Meet the 2018 Aspen Words Emerging Writer Fellows

February 28, 2018  • Aspen Words

In its commitment to support new literary voices, Aspen Words is pleased to announce it has awarded Emerging Writer Fellowships to ten young writers who demonstrate exceptional talent and promise. This year, Aspen Words received over 180 nominations, more than ever before. The fellows were nominated by writers, agents, editors and others associated with the professional literary world. Fellows receive a full scholarship to attend the Aspen Summer Words writing conference in June, including tuition, airfare, lodging, and some meals. Find out more about this year’s fellows below.


Phoebe McIlwain BrightPhoebe McIlwain Bright, nominated by Megan Cummins, A Public Space

Phoebe McIlwain Bright is revising a linked short story collection that follows three generations of a family living in Oregon’s western Cascades. She has worked in the area and, undeterred by cougar sightings—one night from a distance of 30 feet—camped in the forest for months at a time. She received an MFA from the University of Oregon in 2016 and has been the writer-in-residence at Stone Court and an emerging writer fellow at A Public Space. She has attended the Tin House Summer Workshop and received a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation to fund her writing for the year of 2018. Her work has appeared in A Public Space magazine and Fogged Clarity.

Pallavi WakharkarPallavi Wakharkar, nominated by Keith Witham, The Aspen Institute

Pallavi Wakharkar is an Indian-American writer from Arizona. She recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied creative writing and political science. Much of her writing is inspired by her heritage. She currently lives in New York City.

Megan WalshMegan Walsh, nominated by Molly Prentiss, author, former EWF

Megan Walsh lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her writing has appeared in BOMB, Western Humanities Review, Explosion Proof, and other publications. She graduated from Amherst College with a BA in English, where she was awarded the Academy of American Poets prize and several other writing prizes. She has attended Sackett Street Writer’s Workshop and the Blue School in New York. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Jenny XieJenny Xie, nominated by Vanessa Hua, author, former EWF

Jenny Xie is a writer and design journalist based in Oakland, California. Her work has appeared in journals like Ninth Letter Online, PANK Online, Necessary Fiction, Adroit Journal, Phoebe, Hyphen Magazine, Gulf Coast Online, and The Offing, among others. She won the 2014 Driftless Prize in Fiction from Devil’s Lake, the 2015 Narrative 30 Below Story Contest, the 2017 Joyland Open Border Fiction Prize, and was included in the 2016 Best of the Net Anthology. The recipient of a Bread Loaf scholarship and a MacDowell fellowship, she holds degrees from UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University. She is the executive editor of


Nina Li CoomesNina Li Coomes, nominated by Jenny Xu, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Nina Li Coomes is a Japanese and American writer, performer, producer and artist. She was born in Nagoya, raised in Chicago and currently resides in Boston.  Her writing has appeared in EATER, Catapult, The Collapsar and the Asian American Writer’s Workshop’s The Margins, among other places.  She is an alumna of Young Chicago Authors and the winner of the 2013 Louder Than a Bomb College Slam. In 2014, she co-wrote a bilingual poetry show titled “Fressen,” sponsored by the US State Department and German Foreign Office; the show toured Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Heidelberg.  In 2017, she was a part of the Kundiman Creative Nonfiction Intensive. Her debut chapbook “haircut poems” was published in 2017.

Sangamithra IyerSangamithra Iyer, nominated by Geeta Kothari, author and 2018 Writer in Residence

Sangamithra Iyer is a writer and engineer. She is the author of “The Lines We Draw,” the editor of Satya: The Long View and was a finalist for the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature. Sangamithra holds a B.E. in civil engineering from Cooper Union, an M.S. in geotechnical engineering from UC Berkeley and an MFA in creative writing from Hunter College. Her writing has been published by n+1, Creative Nonfiction, Waging Nonviolence, Hippocampus Magazine and forthcoming in Kenyon Review. Her essays have been anthologized in several collections. She was a presenter at Tedx Cooper Union and a recipient of a literature travel/study grant and a Camargo Foundation Residency with support from the Jerome Foundation. She lives in Queens, New York and works on watershed protection and water supply infrastructure planning for New York City. 

Narrative nonfiction

Dur e Aziz AmnaDur e Aziz Amna, nominated by Karin Gosselink, Yale

Dur e Aziz Amna is a Pakistani writer living in New York City. She moved to the United States in 2011 to attend Yale University and graduated in 2015 with a degree in English and a focus on creative writing. She has been published in Roads & Kingdoms, the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism, the Annual of Urdu Studies, and Mad Heart Be Brave, an anthology of literary essays. She won the London Magazine Short Story Competition in 2017 and has attended workshops with Tin House and Sackett Street Writers. She is working on a debut collection of short stories based on her childhood and adolescence, spent in several places including Islamabad, Scotland, and Oregon.

Danielle JacksonDanielle Jackson, nominated by Alex Mar, author and 2018 Writer in Residence

Danielle A. Jackson is a Memphis-born writer living and working in Brooklyn.

She has published, or has forthcoming, essays and interviews in The New Yorker, Poetry, Lit Hub, Velamag, the Rumpus and Mosaic. She’s received fellowships and grants from Sula’s Room, the Vermont Studio Center and Spruceton Inn, and is a contributing editor for Longreads and Memoir Magazine.


Monica PrinceMonica Prince, nominated by Josephine Jones, Colorado Humanities

Monica Prince received her MFA in creative writing from Georgia College & State University. Her work has been featured in MadCap Review, TRACK//FOUR, Texas’s Best Emerging Poets, The Shade Journal, Fourth & Sycamore, The Sula Collective, and elsewhere. She is the managing editor for the Santa Fe Writers Project, the author of the chapbook “Letters from the Other Woman” and a creative writing fellow at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.

Samyak ShertokSamyak Shertok, nominated by Ann Fisher-Wirth, University of Mississippi

Samyak Shertok studies poetry at the University of Mississippi. His honors include a Northern Greece International Fellowship, the Bondurant Prize in Poetry, the Mayhew Short Story Prize, the Grand Prize in the Three-Minute Thesis Competition at Ole Miss, two honorable mentions from Academy of American Poets and a Best New Poets nomination. His poetry and prose appear in “House of Snow: An Anthology of the Greatest Writing About Nepal,” The Kathmandu Post, La.lit, and elsewhere. He recently performed his poetry at TEDxUniveristyOfMississippi. He will attend the Longleaf Writers Conference in May as the UM scholar in poetry.

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