"Illuminating Black Lives" fellow, Zenique Gardner-Perry, Plans August Residency

Zenique Gardner-Perry, recipient of the “Illuminating Black Lives” fellowship from the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, will facilitate a workshop at the Magdalene Serenity House in Fayetteville as her community outreach project. Making Each Word Matter” invites participants to explore the art of "less is more" when writing personal narratives, fully expressing themselves using fewer, more impactful words. Gardner-Perry explains, “Making Each Word Matter” is an introductory workshop for new writers with big stories. From this workshop, I have seen folks create narratives about time served in prison, living with HIV, escaping intimate partner abuse, and surviving terminal illness. My goal is to share the fundamentals of storytelling with folks who have been conditioned to keep quiet about their lived experiences. Here, we create space for folks to write about their lives, ultimately empowering them to move their stories from the margins and into the mainstream.”


The “Illuminating Black Lives” fellowship invited writers to explore the African American experience in any literary genre. It was developed and sponsored by Fayetteville author and Writers’ Colony alumna, Linda Leavell, and her husband, Brooks Garner. No specific attitude or type of experience was sought, however, Gardner-Perry’s proposed writing project demonstrated insight, honesty, literary merit, and the likelihood of publication. She was selected from over 50 applications received from writers across the US and will receive a two-week residency at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. While in residence, she will be working on a new creative nonfiction piece that will illuminate the challenges family members of incarcerated loved one’s face. Her story is about coming home to be with her mom as she deals with the arrest of her grandson, Gardner-Perry’s nephew, currently in prison for an eighteen-year sentence. Gardner-Perry says, “My goal is to bring to the fore narratives about the silent suffering of families doing the time with those who are incarcerated. It isn’t glamourous storytelling. It is raw and dark and laden with our harsh realities. But I want to cast light on how love works in the hardest moments, how in the midst of hurting ourselves and each other, we are still reaching.”


Zenique Gardner-Perry hails from St. Louis, MO. She is currently working on her master’s in fine arts, Creative Writing as an MFA Fellow at Washington University. Gardner-Perry is a co-founder and consultant at Undo Bias Consulting which guides organizations as they work to eradicate racism, classism, sexism, and their intersections. She is also a Yoga Instructor for WEDO (Women Empowered to End Disparities in Obesity), a program designed to provide support in the form of fitness classes, cooking classes, and self-care sessions for area mothers and female caregivers.


The Magdalene Serenity House is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that strives to help rebuild the lives of women who have experienced trauma, sexual exploitation, addiction, and incarceration through safe housing, long-term support, and community partnerships. They provide a comprehensive, collaborative, and structured residential program that can comfortably house up to 8 women for two years, at no cost to them. Women admitted to Magdalene are committed to achieving and maintaining a sober lifestyle, regaining control of their lives, and attaining financial independence. Learn more at www.lovehealsnwa.org.


The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow is a 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to nurture writers of all backgrounds, genres, and levels of experience in a supportive environment that builds community, stimulates new thinking, energizes creative expression, 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 1,700 writers from 48 states and 13 countries. For more information, please visit www.writerscolony.org or call Michelle Hannon at (479)253-7444.

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