Meet the Five Minnesota Writers Who Won $25,000 McKnight Artist Fellowships

The McKnight Foundation, in cooperation with Minnesota's Loft Literary Center, just awarded five $25,000 fellowships under their annual McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers. Four of the recipients are poets/spoken word artists and one is a children's author. So who are these lucky writers?

Each year the Loft Literary Center administers the McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers, which "provide Minnesota writers of demonstrated ability with an opportunity to work on their writing for a concentrated period of time." Five fellowships of $25,000 are given out each cycle. The award for Children’s Literature alternates annually between writers for children under eight and writers for those older. The other four fellowships alternate between poetry/spoken word authors and creative prose authors. This year's winners are:

Sierra DeMulder - Two-time National Poetry Slam champion and the author of The Bones Below and New Shoes On A Dead Horse. She's currently enrolled at the University of Minnesota studying English.

Danez Smith - Author of hands on ya knees, and a Cave Canem Fellow, Pushcart Nominee, and Slam Champ. He was also featured in The Academy of American Poets' Emerging Poets Series and was a finalist for the 2013 Rattle Poetry Prize. His upcoming full-length collection, [insert] Boy, will be published later this year. His writing has also appeared/forthcoming in Ploughshares, Devil’s Lake, PANK, The CortlandReview, and Anti-. He describes himself as a "Survivor, and Black Queer from Saint Paul, Minnesota" and came into writing through poetry slams, placing 6th in the world at the 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam, and is the 2013 Rustbelt Midwest Regional Slam Champion.

Sun Yung Shin - Editor of the online literary journal This Spectral Evidence and author of Rough, and Savage, Skirt Full of Black, Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption, and Cooper's Lesson.

Carolyn Williams-Noren - First time author who is currently working on her debut book. She also works as a communications coordinator for a nonprofit housing organization and was the 2013 recipient of an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, which allowed her to create and become custodian of the Little Poetry Library in her south Minneapolis neighborhood.

Molly Beth Griffin - Author of the picture book Loon Baby and the young adult novel Silhouette of a Sparrow. She received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University and now teaches at the Loft and hosts a free monthly salon for picture book writers.

The McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers is now in its 32nd year and the above winners were chosen by one judge in each category and were selected out of 135 qualified applicants. The next cycle will include fellowships for writers of creative prose and young adult authors. More info about the fellowships can be found on the Loft website here.