Kimbilio Nurtures Black Writers
The Kimbilio Retreat, now in its third year, is held annually at SMU-in-Taos and is dedicated to supporting and empowering black fiction writers from America and the greater African diaspora.
by Morgan Jerkins
News and Trends
While Cave Canem’s annual retreat for African American poets has been changing the literary landscape for the past twenty years, the writing community has lacked a similar resource for African American fiction writers. That is, it did until 2013, when writers David Haynes and Sanderia Smith launched the Kimbilio Retreat. Now in its third year, the retreat is held annually in Taos, New Mexico, and is dedicated to supporting and empowering black fiction writers from America and the greater African diaspora.
After acquiring funding from the English department of Southern Methodist University (SMU), where Haynes teaches, Haynes and Smith met with the leadership of Cave Canem, as well as with other peer organizations serving writers of color, such as Kundiman and CantoMundo, to develop their retreat model: a week of workshops, classes, and time to write for a small group of fellows. The two cofounders then relied on their network of African American fiction writers to recruit applicants, faculty members, and application judges. Victor LaValle and Emily Raboteau joined the advisory board during the planning stages, in 2012, and ZZ Packer and Dolen Perkins-Valdez came on as instructors for the inaugural retreat in July 2013.
The founders created Kimbilio, which means “safe haven” in Swahili, as a space to foster both writing and community. The retreat is held every July on SMU’s campus in Taos, situated between craggy mountains and cedar forests. Haynes considers Taos an ideal location because the town is “peaceful, secluded, and away from the distractions of city life or even campus life”—a beautiful, isolated setting that encourages creativity.