PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights and works to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. The organization champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.
As part of this mission, 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, and communities. The goal of the program is to ignite a broad, sustained conversation about the dangers of over-incarceration and highlight the imperative to mobilize behind rational and humane criminal justice policies.
The 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 fuel public debate, crystallize concepts of reform, and facilitate the possibility of societal change. As part of PEN America's mission to stimulate discussion, emphasis will be placed on proposed projects that show strong promise for publication. Fellows must commit to actively contributing to efforts that bring attention to their work and that of other fellows.
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 who will serve as a source of guidance for the project.
The fellowship is open to writers at any stage of their career. Currently and formerly incarcerated writers are encouraged to apply, and special provisions will be made for incarcerated writers to participate through alternative methods.
See the PEN America website for a complete program description, eligibility criteria, and application guidelines and materials.