Friday, November 9, 2018

The Kresge Artist Fellowship – A Writer’s Perseverance is Rewarded by Jean Alicia Elster

For the past ten years, Kresge Arts in Detroit, a program of The Kresge Foundation, has provided more than 200 metropolitan Detroit artists with over $5 million of unrestricted funding to be used to support their creative life in any way they see fit. On November 1, Kresge Arts in Detroit once again invited artists in the fields of literary and visual arts who reside in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County to apply for the latest round of $25,000—no strings attached—fellowships to be awarded in 2019.

The application process can appear daunting and submission does not guarantee selection—the fourth application was the charm in my case—but in 2017, I was honored and thrilled to be selected as a Kresge Artist Fellow in Literary Arts. The rewards of perseverance are tremendous for this prestigious and coveted award, not only for its generous monetary prize but because it also comes with a year of professional development and artistic support opportunities that are unrivaled with any other similar award in the United States.

The literary genres for the 2017 fellows included graphic novels, arts criticism, poetry, creative nonfiction, storytelling and my field of young adult fiction. The visual arts disciplines included painting, architectural/light installation, sculpture, wood-carving, metalwork and fiber art. I gained inspiration and encouragement from this truly diverse and immensely talented group of literary and visual artists who, quite honestly, I probably would not have had the chance to bond with except for the fellowship setting.

An initial weekend retreat where the 18 fellows absorbed an intensive three days of presentations from professional development experts who hailed from across the country was worth more than the monetary prize. Nuts and bolts information on monetizing our respective crafts as well as planning our individual artistic futures in a constructive and fulfilling way was priceless. Later, fellows were encouraged to attend monthly brunches at venues across Detroit. I found these gatherings to be invigorating both personally and professionally as we shared with one another details of our current and anticipated artistic pursuits.

Another benefit is that fellows are given the opportunity, during various events throughout the year, to meet and speak with the panelists who made the award selections. I was the first author of young adult fiction to be awarded a Kresge Fellowship. I learned through a presentation of one of the panelists that she felt my work for young adult readers should be represented with an award to affirm that “young people deserve excellent literature” just as much as other age groups. 

I look forward to using the knowledge and inspiration that I gained as a 2017 Kresge Artist Fellow to continue researching and writing future books as well as maintain my expanded connections with the rich artistic community of metro Detroit. This link will take you to my artist portfolio on the Kresge Arts in Detroit website. There you will find sub-links to the writing samples I submitted with my application as well as my video profile that is part of a larger film on the entire 2017 cohort.

If you have not already done so, I encourage you to study the application guidelines and consider submitting an application for the 2019 literary fellowships. Here is the link:

Jean Alicia Elster is the author of several books of children’s, middle grade and young adult fiction. Her two most recent books, WHO'S JIM HINES? and THE COLORED CAR (both published by Wayne State University Press) were selected as Michigan Notable Books by the Library of Michigan. THE COLORED CAR was awarded the Midwest Book Award in Children’s Fiction. She is currently working with her WSU Press editor to complete final rewrites of BLOOD JOURNEY, the third volume in her Ford family trilogy. Keep up with her at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter @j_a_elster.

Coming up on the Mitten Blog: Painless Self-Promotion, a KidLit Advocate, a Picture Book Success Story, Book Birthdays, and another Writer Spotlight. Plus, stayed tuned for info about the SCBWI-MI 2019-2020 Mentorships for Picture Book Text with Lisa Wheeler and Kelly DiPucchio


  1. That's a very difficult award to be granted, a huge congratulations to you!

  2. What an amazing opportunity! Thank you for sharing your story with us Jean!