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The Rona Jaffe Foundation and MacDowell Celebrate Partnership with Event on Feb. 8. View Here.


(Clockwise, from top left) Elif Batuman by Beowulf Sheehan, Chelsea Bieker by Jessica Keaveny, Monica Sok by Andria Lo, and Julie Orringer by Christa Parravani

I Was Becoming: A reading and conversation with writers Elif Batuman, Chelsea Bieker, Julie Orringer, and Monica Sok Monday, February 8, 7 p.m.

Watch virtual event here .

The Rona Jaffe Foundation and MacDowell will celebrate the 14th year of their partnership supporting emerging women writers with a virtual reading and Q&A featuring readings by Elif Batuman, Chelsea Bieker, and Monica Sok on Monday, February 8th, at 7 p.m. The readings will be followed by a 30-minute Q&A with questions collected in advance from members of the public who register to attend. Author, RJF and MacDowell Fellow, and MacDowell board member Julie Orringer will moderate the evening. For individuals who were unable to attend, a recording of the event may be found here. All four of these acclaimed writers can trace periods of their careers to support they received from MacDowell and The Rona Jaffe Foundation. Batuman is a 2007 Rona Jaffe Award recipient and 2018 MacDowell Fellow; Bieker is a 2018 Rona Jaffe Award recipient and 2014 MacDowell Fellow; Orringer is a multiple MacDowell Fellow and a recipient of the 2008 Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellowship at the Cullman Center of the New York Public Library, and Sok is the 2016 Rona Jaffe MacDowell Fellowship recipient. “The Foundation is delighted to co-sponsor this event with MacDowell to celebrate both our lasting relationship and our mutual mission in supporting creative artists,” said Beth McCabe, Executive Director of The Rona Jaffe Foundation. “This collaboration is part of the Foundation’s ongoing effort to recognize and support some of our most vital cultural institutions and literary nonprofits in our country. Our fellowship with MacDowell is one of many we sponsor throughout the nation to help women build successful writing lives. We are so pleased to have been able to provide support to Elif, Chelsea, Monica, and Julie at important junctures in their careers and it’s wonderful to bring them together with MacDowell for this special evening,” “With time and space, MacDowell provides essential support to artists of all disciplines at critical periods in their careers, and The Rona Jaffe Foundation is an essential partner for MacDowell in our efforts to provide that support to writers,” said MacDowell Executive Director Philip Himberg. “We celebrate our ongoing relationship with the Rona Jaffe Foundation, these four amazing writers, and the authors and poets our partnership will support in the future.” With themes in the participants' books including identity, imagination, trauma, and the ways in which writing shapes memory and reality, this event promises to be an interesting and engaging evening for writers and readers of all generations. The Rona Jaffe Foundation permanently endowed the Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellowship at MacDowell in 2008. Each year, this fellowship supports an emerging woman writer with a MacDowell residency and a stipend of $2,500. Twelve incredible writers have been supported by the Rona Jaffe Fellowship at MacDowell, including Carolyn Byrne, Aurora Masum-Javed, and Yahaira Lawrence. Elif Batumans first novel, The Idiot, was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction. She is also the author of The Possessed, a collection of comical interconnected essays about Russian literature, which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism. She has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2010 and holds a doctoral degree in comparative literature from Stanford University. Elif is a 2018 MacDowell Fellow and 2007 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award winner. Chelsea Bieker is the author of the novel Godshot, which was longlisted for The Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and named a Best Book of 2020 by NPR, and the forthcoming story collection, Heartbroke (2022). Her writing has been published by The Paris Review, Granta, The Cut, McSweeney’s, Lit Hub, Electric Literature, and others. She is the recipient of a 2018 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and a 2014 MacDowell Fellowship. Originally from California’s Central Valley, she now lives in Portland, OR, with her husband and two children, where she teaches writing. Julie Orringer, a three-time MacDowell Fellow, is the author of The Invisible Bridge, a novel, and How to Breathe Underwater, both New York Times Notable Books. She is the winner of The Paris Review’s Discovery Prize and the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. She received the 2008 Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Her novel, The Flight Portfolio, was published in 2019. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Ryan Harty, and their children.


Monica Sok is a Cambodian American poet and the daughter of former refugees. She is the author of A Nail the Evening Hangs On (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). Her work has been recognized with a "Discovery" Prize from the 92Y and the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellowship at MacDowell. She has also received fellowships and residencies from Poetry Society of America, Hedgebrook, Elizabeth George Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Kundiman, Jerome Foundation, Saltonstall Foundation, and others. Sok was a 2018-2020 Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and has taught poetry to Southeast Asian youths at Banteay Srei and the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants in Oakland. She is originally from Lancaster, PA. About The Rona Jaffe Foundation

The Rona Jaffe Foundation’s programs of support for emerging women writers identify and encourage women writers of exceptional promise in recognition of the important contributions they make to our culture. Our work acknowledges the difficulties some of the most talented among them have in overcoming obstacles in finding time to write and gaining attention. Since 1995, our Writers’ Awards program and additional sponsored fellowships, held at distinguished cultural and educational nonprofit institutions throughout the country, have helped many women build successful writing lives by offering encouragement and financial support at a critical time. For more information, visit www.ronajaffefoundation.org.


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Contemporary for 114 years Composer Edward MacDowell and pianist Marian MacDowell founded MacDowell in 1907 to nurture the arts by offering creative individuals of the highest talent an inspiring environment in which to produce enduring works of the imagination. In 1997, MacDowell was honored with the National Medal of the Arts. Each year, MacDowell welcomes more than 300 architects, composers, filmmakers, interdisciplinary artists, theatre artists, visual artists, and writers from across the United States and around the globe. More than 15,000 residencies have been awarded in the last 114 years. Recipients have included Ayad Akhtar, James Baldwin, Michael Chabon, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Louise Erdrich, Osvaldo Golijov, Cathy Park Hong, Glenn Ligon, Dee Rees, Vijay Seshadri, Ann Patchett, Colson Whitehead, and Julia Wolfe. Best-selling author and visual artist Nell Painter is the chair of MacDowell’s Board of Directors.

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