At AWP17 in Washington, DC, Sweet announced its first ever Flash Nonfiction contest. It has always been important that we keep submissions for the Sweet Lit Mag fee free, but that doesn’t allow this small nonprofit to accomplish some of the bigger things we have been talking about doing for years. Hosting our first contest was a way to keep no cost submission, but still generate funding for our other projects. And you, our amazing readers and writers, answered that calling. Not only were we able to give the winner, Lisa Laughlin, a cash prize of $500 and 20 chapbooks of her work, we were also able to complete our first community outreach project. We want to sincerely thank all of you who entered and made this dream possible. More projects are in the works now, thanks in part to the poetry contest (winner McKayla Conahan) and the pending 2nd annual nonfiction contest. Your continued support, whether it be a contest submission, a donation, or purchasing one of our chapbooks, it what keeps our community outreach projects alive.
All The Feels
In April and May of 2018, my colleague Alison Missler and I were privileged to conduct poetry workshops at the MacDonald Training Center in Tampa, Florida as part of Sweet’s new community outreach initiative. The clients at the center all have some degree of developmental disability and the center provides them with educational, vocational, and residential training. The center had a bustling arts program; each time we visited for our workshops, classic pop songs boomed from the stereo while a dozen or so clients diligently drew or painted.
Two of three four poets in our workshop were very accomplished painters. Gleen was known for his vivid colors and liveliness of the human and non-human figures he painted. Shannon’s work typically focused on the cosmic; her paintings usually featured marbled planets amidst wispy constellations in the dark void of sky. Sarah was a prolific poet already. Each day we saw her, she let us read from one of her many journals, filled front to back with poems and song lyrics.
On the first day, we worked on a collaborative color poem. We chose the color red and then all worked together to come up with words and phrases we associated with the color red. After the workshop, Alison and I compiled them all together on a poster-sized sheet and gave a copy of each to the clients at the next session. For our second trip, we did an ekphrastic. The ekphrastic form is a poem in response to a work of art, which was very appropriate for the MacDonald clients, since there was so much great art of their peers’ to choose from. For the third session, we did acrostic poems, the old favorite where the poet chooses a word or phrase that corresponds to each letter of their name. This seemed to be their favorite workshop because it got them to think of their best qualities, which made for a really positive note to end on. All around, the workshops were a joy and privilege to be part of.
On behalf of Sweet, we would like to thank you, Casey and Alison, for all your hard work and dedication to this project!