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In Partnership with the Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University

At the heart of Herstory’s work is our training program which brings together an inter-age cohort of graduate fellows from all over the county with teachers, writers, retirees,  community activists, healthcare and human service providers, and young Dreamers,  dedicated to creating brave spaces to elevate the voices of those whose stories are silenced and unsung. 

In partnership with the Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University, where our Long Island and online programming is umbrella-d, we offer several training programs a year, ranging from our annual national two semester-long immersion in Herstory's pedagogy and practice, to shorter offerings for teachers, youth mentors and activists that take place year-round. 


Each new cohort participates in a 6-13-session practicum that combines a hands-on memoir writing experience with an intensive immersion in the Herstory pedagogy.  This is followed by an individually tailored, supervised field placement either within Herstory’s ongoing programs and projects, or, especially in the case of our national fellows, by a co-designed project to follow their interests and vision.


A new national cohort takes shape each September, with other trainings emerging as the need arises, ensuring that Herstory will be offering field placements year-round.

Call for Graduate Fellows 

Working on Writing Projects Behind and Beyond Bars 


Fall 2023-Spring 2024

Memoir as a Tool for Movement Building and Deep Change 


Applications due Sunday, August 20, 2023

Interview invitations will go out Friday, August 25

Interviews take place the week of August 28


In collaboration with the Post Incarceration Humanities Partnership Project of Humanities NY and the Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University, Herstory Writers Network is seeking to engage a new cohort of graduate fellows in literature, writing and public humanities, in piloting and refining a new online curriculum designed to be used asynchronously by people impacted by the carceral ecosystem.  


Up to eight fellows, chosen competitively, will participate in a nine-month online inter-generational facilitator training institute, to enable them to incorporate innovative, empathy- and action-based practices into their current academic work, activist endeavors, and research projects, with the overarching goal of using memoir to change hearts, minds, and policy, one story at a time. We are seeking fellows who already have projects in carceral and carceral-adjacent settings underway, who are looking for new avenues to explore in using writing as a tool to change hearts, minds, policy, and/or systems, along with people who are still finding their way into the field.  


Begun through a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the online curriculum "Herstory Beyond Bars" makes use of an empathy-based approach to sustained narrative writing that is being used in an ever-widening variety of settings behind and beyond bars. The project rapidly expanded to engage several cohorts of fellows in the creation of body of literature uniting people experiencing imprisonment, people in re-entry, prison families, people experiencing involuntary institutionalization through the psychiatric system, court involved youth, allies among judges, court advocates, corrections officers, policy makers, academics, prison abolitionists and much more.


This work is rooted in the deep-seated belief that writing at its best can conquer oppression. It can change hearts, minds and lives, and even policy sometimes. With each new cohort of fellows and working facilitators we see change and expansion in the pedagogy and practice of Herstory Writers Network, a community writing project that was born 27-years ago to ensure that the stories of marginalized and oppressed people might be shared in a way that could disrupt power structures, while creating a vibrant, ever-growing grassroots literature to be cherished, circulated, and taught.

This year’s fellowship program will focus on developing workshops in partnership with existing human rights and human service organizations, academic institutes participating in prison reform, networks of prison families, healthcare organizations looking for new ways to use guided memoir for change. We are particularly interested in establishing new branches of our project: 

  • In partnership with a prison or jail 

  • In partnership with judges, probation and/or parole officers to create a body of narrative writing designed to change hearts, minds or policy 

  • Workshops with prison families and people in re-entry

  • Workshops with people experiencing psychiatric institutionalizations.  


Each fellow will initiate an ongoing writing project using the Herstory method during the course of the nine months. Following a 13-week hands-on training practicum, the fellows will take on field placements in which they will use Herstory’s online curriculum, incorporating their discoveries into the curriculum website and exploring opportunities for its asynchronous use on a larger scale. They will participate in outreach and impact research as the project expands. 


Throughout the training period, fellows will receive intensive mentoring from Herstory to enhance their pedagogical skills, literary practice, and professional development. Herstory will offer ongoing opportunities for publication, editing, transcription and translation, and archiving. The overarching goal is to provide each fellow with tools to lead their own community-based memoir writing groups and gain a deeper understanding of community-engaged pedagogies. Fellows will have an opportunity to participate in the development of online webinar and process materials for national and international dissemination.


Special consideration will be given to candidates working with projects that advance the theory and practice of community writing, advocacy and the healing arts in carceral justice contexts. Fellows must have the flexibility in their current projects to incorporate Herstory’s method into their current work, activists endeavors, and research projects. 


Fall 2023: Fellows will attend 13 weekly online training sessions (Thursdays 10:30-1:30 ET, beginning Sept. 7) to learn Herstory’s method and begin their own memoir projects. They will meet regularly with the Herstory Writers Workshop’s director and senior facilitators to develop their workshop facilitating skills and engagement in Herstory’s ongoing projects. Each fellow will be helped to develop a personalized set of goals that align the opportunities of the training Institute with each individual’s interests, strengths, and career plans, and create a specific plan to achieve these goals.


Winter 2023-2024: Fellows will work with Herstory mentors to develop and integrate Herstory-style writing workshops into their existing carceral justice projects and practices. 


Spring 2024: Fellows will facilitate their own memoir writing workshops while receiving practicum support, completing their own memoir projects, and engaging in larger scholarly conversations on carceral justice through presentations or publication. 


Throughout the project period, fellows will work closely with mentors from across Herstory’s network to strategize how the stories generated by this project will be disseminated through online and print publication and public readings in order to make the pedagogy and its practice available to an ever-widening audience. They will play an active role in designing new ways to use story-based strategies for change. 


Mentors will also help connect fellows to various publication opportunities, including the possibility for future work with the Herstory project as it continues to evolve and expand. They will be able to use the experience, knowledge, and skills they have gained through the training institute to pursue research and produce scholarly articles in the fields of public humanities and community-engaged writing.

A full commitment to the two-part training program, with full attendance in the Spring 2023 practicum, followed by a 12-session field placement, is a requirement for acceptance into the program.  Following graduation from the institute, a limited numberof paid opportunities will be offered.

To Apply:
Applications will be considered on a competitive basis in the order in which they are received. Training is offered to selected candidates free of charge. If you have any questions, please contact Herstory's artistic director, Erika Duncan at



Our previous cohorts of trainees have included a former director of the literature program of the National Endowment for the Arts, a professor of Mathematics from Queensboro Community College, a past president of New York State TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), a retired elementary school principal, an army veteran medic, a director of a re-entry task force, a retiree from a long career in public health and nursing education, a filmmaker, several visual artists, organizational leaders, Dreamers, human rights activists, local and national fellows, and much more.

In 2018 and 2019, through a special grant from the Regional Economic Development Council/ New York State Council on the Arts, we established a fellowship program for 6 Stony Brook graduate students in the Humanities, leading to new workshops in Spanish for Rural Migrant Ministry and extending our fastest growing program for young people who crossed the border by themselves, along with a now permanent disabilities program. In the fall of 2020, we joined forces with the Coalition for Community Writing to create a national fellowship program, leading to our first ever Herstory Mississippi Project, work with women and transgender folx experiencing homelessness in Denver, Colorado, a workshop for Syrian refugee women living in refugee camps in Lebanon, who were married before the age of 18, and a national/international writing project to (re)imagine mental health care.
Despite the wide variety in age, life trajectory and current student or employment status,  all have brought to our interviews a remarkably parallel wish: to go deeper into the work they are already doing with literature, community, empowerment and healing through engaging in our process and reaching the people who most need a voice at this time in history. All have come at a moment they define as a turning point in their lives,  when they are seeking a new direction.     


If you are at a turning point in your life and feel that this could be a new direction for you, we invite you to join our first round of early applicants. We are particularly seeking speakers of other languages, with a large increase in the demand for new workshops for our immigrant students and community members. 


* Partnerships created by the fellows have engendered include workshop with women from Rural Migrant Ministries in Riverhead;  an "Abriendo Puertas" workshop for Head Start parents, a workshop at Hofstra University in which criminology students write side by side with people returning from prison, a workshop at Stony Brook University in which female veterans write side by side with students seeking the missing pages in the Literature of War. 


To meet our 2022-2023 Fellows, click here.

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