Carolina Ixta Navarro-Gutiérrez (left) and Da'Shawn Mosley (right), 2019 Residents

Carolina Ixta Navarro-Gutiérrez (left) and Da’Shawn Mosley (right), 2019 Residents

In late June, emerging Alumni writers Carolina Ixta Navarro-Gutiérrez and Da’Shawn Mosley arrived in New York City for a five-night stay at The Roosevelt Hotel. They had been selected from a competitive pool of applicants by author Kiese Laymon to participate in the “A Suite of One’s Own: A Writer’s Residency” 2019 program. Now in its fourth year, the Residency provides travel, accommodation, and opportunities to meet with literary professionals to two Alumni writers. Most importantly, the Residents receive the gift of time and space to focus on their writing away from what Scholastic Inc. founder Maurice R. Robinson called, “the standardizing pressures of adult life.”

Several years have passed since Mosley and Navarro-Gutiérrez were teenage recipients of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, but they still remember learning about and submitting to the Awards. Whereas one discovered the Awards independently through internet searches, the other attended a high school with an English department that routinely submitted. Despite their varied experiences and growing up on opposite sides of the country, Navarro-Gutiérrez and Mosley both found recognition for their voices through the Awards. Now adults, they were able to reconnect to the Awards and the Alliance as Alumni.

Mosley entered the Residency with plans to, in his own words, “take a magnifying glass to my fiction writing, to discover the intricacies of my voice, and [decide] whether uninterrupted writing time… is something I need.” During the Residency, Mosley not only had the time to work on a handful of stories, but also to find creative inspiration in the city’s art and theatre scenes. Likewise, Navarro-Gutiérrez saw the Residency as a chance to delve further into and reflect on her ongoing writing projects. Over the course of the week, she worked on “a few chapters of a novel and [edited] through some fiction and memoir” pieces. Below are excerpts from recent additions to their portfolios:

Da’Shawn Mosley
Excerpt from “Reconstruction”

“Tanisha doesn’t remember when her mother introduced her to Gerald McRae. As far as her mind can tell, the actor has always been a part of her life, like air, like ceilings, like parents.”

Excerpt from “The Stall”

Where are y’all from?” I ask. Getting them to talk about themselves is the best way to make them like me, make them that much more likely to buy something. I can’t see what they think of me, though. All of them are wearing shades.

Carolina Ixta Navarro-Gutiérrez
Excerpt from “Sometimes, Often”

“All the bodies here before me, and all the bodies still missing. Later, on the floor, I researched dust’s compounds: fibers, soil, skin cells, skin cells, skin cells. I pressed my tongue to the coffee table in search of the taste of your body but was disappointed by the taste of my own. When that was not enough I left the bathroom door ajar. My fingers on the window sills, palms to the paint on the walls, legs bent in the tongue of the tub. I twisted my hands toward me and asked them what it all tasted like.”

Midway through the Residency, Navarro-Gutiérrez and Mosley traveled downtown to visit Scholastic Inc. and go on a publishing field trip. While at Scholastic, the Residents met with the Alliance’s Executive Director Christopher Wisniewski and Director of Development Michiko Simanjuntak Grasso, toured the Scholastic Library, and enjoyed the building’s art featuring some of Scholastic’s most beloved fictional characters.

The opportunity to meet with literary professionals is another notable offering of the Residency program. This year, the Residents visited the offices of Bellevue Literary Press and Poets & Writers. At Bellevue Literary Press, Mosley and Navarro-Gutiérrez sat down with Editorial Director Erika Goldman who graciously discussed what it’s like to have a career in publishing, her experiences coming across spectacular manuscripts (including Pulitzer Prize-winning Tinkers by Paul Harding), and the importance of continuous reading. Conversation also flowed when the Residents met with Kevin Larimer at Poets & Writers, the country’s largest nonprofit organization serving creative writers and their professional development. The Editor in Chief of Poets & Writers Magazine, and a writer himself, Larimer chatted with Navarro-Gutiérrez and Mosley about his career, the magazine’s editorial process, and the Residents’ own literary projects.

Residents with Tendo Mutanda (left), Director of Programs & Partnerships at the Alliance, and Yahdon Israel (right), founder of Literaryswag Book Club

Residents with Tendo Mutanda (left), Director of Programs & Partnerships at the Alliance, and Yahdon Israel (right), founder of Literaryswag Book Club

Before the conclusion of the Residency, the 2019 Residents celebrated their productive week with a Farewell Dinner. Joined by Tendo Mutanda, Director of Programs & Partnerships at the Alliance, and Yahdon Israel—educator, Literaryswag Book Club founder, writer, and past Scholastic Awards writing juror—Mosley and Navarro-Gutiérrez capped off the Residency with Turkish food and memorable conversation. For the two talented writers, the Residency had been an insightful and illuminating creative break from their busy lives.

The Alliance is especially grateful to Kevin Klein of The Roosevelt Hotel, Erika Goldman of Bellevue Literary Press, Kevin Larimer of Poets & Writers, and Yahdon Israel for their time and contributions to the 2019 Residency. Thank you also to Carolina Ixta Navarro-Gutiérrez and Da’Shawn Mosley for participating in the program, and providing valuable feedback.

Are you an Alumni of the Scholastic Awards in need of a break from the day-to-day hassles so that you can work on your writing? Then apply for the Alumni Writer’s Residency! Applications are open from October 1, 2019 to January 5, 2020.

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