Friends in Letters

In thinking about my relationship with my late friend and fellow writer Zach Doss, I often feel nostalgic about my lunches with him (and our subsequent conversations on the walk home); we would talk about writing, publishing, submissions (when we worked together at Black Warrior Review), campy TV series we were watching at the time, gossip about our MFA, or life in general. It was a significant aspect of our friendship. Though we rarely critiqued each other’s work in class, these meals and conversations were important to our relationship as friends and writers.

It is with this kind of friendship in mind that I (along with the generous donation of an anonymous donor) am offering a small sum of $50 to four pairs of friend-artists who submit portfolios of work (with a short introduction) intended to be used for the winners to get a meal together, see a movie, get a few drinks together at a conference, etc. The key is being together. In this way, the offering is low stakes—with no expectation of production—yet I also hope to encourage writers to look beyond ideas of individual work and success that most competitions encourage and toward a deliberate investment in their relationship with their creative partner.

—Ryan Bollenbach

The portfolio should consist of no more than 10 pages of work (in any genre combination) and must include a 1 page introduction speaking, in any way you see fit, to your friendship with your collaborator and how it has influenced your writing or this portfolio. There is no submission fee for this fellowship opportunity.

The judges for the fellowship will be my friends—and friends of Zach—Tasha Coryell and Brian Oliu, who will collaboratively judge the finalists’ portfolios and select four winners. The winners will receive the $50 prize for their hangout of choice and the opportunity to have the winning portfolio published at Heavy Feather Review.

Beginning on February 14, and extending through JUNE 30, at 11:59 p.m. CST, collaborators are encouraged to submit portfolios for consideration. The work can be in any genre and any combination—fiction, poetry, nonfiction, translations (with permissions/rights from original authors), visual art + text, interactive website, etc. Emphasis should be placed on cohesion and how it all fits together as opposed to a “best of” from each of the authors.

A few examples from submissions we got last year to demonstrate the sheer range of what you can do:

  • A 10-page comic made by a writer and artist
  • An eight-minute short-film collaboration between a dancer and a filmmaker.
  • A 10-page portfolio of flash fictions alternating between the authors
  • A 10-page interview by two mutual friends about a friend and artist who has passed
  • A 10-page visual nonfiction essay between two student peers

Portfolios and introductions should be submitted as one document (.doc, .docx, or .pdf). Portfolios should not exceed 10 pages, and introductions should not to exceed 1 page. If there are individual pieces (i.e. flash fictions or poems), please start each new piece on a new page.

I will read every portfolio myself (unless I receive a truly surprising amount of submissions. Then I might employ the help of some friends). I will choose up to 10 portfolios to give to Tasha and Brian to select the winners. I will then send the $50 to a member of the four winning pairs via the recipient’s e-wallet of choice.

More about Zach:
Zachary Doss was a writer and editor whose work appeared in Sonora Review, Fourteen HillsFairy Tale ReviewCaketrainDIAGRAMPaper Darts, and other journals. His short story “Bespoke” was the winner of the 2016 Puerto del Sol Short Fiction Contest. He held an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama, where he taught composition and rhetoric, literature, and creative writing. He was also pursuing a PhD in creative writing and literature at the University of Southern California at the time of his death. Red Hen Press will be publishing his collection Boy Oh Boy, winner of the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction, in June 2020. Read some of Zach’s work in Heavy Feather Review.