Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA) has offered workshops to writers of color, launched community writing programs and events, hosted faculty readings, and more. Originally based out of San Francisco, it's making its new home at the University of Miami, with the continued goal of providing more opportunities to young writers who might otherwise be overlooked.
Founded in 1999 by Elmaz Abinader, Junot Díaz, Victor Díaz, and Diem Jones, over 2,000 writers from around the world have participated in workshops and more than 100 alums have published books. Dominican born Díaz — Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and a MacArthur Genius Fellow — has been a longtime board member and instructor. He often writes about the immigrant experience, living in the margins, and navigating white spaces, and although there was no VONA early on in his career, he always sought a safe place for creativity.
“What happens to a writer is that there are multiple tutelages, multiple educations,” Díaz says. “You’re basically pulling everything you can out of everywhere. I certainly had a community [of minority writers] growing up and it’s something that gave me great comfort, great support, and great training.”
M. Evelina Galang, Global FWN100™ '14 and author searched for a community of writers with similar goals but found it difficult to find constructive support early on in her career.
“I had a great experience growing up but I was always either the only woman of color in the classroom and definitely the only Filipina American in my workshops,” says Galang. “There were oftentimes missed opportunities for me as a writer and I didn’t get the same kind of attention that sometimes my white colleagues got.”
There will be writing sessions at the University of Miami on fiction, poetry, memoir, travel writing, political content, LGBTQ narrative, playwriting, and speculative fiction.
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