The Mark Blog

Bookmark This: Kima Jones On Being an Emerging Voices Fellow

This week, 2013 Emerging Voices Fellow Kima Jones writes about her experience of moving away from family and friends to be a part of the Emerging Voices Fellowship. Jones shares what the fellowship meant to her, from working with her mentor poet Harryette Mullen to finding a literary community.
Read her take below:
“I was both nervous and a little tearful that night in Crenshaw as I boarded the 210 bus, which was heading for the 2013 Emerging Voices Welcoming Party.  I had been in L.A. for just a week or two, but I already missed my family and friends back home. On the bus, I double-checked the venue’s address on my phone and scrolled up and down the list of people who said they were coming out for the first reading. I didn’t know any of those people. I came across the country alone to accept a fellowship, and my first public reading would be held in the absence of anyone who cared about me. When I arrived at the gallery, I hugged my cohort members and met their spouses and family members. I sat in the front row and I clapped for each of them the way I wanted someone to clap for me. It was the happiest, but also the loneliest night of my professional life.
Time has a way of ironing things out, though. Over the course of the fellowship I worked vigorously with my mentor, Harryette Mullen, at her favorite coffee shop, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, in Westwood. Most of our meetings lasted an hour or two, and we discussed everything from my manuscript to the best manicures. I was writing a book that sent me into fits of tears at every turn, and Harryette was able to help me by investing in both my poetry and in my life outside of my writing. Harryette encouraged my journaling, self-care, and vegan cooking as much as she encouraged the assigned reading and rewrites. Harryette saw me as a whole person— a poet, sure—but also someone’s daughter and sister and friend.
In July of 2013, I gave my final reading as a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow at the Hammer Museum. I invited my friends Yolanda, Ashley, Carlyle, Marytza, Jamal, and Noriko. I met all of these wonderful people during the course of my fellowship. They were people who had come up to me after my readings and invited me out for coffee, people who I lunched with, went to the library with, people who helped me get through my first year of living in L.A. I decided to stay here in Los Angeles because PEN Center USA gave me so much of what I didn’t have at home. In Los Angeles I have a literary community, I have a mentor, I have writing dates with other writers, I have readings, I have the lifelong support of PEN Center USA and its staff. While my fellowship is formally over, I will always be a PEN Center USA member and an EV Fellow. I have my 2013 cohort to lean on and share with, and I have a best friend in Lilliam Rivera. I have an incredible ally and supporter in Harryette Mullen. Leaving New York was the hardest decision I’ve made to date, but, if I had to do it again, I would make the same decision over and over for the rest of my life.”
To apply for the 2015 Emerging Voices Fellowship and for more information, click here.