Most of us know that becoming a writer takes voracious reading, good teachers and readers, conscious living, and endless practice. But the importance of a community cannot be overstated. Not only does the right community of writers give you the careful readers every writer needs to grow, but community lends a sense of homecoming that can electrify your art. For writers of color, who face specific issues of ethnicity and race both in their work and in the publishing world, a community can feel as necessary as oxygen.
That’s why I love the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA), co-founded by Elmaz Abinader, Junot Díaz, Victor Diaz and Diem Jones, best known for its annual summer workshops for writers of color at Berkeley. I have taught at VONA, and it’s an unforgettable experience.
In January, VONA is returning to the University of Miami for its three-day intensive workshop during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Here’s the faculty:
In fiction, Nigerian novelist Chris Abani (Graceland). In poetry, Willie Perdomo (Smoking Lovely). Watch Perdomo on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” on YouTube. In memoir, Elmaz Abinader (Children of the Roojme: A Family’s Journey from Lebanon). And M. Evelina Galang (Her Wild American Self), director of the MFA program at the University of Miami, is conducting a residency. It’s the same top-notch VONA faculty over a long weekend. In Miami.
Programs like VONA matter to developing writers. That’s why, as the new Cosby Endowed Chair in the Humanities at Spelman College, I’m looking for three Spelman writers to send to Miami VONA.
Yes, it will be challenging—Spelman students are undergraduates. Although VONA has no educational requirements, many VONA writers are post-MFA and at the cusp of publication, if they haven’t been published already. But it’s never too early to learn the importance of a writing community…especially when our students will return to campus to help other Spelman writers build a stronger community of their own.
The public at large can apply to VONA via its website. (Nov. 5th deadline): http://voicesatvona.org/Miami_VONA_2013.html
But if you’re a student currently enrolled at Spelman College (or know one), please continue reading below. (Oct. 26th deadline):
IMPORTANT: Spelman scholarship applicants should NOT apply through the VONA website. In order to be eligible for the scholarship, you must submit to Tduespelman@gmail.com by October 26th. Late applications will NOT be considered for the scholarship. (However, if you do not win and want to submit to VONA to pay your own way, you will still have time to apply to VONA directly via the website by Nov. 5th.)
APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS (Please read carefully)
PERSONAL STATEMENT: Your personal statement might carry as much weight as your page submissions. Write at least 300 words explaining 1.) Why writing is important to you, 2.) What you hope to accomplish at VONA, and 3.) What your goals are as a writer. (Double-spaced) Longer statements are permissible.
IN ADDITION: WE MUST SEE A SAMPLE OF YOUR WRITING
Indicate which genre you are applying for in your heading, i.e.:
Fiction and Memoir: 20 pages of your best prose. It may be an excerpt from a longer work, a single work, or excerpts from shorter works. (Double spaced and proofread)
Poetry: 10-15 pages of your best poems. Long and short poems in all forms are accepted. (Single spaced and proofread)
ALL GUIDELINES MUST BE CAREFULLY FOLLOWED IN ORDER TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP.
Submissions must also:
1.) Be sent electronically to Tduespelman@gmail.com in Word, attached as a text file. Do not include any portion of your application in the body of the email.
2.) Have a heading that includes your name, email address, telephone number and preferred genre (Fiction, Poetry, Memoir).
3.) Be solely your original work.
4.) Include the words VONA APPLICATION in your subject heading so it will be easily seen.
REMINDER TO SPELMAN STUDENTS: You should visit the VONA website for reference at http://voicesatvona.org/Miami_VONA_2013.html), but do not apply to VONA/Miami directly from the website unless you have received notification that you did not win and you are willing to pay out-of-pocket.
All scholarship applications will be processed by Spelman faculty.
Send any questions to Tduespelman@gmail.com with the heading VONA QUESTION.
Good luck…and write on!
Tananarive Due, a novelist and screenwriter, is the Cosby Endowed Chair in the Humanities at Spelman College in Atlanta. She is the author or co-author of a dozen novels, including the African Immortals series (My Soul to Keep, My Soul to Take) and the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series with her husband, Steven Barnes, and actor Blair Underwood. Her website is www.tananarivedue.com. FOLLOW her on Twitter @tananarivedue.