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Announcing the 2023 Torch Retreat Fellows

Updated: Jun 3, 2023

Torch Literary Arts is proud to announce the 2023 Torch Retreat Fellows! The six inaugural Fellows were selected by a committee from 133 applications with works in progress across poetry, fiction, and script (plays, screenplays). Torch is honored to support these writers with a week-long stay at the Colton House Hotel in Austin, TX, where they will receive dedicated time and space to rest, dream, and continue working toward their literary goals.

Introducing the 2023 Torch Retreat Fellows

Ashley M. Coleman is a writer, author, and music industry executive. While working in the music industry for more than ten years, she also wrote for, The Cut, Apartment Therapy, and, among others. Her debut novel, Good Morning, Love, was released in June of 2022. Her passion, whether working with music makers or writers from marginalized communities, is in creating safe gathering spaces and providing educational opportunities for creatives. In 2017, she launched a community for Black writers and writers of color entitled Permission to Write. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband.

Ajanaé Dawkins is an interdisciplinary poet, theologian, performer, and educator. She writes about the lived experiences of Black women and their relationships to each other to explore the politics of faith, grief, sisterhood, and sensuality. She has been published in The Rumpus, Frontier Poetry, For Harriet, underbelly, the EcoTheo Review, The Offing, The BreakBeat Poets Black Girl Magic Anthology, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and was a contributing writer for the Theatre Lila theatre company. Ajanae is the winner of the Tinderbox Poetry Journal’s Editors Prize. She was a finalist for the Cave Canem Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize, the Frontier Poetry chapbook prize, and the Brett Elizabeth Jenkins poetry prize. She was the Taft Museum’s 2022 Duncanson Artist in Residence and is a fellow of The Watering Hole and Pink Door. She received her MFA from Randolph College and will receive her Master's of Theology from Methodist Theological School of Ohio in May. Ajanae is currently a co-host of the VS Podcast and the Theology Editor for the EcoTheo Review. You can find her in the middle of the dance floor, at the skate rink, the local winery, library, karaoke night, or in her kitchen cooking something slow.

Victoria Newton Ford is a poet from Memphis, Tennessee. She is a MacDowell and Lambda Literary Fellow, and her work has been supported by Tin House Summer Writers Workshop, the Vermont Studio Center, and The Hurston/Wright Writers Workshop. She earned her B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently working on her first manuscript about Black mothers and their daughters, captivity, and haunting.

Ashunda Norris is a Black feminist multidisciplinary artist currently living and creating in Los Angeles. Her work is preoccupied with ancestral inheritance, spiritual traditions of the Black South, futuristic maroon expressions, and fugitivity. She has written, directed, and produced several short films, including her most recent multi-award-winning cinematic gesture, MINO: A Diasporic Myth; now streaming on kweliTV and The OutMusuem’s film exhibition.

Ashunda’s films have screened at festivals internationally including Kampala, Uganda; Nairobi, Kenya; London, England; Berlin, Germany, and Amsterdam. Her honors include fellowships from Cave Canem, the California Arts Council, Hurston/Wright Foundation, and Brooklyn Poets. In 2022, Ashunda participated in the James Baldwin Conference as a Writer in Residence in Saint Paul de Vence, France. A proud alumna of Howard University and Paine College, the artist holds MFAs in both Poetry and Screenwriting. Ashunda loves hot water cornbread, obscure cinema, and playing UNO with her family. Learn more at

Obinwanne Nwizu received her MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University in the United Kingdom. Born in Anambra State, Nigeria, raised in Atlanta, Georgia, but currently calling Harlem home, Obi is a lover of month-long international vacations, vegan food, afrobeat, and romantic comedies. When not writing, she teaches English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, edits the stories of her friends and strangers, tries to get through her bookcase readings, and frolics around the city in six-inch heels. Her latest short story collection, “Residue,” is currently available on Amazon.

Keya Vance is a San Bernardino, California native, screenwriter, and freelance photographer who uses art to challenge society to have difficult, but necessary, conversations. With humanity and vulnerability at the core of her work, she explores the dynamic nature of relationships, both the healing and destructive power of people. In 2018, Vance co-founded KayJo Creatives, an innovative media company with a mission to create community. They host engaging workshops and events that empower diverse creators at all stages of development in Southern California. KayJo Creatives is currently producing a documentary film, I, Too, which highlights a series of 100 interviews with African American men from Florida and California. These interviews ask men about masculinity, relationships, and their own identity. In February 2020, Vance was the primary investigator for a two-day multi-genre creative arts workshop, “Imagining Home: The Stories Photos Tell,” funded by Cal Humanities. Her workshop examined the historical and contemporary representation of African Americans through photographs. In 2021 she was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship grant by the California Arts Council. Vance has a B.A. in African American Studies, has completed significant course work in the performing arts, and is currently a screenwriting MFA candidate at Loyola Marymount University.

The 2023 Torch Retreat is made possible with support from the Tingari-Silverton Foundation, the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, the Burdine Johnson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and individual donors. Learn more about how to support Torch Literary Arts at

Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established 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, writing workshops, and retreats.


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