The Alan Cheuse International Writers Center has announced the winners of this year's Travel Fellowships—three students currently in their second years in Mason's MFA Creative Writing Program: Kathleen Colvert (fiction), Timothy Johnson (fiction), Jace Raymond Smellie (poetry).
"In researching background material for my historical fiction novel, I noticed that there aren’t many first person narratives told from the Filipino resistance fighter and specifically women who may have participated," explains Colvert. "The Lolas (the comfort women in the Philippines who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese) have only recently received media attention but I’ve only found (up to this point) one published memoir from a Filipina comfort woman. Therefore, this opportunity to physically go find living resistance fighters or their family members and women who survived the comfort stations is pretty incredible regarding the scope of this project. I could potentially capture previously unheard voices and perspectives that should be shared and included in our collective remembrance of this time period (esp considering how much attention has been given to the 'Western Front'). I anticipate that the experience of recording these stories will give my work the kind of accuracy, authenticity and nuance that I feel it deserves. And in a small way, I’m hoping that the care, time and attention I give this project might leave those I encounter with a sense of recognition that I also think they deserve."
"The opportunity to travel the roads, see the landscapes, and experience the environments my characters might encounter in my novel will inform my storytelling with an authenticity that I wouldn't be able to conjure from home," says Johnson. "As a writer, I have learned I need to hear my characters' voices and feel their worlds before I can compose them with believability. The people and world I am writing about do not literally exist, but their inspirations do. By interacting with and studying the regions and cultures my characters will identify with and encounter, I hope to be able to write from a place of understanding and experience versus knowledge alone. By exploring the United States as it exists now in the midst of a historically tumultuous sociopolitical climate, I hope to find inspiration for where the characters in my novel have been and where they are going. If I can do that, I hope to be able to understand and make sense of where we're going."
Jace Raymond Smellie will be traveling to the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana to research his Bitterroot Salish heritage. He plans on creating a series of poems based on his travel and experiences that center on his sense of self and family.
"I anticipate this project to be enriching in so many parts of my work and my life," says, Smellie. "For starters, I anticipate the opportunities provided by the travel fellowship to enrich my work by allowing me to meet members of my mom's birth family that I've never known before and to get to know a part of my heritage I spent much of my life with virtually no knowledge of due to my mom's adoption. I've been writing a lot of poetry exploring the self through family and other relationships, and I think unlocking this part of my identity will allow me to generate a deeper understanding of myself that will in turn generate a more honest poetry from my work."
Heather Green of the School of Art and Jennifer Ashley of Global Affairs helped to evaluate this year's applicants for fellowships.
Please note that all student travel will be taken in accordance with university guidelines and requirements.
February 22, 2021