(NEW YORK)— PEN America today announces a grant award to fund its groundbreaking DREAMing Out Loud writing workshops and annual published anthology for young aspiring migrant writers in New York City. Roxanne Coady/R J Julia Booksellers, the Karen Pritzker/Seedlings Foundation and Atlas Books have teamed up to provide $275,000 to support the program over the next five years.

This is the first time the program has received multi-year support for emerging migrant writers born across the globe and living in New York City to participate in tuition-free creative writing workshops, taught by professional writers who show immense dedication to the progress of their students and to their sense of belonging in the literary community. Student  essays, fiction, non-fiction, sketches, plays and poems are collected in an annual anthology, also titled DREAMing Out Loud, which is published by PEN America. More than 150 students have been published since the program began in 2016.

Jared Jackson, program director of literary programs and emerging voices at PEN America, said: “With the status of immigrants in the United States in a perpetual state of flux or crisis–often treated as a political weapon rather than a humanitarian imperative–and new political headwinds ahead, the DREAMing Out Loud program for migrant writers has taken on greater urgency. At the same time, funding for literary programs and the arts more generally has decreased across the country, threatening to destabilize this impactful work. We are so deeply grateful to the Karen Pritzker/Seedlings Foundation and Roxanne Coady/R J Julia Booksellers for their vision in supporting this crucial program for emerging writers from across the world.”

Roxanne Coady, one of the funders of the program, said: “We are thrilled to be supporting the DREAMing Out Loud program. As the daughter of refugees I am acutely aware of the power of opportunity and access to resources. As a bookseller, I have learned that giving new voices the chance to find an audience is empowering to the writer and reader and changes lives. DREAMing Out Loud is making this happen.”

The program creates a diverse talent pipeline for careers in literature and the publishing industry. It also helps to amplify the voices of young aspiring writers who are otherwise marginalized because of their immigration status, religion, race or other factors. At the same time, the program offers students a sense of community, professional mentoring support, and a counterweight to anti-immigrant sentiment.                                                                      

A student in the most recent workshop wrote: “Participating in DREAMing Out Loud made me feel like a writer. It made me realize that it’s okay to be vulnerable and not feel afraid to share my thoughts. Being a participant of the program has been such an honor and it makes me feel proud to be an immigrant who, in a way, can be the voice for a lot of people who are afraid to speak. DREAMing Out Loud made me extremely happy, and made me feel seen and heard for the first time, without being judged.”

Most participants are undocumented, DACA recipients and/or DREAMers who came to the United States as children. The program was founded in 2016 by author Álvaro Enrigue, a novelist, short story writer, and essayist, born in Mexico, who continues to be the program leader.          

Forty students are selected each year for the workshops, which are taught by established writers from immigrant backgrounds or those with deep connections to immigrant communities. Students develop original writing and go on to perform at public readings, including the PEN World Voices Festival, PEN America’s spring celebration of international literature and writers. With additional support from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, the City University of New York Mexican Studies Institute, New York Theatre Workshop, and National Queer Theater, workshops are offered both virtually and in-person at the PEN America office in New York and the historic Drama Book Shop in midtown Manhattan.

Applications may be submitted here. To be eligible, applicants must identify as an immigrant, reside and/or go to college in New York City, (or have graduated from college) and be 18 years or older. The official deadline is Sun., Dec. 31 by 11:59 PM but the application process is rolling and may close if all slots are filled before then. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance via email.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, Sr. Advisor for Communications and Media: [email protected], 201-247-5057