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Open City Application // The Margins Application

Frequently Asked Questions

Asian American Writers' Workshop FAQ

Open City Fellowship FAQ

The Margins Fellowship FAQ


Asian American Writers' Workshop FAQ

Former AAWW fellow Sukjong Hong writing at the Blue Mountain Center for the Arts as part of her Open City Fellowship with AAWW.



Since 1991, The Asian American Writers' Workshop has served as a national home for Asian American stories. An alternative arts space dedicated to literature at the intersection of race, migration, and social justice, we host more than 50 events a year, featuring nearly 200 writers and artists, such as Zadie Smith, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Maxine Hong Kingston, Teju Cole, Chang-rae Lee, and Min Jin Lee. We publish the online magazines The Margins, our magazine of arts and ideas, and Open City, which is dedicated to chronicling low-income immigrant communities in New York. We grant fellowships to emerging Asian American writers. We send writers to lead workshops in NYC public high schools and senior centers, and we hold writing workshops in our space. We have a podcast, AAWW Radio, and a YouTube channel, through which you can experience the magic of our NYC reading room. Named one of the top five Asian American groups nationally, the recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award for Digital Magazines, covered by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Observer, we seek to invent the future of Asian American intellectual culture.


For more than 25 years, the Asian American Writers' Workshop has mentored generations of writers of color, such as Whiting Award-winner Alexander Chee, bestselling novelist Monica Ferrell, Barnard Prize-winner Cathy Park Hong, Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jhumpa Lahiri, whose first book party we hosted.

We support writers in a number of ways: We host writers in our NYC reading room, where we have held unforgettable public events; we publish essays, reportage, and original fiction and poetry by emerging and established writers; and we grant fellowships to emerging Asian American writers, including emerging Muslim, Arab, and South Asian writers.

Our fellowships have helped writers (1) access time and space to work on book-length projects and to develop a portfolio of writing; (2) build relationships with mentors, editors, and fellow writers; (3) receive important material support in an age when the arts are being de-funded; (4) secure literary agents and editors for book projects; (5) go on to publish in more mainstream media outlets including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times. (6) find a supportive community of writers of color with whom to share their work; and (7) believe that they can take the next steps in their writing careers.

As one of our 2015 Margins Fellows wrote: "The fact that I received the fellowship made me feel that there were people who believed in me as a writer. I think the biggest thing the Workshop + fellowship has provided for me is this feeling that other accomplished writers CARE! I have never felt this supported in my craft."


2020 Margins Fellows will be announced on January 2, 2020. Fall 2019 Open City fellows will be announced by August 12, 2019. All applicants will receive notice by email.


Asian American and Asian diasporic writers who reside in New York City. "Asian American" is defined broadly to include not just, say, Chinese and Indian Americans, but also Asian American adoptee and multiracial writers, Indo-Caribbean writers, and West Asians, such as Iranians and Arab Americans. Former or current employees, board members, or current/past AAWW fellows are ineligible. All applicants must reside in New York City at the time of the fellowship. Margins Fellowship applicants must be 30 years or younger at the beginning of 2020, and should not be enrolled in any academic, conservatory, college, or degree granting training program during the fellowship term.


We define "emerging writer" broadly to describe a creative writer in an early or transitional stage of their career, one who has not yet had the support, resources, guidance, or network they need to move to the next level. An emerging writer may have a publication record, but would not have yet published a book-length work in the genre in which they are applying. Others may not have a robust publication record, but demonstrate ability in their work samples and the formation of a body of work.  


1) Read the FAQ for the fellowship you'd like to apply for.

2) Get to know the magazines, Open City and The Margins.

3) Fill out the application: Open City Fellowship Application | The Margins Fellowship Application


AAWW Fellows Main Page
The Margins Application // Open City Application

Open City Fellowship FAQ


We're looking for emerging Asian American writers who are passionate about telling stories from the Asian American communities from New York. You are a strong, voice-driven storyteller who cares about social justice movements and transporting readers to the creative subcultures of color in places like Flushing, Queens and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

You possess an entrepreneurial spirit and understand that building a career as a writer includes social networking and developing a subject or geographical beat/expertise.

You are submitting work to magazines, journals, or other publications and can demonstrate nonfiction writing experience and a dedication to developing a writing career. While we prefer some publication record, we think the strength of your work is more important than its home. We're looking for writers who are excited to take their writing to the "next level," and may be dedicated to writing after the fellowship term is up.

You are excited about getting your hands dirty. This fellowship is for writers who thrive on being "in the field" meeting people and cultivating trust and sources in your neighborhood. Facetime with the community is an important part of this fellowship.

You are looking to grow and have some experience with the editorial process. You should view this as an opportunity to build a network and take advantage of AAWW's creative initiatives.  


A lot. The Open City Fellowship is a unique initiative that combines publication opportunities, journalism training, and money:

a) Honoraria: $2,500 for the duration of the six-month grant period;

b) Publication opportunities: We will publish two longform pieces you’ve written over the six-month period on our online magazine, Open City. We want these pieces to be special and we hope you will too. We’ll also publish four shorter pieces, ideally things you’ll write in preparation for these longer works;

c) The Open City Workshop series: We’re creating a special workshop series just for Open City Fellows. We’ll launch with a special orientation that will feature professional writers and former fellows. Future sessions in the workshop series may deal with interviewing, the craft of writing, photography, multimedia storytelling, and data research;

d) Mentorship opportunities and potential resources from the CUNY Journalism School;

e) Free membership to the AAWW, discounts, free access to general programs;

f) One free writing workshop ($200).

Previous fellows have gone on to write and report for Granta and Al Jazeera America, among other outlets. Their work during our fellowship has been picked up by NPR, CityLab, and the New York Times.  


Over a six-month period, grantees write at least two longform stories, as well as four short pieces. The pieces will be edited rigorously by both staff and volunteer editors. We welcome narrative-driven features, profiles, interviews, editorials, essays, and humor pieces, as well as multimedia. Here are a few examples:

— Narrative-Driven Feature Reportage. Read Eveline Chao's "Roast Duck Bureaucracy."

— Oral History and Local Histories. Read Eveline Chao’s “Pearls of Wisdom” and Esther Wang’s “Bread + Butter Socialism: A History of Finnish-American Co-Ops.”

— Voice-Driven Creative Nonfiction. Read Humera Afridi’s "When The Butcher Cries: A Visit to an Organic Halal Slaughterhouse."

— Opinion/Editorial Writing. Check out Chaya Babu’s “A Stranger in Our Midst” and Sukjong Hong's "Beyond the Horse Dance."

— Cultural Beat: Stories that reveal the rich vibrant life of Asian American neighborhoods. Check out Rishi Nath's Everything Is a Surface."

— Personal Narrative Essays. Read Rong Xiaoqing's "The Story of My Name."

— Personality Profiles. Check out Sonny Singh's "The Free-Spirited Journey of A Taxi Union Organizer."

— Expository Features: Stories that shine a spotlight on social and cultural issues within Asian American communities. Read Yichen Tu's "Leftover Women," and "I Am a Sex Worker."  

For the Muslim Communities Fellowship, here are a few samples of stories that Fellows have written:

—Reportage on what’s happening on the ground. Read "Six Years of Spying on Muslim Americans" by Sowmiya Asok.

—Expository multimedia on how the War on Terror has wronged Muslim Americans and how it wrought havoc on their families. Watch Sarah Khan’s "Collateral Damage".

—First Person Narratives. Read "From Prison Chaplain to Imprisoned Chaplain" by April Xu.

—Personal Essays of how it is to be a Muslim in the United States. Check out "When the First Generation Dies" by Roja Heydarpour.


The most important thing is for you to ensure you have the time to complete the written pieces. Here’s what we’re looking for:

— A meeting with the Open City editor every two to three weeks.

— Attendance at six writing workshops, which may include feedback from the Open City editor;

— Occasional get-togethers with all fellows; and

— An initial all-day orientation at the start of the six-month term.


Shahana Hanif, one of  four main organizers of a protest rally in Kensington, Brooklyn this fall addressed the crowd about the responsibility of Bangladeshi Americans to speak out against injustice in Bangladesh. The protest was the community's response to the murder of a 13-year-old boy in Bangladesh. Photo by Chaya Babu.

Open City Fellow Chaya Babu wrote about a demonstration in Kensington, Brooklyn, a few summers ago that was held in response to the murder of a 13-year-old boy in Bangladesh. Shahana Hanif, photographed here, was one of the main organizers. Photo by Chaya Babu.



Application for the Fall 2019 Fellowship is now open. Deadline for application is June 28, 2019.

For this year’s application, we require candidates to submit a project proposal for an overarching project brought to life through pieces published in Open City. We are offering three grants to Open City Fellows each term.

Muslim Communities Fellowship applicants are also required to submit a project proposal.


All Open City Fellowship applicants must submit a project proposal that will pitch and outline the stories they plan to write for Open City. You should outline a writing project that will:

1) evince a strong sense of place and evoke the bustling life, senses, and politics of Asian American neighborhoods in New York;

2) engage with interesting issues, particularly issues of inequality, social justice, immigration, and race; and

3) depict the above through sophisticated writing: original angles, strong voice, excellent writing, and rich, detailed, and fact-checked reporting.

We want to know that you have a plan for the six months you’ll spend writing about issues affecting Asian American NYC. Describe an overall project you’d propose for the six-month fellowship period that would be broken down into two long-form pieces, as well as four short-form pieces. Describe in detail two of the story ideas that might speak to larger themes, ideas, or issues. Why are these ideas important? Why are they unique? Why are you well-suited to report on these issues? And why is Open City the best place to imagine this project?

Please be specific and treat the project proposal like a lengthy pitch to an editor. This section will be heavily weighted. The story ideas you pitch will be treated as the pieces we expect you to work on during the six-month grant period.

We also want to know where you're coming from and where you want to go. Why are you the perfect person to write about issues in Asian immigrant communities across New York City? Why are you best-suited to write about the specific neighborhood(s) you’ve proposed? Please also discuss your history of publications (if any) and your ability to report and conduct interviews for nonfiction writing.  


The Open City Fellows are chosen based on the following criteria:

— Relevance, quality, and cohesiveness of project proposal;

— Merit of past work, based on submitted work sample;

— Demonstrated ability to cover the proposed neighborhoods;

— Career record, as described in the resume;

— Demonstrated willingness to take the most advantage of the Fellowship: e.g., to attend ALL trainings and workshops, and take advantage of publishing opportunities.

In previous years, we have typically received about 100 applications for the Open City Fellowship. Applicants will be assessed based on a multi-round selection process, in which the applicant pool grows smaller in each round. The assessment process will involve Editorial Director Jyothi Natarajan, and Open City Editor Noel Pangilinan, as well as an outside jury comprised of literary and journalism professionals. Finalist applicants will be interviewed in person. The Board of Directors does not review the work of applicants or make aesthetic judgments.


For the Open City Fellowship application, we require you to:

1) Specify which neighborhoods you are uniquely qualified to cover for Open City;

2) Submit a project proposal identifying two to three story ideas tied up by a common theme in your chosen neighborhood (900 words max);

3) Upload a 1-3 page resume or CV that also includes publication history; and

4) Upload 2-3 writing samples that best illustrate the kinds of articles you would like to write for Open City. Samples should not be more than three pages each and must be uploaded to the application form as PDFs or MS Word documents. They should be double-spaced, in 12-point font size, and should not include publication information.

AAWW Fellows Main Page
The Margins Application // Open City Application

The Margins Fellowship FAQ


Our 2017-2018 Margins Fellows. From left to right: Yanyi, Mariam Bazeed, Rami Karim, Kyle Lucia Wu.


If you have any additional questions please email aawwmagazine [at] gmail [dot] com

We will not be accepting phone calls inquiring about the fellowship application or selection process.



Applicants must be:

— Asian and/or a Muslim, Arab, or South Asian writer

— no younger than 18 and no older than 30 years of age at the beginning of 2020, born after January 1, 1989

— living in one of New York City’s five boroughs—the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, or Staten Island—during the fellowship year

— not enrolled in any academic, conservatory, college, or degree granting or training program during the fellowship term

— willing and able to make an enthusiastic commitment to the fellowship, which includes attendance at monthly meetings and regular correspondence with fellowship coordinators


The Margins fellowship is a year-long program. The 2020 fellowship year will run from January 6 to December 18.

STIPEND: $5,000 honoraria, distributed in three parts over the fellowship year. Fellowship payment will require the completion of an IRS W-9 form

RESIDENCY: Fellows are awarded residency time at The Millay Colony—an innovative seven-acre artists retreat space at the former house and gardens of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay in Austerlitz, NY

WRITING SPACE: 24/7 access to AAWW’s space: Given that time and space to write are rare in New York, the Margins Fellows will be given keys to the AAWW Reading Room and workspace

PUBLICATION: Fellows are invited to publish work on our online magazine, The Margins

MENTORSHIP: Fellows are paired with an established writer who will meet with fellows in-person at minimum four times during the fellowship year. Previous mentors include Hua Hsu, Tina Chang, Monica Youn, Alexander Chee, Meera Nair, and Kaitlyn Greenidge

CAREER BUILDING: Fellows are offered access to private career meet-ups and dinners with editors, agents, and fellow writers

AAWW MEMBERSHIP: Free membership to AAWW includes discounts on book sales and free access to general programs

WRITING WORKSHOP: One free writing workshop organized through AAWW ($200)

GUIDANCE: AAWW Editorial Director Jyothi Natarajan will meet with you periodically throughout the fellowship year to discuss your career goals and how AAWW can help you meet them

FINAL READING: Fellows will take to the stage with their mentors for a final celebratory reading at the culmination of the fellowship year

HEADSHOTS: We invite a photographer to take professional headshots of our fellows that they can use going forward



— STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: 500 words max describing what you would do with the fellowship as a creative writer, artist, and curator. You will enter this into a field within the Submittable form

— WRITING SAMPLE: A writing sample that reflects a current project

Writing samples must be uploaded to the application form as PDFs or MS Word Documents

Fiction and creative nonfiction samples should be double-spaced. Poetry samples may stay true to their original formatting

All samples should use size 12 font

Previously published work is acceptable, but please do not include publication information

Writing samples should be no longer than the following page lengths:

Poetry: 10 pages

Fiction: 20 pages

Creative Nonfiction: 20 pages

— CV: 2 to 3 pages

Incomplete applications will not be considered.


Applications to the 2020 Margins fellowship will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, September 9, 2019.


Applicants are reviewed by a selection panel composed of AAWW staff and distinguished writers. The panel chooses ten finalists to interview, and from those four fellows are chosen.


We know many writers are often working alone, shuffling between numerous editors and without a stable home for their published work. That's where the Margins Fellowship comes in. The fellowship builds an environment in which writers can generate new, original work, build connections, and engage in dialogue with a community of writer peers. Coming into the fellowship as part of a cohort has given past fellows invaluable support and friendship that continue to shape their writing careers. Not only that, but fellows are integrated into the work we do at AAWW, building relationships with staff and the larger AAWW community of writers. We've spent more than 25 years building community and incubating emerging writers and we hope we can help include you.

We want you to use our institutional resources for your own literary career. Through the Margins Fellowship, the AAWW offers emerging writers resources that they can take advantage of, such as access to workshops and trainings, publication opportunities, and programming opportunities in our event space. We also want to give artists a chance to develop as curators, armed with the resources of a literary arts institution.

Margins fellows have gone on to publish books with W.W. Norton, Ahsahta Press, Nightboat, and The Feminist Press; sign with agents at the Wylie Agency and Curtis Brown; publish their writing in Poetry, Granta, Longreads, LitHub, BOMB, and The New Yorker; and receive awards, fellowships, and residencies from Lambda Literary, Tin House, Kundiman, the Yale Series of Younger Poets, La Cité internationale des arts, the Center for Fiction, MacDowell, Believer Magazine, Submittable, and Yaddo.

Margins Fellow Jen Hyde reads from her book, Hua Shi Hua, at an AAWW event.



What is the application fee?

There is no application fee for the Margins fellowship.

What should I write about in the statement of purpose?

The statement of purpose is a place for you to discuss what you would do with the fellowship as a creative writer, artist, and curator. Describe your aesthetic practice. What is your current writing project and what is interesting about it? How would you describe your style and artistic aims? What is your body of work about? What thematic linkages are present? Which writers do you admire?

Other questions to keep in mind: Where do you want your career to be at the end of the fellowship? How do you see this fellowship and AAWW helping you make this happen? If you would like, you are welcome to talk about financial need or other obstacles you have had to overcome as a writer.

If you would like to guest-edit a themed package, write outside your genre, propose a project that spans several published pieces, curate an event, or interview a writer, you can propose a larger project in your statement of purpose. We want you to be invested in the fellowship in a way that remains fun and is generated from your own creative practice.

We are especially interested in writers who can thoughtfully articulate their own career and creative goals, and describe how they will take advantage of using AAWW's initiatives and institutional platform (e.g., access to workshops, space, and publication opportunities) to grow as a writer and build a network.

Please be thoughtful about your statement of purpose. Please do not send us a generic boilerplate statement.

Are applicants evaluated strongly on whether they have a specific project in mind when submitting their application? Are projects flexible?

Yes, having a vision for your work coming into the fellowship is important to us, though we understand the ways in which goals and projects shift and change over the span of a year.

What should I submit for my writing sample? Is publication required in order to be eligible for the fellowship?

Among the elements of your application, your writing sample is weighed most heavily. We encourage you to submit your strongest work that most closely lines up with the writing project you’ve described in your statement of purpose. The strength of your writing sample is more important than its home. Unpublished writers will be given equal consideration with a strong writing sample. The fellowship is designed to support not-yet-established writers looking to build their publication portfolio.

Do I need to have letters of recommendation or references?

We do not require letters of recommendation for the Margins fellowship. At the interview stage, we will request the contact information of two references who can speak to your work, your commitment to writing past the fellowship, and your involvement in writing communities.

I write in multiple genres. Can I submit more than one application to the fellowship?

No. As the Margins Fellowship is oriented around making headway on a writing project during the year, please send us just one application, with one project in mind.  

My work is hybrid and cross-genre—which genre should I check off on the Submittable form?

You are welcome to select more than one genre on the Submittable application form to identify your work and your current project.

Can I submit a writing sample in a language other than English?

No, but your writing sample can include phrases or sentences in languages other than English.

Can I apply for the fellowship if I was rejected previously?

Yes, please do!

Can I apply for the fellowship if I am a screenwriter, graphic novelist, or children’s book writer?

At this time writers who intend to work on projects other than poetry, fiction, or nonfiction during the fellowship term are not eligible for the fellowship program.

2018-19 fellows Pik-Shuen Fung, Jen Lue, Ayesha Raees, and Zena Agha. Photo by Axel Jenson.


I’m not a U.S. citizen—can I still apply?


I don’t live in one of New York City’s boroughs, but I do reside in the general metropolitan area—e.g. Westchester, New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut. Am I eligible for the fellowship?

No. Fellows must reside in one of New York City’s five boroughs—the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, or Queens.

I don’t currently live in New York City but plan to relocate in 2020. Can I still apply for the fellowship?

We require fellows to be NYC residents by the first day of the fellowship year, January 6, 2020. If you have plans to relocate before this day, please make this clear in your statement of purpose. No funds are available for relocation.

Are former AAWW interns and Open City fellows able to apply for the Margins fellowship?

Yes, former AAWW interns and Open City fellows are eligible for the Margins fellowship. However, former employees of AAWW are ineligible for our fellowship programs.

Is formal writing training, previous workshop experience, or an advanced writing degree necessary in order to apply to the fellowship?

No. We don't expect writers to have a specific set of skills or training.

I’m planning on applying to a degree program that may begin in the fall of 2020. Can I still participate in the Margins fellowship?

Margins fellows may not be enrolled in an academic program at any point along the duration of the fellowship year—from January to December 2020.

How many applicants are there for the fellowship?

Last year we received approximately 150 applications for the 4 fellowship slots.

Can you give me feedback on my application or tell me why I wasn’t selected as a fellow?

No. Due to the volume of applications we receive and the limited capacity of our staff, we are unable to comment on individual applications.

Can you tell me more about the publishing opportunities?

As part of the Margins Fellowship, you are invited to publish work on our online magazine The Margins in a number of ways. We ask fellows to complete at least two of the following over the span of the fellowship year: (1) submit original creative work, whether it’s poems, short stories, creative nonfiction, or hybrid work; (2) engage in a conversation with a writer or artist that is transcribed and published as an interview; (3) submit a work of cultural criticism that draws together ideas animated in their own creative work; (4) edit or curate a portfolio of work by other writers that speaks to a theme. All work will be guided through an editorial process with our team of editors. These will be published along a timeline that you will set with the AAWW staff.

You will not be an exclusive contributor to The Margins and would be free to publish elsewhere.

How is residency time at the Millay Colony scheduled?

We work with Millay Colony’s residency director to schedule each fellow’s residency, based upon availability of the fellow and on openings in Millay’s schedule. On occasion, residency time may be scheduled for after the end of the fellowship year.

The 2015-2016 Margins fellows with their mentors: Jennifer Tamayo, Wo Chan, Meera Nair, Muna Gurung, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, and Alexander Chee.



Amanda Ajamfar
Sabrina Imbler
Yuxi Lin
Abigail Savitch-Lew

Zena Agha
Pik-Shuen Fung
Jen Lue
Ayesha Raees

Mariam Bazeed
Rami Karim
Kyle Lucia Wu

VT Hung
Jen Hyde
Steven Tagle
Wei Tchou

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Wo Chan
Muna Gurung

AAWW Fellows Main Page
Open City Application // The Margins Application