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Emerging Voices Fellowship: Creating Diverse Literary Artists Through Mentorship

PEN Center USA, 'PEN USA'

About Your Proposal

In one sentence, please describe what your organization does.

PEN Center USA advocates for imprisoned, censored, and persecuted writers throughout the world, while cultivating and expanding a diverse and engaged literary community in the western United States.

In one to three sentences, please describe your project proposal.

PEN USA will select five individuals who are in the early stages of their literary careers—based on their writing talent, potential, and limited access to traditional educational and publishing opportunities—for a seven-month fellowship. Fellows are paired with a LA-based writer/mentor; take two free classes through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program; attend genre-specific classes; receive a nominal stipend; participate in a volunteer project; and share their works at public readings.

How much are you applying for?

$25,000

How will your proposal impact the following CREATE metrics?

  • Arts establishments
  • Employment in the creative industries
  • Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”)

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

City of Los Angeles (please select only if your project has a citywide benefit)

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to CREATE?

The Emerging Voices (EV) Fellowship makes LA the best place to create by reducing the barriers to arts participation for disenfranchised writers, early in their careers, by improving their skills and providing arts programming in community-based organizations. EV grew out of PEN USA’s 1994 forum “Writing the Immigrant Experience,” which explored the issues and challenges faced by first-and second-generation immigrant writers who reported feeling isolated from the literary establishment. In the fall of 1996, PEN USA initiated EV as a literary mentorship to launch potential professional writers from minority, immigrant, and other underserved communities into the publishing world

EV identifies five writers in the early stages of their literary careers and pairs each with a LA-based writer/mentor. These five Fellows then partake in eight program components:
1. Monthly meetings with their writer/mentors who provide a glimpse into a writer’s day-to-day life. Past mentors include Ron Carlson, Harryette Mullen, Meghan Daum, and Sherman Alexie.
2. A 12-week writing course and a one-day workshop, donated by the Writers' Program at UCLA Extension.
3. A genre-specific, four-session workshop (fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry) with an established author.
4. Weekly public and private series of intimate conversations with a visiting author, editor, or publisher whose book or works the Fellows have read. Past participants include Victoria Chang, Samantha Dunn, Douglas Kearney, and Dan Smetanka.
5. A one-day voice instruction workshop.
6. Reading selections of their works at venues in Los Angeles, culminating with a Final Reading.
7. A 25-hour literary-related volunteer project with a community-based organization, which increases the public’s opportunity to engage with the arts.
8. $1,000 stipend.

EV components unmask aspects of the publishing process and introduce Fellows to ke figures within the literary and publishing industry in the LA area. Fellows complete the fellowship with a portfolio of resources that include:
• A logline that summarizes their work.
• Individualized notes from their mentor.
• A clear action plan for finishing their project.
• An editing guide from a professional copy editor.
• Submission strategies for literary journals, agents, residencies and fellowships.
• A professional author photo and bio.

EV makes LA the best place to create by engaging LA-based writers as mentors and presenters; offering free and low-cost author conversations and readings across the city; increasing organizations’ capacity to deliver arts programming where Fellows volunteer; diversifying the pool of employable writers; and creating an avenue for Fellows to establish their arts’ enterprises, such as EV alum Natashia Deón’s Dirty Laundry Lit.

EV also impacts the dream metrics of cultural and global economic influence as Fellows add to the diversity of national literary voices previously missing in publishing.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

EV seeks to provide new writers from minority, immigrant and other underrepresented communities with the tools to launch a professional writing career. EV conducts ongoing process and outcome evaluations through these methods:
• Weekly Fellow phone calls and e-mail check-ins
• Monthly activity reports of all interactions by each EV mentor and fellow
• Evaluations administered at the end of each workshop
• Final mentor/fellow evaluation to assess the frequency and duration of, and overall level of satisfaction with, the mentor relationship
• Overall program evaluation to assess the eight program components
• Interview with the supervisor at Fellows’ volunteer community-based sites
• Alumni update surveys to track the ongoing success of EV fellows

EV evaluates the success of the Fellowship through several key metrics:
• Program applicant pool make-up – the total number of applications received broken down by gender, ethnic heritage, geography, and literary genre (fiction, creative non-fiction, or poetry).
• Mentor/Fellow satisfaction with the program
• Number of individuals served through each 25-hour volunteer placement
• Alumni publishing credits (books & literary journals), as well as admissions to fellowships and residencies

To date, EV has mentored 136 writers who have published forty-five books, forty-six anthologies, and 155 journal articles in Los Angeles.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support
  • Quality improvement research