Writer-in-Residence Program Supports Emerging Authors 

In Events, News, Writer-in-Residence

This guest blog was written by Elaina Fuzi, a Boston University student journalist, about our 2023 Writer-in-Residence Reading and Reception. The Associates of the Boston Public Library is currently accepting applications for the 2024-25 Writer-in-Residence. 

Rhonda DeChambeau stood at a podium in the Boston Public Library, and shared her experience being a Writer-in-Residence at one of the largest libraries in the country. Her voice quivered and words caught in her throat as she read from her journal entry on the first day of her fellowship. “Today was good for my soul. So good to be surrounded by all the books and beauty, the art and architecture of the Boston Public Library. My little office is sure to become a haven for my thoughts and hopefully an incubator for my story. I feel like myself again.” 

Established in 2004 by the Associates of the Boston Public Library, the Writer-in-Residence program selects an emerging author annually. The fellowship provides the author with a stipend and office space within the Boston Public Library, explains Vidisha Agarwalla, the Communications Specialist of the Associates. 

Every year, the Writer-in-Residence focuses on a manuscript for a children's or young adult’s literary work, with the aim of completing a publisher-ready work according to the organization’s website. “It gives them the time and resources to write, which not all authors can afford,” Agarwalla noted. 

A reception on October 10, 2023, introduced the new Writer-in-Residence, Danielle Emerson, and featured the work of outgoing writer Rhonda DeChambeau. Laura Russo, Director of Development and External Affairs, mentioned that the program and reception aim to spotlight the talents of these writers. At last year’s reception, DeChambeau was discovered by an agent and has since secured a two-book deal with Holiday House, a New York-based publishing company. “It has been a launchpad for multiple authors,” Agarwalla added. 

DeChambeau, a resident of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, utilized her fellowship to write a young adult novel called “Top Heavy,” which explores a 15-year-old dancer’s insecurities about her body. DeChambeau noted that being chosen on her sixth application to the program was a huge moment. “I’ve never had a platform until now, and being here has elevated what I have to say,” she reflected. 

This year’s Writer-in-Residence Danielle Emerson, from Providence, Rhode Island, plans to write a collection of young adult short stories heavily influenced by contemporary Diné (Navajo) life and culture and inspired by Emerson’s experiences “draw[n] from a place of home.” Emerson hopes the program will help alleviate some of the financial burdens that come with being an author. “It’s difficult to find time to write just because of finances in this economy,” she said, noting that she has had to work in a convenience store to make ends meet. 

Alan Andres, who has been involved with the program nearly since its inception and currently serves as a board member of the Associates and Writer-in-Residence committee chair, emphasized the importance of supporting authors in today’s world, especially with the emergence of Artificial Intelligence. “It’s a tall order, maybe even an idealistic one in a cynical age that promotes the exciting possibilities of cheap authorless formulaic narratives generated by AI programs using stolen scrapings from popular published works,” he concluded.  

Through the Writer-in-Residence program, the Associates of the Boston Public Library not only champions emerging voices, like those of Rhonda DeChambeau and Danielle Emerson, but also provides a vital counterbalance to the impersonal tide of AI.