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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.

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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.

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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

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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:

XOJane http://www.xojane.com/page/contact

Experimental Essays

Pank http://pankmagazine.com/submit-2/

9th letter http://www.ninthletter.com/index.php/journal/submit-to-ninth-letter

General Interest:

Missouri Review http://www.missourireview.com/submissions/

And for an excellent source of literary journals that spreads across all genres visit the Poets and Writers Database: http://www.pw.org/literary_magazines

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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.

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

 

Show Me The Money

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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 http://www.writermag.com/contests/masters-review-emerging-writers-contest/ $20 $5,000 3/31/15
Minnesota Emerging Writer’s Grant https://www.loft.org/programs__awards/grants__awards/mn_emerging_writers_grant/ $0 $10,000 grant 4/03/15
10th WriterAdvice Flash Prose Contest https://writeradvice.submittable.com/submit $15 per submission (Three max.) $200 1st place$100 2nd place$50 3rd place 4/21/15
PEN Canada New Voices Award http://www.pen-international.org/pen-internationalnew-voices-award/ $0 $1,000 5/22/15

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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.

Erin Stoodley: HSWC Profiles

This week we are presenting Erin Stoodley, the local’s prize winner in fiction for her story “Ghost.” Here is her response to our interview.

When I was younger, I wrote because I needed to write. Writing served as a means to better understand humans and our complexities.

My mother exposed me to the literary realm at an early age. When I was a child, she read to me from her favorite Victorian novels. Many afternoons, we would pick through the books at the local library. My mother introduced me to a world that, as Faulkner wrote, recognized the prevailing of the human spirit. Today, I write to be a part of that world.

In addition to desiring to study the human experience, I also want to produce work that resonates with an audience. We have all experienced loss, but we may feel emotionally detached from the world until we read of someone else’s pain. For example, after finishing such books as The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich, I was able to place my suffering into context and realize that my experiences only reinforced my humanity.

Receiving such validation as I have in the Sierra Nevada Review High School Writing Contest has greatly motivated me in pursuing a writing career. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the contest.

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Erin Stoodley is a student residing in Ventura, California. She has received recognition from such organizations as the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and the National YoungArts Foundation. Her poetry is published or is forthcoming in The Adroit JournalBelleville Park Pages, and Euphony Journal, among others.

Isabella Stenvall: HSWC Profiles

We asked this year’s High School Writing Contest winners to tell us more about their writing process. Here is Isabella Stenvall’s response.

Inline image 3Writing has been my source of expression since I was quite young. I devoured as many books as I could obtain and created a love for words and patterns that communicated my ideas. I have always been quite creative, thriving in my own imagination. Writing allowed me to take my introspective world and share it with those around me.

I can be inspired to write by practically anything. More frequently I take strong emotions or influential experiences and turn them into narratives that help me understand what has taken place. Other times I write to capture a memory or time, in fact every day for the past three years I have been recording every day of my life for future recollection. This includes small conversations, defining moments, immature comments, silly jokes. Writing stories protects some of the brightest and darkest days of my life.

Knowing that I won an award for “Wars with Numbers” brings me immense joy. The piece describes my painful battle with anorexia and first steps to recovery. It is incredible that my work was read and recognized, especially a narrative that was somewhat difficult to allow myself to send in.

After high school I hope to travel from my small California town to a university in an East Coast big city. My dream is to be accepted to Columbia University, located in my favorite city in the world providing me an opportunity to continue my life-long passion for dancing and receive an exceptional Ivy League education. I want to explore courses in international peace relations and possibly travel the world working as a diplomat.

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Isabella Stenvall is a seventeen year old contemporary dancer from California who fosters an intense love for ocean-swimming, alt-j, and chocolate-covered strawberries. She won the local’s prize for her non-fiction piece on anorexia, Wars With Numbers.

Fifth Annual High School Writing Contest Winners Selected

Contact: June Saraceno
jsaraceno [at] sierranevada [dot] edu

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Incline Village, Nevada) Sierra Nevada College’s English Program has announced the winners of the 5th annual High School Writing Contest, a national competition which honors high school juniors and seniors in three categories: creative nonfiction, fiction and poetry.

The winners receive a cash prize, an invitation to the awards ceremony on Jan. 9, a scholarship offer from Sierra Nevada College, a private, non-profit four-year university in Incline Village, Nevada, and possible publication in the Sierra Nevada Review.

Bryce Bullins, managing editor for the Sierra Nevada Review said, “Selecting just a few winners from such a large pool was an especially difficult process considering the caliber of work these young writers submitted.”

Creative writing professors and Sierra Nevada Review staff evaluated a record number of submissions. Chosen from over 525 entries, the winning submissions came from students across the United States, including Maryland, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, and New Jersey.

“I am inspired and energized after reading these diverse and passionate stories. The future of the written word is clearly in good hands,” said Gayle Brandeis, the college’s Distinguished Writer in Residence and an award-winning novelist.

In creative nonfiction, first place went to Lindsay Emi, Westlake Village, California, for “Latin Class in Seven (VII) Parts.” Second place went to Darla Macel Anne Canales, Erie, Colorado, for “Oven.” Third place went to Gabriel Braunstein, Arlington, Massachusetts, for “Family on the Commuter Rail.” The nonfiction Local’s Prize went to Isabella Stenvall, San Luis Obispo, California, for “Wars with Numbers.”

Finalists in creative nonfiction were Emily Zhang, for “Family History,” Oriana Tang for “Sister,” Aletheia Wang for “Scar,” Jack Priessman for “A Merciless Deed,” and Annie Harmon for “Reflected.”

In fiction, first place went to Emily Zhang, Boyds, Maryland, for “Midwestern Myth.” Second place went to Lucy Silbaugh, Wyncote, Pennsylvania, for “Burrowing.” Third place went to Laura Ingram, Disputanta, Virginia, for “Absolute Value.” The fiction Local’s Prize went to Erin Stoodley, Ventura, California, for “Ghosts.”

Finalists in fiction were Lindsay Emi for “For My Daughter,” Jessica Li for “Ellen and Su-Ji,” Tatiana Saleh for “Laundry,” Madison Hoffman for “Genderfuck,” and Oriana Tang for “Lara.”

In poetry, first place went to Oriana Tang, Livingston, New Jersey, for “Bildungsroman.” Second place went to Catherine Valdez, Miami, Florida, for “Mami.” Third place went to Ruohan Miao, Chandler, Arizona, for “Dust Bowl.” The poetry Local’s Prize went to Ava Goga, Reno, Nevada, for “Notes on Repression.”

Finalists in poetry were Emily Zhang for “Transitory,” Katia Kozachok for “Primordial Roar,” Allie Spensley for “Palo Verde,” Emma Symmonds for “Purging,” and Jessica Prescott for “Daughter of Zeus, Lover of Mine.”

Winners in each category received $500 for first place, $250 for second and $100 for third. The Local’s Prize honored student writers from Nevada and California with a $100 prize. These students are also eligible for a $20,000 scholarship to attend Sierra Nevada College.

The winning students have been invited to read their work in an awards ceremony on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015 at Sierra Nevada College alongside highly acclaimed writers Suzanne Roberts and Alan Heathcock. They will be reading at 7 p.m. Friday in Sierra Nevada College’s Prim Library as part of the college’s low residency MFA creative writing program.

The Sierra Nevada Review’s annual issue publishes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction by emerging and nationally recognized authors. All High School Writing Contest winners will be considered for publication in the 2015 issue, which releases in May.

The 6th annual High School Writing Contest runs Sept. 1-Nov. 1, 2015. Guidelines can be found at http://www.sierranevada.edu/writer

Black Rock Press Visit

by Tom Loeschner

 

On Wednesday morning Sierra Nevada Review staff members paid a visit to the local press, Black Rock Press, at University of Nevada Reno. Staff members Amy and Inge run the Press and teach bookmaking to students at UNR.

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Machines dot the concrete floor of the lower room in the Jot Travis Building. The press shop is a wonderful world of flywheels, oscillating ink rollers, and 100,000’s of metal and wood types. Some of the printing presses date back to the last century while others are newer.

Various hand crafted books made in house are on display.Holding a handcrafted book by Black Rock Press gives the same experience as seeing a new painting or feeling a handmade ceramic bowl, you can see and feel the work that went into it.

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The vibrancy of the ink, the layout of the fonts, unique bindings and the texture of quality paper gives their books a truly artisan feel.

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Tom Loeschner Loeschneris an aspiring writer and student at Sierra Nevada College. While Tom is an Incline Village, Nevada native, he has lived in both Washington and California. Tom enjoys writing creative non-fiction, climbing, fly fishing, and spending time with his wife, Andrea, and their dog, Munchichi.