The Play It Forward Fellowships are aimed at nurturing and amplifying the talents of writers whose voices and stories have traditionally been underrepresented in Irish literature and publishing. A joint initiative between Skein Press and The Stinging Fly, spearheaded by poet and editor Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe, the programme seeks to advance new perspectives in contemporary cultural discourse, and broaden conversations around diversity, inclusion, access and opportunity across the literary landscape.

This pioneering 18-month programme is designed to create pathways for writers to develop, showcase and publish their work. Fellows will receive structured support including mentoring, editorial feedback, career consulting, participation in workshops, training, festivals and literary events, as well as opportunities to meet and build relationships with editors, agents, publishers and writers in order to significantly progress their writing practice.

The inaugural Play It Forward Fellowships have been awarded to Gonchigkhand Byambaa, Sara Chudzik, Neo Gilson, Majed Mujed and Sarah Fitzgerald. The 2021/22 fellows were selected from a strong field of applicants by a panel of writers and editors including Thomas Morris, Melatu Uche Okorie, and Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe.

Gonchigkhand Byambaa is a social worker and writer from Mongolia. She is one of the founders of Migrant Women Na hÉireann, which seeks to raise awareness and provide support to victims of domestic and gender-based violence. She writes about Mongolian culture in an attempt to honour her parents’ legacy and illustrate the beauty and hardship that comes with a traditional nomadic lifestyle.

Sara Chudzik was born in Poland and moved to Limerick when she was 12 years old. She is an NUIG graduate and currently works and lives in Dublin. In her writing, she explores themes of difference, female sexuality and being a migrant. Language — what it means to learn it, as well as know and understand it — is a thematic and stylistic focus of her work.

Neo Florence Gilson is from Kimberley, South Africa, and currently lives in Ireland. A poet, writer, singer, storyteller, and motivational speaker, she has a passion for influencing youth positively through social upliftment projects. Love, unity, respect, empathy, justice and affirmation are the themes she is most drawn to in her writing.

Majed Mujed is an Iraqi poet, born in 1971. Writing in Arabic, his poetry focuses on love as well as being a stranger in a strange land. One of the founders of the Iraqi House of Poetry, he has worked in the Iraqi cultural press for twenty years. He is the recipient of awards from the Al Mada Cultural Foundation, Iraqi House of Wisdom and Iraqi Intellectuals Conference.

Play It Forward is grateful for the support of the Independent Living Movement Ireland through the Declan O’Keefe bursary award, which honours the legacy of  founding member Declan O’Keefe. Declan was a librarian and keen patron of the arts. This bursary award sponsors a place on the Play It Forward Fellowships programme to support an emerging disabled writer who wishes to use creative writing to shine a lens on disability and independent living, challenge inequality and promote inclusion. The recipient of the inaugural Declan O’Keefe Bursary Award 2021/22 is Sarah Fitzgerald.

Sarah Fitzgerald is from Offaly. Her blog is a marriage of two of her greatest passions: writing and disability activism. Working primarily in fiction, she feels a responsibility to write about disabled characters in a way that challenges the paternalistic view of disability. She is currently compiling a book titled Conversations about Activism and Change, a collection of stories about the history of the Independent Living Movement gathered from ten disabled activists.

The Fellowships are funded through the generous support of the Arts Council of Ireland/An Chomhairle Ealaíon, and enhanced by the expertise of strategic partner organisations including Aosdána, Poetry Ireland, the Irish Writers Centre and Words Ireland.