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 Participants need not be published, but the fellowship is directed toward poets and writers of fiction and creative nonfiction with clear ideas of what they hope to accomplish through their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 2016 Emerging Voices Fellowship will open in April of 2015.

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

Learn about the Emerging Voices alumni and their publishing credits.

The 2015 Emerging Voices Fellows

Oktavi Allison was born in 1951 in Queens, New York, and was raised in the suburbs of Long Island. Oktavi attended Farmingdale State College before migrating to Los Angeles, where she began writing in the early '90s. Her work has been published in Bum Rush the Page and Beyond the Frontier. Oktavi currently resides in Inglewood, California. She is working on a collection of poems titled Collage.

Kenneth D. Capers was born in Buffalo, New York, but has deep southern family roots in Savannah, Georgia. He earned his Bachelor's Degree in English from Savannah State University. He has two MAs in literature, from North Carolina A&T State University and from University of Southern California. He is currently working on his first novel, Stuck.

Michelle Meyers is a fiction writer and playwright born and raised in Los Angeles. She received her Bachelor's Degree in theatre arts and performance studies from Brown University. Michelle's fiction has been published in DOGZPLOT and jmww. She was also selected for The Wigleaf Top (Very) Short Fictions of 2014 and recently released a comedic web series about teachers called Those Who Can't Do. Michelle is currently working on a collection of short stories titled Strange L.A..

Erik Rodgers grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and received a Bachelor's Degree in theater and English from the University of New Mexico before moving to Los Angeles. Erik has written and directed two independent films, Disappearing in America and Carrier. His poems have appeared in Conceptions Southwest and Mountain Tales. Erik is currently working on a novel titled The Aquarians.

Nancy Lynée Woo grew up in Huntington Beach, California, and earned a Bachelor's Degree in sociology from UC Santa Cruz. She currently lives in Long Beach, where she is co-founder and co-editor of a social justice-based literary press, Lucid Moose Lit. In 2014 she released a chapbook titled Rampant (2014) and a poetry CD, Face the Blaze (2014). She is working on her first full-length collection of poems titled The Great Divide.

Photography by Casey Curry.

Click here to read about last year's Emerging Voices Fellows.


The 2015 Emerging Voices Mentors

Victoria Chang's third book of poems, The Boss, was published by McSweeney's in 2013. It won a PEN Center USA Literary Award and a California Commonwealth Book Award. Her other books are Salvinia Molesta and Circle. Her poems have been published in various journals such as Poetry, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, New Republic, The Nation, Best American Poetry, and others. Victoria is mentoring Nancy Lynée Woo.

Lynne Thompson is the author of two chapbooks, Through A Window and We Arrive By Accumulation as well as two full-length collections of poetry, Start With A Small Guitar and Beg No Pardon which won the Perugia Press Book Award as well as the Great Lakes Colleges Association's New Writers Award. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Thompson is the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Summer Literary Series. Her recent work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, African American Review, Fourteen Hills, and Crab Orchard Review, among others. She is Reviews & Essays Editor of the journal, Spillway, and also serves on the Board of Trustees for Scripps College, her alma mater, as well as on the Board of ArtworxLA. Lynne is mentoring Oktavi Allison.

David Treuer is the author of five books: three novels, a book of criticism, and the nonfiction book Rez Life. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Esquire, TriQuarterly, and Lucky Peach, among other publications. He is a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Bush Foundation, and The Guggenheim Foundation. His new novel, Prudence, will be published by Riverhead Books in February of 2015. He is a professor of literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California. David is mentoring Erik Rodgers.

Jenny Hollowell is a writer and music producer. Her novel is Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe, and her stories and essays have appeared in Glimmer Train and Bright Wall/Dark Room. She has been honored by Best American Short Stories and appeared on WNYC's Selected Shorts, Pop-Up Magazine, and NPR's Radiolab. Jenny is mentoring Michelle Meyers.

Karl Taro Greenfeld is the author of eight books, including the forthcoming novel Subprimes, Triburbia, Boy Alone, about his autistic brother Noah, Speed Tribes, Standard Deviations, and China Syndrome. A long time writer and editor for The Nation, TIME, and Sports Illustrated, Karl has also been a frequent contributor to Bloomberg Businessweek, he was the editor of TIME Asia and one of the founding editors of Sports Illustrated China.

His fiction has appeared in Harper's, Best American Short Stories, PEN/O Henry Prize Stories. The Paris Review, Ploughshares, American Short Fiction, The Missouri Review, One Story, Commentary, The Southern Review, and The Sun. Karl is mentoring Kenneth D. Capers.


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 1996, 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