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Eligibility and Rules

Entries will be accepted from June 1, 2016 to July 15, 2016.

Entry Fee: $25 for EPIC members, $35 for non members.

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bookcover: 
The Best American Poetry 2013 cover
Author: 
David Lehman
Series: 
Best American Poetry
Publisher: 
Scribner
Genre: 
Rating: 
10
ISBN/ASIN: 

9781476708133

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Review: 

Best American Poetry 2013 is part of that "best of" series I follow with great interest, and usually do not review. I usually read the Best American Short Stories, carefully, slowly, over a great length of time. Each one deserves a long, and slow analysis, multiple re-readings, and some kind of written response as fruit from the inspiration. The same thing is true for "best of" volumes of poetry. Poetry differs because rather than a story, each poem usually provides a puzzle on many levels. I once had a language professor who said that poetry is full of inside jokes, and you only understand a poem when you've gotten past that secret gate and are "in" the poem.

The problem with reviewing an anthology is obvious. Do you pick one or two poems? Do you try to take a long view and sum up the entire table of contents? I have never come to a satisfactory decision where anthologies are concerned. But this volume has two features that I really enjoy. One is seeing which journals and magazines published the year's poetry; the other is getting familiar with the guest editor's taste and choices. This year's editor is poet Denise Duhamel. Her work is witty and polished and aches with emotion, so that is what I expected in this year's collection. (cont...)

bookcover: 
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life cover
Author: 
Dani Shapiro
Publisher: 
Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: 
Rating: 
9
ISBN/ASIN: 

9780802121400

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Review: 

Dani Shapiro's Still Writing-The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life is a book of short memoirs and essays that speak to the heart of the writing life. For writers, writing is not an act, but a vehicle that takes us to another place. If you will pardon the clumsy comparison, I would say that you could think of each of the essays in this book as being a separate vehicle that makes up the writer's train that is Dani Shapiro.

I found the book not unlike other author's essays, like Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, another book that gets you to that writing mindset. Shapiro considers things that are the at the center of writing like escape, obsession, fear, scars, spying, our inner censor. Each of the essays is presented personally, without condescension, from the perspective inside that deep well within.

This is the kind of book I never read at one sitting, but instead nibble each essay one at a time, for inspiration. It's like the "each one teach one" philosophy. Read one, write one. Shapiro's creative life is a wrestling melee of career, craft, practice, and life, flavored by doubt and demand and is as seasoned with pragmatic suggestions as it is a lilting voice. I enjoyed her insights, but even more than that, I recognize them. I fully expect to approach this book again at different times, and think that I will continue to find new insights and echoes that speak to me.

bookcover: 
Write Your Own Mystery: Create Your Own Hair-Raising Stories and Intriguing Tales bookcover
Author: 
Pie Corbett
Publisher: 
Annova Books
Genre: 
Non-fiction_: 
Rating: 
7
ISBN/ASIN: 

9781843652359

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Review: 

Write Your Own Mystery: Create Your Own Hair-Raising Stories and Intriguing Tales by Pie Corbett is a writing book geared to the juvenile audience. It is a short, charmingly presented beginner's book on how to write a mystery. Chapter headings include subject areas such as: Puzzling plots; Writers at work creating your own mystery; Tricks of the Trade; Map out your mystery; Editing and Publishing; and includes a glossary and index. The illustrations are child-like and charming. For an adult, this is a quick read.

The book is interactive in that there are tips, and problems presented which are designed to engage the young reader, and help them create their own original work. Because it is simplified for the young reader (8-12), it is not really appropriate for an adult looking for a writing resource. Also, the book is quite short, only 48 pages. It would be useful in a creative writing classroom, or even as part of a grammar course, because it does deal with the introduction of grammatical and writerly issues, like metaphors, sentence structure, and clauses, and other writing related forms. I found the glossary and index to be useful. I noticed the author also has written similar books entitled respectively How to write your own "Chiller" and "Thriller." I do not know how these (much cheaper) volumes compare to this one.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is homeschooling a child around the age of eight, as a way to introduce creative writing in an entertaining way, or perhaps as a fun summer project for rainy days, to help keep skills alive during a summer vacation.

bookcover: 
Writing on the Wall bookcover
Author: 
Tom Standage
Publisher: 
Bloomsbury USA
Genre: 
Non-fiction_: 
Rating: 
9
ISBN/ASIN: 

9781620402832

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Review: 

Some years ago, I was in a writing group. It was a fantastic experience, and one that exposed me to a number of like-minded authors who quickly became close friends based on our common interest. Within that group, I became especially close to a smaller group; and even closer to a select few. These relationships lasted a couple of years, but then the course of our group interaction was interrupted by group politics. I found that I had been negatively influenced by these politics and policies. I had even become unconsciously a tool of those policies, and consequently left the group. I resolved at that time not to again become influenced by the manipulations—intended or not— of group politics. So now I look first before I join; and if I do join a group, I watch the boundary between gossip and sharing information and between the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. In these days, shifting social relationships and trends float on a societal level in contemporary media on internet mechanisms such as Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, Pinterest, and all of the emerging technologies on which authors develop their platforms. It makes sense to be aware.

Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage has an ambitious title. The book explores the history of communication from the first days when it was perceived that literacy was power, and draws parallels between current media, and all the forms of media going back through history. What is interesting is how today's digital age reflects constructs through history, in all its possible dimensions. The mechanisms, flow, floating and changing allegiances within today's media are not new; and Tom Standage's book connects the dots. It also provides plenty to think about regarding a historical perspective of freedom of speech.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of communication, as well as anyone who does not want to under or over-estimate, or be blindsided by the power and influence of (current) media in all its forms. Writing on the Wall is useful beyond its theoretical basis to anyone who wishes to be knowledgeable about the influence and drawbacks of new technologies. Ironically, Plato's arguments regarding oral vs literary culture apply to argumens involving the hazards of the internet today where "writing seen as a threat to the spoken word" parallels fears of internet communications replacing or displacing the spoken word in the face to face relationship.

bookcover: 
Sea Change
Author: 
Frank Viva
Publisher: 
Myrick Marketing and Media, LLC
Genre: 
Rating: 
7
ISBN/ASIN: 

9781935179924

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Review: 

Twelve year old Eliot Dionisi gets sent off for summer vacation to visit his mother’s family in Nova Scotia. His parents think it will be a big adventure for him, but Eliot is not so sure he wants to see his Grandmother McNeil. He stays with his Uncle Earl who is a fisherman, and makes friends with some local kids from Point Aconi whose world revolves around fish and the boats that go out to get them.

Sea Change by Frank Viva is presented in a creative fashion, with child-like drawings that bring a youthful perspective to the table. Contrary to his expectations, Eliot discovers on his vacation the place that his Mother had "spent an entire summer in Point Aconi, and it was the best summer of my life." Eliot's summer vacation speaks of all summer vacations spent encountering strange friends, and encountering new foods and strange ways that only take a few months to feel like home.

What is appealing about this book is the nostalgia and romance of summers-gone-by.

However, there is also a looming threat from a coal manufacturer that never comes to a point. Maybe Frank Viva is planning more stories where the coal giant is taken on. If that whole thread had been left out, it would have been a better book. I am sure I was not the only one who spent the whole book waiting for that other shoe to drop. It never did.

bookcover: 
Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within
Author: 
Karen Hering
Publisher: 
Atria Books
Non-fiction_: 
Rating: 
6
ISBN/ASIN: 

1582704120

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Review: 

Karen Hering is uniquely qualified to write a book of spirituality. She tells of when her mother was losing the ability to speak; and how when there was a computer for her mother's communication, Karen configured the vocabulary for the communication protocol, and provides a perspective of figuring out what language would be necessary in her mother's diminishing sphere. That, in fact, is what this book is about. The language of communication, the gift of language honed to its spiritual point.

The challenges in this book can be liberating, perplexing, revealing, full of importance, deep in meaning, but it is all a matter of engaging oneself, milling oneself. This is a book for writers, thinkers, dreamers, philosophers, theologians. This book may have been intended for theologians, but we writers also can find a method here to help us write what is in our heart, through exercise, through the practice of contemplative correspondence, and an exploration of metaphor.

The language and method Hering espouses shows promise in being able to help one's inner writer come to the page. While Hering herself may be someone hidebound in her own religious theology, I would propose that writers can use this book beyond prescriptive theology, and use these questions and exercises in journeying where ever an individual search for meaning may take us.

bookcover: 
Live to Write Another Day: A Survival Guide for Screenwriters and Creative Storytellers
Author: 
Dean Orion
Publisher: 
Sky Father Media
Non-fiction_: 
Rating: 
8
ISBN/ASIN: 

9780989059312

Description of Sales Url: 
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Review: 

While the best, meatiest screenwriter's survival guide that I've read is Max Adams Screenwriter's Survival Guide and the New Screenwriter's Survival Guide or Guerrilla Meeting Tactics & Other Acts of War, Dean Orion's Live to Write Another Day: A Survival Guide for Screenwriters and Creative Storytellers provides a different guide—not how to navigate the Hollywood trenches, but the trenches of the page.

Live to Write Another Day details Orion's evolving writing process, including research, note-taking, outlining, drafting, handling critique, revising and completing the screenplay.

Probably my favorite (or for me that would be the most useful) would be the section at the ends of his chapters. I am a big list-user and study-questioner, probably because I feel like I am accomplishing something as I check items off the list. I found this more of a quick, fun read than a real survival guide. It may well be his survival guide. I found the anecdotes entertaining, and relatable. It would probably be helpful to a beginning writer/screenwriter. It came across, however, as more of a memoir than a writing resource. It is quite short, so if you're looking for a big, extensive writing resource, you may be looking in the wrong place. But for a quick read when you need a little pick-me-up, it might do the trick.

Pages