Programs

Muslim Storytellers Fellowship

June 1, 2021 - July 31, 2022

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.

Meet the 16 Fellows:

Muslim Storyteller Fellows

Fellowship Overview:

The fellowship will support these 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.

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)
  • 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!

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

June 2021

  • 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

Fall 2021

  • September 14, 2021: Opening Session for Fellows
  • Fellows may begin selecting Highlights Foundation courses
  • October 12, 2021: Mentorship Meeting
  • November 5 – 7, 2021: Craft Weekend & Anti-Bias Training with Navien Shaabneh

Winter 2021

  • December 7, 2021: In-Conversation, The Business of Publishing
  • First Muslim Storytellers Fellowship Mentor 1:1 Meeting

Spring 2021

  • March 2021, In-Community Retreat

Meet 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. 

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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