James Patterson gifts fellowships to UI Writers’ Workshop

The bestselling author’s recent contribution to the workshop will cover most of the university’s expenses for its 14 recipients.


Bestselling author James Patterson signs copies of his newly released memoir, \”James Patterson by James Patterson\” inside W.K. Kellogg Auditorium in Battle Creek, Mich. on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

Sydney Libert, News Reporter


A recent donation from bestselling author James Patterson will grant 14 fellowships to students in the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and support fellowships for the next five years.

The fellowships will go to 11 fiction writers and three poets in the workshop’s graduate program.

In late September, Patterson announced he awarded $5.3 million in cash awards to various literary programs across the nation.

An additional $1.3 million will go towards James Patterson Writer Education Scholarship recipients at Howard University and the new fellowships to the UI Writers’ Workshop.

The funding also went to $2 million to PEN America, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting free expression, and $2 million to Scholastic’s “The United States of Readers,” a program supporting elementary and secondary education students in Title 1 schools.

Patterson donated money to increase access to reading and writing opportunities nationwide through the Patterson Family Foundation, which awards scholarships to 14 different colleges and universities across the country annually.

The recent donation is not Patterson’s first to the workshop. In 2016, Patterson gifted five scholarships to graduate students in the program, worth $7,500 each for a year. According to a statement from the UI Foundation, Patterson added an additional five scholarships, “covering the tuition for ten writers” by 2017 the following year.

“I’ve dedicated my career to getting as many people to love books as possible and have long been a champion of my fellow authors and aspiring writers everywhere. I’m proud of my partnership with the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and hope that these fellowships result in even more people being able to focus on getting their work published,” Patterson wrote in a statement provided to The Daily Iowan.

This year, Patterson will issue the fellowships instead of scholarships, which automatically guarantees recipients in-state tuition that will be completely covered by the $10,000 fellowship.

Jane Van Voorhis, UI Center for Advancement assistant vice president of main campus development for the, said Patterson pledged nearly $1.2 million to the Writers’ Workshop to last for a total of five years.

This year and next, the fellowships will belong to the current 14 students, but Van Voorhis said the number of recipients is expected to increase in the next three years.

Van Voorhis said there is need for financial support in the Writers’ Workshop.

“To choose the life of a writer is to invite considerable uncertainty into your life… for some people, that uncertainty is a greater risk than it is for others,” Van Voorhis said. “This kind of fellowship can make the difference between whether or not somebody can attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.”

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Since its founding in 1936 as the first creative writing degree program in the U.S., the Writers’ Workshop has attracted students from around the globe, claiming nationally and internationally prominent writers as alumni.

The workshop’s website claims itself as a home to faculty and graduates of “virtually every major literary award” and honor.

Flannery O’Connor, best known for her short stories, was a member of the workshop’s class of 1948. O’Connor’s posthumously compiled works, Complete Stories, won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1972.

More recently, Mo Yan, who participated in the workshop’s International Writing Program in 2004, won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012.

While Van Voorhis said the diversity of a workshop acts as a strength that allows for more human experiences to be represented in literary conversations, she said she acknowledges the dynamic calls for more equity in ensuring equal support to all students.

“The University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop has [a] really diversified student body on every dimension … stylistic, aesthetic, racial, geographic, economic, socio-economic,” Van Voorhis said. “With greater socioeconomic diversity comes greater need for support.”

UI Writers’ Workshop Lan Samantha Chang said in a statement to The Daily Iowan that Patterson’s efforts to support interest in reading align with the mission of the Writers’ Workshop and its work to expand the literary voices in the country.

“James Patterson’s generous gift to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop reinforces his profound and longstanding commitment to supporting students from all backgrounds, education levels, and abilities,” Chang said. “He is a laudable human being, and we are honored to launch the James Patterson Fellowships.”

Van Voorhis said the James Patterson Fellowships will help support those at the core of the UI community.

“I would posit that it is writing at Iowa, and not just the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, but writing at Iowa that defines this institution on both a national and an international basis…[our writers] start cultural conversations that are really important to who we are as human beings,” Van Voorhis said. “What we do changes hearts and minds.

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