Ten Fellows have been named in the inaugural Highlights Foundation Diversity Fellowship.
Working with celebrated mentors and faculty, each Fellow will receive five unique opportunities at the Highlights Foundation retreat center focused on craft, community, and mentorship; as well as remote guidance on works-in-progress and publishing goals.
In addition to mentors: Emma Otheguy, Floyd Cooper, Debbi Michiko Florence, Paula Chase Hyman, and Yvonne Wakim Dennis, and special guests, An Na, Leah Henderson, and Pat Cummings, we thank the extended Highlights Foundation faculty and scholarship committee for selecting our 2019 Fellows:
Daria Peoples-Riley‘s picture book This Is It debuted with Greenwillow/HarperCollins (February 2018). I Got Next, a companion book, will release on July 30th. Daria is also the illustrator of Gloria Takes A Stand by Jessica M. Rinker, a picture book biography about the life and work of Gloria Steinem (Bloomsbury 2019). As a Highlights Diversity Fellow, Daria will work on her next picture book project.
“I hope my career as an author-illustrator will continue to explore many topics for children through imagination, grace, and truth.”—Daria Peoples-Riley
Trisha Tobias is Associate Fiction Editor for FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology, an Editorial YA Intern at Page Street Publishing, a freelance editor, a Pitch Wars 2018 mentor, and a 2018 Walter Dean Myers Grant recipient. She holds a BA in Media and Communication Studies from Fordham University with a minor in Creative Writing. In her “free time,” Trisha can be found playing The Sims, connecting with her tarot cards, making too many to-do lists, or crying over her favorite Disney movies.
“I’m thrilled to work on my YA contemporary manuscript with the support of the Fellowship. I hope to someday share this project that’s a little drama, a little #BlackGirlMagic, and a ton of heart.”—Trisha Tobias
Krystal Song is a first-generation Chinese American studying at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her work is influenced by her family’s roots in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and in particular, her mother’s experience growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China. She is currently working on a young adult novel set in ancient Asia, which looks into the shifting nature of memory and perspective. She is represented by Lauren Spieller of Triada US Literary.
“During the fellowship, I will be working on a young adult novel inspired by my childhood obsessions with dream worlds and Asian mythology. I’ve always been drawn to YA because of its characters–people who are asking questions for the first time, and learning to navigate the chaotic and often corrupt structures around them.”—Krystal Song
Jessica Galán spends her days teaching social studies and English as a Second Language to courageous students from diverse backgrounds in Fairfield County, Connecticut. She’s wife to a super-creative graphic designer and a proud mother to three resilient daughters. She won’t start her day without steaming café con leche and tends to dance salsa dance when no one’s looking. Connect with Jess on Twitter: @Malleableheart or Instagram:@Literarylatina.
“During the fellowship, I’ll continue working on my YA Novel-in-Verse manuscript about a female protagonist forced to flee her seaside town of Puerto Rico for Hartford, Connecticut’s inner-city when Hurricane Maria takes away all she’s ever known and loved.”—Jessica Galán
Narmeen Lakhani is a storyteller for social change. In setting her intentions for personal and societal purpose within the context of Islam, two factors have remained at the forefront: storytelling, the interchange of human truths, and social justice, the restoration of underrepresented truths to the status quo. The result has been a refreshing entanglement of creative and corporate advocacy informed by a strong theoretical background in literature, graduate research on rhetoric and communication design, and a post-graduate dabble in children’s media. Born in Pakistan, raised in the United States, educated in Canada and having begun her career in South and Central Asia, Narmeen considers herself a global citizen that identifies with the liminal space somewhere in between the East and West. From this space emanates her inspiration to write on themes that transcend geographies and speak to the universality of our being.
“My story aims to express what it meant to grow up in the West as a Pakistani Muslim child in the wake of rampant misinformation and divisiveness – a reality that we continue to so dangerously straddle as trustees of tomorrow. But my real hope is that people will not see me at all, but rather themselves reflected in it, for aren’t we all on the outside of somewhere trying to look in with the hopes of being seen and heard and loved for being our authentic selves?”—Narmeen Lakhani
Nathalie Alonso is an editorial producer and reporter for LasMayores.com, Major League Baseball’s official Spanish language website. She is a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and holds a B.A. in American studies from Columbia University. Nathalie lives in New York City, where she was born and raised. Her children’s writing credits include bylines in Cobblestone and Faces magazines. Connect with her on Twitter @NathalieMLB.
“Baseball has given us many fascinating stories and compelling characters. I intend to use the Highlights Foundation Diversity Fellowship as a springboard to bring those stories to children in a format I’ve fallen in love with: picture books.”—Nathalie Alonso
Adriana De Persia Colón is a NaNoWriMo 2017 winner. She participated in NaNo 2016 and 2018, where she also won, albeit with different word counts. She is currently pursuing an MA in English Education at the University of Puerto Rico—Mayagüez, where her research focuses on re-imaginings of Shakespeare’s The Tempest written by Caribbean writers. Her debut short story, “Civilized Alien,” was published in the fourth edition of Sábanas Literary Magazine. Adriana was born and raised in Puerto Rico.
“I write for children, including young adults, because it is the way I make them aware of underlying connections, power dynamics, empowerment, agency, and metaphorical and literal implications in fictional worlds and our own.”—Adriana De Persia Colón
Pamela Courtney has three loves: writing, teaching, and music. In 2005, she combined her passions creating MyLMNOP, an enriched literacy and music program for early learners. With a B.S. degree, and over two decades as an early childhood practitioner, Pamela shares her enthusiasm for reading exceptional books in communities lacking quality literacy programming. Pamela lives in Atlanta, GA. where she works as an elementary school teacher and facilitates MyLMNOP.
“For over 150 years, African Americans have gathered on December 31st to celebrate Watch Night, yet few know its origin. My WIP unfolds through the eyes of a young slave girl as she prepares for the first Watch Night service on the eve of her freedom.”—Pamela Courtney
Gerry Himmelreich (Saami, Bois Forte Ojibwe, English, German) is a California-born, Colorado-raised, suburban-Native currently living with his wife and two daughters on the North Shore of Massachusetts. When not writing speculative fiction, he consults on program assessment and curriculum design and works as a tutor at the local middle school. He is a graduate of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, and also holds an MA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University. Despite getting lost numerous times, his favorite outdoor pursuits continue to be hunting and trail running. About writing for children, he says, “Children are a more challenging and more demanding audience than adults. They are also more forgiving, more engaged, more imaginative, and more present.” During this fellowship he will be working on a dystopian, sci-fi, mystery/thriller set in the Southwest city of Stemma five generations after the second apocalypse.
“Writers of the Native Renaissance wrote stories of realism/magic realism that built upon the foundations of our oral literary traditions. That was needed. But now more Native youth are being raised off reservations in cities and suburbs, and contemporary culture continues its influences on reservations. I see speculative fiction as a natural act of writing a future.”—Gerry Himmelreich
Love, tenderness, and the fantastical are three words that best encapsulate Jacqueline Barnes’ work. Refusing to give in to mass media stereotypes that Black female characters are “too independent and strong” for love, she created PhantaNoir: a genre that places Black characters at the center of fantastical stories. Adamant that compassion is the answer, Jacqueline strives to share her work with the world so that younger Black girls can get some of that love, too.
“I will be writing, drawing, and animating my YA graphic novel Anamnesis during my fellowship. Anamnesis takes place in the land of SenBor, where witches who control memory can change the course of history and Gods walk the earth in human shells to consort with monarchies.”—Jacqueline Barnes
Please join us in congratulating our 2019-2020 Fellows. We would like to thank all the writers and illustrators who applied for our 2019-2020 Diversity Fellowship. Numerous faculty members, mentors, and our Scholarship Committee engaged in the thoughtful process of narrowing our 200 applications to ten Fellows. Each application received multiple reviews, and we are grateful to all who invested time in the application process. All applicants have been offered participation in online programming, information about our general scholarships, and access to craft related resources.
If you’d like to support Equity & Inclusion in children’s literature, please consider a donation to our scholarship program.