Author Accelerator, a book-coaching company founded by Jennie Nash, has announced the three winners of its Diverse Voices Scholarship: Minahil Khan, LaShon Ison-Hill, and Andres Reconco. The scholarship, which begins in January 2019, is valued at $5,200 and provides one year of coaching, editorial consultation, and career mentorship, including guidance on pitching to literary agents. In December 2019, the winners’ manuscripts will receive consideration from a pool of “first-look agents” currently being developed.

This is the first year Author Accelerator has offered the Diverse Voices Scholarship. It is open to writers of color in any genre, who are not currently represented by a literary agent, who have not yet published a book with a print run of more than 1,000, and who seek to establish a career as an author.

The scholarship advisory board selected the three winners from a pool of twelve finalists. Almost 250 applications were received. In addition to evaluating biographical information and sample pages, the board considered the book’s marketplace viability and potential to be completed in one year, as well as the writer’s commitment level, goals, craft knowledge, industry knowledge, and attitude toward receiving feedback.

The three scholarship winners and their projects are:

  1. Minahil Khan, Cambridge, MA – The Divided (Literary Fiction). Interconnected short stories about the women from four generations of a South Asian family, beginning in pre-Partition India and ending amid the current political climate surrounding Muslim immigrants.

  2. LaShon Ison-Hill, Atlanta, GA – Through Time (Romance). A man who believes in destiny finds the soulmate he’s spent lifetimes searching for in a woman who trusts only deadlines and logic.

  3. Andres Reconco, Los Angeles, CA – Crisálida (Literary Fiction). A man from El Salvador tries to make sense of a childhood shadowed by poverty, prostitution, and the threat of war as he attempts to understand his failing marriage in modern-day Los Angeles.

 The finalists were:

  1. LaShon Ison-Hill – Romance. A man who believes in destiny finds the soulmate he’s spent lifetimes searching for in a woman who trusts only deadlines and logic.

  2. Rogelio Juarez – Literary Fiction. Three Mexican American gamers try to solve a mystery they’re not sure exists inside the virtual world or outside in their very real past.

  3. Minahil Khan – Literary Fiction. Interconnected short stories about the women from four generations of a South Asian family, beginning in pre-Partition India and ending amid the current political climate surrounding Muslim immigrants.

  4. Rashida Leggett – Historical Fantasy. Disgusted by the growing intensity of senseless lynchings and plagued by a guilty conscience, a woman risks her life to infiltrate parts of society that few others in her community would be able to enter and works undercover to collect evidence needed to secure justice.

  5. Tanea Lunsford – Literary Fiction. A young woman struggles to come to terms with her brother’s tragic, untimely death against a backdrop of rapid gentrification that threatens to erase the colorful, fragmented memories of her childhood.

  6. Jesus Mena – Historical Fiction. Set in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, this story captures the social turmoil unleashed by the arrival of the first railroad in 1904, and the concurrent construction of irrigation systems that transformed this isolated semiarid chaparral into a booming agricultural economy.

  7. Cleyvis Natera – Contemporary Fiction. To save what each holds most dear in a New York City neighborhood on the cusp of gentrification, a mother pivots toward violence while a daughter pivots toward love.

  8. Namrata Poddar – Literary Fiction. A collection of connected stories that recount the lives of women of color – in South Asia, the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean islands – as they navigate the various conflicts between what they want and what is wanted of them in their journey to selfhood.

  9. Andres Reconco – Literary Fiction. A man from El Salvador tries to make sense of a childhood shadowed by poverty, prostitution, and the threat of war as he attempts to understand his failing marriage in modern-day Los Angeles.

  10. Joanne Sills – A Novel in Stories. A tale about the lives of contemporary African Americans with ancestral ties to a Georgia freeman’s town. The stories “travel up” the bloodline, culminating with descendants living in New York City.

  11. Natasha Vizcarra – Middle-Grade Novel. A story about a girl who is homesick for her town in the Philippines that was buried in a scalding river of volcanic ash. Although she tries to keep to herself in her new school, when an old neighbor needs help, she is forced to face her present situation and ask for help from her new friends.

  12. Martin Wiley – Science Fiction. In a crumbling city, a corrupt and brutal corporation seeks to consolidate power. The last thing in their way is a reformed killer searching for a lost girl.

 A team of Author Accelerator coaches, chaired by coach Kathleen Furin, developed the Diverse Voices Scholarship as a way to amplify diverse voices and perspectives that are under-recognized in the publishing world. Author Accelerator founder and CEO Jennie Nash says, “We are thrilled with the outcome of our first-ever scholarship, and can’t wait to see what unfolds for the winning writers as they spend a year working with one of our book coaches. There is nothing quite so powerful as having the personal attention of a professionally trained editor while you write. The accountability, feedback, and support tends to be transformative.”

To read more about the scholarship review process, please see Kathleen’s blog posts HERE. 

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 For questions about the scholarship, or to inquire about the scholarship’s “first look” program for agents, contact Kathleen Furin at

 For questions about Author Accelerator, contact Diana Renn at


Next steps for finalists

  1. Finalist applications will be evaluated by our advisory board through November and December 2018

  2. The 3 winners will be announced by Dec. 14, 2018

  3. Writers will be paired with their book coach during January 2019

  4. Coaching will start February 2019

Next year

We intend to offer the scholarship again in 2019-2020. Sign up for our newsletter to make sure you receive announcements.

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We want you to finish your bookand finish strong.

Instead of struggling in solitude, grabbing at quick-fix offers, or hoping for a miracle, you can have a clear path to success. It's called Manuscript Accelerator and it looks like this:

Whether you just have an idea for a book or are deep into a draft, we'll hand-pick one of our book coaches to guide your project from wherever you are to "the end."

We'll make a customized plan to help you finish or revise your draft, and then we'll guide you in all the elements you need to pitch or publish. You’ll submit your work on deadline, and in return receive detailed feedback on the page as well as phone and email support from your coach. It will involve deadlines where you submit your work; on the page feedback; phone calls; and email support.

It's part project management, part editorial guidance, part magic voodoo that comes from pairing our own highly trained book-loving coaches with writers who are ready to stop messing around. No more talking about writing a book. It’s time to do it.

It's a method, not a miracle

Manuscript Accelerator gives you the three essential elements you need for creative success:

1. Accountability so you can't make excuses

  • You’ll be reaching for your laptop instead of the remote control when you have a book coach waiting for your work.

2. Focus so you don't get off track

  • Professional, detailed feedback as you go means you won’t waste hours, days, or years of your life on a story that doesn’t work.

3. Support where it counts the most

  • No more despairing about whether your work is any good. Your book coach is there to support you, so you can spend less time doubting yourself and more time writing forward.

How it works:

  • You commit to finishing a rough draft or a revision of your manuscript over the course of a year.

  • You work with your book coach on a project plan that takes into account your work and family obligations, your vacation plans, and your writing style.

  • You agree on a deadline schedule—usually every other week.

  • You can email your coach between deadlines for quick questions, fast brainstorms, and support in moments of doubt.

  • You can schedule phone or video-conference calls with your coach to go over things face to face—OR use that time to get feedback on more pages.

  • You get free membership in our Membership Group where you can join Ask Me Anything sessions with Jennie Nash, participate in live working sessions led by our coaches and special guests, and connect with other writers who could be perfect beta-readers for your work.

  • In addition, scholarship winners will get periodic check-in calls with their advisory board mentor over the course of their program.

What our coaching clients say:

I was so shy about this strange story I wanted to tell, but [my coach] just got the story and me immediately and has an uncanny ability to pinpoint exactly what is missing or needs to be tweaked. So many times, I get stuck in a rut and my mind is just spinning without knowing how to move forward, and each time she comes to the rescue and tells me exactly what I need to do. And always in such a patient, positive and supportive way.
— Aditi Banerjee
I worked with [my book coach] on some major revisions for my completed adult novel. She was exceptionally flexible, positive, constructive, and helpful. Not only is my manuscript much better. . . I’ve improved as a writer. In the meantime, I sent a query and then my manuscript for a middle-grade novel I wrote and landed a dream agent. Kristy Hunter from The Knight Agency. Lots to celebrate!
— Lynn Katz
[My coach] helped me complete a first draft four months into the six-month program. I’m learning so much from her! She has helped me dig deeper and improve my pacing, all while offering great suggestions and insights. I love her genuine enthusiasm for my story! She’s honest when I’m not hitting the mark, but communicates it so well with thorough comments that I can’t help but improve my writing.
— Veronica Guiterrez

Meet our advisory board

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An author, editor, and educator, Susan DeFreitas’s creative work has appeared in (or is forthcoming from) The Writer’s Chronicle, The Utne Reader, Story Magazine, Weber—The Contemporary West, and Daily Science Fiction, along with many other journals and anthologies. She is the author of the novel Hot Season, which won a Gold IPPY Award, and a contributor at LitReactor; in 2017, The Oregonian named her one of “25 Oregon Authors Every Oregonian Must Read.” A first-generation American of Caribbean descent, she’s committed to helping writers from diverse backgrounds find their place in publishing. She’s on Twitter at @manzanitafire.


Aditi Banerjee is the author of a forthcoming novel to be published by Bloomsbury India. She is a practicing attorney at a Fortune 500 financial services company. She co-edited the book, Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America. She has published several essays on Hinduism and the Hindu-American experience in publications such as Outlook India and Swarajya, including “Hindu-Americans: An Emerging Identity in an Increasingly Hyphenated World”, which was included in the Columbia documentary History of Religion in America Since 1945, and “Hindu Pride,” which was included in Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs in America: A Short History (Religion in American Life) (Oxford University Press). She is on the board of directors of the World Association for Vedic Studies (WAVES) and frequently speaks at conferences about issues related to Hinduism and Indic civilization. She earned a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School and received a B.A. in International Relations, magna cum laude, from Tufts University.

“I have personally benefited from strong mentoring relationships in my professional career, and one of the most fulfilling aspects of my work currently is being a mentor to others. I want to pay forward the investment that others have made in me that have made me a stronger individual today. Also, as a strong proponent of diversity and inclusion, both in the workplace and also in the arts, as an #ownvoices writer exploring my civilizational heritage and culture through storytelling, I believe it is critically important to promote diverse voices in fiction and literature.”

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Since Nancy Johnson found her voice, she hasn’t stopped using it to tell important stories about race, class, and identity. She's an Emmy-nominated, award-winning former television journalist who is writing her debut novel. Her writing has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine and she’s a regular contributor to Writer Unboxed. Nancy was selected to attend the 2018 Tin House Summer Novel Workshop and she’s also a 2018 Kimbilio fellow. She’s excited about helping bring new, diverse voices to literature through the Author Accelerator Diverse Voices scholarship. Please follow Nancy on Twitter at @NancyJAuthor.  

Piper G Huguley, named 2015 Debut Author of the Year by Romance Slam Jam and Breakout Author of the Year by AAMBC, is a two-time Golden Heart® finalist and is the author of "Migrations of the Heart," a three-book series of historical romances set in the early 20th century and featuring African American characters. Book #1 in the series, A Virtuous Ruby, won Best Historical of 2015 in the Swirl Awards. Book #3 in the series, A Treasure of Gold, was named by Romance Novels In Color as a Best Book of 2015, received 4 ½ stars from RT Magazine, and won an Emma Award for best historical romance in 2017.

Huguley is also the author of the "Home to Milford College" series. The series follows the building of a college from its founding in 1866. Book #1 in the series, The Preacher’s Promise, was named a top-10 historical romance in Publisher’s Weekly by the esteemed historical romance author Beverly Jenkins, and received honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest Contest of Self-Published e-Books in 2015.

Her new series, “Born to Win Men,” starts with A Champion’s Heart, which was named by Sarah MacLean of the Washington Post as a best romance novel selection for December 2016.

She blogs about the history behind her novels at and tweets at @piperhuguley. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and son.



The Author Accelerator Scholarship Team

Kathleen Furin, book coach

Jennifer Hawkins, book coach

Lizette Clarke, book coach

Laura Franzini, Author Accelerator managing editor

Jennie Nash, Author Accelerator founder and chief creative officer


About Author Accelerator

We operate in the gap cracked open by savvy indie authors who curate their own team of publishing pros and left open by traditional publishers who no longer offer sustained editorial guidance. Through our human-centered matching process, writers are paired with coaches who understand their genre needs, have an affinity for their topic, and have been trained in the project management skills needed to guide a complex creative project to the end.

We are currently serving hundreds of writers, a surprising number of whom are accomplished professionals who have MFAs or publishing deals, or who themselves work in the writing world, which is testimony to the efficacy and consistency of our coaching. Writers coming through our program have recently been selected as Pitch Wars mentees, Women’s Fiction Writers’ Association Rising Star finalists, and National Independent Writing Award winners. Several of our writers recently landed New York agents. We are proud of these successes, but the true power of our program does not lie in accolades. It lies in the soul-level satisfaction of the writers we serve.


Author Accelerator is dedicated to the art of book coaching. Our 30 coaches have all been hand-picked and trained by founder and Chief Creative Officer Jennie Nash, who developed a rigorous training program that includes shadowing, oversight, and ongoing discussion about how best to teach, inspire, and manage the creative process. It is through this training process that we are able to scale our services to reach a wide array of writers.

Jennie Nash is a book coach whose own coaching clients regularly land top New York agents and book deals with houses such as Scribner, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Random House. Jennie is herself the author of four novels, three memoirs, and an inspirational book for writers. She has spoken at the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Workshop and the San Francisco Writing Conference, and has written for popular writing blogs including The Write Life and Writer Unboxed. She is a columnist at Writers Helping Writers and an instructor at Creative Live. She taught for 12 years at the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program. 


Still have questions? Email us at