We never post opportunities that require a submission fee. LEARN MORE.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Pen America Writing for Justice Fellowship

web site

PEN America’s $10,000 Writing for Justice Fellowship will commission six writers—emerging or established—to create written works of lasting merit that illuminate critical issues related to mass incarceration and catalyze public debate.

The PEN America Writing for Justice Fellowship aims to harness the power of writers and writing in bearing witness to the societal consequences of mass incarceration by capturing and sharing the stories of incarcerated individuals, their families, communities, and the wider impact of the criminal justice system. Our goal is to ignite a broad, sustained conversation about the dangers of over-incarceration and the imperative to mobilize behind rational and humane policies. As an organization of writers dedicated to promoting free expression and informed discourse, PEN America is honored to have been entrusted by the Art for Justice Fund to engage the literary community in addressing this pressing societal issue.

Deadline to apply: July 1, 2018


The Writing for Justice Fellowship is open-genre, and proposed projects may include—but are not limited to—fictional stories; works of literary or long-form journalism; theatrical, television or film scripts; memoirs; poetry collections; or multimedia projects. The most competitive applications will demonstrate how the proposed project will engage issues of reform, fuel public debate, crystallize concepts of reform, and facilitate the possibility of societal change. As part of our mission to stimulate discussion, emphasis will be placed on proposed projects that show strong promise for publication. Fellows must commit to contribute actively to bringing attention to their work and that of other Fellows. The Fellowship is open to writers at any stage of their career. Currently and formerly incarcerated writers are highly encouraged to apply, and special provisions will be made for incarcerated writers to participate through alternative methods.

Fellows will receive an honorarium of $10,000 and may request up to $5,000 in additional funding for travel and research. In addition to financial support, Fellows may choose to be paired with a mentor to serve as a source of guidance for the project, and the cohort will convene in person twice during the course of the Fellowship. PEN America will draw on the Writing for Justice Advisory Committee as well as its network of agents, editors, publishers, partner organizations and outlets in order to assist efforts for publication and dissemination of the work of the Fellows. Opportunities for sharing the created work through public forums will be organized in New York City at the PEN World Voices Festival, in the Fellow’s home community, and possibly additional locations.


The first eight months of the Fellowship are designed for Fellows to research, create, and connect with mentors and the cohort, working toward submission of a polished final product that is ready for publication. The final four months of the Fellowship will focus on placing the works for public dissemination and opportunities for Fellows to present their work publicly.

  • July 1, 2018: Deadline to apply
  • September 2018: Successful applicants notified
  • September–May 2018: Fellows work on their projects, meet with mentors
  • October TBD, 2018: Cohort meeting #1 (NYC)
  • February 8–10, 2019: Cohort meeting #2 (Location TBD)
  • April 2019: PEN World Voices Festival event featuring works in progress
  • May 2019: Work completed and submitted for publication
  • May–August 2019: Placing work and public presentations


To be eligible for this Fellowship, the applicant must be

21 years of age or older.
An individual writer. Collaborative projects are acceptable, but only one project lead may apply and participate in the Fellowship’s activities.
A United States resident.
Available to participate actively in all dimensions of Fellowship programming, including mandatory gatherings and public programs. (The Fellowship will cover costs associated with these events, separately from the Fellowship honorarium and travel/research budget.) Currently incarcerated writers and formerly incarcerated writers on parole will participate through alternative means.
Able to demonstrate a track record of successful projects brought to completion on time.
Membership in PEN America is not required. Please see FAQs below for more information.


Fellows will be selected on artistic merit, the project’s approach and potential for impact, and the feasibility of project to be fully completed and in polished, publishable form within the given time frame. Applications will be reviewed by PEN America and expert advisors through an anonymous process.

Applications close July 1, 2018. Fellows will be announced in September 2018.


Closely review all required materials listed below. Please be mindful of the specific application requests. Failure to follow instructions carefully will result in immediate disqualification. Late applications will not be accepted. We suggest you submit early to avoid technical issues.

There is no fee to apply to the Writing for Justice Fellowship.

All non-incarcerated applicants are required to submit online through Submittable.

Currently incarcerated writers can submit by sending application materials (preferably typed, but clean, legible handwritten applications will also be accepted) to the address below:

Writing For Justice Fellowship
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, NY 10012


Please do not include your name or any other identifying information on any part of the application, aside from the cover page. Typed materials should be:

  • 11 or 12 pt standard font (Times New Roman, Arial)
  • Spaced at 1 or 1.15
  • One-inch margins
  • Currently incarcerated writers should follow formatting to the best of their ability and estimate word count as closely as possible. We will not disqualify applications for being reasonably over count.

1. Cover Page:

Include name, address, telephone number, email address, and title of the proposed project.

2. Project Title and Brief Description (maximum of 100 words)

3. Project Proposal (maximum of 750 words):

Please respond to the following questions:

  • Describe the project, including genre, relevance to the topic of mass incarceration, and the geographic regions your project addresses.
  • Share what is new and significant about your project’s approach and why it matters. What inspired your choices and interest?
  • Where are you in the timeline of your project? What work do you hope to accomplish during the eight-month creation portion of the Fellowship? What resources would be most helpful in this process? What form of mentorship would your project most benefit from? (E.g., a writer in your genre, an editor, an expert in an aspect of criminal justice/mass incarceration, etc.)
  • What impact do you hope your project will have? What audiences/communities are you writing toward? How do you imagine your project might be used to catalyze conversations on mass incarceration? What change might it spur? Please provide specific examples.
  • Where do you imagine this project living or being featured? Share any ideas/connections to publications or other relevant venues that might be a good fit for your work.

4. Work sample: 7–10 pages of your written work, or 10 files if multimedia. If you are applying with a project that is already in motion, the work sample content should reflect this if available.

5. Research travel budget up to $5,000.

Budgets may reflect costs associated with research travel, a self-directed residency, resources associated with the project’s completion, and/or supplies. Funding is subject to the Fellowship committee’s discretion. Please do not submit a travel research budget unless there is a strong case for the impact of this financial support on your project’s completion.

6. Biographical Context (maximum of 500 words): Briefly introduce yourself as a creator. This might be an artist/career biography to express past accomplishments, a statement of philosophy and approach, or an overview of your current practice and/or creative mission.

7. Optional CV (maximum of 2 pages): Encouraged, but not required. Applicants who do not include a CV will not be penalized.

8. References: Submit three reference names and contact information that can speak to applicant’s track record of success and completion of past projects. This is required for non-incarcerated writers. Incarcerated writers are not required to supply references, but encouraged to do so if possible.

Blog Archive