The VONA/Voices Workshop, Founded by Junot Diaz, Relocates to Miami

Inside a VONA/Voices Workshop class, circa 2008
Inside a VONA/Voices Workshop class, circa 2008

Writers and literary minds, rejoice! Perhaps one of the most prestigious writing workshops in the country is making a move and taking up a permanent residence at the University of Miami. The Voices of our Nations Arts Foundation, better known as VONA, is relocating from the West Coast to our little southern tip.

The VONA/Voices Workshop, founded by writers Elmaz Binader, Junot Diaz, Victor Diaz, and Diem Jones in 1999, is an annual two-week program where emerging writers-of-color are taught and mentored by peers who have found success within their craft.

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Initially started at the University of San Francisco, VONA later relocated to University of California at Berkley where it stayed for 15 years. Now the Bay Area institution is relocating to Miami, an "international, cross-culture hub," where the foundation has the potential to grow and reach a more diverse group of writers. "Not only is Miami a natural home for cultural journeys, we are thrilled to partner with the UM Creative Writing Leadership which has clearly demonstrated an alignment with the mission of VONA serving the writing community of color," executive director of VONA, Diem Jones said.

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VONA will take up residence at the University of Miami's College of Arts and Sciences, and the university is thrilled, particularly since this workshop will further the school's literary ties.

The two-week long workshop is divided up into daily sessions focusing on fiction, poetry, memoir writing, political content, LGBTQ narrative, and playwriting. Applicants select which area they'd like to apply for and VONA brings in skilled writers to oversee the sessions and share their expertise. Some former workshop teachers include founder Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Renard Allen, Mat Johnson, Cristina Garcia, Chris Abani, David Mura, Tananarive Due, and Suheir Hammad among others.

VONA/Voices Workshop's mission, however, remains the same. "It's difficult to ask writers to talk about the vexing challenges of writing race, of developing inclusive literature, and having courage to create and be seen in an environment that is not welcoming," said Elmaz Abinader, VONA program director. She added that the "political complexities of Miami will foster discussion, reflection, and inspiration for our writers."

The VONA/Voices Workshop is the only multi-genre workshop for writers-of-color in the country. Applications for the summer 2015 VONA/Voices Workshop are now being accepted until March 15. Scholarships are available. Visit voicesatvona.org for more information.

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