Emerging Voices


Emerging Voices is a literary fellowship that aims to provide new writers, who lack access, with the tools they will need to launch a professional writing career. During the eight month fellowship, each Emerging Voices Fellow participates in a professional mentorship, hosted Q & A evenings with prominent local authors, a series of master classes focused on genre, a voice class, a volunteer project, and several public readings. The fellowship includes a $1,000 stipend.

The Emerging Voices Fellowship runs from January to July. Participants need not be published, but the fellowship is directed toward poets and writers of fiction and creative nonfiction with clear ideas of what they hope to accomplish through their writing.

The Application Period for the 2015 Emerging Voices Fellowship is now closed. Thank you to all who applied. The Emerging Voices application will reopen in May 2015.

For more info, please contact: ev@penusa.org.

Click here to meet the 2015 Emerging Voices fellows.

Learn about the Emerging Voices alumni and their publishing credits.

The 2014 Emerging Voices Fellows

Brandon Jordan Brown was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and raised in the South. He moved to California to pursue his MA in theology and currently lives in Los Angeles. His work has been published in decomP and The Bakery. Brandon is writing his first collection of poetry, Viking Ships in Los Angeles.

Marci Carrillo is a Southern California native. Born in San Diego, she grew up in such diverse places as Pine Valley, La Jolla, and Bakersfield. Marcia resides in Chino Hills with her husband and two sons. She is currently working on a memoir titled The Woman in the Chimney.

Andrés Reconco was born in Acajutla, El Salvador. He came to the United States in 1991 and has been living in Los Angeles ever since. He received his bachelor’s degree in English literature from California State University, Los Angeles and is an English teacher at the Los Angeles High School of the Arts. Andrés is currently working on his novel, Three Rivers.

Margaret Spilman was born in Milton, West Virginia, raised on the plains of Wichita, Kansas, and currently resides in Los Angeles. She received her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and is a 2013 James Kirkwood Literary Prize winner. Margaret is currently working on a collection of short stories titled The Breaking Thread.

Hanne Steen grew up in Vermont and Equatorial Africa. She was an actress in London before moving to Los Angeles in 2010. Her stories have been published in PANKCorium, and Prick of the Spindle. Hanne is working on a novel called The Marrow.

Victor Vazquez was born in Compton, California, and was raised in the city of Paramount. He earned a double BA in English and drama from University of California, Irvine, and is now an arts administrator for Center Theatre Group, a teaching artist, and a playwright. He currently lives in Echo Park, and is working on a collection of poems titled Men.


Photography by Casey Curry.

Learn about the Emerging Voices alumni and their publishing credits.



The 2014 Emerging Voices Mentors


Leslie Brody is the author of Red Star Sister, which was awarded a PEN Center USA Literary Award, Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford, and A Motel of the Mind, a collection of essays. She’s held international writing fellowships at the Camargo Foundation in France and at Hawthornden in Scotland. In the United States, she’s been an artist in residence or fellow at the McDowell Colony, Centrum, Yaddo, Red Cinder Colony, Ragdale, and the Virginia Center for the Arts. Originally from New York, she now lives in Southern California, where she is a professor of creative writing at the University of Redlands. Leslie is mentoring Marci Carrillo.

Trinie Dalton's books include Wide Eyed (Akashic), Dear New Girl or Whatever Your Name Is (McSweeney's: co-edited with Eli Horowitz and Lisa Wagner), Mythtym (Picturebox), Sweet Tomb (Madras Press), and Baby Geisha (Two Dollar Radio). Trinie’s books alternate between art projects and fiction, and sometimes combine the two. She has taught fiction and critical writing at the University of Southern California, School of Visual Arts, Art Center College of Design, and Vermont College of Fine Arts. Visit her at sweettomb.com. Trinie is mentoring Hanne Steen.


Douglas Kearney’s first full-length collection of poems, Fear, Some, was published in 2006 by Red Hen Press. His second manuscript, The Black Automaton, was chosen by Catherine Wagner for the National Poetry Series and published by Fence Books in 2009. It was also a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Poetry in 2010. His chapbook-as-broadsides-as-LP, Quantum Spit, was released by Corollary Press in 2010. His latest collection of poems, Patter (Red Hen Press), was released in 2014. He has received a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Coat Hanger Award, and fellowships at Idyllwild and Cave Canem. His poems have appeared in journals such as CallaloojubilatPloughsharesnocturnes, Ninth LettermiPoesiasSouthampton Review,Washington Square, and Tidal Basin Review. Born in Brooklyn, and raised in Altadena, California, he lives with his family in California’s Santa Clarita Valley. He teaches at CalArts and Antioch. Douglas is mentoring Victor Vazquez.

James Meetze is the author of Dayglo (Ahsahta Press), which was selected by Terrance Hayes as winner of the 2010 Sawtooth Poetry Prize and published by Ahsahta Press, and I Have Designed This For You (Editions Assemblage). He is editor, with Simon Pettet, of Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems by James Schuyler. James is assistant professor of English at Ashford University and lives in San Diego. A new chapbook, Dark Art I-XII, was published in December. James is mentoring Brandon Jordan Brown.

Melanie Thorne is the author of Hand Me Down, a debut novel in the tradition of Dorothy Allison and Janet Fitch. A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2012 and a 2013 ALA Alex Award nominee, Hand Me Down has been highly praised by media, including the San Francisco Chronicle, DailyCandy, the Associated Press, and People. Melanie earned her MA in creative writing from the University of California, Davis, and has been awarded the Alva Englund Fellowship, the Maurice Prize in Fiction, and a residency at the Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat. She lives in Los Angeles. Find her online at www.melaniethorne.com. Melanie is mentoring Margaret Spilman.

Héctor Tobar is a Los-Angeles-born writer. He is the author of three books. His most recent novel, The Barbarian Nurseries published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, was named a New York Times Notable Book. The Barbarian Nurseries, translated into French, German and other languages, also won the California Book Award Gold Medal for Fiction. For two decades, he's worked as a city reporter, and as a national and foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. He was part of the reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1992 L.A. riots. He was The Times' bureau chief in Buenos Aires and Mexico City. He has an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, and studied at University of California, Santa Cruz and at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in Mexico City. He is also the author of Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States, and The Tattooed Soldier. He's married, the father of three children, and the son of Guatemalan immigrants. Héctor is mentoring Andrés Reconco.



Lack of Access

Emerging Voices serves writers who lack access to financial and/or creative support.


People ineligible for the Emerging Voices Fellowship:

  • Those who have a B.A. in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis or an M.A., M.F.A., or Ph.D. in Creative Writing.
  • Students currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs.
  • Those who are Professional PEN Center USA members.
  • Writers who are widely published or have recent noteworthy writing awards.
  • People who have books published and former or current professional magazine/newspaper writers or editors.
  • Anyone under the age of 21.

Emerging Voices is a rigorous fellowship based in Los Angeles with weekly meetings and an intense reading and writing schedule. With this in mind, participants must be willing and able to make an enthusiastic commitment to the fellowship and to their involvement as members of a group. If you are not a resident of Los Angeles and you are awarded the fellowship you will need to relocate for the eight-month period. Housing is not provided.

Program Components

MENTORS: Mentors are carefully chosen from PEN’s membership of professional writers based on shared writing interests with each fellow. The mentor-fellow relationship is expected to challenge the fellow's work and compel significant creative progress. Over the course of the fellowship, Emerging Voices Fellows and Mentors should meet three times in person, and be in contact at least once a month. In these meetings,  Mentors will offer feedback on the Emerging Voices Fellows’ work in progress.

UCLA EXTENSION WRITERS’ PROGRAM: Participants will attend two free courses at UCLA Extension, donated by the Writers’ Program. Program Manager will assist the Emerging Voices Fellows with course selection.

AUTHOR EVENINGS: A schedule of Q & A evenings with prominent authors, poets, editors, agents, and publishers will be distributed at the first Emerging Voices  orientation meeting. Fellows must read each visiting author's book before the evening.

MASTER CLASSES: After completing the UCLA Extension courses, Emerging Voices Fellows will enroll in a Master Class. The Master Class is a four-session, genre-specific workshop with a professional writer that affords Fellows the opportunity to exchange feedback on their works in progress.

VOLUNTEER PROJECT: All Emerging Voices Fellows are expected to complete a 25-hour volunteer project that is relevant to the literary community.

VOICE CLASS: The fellowship will provide a one-day workshop with a professional voice actor. The Emerging Voices Fellows will read their work in a recording studio and receive instruction on reading their work publicly.

FINAL READING: The fellowshop culminates in a public reading to showcase the progress each fellow has made in his or her work.

SPECIAL EVENTS: PEN Center USA provides complimentary admission to select events throughout the fellowship.

History of Emerging Voices

The Emerging Voices Fellowship originated as a mentorship project. The project grew out of PEN Center USA’s forum “Writing the Immigrant Experience,” held at the Los Angeles Central Library in March 1994, which explored the issues and challenges faced by first and second generation immigrant writers. It was evident from the forum that many of the culturally diverse communities of writers in Southern California were often isolated from the literary establishment. In the fall of 1995, PEN Center USA initiated Emerging Voices as a literary mentorship program designed to launch potential professional writers from minority, immigrant and other underrepresented communities. The program has now evolved into an eight-month writing fellowship for writers who lack access to a traditional writing education and seek financial and creative support.

Support for Emerging Voices

The Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation was established in 1948 by my parents, a young businessman and his fashion-editor wife, who clearly had a great deal of confidence in their eventual financial success as well as a genuine desire to contribute to the world outside themselves. As my father formulated it in the beginning, “Individuals fortunate enough to receive unusual benefits from a society have the distinct obligation to return meaningful, tangible support to that society—in the form of creative energy as well as funding.”

What this has meant over the years is a pattern of rewarding excellence and accomplishment by giving awards in the fields of medicine, art and literature. In the last several decades, as the younger generation has begun to have more of a say, the goal has modulated into an emphasis on more directly encouraging excellence and accomplishment—by funding programs as well as awards, thus concentrating on setting up structures for achievement, and utilizing the multiplier effect.

– Jamie Wolf


The Emerging Voices Fellowship application for 2015 is open April 9 - August 11, 2014. To view and download the Application PDF Form, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to live in the Los Angeles area to apply to the Emerging Voices Fellowship?
You must be a US citizen or have the correct documentation to apply to the Emerging Voices Fellowship. However, all fellows must live in Los Angeles or close enough to commute to Los Angeles for the duration of the program. No funds are available for relocation.

Are there any age restrictions?
The Emerging Voices Fellowship is open to all writers over the age of 21.

Can I submit work that has been previously published?
Yes, if you feel it is the work that best represents you as a writer.

Can you help me decide what work to submit as my writing sample?
No, although we do strongly encourage you to submit writing that corresponds to your project proposal. Also, please submit work that corresponds to your genre. This allows the selection committee to gain a better understanding of your project and how you and your work could benefit from the fellowship.

How should the manuscript be formatted?
Fiction and nonfiction manuscripts should be double-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins all around. You may format poetry manuscripts however you feel best represents the poetry you are submitting, as long as you do not exceed the page limit and the typed font is legible. Please number your pages.

Do I include my letters of recommendation in my application?
Yes. Letters of recommendation must be recent and sealed in envelopes with wet signatures across the back. Letters should include the recommender's e-mail address and phone number. Both sealed envelopes are to be mailed alongside with the application. Letters from relatives will not be accepted.

I have a letter of recommendation on file, may I send it in with my application?
No. Letters of recommendation must be recent and sealed in envelopes with wet signatures across the back and mailed with the completed application.

Does my recommender need to send 5 copies of their letter of recommendation?
Recommenders do not need to send five copies of each letter. However, it is helpful for us to receive 5 copies of each letter, containing one original letter with a wet signature.

Does the application fee cover all copies of my application or do I need to submit five application fees?
Your $10 application fee covers the entire application.

What does the selection committee look for in a manuscript?
A strong writing sample. The best advice we can give is to seek the advice of other writers and instructors when preparing your manuscript.

When are applicants notified of the committee's decision?
All applicants will be notified two months after the close of the application period.

Can you give me feedback on my manuscript or tell me why I wasn't selected for the fellowship?
We cannot provide any comments on manuscripts or on applications submitted.

On the short answer section of the Emerging Voices application, it states you may use up to 500 words for each answer. Does this mean 500 words for each answer or 500 words for all nine questions combined?
It states each response can be up to 500 words maximum. That means each response for each individual question may be up to 500 words, not 500 words for all nine responses.
I write screenplays/graphic novels/children's books. Am I eligible?
The accepted genres for the Emerging Voices Fellowship are fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. All classes, mentors, and programming for the fellowship are based on one of these three genres. Many alumni have gone on to pursue careers in graphic novels, performance art, and screenwriting, but concentrated on either prose or poetry for the duration of the fellowship.
If offered a place in the fellowship, may I defer acceptance for another year?
You may not defer acceptance.
If not awarded the fellowship, may I reapply?
If you are not awarded a fellowship, we encourage you to reapply if interested.

Can I personally hand-in my application to the PEN Center USA offices?
No, all applications must be sent to the listed mailing address.

The application deadline is not a postmark date.
No FED EX or UPS packages.
You must use only non-signature mail.
Your manuscript must be double-spaced, with 1-inch margins, 12-point Times New Roman font.
Letters of recommendation must be current with wet signatures and should be sent along with the completed application to: Emerging Voices Fellowship c/o PEN Center USA 269 S. Beverly Dr. #1163 Beverly Hills, CA 90212


emerging voices