The Emerging Writers’ Mentor Program engages Black writers from diverse genres in a six-month program that promote the "writing life," hones literary craft, and supports the production of new works by the participating writers.

"One of the most brilliant groups that I have encountered."
– Ishmael Reed, National Mentoring Writer 2009

Each year, Givens offers ten emerging Minnesota-based writers the opportunity to work intensively with three nationally acclaimed writers. Selected participants work for six months with the 3 mentors, and all participants and the Minnesota-based mentors give a public reading at the end of the program.

2016 Mentors  |  2016 Fellows | Applications  |  Alumni

2016 Mentors


Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry including Citizen: An American Lyricand Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. For Citizen, Rankine won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (Citizen was also nominated in the criticism category, making it the first book in the award’s history to be a double nominee), the LA Times Book Award, the PEN Open Book Award, the NAACP Image Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category. The book is currently shortlisted for the 2015 Forward Prize (TBA Sept 21, 2015). Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. She lives in California and is the Aerol Arnold Chair in the University of Southern California English Department.


Lesley Nneka Arimah

Lesley Nneka Arimah moved from Nigeria to the US in her early teens and spent a decade in Louisiana before relocating to Minnesota. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Non-Required Reading 2015, PANK, Granta, Five Points, Catapult, Mid-American Review, Percontra and other publications. She is an alumnus of VONA (Voices of Our Nation) and the Loft Mentor Series. In 2015, she emerged as the Commonwealth Writers' winner for Africa for her short story Light. Other awards and recognition include grants from the Loft Emerging Writers program, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Intermedia Arts and the Minnesota State Arts Board.


Christina Ham

Christina Ham’s plays have been developed and produced both nationally and internationally with the Kennedy Center, The Guthrie Theater, Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Goodman Theater, Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, SteppingStone Theatre, Arielle Tepper Madover off-Broadway at Theater Row, and the Tokyo International Arts Festival among others. Her play Four Little Girls was directed by Phylicia Rashad at the Kennedy Center to a sold-out audience to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. It was simultaneously presented/and or produced in 47 states across the country on the same day with Condoleezza Rice and Eric Holder conducting the talk back in Birmingham. Christina is a two-time recipient of a McKnight Fellowship for Playwrights and a Jerome Fellowship from the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, the Marianne Murphy Women & Philanthropy Award in Playwriting, and a MacDowell Colony Residency. Most recently she was a nominee for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play Scapegoat about one of the worst massacres in U.S. history in Elaine, Arkansas against African-American sharecroppers. It was also included in the 2014 edition of The List compiled by The Kilroys and described in the New York Times as “one of the most excellent new plays by female-identified authors of last year." She has received commissions from The Guthrie Theater, Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and Park Square Theatre for Nina Simone: Four Women that will have its World Premiere in March 2016. A graduate of the USC and a MFA in Playwriting from UCLA, Christina is a Core Writer of the Playwrights' Center, a member playwright of the Workhaus Collective, and The Dramatists Guild of America. 

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2016 Emerging Writing Fellows

Fayise Abrahim

Tionenji Aiken

Kyra Crawford-Calvert

Nicole Nfonoyim-Hara

Nneka Onwuzurike

LaDonna Azziza Redmond

Mary Rindelaub-Delorié

Marcia Sanders

Chavonn Shen

Senah Yeboah-Sampong.


  • The deadline for entry is Friday, November 6, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. (CST).
  • Retreat Dates: January 7-10, 2016 (4 days, 3 nights) & March 11-13, 2016 (3 days, 2 nights)
  • Program Workshops: January 2016 to June 2016

The mentors for 2016 are Claudia Rankine, Lesley Nneka Arimah and Christina Ham.

Download the application (PDF).

All submissions are handled through the Givens Foundations’ submission portal on Submittable:


Emerging Writers’ Mentor Program Alumni



Roxane Gay

Mary Moore Easter

Danez Smith

Emerging Writing Fellows

Romelle Adkins, Maya Beck, Stephanie Chrismon, Cherish Gibson, Michael Kleber-Diggs, Irna Landrum, Joi Lewis, Katie Robinson, Erin Sharkey, James Short



Kevin Young

Mary Moore Easter

Emerging Writing Fellows
Jeremiah Bey, Marshaunna Clark, Hassen Hussein, Rickey Mantley, Lolla Mohammed Nur, Junauda Petrus, Naima Richmond, Rachel Summers, Chaun Webster, and Tene Wells



E. Ethelbert Miller

David Lawrence Grant

Emerging Writing Fellows
Lesley Arimah, Lisa Brimmer, Valerie Deus, Marcus Harcus, Amoke Kubat, Wisdom K. Mawusi, Mire Regulus, Semerit Strachan, Hawona Sullivan Janzen, and Kirk Washington, Jr.



Percival Everett

Phil Bryant

Emerging Writing Fellows
Ramla Bile, Willie Carlton, Sherine Crooms-Onukwuwe, Wilt Hodge, Stephanie Jones, Amoke Kubat, Wisdom Mawusi, Clarence White, and Sheila Williams



Patricia Smith

Alexs Pate

Emerging Writing Fellows
Cavis Adams, L’Tifa Al-Amin-Mussawir, Shirley Durr, Marjorie Grevious, Carla-Elaine Johnson, Miski Noor, Adaobi Okolue, Gregory Allen Simmons, Alicia Rose Steele, and Debra Stone



Ishmael Reed

Laurie Carlos

Emerging Writing Fellows
Dara Beevas, Lisa Brimmer, Karla Davis, Valerie Deus, Shannon Gibney, Colnese Hendon, Quentin "Q" Moore, Mickey Rich, and Deborah A. Torraine



Sonia Sanchez

Carolyn Holbrook 

Emerging Writing Fellows
Beverly Cottman, Danielle Daniel, Keli Garrett, Reginald Harris, Gavin Lawrence, Don Strong, Kimberly White, Genesia Williams, Lori Young-Williams, and Paris Williams



Amiri Baraka

J. Otis Powell

Emerging Writing Fellows
Sha Cage, E.G. Bailey, Brenda Bell Brown, Rush Merchant, Louis Porter, Craig Hewitt, Sherrie Fernandez-Williams, Andrea Jenkins, Nneka Onyilofor, and Karla Nweje

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