Programs

Muslim Storytellers Fellowship

June 1 - December 31, 2021

The Highlights Foundation has announced a two-year fellowship in children’s literature for Muslim Storytellers.

Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art

The fellowship is funded by a grant with the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s (DDFIA) Building Bridges Program. The mission of the Building Bridges Program is to support national efforts, working 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. (See the press release about the partnership and fellowship here.)

We held an informational webinar with the members of the fellowship programming committee, where they gave a program overview and joined in community discussion. You can watch the recording of the webinar 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 Overview:

The fellowship will support 16 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.

Aspiring, debut, and established Muslim authors and illustrators are invited to apply if their work speaks to children and teens. Applicants must be Muslims currently living in the US or Canada and have an interest in writing or illustrating for the US children’s publishing market. Please note: the application period is now closed.

The hope is that everyone sees space for themselves in this program, including Muslim authors and illustrators with one or more published titles, and Muslim creatives considering telling stories for children and teens for the first time. 

Storyteller tracks for authors and illustrators will include:

  • Aspiring (Not yet published)
  • Debut
  • Established

Fellowship Schedule:

The program will include:

  • 12 online sessions for fellows only
  • Monthly feedback and mentorship sessions
  • Two online courses and one in-person workshop (travel included) with the Highlights Foundation (chosen independently by each fellow)
  • A Muslim Storytellers Symposium at the Highlights Foundation campus (travel included)
  • Two Muslim artist retreat weekends at the Highlights Foundation campus (travel included)
  • Participation in an industry-wide online series meant to build bridges within the children’s publishing industry, plus an industry-wide celebration event.

Schedules will be finalized over the course of the fellowship, but 2021 commitments will include:

June 2021

  • Tuesday, June 29: We held an informational webinar with the members of the fellowship programming committee, where they gave a program overview and joined in community discussion. You can watch the recording of the webinar here.

July 2021

  • July 15: Deadline for applications. The application period is now closed.

August 2021

  • Early August: Fellows announced
  • First online session for fellows
  • Fellows may begin selecting Highlights Foundation courses

Fall 2021

  • Monthly feedback/mentorship sessions begin
  • First artist retreat for fellows at the Highlights Foundation Retreat Center (Tentatively: Nov 8-11)
  • Second and third online sessions for fellows

By End of 2021

  • Fellows should complete at least one Highlights Foundation course

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. 

The fellowship programming committee includes several Muslim authors at various points in their journey of creating for children and teens, including the storytellers below (click on their photos to learn more about them).  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. 

Jamilah Thompkins BigelowMindy Olgun Yuksel

Narmeen Lakhani Neda Hashmi

S.K. AliZaynah Qutubuddin


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


All-inclusive registration includes workshop tuition, lodging, meals, beverages, and snacks. Free shuttle service is available from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AVP) International Airport.

We offer payment plans as low as $75/month. We'll be in touch with details after you register.

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