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The Literary Mentorship

Applications have now closed

The South Asia Speaks Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to providing  literary mentorship to outstanding emerging writers living in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Maldives.

Our writers bring a diversity of ethnicities, geographies, languages, and genres to our program. Our goal is to cultivate excellence, dismantle the biases that exist in the publishing industry, and build a critical mass of literary voices that represent South Asia.

We are grateful to the Hawthornden Foundation for supporting our work

We match South Asia-based writers who have applied for support to produce a major work with published authors from around the world. We support fiction, nonfiction, reportage, translation and poetry. In 2023, we introduced "Beyond Ability," aimed at writers who identify as a person with a disability. Since 2020, South Asia Speaks fellows have published six books with major publishing houses. 


Mentors and fellows meet for six sessions during the year to workshop writing. In addition to one-on-one mentorships, fellows have access to masterclasses dedicated to subjects such as craft, publishing, and acquiring an agent.

Since 2021, our masterclass has welcomed New Yorker staff writer Parul Sehgal, James Beard Award-winning food writer Mayukh Sen, poet and activist Meena Kandasamy, essayist Pankaj Mishra, Pulitzer Prize finalist Suketu Mehta, screenwriter Nikesh Shukla, film director Mira Nair, and novelists Kamila Shamsie, Vauhini Vara, Jamil Jan Kochai, Nilanjana S. Roy, Manjushree Thapa, Rahul Bhattacharya, and V.V. Ganeshananthan.

South Asia Speaks graduates have achieved book deals, agency representation and award wins. They have gone on to The Iowa Writers' Workshop, Logan Nonfiction Program, The New India FoundationInternational Women's Media Foundation and The American Literary Translators Association's Emerging Translator Mentorship Program.

The application is very competitive. Every year we received more than 500 applications for twenty fellowships. Our ideal fellow is talented and driven with a track record of finishing a project. Since we are assembling a class, we are looking for fellows who will contribute to a collegial atmosphere and support one another. 


The relationship between mentors and fellows is built on a mutual commitment to the craft of writing. Our fellows come from diverse backgrounds and pursue professions that range from filmmaking to engineering, but they are all determined to make the most of this unique opportunity.

The geographical diversity of our fellows is reflected in the books they are working on, many of which are only being published because of the support and visibility of our program. Topics include a book about Muslim women in India, a memoir about a boyhood in Kashmir, an investigation into the persecution of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan, conversations with fishing communities affected by natural disasters, and a novel set during a Dalit protest. 


Applications for the 5th edition of South Asia Speaks open in September 2024









This is why we do what we do

"Thanks to South Asia Speaks, I had the honour of working with the novelist Karan Mahajan on a collection of stories set in Kashmir. Karan read my work closely, offered carefully considered feedback and helped elevate my writing to a new level. He constantly pushed me to be my best. He was generous with his praise — something I would draw confidence from whenever going got tough. 

Honestly, South Asia Speaks has been the best thing to have happened to my writing so far. I hope to pay forward what Sonia and Karan have done for me soon one day."

Waseem Rashid (Class of 2021, Fiction)
Winner of the 2022 Sonny Mehta Fellowship in Creative Writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop

Mentored by Karan Mahajan

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