Milford Bursaries for Writers of Colour
FUNDED PLACES FOR SF WRITERS OF COLOUR
|"Then I met everyone who’d arrived for the conference, and my nerves dissipated at their warm welcome. Lovely food, great company, and it was on to the first round of critiquing on Sunday afternoon. I will say the experience is intense but entirely worth it. Critiquing the work of other writers, and having my own work critiqued by writers working within the genre has been so beneficial for developing my writing and identifying my blind-spots." - Mbozi Haimbe|
|"I hope it has been abundantly clear that I personally found the experience not only highly enjoyable, but also utterly valuable when it came to going forward with the work in progress I took along. I had some exceptional encouragement and every one of the crits I got back will aid me greatly in some way with the next stage. When you have folk like that urging you along, you know you’re going to be just fine. Better than fine." - Russell Smith|
|“Milford is everything you want in a residential workshop. Great food, breathtaking views, super respectful crits. What’s even better is getting to attend this without paying a kobo for registration or residency. Teatimes where there’s actually tea and food? Sociable evenings with lots of drinks and chocolate? Visits to a little town in North Wales that could be navigated end-to-end in under 3 hours? Count me in anytime. And anyone who gets the opportunity to apply to be a part of this, definitely should.” - Suyi Davies Okungbowa|
In 2017, our bursary recipients were Suyi Davies Okungbowa, from Lagos, Nigeria, and Dolly Garland from London, UK.
In 2018 our recipients were Nisi Shawl (right) from the USA, and Rochita Loenen Ruiz, a Filipina writer, currently resident in the Netherlands.
Bursary recipients for Milford 2019 are Russell Smith (UK), and Mbozi Haimbe (UK).
I eventually found my way to writing fiction based in Indian culture, after trying my hand at what I thought was normal (fantasy with white characters). Returning to my root culture was, for me, a necessity to find my authentic voice. Milford's bursary is extremely valuable for people like me. It encourages the simple truth that we do need more diversity in our literature so that every writer doesn't pick up a pen thinking writing white characters is the normal thing to do. - Dolly Garland
On Going to Milford and the Value of a Bursary
By Rochita Loenen Ruiz
I had given up on writing.
Or at least I thought I had.
I lost my husband in 2015. After that, I lost my sister. In the same year that I lost my sister, I lost my father.
Each of these losses came at a moment when I thought to myself, let me pick up the pen and write again.
After a while, the losses overshadowed my desire to write. I looked at the words and they made no sense.
Well, I said to myself. I suppose this means writing has left me.
And I thought I should do my best to be happy without writing. And for a while, I really thought I was happy without the writing. Except I really wasn’t.
Every once in a while, I would go back to the written work. I would write. Run out of energy. Sink into despair.
‘There’s no point in courting the muse, when she’s not ready to be courted,’ is what I told myself.
So, when the email came from Jacey Bedford telling me that there had been a unanimous vote to offer me a bursary for the Milford writers workshop. I did not know how to answer. Could I go when I felt like the world’s shittiest writer?
How would I manage that? How could I possibly leave my children and go away for a week?
I thought of my sister and the conversation we had before we parted ways that final time.
‘You must write,’ she said. ‘If you stop writing, I’ll never talk to you again.’
The funny thing is how a good friend repeated those same words to me.
‘Go,’ she said. ‘You must go or I won’t speak to you again.’
The thing about receiving a bursary when you are lost in the wasteland is how it becomes a beacon in the
darkness. For the first time in a long time, I began to hope.
As the days passed and as Milford took on a more solid form inside my head. The urge to write and to write more and to write something that meant something to me began to grow.
I then decided to let go of all my previous plans for what I should write and simply write as a way of reaching out to my sister.
I wrote a lot of words that ended up getting discarded, but I was writing almost everyday.
Then, on a visit to the mountains, I felt my sister’s presence. I remembered how I used to be terrified of tumbling down the side of the mountain and of how I wouldn’t go down the mountainside to school if she didn’t come back up and hold my hand. Even when she was exasperated, she would climb back up to where I was, reach out her hand and take hold of mine. The memory of that moment is distilled in the novel excerpt I submitted to Milford.
Milford stays with me as a moment of brightness. I learned from the work of my fellow writers, and I learned from the way they looked at the various works offered for criticque.
More than the writing and the reading of the work and more than the getting to know other writers, I have become more convinced that there are more of us who would rather build bridges than walls. There is a grace in creating space where conversations and dialogues are possible without the harsh stridency we see in the world today.
I am very thankful to everyone who made my Milford week possible. I am thankful for the generosity and kindness of those who voted for me as one of the bursary recipients for 2018 and I am thankful for the individuals who made and who continue to make the bursary possible for the coming years.
On my second day in Wales, Liz Williams and Kari Sperring took me for a drive to the beach at Trefor. We walked and we talked, and on the way back we were gifted with the sight of a double rainbow stretching out over the waters. We stopped to take pictures and as we stood there, I felt very blessed. I was with beloved friends and I was writing again.
I wrote more than 10,000 words while I was at Milford and came home with close to a quarter of a novel.
I am writing still.
From our 2019 bursary recipients, Mbozi (Tania) Haimbe and Russell Smith
On Receiving a Milford Bursary For SFF Writers of Colour by Mbozi (Tania) Haimbe
Mine was a late application for one of the two bursaries following unfortunate circumstances that lead to the previous recipient being unable to attend. After a whirlwind of events, preparing for the conference both in terms of making my submission and reading the submissions of my fellow participants, I arrived at Trigonos on Saturday evening nervous and not entirely sure what to expect.
My first impression of the venue: absolutely breath-taking. Set beside a lake with Snowdon looking over the site, a peaceful walled garden with a stream running through it, extensive gardens; I felt fortunate to be here.
Then I met everyone who’d arrived for the conference, and my nerves dissipated at their warm welcome. Lovely food, great company, and it was on to the first round of critiquing on Sunday afternoon. I will say the experience is intense but entirely worth it. Critiquing the work of other writers, and having my own work critiqued by writers working within the genre has been so beneficial for developing my writing and identifying my blind-spots.
I learned a lot over the week, both during the critiques and during down time. And I also had a lot of fun! Because of the way the days were configured, I had the opportunity to get some writing done, and managed to complete a short story that had been languishing half-completed on my hard drive.
I came away from the conference energized, and absolutely determined to continue writing SFF, which, although gaining traction, is still an emerging genre within the African writing community. I also gained new friends.
To anyone considering applying for the bursary, I would say: please do!
From Russell Smith
Tania and I were the recipients of the 2019 Milford Bursary for Writers of Colour. Thanks to a bunch of people strongly suggesting that I might apply for it, and the results being successful, I had my entire time at the conference covered as well as full-board accommodation for the week. This meant I could get there at all, for a start.
I hope it has been abundantly clear that I personally found the experience not only highly enjoyable, but also utterly valuable when it came to going forward with the work in progress I took along. I had some exceptional encouragement and every one of the crits I got back will aid me greatly in some way with the next stage. When you have folk like that urging you along, you know you’re going to be just fine. Better than fine. I can’t speak for Tania as to her time at the retreat, but I can certainly tell you her work in progress is going to be quite something when it’s finished. If you are eligible and thinking about applying, honestly, do it.
OUR BURSARY SPONSORS
Thanks to all our sponsors who have enabled us to provide funding to writers who would otherwise not have been able to attend Milford. We believe it's vitally important to encourage writers from diverse backgrounds.
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