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Writing Fellows

The 2017 Emerging Writer Fellows

February 15, 2017

We are thrilled to announce the 2017 Emerging Writer Fellows: Phoebe McIlwain Bright, Cleo Mikutta, and Mindy Wong. We would also like to thank all of the writers who submitted manuscripts, the readers who spent the past twelve weeks evaluating, debating, and championing applications, and the National Endowment for the Arts for its generous support of the program.

Supporting new writers is an essential part of A Public Space—Jamel Brinkley, Sara Majka, and Jesmyn Ward are among the writers to have published their first stories in the magazine—and the Emerging Writer Fellowships continue this tradition by seeking out distinctive writers who have not yet published a book-length work but whose writing shows exceptional talent.

In response to an open call in October 2016, we received nearly 1,000 submissions from emerging writers across the world.

Here is some information about the three fellows, and a glimpse of the piece they will be working on with a mentor and A Public Space editor for publication in A Public Space No. 28 later this year:

Phoebe McIlwain Bright is working on a linked short-story collection that follows three generations of a family living in Oregon’s western Cascades. She has worked in the area as a whitewater rafting guide as well as a wide range of outdoor jobs, including ski lift operator in the Rockies and photographer for a Northwest adventure company. She studied behavioral biology as an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University and received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon.

Lise asked, “Did you leave the lantern on?” When Ingrid didn’t answer, Lise slapped her across the mouth and walked into the dark. She returned with shovels from the barn and without waiting for Ingrid’s apology, began scooping snow onto the floor, making it hiss and pop. — “Bergtagen”

Cleo Mikutta, formely Cleo Florine Scheibe, recently changed her last name so that her mother’s family name—Mikutta, originating from the Prussian-Lithuanian word mikutis, meaning “a bird that is hunted”—would carry on. Her work explores notions of absence and presence, appearance and disappearance. Born in Hamburg in 1991, she grew up in New York City and returned to Germany in 2001. She recently graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, with a series of hand-blown glass objects, which can be seen online at

The green of my grandmother’s shirt.

What do you contain. Where can it be found.

Cut open the back of a chair, a place I would sit and lean against, a place of dissection and thought forms.
A dark wooden frame.

Can you be contained.

In one room, the cover of a book.
In one room, the scent of a book.
In one room, the act of writing itself.

Where are you contained. What do you contain.

Fingertips and shadows, mist and metal strings. — “Meeting Points”

Mindy Wong was born on the outskirts of Chinatown in New York City. Superstitions and cultural taboos; loss and silence; gentrification and the continuation of generations are central themes in her writing. She has an MFA in nonfiction from The New School and an MS in childhood education, and continues to live in New York City, and is an advocate for open dialogue, through writing and education, in Chinatown to strengthen the community.

My father worked full-time as a truck driver in Chinatown, delivering crates of produce from warehouses to restaurants, and was paid under the table at just slightly below minimum wage. Every morning, he woke up at 5am to get ready for work. He brushed his teeth, gargled mouthwash, roughly spat at the sink, and flushed the toilet. In the living room closet he shuffled through a box for a clean shirt to wear and quickly changed to meet another man waiting outside in a graffitied truck. When he left, the door usually slammed and the sound of locks turning was distinct, hard and brief. Sometimes this stirred us, but my sisters and I rolled back asleep before my mother got us up for school. — from an Untitled Essay

Previous Emerging Writer Fellows were Sasha Saben Callaghan, Kristen Gleason, Gothataone Moeng, Cornelius Fitzpatrick, Arinze Ifeakandu, Vanessa Hutchinson, Mahreen Sohail, and April Wolfe.

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