2019 Miller Audio Prize Runner-Up in Prose: “How to Survive a Fire” by Rachel Ann Brickner

We are so excited to share with you the 2019 Miller Audio Prize Runner-Up in Prose: “How to Survive a Fire” by Rachel Ann Brickner, selected by 2019 Guest Judge Cher Vincent. The Miller Audio Prize is a Spring contest that recognizes winners and runners-up in the four genres of poetry, prose, humor, and audio documentary.

About “How to Survive a Fire“:

Trauma can be one of the most isolating experiences we have as human beings despite it being something that touches us all. I wanted to find a way to tell a story about moving from that isolation to connection–with self, nature, and others. As I explored audio as a medium, I experienced it as whole-body–visual, auditory, linguistic–physical and intellectual. Audio allows me to feel in ways that the page can’t quite achieve. Working with sound allowed me to intimately communicate feelings and experiences I never thought I’d be able to express in a way that finally felt true and real to me.

Listen to “How to Survive a Fire” below:

Rachel Ann Brickner is a writer and multimedia artist from Pittsburgh. Most recently her work has appeared at JoylandKenyon Review Online, and Columbia Journal. Her audio essay, “How to Survive a Fire,” first appeared at The Talking Book. Currently, she’s at work on her first novel. You can see more of her work at rachelannbrickner.com.

Miller Audio Prize Runner-Up in Humor: “8 Missed Calls” by Will Holcomb

We are so excited to share with you the 2019 Miller Audio Prize Runner-Up in Humor: “8 Missed Calls” by Will Holcomb, selected by 2019 Guest Judge Cher Vincent. The Miller Audio Prize is a Spring contest that recognizes winners and runners-up in the four genres of poetry, prose, humor, and audio documentary.

About “8 Missed Calls“:

8 Missed Calls” has its roots in a nightmare of mine I’m fortunate to have only had the once, and grew up through several dense strata of private anxieties about negative space, sizes of infinity, and the weight the two may or may not bear on human ethics. Also, leaving messages for someone you aren’t sure will ever answer felt like the ideal genre for an audio story about trying to reckon with cosmic terror. All of this, in turn, is superb fuel for Jokes.

Listen to “8 Missed Calls” below:

Will Holcomb, also known as O. Hybridity, is the author of Shop Talk (as seen in Daily Science Fiction) and Teratoscope, a serial, digitally-published bestiary. They are also a freelance editor, most notably for the Seven Seas release of Toradora. They were born in Kirksville, MO in the summer of 1994, completed the Truman State University BFA in Creative Writing, and are concluding the MFA Fiction program at SIUC. Their national bird is the lammergeier, and their primary exports are rare earth elements and conspiracies against rational paradigms.

Miller Audio Prize Runner-Up in Audio Documentary: “The Story of the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ ‘Oh Happy Day,’” by Alex Lewis

We are so excited to share with you the 2019 Miller Audio Prize Runner-Up in Audio Documentary: “The Story of the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ ‘Oh Happy Day,’” by Alex Lewis, selected by 2019 Guest Judge Cher Vincent. The Miller Audio Prize is a Spring contest that awards winners in the four genres of poetry, prose, humor, and audio documentary.

About “The Story of the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ ‘Oh Happy Day’”:

Edwin Hawkins, a Grammy Award-winning gospel singer and arranger, passed away in 2018 at the age of 74. He left behind an unmatched legacy, revolutionizing what it means to be a gospel artist. His crowning achievement was bringing his arrangement of “Oh Happy Day,” originally an 18th Century hymn, to wide audiences. The song debuted 50 years ago in 1968 and became the first gospel song to hit the secular charts.

Hawkins’ use of contemporary sounds — a Latin groove, synthesizers, a soul-influenced lead vocal performance — created a new model for gospel music. It opened the door for artists like Aretha Franklin, The Winans and Richard Smallwood to bring the Good News into the secular realm. “Oh Happy Day” has become a gospel standard. It’s been covered by hundreds of artists across genres.

This piece brings together music, archival sounds – including interviews with Edwin Hawkins and radio air checks from the late 1960s and early 1970s – with interviews I recorded last year to highlight the history and legacy of this monumental moment in American music history.

I wrote and produced this audio documentary as part of WXPN’s Gospel Roots of Rock & Soul project. You can listen to the full documentary series hosted by CeCe Winans at xpngospelroots.org.

Listen to “The Story of the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ ‘Oh Happy Day,’” below:

Alex Lewis is a Philadelphia-based independent radio producer and musician. He produces radio stories, audio documentaries, podcasts, & public radio programs.

He’s written and produced longform audio documentaries including Saturday Night & Sunday Morning: The Gospel Roots of Rock & Soul – with WXPN and NPR Music – and Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio (winner of a 2015 National Edward R. Murrow Award). He also produces The Dig, a podcast from Jacobin Magazine.

Miller Audio Prize Runner-Up in Poetry: “Moses Boys” by Rohan Ayinde

We are so excited to share with you the 2019 Miller Audio Prize Runner-Up in Poetry: “Moses Boys” by Rohan Ayinde, selected by 2019 Guest Judge Cher Vincent. The Miller Audio Prize is a Spring contest that awards winners and runners-up in the four genres of poetry, prose, humor, and audio documentary.

About “Moses Boys,” Ayinde told us:

These three poems are connected by where I grew up and the stories that ground my experience there in a plethora of ways. What I try to communicate through these pieces is the complexity of experiences that are, too often, framed as singular and/or monolithic. What does it mean to add fragments to the stories we tell, to be able to talk about the mandem as boys, as young men, as malleable subjects whose lives are in process, no different from anyone else other than the contexts out of which they come into being? I think of these poems as moving tableaus, unfixed from the moments that reveal them and emblematic of the ways that we struggle through and come to understand ourselves and the people around us. They are for young black boys who still have to fight for recognition as subjects – caught in the space between ideology and reality and the manifold ways in which that leaves an imprint on their/our lives.

Listen to “Moses Boys” below:

Rohan Ayinde is a Chicago based artist, writer and curator. A recent Masters graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago he is the recipient of the New Artist Society Scholarship and The MA Visual and Critical Studies Graduate Fellowship Award. His interdisciplinary work is centered around creating “otherwise” potentials (Ashon Crawley) and in so doing breaking down and simultaneously reconfiguring the ideological architectures that shape our daily and generational lives. Most often the landscapes he explores are rooted in questions about quantum physics, black radical aesthetics and architecture. Rohan is a 2020 Curatorial Fellow with ACRE and has work forthcoming in a publication by Green Lantern Press.

Miller Audio Prize in Poetry: “Doncellas” by Leah V. Gonzalez

This week, we are delighted to share with you “Doncellas” by Leah V. Gonzalez, which was selected by 2019 Guest Judge Cher Vincent as the Poetry Winner in the 2019 Miller Audio Contest. The Miller Audio Prize is open to artists composing in the genres of Prose, Audio Documentary, Humor and Poetry.

Of “Doncellas,” Gonzalez says:

The moment I scribbled the final “Clean” at the end of my first draft of Doncellas, I knew it was a sacred piece. Doncellas is different from anything I had ever written. It’s full of pride as opposed to pain, power in the form of assurance, culture in the form of universal existence. It’s a play on a lifelong stereotype: Latina women as housemaids. 

All of the maids in Manhattan siamese twinned together and robotically moving in unison…only they compare. The language used in that first verse is pure wordplay, used in order to introduce the immense magnitude that is women in my family. Watch the divinity of fabuloso all over crooks and crevices, miraculous miracles as unmesses. I’m celebrating this stereotype, this act of cleaning. 

As the poem proceeds, I introduce the players: my mother and sister and the men who celebrate them.  My father worships the woman he wed! Slowly, Doncellas is defying not just one stereotype, but all of the ones I face as a Puerto Rican American. But, there can be no defiance without an understanding of history. This is precisely why the tale of my ancestors has to be spoken. The shortest of summaries of my island’s history explains to the listener why this celebration is significant. You hear about the seemingly endless colonization, the difficulty of assimilating to a new country: when they struggled with the sounds of uncertain, closed curtain, illogical ingles / when they began to change the way they dressed / when they didn’t realize as citizens they remained oppressed. 

The poem comes to a close by declaring that my family and our people have risen, and will continue to rise despite all obstacles. Including that of my own, experienced today: [they] compared me to Sofia Vergara and I scrubbed that / my tongue contains multitudes / my linguistic skill is overused. Finally, Doncellas circles back to my mother and sister, this time not as women cleaning but instead as vital aspects of nature, of growth. My mother the sun, my sister the water… watch as I blossom into my ancestors wildest dreams. The final line quotes the infamous song about the Puerto Rican flag, a final declaration of pride: Que Bonita Bandera.

Doncellas was written to be heard. I used both alliteration and assonance, and strategically placed emphatic pauses throughout each verse. My good friend and audio engineer Max Rice put together an introduction mash-up mix of island oceans, shouting vacuums, and a dream-like echo to set the stage for the journey that is Doncellas. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have. Visual coming soon!

Listen to “Doncellas” below:

Leah Vanessa is a Puerto Rican performance poet born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She began writing at the tender age of seven, having been drawn to Shel Silverstein and entranced by other New York City poets. After receiving her degree in English and Professional Writing, she began to submit for publication to various literary magazines. When faced with rejection, Leah began to experiment with spoken word poetry. She initially began her performance career by relentlessly attending open mic’s throughout New York City, most notably the historical Nuyorican Poets Cafe. As she continued to challenge her comfort zone, she experimented with collaborations with hip hop artists and musicians. Eventually, she discovered the organization she is currently Resident Poet for: the Inspired Word. Most recently, she’s headlined three shows at the Triad Theater. Leah’s work reflects upon the female identity, culture shock, eroticism, and generational history. You can follow her everywhere @LeahVspeaks and LeahVspeaks.com.

 

Announcing the Winners of the 2015 Miller Audio Contest

Please join us in congratulating the winners and runners-up of this year’s Miller Audio Contest!  Winners were selected in collaboration with our guest judge, Andrew Leland, host and producer of the Organist (kcrw.com/believer), a weekly arts and culture podcast from KCRW, and the Believer magazine. Stay tuned for these pieces to be released as featured podcasts on TMR‘s Soundbooth in June and July.

1st Place in Audio Documentary: “Lance and Nina: A Story of Addiction and Redemption” by Karen Brown

Runner-up in Audio Documentary: “Heartland, Missouri” by Abigail Keel

1st Place in Poetry: “Notes on his poems by a guy who observed them in their natural habitat” by Kevin McIlvoy

     Runner-up in Poetry: “Thresher” by Kai Carlson-Wee (with music by Channing Showalter)

1st Place in Prose: “Leaving Los Angeles” by Alison Byrne

       Runner-up in Prose: “Vox Rex” by Robert Morgan Fisher

1st Place in Humor: “Chicken Cutlets, Cleavage & Compromise” by Jaime Lowe

       Runner-up in Humor: “This is how I thought things were done…sorry”

by Erin Drew

Special thanks to judge Andrew Leland; Contest Assistant Editor Brad Babendir; our amazing contest interns Leanna Petronella, Angie Netro, Richard Miller, and Mollie Jackman; and the rest of the TMR staff. It was another great year for submissions, and they were a pleasure to listen to. If you didn’t place this year, we hope you will consider submitting in 2016, and again, a big congratulations to our winners!

Extended Deadline for the Miller Audio Prize

Andrew Leland

We have extended the deadline for the Miller Audio Prize to Sunday, March 29th.

The Missouri Review is looking for your short audio documentaries, stories, poems, and humor pieces for our 2015 Miller Audio Prize. A $1,000 prize will be awarded to the winner in each category. The award has been renamed in honor of Patricia and Michael Miller, who have generously agreed to endow our audio competition.

Your pay-by-donation entry fee includes a one-year, digital subscription to The Missouri Review,complete with a bonus audio version of the magazine. Winners and select runners-up will have their work featured on The Missouri Review’s website and as part of our Soundbooth podcast series.

Entries will be judged by TMR’s editors in collaboration with this year’s guest judge, Andrew Leland, host and producer of the Organist (kcrw.com/believer), a weekly arts and culture podcast from KCRW and theBeliever magazine. He’s also a contributing editor at the Believer (believermag.com), has taught radio and writing at the Missouri School of Journalism, and has edited books for ChronicleMcSweeney’sVintage, and elsewhere.

For details, or to submit, please visit our submission guidelines here.

We are looking forward to listening to everyone’s submissions!

Announcing our 2015 Audio Contest and Guest Judge!

cat headphone

Call for Entries!

The Missouri Review is looking for your short audio documentaries, stories, poems, and humor pieces for our 2015 Miller Audio Prize. A $1,000 prize will be awarded to the winner in each category. The award has been renamed in honor of Patricia and Michael Miller, who have generously agreed to endow our audio competition.

Your pay-by-donation entry fee includes a one-year, digital subscription to The Missouri Review, complete with a bonus audio version of the magazine. Winners and select runners-up will have their work featured on The Missouri Review’s website and as part of our Soundbooth podcast series.

Entries will be judged by TMR’s editors in collaboration with this year’s guest judge, Andrew Leland, host and producer of the Organist (kcrw.com/believer), a weekly arts and culture podcast from KCRW and the Believer magazine. He’s also a contributing editor at the Believer (believermag.com), has taught radio and writing at the Missouri School of Journalism, and has edited books for Chronicle, McSweeney’s, Vintage, and elsewhere.

Andrew Leland

Extended Deadline: March 15th, 2015.

For details, or to submit, please visit our website here.

We are looking forward to listening to everyone’s submissions!

What the "Serial" Podcast Teaches Us About Writing Novels

By Michael Nye

“Do you listen to Serial?” is a question I’ve been posing to people almost daily for the last two weeks. I was late to the party—I often am—but now I’m fully caught up and all aboard on this new podcast, a spinoff from This American Life. If you’re unfamiliar, Serial is a new weekly podcast about an old Baltimore murder case. In 1999, a teenage girl, Hae Min Lee was murdered, strangled to death, and her body dumped in Leakin Park. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of her murder, primarily on the testimony of his friend Jay. The podcast is reported by Sarah Koenig, who takes the listeners, week by week, through the investigation of the crime, the main characters, the evidence, and her own doubts about her work in an attempt to answer this question: was Adnan Syed really the person who murdered Hae Min Lee?

The show is captivating, and online, it’s been discussed the way shows like the Walking Dead or Mad Men are: broken down each week, dissected, questioned, and theories abound regarding what happened and what angle each character is playing. Sometimes, it seems like people forget this is real, rather than a fictive world.

In the 21st century, we don’t just sit back and enjoy: we engage. Sports fans seems as interested in how a team is built (trades, drafts, free agency, etc.) as they are interested in whether or not the team wins. Same is true of our narrative art. Fan fiction, spinoffs, and endless “think pieces” galore. A super fast zip through the we has all sorts of questions about Sarah Koenig, the two biggest wondering if she believes Syed is actually innocent and, either way, what exactly is her relationship with him. The second of this questions is addressed by Lincoln Michel by reminding us that the ethics of journalism into murder cases has been written about, wonderfully, years ago. Given that these are real events, should you be enjoying this podcast as much as you are? Or, have you thought about what it means when “a white journalist stomps around in a cold case involving people from two distinctly separate immigrant communities?

These are just a few of the many pieces about Serial; there are others, perhaps better ones, but hey, how many links can I throw up here in just one paragraph? I have my own to write!

Whatever concerns or worries one has with Serial, it has been a tremendously successful and captivating podcast. A captivating narrative. It hooks you in, gets you eager to listen to the next episode, and keeps you thinking about what you’ve just heard long after the episode is over. Isn’t this exactly what we try to do with novels?

Since my novel (attempt number four!) is working its way through agents’ Inboxes as I write this, the question of what makes a narrative effective is on my mind. And, since my novel is in first person and involves a murder, Serial has naturally got me thinking about how it compares to novels. Perhaps incomplete, but here are a few Serial-novel comparisons that I’ve been thinking about.

Who is the narrator? The answer in Serial is pretty clear: Sarah Koenig. What is less clear is what she is about, what she is interested in, her thoughts on guilty or innocence that sometimes spring to the surface. She’s familiar to any listener of This American Life, and has the educated, pleasantly skeptical, warm personae of public radio.

Novels do the same thing: a voice pulls you in, whether it is in first person or third person. Trust is established. But it can also be undermined. Any writer will tell you that every first person narrator is unreliable, by definition. You can’t always trust third person, can you, Atonement?

Novels have two storylines. Serial has two clear ones: who is the narrator, and did Adnan kill Hay? These are the two most obvious ones, but there are others that would certainly enter your mind as a Serial listener: why would Jay lie, what did the police screw up (if they did), how did the jury convict so fast (two hours), and numerous others … all of which get back to those first two storylines.

In novels, it might not be nearly as neat. But there always seems to be two storylines at work in great novels. In first person, who is the narrator? will always be one (me thinkth), but a great novel might also just run with two narratives on the page, the action, the plot, that keeps the reader going. One should be enough, you might think … but it really isn’t. Any good novel has two strong threads – at a minimum – running through it.

Be a pageturner. The structure of Serial is genius: thirteen podcasts, the first one an hour, the rest a little over thirty minutes. Even if the show doesn’t hang on a complete cliffhanger, there is always a tease to what is coming next, or might be coming next, in just seven days.

Even though your brain loves chapters, it isn’t enough to just slap a new chapter into a novel. There is a logic and reason to it. Serial has structural and temporal constraints, but it’s still excellent at 1. Wrapping up what it said this week’s episode is about and 2. Emotionally leading you into the next episode.

It’s out of your hands. What’s the difference between Hunger Games and all the other YA novels? What’s the difference between Jodi Picoult and other books in the very broad category of “chick lit”? Why was Emma Donoghue’s big hit her seventh book?

I’m sure you could come up with a few reasons, and I’d like nod along and think “Sure, yeah, that might explain it.” But for the most part, there is a shrug and palms turned upwards. Who knows? William Goldman once said “No one knows anything” and he knows quite a bit about writing. Good work flops, bad work hits. Why? Dunno.

There is plenty of criticism of Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” which was very popular around this office, for a wide-range of flaws: tortured metaphors, endlessly long, a pedantic ending, and so forth. All of which I thought, yes, that’s true. But I still loved the book. If art was a series of easy formulas and algorithms, anyone can do it. Sometimes the mess is what makes it great.

There Will Be Criticism. A bit of a compendium to the above, but no book or podcast or whatnot is going to be above criticism. Someone will hate it. Someone hates To Kill a Mockingbird. Someone hates Zadie Smith. Someone hates Jimmy Stewart, Kermit the Frog, ice cream, and sunsets (hopefully not the same person: that would be one miserable dude to be around). Nothing is perfect.

There is always valid criticism that might bring a writer back to square one (or, I dunno, draft four). Understanding the difference between genuine, useful responses and vitriol develops over time. We all learn to say “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that” or “That’s just, like, your opinion, man …” when it comes to our writing.

All good artists love other art. At a simple writing level, good novelists read poetry, and vice versa. But writers also love film, music, sculpture, all forms of creativity and thought and questioning. And as a writer, I gravitate toward the journalism and storytelling that gets wrapped together in radio and podcasts. Whatever flaws there might be in the form, I’ll keep listening, and keep borrowing what I learn into my writing. That’s just what we do.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye

Introducing Audio Competition Judge Brendan Baker

It’s time again for the start here at The Missouri Review of our annual Audio Competition (in its 7th year).  Featuring original audio content and producing an in-house podcast series are things we love doing, and in years past we have had the chance to share with our readers and listeners, through this contest, some really fantastic original audio pieces.  Here are some things worth knowing about the contest this year (complete guidelines can be found here).

We have three categories: Poetry, Prose, and Documentary. The guidelines provide a description of what we are looking for in each, but you can also check out all our previous winners and runners-up here.  Email us at tmr.contest.editor@gmail.com if you’d like any more details or descriptions of the categories, and we’ll work to get your questions answered.

The time limit for submissions will again be 15 minutes this year. Last year, we switched from ten to fifteen minutes, and we’ll never look back!

We have a snazzy new online submission system for the Audio Contest.  And we hope it will be even more user friendly than in years past (and make our lives a bit easier on this end, which never hurts!).  Go here to check out the new system and submit online.  Of course, we are still happy to consider mailed submissions as well.

Our deadline is March 15, 2013.  Our fantastic audio contest team will be listening to your submissions all winter and spring, and passing finalists to our Guest Judge, with winners to be announced in May.

Speaking of that Guest Judge…

We are pleased to announce that this year’s contest judge is Brendan Baker.

Photo-on-2010-09-20-at-11.35-3Baker is a producer, engineer, and musician based out of Brooklyn, New York.  He was the recipient of the 2011 Third Coast Gold Award for his work with Love + Radio, and has recently worked designing sound for The Onion News Network, recording and producing audio tours for Antenna Audio and Pimzlo Media, and running concerts for El Taller Latino Americano.  You can find out more about him and follow his work on his website.

We hope to get the chance to listen to your work!