Main content start

Manuscript Workshop

Every year, the Center hosts an author without a university appointment to participate in a workshop to discuss a book project that addresses or illuminates issues of ethics in public life. The workshop is currently on hiatus for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic year. 

The workshop brings together a small group of Stanford scholars who are relevant subject matter experts or literary scholars to provide feedback on the manuscript. While on campus, the visiting author also has an opportunity meet with additional faculty with topic specific expertise as well as with interested students. After the book's publication, each author returns to Stanford for a public event celebrating the book's release. The application deadline for the 2022-23 academic year was September 1, 2022.

2022-2023 Manuscript Workshop

The application deadline for the 2022-23 academic year has passed. See below for more details.

The manuscript workshop seeks to engage with a nonfiction writer without an academic affiliation whose current book-in-progress addresses ethical issues in relation to a pressing social problem. Please note that although we appreciate the genre, we will not be accepting submissions that would be classified as memoir. The workshop, now entering its eighth year, has previously featured Philip Gourevitch, Eliza Griswold, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Carla Power, Alec MacGillis, Donovan Ramsey, and Jennie Smith.

The workshop offers an honorarium of $10,000, plus travel expenses.

The selected author will be invited to campus to participate in a workshop with scholars who will offer insights and feedback on the manuscript. We will also organize several smaller meetings with appropriate experts.  Through these gatherings, the writer will have the opportunity to get feedback from different relevant subject matter experts. While on campus, the author may also be asked to participate in one or two small events with interested students. After the book's publication, the writer will be invited to the Stanford campus, at our expense, for a public event and book signing.

We aim to host the workshop between February and June 2023 and under some circumstances we will consider manuscripts for a fall 2023 workshop. Applicants should be prepared to have a manuscript that is 75-100% drafted to share with workshop participants eight weeks prior to the agreed upon workshop date. The manuscript will only be shared with invited workshop participants (about 15 people) and will be kept confidential.

To apply, please submit a short bio, book prospectus, proposed table of contents, and a sample chapter (all in one PDF with the naming convention "LastNameFirstName manuscript wksp"). Expected length of submission material is between 20 – 40 pages in total.  Due to the number of submissions we receive, we ask that you not submit packages that are more than 40 pages. Please email your submission and any questions, to Joan Berry, joanieb [at] (joanieb[at]stanford[dot]edu).

2022 Manuscript Workshop: Jennie Erin Smith 

headshot image of author Erin Smith

Jennie Erin Smith’s current work-in-progress, tentatively titled Valley of Forgetting, is a journey among families with a rare hereditary form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease living in Medellin, Colombia, and the investigators who have studied them for more than 30 years. It tells the story of neurologist Francisco Lopera, who in the 1980s – as Colombia was entering its darkest period in recent memory – examined a farmer with early dementia and came to realize that his extended family, found to carry a unique genetic mutation, had some 5,000 members scattered across Medellin and a ring of isolated mountain towns. In the 1990s, the American neurologist Ken Kosik joined Lopera’s efforts to understand the genetics and the natural history of the disease, launching decades worth of investigations.

The “paisa mutation” kindred is the largest family of its kind worldwide by an order of magnitude, and has long enticed scientists, journalists and drug companies. In 2013 its members were recruited into an ongoing clinical trial to determine whether Alzheimer’s can be prevented in people destined to develop it. The book tracks the lives and travails of four families living with the disease, some of which have spent generations under the investigators’ lens, lending their time and bodies to an uncertain cause as they navigate poverty, caregiving and the everyday violence of life in Colombia. 

JENNIE ERIN SMITH is an independent science reporter specializing in medicine and natural history. She is also the author of a previous nonfiction book, Stolen World (Crown 2011). In addition, she is a regular contributor to The New York Times’ science section, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Wall Street Journal

2021 Manuscript Workshop: Donovan X. Ramsey

Donovan X. Ramsey

Donovan X. Ramsey's nonfiction debut When Crack Was Kingis a work of narrative nonfiction that tells the story of the crack epidemic of the 1980s and ‘90s, but also stories of people who survived it—a dealer in Newark, an addict in Los Angeles, the son of an addict in New York, and the former mayor of Baltimore. Together, their narratives capture the depth and breadth of the epidemic, the various ways it took hold and was expressed in communities across the country.

DONOVAN X. RAMSEY writes on issues of identity, politics, and patterns of power in America. His commentary on racial politics and the criminal justice system has been featured in The New York Times, WSJ Magazine, The Atlantic, GQ, BuzzFeed, and Ebony, among others. He is currently a senior reporter with the LA Times, covering Black Los Angeles for the Metro Desk. He has also served as the commentary editor at The Marshall Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning news organization dedicated to the U.S. criminal legal system. He earned his MA from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Morehouse College.

2020 Manuscript Workshop: Alec MacGillis

Alec MacGillis

In Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America, Alec MacGillis tells the story of regional inequality in America--the growing divide between a handful of winner-take-all cities and the smaller cities and towns they have left behind. The story is told through the frame of the digital economy, a sector that exemplifies the market concentration that is a major driver of regional inequality, from hyper-prosperous hubs such as Seattle and Washington, D.C., to left-behind places such as Baltimore and towns and cities in Ohio.

ALEC MACGILLIS is a senior reporter for ProPublica, where he has been on staff since 2015. Previously, he worked for the New Republic, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and four smaller newspapers. His pieces have appeared in the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Atlantic, and New York, among others. He is the author of “The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell” (Simon & Schuster, 2014). In 2018, he served as lead correspondent for “Left Behind America,” a PBS Frontline documentary set in Dayton, Ohio. He has received the Polk Award for National Reporting, Toner Prize for Political Reporting, and Elijah Lovejoy Parish Award, and was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He was a member of the 2010-2011 Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan and delivered its Hovey Lecture in 2017.

MacGillis' book Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America, is available for purchase.

2019 Manuscript Workshop: Carla Power 

Carla Power

Carla Power’s new book focuses on the controversial emerging field of "de-radicalization," as told through the interconnected stories of three mothers who work to de-radicalize Islamic extremists by reconnecting them with their humanity and by asking: How does one replace hatred with tolerance?

CARLA POWER is a journalist specializing in Muslim societies, global social issues and culture. She wrote, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran." She is a former foreign correspondent for Newsweek. Her essays have appeared in a wide range of publications, from Time, Vogue and O: The Oprah Magazine, to The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, and Foreign Policy. She holds an M.Phil. from St. Antony’s College, Oxford University in Modern Middle Eastern Studies, as well as degrees from Yale and Columbia. 

Power's book Home, Land, Security: Deradicalization and the Journey Back from Extremism, is available for purchase.

2018 Manuscript Workshop: Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

A book about contemporary American masculinity told through the world of standup comedy. How do comedians emerge into voice? How do they leverage authenticity to arouse spontaneous reactions in an audience? What does laughter allow them to communicate?  What is the nature of the relationship with one’s audience when provocation is sometimes used as a strategy? 

ADRIAN NICOLE LEBLANC is an independent journalist who is best known for her 2003 nonfiction book Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx, which chronicles the struggles of two young women as they deal with love, growing families, poverty, and prison time. The book took more than ten years to research and write and has received many awards, among them the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Ron Ridenhour Book Prize.  In 2006, she was a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2010, Random Family was named one of the Top Ten Works of Journalism of the Decade by the Arthur L. Carter Institute of Journalism at NYU.

LeBlanc has written for many publications including the Village VoiceHarper’s, the New York Times Magazine, and the New Yorker. Grants, fellowships, and residencies have been essential to her long-term, immersive work, including: The Barbara Deming Women’s Memorial Fund, the Open Society Institute, the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, The American Academy in Berlin, Blue Mountain Center, Cottages at Hedgebrook, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Logan Nonfiction Fellowship at the Carey Institute for Global Good.

2017 Manuscript Workshop: Eliza Griswold

In March 2017, Eliza Griswold workshopped her manuscript, now published as Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America (FSG, June 2018)with a small group of scholars. In this new book, Griswold focuses on the ethical questions related to the promise of  American energy independence. What does American energy independence mean to those Americans who live in the regions richest in these resources? Who will benefit and who will be left paying the social and environmental costs? The author presented a public lecture entitled Healing a Fractured Nation on March 1, 2017, at 7:00pm in Leventhal Hall, Humanities Center.

ELIZA GRISWOLD'S reportage and poetry have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic, among many others. Her first nonfiction book, The Tenth Parallel, a New York Times Bestseller, was awarded the Lukas Prize, and her most recent collection of poems, translated from Pashto, was awarded a PEN Prize in Translation. She's been awarded a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome for her poetry and a Guggenheim Fellowship for her nonfiction work. She's held fellowships at the New America Foundation and Harvard University, where she's currently a Beggruen Fellow. She has taught at Princeton University, Johns Hopkins, and Columbia University. She holds an honorary doctorate from the University of the South.

Griswold's book Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America, is available for purchase.

2016 Manuscript Workshop: Philip Gourevitch

Philip Gourevitch

2015-16 was the inaugural year for the Writers' Workshop. In May 2016, Philip Gourevitch workshopped his manuscript, You Hide That You Hate Me And I Hide That I Know, with a small group of scholars. Gourevitch, a staff writer at The New Yorker and author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda (1998), describes his current book as "a revisiting of Rwanda twenty years after the genocide to tell the confounding story of how such a nation puts itself back together." The author presented a public lecture entitled Shouldn't Massacring Your Neighbors Be Unforgivable? on February 23, 2016 at 7:00pm in Stanford Law School.

PHILIP GOUREVITCH is a long-time staff writer for The New Yorker, the former editor of The Paris Review, and the author of three books: The Ballad Of Abu Ghraib / Standard Operating Procedure (2008); A Cold Case (2001), and We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda (1998), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the George K. Polk Book Award, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award, and the Guardian First Book Award. The book was also included in The Guardian’s list of the hundred greatest non-fiction books from the past two thousand five hundred years. Gourevitch’s books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and his reportage, essays, criticism, and short fiction, have appeared in numerous publications at home and abroad. In 2010 he was named a Chevallier de l’Ordre des Arts et Des Lettres in France, and he was the Spring 2016 Stein Visiting Writer at Stanford.

Gourevitch's book You Hide That You Hate Me And I Hide That I Know, is available for purchase.