Zen and the Art of Vona Voices
This event features four writers affiliated with VOICES OF OUR NATION ARTS FOUNDATION - VONA - the only multi-genre workshop for writers of color in the world. VONA centers and honors the traditions and aesthetics of writers of color to provide a space for their work and learning.
SAMUEL AUTMAN writes about growing up and coming into his own as an award-winning Black Gay writer. He’s an alumnus of VONA Voices and became a Board Member of VONA in January of 2021. Samuel is a former journalist turned essayist. His piece “Invisible Nails” won first place in the 2015 Disquiet Literary Contest and was later anthologized in The Kept Secret: The Half-Truth in Nonfiction. His essays have appeared in The Best of Brevity: Twenty Groundbreaking Years of Flash Nonfiction, The Chalk Circle: Prizewinning Intercultural Essays, Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam's Call, The St. Louis Anthology and Sweeter Voices Still: An LGBTQ Anthology From Middle America as well as The Common Reader, Little Patuxent Review, Under the Gum Tree, Ninth Letter, and Panorama: Journal of Intelligent Travel. He teaches creative writing at DePauw University.
CONNIE PERTUZ-MEZA is a Colombian American writer, inspired to pen pieces about her life, family, and ancestors. She is a NYC public school educator, mother of two teenagers, daughter of a journalist father, and a mother who taught herself to read with a Bible. Connie’s writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Kweli Literary Journal, Lunch Ticket, NYU Latinx Project, Women Who Roar, Herstry, RaisingMothers, Dreamers Creative Writing, Voices In The Middle, The Acentos Review, and MUTHA. She has a YA novel soon to be released by Scholastic Press and is a guest writer for Hispanecdotes and Epifania Magazine. Connie is also a three-time VONA alum and is a new member of VONA’s Board of Directors.
VIDA JAMES is a Nuyorican social worker from Brooklyn, NY. She is a Delaney Fellow at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst MFA for Poets & Writers. She is the winner of the 2021 Cara Parravani Memorial Award in Fiction and a 2018 VONA/Voices alum. She has work appearing in New England Review, Epiphany, and PANK. She is working on a collection of short stories and a novel. Vida James serves as communications specialist for VONA Voices.
Hosting this event is M. EVELINA GALANG, professor and past chair (2009-19) of the Department of Creating Writing at University of Miami and core faculty and President of the Board of Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA/Voices). She is an award-winning writer and author of the nonfiction work Lolas’ House: Filipino Women Living With War (Curbstone Books, 2017). Among her numerous awards are the 2004 Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Prize for the Novel, the 2007 Global Filipino Literary Award for ONE TRIBE, the 2004 Gustavus Myers. In the spring of 2020, Galang was named Cornell University’s Zalaznick Distinguished Visiting Writer.
Rogelio Juárez is a writer from Arizona. He has received fellowships from the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and support from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and the Tin House and VONA/Voices of Our Nation workshops. He is pursuing an MFA in fiction at Cornell University and his writing can be found in J Journal: New Writing on Justice, The James Franco Review, and Zócalo Public Square.