And then there were nine. From 2,000 submissions, HBO selected nine writers from diverse backgrounds to participate in the HBOAccess Writers Fellowship, an 8-month-long writing program that includes master classes, invaluable access to HBO executives and showrunners, and more.  

“It all starts with the words on the page so I am particularly proud that HBO can play a role in cultivating these talented writers,” said Michael Lombardo, president of HBO Programming, in the announcement.  “We created HBOAccess Writers Fellowship in hopes of discovering unique voices and create for them a rare learning experience where they can further hone their craft and hopefully jumpstart a career.”

The winners are:

Anslem Richardson: Anslem is an actor, writer, artist and filmmaker. Last year, he made The Tracking Board’s 2014 Young & Hungry List of The Top 100 Writers On The Verge. He is a Screenwriting Fellow at Film Independent with his screenplay Bardos, which earned him the Tribeca All Access Creative Promise Award in Screenwriting. He is currently a staff writer on the new TNT Network series Agent X.

Jude Weng: Jude is a writer/producer/format designer who specialized in social experiments such as Survivor on CBS and Black White on FX, both Emmy Award winners.  She is a freelance creative development executive for high level talent and is a recent Fellow of the ABC-Disney|DGA Directing Program.

Sarah McChesney: Sarah is a writer and improv actor living in Los Angeles. Sarah is an alumni of The Groundlings and The Upright Citizens Brigade and is a puppeteer/improviser with The Jim Henson Company's "Puppet Up!" 

Yolanda Carney: Yolanda is a Chicago-based writer and comedian. Her most recent play, Thinking Sacks of Meat, won the First Laugh Festival (Piccolo Theater, 2015). Her previous plays include Eggplants and This Play Will Self Destruct, all of which were produced through DIY-theater collectives in Chicago. Yolanda is also an active performer in the Chicago improv community and has trained at Improv Olympic and Second City. She completed a B.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dedi Felman: Dedi worked in publishing as an executive editor at Oxford University Press, and as a senior editor at Simon and Schuster where she developed award-winning and bestselling book projects across a range of genres. Finally deciding to live her dream of writing for the screen, Dedi packed up her life, switched coasts, and attended UCLA's Professional Program in Screenwriting. Now living in Los Angeles, she's taught TV writing for Script Anatomy and volunteers for the Young Storytellers Foundation.

Joshua Levy and Prathi Srinivasan (writing partners): Joshua is a twenty-something who writes about his unique family, friends, and experiences. He credits his Chinese grandmother, a survivor of WWII, and his father, a street-kid from the projects in Brooklyn, for giving him his obsession with storytelling. Josh attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for Film and TV Production, worked abroad in London at the BBC, and then followed his dreams to a sunny Los Angeles where he currently resides. Prathiksha is an immigrant who grew up in the bustling city of Chennai, India. Her love of writing stems from the Hindu myths her grandmother told her throughout her childhood. Moving to America was a culture shock that resulted in her passion for characters who are stuck between where they come from and where they are going. Prathiksha has a B.A. in Literature from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Iturri Sosa: Iturri came to writing after a career in psychological research and anthropological fieldwork, graduating with a degree in cultural psychology from The University of Chicago. While in graduate school, she trained at Cook County/Stroger Hospital. After graduation, she conducted research in southern Mexico, focusing on improving access to mental health care for rural Yucatec Maya speakers.

Wesley Taylor: Wesley was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He is a graduate of Omaha Benson High School and attained a B.A. in psychology from St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Last year’s inaugural HBOAccess Directors Fellowship was a tremendous success. Four diverse, emerging directors were selected to go through a series of lectures and classes with HBO executives, mentors, and industry professionals. The program concluded with the production of four short films, which can currently be seen on HBO NOW and HBO GO.