What is paradise . . . to you?

Paradise is defined as an ideal place or state, but ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal asks, “what is paradise to you?” Their current international Call for Artists and Writers is paradise-themed so people of all ages from all around the world can share their visions.

Entries for ArtAscent‘s call may include two and three-dimensional media, drawings, paintings, photography, mixed media, installations, ceramics, jewelry, fabric, sculpture, fiction, poetry, short stories, and other writings. Each piece of writing must be at least 900 words.

Although many competitions are free of charge, this contest requires a ten-dollar entry fee for writers and fees as high as forty-five dollars for artists, but does not require a commission fee. Applicants must  using the online entry form from ArtAscent.com.

The contest will be judged. Ten writers will be published in the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal, through website links, and in an online juried web exhibition for two years. The one writer who wins the contest will have the opportunity to be included in ArtAscent with a profile review, along with three other applicants form other categories. Overall, forty applicants will be selected.

The contest does not focus on a specific religion, but it does focus on spiritual, love, and Zen vibes. The writing genres include children’s, crime/thriller, drama, essay, fantasy, fiction, general, horror, mystery, poetry, romance, science fiction, and young adult. Previously published or unpublished works are eligible for entry.

If you believe that your idea of paradise is unique and should be showcased in the magazine, then this contest is the one for you. The application period closes on October 31.

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Speaking for the Dead, at Oakwood Cemetery

Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama contains graves that date all the way back to the early 1800s, and the cemetery is a resting place for a wide variety of people, including Confederate generals, soldiers from both World Wars, slaves, prominent businessmen, and hard-working housewives. After taking last year off from this project, students in the Creative Writing magnet at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School returned to Oakwood in late September to choose our subjects for the annual Speaking for the Dead project.

For the project, students write a 1,000-word narrative autobiography in the voice a person they choose from Oakwood Cemetery. Of course, some of the choices have plenty of information about them, while there is not as much information provided for slaves, so students have to be careful about who they choose. (We each have another person as a backup, just in case we cannot find any information on our first choice.)

While the basic resources for the students’ investigation can be found on the internet, on websites like Roots Web and Find A Grave, which provide reliable information, the internet is not our main resource. On four separate trips, students travel to The Alabama Department of Archives and History‘s Research Room to do historical research from books, old newspapers, and marriage records that may exist. Two unique resources they provide are the microfilmed newspapers and surname files, which are basically shrunk-down images of old documents put onto film strips. These are something amazing we get to experience!

How will all of these pieces fall together? Once the research is done, the students will write our creative nonfiction autobiographies in the tone and style that our research has led us to believe would be right for our  person. We attempt to recreate the way they may have talked or written. Some students may base the autobiography on an event that the person was a part of, or others may base their work on the time period when the person lived. We may add little details that might not be exactly true but that could have happened based on the information we gathered.

And if all goes well then we can say we are, in a way, literally speaking for the dead.


[The Speaking for the Dead project is derived from a project that Philip Gerard described in “The Art of Creative Research,” in Writer’s Chronicle magazine. His project, called Interrogating the Dead, is for MFA students, while this one is modified for high school students.]