Minnesota State Write Like Us: Ten BIPOC authors launch equity-based Creative Writing Program at Metro Area community Colleges.

By Matt Mauch - Normandale English Instructor

Hanif Abdurraquib, Brit Bennett, Kiese Laymon, Tommy Orange, and Tracy K. Smith will appear for public readings and on-stage interviews in March and April 2022, each at one of five metro-area community colleges (Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Century College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Normandale, and North Hennepin Community College) that comprise Minnesota State Write Like Us, a program centering and celebrating the work of BIPOC writers and writing students as it fosters literary mentorship and leadership, building a platform for shared stories, voices, and lived experiences.

Hanif Abdurraqib was named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow and is the author of A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance. Brit Bennett was named a 5 Under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation and is the author of The Vanishing Half. Kiese Laymon is the author of Heavy: An American Memoir, named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by The New York Times. Tommy Orange is the author of There There, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Tracy K. Smith served two terms as Poet Laureate of the United States and is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection Life on Mars. Complete bios, photos, and dates of the public appearances are available at MinnState.edu/WriteLikeUs.

In addition to these author visits, five local BIPOC author-mentors will award 40 mentee fellowships to BIPOC creative writing students from the five campuses for the 2021-22 academic year. Local author-mentors are Merle Geode, Michael Kleber-Diggs, Rosetta Peters, Sagirah Shahid, and Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay (bios and photos available at MinnState.edu/WriteLikeUs). During their residencies, the mentors will visit creative-writing classrooms at each of the five campuses, work closely with their eight selected student mentees, and interview one of the nationally prominent authors in the live, on-stage events. Go to the Normandale Write Like Us website to find more information. 

By providing BIPOC mentees with models of success that look like them, Minnesota State Write Like Us hopes to recruit, retain, and represent BIPOC students in our AFA and other creative writing programs, with their high rates of persistence, graduation, and transfer.

The inaugural year of Minnesota State Write Like Us is funded by a $150,000 Minnesota State Multi-Campus Collaboration grant in support of Minnesota State's Equity 2030 goals. Minnesota State includes thirty community and technical colleges and seven state universities serving approximately340,000 students. It is the third-largest system of two-year colleges and four-year universities in the United States. Equity 2030 aims to close the educational equity gaps across race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location by the end of the decade at every Minnesota State college and university.

Minnesota State Write Like Us follows Minnesota State guidance and mandates regarding COVID-19 protocol.