Muslim Storytellers Fellowship

In 2021, The Highlights Foundation began a two-year fellowship in children’s literature for Muslim Storytellers.

The fellowship is funded by a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation through the Building Bridges Program. The Building Bridges Program works with U.S. Muslims to increase mutual understanding and well-being among diverse populations for the benefit of building stronger, inclusive communities.

The fellowship aims to further that bridge-building mission by creating space for more diverse, authentic Muslim narratives for children and young adults, and by addressing common misperceptions of those narratives in the children’s publishing industry.

Muslim Storytellers Gathered in the Barn

Meet the Fellows

The cohort of storytellers is comprised of aspiring, debut, and established Muslim authors and illustrators living in the US and Canada whose work speaks to children and teens.

Read the press release announcing the Storytellers.

“The mentors, fellowship committee, and organizers were incredible. They opened their hearts to the fellows, sharing their experiences, giving valuable feedback, and making us feel incredibly supported. The bonds I made with the creators who attend are real and rooted in respect and love. Also, the mentors were so generous with their time with all attendees. Where else would this ever happen? I am so thankful for this experience.”

Meet the Mentors

The Highlights Foundation is proud to welcome the mentors for our two-year fellowship program in children’s literature. The fellowship will create space for more diverse and authentic Muslim narratives for children and young adults, and address common misperceptions of those narratives in the children’s publishing industry.

2022 Mentors

2023 Mentors

Meet the Program Manager and the Program Committee

The Highlights Foundation is striving to work in coordination with organizations and individual storytellers who, together, have spent decades calling for greater representation of Muslim storytellers and stories for children.

Program Manager Zaynah Qutubuddin works closely with the Highlights Foundation staff and the storytellers and mentors in the program to coordinate the fellowship’s sessions, events, and opportunities.

The fellowship program committee includes several Muslim authors at various points in their journey of creating for children and teens, including the storytellers below.

They hope that the diversity and plurality of the Muslim community and Muslim narratives shines through in this program, and that it creates a lasting community of Muslim children’s authors and illustrators across backgrounds. 

They also hope that the community can build upon itself to bring about sustained positive change: that more Muslim children will be able to see themselves in their own books, and that all children can see more Muslims in the stories they read. 

Program Manager

Program Committee

Fellowship Overview

The fellowship supports these Muslim storytellers over the course of two years through online and in-person workshops, mentorship, and retreats centered on:

  • Craft
  • Community and mental health (including mentorship)
  • The business of publishing
  • Bridge building to develop understanding of Muslim narratives within the children’s publishing industry

The program will also impact the greater children’s book industry through online and in-person events.

We held an informational webinar with the members of the fellowship programming committee before the application process, where they gave a program overview and joined in community discussion. You can watch the recording of the webinar hereYou can also read the press release announcing the program here.

Our application period is now closed. For more information about future opportunities for Muslim Storytellers and other Highlights Foundation offerings, please sign up for our mailing list.

Fellowship Schedule

The Muslim Storytellers Fellowship is a working program with flexibility to add and adapt sessions as we discover the needs of our writers and illustrators.

Many of the sessions will take place online within our Muslim Storytellers Fellowship community, some sessions will take place on an individual basis online or at the Highlights Foundation retreat center in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The Muslim Storytellers Fellowship will focus on:

  • Amplifying the voices of Muslim writers and illustrators
  • Building community
  • Growing as creatives
  • Networking and connecting with supportive mentors
  • Engaging in the business of publishing

The program will include:

  • 12 online sessions for accepted Fellows
  • 4 online mentorship sessions provided through the Muslim Storytellers Fellowship
  • Additional mentorship through individual workshop selections (see below)
  • 2 online courses from the Highlights Foundation (chosen independently by each fellow from the Highlights Foundation’s general course listings)
  • Unlimited “mini” webinars throughout the Fellowship
  • 1 in-person course from the Highlights Foundation located at the retreat center (chosen independently by each fellow from the Highlights Foundation’s general course listings)
  • 2 in-community Muslim Storyteller Retreat Weekends at the retreat center (travel included, date selected by committee)
  • 1 Muslim Storytellers Symposium at the retreat center (travel included, date selected by committee)
  • And more to come!

The Highlights Foundation is currently working with the program committee to build out the sessions and opportunities for remainder of the fellowship.  If you or your organization can offer support to Muslim Storytellers and are interested in participating, please contact us via this form. 

Our Mission in Action

Share Your Story, Inspire a Child
Equity & Inclusion in Kidlit
Partners & Sponsors

The Highlights Foundation positively impacts children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about our impact.