It's an MFA program in itself, but more intimate, more nuanced.
—MELISSA R. SIPIN
Ifeoma S. Amobi
Onye kwe chi ya ekwe --When you say yes, your chi or guiding spirit will say yes and follow. I almost walked away from the arts. Then Kweli stepped into my life. Laura Pegram saw potential in me and took me under her wing as a scholarship student. Through close readings of work from literary giants across the cultural spectrum, writing exercises that forced me to think outside of the box, and many revisions of my short story, my confidence grew. I felt myself stretching as an artist and I learned how to make my writing resonate. Laura stressed the importance of belonging to a community of writers and offered just that. In just one year I made huge leaps in terms of my development. I published my first short story in Kweli in 2011 and in 2012 I won a scholarship to Las Dos Brujas, and acceptance to Breadloaf. I am now an MFA student at University of Pittsburgh. I say yes to Kweli!
by Ifeoma Sesiana Amobi
Laura Pegram is one of the most intuitive editors I’ve ever met during the course of my writing career. Kweli's Scholar Program helped me hone my dialogue and descriptive skills through rigorous exercises and close readings of some of my favorite authors, including Sandra Cisneros and Louise Erdrich. Through Laura’s astute observations and never ending encouragement, I was able to shape the first chapter of my novel into a more cohesive piece. As a testament to her deft editing, the Pushcart Prize committee selected the stand-alone chapter for special mention in the 2014 Pushchart Prize XXXVIII: Best of the Small Presses.
My experience with Laura has served to not only motivate me to finish my novel, but also to validate my writing. At a time when major publishing houses are overlooking emerging writers of color, Kweli Journal serves as a safe space to flex our creative writing wings and fly.
by Estella Gonzalez
Melissa R. Sipin
Maya Angelou said, "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Having someone stand behind you, someone as soft, powerful, and motherly as Laura, allows you to find that bird song lodged in the ribcage. Laura gave me the tools to let that belly song out and to see my work with fresh eyes and a focus on craft. She introduced writers I came to love, like Sherman Alexie and Edwidge Danticat, and reintroduced the ones that planted the writerly seeds in me, like Louise Erdrich and Sandra Cisneros. Most importantly, Laura saw the spirit and emotional resonance in my work, pushed and challenged me to refine it, and gave me the time and published space to honor it. I'm greatly indebted to Laura and the Kweli Scholar program. It's an MFA program in itself, but more intimate, more nuanced. Walang Hiya, Brother, my first published fiction appeared in Kweli in March 2013. This story later went on to win first place in Glimmer Train's Fiction Open, a $2,500 cash prize and publication in Glimmer Train's August 2014 issue.
Walang Hiya, Brother
by Melissa R. Sipin