The Fellowship winners circle met in late October 2021 to hear the top three stories read aloud by 2021-22 3rd place winner, Lara Henneman (whose story will be published in Dreamers Magazine in January 2022), 2nd place, Melissa Bowers and our newest WRITING FELLOW: KELLE SCHILLACI CLARKE.  Last year’s reigning winners attended to meet the new winners and support them (3rd: Audrey Burges, 2nd: Becky Firesheets-Fine, and FELLOW: DAWN RYAN)

As is now a tradition, DAWN RYAN wrote a captivating welcome to our newest fellow and read it aloud. Here is the text in full:


Dear Kelle,


It brings me tremendous joy to welcome you to the Pen Parentis Fiction Writers Fellowship. If you’re anything like me, Milda DeVoe’s call this summer alerting you of your new honor filled you with an uneasy amalgam of gratitude and dread. Many of us who’ve taken up this calling find comfort in grandiose delusions of our yet to be discovered literary genius. It’s what keeps us plugging along through the countless rejections, unanswered agent queries, answered agent queries that lead to nowhere, and the fedloan reminders that those payments for your MFA are starting back up in January. It’s a weird kind of loss when the delusion creeps into the real world and you get accepted. Someone actually likes your writing, wants to pay you for it, and will support you in your craft for an entire year. The confident savant of your happy place might suddenly succumb to that primal knowledge of your innate unworthiness that may or may not be born from a high ACE score.

Today, Kelle, I’d like to do for you what my therapist is having me do for myself in imagined conversations with my mommy. I’d like to assure you of your place in this world. Specifically this world of PenParentis. That means that I’m here to remind you that you are a writer first and foremost. That might be a scary truth to the people in your life, and maybe it’s a truth you avoid when life’s burdens take center stage, but for you it is the ultimate grounding and every now and then you need reminding.

You were a writer before the baby. You were a writer before the courtship, and first kiss that might have led to the baby. You were a writer before the first fight, and before the first of what would become daily morbid, gruesome, often absurd fantasies about losing it all to some tragic accident, or worse, in some deliberate blaze of self-sabotage. You were a writer that night when you got a little too drunk at the restaurant and then a little too flirty with the server. You were a writer the next morning, when you woke in a panic, worried that you might have accidentally said something racist. And you’re a writer still, despite giving up cigarettes and alcohol completely and going low carb. You were a writer when you chose not to write a response in the comment thread of your antivaxxer cousin who works at the pot dispensary outside Beaverton. He’s a good kid. He’s just a fucking idiot. You were a writer that time when you didn’t write for years. You were a writer when the bodies piled up, when the wildfires hit, when the flash floods rolled in. You were even a writer in the 90s, when nothing was happening. You were a writer before, during and after the insurrection, or that time Vladimir Putin rode shirtless on horseback to usher in the age of irrepressible doubt. But not for you, not today. Let there be no doubt about who you are and why you’re here. Kelle, you did not burst from the center of a star, spiral down the double helix of your foremothers’ mitochondrial DNA, to show up here today and not write. You, my sister, are a writer. Please enjoy this year and all it offers. Let the light shine on you, may the muse stay generous and willing, and join an accountability group.


Kudos to you and congratulations!


With love and pride,

Dawn Ryan