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Bangor recovery center hosts annual creative writing contest to raise awareness

The Together Place Peer Run Recovery Center is hosting its 16th annual Periscope Creative Writing Contest for those with mental health or substance use issues.

BANGOR, Maine — The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted mental health and substance use issues in Maine. Unfortunately, the surge in attention could be attributed to a greater volume of people experiencing these problems -- a reason why a recovery center in Bangor is working to raise awareness and stop the stigma. 

The Together Place Peer Run Recovery Center is hosting its 16th annual Periscope Creative Writing Contest from now until submissions are due on Monday, April 19. Anyone living in Maine and in recovery from mental health or substance use issues is invited to take part -- and prizes will be made available after independent judges determine the winning submissions. First place is $250; second place is $125, and third place is $100. 

Contestants can each submit one original (not repeated), unpublished entry -- ranging from essays to poetry to personal, fiction, or non-fiction short stories. Entries must be submitted electronically in a Word or Pages format and should be under 1,750 words. They should also have a title. If you don't have access to a computer, Together Place staff members can help. These pieces will be published in chapbooks in late spring 2021, sold for five dollars each. Anyone who participates will get one for free. 

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In 2020, Together Place published more than 20 pieces in its Periscope, which is co-sponsored by local Pro Libris Books. This contest is part of the organization's greater mission of combining the arts with recovery. Executive director Sean Faircloth says the neighborhood Together Place lives in has the highest overdose rate in Bangor -- and recent data indicates Penobscot County has the highest rate in the state. It's why Faircloth is hoping to initiative neighborhood improvement and fellowship, by partnering with local handy-people and artists to help nearby streets and add more murals to the center's building. 

"We feel it's kind of part of our obligation in the recovery movement to say, 'Hey, you know -- people talk about this neighborhood being run down. Well, we're going to work to help lift it up, and we're going to bring the whole community together," Faircloth said. 

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Annette King is a certified intentional peer support specialist at Together Place. She is in recovery from trauma and works with others to help them understand the importance of working through their own battles to develop empathy for others, regain self-esteem, and have a fulfilling life. 

"The opposite of depression is expression," King expressed, adding, "The whole point is to bring people in to find out about how do we recover? Can we recover and not judge each other? Can we recover and not gossip about each other?"

Contestants can write their pieces alone or join one of Together Place's writing groups in-person or via Zoom. There is no theme and no entry fee -- and if you prefer to remain anonymous, you can mention that in your submission. Submissions should include the author's name, email and mailing addresses, phone number, secondary contact and should be sent to mariemmhc@gmail.com. 

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The first neighborhood improvement meeting with Together Place is scheduled to take part both in-person and via Zoom at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2. If you're interested in attending, you can RSVP to helping@togetherplace.org. To learn more about Together Place and its mission, click here