Teaching Artist, Writing as Activism Fellowship (Consultancy)

PEN America, a nonprofit organization that stands at the intersection of literature and human rights, and the New York City Literary Action Coalition seek a consultant teaching artist for the new Writing as Activism Fellowship. The teaching artist’s role will be critical to the fellowship’s bimonthly programming, and will work in both group settings and one-on-one with the six fellows for the duration of the fellowship. The teaching artist will be supported by PEN America staff and Coalition members.

The Writing as Activism Fellowship reimagines the role of writers in New York City, offering tools and support to produce literary work that centers activism on community and social justice issues. The fellowship will offer a six-month immersive workshop experience for six New York City-based writer-activists committed to uplifting the voices of those most marginalized in the city, including those who identify as LGBTQ+, Black, Latinx, Asian American, disabled, low-income, and at any intersection of these and other experiences. The program will culminate with individual and collective work brought to the public and the launch of a cohort of writers ready to mobilize their creativity in activist spaces.

At a juncture in history when the inequities of our society are laid bare by pandemic, prejudice, and polarization, there is an urgency to ignite capacities for change. The writer is often pictured as working in isolation, removed both physically and intellectually from the grit of the street below. But when those streets are filled with catalytic protest, there are writers who want to join in not only with their presence, but with contributions of their craft. And indeed, many activists, for their part, have found inspiration in the writing of authors like Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, and Angela Davis, all of whom have provided creative and intellectual blueprints for how writers can contribute to social justice movements. PEN America, as an organization of writers with a mission to advance human rights, understands this intersection well. In the last two years, as we have worked to found the NYC Literary Action Coalition, nearly 40 writers’ organizations have answered the call to build the literary community’s capacity to mobilize in support of social justice.

Together, the Writing as Activism cohort will tackle questions such as: What can the writer bring to the racial justice movement, community support mustered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other such activism? What tools does a writer need to produce a powerful piece about community and justice? How can writing be used to support New York City’s social justice movements? What is the role of writing in imagining a more inclusive and just city? Where can writers coalesce to bring about change?

For this role, the teaching artist will facilitate bimonthly workshops, serve as the editor of the fellows’ final pieces, and lead the planning of the fellow’s collective event at the end of the fellowship. The ideal candidate will have expertise in drafting syllabi and facilitating creative writing workshops in multiple genres, will have significant experience as an activist and/or community organizer, and will be New York City-based. They will work closely with PEN America’s community outreach manager, as well as the advisory committee of the NYC Literary Action Coalition.

Candidates representing diverse backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply. This is a six-month consultancy; future iterations of the fellowship are envisioned, subject to availability of funding. We recognize that applicants for this position will have other professional obligations and anticipate discussing the potential timing of fellowship sessions and other elements of the assignment with shortlisted candidates, pending a final negotiation with the successful candidate. In-person activities in New York City are envisioned as part of the project.

Responsibilities:

  • Draft, edit, and finalize fellowship syllabus in collaboration with PEN America’s community outreach manager
  • Facilitate biweekly in-person workshops with fellows focused on key elements of craft across genre as it relates to the fellowship vision
  • Meet regularly one-on-one with fellows to help them brainstorm their projects and provide feedback as they progress to completion
  • Build the cohort’s capacity to work together and navigate difficult discussions, themes, and topics through group activities, exercises, and community building practices
  • Identify how the fellows’ writing projects might be most impactful beyond the page, and guide them through how they might bring their work into the world in a final event/mobilization
  • Edit and curate the fellows’ final pieces in an online publication platform

Qualifications:

  • Demonstrated success in facilitating creative writing workshops
  • Expert editing skills in a variety of literary genres, such as poetry, fiction, personal essay, and hybrid work
  • A record of investment in community organizing, advocacy, and/or social justice work
  • Capacity to build a sense of community, trust, and empowerment through group activities, writing exercises, and discussion
  • Organized work style, ability to take initiative and create a workflow according to the fellowship’s needs
  • Ideal candidate will be tapped into social justice issues and important conversations in New York City

Fee:

  • $15,000, payable in tranches as the fellowship progresses.

To Apply:

Please submit a resume, a short statement of interest that directly addresses your qualifications for the requirements as outlined above, documentation (such as a syllabus) of at least one previous workshop or similar teaching artist role that elaborates on approach and results, and the contact information for two references. Please submit the entire application by email to [email protected]. All elements of the application should be combined into one PDF. Please use “Teaching Artist – Writers as Activism” with your name as the subject of your email (for example, “Jane Doe – Teaching Artist – Writers as Activism”). Only complete applications will be reviewed, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

No phone calls, please.

PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices, and in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

About PEN America:

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free 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.