Writers have the potential to transform the world. Aspen Words lifts up new voices by providing fellowships to those who have demonstrated exceptional promise in their ability to create intricate and powerful art. Candidates are nominated by writers, agents, editors, and others who are familiar with their work. This year the program received more than 200 nominations for 10 spots. Those accepted receive a full scholarship to the Aspen Summer Words Writers Conference & Literary Festival in June. Below, learn more about the 2019 fellows.
Elinam Agbo, Fiction
Elinam Agbo was born in Ghana and moved to the United States when she was ten. She earned a BA from the University of Chicago, where she received the 2016 New Voices in Fiction Prize and the 2017 Les River Fellowship for Young Novelists. A winner of the 2018 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Award for Emerging Writers. She is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program.
Pinchenda Bao, Poetry
Pichchenda Bao is an emerging writer and poet. Born at the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, she was an infant when her mother carried her across the border. She and her parents arrived in the United States as refugees. Now she lives, writes, and raises her two young children in Long Island City. She is an intersectional feminist, a stay-at-home mom, an uneasy skeptic, a seeker of trail blazes, a survivor of many failures, and a witness to the ebb and flow of hope and despair. Her work has been published by Newtown Literary and great weather for MEDIA and is nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize.
Jennifer Hope Choi, Personal Essay
Jennifer Hope Choi is the recipient of the Carson McCullers Center’s Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship, the BuzzFeed Emerging Writer Fellowship, the B. Frank Vogel Scholarship at Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the AHL Foundation’s inaugural Wolhee Choe Art Writer’s Grant, and a 2019 Pushcart Prize Special Mention. Her essay, “My Mother and I Went Halfway Around the World to Find Each Other,” is anthologized in Best American Travel Writing 2018, selected by guest editor Cheryl Strayed. Her writing has also appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Guernica, The American Scholar, Lucky Peach, Bon Appétit, BuzzFeed Reader, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a collection of essays.
H’Rina DeTroy, Memoir
H’Rina DeTroy is a Montagnard American writer and essayist based in Brooklyn. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing from Hunter College where she was named the Avodah K. Offit Scholar. Roxane Gay chose her essay, “The Vengeance of Elephants” for december magazine’s 2017 Curt Johnson Prose Award in Creative Nonfiction. Her essay “Knot” was published in the anthology, Borderlands and Crossroads: Writing the Motherland, and was presented at the 2017 AWP Demeter Press panel in Washington, DC. Her journalism work has appeared in print and web publications Okayafrica, Huffington Post, DiaCritics, Cultural Survival Quarterly, and Glimpse Magazine, among others. A two-time VONA/Voices Fellow, she is working on a memoir about a complex mother-daughter relationship and legacies of erasure.
Jonathan Escoffery, Fiction
Jonathan Escoffery’s most recent honors include a Distinguished Story selection in Best American Short Stories 2018, a 2018 Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award, and the 2016 Waasnode Fiction Prize. He has received fellowships and support from the Somerville Arts Council, The Writers’ Room of Boston, Kimbilio Fiction, the Anderson Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Jonathan’s writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in AGNI, Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, Passages North, Salt Hill Journal, The Caribbean Writer, Solstice Literary Magazine, Pangyrus, Creative Nonfiction Magazine, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota and is the Writer-in-Residence at Wellspring House artist retreat in Ashfield, MA.
Iselin Gambert, Personal Essay
Iselin Gambert grew up between New York and Norway. Her writing explores themes of home and love, grief and loss, and identity and belonging. She contributed essays to Letters to a New Vegan: words to inform, inspire, and support a vegan lifestyle and Satya magazine, and is working on a book about grief and her mother’s death. Iselin is a professor of legal writing and directs her law school’s writing center. Her academic scholarship addresses the use of language and rhetoric as a tool in cultural, political, and legal debates around sexism, racism, food policy, and the exploitation of nonhuman animals. She contributed a commentary to Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Opinions of the United States Supreme Court, and a draft of her forthcoming law review article, Got Mylk? The disruptive possibilities of plant milk, was identified as a “Notable & Quotable” by The Wall Street Journal.
Alina Grabowski, Fiction
Alina Grabowski lives in Nashville, where she’s a graduate fellow in Vanderbilt University’s MFA program and teaches workshops for individuals impacted by cancer. She’s received scholarships from the Juniper Summer Writing Institute, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her fiction has appeared in Fifth Wednesday Journal, Joyland, and Day One. Her story, “Confirmation,” recently won the Masters Review Summer Short Story Award. She’s at work on a novel and short story collection.
Trapeta B. Mayson, Poetry
Trapeta B. Mayson is a member of the Greene Street Artist Cooperative. She reads her poetry widely and works extensively conducting poetry and creative writing workshops. Her work sheds light on and honors the immigrant experience as well as amplifies the stories of everyday people. She is a recipient of a Pew Fellowship in Literature, Leeway Transformation Award, Leeway Art and Change Grant, and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Grants. Her work was also nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. She is the author of two books, She Was Once Herself and Mocha Melodies. Her other publications include submissions in The American Poetry Review, Epiphany Literary Journal, Aesthetica Magazine, and Margie: The American Journal of Poetry, among others. Trapeta is a native of Liberia. Her family immigrated to America when she was in elementary school and she has lived in North Philadelphia and Germantown most of her life. She is committed to artistically and thoughtfully developing and contributing to efforts that positively and sustainably impact communities. Currently working in the mental health field, Trapeta is a graduate of Temple University, Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, and Villanova University School of Business.
Nancy Nguyen, Fiction
Nancy Nguyen is a writer and teacher living in Baltimore. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in NANO Fiction, Microfiction Monday Anthology, and Paper Darts. She holds degrees from UCLA and UC Davis. She writes about women, war, memory, and Orange County, where she grew up.
Alejandra Oliva, Memoir
Alejandra Oliva is an essayist, embroiderer, and translator living in Massachusetts while studying for a master’s degree in religion and literature from Harvard Divinity School. She is the author of prose chapbook Declaration (Guillotine) and has had work published in Remezcla, Americas Quarterly, Christian Century, HumanxNature, and Electric Lit.