Woke Words

Woke Words

Applications for the 2019-2020 session are now closed.

Woke Words is a new multi-genre creative writing series for young women of color ages 15-25. The eight-month-long program is designed to provide access and exposure to writing by women authors of color; encourage thoughtful discussion around issues of race, gender, and identity; and inspire young writers to give voice to their experiences, forge empowering connections, and create new languages for reaching across cultures and communities.

Woke Words

Offered monthly from September to April, the series consists of seven three-hour groups and one public reading event. A different writing genre will be explored during each group through reading assignments, in-class reading, multimedia presentations, creative writing exercises, and guided discussion. Woke Words is not a class or writing workshop; although participants will engage in reading and writing exercises, the series is designed to be purely creative and exploratory.

Participation in the series is open to individuals of color who self-identify as women and are between the ages of 15 and 25. To promote trust and group cohesion, the group will be limited to 15 participants per eight-month session. Admission will be application-based (link to details below) and selections will be determined by a committee comprising professionals working in film, education, healthcare, public policy, and more. If selected, the participant must commit to attending six out of eight offerings, including the public reading event.

Application Instructions

Ways to Get Involved

Completion of Program

Upon completion of the program, participants will have the opportunity to read their work to a wider public audience during the YWCA’s annual Stand Against Racism campaign, and each will receive a printed booklet featuring excerpts of their work. In addition, all books provided to participants throughout the series are theirs to keep.

Woke Words Facilitators

Becky McFalls-Schwartz

Groups will be facilitated and coordinated by Becky McFalls-Schwartz, YWCA Utah’s Director of Development. As a Korean American adoptee and freelance writer, she has also published essays on identity, family, and culture. She received a B.F.A. in Creative Writing and a B.A. in Linguistics from Brooklyn College. She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at the University of Utah.

Sarah May

Sarah May is a biracial Indigenous Latina, artist, curator, and storyteller based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah with a B.F.A. in Photography & Digital Imaging and an M.A. in Community Leadership with an Emphasis in Art & Culture from Westminster College. Sarah creates work exploring the intricacy of narrative through imagery and text in reflecting on the collective human experience using cyanotype, film photography, and her own writing. Her current work and process reflects her journey in identity being cyclical and evolving, the links personal ancestry manifests throughout generations, and the idea of destiny and healing as intertwined.

Nkenna Onwuzuruoha (Kenna)

Kenna Onwuzuruoha is a second-year PhD student in Writing & Rhetoric Studies at the University of Utah. She has taught composition and social justice courses at the U, Salt Lake Community College, and Westminster College. She moved to Salt Lake over 8.5 years ago to serve as an AmeriCorps Vista for the SLCC Community Writing Center and currently works as the Outreach Coordinator for Write Here, Westminster College’s community writing center. Kenna enjoys cycling and co-chairing the U of U's Black Graduate Student Association.

Charnell Peters

Charnell Peters is a doctoral student at the University of Utah, where she studies race and communication. She is the author of the poetry chapbook, Un-becoming (Thirty West Publishing House), and her previous work has appeared in Foundry, Hippocampus, and elsewhere. She is the editor of Ruminate Magazine's online publication, The Waking.

‘Ilaheva Tua’one

‘Ilaheva Tua’one is a PhD Candidate in British and American Literature in the English Department, and a Pasifika-Mellon Dissertation Fellow in the Pacific Islands Studies Initiative at the University of Utah. She received an Honor's B.S. in Gender Studies from the University of Utah and an M.A in English Literature from Northeastern University. As a Tongan-American, she is most proud of a class she developed and teaches called “South Sea Tales.” In her free time she enjoys cooking, building, collecting, hiking, watching, listening, and concentrating. 'Ila makes her home with her wife, Lucy Terzis, two nieces, Ana and Ada, and two dogs, Francis and Bella, in Sugarhouse, Utah.

Nina Feng

Nina Feng is a PhD candidate in Writing and Rhetoric Studies at the University of Utah. She studies anti-racist language practices and pedagogy, along with game theory and storytelling. With an M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction, Nina loves to explore intersections of multimodal expression, personal narrative, and social justice. She is currently teaching two writing courses that utilize an interactive game narrative to disrupt standard language expectations—her classes often get interrupted by robots, friendly characters, food and secret missions. Nina enjoys spending time with her family, and dance parties, when she’s not writing and reading.


The YWCA would like to thank the Lockwood Family for their generous donation to make Woke Words possible, and for their belief in the power of stories to connect and empower cultures and communities.

Stand against racism with the YWCA.