Emerging Voices Fellowship
The Emerging Voices Fellowship is a literary mentorship based in Los Angeles that has been providing underrepresented, marginalized writers with the tools they need to launch a professional literary career, since 1996. Examples of these communities include, but are not limited to, women, immigrants, people of color, older people, and those who are members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. Through curated one-on-one mentorship, and introductions to editors, agents, and publishers, in addition to editing, marketing, and web development workshops, the fellowship nurtures creative community, provides a professional skillset, and demystifies the path to publication, with the ultimate goal of diversifying the publishing and media industries.
In 2021, the fellowship will celebrate 25 years. In that time PEN has committed to adapting the fellowship components to meet the changing needs of writers and to reconsider the way we talk about the fellowship. In the past, we have pointed to our list of publications as proof the fellowship works, celebrating books published by alumni like Cynthia Bond, Natashia Deón, and Reyna Grande, among others. While this is a quantifiable measure of success, it fails to take into account those alumni who are still writing but have gone on to do meaningful work in other creative capacities. Alumni like Kima Jones, who founded Jack Jones Literary Arts, an organization that privileges narratives told by black women and women of color; and Victor Vazquez who founded X Casting, which supports projects from people of color, women, & queer creators; and Marytza Rubio, who founded Makara Center for the Arts, a nonprofit lending library & art center in the book desert of Santa Ana. These are just a few examples from a list that could be expanded upon to include professors, workshop instructors, teachers, mentors, and Ph.D. candidates. Please take a moment to look at the full list of fellows and mentors, and a select list of Author Evening hosts in order to better understand the breadth of this thing we call EV.
We are writing to the Emerging Voices community with some good news that we are pleased to share. As we previously let you know, having to cancel our galas and other fundraising events, as well as absorb loss associated with the pandemic and economic crisis, required some tough decisions and changes in order to sustain our organization. That said, in this year in which we’ve come to expect the unexpected, we are elated to share that, late this week, we were able to secure a new commitment, beginning in 2021, from one of our donors to reallocate a portion of their giving. The redirected funds will underwrite efforts to nurture, mentor, and support emerging writers, who have been historically excluded from publishing, through a structured program that will be deeply informed by and will expand upon our Los Angeles-based Emerging Voices Fellowship. Part of the effort will include finding new ways to foster connections between annual participants and program alumni and agents, editors, and publishers. We will also seek lessons learned from other similar efforts, especially those that operate virtually. The vision is a national program operating virtually and, we hope, with some in-person engagement as public health circumstances allow.
We will devote the next few months to extensive consultation and study in order to define an approach that can work nationally and offer the kind of intensive experience that we know has been so important. We very much hope that many of you will participate in that process, as your expertise and knowledge will be invaluable. That consultation and information-gathering effort will be led by Los Angeles office executive director and former EV program manager Michelle Franke and PEN America’s senior director of literary programs Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf in consultation with our Board Literary Committee and other stakeholders. We plan to reach out with opportunities for discussion and consultation in the hopes that you will be willing to share your ideas and participate in the future of this essential work. We also plan to do an optional survey for EV alumni, EV program participants, and other emerging writers coast to coast. Our plan is to outline a way forward, based on our findings, in the first part of 2021. As this generous donation will cover only a portion of expenses associated with this program, fundraising will be ongoing. We are heartened to be able to ensure that the current Emerging Voices hiatus will be a limited one, and we are excited to work together.
There are many details to be addressed in the months to come, but we know that you care deeply about this work, and we wanted to share the positive news.
PEN America CEO
PEN America President
PEN America Vice President, PEN America President-elect
Executive Director, Los Angeles
Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf
Senior Director Literary Programs
Thank you for your interest in the PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowship (EV). Over the past months, we have so appreciated your support and encouragement, and know that you share our deep commitment to ensuring sustained efforts to nurture the careers of those who have been locked out of the literary communities and publishing.
Since March, PEN America has been assessing the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis on every aspect of our work. This includes safety, logistical, and financial implications for each of our programs, and certainly for EV, which has historically operated in-person in Los Angeles. We have made the tough but necessary decision not to open the 2021 fellowship application, due to the constraints on convening a cohort of fellows and the non-renewal of several key grants that have supported the program.
That said, as we use this time to determine how best to move forward with this vital work, we are very pleased to announce that PEN America will be presenting a series of online professional development workshops inspired by elements of the EV program. Recognizing the urgent needs of emerging writers coast to coast, this free and open access workshop series on craft and career issues will be presented in partnership with our PEN Across America initiative and local chapters in cities nationwide. Other updates, including the workshop slate, will be available in early fall.
Our work to determine a path forward will involve several elements. In the coming days, we’re launching a detailed survey of EV participants since 1996 to learn more about the outcomes of the program over time and the current needs of emerging writers. We will assess how we can best connect emerging writers to representation and the publishing industry, leveraging PEN America’s deep networks. We will look at how similar programs supporting emerging writers, both within and outside PEN America, have transitioned to an online learning environment. This inquiry will serve as a foundation for our efforts to secure new funding to support this work.
Like many of our peer organizations, PEN America has been hit by the forced cancellation of in-person fundraising events due to the pandemic. We are also navigating the changing priorities of some donors. Even prior to this year’s challenges, it has been difficult to find consistent funding for the EV program, in part due to the intensive nature of its design. We have scrambled to cover annual costs, and at times have not been able to do so with designated funds. We are determined to use this interim period to examine how we can evolve our offering and put it on solid financial footing. Going forward, the program will require a substantial multi-year funding commitment, beyond short-term donations. Some supporters have reached out about fundraising; we appreciate that and will continue to welcome ideas. We hope that by early 2021 we will be in a position to announce a way forward.
There is an important history on which to build. Since 1996, EV has aimed to provide writers from underrepresented, marginalized communities with the tools they need to launch a professional literary career. EV has served as a hub for the Los Angeles literary community, supporting and championing more than 150 writers who have published 65 books and shorter pieces in 200+ anthologies and journals. Many fellows, in addition to pursuing their own literary careers, have also gone on to make significant creative contributions across the country.
The pandemic has underscored significant gaps in opportunity and wellbeing in the literary community and beyond. With our interim workshop series, we hope to provide the greatest number of writers, especially those from historically excluded communities, the chance to benefit from what EV has historically only offered to a select few. Readers need stories from new and diverse voices, and we hope that demystifying the path to publication results in increased connections, representation, and opportunities.
During a challenging time marked by much uncertainty, and as a part of PEN America’s century of efforts to stand with writers, dissenters, and those advocating for positive change, we’re excited to launch the workshop series, make new friends, see old ones, and open some of the most beloved and helpful components of EV to writers across the country. Sign up to receive updates on the workshop series and other news on PEN America Los Angeles, or follow us online on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and on the Emerging Voices Facebook and Twitter.
For further information, please contact Michelle Franke, executive director, PEN America, Los Angeles at [email protected]
The 2020 Emerging Voices Fellowship
During this live, online program presented by the Hammer Museum, the 2020 Emerging Voices Fellows read together for the last time as the culmination of their fellowship experience.
2020 Emerging Voices Fellows’ Essays
“Unwrapping” by Damien Belliveau
“Tiger Heads All the Way Down” by Claire Lin
“Leave Expectations at the Door” by Shannon Gatewood
“The Poetics of Sovereignty: Embracing Self-Determination on the Page” by Megan Dorame
“The Path to Remembering” by M. Kiguwa
LITERARY MENTORSHIP BENEFITS
By the end of the Emerging Voices Fellowship, a writer will leave with:
- Seven months of guidance from a professional mentor and written notes on their current writing project.
- A professional headshot and bio.
- A logline—the short summation of the project in progress.
- A clear action plan for finishing this project.
- Writing life, and craft tips, from notable visiting authors.
- An editing guide from a professional copy editor.
- Insider knowledge of publishing from agents, publishers, and editors.
- An individualized submission guide for literary journals, agents, residencies, and fellowships.
- Improved reading technique from a professional voice coach.
- Public reading experience for a variety of audiences.
- An understanding of how to be an effective workshop participant.
- Lifetime membership in PEN America.
- Valuable connections to the literary community, discounted access to residencies and MFA programs, the ability to bypass the slushpile for select literary magazines and agents, and more.
The seven-month fellowship includes:
PROFESSIONAL MENTORSHIP: Emerging Voices mentors are carefully chosen from PEN America’s membership and from professional writers based in Los Angeles. Over the course of the fellowship, fellows submit their work for review and are in regular contact with their mentors via phone, text, and email, meeting in person at least three times. In these three meetings, mentors offer written feedback on the Emerging Voices Fellows’ work in progress. See the drop down menu above for the full list of mentors.
CLASSES AT THE UCLA EXTENSION WRITERS’ PROGRAM: Participants attend two free courses (a 12-week writing course and a one-day workshop) at UCLA Extension, donated by the Writers’ Program.
AUTHOR EVENINGS: Fellows meet both virtually and in person with visiting authors, editors, publishers, and agents to ask craft questions and to discuss the business of writing. These events are cultivated from year to year to reflect the needs of the current EVs. See the drop down menu above for a comprehensive list of Author Evening Hosts.
MASTER CLASSES: After completing the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program courses, Emerging Voices Fellows will enroll in a Master Class. The Master Class is a genre-specific workshop with a professional writer that affords fellows the opportunity to exchange feedback on their works in progress. Master Class instructors have included Alex Espinoza, F. Douglas Brown, Douglas Manuel, Mona Simpson, and Jervey Tervalon, among others.
VOLUNTEER PROJECT: All Emerging Voices Fellows are expected to complete a 25-hour volunteer project that is relevant to the literary community. Past fellows have collaborated on projects with 826LA, DSTLA Arts, POPS the Club, and WriteGirl. Others create their own opportunties, like the workshop and reading series 2019 EV T.K. Lê supervised for Khmer Girls in Action (KGA), in Long Beach.
VOICE INSTRUCTION CLASS: The Fellowship provides a one-day voice class, where fellows receive instructions on reading their work aloud, learning tips and tricks for engaging an audience from professional voice over actors and successful live performers. Instructors have included Dave Thomas and Jeremy Radin.
PUBLIC READINGS: Fellows will participate in three public readings, The Welcome Party, a mid program spring reading, and the Final Reading. Fellows have performed in this capacity at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the Silver Lake Jubilee, Skylight Bookstore, The Standard in Downtown LA, the Hotel Café, and The Virgil. The fellowship culminates in a Final Reading showcasing the progress each fellow has made in his or her work. The ALOUD series at the Central Library, the Hammer Museum, and the Skirball Cultural Center have all hosted the Final Reading.
People ineligible for the Emerging Voices Fellowship:
- Full-time graduate or undergraduate students.
- Those who have a B.A., M.A., M.F.A., Ph.D. in creative writing.
- Writers who have published one or more books through major publishing houses, university presses, or established presses.
- Current professional magazine/newspaper feature writers or editors.
- Writers who are widely published in top tier literary journals and/or magazines.
- Anyone under the age of 21.
Emerging Voices is a rigorous fellowship based in Los Angeles with weekly meetings and an intense reading and writing schedule. With this in mind, participants must be willing and able to make an enthusiastic commitment to the fellowship and to their involvement as members of a group. If you are not a resident of Los Angeles and you are awarded the fellowship you will need to relocate for the seven-month period. Housing is not provided.
The Emerging Voices Fellowship originated as a mentorship project. The project grew out of PEN America Los Angeles’s forum “Writing the Immigrant Experience,” held at the Los Angeles Central Library in March 1994, which explored the issues and challenges faced by first and second generation immigrant writers. It was evident from the forum that many of the culturally diverse communities of writers in Southern California were often isolated from the literary establishment. In the fall of 1996, PEN America Los Angeles initiated Emerging Voices as a literary mentorship program designed to launch potential professional writers from minority, immigrant and other underrepresented communities. The program has now evolved into an seven-month writing fellowship for writers who lack access to a traditional writing education and seek financial and creative support.
Here’s a note from one of the fellowship’s supporter, Jamie Wolf, supporter of the Emerging Voices Fellowship program:
“The Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation was established in 1948 by my parents, a young businessman and his fashion-editor wife, who clearly had a great deal of confidence in their eventual financial success as well as a genuine desire to contribute to the world outside themselves. As my father formulated it in the beginning, ‘Individuals fortunate enough to receive unusual benefits from a society have the distinct obligation to return meaningful, tangible support to that society—in the form of creative energy as well as funding.’ What this has meant over the years is a pattern of rewarding excellence and accomplishment by giving awards in the fields of medicine, art and literature. In the last several decades, as the younger generation has begun to have more of a say, the goal has modulated into an emphasis on more directly encouraging excellence and accomplishment—by funding programs as well as awards, thus concentrating on setting up structures for achievement, and utilizing the multiplier effect.”
PEN America’s Emerging Voices Fellowship is generously supported by the California Arts Council, New Balloon and Catapult, Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, Pasadena Literary Alliance, UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, The Rosenthal Family Foundation, Jamie Wolf, and in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
Thank you for your interest in PEN America’s Emerging Voices Fellowship. Given that the Fellowship has traditionally taken place in-person in Los Angeles, the 2021 Emerging Voices application has not been opened at this time as we assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our programming and what offerings will be possible.
PEN America is firmly committed to sustaining support for emerging writers from historically-excluded communities, and is taking the time to monitor evolving circumstances and carefully examine how we can best fulfill this goal in light of them. We plan to post a substantive update here in August 2020, so please check back then.
In the meantime, we hope you can join us on July 28 for The Final Reading of the 2020 Emerging Voices Fellows, which will be held virtually in partnership with the Hammer Museum. For further information, please contact Michelle Franke, Executive Director, PEN America, Los Angeles.
Do I need to live in the Los Angeles area to apply to the Emerging Voices Fellowship?
You must be a resident of the United States to apply. All fellows must live in Los Angeles or close enough to commute to Los Angeles for the duration of the program. No funds are available for relocation.
Are there any age restrictions?
The Emerging Voices Fellowship is open to all writers over the age of 21.
Can I submit work that has been previously published?
Yes, if you feel it is the work that best represents you as a writer.
Can you help me decide what work to submit as my writing sample?
No, although we do strongly encourage you to submit writing that corresponds to your genre and your project proposal. Please make full use of the 20 page submission limit for prose, but do not exceed 20 pages. This allows the selection committee to gain a better understanding of your project and how you and your work could benefit from the fellowship.
How should the manuscript be formatted?
Fiction and nonfiction manuscripts should be 20 pages of double-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins all around. You may format poetry manuscripts however you feel best represents the poetry you are submitting, as long as you do not exceed the 10-page limit and the typed font is legible. All pages must be numbered.
What does the selection committee look for in a manuscript?
A strong writing sample. The best advice we can give is to seek the advice of other writers and instructors when preparing your manuscript.
When are applicants notified of the committee’s decision?
All applicants will be notified in late November.
Can you give me feedback on my manuscript or tell me why I wasn’t selected for the fellowship?
We cannot provide any comments on manuscripts or on applications submitted.
On the short answer section of the Emerging Voices application, it states you may use up to 500 words for each answer. Does this mean 500 words for each answer or 500 words for all ten questions combined?
It states each response can be up to 500 words maximum. That means each response for each individual question may be up to 500 words, not 500 words for all ten responses.
I write screenplays/graphic novels/children’s books. Am I eligible?
The accepted genres for the Emerging Voices Fellowship are fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. All classes, mentors, and programming for the fellowship are based on one of these three genres. Many alumni have gone on to pursue careers in graphic novels, performance art, and screenwriting, but concentrated on either prose or poetry for the duration of the fellowship.
If offered a place in the fellowship, may I defer acceptance for another year?
You may not defer acceptance.
If not awarded the fellowship, may I reapply?
If you are not awarded a fellowship, we encourage you to reapply if interested.
For more info, please contact [email protected].
Emerging Voices Antioch MFA Scholarships
Effective immediately, Antioch University Los Angeles (AULA) and Antioch University Santa Barbara (AUSB) are offering Advanced Standing in the MFA in Creative Writing Program (AULA) and the MFA in Writing & Contemporary Media (AUSB), plus additional scholarship opportunities, to all alumni of the PEN America Emerging Voices (EV) Fellowship who are accepted into either program.
1. Advanced Standing: All EV alumni will receive 12 units of MFA credit for their work with PEN America as Emerging Voices Fellows. As a result, they will only have to complete three semesters (versus the standard four) in order to receive their MFA in their chosen genre: fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or writing for young people at the Los Angeles campus; or film, television, playwriting, or emerging media at the Santa Barbara campus. All MFA students are also eligible to be mentored in a second genre during at least one “genre jump” semester on either campus. (Consult the AULA or AUSB catalogues for further details.)
2. Creative Writing Scholarship Opportunities: EV alumni are eligible to compete for the following scholarships:
- At the Los Angeles campus: Creative Writing Fellowships (25 percent off one’s tuition each semester); Antioch Opportunity Grants ($1,000); and Eloise Klein Healy Scholarships ($1,000).
- At the Santa Barbara campus: all scholarships available to AUSB MFA students, including the Riskin-Rintels Writing Scholarship ($5,000) and the Don and Vivienne Bellisario Scholarship ($5,000).
These opportunities will be available on an ongoing basis, and EV alumni will need to apply to the MFA Program through the AULA or AUSB website like all other MFA applicants.
By the end of July, 2019, there will be 151 Emerging Voices Fellowship alumni. It is Antioch’s hope that providing alumni with the above opportunities in a low-residency program might allow them to further their writing lives beyond the Fellowship.
Please note that you are an Emerging Voices Fellow in your cover letter and inform Amanda Fletcher at [email protected] of your application.
“As a prior PEN America EV Mentor and multiple Author Evening host, I have had the opportunity to engage with many Fellows, and am always impressed by their talent, passion, and commitment to the written word. I have also been impressed by the rigor of the Fellowship itself. With our social justice and community engagement mission, Antioch’s low-residency MFA Program seems like a great next step for EV alumni looking to continue learning and writing beyond Emerging Voices.”
—Victoria Chang, MA, MBA, Core Faculty, Antioch MFA Program
Bennington Writing Seminars Emerging Voices Scholarship
Thanks to the generosity of the Class of June 2018, Bennington Writing Seminars is able to offer a scholarship of $10,000 to an alumnus of PEN America’s Emerging Voices Fellowship program for the second time.
Effective during the September 2018 admissions period for the January 2019 residency, Bennington will grant a $10,000 scholarship in $2,500 increments across four terms to an Emerging Voices Fellow.
If a candidate is not selected for January admission, the scholarship will be available for an Emerging Voices Fellow for the March 1, 2019, admissions period with a June 2019 start date.
Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the January 2017 graduating class, Bennington Writing Seminars was able to accept three talented Emerging Voices Fellows last year: Shari Poindexter, Davin Malasarn, and Monica Carter (pictured above).
Deadline for applications is September 1.
Please note that you are an Emerging Voices Fellow in your cover letter and inform Amanda Fletcher at [email protected] of your application.
SLICE Literary Writers’ Conference
As of 2017, a partnership between SLICE Literary Writers’ Conference and PEN America waives the conference fee and admission requirements for up to five Emerging Voices Fellows. 2017 EV Fellow Kirin Khan attended the 2018 conference under the terms of this agreement. (Fellows must provide for their own travel arrangements.) Kirin says, “The conference was phenomenal. I was able to really chat with panelists, meet editors and agents, and talk to speakers in a relaxed setting. And the tote bag is the best! Thanks, SLICE.”
UCLA Extension Writers’ Program
In addition to the classes all current Emerging Voices are enrolled in during their tenure as Fellows, UCLA Extension Writers’ Program has agreed to waive the candidacy fee for Specializations and Certificate Programs for EV Fellows in the two years following their tenure.
The Long Beach Festival of Women Authors
In keeping with their mission of encouraging new writers of talent and promise, the Literary Women of Long Beach invites a minimum of two PEN America Emerging Voices to attend the Long Beach Festival of Women Authors every year. Selected Fellows are included in the program and seated with presenting authors who offer invaluable support and advice. The 2019 festival lineup includes Attica Locke, Tayari Jones, and Leni Zumas, among other notables.
The PEN America Emerging Voices Podcast was created to increase the reach of the fellowship and provide the tools necessary to launch a professional writing career to writers in need beyond the five fellows awarded each year. Hosted by Fellowship Manager Amanda Fletcher, the podcast features fellows, mentors, master class instructors, Author Evening hosts, and more, all talking craft tips, writing advice, agents, query letters, carne asada, trauma, transcendence, and the importance of literary community.
Episodes streaming now on your favorite device.
Writers. Readers. Talkers. See how they’re just like you.
Fellowship Archive Materials
2019 Emerging Voices Welcome Party
Thank you to everyone who came out to Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibits to hear the 2019 Emerging Voices Fellows read together for the first time. If you weren’t able to make it, you can watch the reading here and take a look at the photos here.
The Final Reading
Thank you to everyone involved for another inspiring fellowship year. The 2019 Fellows read together for the last time at the Hammer Museum on July 23.
2018 Emerging Voices Welcome Party
Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate the 2018 Emerging Voices last Friday at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions.
Angela, Ron, Natalie, Francisco, and Jubi read excerpts of their work to a packed house full of friends, family, mentors, EV alumni, instructors, and writers. It was literary Los Angeles at its finest.
Take a look at the photos here and make sure to mark your calendars for their next reading at the Hotel Café on Saturday, April 28 for Tongue and Groove with musical guest Elephants With Guns.
PEN America Los Angeles is generously supported by the Amazon Literary Partnership, California Arts Council, Herb Alpert Foundation, Rosenthal Family Foundation, UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, New Balloon & Catapult, and Ovation Foundation.
The Final Reading
The Final Reading featured our 2018 Emerging Voices Fellows Jubi Arriola-Headley, Ron L. Dowell, Natalie Mislang Mann, Angela M. Sanchez, and Francisco Uribe introduced by mentors Douglas Manuel, Tananarive Due, Angela Morales, Lilliam Rivera, and Michael Jaime-Becerra.
Tongue & Groove Presents the 2018 Emerging Voices Fellows
PEN America and Tongue & Groove presented a reading by the 2018 Emerging Voices Fellows at Hotel Café. It was a night of reading and drinking with musical guest Elephants With Guns. Featuring Jubi Arriola-Headley, Ron L. Dowell, Natalie Mislang Mann, Angela M. Sanchez, and Francisco Uribe.