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Writing Fellows

The 2018 A Public Space Fellows

February 21, 2018

We are thrilled to announce the 2018 A Public Space Fellows: Bruna Dantas Lobato, Deborah Taffa, and LaToya Watkins. We would also like to thank all of the writers who submitted manuscripts; the readers who spent the past sixteen weeks evaluating, debating, and championing applications; and the National Endowment for the Arts for its generous support of the program.

Supporting new writers is an essential part of A Public Space—Jamel Brinkley, Leslie Jamison, and Jesmyn Ward are among the writers to have published their first stories in the magazine—and the A Public Space Fellowships continue this tradition by seeking out distinctive writers who embrace risk in their work and their own singular vision.

In response to an open call in September 2017, we received 1,100 applications from writers around the world. We chose our three Fellows from this exceptional pool of strong and exciting submissions. The 2018 Fellowships will begin March 1 and end September 1, culminating in a public reading in New York City.

Bruna Dantas Lobato was born and raised in Natal, Brazil. A graduate of Bennington College, she received her MFA in fiction from New York University and is currently an MFA candidate in literary translation at the University of Iowa. Her prose explores notions of silence and disappearing, with a particular interest in displacement. Her stories, essays, and translations from the Portuguese have appeared or are forthcoming in BOMB, Ploughshares online, Harvard Review, The Common, and elsewhere.

Look, she said and held up her laptop to show me outside.

Light flooded the screen and for a moment all I saw was white. She reappeared as a silhouette, and then as her full self again.

It’s getting cloudy, she said. Now I can’t go swimming in the ocean anymore.
—from "Diversions"

An enrolled member of the Yuma Nation, Deborah Taffa settled in Saint Louis in 2013 after she earned her MFA in creative nonfiction at the University of Iowa. Originally from the beautiful red rock and sandstone Southwest, she loves canoeing, backcountry trekking, and travel. She teaches at Webster University during the school year, and for the Summer Writers Institute at Washington University in Saint Louis every summer. A board member with the Missouri Humanities Council, she helped create a Native American Heritage program with projects including language revival, the creation of an American Indian Embassy in Kansas City, and a documentary on the Trail of Tears for PBS. Her work has been published in Brevity, Salon, The Rumpus, Prairie Schooner, Pank, the Best American Travel Writing, and other places.

It was the brand of stupor that follows a long flight and a four-hour drive on a dull Arizona highway. The confusion that arises after a string of bland hotels, too little sleep, and a month on the road. Many have experienced this disorientation when driving through a blizzard, fewer in a sandstorm.

Imagine jumping on the highway with too little sleep, and as you cross the border into California the steering wheel begins to tug and pull in your hand. The wind is blowing hard, and the Imperial Sand Dunes sweep across the highway, pecking your car with a sound more frenetic and violent than hail. You slow to a crawl, but the sand flies forward in the headlamps, and the driving slant of dirt coming at your windshield makes you forget: who you are, where you are, when you started on this journey.
—from   "Almost Human"

LaToya Watkins holds a PhD from the University of Texas at Dallas. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, West Branch, The Sun, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from Kimbilio, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Hedgebrook, and the MacDowell Colony. She lives and teaches in Texas.

Momma come in the dark kitchen. She wearing a wig and her fluffy fur coat. Ain't took the coat off since she got here. She got to be sweating. Coat look real heavy. But I don't blame her none for not taking it off. She in a place that's new to her. A place she got to know in her heart she ain't welcome to. I can see her trying to fix her eyes to the darkness and find me. I see good in the dark. Always been able to. Had to protect Julie B. from all the “uncles” Momma used to bring home at night. Julie B. older than me, but I always been the boss—the tough one.
—from "Tipping"

Previous A Public Space Fellows were Phoebe McIlwain Bright, Cleo Mikutta, Mindy Wong, Sasha Saben Callaghan, Kristen Gleason, Gothataone Moeng, Cornelius Fitzpatrick, Arinze Ifeakandu, Jai Chakrabarti, Vanessa Hutchinson, Mahreen Sohail, and April Wolfe.

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