Center for Fiction
Attention NYC writers! The Center for Fiction is hosting the 2015 NYC Emerging Writers Fellowship Program. Nine fellows will each receive a $4,000 grant, the opportunity to meet with agents, free admission to all Center for Fiction events for one year among other great benefits. Sara Batkie, Awards and Programs Manager for the Center, shares how the fellowship program helps writers and the success past fellows have achieved. The deadline to apply to the 2015 NYC Emerging Writers Fellowship Program is January 31, 2015.
Janet Umenta: For a writer, what are the advantages of living in NYC?
Sara Batkie: I’d say that the biggest advantage by far for writers in NYC is the literary community here. It’s not just that many great writers make their home in the city or that so many MFA programs are here; it’s that there’s always something literary going on. Almost any night of the week you can go out and find great readings at bookstores and event spaces like The Center, where you can hear from and meet your favorite authors or discover a new, exciting voice. While a large part of being a writer is sitting in a room and getting the work done, equally important I think is going out into the wider world and meeting the other people who are doing the same work you are, getting to know them and what they’re writing too. Often a writer will find his or her first great supporters, and eventually lifelong friends, this way. There are other great cities where this happens obviously, but New York has sheer volume on its side.
JU: How has the NYC Emerging Writers Fellowship Program evolved since its inception?
SB: We set out from the beginning wanting to recognize nine writers of diverse backgrounds and talents and have been able to do so every year with the generous support of the Jerome Foundation. But we are also striving every year to improve and expand what the program can offer our fellows, from bringing in more guests from the publishing industry to meet with them to producing an anthology of their work to send to agents and editors to providing more opportunities to share and publish their work. This is a community we want all participants to feel welcome in, and each new round of graduates has offered feedback that we are constantly seeking to incorporate into the program as well.
JU: How has the emergence of social media changed the writing community?
SB: Social media has made the writing community more immediately connected, as it has in almost all communities. We can share publishing news or book reviews in an instant and discuss our reactions in real time. Writers living on opposite coasts can keep in closer touch and feel more involved. It’s a way to share work and celebrate success. Best of all we can recommend an undersung treasure or a great grant or fellowship opportunity on a much larger platform. Though it’s important not to get too distracted when deep in our work, it’s also heartening to know that there will always be a community waiting for us with open arms when we’re ready to return to it.
JU: The Fellowship Program focuses on writers who have not been published. In your opinion, what are obstacles many emerging writers face? How does the Fellowship Program help them?
SB: The obstacles emerging writers face are two-fold: first, there’s the need for time. A writer who is unpublished is unlikely to be making a living from their art (even those who have been published have difficulties), which means they’re also working full time or scraping by on freelance gigs. This usually leaves very little of the day to work on their stories or novels. The second is recognition. There are a lot of worthy emerging writers out there and a lot of voices that want to be heard. Since writing is such a solitary act, it can be very disheartening to receive rejections when you begin putting your work out into the world. Our Fellowship Program provides writers with the tools to meet both of these challenges. Fellows receive a stipend as well as space to write in our Writer’s Studio, open 24/7. They also become part of a community, interacting with the other fellows and the agents, authors, and editors the program introduces them to. Above all we hope the fellowship builds confidence in the writers we recognize as they prepare for a literary career.
JU: What changes have you seen in graduates of the Fellowship Program?
We are immensely proud of the success that many of our graduates have found so far. 2013 saw the publication of two of our fellows’ first books: THE RESIDUE YEARS
by Mitchell Jackson (2011 fellow) and SAFE AS HOUSES
by Marie-Helene Bertino (2011 fellow.) The graduates who continue to make writing central to their lives have equally impressed us and we look forward to many more publications and successes in their futures. But above all, the most inspiring changes we see are the pride and validation our graduates take in their work as writers.
JU: What can writers gain from joining an online writing community?
SB: Exposure, by which I mean both the chance to share work and discussion with others and the chance to be introduced to a group of writers that you might not have the opportunity to meet in person. There’s little more valuable as a writer, and most certainly as an emerging one, than to feel like a part of a community that has your back. Writing is hard work and must be done alone but once it’s complete, it’s a joy to have others to share it with.
About Sara Batkie
Sara Batkie hails from the midwest where she received her BA in English from the University of Iowa in 2008. She left for the big city soon after to pursue her Masters in Creative Writing at New York University and graduated from the Fiction program in 2010. Her work has been published in various journals and received mention in the 2011 Best American Short Stories anthology. Currently she lives in Brooklyn where she writes as much as she can stand. Connect with the Center for Fiction on Twitter and Facebook.