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Torch Announces the 2024 Retreat Fellows

Brittany Heckard

Apr 12, 2024

Eight fellows were selected to attend the second annual retreat for Black women writers at the Colton House in Austin, Texas from July 21-28, 2024.

AUSTIN, Tex., April 12, 2024 – Torch Literary Arts is proud to announce the 2024 Torch Retreat Fellows! The eight fellows were selected by a committee from 216 applicants with works-in-progress across poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and script (plays, screenplays). Torch is honored to support these writers with a week-long stay at the Colton House Hotel from July 21-28, where they will work on their unfinished projects with check-ins and options to share their work in a nurturing environment. Every retreat fellow receives a $1,000 stipend to help with costs associated with travel, supplies, or other financial needs to support their attendance at the retreat. 

Introducing the 2024 Torch Retreat Fellows

Sandra Jackson-Opoku is the author of an award-winning novel, The River Where Blood is Born and Hot Johnny and the Women Who Loved Him, an Essence Magazine Bestseller in Hardcover Fiction. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic works are widely published and produced. They appear in Both Sides: Stories from the Border, story South, Another Chicago Magazine, New Daughters of Africa, Novus Literary Journal, Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction, the Chicago Humanities Festival, Lifeline Theatre, and other outlets. She also coedited the multi-arts anthology, Revise the Psalm: Work Celebrating the Writing of Gwendolyn Brooks. Professional recognition includes a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the American Library Association Black Caucus Award, the Chicago Esteemed Artist Award, a Lifeline Theatre BIPOC Adaptation Showcase, the Globe Soup Story Award, the Plentitudes Journal Prize for Fiction, an Institute for Writers First Pages Award, the Circle of Confusion Writers Discovery Fellowship, the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award, a Pushcart Prize nomination, and other awards and honors. Sandra Jackson-Opoku has taught literature and writing at the University of Miami, Columbia College Chicago, the University of Chicago Writers Studio, and Chicago State University. She presents workshops, readings, and literary events in arts organizations worldwide.

m. mick powell is a queer Black Cape Verdean femme, an artist, an Aries, and the author of the chapbook threesome in the last Toyota Celica (Host Publications, 2023). Their debut full-length collection, DEAD GIRL CAMEO, is forthcoming from One World Books/Random House in Summer 2025. An assistant professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Connecticut and a 2023 Tin House Resident, mick enjoys chasing waterfalls and being in love. Keep up with them at or on IG.

ESTHER IFESINACHI OKONKWO is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a third-year PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Her fiction has appeared in Isele Magazine, Guernica, and Catapult. She’s a recipient of the 2021 Elizabeth George Foundation Grant. Her debut novel, THE TINY THINGS ARE HEAVIER, is forthcoming with Bloomsbury in the Spring of 2025. Home for her is Lagos, Nigeria.

Deborah D.E.E.P Mouton is an award-winning literary artist, director, performer, and the first Black Poet Laureate of Houston, TX. She authored Newsworthy (Bloomsday Literary, 2019) and Black Chameleon (Henry Holt & Co., 2023), which won the Carr P. Collins Award for Best Nonfiction Book through the Texas Institute of Letters (2024). This recent memoir examines Black womanhood through afrofuturistic mythology. Stories that Mouton later adapted into a storybook opera (Lula, the Mighty Griot, HGO) and an independent short film (Headache & Heartthrob). She’s penned stage works including Marian's Song (Houston Grand Opera), Atlanta: 1906 (Atlanta Opera) & On My Mind (Opera Theater St. Louis). Serving as Playwright/Director, she produced The World's Intermission, commissioned by Performing Arts Houston (Jones Hall), and Plumshuga: The Rise of Lauren Anderson, a choreopoem (Stages Theater) which made the cover of the NYT Culture section. Mouton has contributed writings for Glamour, Texas Monthly, and ESPN's Andscape.  A former Resident Artist with the American Lyric Theater, Rice University, and the Houston Museum of African American Culture, her upcoming projects will debut at The Kennedy Center and American Lyric Theater. She resides in Houston, TX.

DW McKinney is a writer and editor based in Las Vegas, Nevada. A 2024 Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Fellow, she is the recipient of fellowships from the PERIPLUS Collective, Writing By Writers, and The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow. Her work appears in Los Angeles Review of Books, Oxford American, Ecotone, TriQuarterly, and Narratively, among others. The founder and instructor for We Are The House: A Virtual Residency for Early-Career Writers at Raising Mothers, she also serves as the nonfiction editor at Shenandoah. Learn more at

Elizabeth Brown is a screenwriter living in Richmond, Virginia. Her upcoming feature screenplay is, in some ways, a departure from her earlier unreleased work, which was heavily influenced by science fiction and steeped in humor. For her current feature, she instead uses realism to ground her characters and send them on dramatic yet tangible journeys.

Meredith L. King (she/her) is a creative nonfiction writer, playwright, sound-smith, and poet. Her work engages Black kinship, uncomfortable truths, and the collision of place with identity. Meredith holds a B.A. from Stanford University with honors, and an M.B.A. from Yale University. She is a 2024 Anaphora Arts Fellow, a 2024 Tin House Scholar, received a 2022 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award for Playwriting, and was named Best Local Playwright of 2020 by Cleveland Scene Magazine. Additionally, her creative work has been supported by the Midwives Artist Collective, at Louis Place, Dobama Theatre Playwrights Gym, Cleveland Public Theatre, Nolose, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, HBMG Foundation, and featured on NPR’s Here and Now. Meredith is based in Cleveland, OH, where she is a loving dog-mom to a sassy Bichon Frise. Find Meredith at

Destiny Hemphill  is a chronically ill ritual worker and poet, living on the unceded territory of the Eno-Occaneechi band of the Saponi Nation (Durham, NC). A recipient of fellowships from Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program, Callaloo, Tin House, and Kenyon Review's Writers Workshop, she is the author of the poetry collection motherworld: a devotional for the alter-life (Action Books, 2023), which was a two-time finalist for the National Poetry Series. Her work has also been featured in Poetry Magazine, Southern Cultures, and the Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day series. She served as the 2022-2023 Kenan Visiting Writer in Poetry at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and currently holds a Reading Fellowship at Tin House.

The inaugural Torch Retreat convened in 2023 with six fellows writing across poetry, fiction, and script. Our 2023 retreat fellows included Ashley M. Coleman, Ajanaė Dawkins, Victoria Newton Ford, Ashunda Norris, Obinwanne Nwizu, and Keya Vance. You can watch a video of the 2023 Torch Retreat readings here.



About Torch Literary Arts

Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established with love and intention in 2006 to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. Torch has featured work by Toi Derricotte, Tayari Jones, Sharon Bridgforth, Crystal Wilkinson, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Elizabeth Alexander, and others. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, workshops, an annual retreat, and special events. 

Help Torch continue to publish and promote Black women writers by donating today.


Media Contact Information:

Brittany Heckard

Communications Associate 

(512) 641-9251

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