By Eryn Finnegan President
The Islandport Magazine fiction writing contest is back for its second year. This contest is held in partnership with the UMF creative writing program and is open exclusively to UMF students of any major.
Islandport Magazine is a quarterly publication from Islandport Press, located in Yarmouth. The winning piece will be featured in the spring 2019 issue, with 40,000 copies distributed to their readers, over 100 stores across the state, as well as subscribers of the Maine Sunday Telegram.
The only requirement is that the pieces must be based in Maine. How writers choose to tackle this requirement is up to them. According to Shannon Butler, a 2013 graduate of the UMF creative writing program and creator of the fiction writing contest, Maine does not have to be explicitly mentioned; it can be represented through setting, character or mood.
“Most of what we got [last year] was pretty straightforward fiction, the daily lives of New Englanders represented in different ways, which was a lot of fun,” Butler said. “This year, I really encourage subtlety. You don’t have to have a lobsterman character; you can feature much more of Maine than just what people know.”
Creative writing major Aimee Degroat won the first contest with her piece, “Where He Ain’t.” Her piece, published in the spring 2018 issue, was well received by Butler, her coworkers and readers of the magazine. Butler cited the reception of the winning piece as a major reason the contest is being held again.
Butler created the contest as a way to promote fresh Maine voices. “We wanted to break out of the Portland market since it’s saturated with writers and artists, but Maine has so much more talent around the state,” Butler said.
Butler also mentioned the lack of magazines focusing on fiction writing as inspiration for the writing contest, calling Maine a “hub for fiction writers, readers, artists and creative communities.” She suggested to her colleagues that the contest pull from UMF’s creative writing program after thinking back to her classmates.
“When we started the magazine, we wanted to keep [Islandport Press’] core values of promoting Maine and New England talent,” Butler said. “We wanted to make sure we were featuring fresh voices, so I was like, why not feature the freshest voices? I said, ‘let’s go back to UMF,’ and my coworkers were really supportive.”
Butler first discovered Islandport Press when she successfully sold them an ad for a poetry book while working as an intern for Caribou based magazine Echoes. Her apprenticeship at Echoes oriented her career aspirations toward the world of publishing, though she still manages to write everyday.
“When I left [Echoes], I started angling myself more towards publishing than writing because I became more self aware,” Butler said. “I’m more of an active reader now, but I’m still engaged in the writing community. I write press releases and emails now. I edit pretty much daily.”
Butler also stressed the importance of being a skilled writer and communicator, and that a writing degree can lead to many job opportunities.
“The great thing about a writing degree is you can use it anywhere,” Butler said. “There’s publishing and editing, but pretty much every kind of industry has room for writers. Hospitals need writers, nonprofits need copywriters and people to write press releases. There’s so many options for writers that aren’t just writing.”
The deadline for the Islandport Magazine fiction writing contest is December 31st. Students interested in participating should email any questions and/or submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit their website at www.islandportpress.com/writingcontest.