I Was Awarded a Poetry Fellowship


I’ve been awarded my first writing fellowship – in poetry! About two months ago, I received an email stating that I was one of the applicants who had been chosen to receive a Voices of Color Fellowship to the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. Even though I didn’t win first or second place, I was honored to be one of the recipients. [By the way, the poem I submitted is in Tried and Tested: Heart of Crystal (Book Two).]

Honestly, I wasn’t completely sure why a fellowship was significant. I ran across a post sharing information about it, read through the MVICW website, spent a bit of time formatting a poem, wrote a letter, and submitted shortly before the deadline. I found out about the program late, so I did feel the pressure of rushing to add my entry, but it contributed to my learning experiences.

After reading through the congratulatory emails a couple dozen times, I decided to do some research on what a fellowship is and what it means. (Yes, it’s backwards, but that’s how it goes sometimes.) I remembered hearing that different writers had received fellowships, but I’d never thought to ask for what or why. So, I looked online.

If you’re like me, you might have considered a fellowship to be another form of scholarship because funding offered can help offset costs to attend the institution providing the program. While there are similarities, these were the things that stood out to me and made the award more meaningful:

  • Fellowships can be academic or professional
  • Competitive
  • Merit-based – Must demonstrate potential to make a lasting impression in chosen field
  • Not always financial
  • Provide opportunity for a short-term, intensive study
  • Provide networking opportunity

“Crowley says fellowship directors generally seek fellows who have a clear sense of purpose and who can articulate precisely how a fellowship would help them achieve their long-term career goal.” – https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/paying/articles/what-a-fellowship-is-and-why-you-might-want-one

The judge for this category was Adrian Matejka, Poet Laureate of Indiana. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, his books can be found online. One of his books is titled The Big Smoke, based on the life of the first Black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson. I’d watched a documentary on the boxer’s life several years ago, so I was interested in hearing Matejka’s research, thoughts, and poems.

Yes, being awarded the fellowship was an honor. It meant more after I learned a bit more about fellowships as well as hearing thoughts from those making the decisions (letters came from the director and registration). By next week, I’m sure I will be grateful that I didn’t skip the opportunity to apply. Poetry is the first style of writing that I remember practicing, but I realize that I haven’t been consistent with it. I’ve been wanting to release at least one books of poems since 2004. However, in the 17 years since I compiled my first set, I haven’t released them. Last summer, when I began attending monthly poetry workshops, I decided to work toward this goal. I applied to this program because I believe that it will give me the encouragement and tools I need to sharpen my skills and present a solid book (or chapbooks – the length of the poems may say book).

If you are interested in pursuing a writing fellowship, this article from “The Write Life” may assist you. https://thewritelife.com/applying-to-writing-fellowships/ – “5 Tips for Applying to Writing Fellowships and Residencies”

Links that may be helpful:

“Fellowships | What They Are and 3 Reasons Why They’re Exceptional” – link
“What is a Fellowship? This Unique Funding Award Explained” – link
“What Is a Fellowship Program?” – link

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