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Congratulations to the 2021 "Illuminating Black Lives" Fellowship Winners!

Updated: Jun 21, 2022

The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 “Illuminating Black Lives” fellowship, which invited writers to explore the Black American experience in any literary genre. No specific attitude or type of experience was sought, rather, the successful applicants demonstrated insight, honesty, literary merit, and the likelihood of publication. Two winners, Lorraine Avila and Marcus Wicker were selected from 68 applications received from writers across the U.S. and abroad. Each will receive a two-week residency at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow in 2022.

Lorraine Avila is an educator from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She received her BA in English, Middle East Studies, and Creative Writing from Fordham University and her MA in Teaching from New York University. She was admitted in the University of Pittsburgh where she is currently working on her MFA in Fiction. Her literary accomplishments include publishing a collection of short stories, Malcriada & Other Stories, which brought her on a national book tour, speaking at colleges and universities. Moreover, Avila’s work has been published in Teen Vogue, Bitch Media, Tasteful Rude, Our House LA, Latino USA, Catapult Magazine, Asteri(x) Journal, Hippocampus Magazine, Moko Magazine, The GirlMob, Accentos Review, La Galeria Magazine, and Blavity.

Avila is planning a spring 2022 residency where she will be working her adult literary novel. Avila describes it, “The saga follows two, first-generation, Black Dominican cousins, who are coping with the suicide of a loved one via a bombing on the Playa Encuentro in the Dominican Republic. Their journey leads them to uncover transgenerational trauma embedded within their family lineage.” The uninterrupted writing time that Avila’s fellowship residency provides will help her achieve her goal to have a full, edited draft of her novel by August 2022.

Marcus Wicker is Associate Professor and MFA Program Coordinator at the University of Memphis. He received his BA in Public Law with English minor at Western Michigan University and his MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry from Indiana University. His poetry has been published in a long list of journals and anthologies including: The Atlantic, Oxford American, Poetry Society of America, The New Republic, The Nation, Kenyon Review, and many others. He is Poetry Editor at Southern Indiana Review and Senior Editor at SIR Press, and frequently serves as a poetry judge for literary magazines and organizations. His poetry collections include Silencer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2017) and Maybe the Saddest Thing (Harper Perennial, October 2012). Wicker’s honors and achievements include a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship (poetry), an NAACP Image Award Finalist for each of his poetry collections, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship form the Poetry Foundation, and winning the National Poetry Series, which resulted in the publication of his first book.

Wicker is planning a residency in spring 2022, where he will be working on his third poetry collection, Dear Mothership. Wicker says, “At its core, the project asks, ‘Can one’s auditory consumption fundamentally alter their way of seeing or being? Can ecstatic Black music, especially hip hop, serve as a contemporary iteration of the negro spiritual?”

Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow Executive Director, Michelle Hannon, said, “The focus of our mission is to support and nurture writers of all genres, backgrounds, and levels of experience. We are especially grateful when an organization or individual choses to sponsor a fellowship that exposes our community to diverse writers.” “Illuminating Black Lives” was developed and sponsored by author and Writers’ Colony alumna, Linda Leavell, and her husband, Brooks Garner. Hannon continued, “This is the second year that Linda and Brooks have sponsored this fellowship. We are incredibly thankful for their continued support of the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow and diverse writers.” For more information about funding a fellowship supporting the genre and/or area of interest you are passionate about, visit

The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow is a 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to nurture writers of all genres, backgrounds, and levels of experience in a supportive environment that builds community, energizes creative expression, stimulates new thinking, and optimizes productivity. Since opening its doors to writers in 2000, the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow has made a lasting impact on the arts and literary communities hosting over 1,900 writers from 49 states and 13 countries. For more information, please visit or call Michelle Hannon or Jeanne Glass at (479)253-7444.

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Janis Kearney
Janis Kearney
Jan 14, 2022

Congratulations to these amazing fellows. I know they will love the magical Writers Colony as much as I do❗️

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