Tag Archives: #Writerslife

Literary Contest Now Open: $500 Prize

Submissions are now open for the Julia Peterkin Literary Awards in Flash Fiction and Poetry.

Established in 1998 by the Creative Writing program at Converse College, the Julia Peterkin Award is a national contest honoring both emerging and established  writers. The award is named for Converse graduate Julia Mood Peterkin, whose 1929 novel,  Scarlet Sister Mary, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in literature.

South 85 Journal seeks submissions of unpublished flash fiction of 850 words or fewer and previously unpublished poems of 50 lines or fewer.  We are especially interested in stories and poems that demonstrate a strong voice and/or a sense of place, but consider all quality writing.

The winning selection in each category will be awarded $500 and publication in the December issue of South 85 Journal. Contest finalists will also be selected and published alongside the winning selection.  Submissions are read blind by an outside judge.


Judges for this year’s contest are Cary Holladay for flash fiction and Ashley M. Jones for poetry.

Cary Holladay has published six short story collections, including Horse People, The Quick-Change Artist, and most recently, Brides in the Sky, as well as two novels and over 100 short stories and essays in journals and anthologies, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Arkansas Review, Five Points, The Georgia Review, The Hudson Review, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Sewanee Review, Southern Review, and Tin House. Her awards include an O. Henry Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is Professor Emeritus at the University of Memphis. She lives in Virginia.

Submit Flash Fiction Here


Ashley M. Jones is Poet Laureate of the state of Alabama (2022-2026). She received an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University (FIU), where she was a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellow. She is the author of three poetry collections: REPARATIONS NOW! (Hub City Press, 2021); dark // thing (Pleiades Press, 2019), winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry; and Magic City Gospel (Hub City Press, 2017), winner of the silver medal in poetry in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. Her poems and essays appear or are forthcoming in many journals and anthologies, including CNN, the Academy of American Poets, Poetry magazine, Tupelo Quarterly, Prelude, and The Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, among others.

Submit Poetry Here

SUBMISSIONS CLOSE AUGUST 15, 2022

[Lately when sorrows come]

by Susan Laughter Meyers

                                                —with a line from Sappho

Spring 2012

Lately when sorrows come—fast, without warning—
whipping their wings down the sky,
I know to let them.
Not inviting them, but allowing each
with a deep breath as if inhaling a wish I can’t undo.

Some days the sky is so full of sorrows
they could be mistaken for shadows of unnamed
gods flapping the air with their loose black sleeves:
the god of head-on collisions,
the god of amputated limbs,
the god of I’ll-dress-you-in-mourning.

Is the buzz in the August trees,
that pulsing husk of repetition, an omen?
I hear it build to a final shaking. I hear it build
louder and louder, then nothing.
Like a long, picaresque novel that’s suddenly over.
Like the last inning of kickball until the rain.

What falls from the sky is not always rain
or any kind of weather. Call it precipitous.
I’m fooling myself, of course. Wearing sorrow
is nothing like skin shedding water.
It’s more like the weight of a cloak of crows.

And yet the sun still shines on the honey locust
arching its fringe over grass. Lit, too,
the pasture and its barbwire strung from post
to leaning post. See how the stump by the road
is rotting and how the small yellow leaves, twirling,
catch light on their way to the ground.

Susan Laughter Meyers, of Givhans, SC, is the author of Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press), winner of the inaugural SC Poetry Book Prize, the SIBA Book Award for Poetry, and the Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Her poetry has also appeared in The Southern ReviewBeloit Poetry Journal, and other journals, as well as Poetry Daily, and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry column. Her blog is at http://susanmeyers.blogspot.com.

Twenty-four Hours in Vladivostok

by Michelle Matthees

Fall 2013

It is tempting not to speak.
Rather, to breathe in cold catacombs
with eyes wide open.
I think I understand the way you hope.
In your mind, above, crisped spring:
white plum blossoms
icing up saplings. Belief is like this, getting
carried away by progress.
I cannot believe in history.
Still, the fisted buds flare
into wicks burning atop stone-
cold facades tipping deeper into silence.

Michelle Matthees lives and writes in Duluth, Minnesota. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s MFA program in Creative Writing. Recent work of Michelle’s can be found in PANKThe Prose Poem ProjectCider Press Review22 MagazineProofMemoriousAnderboDefenestrationism5 QuarterlyHumber PieSpecsThird WednesdayParadise ReviewThe Mom EggSou’westerThrice Fiction, and elsewhere.

Building Blocks for Home

by Starr Herr

Summer 2017

Chipped plaster, termite-infested walls, cockroaches—
that which is worn, desecrated, lived in; ghosts,
overtaken gardens, tilted fences, scattered tool pieces—
that which is overwrought, still growing; tree houses,
sibling truces, midnight pillow forts, mailboxes—
that which we build together, try maintaining; grief,
malicious gods, tsunami aftershocks, gravestones—
that which we dread, yet still want to cling to; cradles,
mothers’ eyes, fathers’ hands, port dock posts—
that which nurtures us, kept us tethered; toy ships,
beached debris, tropical hurricanes, scorched sand—
that which topples, adapts to destruction; moving trucks,
interstate traffic, 80s rock & roll, cardboard boxes—
that which is in motion, sequences go, going, gone.

Starr Herr

Starr Herr recently graduated with a BFA Creative & Professional Writing and BA Philosophy at Converse College. She worked on her high school literary magazine staff as editor-in-chief and her college literary magazine staff as a poetry editor.

Curlie Blue

by Valerie Smith

Summer 2017

The Blues down south would cut you
like a paper mill and let your rotten stink
blow all the way north on a hot summer breeze.
That’s how she left, you know.

She was the second oldest of thirteen,
stocky as a sawed-off shotgun, red hair,
freckles and plump green eyes that traced
an un-retraceable line.

When I met her, she was Sunday dressed
in a full-length cashmere coat and matching
camel-colored hat. The wide brim tilted over
her right eye leaned into each heavy stride.

Legend has it, she snatched a black snake
out an oak tree in mid conversation and
ripped his head off in the street. She gripped
my hand and pulled a knife one night –

we stayed too late at Menlo Park Mall
and had to walk out the service exit.
I was just tall enough to see the blade
flash in the corner of my eye.

Her anointed hands could rub a rash clean
and make me believe the Blues
were always one bitter snuff can away
from spittin’ out the truth.

Valerie Smith

Valerie Smith delights in writing poetry and creative nonfiction. She is currently studying Creative Writing in the Master of Arts in Professional Writing program at Kennesaw State University where she is also a Graduate Teaching Assistant of first-year composition. Most recently, she presented her poems at the 2016 Decatur Book Festival. Her poetry has also appeared in Exit 271: Your Georgia Writers Resource and BlazeVOX15.

Am I a Real Writer?

By Christine Schott

I have a confession to make. I don’t write every day. I don’t even write every other day. Despite the advice of every writing instructor and every craft book I’ve encountered, I have never managed to write more than once a week, and never more than two or three hours at that. And I’ve spent a long time asking myself if that means I’m not a Real Writer.

In my day job, I’m an academic, so I have plenty of experience with imposter syndrome, and it’s plagued my confidence as a writer for years. I know that most of us have full-time jobs in other fields, so I’m not alone in finding it hard to carve out time to write. But so many other people seem better at accomplishing it. I can’t get up at four a.m. to write before dawn; I object to four a.m. on principle. I can’t squeeze in fifteen minutes of writing during my lunch break; I just get settled in when it’s time to go back to work. What I’m left with is a jealously guarded window of time on Sunday afternoons when I hunch over my laptop or notebook and descend into a caffeinated frenzy of creation.

Astonishingly, writing once a week actually seems to work for me. In the past year, I’ve drafted one full novel and published several short pieces. And in that year, I’ve realized that the physical act of writing is only one part of the writing process. I’ve discovered that, while I’m only at my desk typing away for two ours on a Sunday, I’m actually preparing for those two hours every other day of the week. While I work out, I’m mapping my plot, imagining my beat sheet superimposed over the screen of the elliptical. I recently had a terrific revelation about a troublesome character while I was flossing my teeth. In the shower, I’m trying out lines of dialogue: yes, out loud. This habit must be particularly entertaining to my downstairs neighbor when my characters start arguing.

Some writers can compose in snatches, a sentence on the subway, a paragraph at lunch. The fact that I can’t do that has often made me feel unprofessional by comparison, as though, if I was a Real Writer, I would be able to wrestle my brain into submission and force it to produce art on a schedule. But the truth is I will never be that kind of writer. I need a large, uninterrupted swath of time to sit down and write: time to stare at the wall, gaze vacantly out the window, type and erase, type and erase. What I know now, though, is that I might not be able to write in short intervals, but I can think in them. My brain is at work even if my hands aren’t. So when I do sit down on Sunday with my coffee and my two hours of writing ahead of me, I have a head full of material waiting to be drawn out on the page. And whether that makes me as a Real Writer or not is beside the point: I’m writing, and that’s all I care about.


Christine Schott teaches literature and creative writing at Erskine College.  She is Pushcart-nominated author whose work has appeared in the Gettysburg Review, Dappled Things, Casino Literary Magazine, and Wanderlust.  She holds a PhD in medieval literature from the University of Virginia and an MFA in creative writing from Converse College and has been working for South85 for three years.

Accepting Residency Applications

Follow Your Passion for Creative Writing!

Do you wish you could put your love for writing first?

Would you like a course of study that is personalized to your specific interests?

Have you always wanted to work closely with published authors and mentors?

Then apply today to Converse University’s Low-Residency MFA program and choose to empower your writing.
Click here to Apply

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Not sure whether you are ready to start an MFA program?

Try the Converse MFA Immersion Residency, which offers writers who hold a bachelor’s degree a chance to immerse themselves in the writing culture by attending and fully participating in one full residency session.
Click here to Apply

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Interested in a less immersive experience?

The Converse Low Residency MFA program also offers a lecture pass that includes morning and afternoon craft lectures and round table discussions as part of the instructional curriculum during each residency session.

 It’s a great opportunity  to get a glimpse into the Converse MFA program.
Click here to Apply

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Get Published!

Students and alums of the Converse MFA program have access to publishing opportunities through the Clemson-Converse Literature Series and can submit their manuscripts to the  Converse MFA series for the biennial award. 


Click here to Apply

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What you need to apply:
Application Deadline: February 15, 2022 for Summer Residency (June 2-11, 2022).

In addition to meeting the minimum requirements set by the Converse University Graduate School, the MFA applicant must receive approval for degree program status from the MFA program faculty and director.

1. Manuscript, according to genre directions (see link).

2. MFA manuscript cover sheet attached to each copy of portfolio.

3. Two (2) letters of academic and/or professional references .

4. Official transcripts from the accredited college or university from which applicant’s highest degree was awarded. A minimum GPA of 2.75 on a 4.0 scale is required for full admission.

5. A brief personal statement .

6. Online application with the $40 application fee.