Literary Action Coalition’s Writing as Activism Fellowship reimagines the role of writers in New York City, offering tools and support to produce literary work that centers activism on community and social justice issues. The fellowship will offer a six-month immersive workshop experience for six New York City-based writer-activists committed to uplifting the voices of those most marginalized in the city through writing, including those who identify as LGBTQIA+, Black, Latinx, Asian American, Indigenous, disabled, low-income, and at any intersection of these and other experiences. The program will culminate with individual and collective work brought to the public and the launch of a cohort of writers ready to mobilize their creativity in activist spaces. Each fellow will be awarded a $2,000 honorarium.

We are looking for activists who are invested in growing their capacities and practice as writers, and for writers who are invested in growing as activists. 

Fellowship timeline:

The fellowship is designed to give writer-activists the space, resources, and guidance to create work that involves and centers themes of community, activism, and advocacy. They will receive the support of a teaching artist, PEN America staff, and the New York City Literary Action Coalition.

November - December 2021      Writing as Activism Fellowship Application Period

January 2022                            Fellows Announced

February - June 2022                Writing as Activism Fellowship Period

June 2022                                 Cohort event/mobilization


  • Applicants must be 21 years of age or older at time of application.
  • Applicants do not need to be a U.S. permanent resident and/or citizen but must be residing in New York City at the time of applying for, and during the duration of, the fellowship.
  • Applicants must be available to participate actively in all dimensions of fellowship programming, including mandatory workshops, virtual gatherings, and virtual and in-person public programs.

Selection Criteria and Process:

Given the highly competitive nature of the selection process for this fellowship, we advise using care in your project application. Though the application will be assessed as a whole, fellows will be selected primarily based on the strength of the writing sample coupled with activism/community engagement experience. Fellows will be selected by a committee of Literary Action Coalition members and PEN America staff. We encourage you to submit writing that best showcases your work.

Closely review all required materials listed below. Please be mindful of the specific application requests. Failure to follow instructions carefully will result in disqualification. Late applications will not be accepted, without exception. We suggest you submit early to avoid technical issues. We encourage applicants to submit in the genre you aim to work with for the duration of the fellowship. We accept submissions in mixed-genre, if your work incorporates a hybrid of multiple forms of writing (for example, a hybrid of fiction and essay writing, poetry that incorporates elements of playwriting, etc.)

The selection decisions of PEN America will be final and not subject to review. We regret that due to the volume of applications, we will not be able to provide any individualized feedback at any point during or after the application process. Specific questions not covered in the application may be sent to PEN America's Community Outreach Fellow Haruna Shimizu at

Applications close at 11:59pm ET on December 3, 2021. Fellows will be announced in January.

Terms of Use: PEN America archives submissions in their entirety for organizational purposes. We will never use or share your application outside of PEN America, and you retain all the rights to your work submitted as part of your application.

PEN America does not discriminate based upon age, color, national origin, physical or mental disability, race, religion, creed, gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, status as a veteran, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local law. PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices, and in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

The U.S. Writers Aid Initiative is intended to assist fiction and non-fiction authors, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, translators, and journalists. To be eligible, applicants must be based in the United States, be professional writers, and be able to demonstrate that this one-time grant will be meaningful in helping them to address an emergency situation. The fund is limited, and not every application can be supported. Grant decisions are made on a periodic basis by a volunteer committee of literary peers in consultation with PEN America staff, using the following guidelines to evaluate professional credentials:

  • Publication of one or more books. (Writers who are only self-published or published by a press that charges for publication are not eligible.)
  • Multiple essays, short stories, or poems appearing in literary anthologies or literary journals (either online or in print) in the last two years.
  • A full-length play, performed in a theater by a professional theater company. Productions in academic settings qualify if the author is not a student at the time of the production.
  • Production of a motion picture project or a segment of television.
  • Employment as a full-time professional journalist, columnist, or critic, or a record of consistent publication on a freelance basis in a range of outlets during the last two years.
  • Contracted forthcoming books, essays, short stories, poems, or articles for which the name of the publisher can be provided.
  • Other qualifications that support the applicant’s professional identity as a writer.

The U.S. Writers Aid Initiative is not intended to subsidize writing-related expenses, such as equipment, printing, shipping, travel, or publicity services. Writers do not have to be Members of PEN America to receive a grant, but all recipients of emergency funding will be given a complimentary one-year PEN America membership. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and will be reviewed on or about the following dates in 2021 and 2022:

October 1, 2021

December 1, 2021

February 1, 2022

April 1, 20222

June 1, 2022

August 1, 2022

October 1, 2022

December 1, 2022

Please review all eligibility criteria before applying. We encourage applicants to be specific and thorough in presenting their case for support so that a proper evaluation of the application can be made. All complete applications will be reviewed, and all applicants will be notified of a grant decision within 10-12 weeks' time. Not all applications will be supported, and the Committee’s decision is final. 

Questions may be addressed to the  

PEN America