VONA is the only multi-genre workshop for writers of color in the U.S. founded by and for writers of color as a revolution. VONA rewrites the literary landscape, creating new aesthetics and narratives. At the intersection of social justice and artistic mastery, VONA builds individual mastery and artistic communities that create new cultural understandings, changing the way individuals and societies perceive themselves. Many alumni have also established presses, created anthologies, and participated in fellowships.
Elmaz Abinader, Junot Díaz, Víctor Díaz, and Diem Jones founded Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation in 1999. Each supported the development of a community-based organization that put writers of color, their narratives, voices, and experiences at the center of all conversations. VONA was built out of a desire to change the landscape for writers of color by supporting individual writer growth, creating a platform for community engagement and providing a workshop and mentor focus to expand writing opportunities.
In 1999, less than 0.2% of writers of color were represented in writing workshops across the country. The mainstream literary establishment was not equipped to read or guide writers of color. VONA provided a forum for the serious study of work by writers of color, creating a platform for conversations and support that could not be found elsewhere.
Since its inception, VONA has facilitated increased access to writing programs, inviting writers from different backgrounds and experiences to talk about who they are as writers of color and how that influences the stories they choose to tell. VONA alumni teach in both academic programs and community workshops.
Over 2,400 writers from around the globe have participated in VONA since 1999. Cinelle Barnes, Elaine Castillo, Cynthia Dewi Oka, Patricia Engel, Daisy Hernandez, Christine Hyung-Oak Lee, Tayari Jones, Lisa Ko, John Murillo, Daniel Jose Older, Ingrid Rojas, Danez Smith, and Rich Villar are among the more than 400 alumni who have published books, receiving literary prizes and international recognition.