15 deadline.
  • Philadelphia Stories – Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction. $2,000 and publication. Winner will receive free travel ans lodging to read at Rosemont College in October. Short  story up to 8,000 words. $15 entry fee. June 15 deadline.

To keep up with contests throughout the year, look at the Poets & Writers database of Writing Contests, Grants & Awards


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Eulalie and Washerwoman, a story about a conjure woman fighting the Klan set in the Florida Panhandle of the 1950s.


Is language a prostitute queen?

“Nothing is so easy as to deceive one’s self when one does not lack wit and is familiar with all the niceties of language. Language is a prostitute queen who descends and rises to all roles. Disguises herself, arrays herself in fine apparel, hides her head and effaces herself; an advocate who has an answer for everything, who has always foreseen everything, and who assumes a thousand forms in order to be right. The most honorable of men is he who thinks best and acts best, but the most powerful is he who is best able to talk and write” – George Sand, in “Indiana”

A character in a TV show who was talking about abuse said that scars and bruises heal, but abusive words said to another person last forever. As soon as she said it, I thought of this passage in George Sand’s 1832 novel Indiana. It was written when sentiments in France were in a state of flux between being ruled by a hereditary monarch or a constitutional monarch. The debate was endless, but veiled somewhat behind the eloquence of well-practiced aristocratic conversations that were an art form well-outside the scope of today’s conversations at dinner and formal affairs.

Yet, as a writer, I am disturbed by the passage. Many people say that actions speak louder than words. There is truth in that, I think. But many people also believe that the pen is mightier than the sword. Over time, perhaps, though not on a battlefield.

Today, as we hear a lot of words from both sides of the political spectrum, we’re hearing a lot about biased news and fake news, so it becomes harder and harder to tell what the truth of any matter is. If language is, or can be used as a prostitute queen, people are being quite often swayed these days by more words than actions. Yet, I take issue with the suggestion that those of us who write are somehow in league with Voldemort–or the devil of your choice–and cannot be trusted.

I don’t think words are forever as the TV actress said on the show, but in the context of the scene, that idea made sense. Most words are, I think, forgotten. Or, their importance dims with time as people hear fresh words that make more sense, that seem more true to them, that they can prove by doing a little soul searching or fact checking.

Yet, I think that with times as they are now, a lot of people would agree with George Sand’s author’s comment in her novel. Personally, I don’t think the words–or language itself–are at fault. The people who use words badly, who have thinly veiled agendas, who seldom bother with the truth, who replace facts with opinions and/or slick writing–they are the ones making us distrust words while giving those words more power over us than they actually have.



Why The NEA Is So Vital To America

“The NEA’s Creative Writing Fellowships enable recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and career advancement. While this nealogosupport – both financial and non-financial — can be important at any stage of a writer’s journey, it can be particularly encouraging to someone just starting out, trying to gain recognition and get a foothold on what a writer’s life can be. Examples of this abound. Take Alice Walker: she received her NEA fellowship in 1970; in 1983, she became the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for “The Color Purple.” There’s also Louise Erdrich, Michael Cunningham, Maxine Hong Kingston and current Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Hererra. More recent fellows include Celeste Ng, Major Jackson, Sandra Beasley, Teá Obreht, and Justin Torres.”

Source: Why The NEA Is So Vital To America – Culture –

If you’re an emerging author–or would like to become one–the NEA offers some programs that might help you. Check out their grants here.

You may also find their news and publications useful. (Check out their literature page.) The arts are what we do. The National Endowment for the Arts is one of our valuable resources for networking, information, trends and financial assistance.


Goodbye, 2016, it’s been interesting

If you’ve come here expecting hope or wisdom, I have nothing for you.

According to some arcane and insidious federal law, writers are suppose to make pronouncements at the end of the year. Lots of writers have already gotten their Goodbye 2016 articles, memos and posts out of the way. In a few cases, their pronouncements looked like they’d been recycled, especially when they said “We won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore” and “We expected a return to normalcy but didn’t get it.”

A few thoughts come to mind:

  • happynewyear20162016 was so bad we’re never going to make up lies to tell about it while getting drunk
  • 2016 was so bad, the government’s planning to erase it from the calendar and ban any discussions about it in high school and college history classes
  • 2016 was so bad, people born this year will be allowed to fudge their birth dates on all important papers.
  • 2016 was so bad, people are calling it “The Year the Karma Train Came Back.”
  • 2016 was so bad, the numbers 2, 0, 1, and 6 will be retired in the same manner that the names of horrible hurricanes are retired.
  • 2016 was so bad, anything good that happened during the year will probably have unintended consequences.
  • 2016 was so bad, people serving time in the joint won’t get credit for the year.
  • 2016 was so bad, alien ships approaching the planet aborted their missions.
  • 2016 was so bad, half the wine made during the year has already turned to vinegar.
  • 2016 was so bad, kids couldn’t even make lemonade out of all the lemons.
  • 2016 was so bad, ministers told those who got upset, “well, at least you have eternal life.”
  • 2016 was so bad, CNN stopped covering the news because reporters, anchors and commentators were too busy covering their asses.
  • 2016 was so bad, the deluge of fake news was more palatable to 98.6% of the people rather than the real news.
  • 2016 was so bad, people were too depressed to make any resolutions for 2017.
  • 2016 was so bad, Santa didn’t even have a “nice” list.
  • 2016 was so bad, drivel became the new normal.
  • 2016 was so bad, even Russia got hacked off.
  • 2016 was so bad, celebrities start dying “too soon” on purpose.
  • 2016 was so bad, the news contained more gallows humor than death row.
  • 2016 was so bad, more people than usual started talking to the trees.
  • 2016 was so bad, no angels got their wings.

So there it is.



Your one story – have you figured out what it is?

“You will have only one story,” she had said. “You’ll write your one story many ways. Don’t ever worry about story. You have only one.”

― Elizabeth Strout, My Name is Lucy Barton

Claire Messud writes in her New York Times review of Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton that “Lucy Barton’s story is, in meaningful ways, about loneliness, about an individual’s isolation when her past — all that has formed her — is invisible and incommunicable to those around her.”

Lucy Barton, who is an aspiring writer, is told by a writer and teacher that she only has one story. For Lucy, that story might be the multiple shades of loneliness. She has felt it and she has chosen to write stories that help people feel less alone.

lucybartonMy Name is Lucy Barton, like Kent Haruf’s Plainsong, is so unadorned and lacking in sentimentality that I kept wishing Strout would suffer a mental lapse and write one purple prose phrase to inject life–even false life–into what I thought in the opening pages was a going to be a barren novel, a story so deadpan it was dead.

But as I read, I saw that the story was being raised from the dead and began to wonder if the author was animating a monster or a human being too beautiful for ordinary words. A little of both, perhaps. By the time I finished the book, I saw that it could not have been written any other way and that perhaps the life in it was precious and dear like the one blooming flower in the middle  of the desert.

The bookseller protagonist, Jean Perdu, in Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop can “read” his customers’ needs in somewhat of a psychic sense and then hand them the books they require for whatever ails them. Perhaps he would hand his lonely customers copies of My Name is Lucy Barton because it’s a wonderful antidote to loneliness, fulfilling the desire of the fictional writer Lucy Barton and, for all I know, of Elizabeth Strout as well.

Do people really have only one story? If so, is this the story of their lives? What does it mean to apply this notion to a writer? Certainly writers don’t write the same book over and over as the output of most widely known writers attests. So maybe that story is something other than the plot itself, a theme maybe, or a focus on something like injustice, or triumph over adversity, or–yes–loneliness. Put that way, maybe we do have one “story” that we come back to in all kinds of ways whenever we write. Put that way, that one story is our great strength, the kind of strength that produces books Jean Perdu might dispense to his book shop’s customers who need them most.

If you write, I hope you have discovered–or are in the process of discovering–what your one story is. Among your talents and gifts, knowing that is like finding the philosopher’s stone. But don’t tell anyone. Let them find it for themselves the way I found the life in My Name is Lucy Barton. When readers discover your strengths while reading your work, those strengths have a much greater impact than any sentimental prescription in the author’s note at the front of the book that explains what you’re trying to do.

If you haven’t discovered your one story yet, it’s always possible that your muse already knows what it is and that you’ve already been writing that story many ways. Perhaps you’re so close to that story, you don’t have its name or summary inside your head. Your readers probably know it.

Perhaps your muse doesn’t yet know what your one story is because you are still discovering yourself, a thing you must do before your writing takes flight. Don’t stop looking, for I can promise you one thing, on the day you find your one story, you will feel that same joy Lucy Barton did when she said, “I was so happy. Oh, I was happy.”


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the the Florida Panhandle novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”






Poets & Writers Information Clearing House

I enjoy reading this magazine. I also enjoy its online presence from writers’ news to the database of grants and competitions. However, the page filled with links to Poets & Writers articles is a must, especially for new writers. This solid information is so much better than the quasi-SPAM webinars and pitches that appear in our e-mail in-baskets and litter our Facebook newsfeeds.

Here are the topics: Literary Journals and Magazines; Publishing Your Book; Literary Agents; Creative Writing Contests and Competitions; Vanity Publishers; Copyright Information for Writers; Book Promotion & Publicity; Writers Conferences, Colonies, and Workshops; MFA Programs, Literary Organizations; Self-Publishing.

And here’s the link:

Click on the graphic.

Click on the graphic.

It’s like a goldmine. Maybe better.

Here’s hoping all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying a day off, or possible a day fighting a locusts’ plague of shoppers out at the Black Friday sales.




Tell me a story

Those of us who were lucky had parents and grandparents who read us stories at night before we went to bed. I have no idea why the authors of my favorite stories wrote them, but those stories showed me an infinite number of cultures, situations, incidents, people, events, settings and stuff that excited me or scared me.

We all tell stories, I think. Whether it’s the grim afternoon of a funeral, the happy afternoon of a family barbecue, or people sitting around a bar or a pool, the conversation invariably gets around to “remember when” and “did I ever tell you about the time when we did such and such?”

Some people say our lives are stories and/or that we see our past as strings of events in story form. Perhaps so. I don’t know if fiction writers make up more stuff than people spinning yarns about the wild and crazy things they did years ago, but we do see the possibility of many things that may never have happened or might not happen in the future.

We take storytelling a step further than everyone else: we write down our stories and put them in books and magazines and hope the resulting derring-do, boy-meets-girl, police procedural or spy thriller finds readers who enjoy those kinds of plots. We may add magic or we may set the story in the future with technology not yet available.

Somehow, we all understand stories, and use them to understand each other as well as ourselves.

Somehow, we all understand stories, and use them to understand each other as well as ourselves.

Some authors have an overwhelming reason for writing what they write. They want to inspire people, point out the insanity or war, shine a light on racial problems, show strong people surviving hideous family situations, or explore challenges of the environment or the social or political scene. That’s okay, I guess, as long as the story reads first as a story and not an editorial with a bare-bones plot tacked on.

When people ask me why I write, my answers don’t usually satisfy them. If I were Stephen King, they might write down the same response as wisdom and gospel. As it is, I say I like playing make-believe with various kinds of characters and situations until I suddenly have a story with a reasonable beginning, middle and and end.

If you write, you might have different motivations.

One motivation that seems to be a waste of time is to have a goal of selling a hundred million copies of our books. If that’s a writer’s primary goal, I think they’ll have trouble writing their first salable book. And it it happens, I think they’ll need to be a very special kind of person to keep such sales figures from jinxing the next book they plan to write.

I’ll admit, it’s a bit discouraging to tell somebody–in response to the “what field are you in?” question–that I’m a writer, and then when they ask for the names of my books, they say, “never heard of them.” I don’t usually point out that most people also know very little about the names and titles of more than a few of the nation’s top writers. Those of us who read a lot, read books most non-readers have never heard of.

This is part of the business–people who’ve never heard of you and people who think you should have a really exciting answer to the question “why do you write.”

Even so, we’re the people who provide the words for the parents and grandparents who are there with a book when a child says “tell me a story.” No doubt, that is another reason why we write.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “The Sun Singer,” “Sarabande,” “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “At Sea,” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”

YouTube and Amazon: Gain Exposure by Using Both

“It’s becoming evident that newsletters are a valuable tool for authors to have. Shawn Inmon recently discussed the importance of newsletters, and one of the things he said was, ‘The reason why is simple: You control how and when you access a mailing list, as opposed to investing everything into working the Amazon or social media algorithms.’ That really resonated with me, so I decided it was time for me to take his advice seriously.”

Source: YouTube and Amazon: Gain Exposure by Using Both – Indies Unlimited

As with everything else in the business–that of writing and marketing books–there seem to be so many variables about what works and what doesn’t. In this Indies Unlimited article, Melinda Clayton has found a couple of variables that work for those of us trying to get a newsletter started with more than our spouse and uncle Zeke on the mailing list.


How other languages can reveal the secrets to happiness

“The limits of our language are said to define the boundaries of our world. This is because in our everyday lives, we can only really register and make sense of what we can name. We are restricted by the words we know, which shape what we can and cannot experience.”

Source: How other languages can reveal the secrets to happiness

conversationWhen we study other languages, it doesn’t take long to find words that have no direct translation into our own. Just as exasperating is discovering that something we can express in our own language with a single word has no correlation in the language we’re studying.

As writers, we try to get around being chained by the language in which we write by (sometimes) making up words (though not going as far out as James Joyce), using metaphors, experimenting with experimental prose, using widely known words in other languages, and polishing short passages so that we can get around the limits of our available word choices.

I like this article, which focuses on happiness, because it articulates a problem writers often see but that is, in a way, hidden from anyone who speaks a single language and has never studied any others: our perception is limited but we don’t realize that it’s limited.


Why You Should Join All Social Media Networks

Jane Friedman’s blog suggests this: “I recommend that as soon as you find out about a new social media service, join it.”

Source: Why You Should Join All Social Media Networks

She admits at the outset that most of us don’t want to spend more time using social media. It can be addictive and we keep checking this one and that one. But, she has an idea worth considering here.

Join early, get the best possible user name, and then (hopefully) get found by all those people who sign up after you.

She doesn’t even see a downside to letting the account sit there relatively inactive until the place takes off or you feel a need to use it.

Maybe this will work.


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