$2500 writer's fee paid
to 2 students who are awarded the
CPCW Literary Journalism Fellowship
in consultation with Lee Eisenberg
former editor-in-chief, Esquire magazine


I'm very pleased to announce that the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing will be sponsoring a fellowship for writers of literary or "long-form" journalism.

Of those who apply, one or two students will be chosen. These students will set out to write a 4,000-word nonfiction piece of long-form journalism that is of publishable quality. This nonfiction article should be ambitiously reported and written distinctively - that is, it will be judged on the merits of voice as well as substance, and should be suited for publication in a monthly or quarterly (e.g. Atlantic Monthly, Harper's or comparable magazines) - the sort of article that has relevance and currency but can be read months or years later and still be meaningful, not dated. The topic, in other words, should be timely but not merely of immediate importance.

The project will begin in October and the students will research, report, and write their stories through the winter and early spring. The deadline for completion of the piece will be April 1. The Assigning Editor and the student writers will be featured in an event at the Kelly Writers House in April.

The work done is not for course credit; it is not an "independent study" project. Rather, this is a long-form nonfiction "assignment" enabled by a fellowship - a "freelance" writing "job" yet with guidance by an eminent editor and writer. The successful student writer chosen for the Literary Journalism Fellowship will receive an author's fee of $2500.00. If the student chosen for the project is unable to produce a publishable piece s/he will receive the "kill fee" standard in the business -- 25%. (Students needing funds to defray costs of reporting and research may be able to receive an advance.)

Marilyn Johnson will be the assigning editor. The Literary Journalism Fellow will work closely with Ms. Johnson throughout the process. Marilyn Johnson has written two non-fiction books: This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All (Harper, 2010) and The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries (HarperPerennial, 2007). The Dead Beat was a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize and selected as a Borders Original Voice. She was a magazine writer and editor for 22 years, chiefly at Life and Esquire. She has edited fiction, non-fiction, essays, and profiles.

Learn more about Ms. Johnson and her new book:

Al Filreis
Kelly Professor
Director, Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing
Faculty Director, the Kelly Writers House

Recent winners

2010-2011: Kim Eisler and Maggie McGrath

2008-2009: Jessica Yu and Chaia Werger

2007-2008: Alicia Puglionesi

For 2007-2008, the winner of the Eisenberg Fellowship was Alicia Puglionesi.

2006-2007: Mara Gordon and Gabe Crane

For 2006-07, the winners of the Eisenberg Fellowship were Mara Gordon and Gabe Crane.

A reading and celebration of Mara's and Gabe's work for the year was held on April 9, 2007, featuring Lee Eisenberg and Daniel Okrent. For more about this event, see the Kelly Writers House calendar entry, which includes a link to a free downloadable mp3 audio recording of the entire event; you can also download the MP3 here or play a streaming version of the audio by clicking the triangle at the beginning of this sentence. See also Eric Karlan's summary and analysis of the event.

Who can apply?

This project is for current juniors and seniors. Applicants who are sophomores are encouraged to apply but juniors and seniors will be given first preference.


The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, October 3. Decisions will be made soon after that, and the winner will be then expected to begin working with the assigning editor.

How to apply?

You should send (a) a query letter of the sort freelance writers send to editors, briefly yet enticingly describing a writing project you want to undertake, (b) a short sample of your writing, and (c) a one-paragraph description of your background and/or experience as a writer (if you've taken writing courses, list these). Send these materials to Mingo Reynolds at mingo@writing.upenn.edu.