The Chalk Circle Intercultural Prize Winning Essays

Category Details

Up to 6,000 words. I am looking for essays dealing with matters of culture, race, and a sense of place, either within the smaller microcosm of self-identity or within the larger environment of family, society and world interactions. I seek essays in the traditional form, my definition being the conscious shaping of nonfiction prose around a central idea or subject. In E. B. White’s words, you will be putting your “finger on a little capsule of truth,” using reality to point to your truth, not fiction.

About Judge/Sponsor

Li Miao Lovett (San Francisco, CA) is a writer, educator, and communications director in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her debut novel, In the Lap of the Gods, is a tale of love and loss set in China amidst the rising waters of the Three Gorges dam. Her First Prize Intercultural essay from 2009 is included in The Chalk Circle anthology, edited by founding judge Tara Masih. Li has been a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle, New America Media, National Radio Project’s Making Contact, KQED’s Future of You science column, and KQED Perspectives. In both fiction and nonfiction, Li’s work has won awards or finalist standing from Glimmer Train, Writer’s Digest, Stanford Magazine, A Room of Her Own Foundation, and the James Jones First Novel Fellowship. As a freelance journalist, she recently documented the health effects of pesticides on farm-working communities with a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

Li’s Website
Li’s Goodread Page
Li’s Amazon Page
Li on KQED

FAMILY TIES: After their father’s death in 2003, Tilia Klebenov Jacobs of Framingham and her brother were cleaning out his Dedham home when they stumbled upon 50 years of their parents’ correspondence, including love letters from the 1950s. 

Jacobs’s subsequent short story, based on her maternal grandmother’s letter expressing concern over their interfaith marriage, was recently published in “The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays,’’ edited by Tara L. Masih.  

Jacobs is one of 19 contributing authors to the book, which won a 2012 Skipping Stones Honor Award. Her nine-page story, “Valentine and This Difficult World,’’ was also a Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition winner in 2007.  

Jacobs’s parents, Eugene Klebenov and Elwyn Gammell Klebenov, were Americans who met at a sidewalk cafe in Paris in the mid-1950s. Her father, a Harvard University graduate, was working as a translator after his honorable discharge from the Army. Her mother had finished college in the United States and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts school.

While Elwyn’s Episcopalian mother, novelist Susanna Valentine Mitchell Gammell, genuinely liked Klebenov, who was Jewish, she worried that the couple and their future children would face discrimination. That fear prompted Gammell to write a letter shortly before the wedding suggesting they change their last name to Clayburne.  

Jacobs’s story describes her parents’ reaction to the letter urging Elwyn to marry the man she loved but without disclosing his ethnic background. It also captures Klebenov’s written reply (which his wife prevented him from sending), a tongue-in-cheek compromise to change his last name to Von Resnik – which Jacobs said would have been considered “equally and objectionably Jewish’’ in her grandmother’s eyes.

The couple married in 1958 and raised four children. In fact, Jacobs found another letter from Gammell dated Oct. 11, 1962, expressing to Klebenov her pleasure that such a kind man had joined the family.

Jacobs said she is “amazed’’ so many thousands of letters survived the family’s moves across three continents, as well as a house fire that killed her mother and younger sister in 1981.  

“I couldn’t believe it when I came across these letters that I had heard about my whole life,’’ said Jacobs, who is now writing her memoir about the experience of becoming reacquainted with her parents through the letters, years after their deaths.

“We think of the 1950s as a time of conformity, but in many ways, it was the dawn of a new era.’’

For more information, visit facebook.com/authortiliakj.  

DRIVING CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: Since founding W2O (Women Working for Oceans) last year, Weston residents Barbara Burgess and Donna Hazard  have raised awareness of the importance of sustainable fishing practices and the danger of plastic residue to fish and seabirds.

On Tuesday,
 they will host a discussion of how limiting fuel consumption and car emissions can lessen global climate change. The event, “Roadside Assistance: Driving Change on Our Streets and in Our Oceans,’’ will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the New England Aquarium Simons Imax Theatre at Boston’s Central Wharf.  

A panel discussion will feature Arlington resident Ray Magliozzi of “Car Talk’’ on National Public Radio; Herbert Chambers,
 owner of Herb Chambers Companies; Scott Griffith,
 chairman and CEO of Zipcar; and Eric Evarts,
 associate auto editor of Consumer Reports. The moderator will be WBZ-TV news anchor Lisa Hughes, with additional remarks by Boston resident Bud Ris,
 president and CEO of the New England Aquarium.

A selection of environmentally friendly cars will be displayed outside the aquarium, courtesy of Herb Chambers, which is also donating a blue Vespa to be raffled off.

Hazard and Burgess, whose husband, Bill Burgess, is the aquarium’s trustee chairman, said their nonprofit organization’s mission is to inspire and empower families to make responsible consumer decisions.

“Buying a ‘green’ car isn’t a sacrifice anymore,’’ Hazard said. “It’s smart and innovative, and with gasoline selling at about $4 per gallon, it can also save you a lot of money.’’

Tickets, including a vegetarian boxed lunch, cost $50 and may be purchased at 617-226-2143 or womenworkingforoceans.org.  

SETTING THE STAGE: Amelia LeClair of Newton knew during her very first piano lesson at age 9 that she wanted music to be part of the rest of her life. During college in the 1970s, however, she was repeatedly told that composing and conducting were men’s professions. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition, but abandoned her intended career.

LeClair’s discovery years later of the Grove Dictionary of Women Composers led to her master’s degree in choral conducting from the New England Conservatory in 2003. She is now director of the Newton-based choral ensemble Cappella Clausura and visiting scholar at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center in Waltham for this academic year.

LeClair will lead Cappella Clausura’s upcoming performances of “Outside the Walls,’’ a re-creation of a 17th-century Italian salon performance of religious music written by nuns behind convent walls. The works range from chants to duets and an eight-part piece for voice with Baroque period instruments.

“I’m determined to put this music out there, to dispel the myth that women can’t be composers,’’ LeClair said. “The message is if you have a passion, don’t let anyone keep you from following it.’’

Performances will take place on Wednesday at noon at the Brandeis Mandel Center in Waltham; on Saturday at 8 p.m. at University Lutheran Church, 66 Winthrop St. in Cambridge; and next Sunday at 8 p.m. at Parish of the Messiah, 1900 Commonwealth Ave. in Newton.

Tickets, which cost $15 to $25, can be purchased at clausura.org or at the door.

GETTING PUMPED FOR PINK: In recognition of October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center at 333 Nahanton St. in Newton will offer free group fitness classes today
 from 8 a.m. to noon.  

An optional, suggested donation of $18 will benefit Patient-to-Patient, Heart-to-Heart, a cancer peer support group of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For a complete schedule, visit bostonjcc.org.  

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