Writing Life Essentials: For Black Writers
This February, we’re celebrating the contributions and artistry of Black authors, writers, and creatives. Over the course of Black History Month, you can expect a community-sourced reading list, craft advice from Black instructors, and info about literary opportunities & organizations for Black writers. In this special edition of “Writing Life Essentials,” we’ve compiled literary opportunities and resources including contents, grants, literary journals, events, and other organizations. We hope this list helps you read, write, or publish Black stories.
Contests & Awards
Fee: $0; Award: $3,000; Deadline: February 15th
A prize of $3,000 and publication by Autumn House Press is given annually for a first or second poetry collection or a work that intersects with poetry, including hybrid text, speculative prose, and translation, by a writer of African descent. Nicole Sealey will judge. Using only the online submission system, submit 48 to 168 pages of poetry or poetry-adjacent work by February 15. Visit the website for complete guidelines.
Fee: $15; Award: $1,500; Deadline: February 15th
A prize of $1,500 and publication in Obsidian, the literary journal of Illinois State University, is given annually for a group of poems. The winner also receives a $500 honorarium to give a reading at James Madison University (either virtually or in person, as public health guidelines allow). Poets who have published no more than one collection of poetry are eligible. Evie Shockley will judge. Using only the online submission system, submit three poems exploring Black themes and totaling no more than six pages with a $15 entry fee by February 15. Visit the website for complete guidelines.
Fee: $0; Award: $2,500; Deadline: February 28th
Two prizes of $2,500 each are given annually for a poetry e-book and a fiction e-book by an African American writer self-published in the United States during the previous year. The awards honor books that depict “cultural, historical, and sociopolitical aspects of the Black Diaspora.” Using only the online submission system, submit an e-book self-published in 2022 by February 28. Visit the website for complete guidelines.
Fee: $0; Award: $500; Deadline: March 1st
A prize of $500 and publication by Broadside Lotus Press is given annually for a poetry collection by an African American poet. Submit two copies of a manuscript of approximately 60 to 90 pages by March 1. Visit the website for complete guidelines.
Fee: $0; Award: $1,000-1,500; Deadline: May 1st - November 1st
The APBF administers two poetry book prizes annually, the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry, which awards $1000 and publication through the University of Nebraska Press to the winning manuscript by an African poet who has not yet published a full-length collection, and the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, which awards $1000 to the author of an excellent book of African poetry published in the previous calendar year, selected by a guest judge. The APBF also administers the Evaristo African Poetry Prize (formerly known as the Brunel International African Poetry Prize), which awards $1,500 to a packet of ten poems by an African poet. Visit the website for complete guidelines.
Fee: $20; Award: $250; Deadline: April 2nd
The contest is open to new, emerging, and established writers. Winner will receive book publication, $250 prize, and (20) copies of the chapbook. In addition, the winner will receive a small honorarium for a reading or chapbook launch event. All submissions should be submitted via Submittable with a $20 submission fee. Deadline is April 2, 2023 and the final judge is Khalisa Rae. Read more about the judge here: https://khalisarae.com/ Visit the website for complete guidelines.
Fellowships & Grants
Fee: $0; Award: $125-250; Deadline: Rolling
BWOC’s Literary Support Program offers stipends for BIPOC writers to be used for submissions, contests, fellowships, retreats, writing supply expenses, and any other literary opportunities. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and will be reviewed every three weeks at the time of each submitted application. Funding is issued as a Visa or Mastercard e-gift card. Applicants must be in the US, and may reapply every six months/twice a year. Visit the website for complete guidelines.
Fee: $0; Award: $2,000; Deadline: March 31st
The Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award is an annual grant of $2,000 for an emerging writer of color. This grant is intended to support the recipient in crime fiction writing and career development activities. The grantee may choose to use the grant for activities that include workshops, seminars, conferences, retreats, online courses, and research activities required for completion of the work. Visit the website for complete guidelines.
Fee: $0; Award: $25,000; Deadline: Applications opening this spring!
GrubStreet’s Teaching Fellowship for Black Writers provides financial and professional development support to two self-identified Black writers interested in teaching classes, participating in events, and working with our instructors and staff to deepen our curriculum. The fellowship includes compensation of $25,000, artistic mentorship, and access to the GrubStreet community and the Muse and the Marketplace conference. In time, the program aims to offer sustainable support to Black Writers and create a cohort of fellows who have direct access to GrubStreet resources, classes, and events. We also hope the fellows can influence GrubStreet’s pedagogy and cultural vision based on their experience and feedback. Visit the website for complete guidelines.
Fee: $0; Deadline: February 28th
Awake is a digital zine and collection of work by Black authors that explores the power we each hold. For the very first time, Awake will be in print! The West is under attack! Protect your frontier and deliver your ‘isms [alive] to collect your bounty! While the frontier is often typecast through an old western lens, your frontier can be whatever setting or undiscovered territory you want to explore. This can be a place near to you or a place not yet imagined. View complete submission guidelines here.
Fee: $3; Deadline: February 28th
We are looking for prose, poems, letters or notes – addressed to Mx Lonelyhearts (after the famed literary agony aunt). Maybe you have a tale of woe, failure or mishap, of misplaced love, a misunderstanding or a mistake – tell Mx Lonelyhearts. Perhaps you have nothing to say or too much. Maybe you want to rant or cry or just write it out – here’s the place. Tell Mx Lonelyhearts. Maybe this is something you’ve never told anyone or can’t tell anyone. Maybe this is the first or last letter (we hope not!) that you write. View complete submission guidelines here.
Fee: $3; Deadline: March 1st
ANMLY is reading unsolicited work in all genres, including poetry, fiction, translation, creative nonfiction, and comics, until March 1st. There is no fee for Black and Indigenous writers. If our $3 submissions fee is a barrier because of financial hardship, please email [email protected]. View complete submission guidelines here.
Fee: $0; Deadline: March 1st
Apogee is a journal of literature and art that engages with identity politics, including but not limited to: race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, and intersectional identities. We are a biannual publication featuring fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art, as well as a digital platform for reviews, interviews, flash, and more. Our goals are twofold: to publish fresh work that interrogates the status quo, and to provide a platform for underrepresented voices, prioritizing artists and writers of color. View complete submission guidelines here.
Fee: $25; Deadline: March 15th
Willow Books, founded in 2007, is the flagship imprint of the award-winning Aquarius Press. Program collaborations include the Smithsonian Institution; Library of Congress; Lincoln Center; University of Michigan Special Collection; Poets House New York; Guild Literary Complex; African Libraries Collective; PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools; University of New Haven, Cave Canem Foundation, Inc.; Harlem Arts Salon; Thurgood Marshall Center; Carr Center; Idlewild Writers Conference; Pratt Women Writers of Color Showcase; Split This Rock; Furious Flower; Weeksville Heritage Center; Busboys & Poets and numerous other universities and cultural institutions. View complete submission guidelines here.
Fee: $0; Deadline: March 31st
FIYAH is a quarterly speculative fiction magazine that features stories by and about Black people of the African Diaspora. This definition is globally inclusive (Black anywhere in the world) and also applies to mixed/biracial and Afro-appended people regardless of gender identity or orientation. View complete submission guidelines here.
Fee: $0; Deadline: March 31st
midnight & indigo, a new literary magazine celebrating Black women writers, has issued a call for submissions to review short stories and narrative essays. We publish content on our digital platform and in our literary journals (paperback/ebook/audiobook). In 2023, we will publish our first long-form anthology! View complete submission guidelines here.
Fee: $0; Deadline: May 30th
Kweli welcomes submissions of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. We currently publish four (4) online issues each year. The journal's reading period is September 1 through May 30. We are now accepting online submissions through May 30. Submissions received outside this reading period will remain unread. Submit your work at any time during our reading period. View complete submission guidelines here.
Fee: $5; Deadline: June 1st
sin cesar (formerly Dryland) is an independent print literary journal from South Central Los Angeles established in 2015. We seek to publish the best in Black and Brown poetry, fiction, and non-fiction from established, emerging, and never-before-published writers around the world. View complete submission guidelines here.
Obsidian cultivates, through publication and critical inquiry, Black imagination, innovation, and excellence—supporting Black, African, and African Diaspora creatives globally. Obsidian celebrates nearly fifty years of continuous publication and is dedicated to publishing contemporary poetry, fiction, drama/performance, visual and media art biannually in print and year round online. View complete submission guidelines here.
BLF Press is an independent Black feminist publishing house dedicated to amplifying the work of Black, Indigenous, and queer women of color. Our goal for this press is to create a space for forward thinking, creative women of exceptional talent. We embrace difference, and envision BLF Press as an outlet for the expression of various types of writing that exemplifies the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and queer women of color in the United States. Learn more.
RedBone Press publishes work celebrating the cultures of black lesbians and gay men, and work that further promotes understanding between black gays and lesbians and the black mainstream. Learn more.
Monday, February 13th at 7:00pm (EST) | Event Fee: $0
An In-Person Event by Harvard Book Store
Harvard Book Store welcomes Tsitsi Dangarembga— filmmaker, playwright, and acclaimed author of This Mournable Body—for a discussion of her new essay collection Black and Female. Learn more.
Tuesday, February 14th at 7:00pm (EST) | Event Fee: $0
An In-Person Event by Harvard Book Store
Harvard Book Store welcomes Fatin Abbas—award-winning fiction writer and Harvard University graduate—for a discussion of her debut novel Ghost Season. She will be joined in conversation by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma—award-winning author of House of Stone. Learn more.
Wednesday, February 15th at 6:00pm (EST) | Event Fee: $0
An Online Event by Harvard Book Store
Harvard Book Store welcomes Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall—Dean of Design at Ontario College of Art and Design University—for a discussion of her new book Decolonizing Design: A Cultural Justice Guidebook. Learn more.
Thursday, February 16th at 7:00pm (EST) | Event Fee: $0 - $5
An In-Person Event by Brookline Booksmith
In person at Brookline Booksmith! Join us for an evening of poetry with José Olivarez, Quintin Collins, & Porsha Olayiwola. This event is part of Third Thursdays Poetry, a monthly reading series at Brookline Booksmith. Learn more.
Tuesday, February 21st at 7:00pm (EST) | Event Fee: $40
An In-Person Event by Brookline Booksmith
The Education of Kendrick Perkins lays bare this man’s heart and soul. More than just wins and losses on the hardcourt, this poignant memoir is a unique American success story. Going up against the best he became one of the best, and learned so much along the way…the story of an education. Learn more.
Tuesday, February 21st at 7:00pm (EST) | Event Fee: $0
An In-Person Event by GrubStreet & Porter Square Books
Porter Square Books and GrubStreet are delighted to present the latest installment of the Grubbie Debut series featuring Boyah J. Farah, author of America Made Me a Black Man, in conversation with GrubStreet executive director Eve Bridburg. Learn more.
February 22nd - 25th | Event Fee: $0
An Online Event by Literary Partners
Join us in celebration and tribute to Toni Morrison, an icon of American literature whose power of language has inspired generations of readers. The month-long celebration includes two panel discussions about Morrison’s impact and a three-night marathon reading. An all-star cast of critically-acclaimed authors give voice to Song of Solomon, Morrison’s extraordinary interrogation of violence in its many forms, the systemic oppression that perpetuates it, and the search for redemption. Learn more.
Tuesday, February 28th at 7:00pm (EST) | Event Fee: $0
An In-Person Event by Harvard Book Store
Harvard Book Store and The Emancipator welcome Ernest Owens—President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and host of the "Ernestly Speaking!" podcast—for a discussion of his new book The Case for Cancel Culture: How This Democratic Tool Works to Liberate Us All. He will be joined in conversation by Deborah Douglas—co-editor in chief of The Emancipator. Learn more.
Thursday, March 2nd at 7:00pm (EST) | Event Fee: $0 – $37
An In-Person Event by Brookline Booksmith
Join the Transnational Literature Series at Brookline Booksmith for an in-store event with author Emmanuel Iduma to discuss and celebrate the release of I Am Still With You: A Reckoning with Silence, Inheritance, and History. He will be in conversation with novelist, photographer, and critic Teju Cole. Learn more.
Organizations & Community
Dunamis ignites agency and transformative growth for emerging artists and arts-managers of color by serving as a nexus for professional development, community-building, consultation, production, advocacy and developing equitable pipelines for access and leadership in creative spaces. We give you the support you need to grow into a greater and more complete version of yourself. Learn more.
We Need Diverse Books™ is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. Learn more.
GrubStreet’s Boston Writers of Color (BWOC) program focuses on artistic and career development for writers of African, Indigenous, Native, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander and Arab heritage in New England and beyond. Founded by author and GrubStreet Instructor, Jonathan Escoffery, this program includes literary support funding, free writing sessions, a network of BIPOC writers and artistic leaders, and a variety of free events that focus on community, artistic growth, and publishing. Our mission is to amplify the work of writers who are often marginalized and systemically undervalued in the existing publishing industry, and we strive for cultural, economic, and financial equity. Learn more.
Our goal is to introduce a cohort of diverse writers to future generations – contemporary authors who are non-binary, queer, trans, and disabled. To address inequalities and improve communities through reading and reflecting on the works of Black women. Learn more.
Founded by Boston Writers of Color Member Leslie-Ann Murray, Brown Girl Book Lover reviews diverse books and interviews diverse writers. They unearth published books that did not receive the limelight. Most importantly, they talk about books that should be at the forefront of our imagination. Learn more.
The brain child of publishing professional Jenn Baker, MiP is a podcast discussing diversity (or lack thereof) in the book publishing industry with other professionals working in-house as well as authors and those in the literary scene. Learn more.
Mocha Girls Read is a book club for Black women who love to read, want to read more, and meet like-minded women. We are here to inspire women to read, share literature, fellowship, and encourage others in the joy of reading. We meet monthly in 14 cities across the US. Learn more.
Blk + Brown Book Designers is a collaborative community created by and for underrepresented designers of color that aims to highlight, support, and spread resources on how to gain information about and access to the publishing industry. Learn more.
The Black Literacy and Arts Collaborative (B.L.A.C.) Project is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization that was created as a means to educate, empower and uplift BIPOC youth and creatives at the intersection of art, culture, and activism. By invoking radical imagination we encourage BIPOC communities to change landscapes all while inspiring new realities. Learn more.
Founded in 2002, the mission of the Center for Black Literature (CBL) is to expand, broaden, and enrich the public’s knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of Black literature by people of the African Diaspora. The Center builds an audience for the reading, discussion, research, study, and critical analysis of Black literature through a variety of programs and partnerships. Learn more.
The Harlem Writers Guild is the oldest, continuously operating African American Writers Guild in the world. We nurture and celebrate literature from the worldwide African Diaspora. Learn more.
Founded in June 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, Merrimack Valley Black & Brown Voices, a non-profit organization based in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts, with the help of community, volunteers, and partners, adopted a mission and vision. As a regional community-based organization, we plan social and cultural events that people can attend. We also provide support for individuals and families in financial need, local Black & Brown owned businesses, and more. Learn more.
Founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady in 1996 to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape, Cave Canem Foundation is a home for the many voices of African American poetry and is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets. Learn more.
The African American Literature and Culture Society (AALCS) initiates and encourages critical dialogue, scholarly publications, conferences, programs, and projects devoted to the study of the African American Literature and Culture. Its specific objectives are to (1) explore more fully the study of African American literature within the context of contemporary theory and more traditional discourses, (2) validate a larger cultural context and avenue for understanding this body of material, (3) broaden and expand the appreciation of the context of this body of literature; and above all, (4) encourage participation of undergraduate and graduate students in this venture. Learn more.
We are a community bookstore located in Roxbury with a passion of promoting literacy within our children, teens and adults. We've got all these great books (and getting more all the time) at incredible prices that we want you to see. Learn more.
Who better to recommend books to Grubbies than Grubbies? This February, we're celebrating Black History Month by compiling a list of our community's favorite books by Black authors! Nominate your favorites via this form.