Haymarket Books has established the Writing Freedom Fellowship, a program designed for writers working in poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction who are incarcerated or otherwise impacted by the criminal legal system through a family member or loved one’s incarceration.
Twenty writers will be selected this fall, from a pool of candidates nominated by writers and advocates invited into the process, to receive Writing Freedom Fellowships. The significant cash allotment is unrestricted—winners can use the funding however they like, rather than specifically on writing-related expenses—and will be given annually, based on each writer’s existing body of work. Each recipient will also be provided with one year of support through mentorship, professional development, and interaction with the other writers in their cohort.
In a release, Haymarket said that the Writing Freedom Fellowship “seeks to foster writers’ creative practices and build community against the backdrop of a system that is premised on punishment and designed to isolate and often silence personal expression. Writing Freedom Fellows need not have written on themes related to the criminal legal system.” The publisher added, in a statement, that "out of concern for the privacy for future awardees, particularly any who may be incarcerated, Haymarket is not disclosing the award amount at this time."
An advisory board of nine writers and advocates will assist Haymarket and its funders—the Art for Justice Fund and the Mellon Foundation—in administering the fellowship: Hanif Abdurraqib, Lawrence Bartley, Mahogany L. Browne, Natalie Diaz, Tayari Jones, Rachel Kushner, Romarilyn Ralston, Andrea Ritchie, and Christopher Soto.
"Writing is one of the most ancient art forms—and everyone has a story to tell,” noted Ralston, the executive director of Project Rebound, a program at California State University that works with formerly incarcerated individuals who want to enroll at CSU. “However, many writers, poets, and truth tellers are silenced, incapacitated, and unsupported—warehoused in prisons like old books on dusty library shelves. The Writing Freedom Fellowship offers people with an incarceration experience and system-impacted individuals the social and financial capital needed to transform their words into masterpieces."