Author John Edgar Wideman, a powerful voice in African American literature, two time winner of the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction and recipient of the REA Award For The Short Story, had a lulu of an idea for publishing his latest work, Briefs: Stories For The Palm Of The Mind, a collection of what the author calls microstories. Wideman chose to break with traditional publishing and instead released his book on Lulu, an internet open publishing provider. Wideman is now working with Lulu to offer The John Edgar Wideman Microstory Contest.
Wideman’s interest in Lulu stems from a desire for more control over his own work and more direct contact with his readers. Lulu is named after the old fashioned expression for a great idea and Wideman is clearly attracted to the possibilities Lulu offers to writers. His new contest invites aspiring writers to write a microstory in the style of Briefs for possible inclusion in a special edition of the book.
The contest is open to anyone and closes on May 1st, 2010. The entries must be no more than 600 words and can be submitted at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get an idea of how Wideman defines a microstory, a free preview of Briefs is available on Lulu, and Wideman also discusses his storytelling style on Lulu’s Guest Author Blog. According to the author, “Small stories can offer quick exit and re-entry into the immensity surrounding them. Represent in miniature the complex negotiations, the meticulous elaborations of the best work on any scale. Holes, spaces, reminders, mirrors, the unheard pattern of silences that organizes a composition’s meaning and moves its audience.” Wideman’s style has also been rather deliciously described as “hip-hop Zen,” which captures the flavor of his collage of stories.
Wideman will choose his favorite entry, which will be announced on Lulu’s blog on May 14th. The microstory will be included in a special edition of Briefs and the author will also give a complimentary signed copy of the book to the winner.
This contest is an interesting example of the impact digital publishing platforms can have, especially at a time when access to traditional publishing methods has never been so difficult. The chance to be included in an established author’s book is a wonderful carrot to get involved in Wideman’s Lulu experiment. Any writers with a yen to write hip-hop Zen should take note.