Yvette Lisa Ndlovu, Nicole Dennis-Benn, and Celeste Mohammed.

Following a spirited and successful launch, the 2023 Kweli International Literary Festival continues with varied virtual programming. Virtual programs are currently running through September 13 and feature master classes, multi-session workshops, craft talks, and free reading & conversation events.

Four Brittle Paper writers have been awarded a scholarship to attend one virtual master class or craft talk of their choice. Any and all writers who are interested are welcome to register too as long as spots are available.

Kweli Journal annually offers opportunities for writers to network with publishing insiders and a community of writers at the International Literary Festival. This has led to a steady increase in the number of women writers of color now securing literary agents and publication contracts.

Nicole Dennis-Benn attended the first Kweli literary festival over 10 years ago, where she met editor Dawn Davis. Taking what she learned from the festival, Nicole wrote query letters, and took an active part in the business of publishing. A year after attending #KweliLitFest12, she had an agent and she is now a New York Times bestselling author. Her first short story, originally published in Kweli, became part of her debut novel. Nicole was invited to give the keynote address at #KweliLitFest18 at the New York Times Conference Center.

Laura Pegram, Kweli’s founding editor and publisher, praised Nicole’s journey:

Full circle moments such as this have become the norm for Kweli as we celebrate debut works by our alum with an invitation to the authors to join our festival line-up as presenters. They deliver inspiring keynotes and lead brilliant craft intensives and master classes.

National Book Award finalist Kali Fajardo Anstine signed a two-book deal with One World and credits Kweli, saying:

…the guidance, and support of other indigenous writers and writers of color fostered through Kweli gave me encouragement, a newfound understanding of craft, and comradery with writers who had faced and overcome barriers to publication. Early in my writing life, editors at Kweli recognized the strength of my stories at a time when very few journals would even offer me a form rejection.

Kali was the keynote speaker at Kweli’s International Literary Festival in July 2019.

Emerging writers find validation and visibility, often for the first time, in the Kweli Journal:

  • Dominican writer Naima Coster became a National Book Award 5 Under 35 honoree in 2020. Kweli published her short story “Cold” in 2016 and this story became part of her sophomore novel.
  • John Paul Infante received the 2019 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers for “Without A Big One,” which appeared in Kweli in 2018.
  • The essay by African American writer Jodi M. Savage, “Searching for Salvation,” was listed as a Notable Essay in the Best American Essays 2019. Jodi’s debut collection of essays Death of a Jay Bird will be published in November 2023.
  • Yvette Lisa Ndlovu’s short story was published in Kweli in 2021 and is part of her debut collection Drinking From Graveyard Wells which was recently nominated for the Ursula K. LeGuin Prize for Fiction.
  • Celeste Mohammed’s short story in Kweli became part of her debut novel-in-stories which went on to win the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

All of these talented artists had pieces that were edited by Kweli editor Laura Pegram before publication. Kweli’s success stories highlight the critical importance of expansive literary platforms for emerging writers to hone their talent and find a safe space to publish their early work.