July 2012

Bookmark This: "The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do"

Today we'd like to share a piece published on McSweeney's - a reflection of the advice writers commonly give and get for improving their craft. "The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do" is by Colin Nissan.

Bookmark This: Milan Kundera's Art of the Novel

Every novelist's work contains an implicit vision of the history of the novel, an idea of what the novel is. I have tried to express here the idea of the novel that is inherent in my own novels. -- Milan Kundera

Today the Mark Blog recommends The Art of the Novel by Milan Kunera, the Franco-Czech novelist and literary critic. It is a worthy read for any writer and anyone interested in world literature.

Bookmark This: Haruki Murakami on How He Became a Writer

Below we've re-posted Haruki Murakami's New York Times essay, "Jazz Messenger," about how he used his knowledge of music to learn how to write fiction.

I never had any intention of becoming a novelist — at least not until I turned 29. This is absolutely true.

PEN In The Community Anthologies

Since 1995, PEN In The Community (PITC) has proudly published the written work of thousands of talented youth and adults. Here we've compiled an archive of anthologies dating from the present to 2010. We will continue to add to the archive as we digitize books from previous years and those that will come in the future. Click on the covers of the anthologies below to download PDF files of each book.

Bookmark This: Don't Write What You Know

The following is an excerpt from Bret Anthony Johnston's essay, "Don't Write What You Know," orginally published in the Atlantic. The full essay is here.


RAN 52/11
June 2012

ETHIOPIA: Journalist Eskinder Nega and five others convicted on terror charges.

The Mark Program

2013 Fiction/Nonfiction

Eric Layer was born in San Francisco and has resided more or less in Los Angeles for more than a decade. He was a 2011 Emerging Voices Fellow and has received residency fellowships from the Ragdale Foundation, Fundacion Valparaiso in Spain, and Foundation Obras in Portugal. His stories have been featured in The Rattling Wall, Palehouse, and The Medulla Review. He is working on his first collection of stories, tentatively titled Adults Only.

Natali Petricic was born in Long Beach, New York, shortly after her parents emigrated from Croatia. She received a BA from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. Natali was a 2004 Emerging Voices Fellow. Her short stories have been published in Santa Monica Review, Rosebud, and Red Wheelbarrow. She is currently working on Leaf Boats, a linked short story collection. Natali lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.


Marissa Tinloy, a 2009 Emerging Voices Fellow, is from Alameda, California. She holds a BA in English and world arts and culture from UCLA. She has just completed her masters in English from UC Davis. Her fiction has been a semi-finalist in the Katherine Anne Porter Contest by Nimrod International Journal. Tinloy was a finalist in the Wordstock Ten Competition. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by The Rattling Wall and was the winner of the Elliot Gilbert Prize in Fiction. Marissa lives on a hill beside the ocean in Ventura with her husband. She is at work on her first novel, Look Away.

2012 Fiction/Nonfiction

Monica Carter, a Milwaukee native, currently resides in Los Angeles and was a 2010 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow and a 2010 Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging GLBT Voice. Her fiction has appeared in Strange Cargo: An Emerging Voices Anthology, Black Clock, The Rattling Wall, and in the forthcoming issue of Bloom. She is currently working on her novel, The Affair of 1936. She also curates Salonica, a website dedicated to world literature.



Shanna Mahin is a high school dropout who rallied late and has become optimistic about a strong finish, due in no small part to a 2008 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, a Norman Mailer Colony Fellowship, and a few summer residencies. She's currently working on completing her memoir, tentatively titled The Concerns of the Bourgeoisie. She asks that you make note of the word “tentatively.”



Carl Peel was born in Santa Monica, California, and currently lives in Los Angeles. He received a BA from UCLA in English literature and was a 1999 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. His fiction has appeared in BeWhich Magazine, Newport Review, and in the anthologies Wild Things: Domestic and Otherwise and Experienced: Rock Music Tales of Fact & Fiction. He is currently working on a novel, Lions & Ghosts, an early draft of which was shortlisted for the James Jones First Novel Award and was a semifinalist for the Virginia Center for the Book’s Great American Book Award

2011 Fiction/Nonfiction

Marytza K. Rubio is a writer from Santa Ana, CA. Her writing has been featured in Slice MagazineLos Angeles Times, and The Rattling Wall. She is a 2008 PEN Emerging Voices Fellow, the 2010 Bread Loaf-Rona Jaffe Scholar in fiction, and a 2012 VONA alum. Her story, Brujeria for Beginners, was a finalist for the 2012 Orlando Prize in Short Fiction. She is writing a novel, The Chicano Consulate.


Avi Lall is a writer living in Long Beach, CA. In 2007 he was a PEN Emerging Voices Fellow. His work has appeared in The Asian-American Writers Workshop and Porcupine Literary Journal.



Eduardo Santiago was born Cuba and grew up in Los Angeles and Miami. He holds a BFA in film and television from California Institute of the Arts and was a 2004 PEN Emerging Voices Fellow. He lives in Los Angeles with his dog, Lyon.



2011 Poetry

Mehnaz Turner was born in Pakistan and raised in Southern California. She holds degrees from the University of Arizona, The University of Texas at Austin, and UC Santa Barbara. She is a 2009 Emerging Voices Fellow in Poetry. Her short story, "The Alphabet Workbook," appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as The Journal of Pakistan Studies, The Pedestal Magazine, and An Anthology of California Poets. An English teacher, she lives in Southern California.



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Emerging Voices

Soleil David was born and raised in the Philippines and now lives in Los Angeles. She graduated with high distinction from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a recipient of the Julia Keith Shrout Short Story Prize, andher poetry and prose have been published in Our Own Voice, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop anthology The Margins. She is working on a collection of poems.

Ashaki M. Jackson is an applied social psychologist, program evaluator, and poet who works with youth through research, evaluation, and creative writing mentoring. She is a Cave Canem and VONA alumna who serves on the board of VIDA: Women In Literary Arts. She is also co-founder of Women Who Submit. Her work appears in CURA and Prairie Schooner, among other publications. Author of two chapter-length collections—Surveillance (Writ Large Press) and Language Lesson (MIEL)—Jackson earned her creative writing MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles and a psychology doctorate from Claremont Graduate University. She lives in Los Angeles, California. Ashaki is mentoring Soleil David.

Peter H.Z. Hsu was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and raised in the San Gabriel Valley. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received a bachelor’s degree in English literature, and California State University, Los Angeles, where he earned a master’s degree in psychology. His fiction debuted in March 2016 in The Margins and is included in the Fall 2016 issue of Pinball. Peter is currently working on a short story collection.

J. Ryan Stradal is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest, which has been translated into 11 languages, optioned for film, and was the winner of the 2016 ABA Indie’s Choice Award for Best Adult Debut Novel, the 2016 Southern California Independent Booksellers Association Fiction Award, and the 2016 Midwest Independent Booksellers Choice Award for Fiction. Born and raised in Minnesota, he now lives in Los Angeles, where he is an editor-at-large at Unnamed Press, fiction editor at TASTE Magazine, and advisory board member at 826LA. He is at work on another novel set in his home state. J. Ryan is mentoring Peter H.Z. Hsu.

Kirin Khan was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and currently lives in Oakland, California. A Senior Analyst for YouGov, she has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Mills College and a post-baccalaureate in math from Smith College. Kirin is a 2016 VONA Voices alum and an upcoming 2017 Grotto Fellow. She is published in Uproot, sPARKLE & bLINK, and 7x7.LA. Kirin is currently working on her first novel.

Jade Chang has worked as an arts and culture journalist and editor for publications like the BBC, Metropolis, Glamour, and The Los Angeles Times Magazine. She was recently an editor at Goodreads. Jade is the recipient of a Sundance Arts Journalist fellowship, the AIGA/Winterhouse Design Criticism Award, and a Squaw Valley Writers Workshop scholarship. Her debut novel, The Wangs vs. the World (HMH) has been named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and was one of Buzzfeed’s 24 Best Books of 2016. The Wangs will be published in 11 countries and NPR said this: “Her book is unrelentingly fun, but it is also raw and profane—a story of fierce pride, fierce anger, and even fiercer love.” Jade is mentoring Kirin Khan.

Chinyere Nwodim was raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and attended Johns Hopkins University where she received a bachelor’s degree in biology and history of science. In addition to writing, she works in development at a regional community health center serving low-income populations in Los Angeles and Orange County. Chinyere currently lives in Los Angeles and is working on a short story collection.

Dana Johnson is the author of the short story collection In the Not Quite Dark. She is also the author of the novel Elsewhere, California, and the short story collection Break Any Woman Down, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, Callaloo, The Iowa Review, and Huizache, among others. Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, she is a professor of English at the University of Southern California. Dana is mentoring Chinyere Nwodim.

Jessica Shoemaker was raised in Torrance, California, and earned a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from University of California, Santa Barbara. She now lives in San Pedro, California, and teaches middle school. Her fiction has appeared in Blue Skirt Productions, Fiction Southeast, and Lunch Ticket. Jessica is working on a collection of short stories.

Amelia Gray is the author of four books: AM/PM; Museum of the Weird; THREATS; and Gutshot. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and VICE. She is the winner of the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She lives in Los Angeles. Amelia is mentoring Jessica Shoemaker.

Photographs of Emerging Voices Fellows by Bill Kennedy.


People ineligible for the Emerging Voices Fellowship:

  • Those who have an M.A., M.F.A., Ph.D. or minors in Creative Writing.
  • Students currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs.
  • Those who are Professional PEN Center USA members.
  • Writers who have published one or more books through major publishing houses, university presses, or established presses.
  • Current professional magazine/newspaper feature writers or editors.
  • Writers who are widely published in top tier literary journals and/or magazines.
  • 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 seven-month period. Housing is not provided.

History of the Emerging Voices Fellowship

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 seven-month writing fellowship for writers who lack access to a traditional writing education and seek financial and creative support.

Here’s a note from one of the fellowship’s supporter, Jamie Wolf, supporter of the Emerging Voices Fellowship program:

“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.”

Support for the Emerging Voices Fellowship

PEN Center USA’s Emerging Voices Fellowship is generously supported by the Amazon Literary Partnership, California Arts Council, New Balloon and Catapult, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, The Ovation Foundation, and Pasadena Literary Alliance.


The 2019 Emerging Voices Application period will be open from May 1 to August 1, 2018.

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. 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 genre and your project proposal. Please make full use of the 20 page submission limit for prose, but do not exceed 20 pages. 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. All pages must be numbered.

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 in late November.

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 ten 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 ten 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.

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

Scholarship Opportunities

Bennington Writing Seminars Emerging Voices Scholarship

Bennington Writing Seminars, in partnership with the PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellowship, established a one-time creative writing MFA scholarship for Emerging Voices Fellows in 2018. Bennington will grant the scholarship amount of $10,000 across four terms for an Emerging Voices Fellow for the January 2018 residency.

Congratulations to alumna Shari Poindexter (EV ‘01) on being awarded the $10,000 Bennington Writing Seminars Emerging Voices Scholarship!

A sincere thank you to Bennington for extending two additional scholarships to fiction writers Monica Carter (EV ‘10) and Davin Malasarn (EV ‘08)!

The Bennington Writing Seminars Emerging Voices Scholarship was made possible by the generosity of the Bennington January 2017 graduating class. We are grateful to them for their support and for creating this incredible opportunity.

Shari Poindexter is a doctoral candidate in Occupational Therapy at USC who has led seminars and workshops on a range of healthcare issues specifically for cancer survivors and underserved populations. She is also a Hospice volunteer. Poindexter was a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow, and she earned a John Densmore Scholarship at UCLA and a May Merrill Miller award for outstanding short story.

Monica Carter is Program Director of the Lambda Literary Foundation's LGBTQ Writers-in-Schools program. She was a PEN Center USA MARK Program Fiction Fellow, a Lambda Literary Foundation LGBT Emerging Writer Fellow, and a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow.

Davin Malasarn is Lead Writer and Director of Presidential Communications at Cal Tech. He has a Ph.D. in biology, and was a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. He is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a finalist for Glimmer Train's Very Short Fiction Contest, and was a featured writer for the New Short Fiction Series.

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PEN In The Community

PITC teaching artists collaborate closely with partner schools and community sites to develop a tailored curriculum that meets the needs of the participants. For schools, the program begins with a 1-2 day summer professional development session focused on integrating creative writing into core curriculum.

At schools, the program consists of 12 workshops taught over 12 weeks by the PITC teaching artist. 6-9 of the workshops will be taught in the host teacher’s classroom, with the remaining 3-6 workshops by the teaching artist held in other teachers’ classrooms at the school.

At community sites, the program consists of 6-12 workshops designed to meet the needs of community members. Often, these residencies can be an opportunity for participants to rediscover writing as a tool for growth, healing, self-expression and communication.

Participant work at schools and community sites is collected by the PITC teaching artist throughout the residency and published by PEN Center USA in an anthology that combines work from all sites, one in fall and one in spring. The anthology is presented at a final public reading for all participating schools and communities. The fall reading will be in December; the spring reading will be in May.

Both our PITC Writer in Residence program and our Guest Speaker program are offered free of charge.

How to Request a PITC Residency or Request to Teach

If you are a teacher and would like to request a PITC Writer in Residence for 2016-17, please fill out a SCHOOL RESIDENCY REQUEST FORM.

If you work at a non-profit or community center and would like to request a PITC Writer in Residence for 2016-17, please fill out a COMMUNITY SITE RESIDENCY REQUEST FORM.

If you are a writer and would like to apply to become a PITC writing residency teaching artist for spring of 2016, please fill out a TEACHING ARTIST APPLICATION.

PITC Guest Speaker Program

For schools or sites that don’t have the capacity to host a 12-week residency but would like to have a professional writer talk to students and community members, PITC’s volunteer Guest Speakers will arrange a one-time visit. The chance to meet a writer in person can be thrilling, and also life-changing for students and other people who have never had the opportunity to think of writing as a possible path in life.

Though most of our participating writers live in Los Angeles, schools and community sites outside of L.A. can still participate via Skype. If you are a teacher or community site leader and would like to request a PITC guest speaker, please email Executive Director Michelle Franke at michelle@penusa.org.

If you are a writer and would like to volunteer to become a PITC guest speaker, please fill out a GUEST SPEAKER APPLICATION.

PITC Program Funding

PEN Center USA’s Emerging Voices Program is generously supported by the Amazon Literary Partnership, California Arts Council, New Balloon and Catapult, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, The Ovation Foundation, and Pasadena Literary Alliance generously support the Emerging Voices Fellowship.

The Bridge
pen in the community