Open City Application FAQ

1) WHAT SHOULD I INCLUDE IN MY PROJECT PROPOSAL?

We’re looking to see a project proposal that will pitch and outline the stories you plan to write for Open City. You should outline a writing project that will:

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

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

— 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 nine months you’ll spend writing about issues affecting Asian American, and Muslim and Arab American NYC. Describe an overall project you’d propose for the nine-month fellowship period that would be broken down into two long-form pieces and two short ones, or three long-form stories. 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. Tell us why you are 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.  

2) WHAT DO OPEN CITY FELLOWS WRITE DURING THE FELLOWSHIP TERM?

Over a nine-month period, fellows write at least two two long-form pieces and two short ones, or three long-form stories. 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.”  

—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.

3) 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. If you are selected as a fellow, we ask you to attend the following. Please note that these gatherings may be held virtually in 2021 due to the pandemic:

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

— 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 nine-month term.

4) WHAT’S NEW IN THIS YEAR’S OPEN CITY FELLOWSHIP?

Application for the 2021 Fellowship is now open. Deadline for application is October 29, 2020.

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

For the 2021 Open City Fellowship, three Fellows will be selected for the Neighborhoods/ Communities Fellowship, and three for the Muslim Communities Fellowship.

This year, each Fellow will have to adopt a neighborhood or a community—meaning either a geographical (i.e. Jackson Heights) or a cultural (South Asian) community—and a thematic issue (i.e., mental health, gentrification, etc.). The Fellow will then be covering these beats and writing stories along these themes for the nine-month Fellowship.

Although the Open City Fellows has been known for producing in-depth stories about immigrant lives in New York City neighborhoods, we are aware that the pandemic may not make it possible for Fellows to “immerse themselves in the neighborhoods of their choice.” We are strongly encouraging prospective Fellows to explore creative ways to continue writing for the Fellowship. 

We will be monitoring federal and local health officials’ guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic to determine if any modification needs to be made to the program in 2021. If necessary, some hybrid of virtual and in-person programming will be developed.

In this year’s Fellowship selection process, we will also consider applications from writers who have had to relocate temporarily due to the pandemic and may not be physically based in NYC at the moment. 

4) WHAT SHOULD I INCLUDE IN THE PROJECT PROPOSAL?

In your project proposal 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 and Arab and Muslim American neighborhoods in New York City;

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 nine months you’ll spend writing about issues affecting Asian American and Arab and Muslim American NYC. Describe an overall project you would propose for the fellowship period that would be broken down into two long-form pieces plus two short-form pieces, or three long-form stories. 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 nine-month grant period.

We also want to know where you are coming from and where you want to go. Tell us why you are the perfect person to write about issues in Asian and Arab and Muslim 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.  

5) 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 and grasp of the topics the candidate proposed to write about;

— 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 Programs Manager Lily Philpott and Senior Editor Noel Pangilinan, as well as an outside jury composed 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.

6) 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.

7) WHAT IS THE APPLICATION FEE?

There is no application fee for the Open City Fellowship.