About the Fellowship Program
The Emerging Writer Fellowship is a program of Straw Dog Writers Guild designed to support women of color and gender expansive writers of color based in Western Massachusetts at the early stages of their career. The Fellowship was created to help emerging writers negotiate barriers that may prevent them from accessing mentorship and pursuing publication of their work.
The fellowship invites applications in poetry and fiction, and focuses on each one of these genres in alternating cycles. For instance, in the 2020 cycle, the focus was poetry. In 2022-23, the second cycle, the genre was fiction.
The Emerging Writer Fellowship was initiated by Nicole M. Young. Below is her account of the personal journey that led to the starting of the initiative.
Paving the Way, Paying it Forward…
How the Fellowship Began – by Nicole M. Young-Martin
Founder of the Emerging Writer Fellowship
My interest in writing emerged when I first relocated to Western Massachusetts in 2007. Joining a writing and performance group as a way to learn more about the area and make friends, I discovered a hidden passion for scripting story through poetry.
From there, I began writing plays, maintaining a blog and even writing articles for local newspapers. I uncovered a gift that had been dormant for some time… as I had won a statewide poetry competition in third grade back in Michigan.
Fast forward to 2011. I had a substantial amount of writing and thought to start submitting for publication. Like many writers, I got rejected from countless journals, emerging writers’ competitions, retreats and workshops that required in-depth applications and intense screening processes and from anthologies geared towards supporting writers like myself.
Like many writers, I got rejected from countless journals, emerging writers’ competitions, retreats and workshops that required in-depth applications and intense screening processes…”
I gave up for quite a bit, not practicing art for several years. Though returning back to writing in 2017, I stopped submitting as I was told that I needed to learn the science of getting accepted.
Frustrated, I reached out to friends and acquaintances who have been published before to inquire and identify what I was doing wrong and what I needed to understand this very competitive process. I was told things, from finding a mentor to apply for an MFA in Creative Writing to just continue blindly shooting your shot. All of these things cost something, whether it’s time, dignity or a lot of money and I had an MFA in another field and had already acquired a significant amount of debt.
Later in 2017, my life was suddenly derailed unexpectedly. By Christmas, both parents have died (both sudden). As many loved ones do, my mother and father left behind money so that I can care for myself beyond their days. Thinking back to all of those rejections, I decided to take power in my own hands in order to garner exposure of my work. In 2018, taking all of the work that I’ve written since 2009 I self-produced a spoken word album.
Thinking of all of the lessons my parents had taught me, I felt the need to do something for other writers who may not have the means that I do. I am taking the income generated from album sales to create a fellowship program for emerging women and gender nonbinary writers of color – people like me who may be experiencing similar hardship in finding their foot in the door in this industry.
I specifically chose Straw Dog Writers Guild to host this program as not only do they support writers of all stages, they have welcomed me and my work with open arms helping me to get the exposure my labor of love has deserved for so long. Under Straw Dog’s auspices, I’ve been a featured reader at open mics and have served as an MC for several events including Voices for Resistance and the Dead Writers Dance – multiple opportunities to have my work finally heard.
Thinking of all of the lessons my parents had taught me, I felt the need to do something for other writers who may not have the means that I do.”
With the intent of meeting the needs of the fellow and their current writing goals, we will provide mentors to assist with craft and other guidance on the business of the industry. The fellow will also receive a stipend. At the conclusion of the year, the fellow will share their work during a public reading.
We would love your support! There are several ways to get involved in this initiative. Through volunteering as a mentor or making a financial contribution, you will have an opportunity to support a groundbreaking program in Western Massachusetts. You can either make a direct donation to the Emerging Writers’ Fellowship Fund or purchase one of my CDs (Available for digital download on iTunes and CDBaby). I will continue donating proceeds to this cause.
I would like to personally thank everyone who has contributed to this program and to those who will give in the future. It means a lot to have the support of my community in embracing our next generation of writers.
Nicole’s post was originally published
on The Straw Dog Writers Guild website.