By Elizabeth Upshur

Check out these incredible opportunities and offerings.

As Black History Month draws to a close, TSW wants to platform several organizations that provide opportunities for Black writers, particularly those created by Black writers. This roundup is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a small sampling of some of the ways that Black artists are championing craft, excellence, and the future of Black writing. 

These workshops, festivals, and conferences are both storied and new: offering portals into Black histories and Black futures; studying Black writing; and elevating craft in spaces that see and cherish Blackness as foundational to the work itself. Support these places monetarily, connect with them on social media, and, most importantly, apply to them. This list is assembled by application date, and includes first-hand testimonials where available:

  • Kimbilio Retreat. An annual July retreat for Black fiction writers hosted by the Southern Methodist University’s Taos campus. From their website, “Kimbilio’s signature program facilitates writers finding their craft through culturally responsive teaching, and through the nurturing support and mentorship of established writers.” One of their testimonials reads, “Kimbilio is a safe place for African American writers to ask hard questions of their art and of the canon itself. It is a safe place to experiment and evolve, engage and argue, explore and discover. Kimbilio is as necessary as fire.” Applications are open from January to March 15th.
  • The Southern Esesu Endeavor Digital Retreat. Created by TSW editor Elizabeth Upshur and fellow classmate Etenia Mullins, this fully digital retreat welcomes 12 poets, fiction, and hybrid writers from the Black Diaspora for Memorial Day weekend (May 24th-May 26th). Participants will enjoy editorial and generative workshops, 1-on-1 mentorship sessions, a publishing panel, craft presentations, and more. One fellow’s testimonial praises, “the On Topics presentations, because of the discoveries and expansions of knowledge, but also because it’s essential to witness ourselves as carriers, generators, and innovators of knowledge; to witness the power nobody can ‘give’ to us, [but that] we give to ourselves aligned in community…[that] tapped right to my heart and inspired me.” ~Jeané D. Ridges. Stay up-to-date with The SEE via Instagram @thesouthernesesuendeavor. Applications are accepted February 15th through March 31st
  • Black Women Writers in Europe. Created by writer, journalist, and host of the Emerging Writers Podcast, Joy Notoma, this European workshop provides a safe haven for Black women to create and commune with one another. Notoma describes it as, “[a] workshop for Black Women writers who live in Europe and the UK that takes place over a long weekend in the south of France. Using a writer-centered workshop model, we create a nurturing experience to help you look at your work with fresh eyes while fostering a community of writers of the African diaspora who live in Europe and the UK.” Applications for the Fall 2024 workshop open in March.
  • Delta Mouth Literary Festival. Held April 5-7th at Louisiana State University, this event invites you to “[j]oin us in the bayou for a spectacular weekend of readings, panels, crawfish, and fun!” In operation since 2009, the Delta Mouth Literary Festival is a fantastic literary arts offering in Baton Rouge. In partnership with the Louisiana State University English department, The Southern Review, New Delta Review, and the English Graduate School Association, this festival celebrates Louisiana’s rich (and delicious) culture while promoting readings, panels, music. Panelists include Carolyn Hembree, Kweku Abimbola, Gina Chung, and others. This event is free and open to the public.
  • The Watering Hole. This South Carolina-based organization “builds Harlem Renaissance spaces in the contemporary South. Our core purpose is to cultivate and inspire kinship between poets of color from all spoken and written traditions, thus creating a tribe with a mutual focus of poetics and craft-building.” Their flagship event draws between 50-60 poets annually for this end of the year retreat. Applications for their winter retreat opened in May in previous years, with the retreat itself being held December 26th-30th each year. 
  • roots.wounds.words Winter Retreat. Created in 2018 by Nicole Shawan Junior, this event is described as a “[s]acred space wherein BIPOC stories are celebrated, and BIOPC storytellers immersed in liberation…Storytellers receive literary arts instruction offered by award-winning BIPOC writers in the fields of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, speculative fiction, writing wellness for Us, and young adult fiction.” Applications are expected to open in August 2024 for the 2025 Retreat. 
  • Cave Canem. The home of Black poetry since 1996. Founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady, this organization seeks to platform the work and writing of Black poets. Per their website, “[o]ur Retreat residency offers an unparalleled opportunity to study with a world-class faculty and join a community of peers. Some fellows hail from the spoken word tradition, others focus on the text. Some are formalists, others work at the cutting edge of experimentation. All are united by a common purpose to improve their craft and find productive space.” The 2024 Retreat operates June 9th-16th in Greensburg at the University of Pittsburgh. Applications typically open sometime in October. 
  • Griot & Grey Owl Black Southern Writers Conference. Lauded as “[t]he first and only conference for Black Southern creative writers in Durham, North Carolina,” this inaugural event was created in 2023 by poet and author Khalisa Rae. Last year the conference was held Nov 10th-12th, welcoming 100 writers to Durham to celebrate writing, learn about craft, and to network with one another. The festival was sponsored by Duke University, Nasher Museum, the Durham Arts Council, 21c Durham, Hayti Heritage center, and more. See site for more info about this year’s conference.
  • Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival. Per their page on the Jackson State University website, the 50th anniversary reconvening of the festival “celebrate[s] the legacy of Phillis Wheatley, Margaret Walker, and Black women writers who have changed the writing landscape as we know it…we lift up this ongoing work of Black excellence through intergenerational conversations, scholarly analysis, and creative writing.” Doctoral candidate Angel recounts her experience as “full to bursting. This Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival has been other-worldly. Black, beautiful, and brilliant.” The event was held in person Nov 1-4th in 2023, with at least one panel available virtually. Stay tuned for updates about the next iteration of the festival.
  • Writers Rest Retreat. The spring of 2020 brought together a group of Black women, and the Writers Rest Retreat evolved out of that virtual community into an intimate celebration of rest and sisterhood. Cofounded by Ashley Reynolds and Savannah Bowen, Writers Rest offers “an all-inclusive, Black-femme-centered writer’s retreat with a mission to promote rest, creativity, and sisterhood through communal literary experiences.” You can also get updates via their IG page, @thewritersrest.
  • TORCH. We added an 11th to this list, because TORCH should be added to the list. TORCH is a Texas based literary nonprofit founded by Amanda Johnston to platform the writing of Black women. They host the Wildfire Reading Series, workshops, special events, biweekly write ins, and their annual in person retreat. TORCH welcomes applications from Black women writers across poetry, fiction, cnf (personal memoir or lyric essays), and script (plays or screenplays). TORCH typically opens for applications in February and holds their weeklong retreat in July.

We hope you find this roundup helpful for your personal practice and that it yields many success stories for young, emerging, and established writers alike. As always, we wish you well in submitting your work, as we know it takes skill, courage, and vulnerability to put your art out into the world. 

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