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AWP Conference – A Novice’s Experience


By Rebecca Victoria Ramirez


For my first time ever I had the privilege of attending this year’s AWP Conference and Bookfair in Minneapolis at the Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC). The conference lasted three days with events beginning at 9:00 a.m. daily. On some days the events were scheduled well into the evening, beginning at 10:00 p.m. and ending at midnight.

In addition to the readings and panels scheduled throughout the day there is the bookfair; this year’s was housed in the MCC’s exhibit hall, a 475,000 square foot area. There were over 500 booths which consisted of colleges advertising their MFA programs, journals and magazines selling their latest editions and announcing calls for submissions, publisher selling books and advertising author signings, and company reps trying to convince beginning writers that they need an agent.

With a considerable selection of events to choose from, setting up my schedule proved to be very difficult. There is an AWP app, however, which can be downloaded to your smart phone prior to the conference and that makes this task a little easier. Most events fell into two2015-04-09 10.32.31categories, panels and readings, and were scheduled to last a little over an hour with fifteen-minute breaks in between giving you time to rush from one to the next. But at any hour there might be 30 or more events to choose from.

One panel I attended, “Fashioning a Text,” discussed how structure in writing is often regarded as secondary to voice and content. However, through readings of their own texts, and that of others, the panel of essayists, journalists, and memoirists demonstrated how structure itself can be artifice. Writers often utilize structure to find meaning in their writing and it is not solely the writer’s voice but also the structure of their writing that is idiosyncratic the panel explained. This called to mind a fascinating memoir I had just read by Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby.

The focus of Solnit’s memoir is the deterioration of her mother’s health. Within its pages is found story upon story, one memory that opens into another. Titles of each section speak to key moments in Solnit’s life and of the relationship between her and her mother. It has often been said that in our last days we return to our former state, to that of a child or infant, our children now the parents, responsible for feedings and toileting. The structure of Solnit’s memoir speaks to this descent, returning to the memories that began the memoir in its final pages. There is also a literal arc structured from the titles of each section that can be seen in the table of contents.

Another panel I attended “Life After the MFA,” discussed the employment opportunities available to those with an MFA in creative writing. Each of the three members of the panel briefly mentioned the possibility of writing internships, editing journals, and publishing. However, all three found their way to a teaching position. This wasn’t surprising as all three had started off as teachers, working in the K-12 system prior to their degree, but it was a little disconcerting for me because I had attended the event with the anticipation that the panel would present many more opportunities other than teaching. That seems like a pretty obvious option and I wanted to know what more there is.

Overall the event was a wonderful experience. Learning to navigate the venue can prove to be difficult as well managing your schedule efficiently but it is definitely worth attending. The wealth of information you’ll come away with and the opportunity to meet one of your favorite writers is invaluable. I will certainly attend next year’s conference.


For more information about next year’s AWP, scheduled at the convention center in Los Angeles, California, please visit:

Show Me The Money:

Tell It Like A Woman


By Rebecca Victoria Ramirez

In honor of the recent Mother’s Day holiday, I thought it would be nice to highlight some publishing opportunities that focus on women and mothers. As a mother myself, I can say firsthand that being a mother is one of the toughest jobs there is. And being a stay-at-home mom is even more challenging. I left my job two years ago to finish my BA and pursue my MFA, thinking that not working while going to school would be easier than trying to find time around a busy work schedule to squeeze in my coursework.

There’s a great misconception that being a stay-at-home mom is easier than working out of the home. But staying at home means being readily available to attend to everyone’s needs and soon the day can become so overwhelming that writing and coursework gets put on the backburner. But when mothers have a moment to pause, to ponder on the world around them once the busy day has ended, they realize what an immeasurable opportunity it is to raise their young children. It is certainly something I will always cherish. And it’s definitely given me plenty more writing material.


Exploring Motherhood

Brain, Child is accepting submissions for personal essays and short fiction that explore motherhood and the family. Brain, Child will pay from $40 to $150 for pieces selected for publication. For more information please visit:

Married Life

Creative Nonfiction Magazine is currently accepting essay submissions for an upcoming issue dedicated to marriage. They are looking for well-written essays that discuss what married life is all about. The entry fee is $20. Deadline is August 31, 2015. $1,000 will be awarded to the best essay and $500 to the runner-up. For more information please visit:

Single Moms

ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere) is a new website for single parent mothers. Submissions in poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction essays are being accepted for the site’s first annual writing contest. Prizes will be awarded in the amounts of $500, $350, and $150. There is no entry fee. Deadline is May 20, 2015. For more information please visit:

I’m Supposed To Be Writing


By Rebecca Victoria Ramirez

Ah. Netflix. Amazon Prime. And my best friend: My red sectional couch. They call to me. Really. Binge watching episodes of Wilfred or Orphan Black. Or those Talking Animals videos on YouTube. Have you seen them?

I have this problem. I have writing to do. Not an assignment really. Well sometimes. But I also have my own writing I should be doing. But these characters in these shows and videos are so engaging that I become distracted from what’s most important – my writing. And I can always make the excuse that I can’t think of anything interesting to write about.

Maybe not having anything to write about is your excuse. You know, writer’s block? Dinty W. Moore won’t let you get by with that excuse. “If you walk away from the keyboard, the notepad, the desk, then yes, you are blocked, but it is of your own making” he states in his book Crafting the Personal Essay. 

15-nothing-to-write-about-life-my-life-is-boreBut what if you really do feel stuck?

What if you truly feel you’ve nothing to write about?

When I was doing my undergrad work I learned about the power of using prompts. The best part is that they are widely accessible: You can find them in craft books. You can find them online. You can make up your own prompts. Or, you can take an essay or book you recently read and write something based on that; perhaps there is a technique or form the writer used that you’d like to try.

The possibilities are truly infinite.

Maybe what you pump out from these prompts won’t be prize-winning pieces but they will get you writing. And that writing could lead to discovery. Right in the middle of what you consider nothing you just might find that something worth pushing forward.

So get your hands on some prompts and get writing!

For a great craft essay on prompts visit Brevity Magazine’s website at:

For a list of writing prompts visit the Poets and Writers website at:


Show Me The Money:

Writing About Diversity


By Rebecca Victoria Ramirez

In February HBO announced they were looking for emerging writers of diverse backgrounds for its writing fellowship. The call for submissions asked for samples of screenwriting, a resume, and an answer to the question “How has your background influenced the stories you want to tell?” HBO is looking for writers of diverse backgrounds to create new content for their shows and films. But why the need for such diversity?

Perhaps it is because nowadays the headlines are filled with stories of injustices against people because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or all of the above. I don’t believe, and many would agree with me, that these injustices are becoming more frequent. But in our age of advancing technology, of the cell phone and social media, we are merely becoming more aware of them. And with this awareness comes the need to understand.

To understand why.

To understand each other.

As writers we search for this understanding of the world through our art. So I thought for today’s “Show Me The Money” it would be fitting to spotlight contests in search of diverse writing.


WNDB Short Story Contest

WNDB (We Need Diverse Books) has launched this contest in the effort to “support diversity and improve exposure for diverse books and writers, with the intention of inspiring a vast array of readers at the same time.” There is no entry fee and the grand prize is $1,000 and publication in an anthology. The deadline is May 8, 2015. For more information visit:

Insanity Prize

Knut House Magazine is sponsoring a contest for short stories that “dramatize the experience of insanity authentically.” There is a $10.00 entry fee and the grand prize is $1,000 and publication in the magazine. The deadline is April 30, 2015. For more information visit:

Wildbilly Fiction Contest

Trajectory Journal 2015 is looking for “realistic stories set in the South or West.”There is a $15.00 entry fee and the grand prize is $100 and publication in the journal. The deadline is September 1, 2015. For more information visit:



HSWC Profiles: Catherine Valdez

Catherine Valdez’s poem “Mami” took second place in the poetry category.

As a child, stories that stuck to me were always those with a magical element.  I became more attached to the fantasies found in stories than to actual people. Whenever I read a novel as a child, the plotline never seemed to vacate my head. My mind would play with the plot and the characters and expand upon their journeys. It overwhelmed me until I began to put words to paper. I can’t remember when exactly I started writing stories, but I first took the initiative to pursue a future in writing when I auditioned for a writing program at my current high school, Miami Arts Charter, as a prospective ninth grader.

I find myself attempting to preserve a sense of innocence, something that is often lacking or overlooked in the real world, in my writing. Although I enjoyed lighter subjects I write about darker subjects in order to bring to light that there is hidden meaning and hope in even the most unfortunate events. Because writing has allowed me to escape the reality of abuses and instability, I like to bring attention to the causes of such things in my work. This includes the topics of cultural uprooting, and the effects of loss on the human mind. I’d like to say that everything inspires me, and that there is always a trail of notes or ideas stuffed into my journal or phone because I want to give things or concepts the voice they deserve, whether it be the poetry in picturesque scenery or a narrative of an immigrant trying to find comfort in unfamiliar lands.

It feels amazing to win an award. My confidence in my writing often fluctuates, and having my work be recognized makes me feel like I am on the right track to attaining mastery of my craft. I am currently finishing my senior year. I will be attending Columbia University in the upcoming fall as a member of the class of 2019. I plan on majoring in creative writing and pursuing a career based heavily in the literary arts.


Catherine Valdez is a first generation Dominican America residing in Miami, Florida. She has had a passion for the written word ever since she read her first book and currently studies creative writing at Miami Arts Charter School.  Her hometown is a large inspiration for her, and she pulls the diverse traditions, languages, folklore, and cultures located in the city into the framework of her writing. Her tone often embodies a feeling of fantasy, her favorite genre being magic realism. She has been recognized both nationally and internationally for her work. Among her awards are multiple Young Arts recognitions, being named a semi finalist for the National Student Poet Program, and being granted first place in Princeton University’s 2014 ten minute playwriting contest. She will be attending Columbia University in the City of New York beginning fall 2015.

HSWC Profiles: Laura Ingram

Laura Ingram’s piece “Absolute Value” won third place in the fiction category.

 When did you know you wanted to write?

Since I learned how to spell words out. My first story was written when I was six and it was about a family of birds who committed tax evasion.

Who or what inspires you to write?

Everything around me–how I feel, how other people feel, something I see, things that I read. A big inspiration for me has been The Book Thief, a novel by Markus Zusak. The extraordinary artistry of his prose blows me away every single time and I go back to that book every time I get stuck. I’ve read it seventeen times.

How does it feel/shape your writing knowing something you created won an award?

This isn’t my first major award, but I was super surprised and very pleased when I found out about it. Getting paid for a piece made me feel like a real member of the writing world. It was like the birthday of my creative abilities and I felt celebrated. I’m so glad my teacher told me to partake in this contest.

I would like to study creative writing and communications and become a writer, college professor, both, or possibly a child life specialist after high school.

HSWC Profiles: Lindsay Emi

Lindsay Emi’s non-fiction piece “Latin Class in Seven (VII) Parts” won first place in the non-fiction category and is included in the 2015 edition of the Sierra Nevada Review.

I’m unfortunately not one of those kids who loved writing since they were very young, knew they wanted to be writers, etc. I was actually very resistant to the idea of creative writing until eighth grade, when I somehow ended up in a Creative Writing elective (not by choice). But I loved the class and by the end of the semester, I knew I wanted to continue writing.

I try to read as often as possible, and so I’m always inspired by what I’m currently reading, whether it’s a news article, a poem in my email inbox, a section of my textbook, pieces I’m reading for a journal, etc. I’m also inspired by the things I learn in my classes and the conversations I have with friends and family. My piece “Latin Class in Seven (VII) Parts” came out of my Latin III class, of course; at the time I was writing it, I was inspired by my hilarious classmates, all four of them, who made me realize that the contrast between the very academic, somewhat pretentious-seeming subject of Latin and the high school environment was a great one to explore.

I remember being at school when I got the email from June Saraceno. The first person I told was my friend whom I was with (and who was actually with me in that same eighth grade Creative Writing elective), and I was just so shocked and thrilled to have been recognized. Validation is great, but there are also plenty of contests in which I don’t place at all, and whether I win or lose, I try to remember that the world of teen contests and awards is so strange and subjective and that I need to keep writing for myself, and not for panels of judges. I’m grateful, though, that I got to attend the reception at SNC in January. It was lovely to see the college and even more so to meet my fellow readers Ava, Catherine, and Gabriel, who I learned were all wonderful writers and people.

Of course, being able to write for a living is the dream, and I would love to pursue writing in college. I’m fortunate to have incredibly supportive parents who encourage me to go down the writing path, but I also feel like I have to plan on majoring in something that’ll keep me out of their house when I’m in my thirties.


Lindsay Emi is sixteen years old and a junior at Viewpoint School, CA. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Sierra Nevada Review, Winter Tangerine Review, National Poetry QuarterlytheEEEL, The Riveter Review, the Young Poets Network, and elsewhere. She is an alumna of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, the Kenyon Young Writers Workshop, and the The Adroit Journal Mentorship Program. She currently serves as an editor for Polyphony H.S. and a reader for multiple publications, including The Blueshift Journaland Transcendence Magazine. When not writing, she enjoys playing piano and studying classics.

The Writing Dejection and Fear of Rejection


By Rebecca Victoria Ramirez

As I navigate my MFA program I find myself surrounded by great people with a great talent in writing. Sometimes this can be quite intimidating. Even more so is the news that yet another one of my peers has had one of her pieces published.

When I entered my first semester, I went armed and ready, or so I thought, to take on the literary world. I thought I’d be sending in pieces left and right, to anyone who was accepting them, because, after all, I’m a writer, right? But after my first experience of having a piece of my writing work shopped I decided I was far from ready to submit anything. And what resulted from that experience was a temporary withdrawal from writing due to an overwhelming fear of rejection.

I’ve heard that emerging writers should submit pieces like crazy but to be prepared for rejection. Rejection is good, I’ve heard. On the flip side I’ve heard that new writers should be choosy because it’s quality not quantity that publishers look for when deciding on whom to take a chance.

So which is better?

As a writer of non-fiction I frequently hear how hot the genre is right now. It’s what publishers are yearning for, I’m told. So submit stuff. Get your name out there. And while I believe this is true, 8496338840_83408a459e_zI can’t help but think that as picky as I should be with the pieces I submit, I should pay equal attention to where they’re being sent.

With all the periodicals, online magazines, and journals out there, that might prove to be more difficult than it seems. You’ll want to get familiar with the outfit that you plan to submit to.

What kind of pieces do they tend to publish?

Does your piece seem like a good fit?

Below I’ve provided links to some potential online publishing opportunities. It’s a list I jotted down in a workshop with Roxane Gay so it comes from a great source.

Pieces on Women:


Experimental Essays


9th letter

General Interest:

Missouri Review

And for an excellent source of literary journals that spreads across all genres visit the Poets and Writers Database:





Rebecca Victoria Ramirez resides in Northern California with her partner, children, and an assortment of pets. She earned her BA in English May 2013 and will earn her MFA in Creative Writing January 2016.

HSWC Profiles: Ruohan Mio

 Ever since I was a child, I have always been intrigued by language—the way it has evolved and grown over time to fit our needs, its subtle quirks and nuances. As a result, writing came naturally to me — it wasn’t really a conscious decision to choose to write; it was more like something I had been doing all my life.

There is something very therapeutic about writing. I often use it as a form of release. My inspiration most often comes in the form of the experiences I’ve had in my life.

Winning an award was both a confidence-booster and a form of validation that people were willing to listen and read my words. It gave me the courage to continue writing. I hope to continue creating poetry and improving my writing.


 Ruohan Mio won third place in the poetry category for his poem “Dust Bowl.”


Show Me The Money


By Rebecca Victoria Ramirez

As writers we have certain goals in common like getting published and being acknowledged. Getting a little cash in the process doesn’t hurt either. Many online magazines pay writers for pieces published, but some of these also charge nonrefundable submission fees.

What other options are there you ask. How about writing contests?

True a lot of contests also charge submission fees, but the prize amounts are substantial, significantly larger than what online magazines and journals pay.

Below I have provided information to some upcoming contests.

Now get writing and good luck!


Contest Website Fee Prize Deadline
Masters Review Emerging Writers Contest $20 $5,000 3/31/15
Minnesota Emerging Writer’s Grant $0 $10,000 grant 4/03/15
10th WriterAdvice Flash Prose Contest $15 per submission (Three max.) $200 1st place$100 2nd place$50 3rd place 4/21/15
PEN Canada New Voices Award $0 $1,000 5/22/15




Rebecca Victoria Ramirez resides in Northern California with her partner, children, and an assortment of pets. She earned her BA in English May 2013 and will earn her MFA in Creative Writing January 2016.