The Voices of Our Nation Arts foundation workshop kicked off this week at the University of Miami.
VONA is a place for writers of color to hone their work in a bunch of different genres like fiction, memoir and poetry.
In addition to the workshop, there are several events with prominent writers—Edwidge Danticat, Willie Perdomo, and Andrew Pham, to name a few—who will participate in various free readings around the city.
Founded in 1999 by Elmaz Abinader, Junot Díaz, Victor Díaz and Diem Jones, the program set up shop in Miami two years ago.
“It creates an opportunity for writers to not only have a mirror of their stories and their perspectives,” said Evelina Galang, director of the creative writing program at UM and faculty at VONA. “It also gives the students themselves an opportunity to really focus on craft in a way that sometimes is difficult in a mixed writing workshop.”
She says growing up and honing her own craft it was often difficult to get constructive feedback because so often people in writers’ workshops couldn’t relate to being from a different background and coming from a different canon of literature.
“All the examples I had were these amazing writers, but they were writers from another culture. And they were from the dominant culture,” said Galang. “And as great as they can be, they did not respond to the stories that my heart was concerned with, that my voice was concerned with.”
VONA hopes to create space for writers of color to grow. And Galang thinks Miami grows as well.
“We are also such an international city that sometimes we don't see race in the same way,” she says, “So, I think that VONA being here actually brings another perspective to issues of race and diversity.”
VONA faculty from the first week of the workshop will be reading selections of their work Thursday evening at the Villain Theatre, 8325 NE Second Ave. On Saturday, VONA will hold a Welcome Reception with author readings at the Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach. The second week faculty will hold a reading June 30 at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. Find out more about all these events here.