1. WHAT IS THE ASIAN AMERICAN WRITERS' WORKSHOP?
Since 1991, The Asian American Writers' Workshop has served as a national home for Asian American stories. A quirky yet curated literary community dedicated to Asian American alternative culture, we host more than 50 events a year, featuring nearly 200 writers and artists, such as Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri, Martha Rosler, Junot Diaz, Teju Cole, Das Racist, and Maxine Hong Kingston. 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. Named one of the top five Asian American groups nationally, covered by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Observer, tweeted about by Salman Rushdie and Ai Weiwei, we seek to invent the future of Asian American intellectual culture.
We have partnered with The National Book Foundation, Granta, PEN American Center, Verso, Melville House, and powerHouse Arena. Our "big tent" vision of Asian American cultural pluralism is big enough to include both the NY publishing industry and ethnic studies, the South Asian diasporic novel and the Asian American story of assimilation, high culture and pop culture, Lisa Lowe and Amar Chitra Katha, avant-garde poetry and spoken word, journalism and critical race theory, Midnight's Children and Dictee. We are against both an exclusive literary culture that believes that race does not exist and Asian American narratives that lead to self-stereotyping and limit the menu of our identity.
2. WHY APPLY FOR A FELLOWSHIP AT THE AAWW? HOW DOES THE AAWW SUPPORT WRITERS?
For nearly 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. In December 2012, we started our first AAWW Publishing Conference, which connected editors at the New York Times, Paris Review, and Grantland with nearly 100 emerging writers of color, many of whom tweeted that the conference was "amazing." As Ishle Yi Park, the former Poet Laureate of Queens, writes, "The Asian American Writers' Workshop nurtured and raised me—a home away from home, a nest, a gathering place, a refuge, a resource."
In 2015 we brought on our first cohort of Margins Fellows—three creative writers who have spent a year with us at AAWW. The fellowship combines publication opportunities, a writers retreat, mentorship, literary events, and work space. It’s an extension of fellowships AAWW began offering in 1993. 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.” Among our first class of fellows, writers have secured agents and a book deal, made serious headway on chapbook projects, completed a manuscript of short stories, and found a supportive community of writers through AAWW.
Six years ago, we launched Open City, our magazine that tells the story of Asian American communities in NYC by granting fellowships to emerging Asian American writers. Former Open City fellow Sukjong Hong spent years trying to publish her work in small literary journals while working in the Korean American community. During her fellowship, Sukjong wrote a brilliant piece of cultural commentary about Gangnam Style, the Korean rap video that's now the most-watched item ever posted to YouTube. As a result of publishing her essay in Open City, Sukjong appeared on NPR's "Marketplace" and a thirty-minute segment on Al-Jazeera TV and was quoted on MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and the Associated Press, which re-printed portions of her story in newspapers nationally. From their written work for Open City, Open City fellows have gone on to write for publications like Salon and the American Prospect, and newyorker.com or use the platform they established while writing for Open City to acquire a literary agent for their novel.
3. HOW ARE THE FELLOWSHIPS ANNOUNCED?
The 2018 Margins fellows will be announced in December 2017. The Fall 2017 Open City fellows will be announced by October 6, 2017. All applicants will receive notice by email. The names of all fellows and the panelists who selected them will be listed online at aaww.org.
4. AM I ELIGIBLE?
Who is eligible to apply? Writers of Asian American descent. "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.
5. WHAT IS AN EMERGING WRITER?
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.
6. HOW DO I APPLY?
1) Read the FAQ for the fellowship you'd like to apply for.
1. WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE FOR AN OPEN CITY FELLOWSHIP?
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.
2. WHAT DO I GET?
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) Grantees will have the opportunity to co-publish their pieces on Voices of NY, a publication run out of CUNY’s Center for Community and Ethnic Media. The site curates the best journalistic work being produced by scores of community and ethnic publications;
f) Free membership to the AAWW, discounts, free access to general programs;
g) 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, The Atlantic Cities, and the New York Times.
3. WHAT WILL I BE WRITING FOR OPEN CITY AND HOW OFTEN?
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 Finish-American Co-Ops.”
— Voice-driven Creative Nonfiction. Read Humera Afridi’s "When The Butcher Cries: A Visit to an Organic Halal Slaughterhouse."
— 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."
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.
4. ARE THERE ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR THE OPEN CITY FELLOWSHIP?
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.
5. WHAT'S NEW IN THIS YEAR'S OPEN CITY FELLOWSHIP?
Application for the Fall Fellowship is now open. Deadline for application is September 5, 2017.
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.
6. WHAT SHOULD I INCLUDE IN THE 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.
6. WHAT IS THE SELECTION PROCESS FOR THE OPEN CITY FELLOWSHIP?
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 AAWW Executive Director Ken Chen, Managing Editor 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.
7. WHAT DO I NEED TO SUBMIT FOR THE APPLICATION?
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.
1. WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE FOR THE MARGINS FELLOWSHIP?
The Margins Fellowship is targeted at excellent Asian American emerging poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers who are tired of endlessly submitting their pieces and are looking for a home for their writing and a direction for their career. The fellowship would be a good fit for artists seeking to generate new and original work, build connections, and engage in dialogue with a community of writer peers.
The ideal candidate for The Margins Fellowship is: 1) Asian American and/or a Muslim, Arab, or South Asian writer; 2) aged 30 or under; 3) Able to demonstrate financial need; and 4) Living in the New York City area.
While some publication record is preferred, the strength of the work 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.
We are especially interested in writers who can thoughtfully articulate their own career and creative goals, and take the most advantage of using AAWW's initiatives and institutional platform (e.g., free workshops, space, and publication opportunities) to grow as a writer and build a network.
For the 2018 cycle, one Margins Fellow will be funded by an initiative to support emerging Muslim, Arab, and South Asian New Yorkers. If you are a writer of color who identifies with these communities, please feel free to discuss this in your application.
2. WHAT DO I GET?
A lot. The Margins Fellowship is an unique fellowship that combines publication opportunities, space, colony time, mentorship, and what graphic novelist Eddie Campbell once called that lovely, horrible stuff, money:
a) Honoraria: $5,000, comparable to the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Daniel Pearl Journalism Initiative;
b) Residency spaces 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;
c) 24/7 access to AAWW’s space: Given that time and space to write is rare in New York, the Margins Fellows will be given keys to the AAWW Reading Room and workspace, a unique library of Asian American literature that one professor recently described as a "priceless rec room for the heart and mind."
d) We will publish several pieces of your work over the one-year period on our online magazine, The Margins, which has previously published Jessica Hagedorn, Amitava Kumar, Chang-Rae Lee, Yoko Ogawa, Bhanu Kapil, Sarah Gambito and others. More on that below. At least 50% of the project published by The Margins Fellows in The Margins will consist of fellows' poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.
You'll also get the following:
— Access to private career meet-ups and dinners for the Fellows.
— Free admission to the next AAWW Publishing Conference, which on June 25 will feature writers from Penguin Random House, Grove Atlantic, the New Yorker, Vice, and Buzzfeed.
— The opportunity to schedule one-on-one consultations with editors and agents.
— Free membership to the AAWW, discounts, free access to general programs.
— One free writing workshop ($200);
— Special skills development through workshops and trainings from the Millay Colony for the Arts in New York City and workshops organized through AAWW.
— Mentorship from AAWW Executive Director Ken Chen and Managing Editor Jyothi Natarajan, who will also meet with you at the beginning and end of the fellowship to discuss your career goals and how AAWW can help you meet them.
— Each Fellow will be featured in at least one live event.
3. WHAT IS THE MARGINS?
The Margins is our online magazine of arts and ideas featuring new fiction and poetry, literary and cultural criticism, and interviews with writers and artists. We're looking to create a new kind of ethnic literary experience—one that transcends what Amitava Kumar once called "the ghetto of multiculturalism" and expresses our ars poetica: the idea that Asian American identity offers a vital literary counterculture, one that can interpret both the rise of Asian American intellectual thought and right-wing nativism and Islamophobia and help re-imagine our post-multicultural but not post-racial age.
We've published fiction by writers including Chang-rae Lee, Hanya Yanagihara, Hari Kunzru, Sung Woo, Gina Apostol, Ananda Devi, and Bhanu Kapil. Every Tuesday, we publish new poetry by Asian American poets and have featured the work of poets Kim Hyesoon, Victoria Chang, Tamiko Beyer, Kimiko Hahn, Paul Tran, Ali Mir, R.A. Villanueva, Ocean Vuong, Feng Sun Chen, and Cathy Linh Che, among many others. Our cultural criticism and essays have covered a wide range of topics: fasting during Ramadan, memories of anti-apartheid activism, “coolie” women migrant laborers, Tiananmen Square, Filipino migrant communities, the demons of Sri Lanka, the poetry of animated GIFs, and the work of an artist whose work responds to declassified transcripts of torture.
4. WHY DOES THIS FELLOWSHIP EXIST? WHAT IS THE MISSION AND CONCEPT BEHIND IT?
a. We want to provide emerging writers with publication opportunities at The Margins and engagement with a vital community. 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. We know that publication is important, valuable, and logistically difficult and that writers need to find both a home for their work and a place where they are not alone. We've spent nearly 25 years building community and incubating emerging writers and we hope we can help include you.
b. We want you to use our institutional resources for your own literary career. Through The Margins Fellowship, the AAWW can offer emerging writers an apprenticeship model that provides resources that they can take advantage of—such as publishing and curatorial opportunities, free workshops and trainings, and programming opportunities in our event space. We’re granting the institutional footprint of an arts nonprofit to emerging writers who often find themselves without any connection to an institutional base or a network.
c. We want you to build your personal brand and publishing portfolio. We live in the age of the writer as curator, entrepreneur, editor, publisher, instigator, multi-media worker, and self-brander—an era where the best thing for a young writer to do is to start their own reading series or their own literary journal or small magazine. The Margins Fellowship seeks to foster and incubate emerging writers so they can establish their presence in the literary scene and connect to other writers. We want to give an artist who is interested in developing their role as a curator a chance to develop themselves, armed with the resources of a literary arts institution.
5. CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE PUBLISHING OPPORTUNITIES?
The fellowship is designed to provide a "publishing home" for young writers, many of whom are often overwhelmed by the logistical struggle of placing their poems, essays, and stories. As part of The Margins Fellowship, we will publish pieces of your original creative work in The Margins, whether it's poems, short stories, flash fiction, creative nonfiction, personal essays, and possibly serialized novels. You will have a home for your work and can at least temporarily retire from the rat race of sending out submissions. These will be published on a regular basis throughout the year in a timeline that you will set with the AAWW staff. At least 50% of the work published by The Margins fellows in The Margins will consist of fellows' poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.
You will NOT be an exclusive contributor to The Margins and would be free to publish elsewhere. We will try to help you place pieces in other magazines and promote you as a Margins fellow.
We will work with you to edit your pieces, obtain images and artwork to accompany them, and produce them online. Past AAWW fellows have told us that one of the most important parts of the fellowship was modeling the working relationship of the writer and the editor and learning from the mentorship experience of working with the AAWW editorial staff.
We will promote you and your work on the AAWW front page, our social media, email lists, and press.
We also encourage writers to take advantage of the AAWW's institutional platform of events and online publishing to develop their own career goals and own intellectual interests. Do you want to guest-edit a themed package, write outside your genre, curate an event, or interview your favorite Asian American writer? Does your body of work explore a specific theme, aesthetic movement, historical moment, site, or political issue? If you are excited to take a more entrepreneurial/curatorial take on The Margins Fellowship, please use the Statement of Purpose to describe how you envision this role in relation to your project.
6. WHAT DO I NEED TO SUBMIT FOR THE APPLICATION?
For the Margins Fellowship application we require you to fill out the Submittable form and submit 1) a statement of purpose (900 words max), 2) a 2-3 page Resume or CV, and 3) a writing sample that reflects your current project and the type of writing you would see being published in The Margins.
Writing samples must be uploaded to the application form as PDFs or MS Word Documents. They should be double-spaced, use size 12 font, and should not include publication information.
7. WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO 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 intellectual. We want to know where you're coming from and where you want to go. Describe your aesthetic practice. What is your current writing project and what is interesting about it? What is your artistic context? How would you describe your style and artistic aims? What is your body of work about? What thematic linkages are present? What 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 could talk about financial need or other obstacles you have had to overcome as a writer.
Please be thoughtful about this. Please do not send us a generic boilerplate statement or feel pressured to focus on identity or politics.
The Margins Fellowship applicants may propose both a body of thematic concerns and a written artist project that they could see spanning several published pieces. If you would like to propose such a project, your Statement of Purpose should discuss specific ideas, details, writers, and themes. For example, is there a research topic, aesthetic question, or historical background that motivates your work that you'd like to explore? If so, how could you see that taking shape over a variety of published work? If you have a larger project, we want you to be invested in the fellowship in a way that remains fun and is generated from your own creative practice.
We hope all applicants can describe their creative and artistic context and goals. We imagine The Margins Fellowship to be an intellectual space for writers to explore the thematic concerns that already organically motivate their creative work.
For the 2018 cycle, one Margins Fellow will be supported by funding from the New York Community Trust's initiative to support emerging Muslim, Arab, and South Asian New Yorkers. If you are a writer of color who identifies with these communities, please feel free to discuss this in your statement.
8. HOW WILL THIS FELLOWSHIP INCREASE MY VISIBILITY?
Over the past three years, since launching our online magazines, the Asian American Writers' Workshop has attracted more than 600,000 visitors across the nation, garnering coverage from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, the LA Times, and NPR, among other major media outlets, and funding four rounds of emerging writers of color. Our audience is national: 65% of Margins readers and 62% of Open City readers were located outside of New York, in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington. We will promote The Margins Fellows on our MailChimp emails, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
9. WHAT IS THE AESTHETIC OF THIS FELLOWSHIP? DO I NEED TO WRITE ABOUT ASIAN AMERICAN ISSUES?
The Margins Fellowship does not privilege any specific aesthetic style and we are open to a wide range of styles from both the traditional to the experimental. Written submissions do not need to concern "Asian American" "issues." While we of course often hold events and publish work on these themes, we want you to develop as a creative writer who can write about whatever you want, with the same permission that non-minority writers have. We do recommend that applicants take a look at the AAWW website and The Margins to have a sense of the organization as a whole.
10. WHAT IS THE SELECTION PROCESS?
The Margins Fellows are chosen based on the following criteria:
— Merit of past work, based on submitted work sample;
— Proposed creative/literary projects and ideas, as described in Statement of Purpose;
— Career record, as described in the resume and statement of purpose;
— Demonstrated willingness to take the greatest advantage of the Fellowship: e.g., to use the space, attend the free workshops and the Millay Colony retreat, and take advantage of the publishing opportunities.
Last year, we received nearly 150 applications for the Margins Fellowship. Applicants will be assessed based on a multi-round selection process, in which the applicant pool grows smaller each round. The assessment process will involve Managing Editor Jyothi Natarajan as well as an outside jury comprised of literary professionals and editors. The Board of Directors does not review the work of applicants or make aesthetic judgments.
11. WHAT SHOULD I SUBMIT AS MY WRITING SAMPLE?
It depends on which genre you're applying for.
Poetry: We accept work in all forms of poetry, written for either the page or stage, experimental or mainstream, narrative or not. Applicants should submit a PDF of a 10-page manuscript.
Fiction: Applicants should submit a short story or novel excerpt under as a PDF of no more than 20 pages, double-spaced. Novel excerpts should be submitted in such a way that the project will be understood from the submission.
Creative nonfiction: We define creative nonfiction to include memoir and literary/personal essay. Literary/personal essays must use the styles and techniques of poetry, fiction, and/or spoken word in the essay. We are especially interested in artistic interventions in the essay form, rather than (for this specific fellowship) journalism or academic papers. Applicants should submit a PDF of no more than 20 pages double-spaced.