Latino Rebels contributor Jonathan Marcantoni filed the following post about the YouNiversity Project he co-founded with Chris Campanioni:
Since the inception of the YouNiversity Project in June 2014, authors Chris Campanioni and Jonathan Marcantoni have built a program that has attracted attention from people in 33 countries in six continents, has connected aspiring writers to literary agents, radio personalities, award-winning authors, graphic designers, and readers around the world with the common goal of assisting artists in adapting to the demands of 21st century publishing. The YouNiversity Project’s first class started with four students and concluded with two, Yma Johnson and Emma Mayhood, both from Eastern Michigan University. Over the course of the year, Yma and Emma maintained a blog showcasing their interactions with authors and publishing professionals, posting their own works in progress, and they established a social media presence and following on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
As with any program, there were ups and downs, and assignments that worked better than others. Campanioni and Marcantoni have revamped some aspects and will be making future YouNiversity Projects more multimedia based, launching a YouTube channel that will combine performance with visual arts, so that students can more immediately and creatively interact with potential readers. They have also teamed up with New York-based e-book publisher Editorial Trance for a YouNiversity anthology which will premiere in 2016.
Recognizing that a writer’s life is not solely digital, and that the relationships authors build in their communities is even more important as the ones they build on social media, the YouNiversity Project 2016 will include students who are local to Campanioni, who lives in Brooklyn, NY, and teaches in New York City and Marcantoni, who lives and teaches in Colorado Springs, CO. As Marcantoni says:
Literature is greatly influenced by one’s immediate surroundings and the reach of that literature is either helped or hindered by how engaged writers are with groups and organizations in their own backyard. Writing has become another venue for fame seeking, and that manifests through people trying to appeal to audiences in parts of the world considered ‘media hotspots,’ rather than being true to themselves. To be a regional writer has become a curse word, but Harper Lee was regional, Mark Twain was regional, Alice Walker was regional, yet their books spoke to a universal human condition, and that is why they are still read today. We want our students to tap into that mindset, engage their immediate communities while simultaneously creating stories that appeal to a common humanity.
This fall, Campanioni and Marcantoni have decided to do a specialized version of the YouNiversity that incorporates the changes for the 2016 reboot while targeting writers local to them. Two students will be selected for what is being termed YouNiversity 1.5, one in the New York area and one in Colorado, who will work personally with the mentors to learn the ropes of both grassroots and digital promotion and networking, as well as working on improving their own writing, which will be featured in next year’s anthology.
There will be occasional “exchange programs” where Chris’ student will work with Marcantoni and vice versa, but for the most part, students will be working face to face with someone rather than solely via email and Skype.
Submissions will be accepted from June 20 to July 20, and the program will begin after Labor Day and progress through the winter holiday season. The mentors are looking for cutting-edge writers willing to push the envelope in terms of style, voice, and content. They want writers of all ethnicities and genders.
“We are not an MFA program, we don’t want cookie cutter, we don’t want formula, we want art,” according to Marcantoni. “We started this program to give voice to writers who are marginalized for personal and artistic reasons. Too many conferences and writing organizations are geared solely toward publication by any means, included compromising one’s vision. We want to embolden writers, not beat them down, and give them tools to have control over the direction of their careers.”
In order to submit, email a 2-3 page writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name, address, and phone number. Applicants must be between the ages of 19–55. New York applicants must live in the New York Metropolitan area, to include northern New Jersey and Connecticut. Colorado applicants must live in the Front Range metropolitan area as far north as Boulder and as far south as Pueblo. Applicants must be able to travel to Colorado Springs for occasional meetings.