St. Petersburg, Russia, at midnight in June

St. Petersburg, Russia, at midnight in June

Last year I wrote a post encouraging aspiring travel writers to enter the Summer Literary Seminars writing contest for the chance to win free airfare and tuition to the program’s White Nights session in St. Petersburg, Russia. That time has come around again, although sooner than I realized. February 28th is the deadline for the poetry and fiction contest, so if you’ve got a piece you’ve been hanging on to, this is the time to send it out.

Although nonfiction, sadly, is not a contest category this year, I still think that anyone interested in a cross between travel and writing can find no better opportunity than the Summer Literary Seminars (SLS) experience. I’ll quote the mission statement again, since it bears repeating: “SLS is premised on the not-so-novel idea that one’s writing can greatly benefit from the keen sense of temporary displacement created by an immersion in a thoroughly foreign culture and street vernacular.”

SLS offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry writing workshops, as well as lectures, tours, and cultural classes, in a completely foreign environment. Not only that, but you get exposure to writers working in several other countries, people whose work you might never see in the mainstream English-speaking world. I can attest to the benefits mentioned above — in no other conference or workshop have I found my writing and imagination more stimulated.

SLS has expanded its venues beyond its original location in St. Petersburg, Russia. While the Russia program is on hiatus until summer 2010, you still have time to apply for the literary seminars being held in Lithuania, Italy, and Kenya this year. Whether or not you enter the writing contest, the application deadlines for some programs are coming up soon, so check out the SLS website for application information and dates.