By Victoria Hutter, Assistant Director, Press/Public Affair, National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will award individual creative writing fellowships of $25,000 each to 37 fiction and creative nonfiction writers from 17 states as part of its first FY 2016 grant awards. Through its creative writing fellowships program, the NEA gives writers the time and space to create, revise, conduct research, and connect with readers. This year’s writers were selected from among 1,763 eligible applications by 23 readers and panelists.
“Since its inception, the creative writing fellowship program has awarded more than $45 million to a diverse group of more than 3,000 writers, many of them emerging writers at the start of their careers,” said NEA Director of Literature Programs, Amy Stolls. “These 37 extraordinary new fellows provide more evidence of the NEA’s track record of discovering and supporting excellent writers.”
Some of this year’s fellows will be familiar to those who enjoy contemporary fiction. Those writers include Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena; Téa Obrecht, author of The Tiger’s Wife; and Paul Harding, author of Tinkers which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2010. Other fellows in this group do not share the same level of public recognition—yet.
The fellows represent an impressive range of perspectives, interests, and writing styles. Some examples:
- Before Mario Alberto Zambrano of Texas became a writer interested in exploring his Mexican-American roots, he was a professional dancer with Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance Company.
- Born in Iran on the eve of the Islamic Revolution, Laleh Khadivi of California explores the experiences of immigrants, refugees, and ex-pats in her writing and through film.
- In her memoir The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, Elisabeth Tova Bailey writes about her year-long, debilitating illness and observations of a snail by her bed in Maine.
The mix of this year’s emerging and mid-career writers is a testament to the integrity of the NEA’s review process, arguably the most egalitarian grant program in its field. Applications are free and open to the public; fellows are selected through an anonymous review process in which the sole criterion is artistic excellence; and the judging panel varies year to year and is always diverse with regard to geography, ethnicity, gender, age, and life experience.
In addition to these fellowships, the NEA recently announced 53 literature grants totaling $1,185,000 through the Art Works funding category. These grants to nonprofit literary journals and presses represent another component of the NEA’s support for American literature. In addition, many of the journals and presses noted on the grant list have published the work of the NEA creative writing fellows.
These FY 2016 literature grants and creative writing fellowships add to more than $5 billion in grants that the NEA has awarded over the past 50 years, the only arts funder in the nation to reach every state and U.S. jurisdiction.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the agency is celebrating this milestone with events and activities through September 2016.
Visit the Writers’ Corner to learn more about previously-awarded creative writing fellows.
Strengthening Our Creative Capacity and America’s Future: An NEA motion graphic