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Why should you enter a contest? Even if you don’t win, how might it help you? And what are downsides of entering? In this special episode, recorded live at the Telluride Lit Fest just before the announcement of the Fischer and Cantor Prizes, w talk about big juicy tomatoes, how judges make decisions, why the best writing doesn’t always win and Christie’s grand theory of awards. Then we are joined two fabulous guests: Luis Lopez, Colorado’s newly named Western Slope Poet Laureate, and Rafael Jesús González, poet laureate of Berkeley. We get their very different take on these two questions: 1) How much should we care about awards, what do they really have to offer us? and 2) How should we handle not winning? We’d love your feedback on these questions, too!
In this bonus episode, Luis Lopez, poet laureate of Colorado’s Western Slope, and Rafael Jesús González, poet laureate of Berkeley, each read a poem and talk about their writing process. And that’s not all! Below, we present a poem Rafael Jesús González wrote about judging the Fischer poetry prize. We think his poem should be prerequisite reading for all judges and all contest entrants! To see a video of Rafael reading his poem (the only way to feel the fullness of the emotions he packs into his short work) subscribe to our newsletter: https://emergingform.substack.com/
Judging for the Fischer Poetry Prize
Winnowing them down is not easy —
even to fifty, then forty, thirty —
still harder twenty, ten, & finally one.
“. . . so much hope lies in your hands,”
a colleague writes, the words carrying
more meaning than she meant. Each entry
speaks its own voice, probing reality
with imagination, with the heart. I read
each once, twice, thrice, four times,
five or more, return to it. The voices mingle,
mix, tangle — a cacophony, a counterpoint.
How to single out the one voice? One no better
than the other, just different — there is no best.
Each opens a door, tears down a wall, says
a truth I have always known in my bones,
or a truth I had not known but now I do.
I look for a honed sense of justice, compassion,
an openness to beauty that wrenches. I could say
that I choose for precision of diction, choice
of metaphor, syntax, but we would all know it
for the bull scat it would be — I choose by my own
history, my own memories, joys, pains, betrayals,
awe — by what I ate last night, drank, smoked,
dreamt. I choose by what I am most vulnerable to
as the deadline falls — I cannot tell you how;
there is no best, only what now moves me most.
The biggest prize worth having is already theirs:
the gift of widening the vision, empowering the heart.
Working with a partner on creative projects can be incredible! And incredibly frustrating. In this episode, we will discuss whether collaborations need leaders, why listening is an essential skill for working with other creatives, Chinese food, the Jabberwocky, and how spontaneity can enhance a creative collaboration. And then we’ll wrap up our conversation by talking with musician/songwriter/video producer Christine Laskowski who will play our game of two questions. We’ll ask her 1) What makes a good collaboration? And 2) How do you deal with conflicts when they arise in a collaboration? You can weigh in on these questions yourself, either here or on our Facebook page.
What can you do to evolve your creativity? How do your practices fuel or sabotage your muse? In this episode of Emerging Form, we talk about creative habits—frequency, accountability, flexibility and more. We’ll cover Rosemerry’s four promises she makes for her daily practice, Christie’s philosophy on not taking yourself too seriously, a new approach for meeting a blank page, the underbellies of bugs and much more. At the end of the program, we invite science writer, artist, knitter and singer Helen Fields to join us in our game of two questions: 1) How do you prioritize time for your creative habit? And 2) When do you know it is time to evolve a habit—how do you know if it’s not serving you anymore?
“Quitter” is sometimes an insult, but in this episode we explore how quitting can be underrated. Anyone involved in a creative project has likely wondered at some point if they should suck it up and continue the fight or move on. We’ll also discuss the dangers of the sunk cost fallacy, insights from Clue, the value of a coin toss, and of course, obeying the emerging form. Then, we interview author and teacher Pam Houston, and ask her these two questions: 1) How do you know it’s time to quit? and 2) How do you distinguish between “this is hard but insights will come” from “this is hard and it can’t work”?
Who needs an editor? Everyone. In this episode, we discuss feedback: who to ask, how to ask them, and how to respond to what they say. Also important: at what point in a project do you ask for feedback? We’ll tackle all these questions, plus we’ll talk about the sinking of the Titanic, how praise can both help and hinder you, eating fire, and as, always, after our discussion we’ll play our game of two questions. Our guest this episode is Andrea Jones-Rooy, a circus performer and stand up comedienne (among other talents). Our questions: 1) How do you get feedback that’s useful? 2) How do you balance being vulnerable and receptive to feedback with being sure of yourself?
What keeps us from getting started on our creative projects? We have great ideas, but then we keep putting them off. In this episode, we explore how to dance with high expectations and paralysis of analysis. We talk about tricks for getting yourself past square one, and we have an outrageously good interview with poet, editor and writing coach Judyth Hill in which we ask her two questions: 1) How do you get started, and 2) What do you do when that doesn’t work? Her answers will supercharge your starting batteries!
So you’re writing. Or painting. Or dancing. And you’re struck by this horrible feeling: what am I doing? How am I ever going to find the form and create something beautiful out of this tangled mess that I’ve assembled? Or you start to feel that your work doesn’t matter. That in fact, nothing matters. Your creative endeavors amount to nothing. You are nothing. Nothing’s worth saying. No creative project’s worth doing. And that, friends, is existential despair. It happens. Most people involved in creative projects experience this state at some point, and it can be tough to get out of. In this episode, we wonder, can we avoid it? What do we miss if we avoid it? What helps us to return to a sense of purpose and passion? Our special guest, encaustic/mixed media artist Andrea Bird from Ontario, Canada, joins us for our game of two questions and talks about how that grappling can actually be what helps push our work to the next level.
If you’re a poet or a painter or a musician or a dancer, you have to have talent, right? Maybe, maybe not. In this episode of Emerging Form, we explore talent. What exactly is it? How do you know if you have it? Is it necessary? Can you make up for it if you don’t have talent? Spoiler alert: the poet and the scientist do not agree on the answer to this one. As always, we’ll end with a game of Two Questions with friend of the show Jennifer Kahn, who writes for magazines like The New Yorker, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine and is an instructor at the Cal-Berkley journalism program. We’ll ask her to weigh in on whether talent is necessary, and if it’s possible to overcome lack of it in a creative field.