Faculty Biographies | Master of Fine Arts in Writing

The writers who serve as faculty for the MFA program are outstanding for both their level of national or regional literary achievements and for their teaching records and abilities. These accomplished authors share a sense of joy around their work, bringing their diverse writing styles and voices to the mix. During residencies and the guided study that follows, the MFA faculty advisor is hard at work on his or her own writing, and every exchange with a student is touched by mutual goals.

Chris Abani, Fiction/Nonfiction

Chris Abani is a novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter and playwright. Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, he grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria, received a BA in English from Imo State University, Nigeria, an MA in English, Gender and Culture from Birkbeck College, University of London and a PhD in Literature, and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. He has resided in the United States since 2001.

He is the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize and a Guggenheim Award.

His fiction includes The Secret History of Las Vegas, Song For Night, The Virgin of Flames, Becoming Abigail, GraceLand, and Masters of the Board. His poetry collections are Sanctificum, There Are No Names for Red, Feed Me The Sun - Collected Long PoemsHands Washing Water, Dog Woman, Daphne’s Lot, and Kalakuta Republic

Through his TED Talks, public speaking and essays Abani is known as an international voice on humanitarianism, art, ethics and our shared political responsibility. His critical and personal essays have been featured in books on art and photography, as well as Witness, Parkett, The New York Times, O Magazine, and Bomb.

His many research interests include African Poetics, World Literature, 20th Century Anglophone Literature, African Presences in Medieval, and Renaissance Culture, The Living Architecture of Cities, West African Music, Postcolonial and Transnational Theory, Robotics and Consciousness, Yoruba and Igbo Philosophy and Religion. Visit his website.

Sandra Alcosser, Poetry

Sandra Alcosser has published seven books of poetry, including A Fish to Feed All Hunger and Except by Nature, which have been selected for the National Poetry Series, the Academy of American Poets James Laughlin Award, the Larry Levis Award, the Associated Writing Programs Award in Poetry, and the William Stafford PNBA Award. She is the National Endowment for the Arts' first Conservation Poet for the Wildlife Conservation Society and Poets House, New York, as well as Montana's first poet laureate and recipient of the Merriam Award for Distinguished Contribution to Montana Literature. She founded and directs the MFA program at San Diego State University, and has been a writer-in-residence at National University of Ireland, University of Michigan, University of Montana, Glacier National Park, and Central Park, New York. She received two individual artist fellowships from the NEA, and her poems have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Poetry, and the Pushcart Prize Anthology.

Steve Amick, Fiction

Steve Amick has published two novels with Pantheon: Nothing But a Smile and The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, which was a BookSense Pick, a Washington Post Book of the Year, and was cited in the Encyclopedia Britannica’s Britannica Book of the Year as one of three “standout” debuts of 2005. Both received the Michigan Notable Book Award.

Venues for his shorter work include McSweeney’s, Zoetrope: All-Story, Playboy, Story, Southern Review, Cincinnati Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The New York Times, NPR's "The Sound of Writing," and numerous anthologies. He has been involved with the Ann Arbor Moth, both as a storyteller and occasional host. He has had plays produced in Chicago and —somewhat inexplicably— won a Clio for work in advertising. He received an MFA in fiction from George Mason University in 1991 and lives in Ann Arbor. Here's his website.

Ellen Bass, Poetry

Ellen Bass is a  Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Her books include Like a Beggar, which was a finalist for five awards including The Paterson Poetry Prize and the Northern California Book Award, The Human Line, and Mules of Love, which won the Lambda Literary Award.

1973 Ellen co-edited the first major anthology of women's poetry, No More Masks! and she is the co-author of the groundbreaking guidebook, The Courage to Heal.

Among her awards are an NEA Fellowship, a Fellowship from the California Arts Council, three Pushcart Prizes, Nimrod's Pablo Neruda Prize, Missouri Review's Larry Levis Prize, New Letters Poetry Prize, Greensboro Poetry Prize, and The Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award. Her work appears regularly in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, and many other journals. Visit her website.

Photo by Irene Young



Marvin Bell, Poetry

Marvin Bell has been called "an insider who thinks like an outsider," and his writing has been called "ambitious without pretension." Bell was for many years Flannery O'Connor Professor of Letters at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He served two terms as the state of Iowa's first Poet Laureate.

He has collaborated with composers, musicians, dancers, and other writers, and is the originator of the form known as the "Dead Man" poem. 

His 24 books include Vertigo: The Living Dead Man Poems, A Primer About the Flag (for children)After the Fact: Scripts & Postscripts (with Christopher Merril), and Whiteout (with Nathan Lyons)

His literary honors include awards from the Academy of American Poets, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Poetry Review, Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, and Senior Fulbright appointments to Yugoslavia and Australia. See a brief video interview with Marvin Bell in the "On the Fly" series.

Sanjiv Bhattacharya, Nonfiction

Sanjiv Bhattacharya is presently the U.S. Correspondent for Esquire (UK), and a general freelancer for various titles in both countries, such as the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Observer, Details, Marie Claire, and a handful of others.

He's been twice nominated for PPA Consumer Magazine Writer of the Year for his work in Esquire – in 2017, 2015 and 2013.

He grew up in London, studied at Cambridge and spent five years at GQ (UK). He then turned to freelance and moved to Los Angeles to spend the next nine years writing features about all kinds of things, especially celebrities, subcultures and fringe groups.

In 2005, he made a documentary about Mormon polygamy, which led to a book on the topic, Secrets & Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy, which came out in 2011. 

In 2008 he went to India for a couple of years to edit men’s lifestyle magazines, first GQ India in Bombay and then a few other titles at the India Today Group in Delhi.

Now, he is back in LA, working on more books and articles.

Judy Blunt, Nonfiction

Judy Blunt knocked out the literary world with her collection of nonfiction essays, Breaking Clean (Knopf, 2002). She was winner of the Whiting Writers' Award in 2001. Her book won the Pen/Jerard Award, Mountains and Plains Nonfiction Award, Willa Cather Literary Award, and was listed as one of The New York Times Notable Books.

More recently she was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2006. Judy's short pieces have appeared in Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, Big Sky Journal, and others. She is an associate professor in English at the University of Montana.

Eduardo Corral, Poetry

Eduardo C. Corral's poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 2012, New England Review, and Ploughshares. His work has been honored with a "Discovery"/The Nation Award, the J. Howard and Barbara M. J. Wood Prize from Poetry, and writing residencies to the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. He has served as the Olive B. O'Connor Fellow in Creative Writing at Colgate University and as the Philip Roth Resident in Creative Writing at Bucknell University. Slow Lightning, his first book of poems, was selected by Carl Phillips as the 2011 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. He's the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

Claire Davis, Fiction

Claire Davis’ first novel Winter Range was listed among the best books of 2000 by the Washington Post, Chicago Sun Times, Denver Post, Seattle Post, The Oregonian and The Christian Science Monitor, and was the first book to receive both the PNBA and MPBA awards for best fiction. Her second novel, Season of the Snake, and her short story collection, Labors of the Heart, were both released to wide critical acclaim. She is co-editor of the anthology Kiss Tomorrow Hello: Notes from the Midlife Underground by Twenty-five Women over Forty. Her stories and essays have appeared in numerous literary magazines such as The Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, Southern Review, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and Best American Short Stories. She lives in Lewiston, Idaho, where she teaches creative writing at Lewis-Clark State College. 

Kwame Dawes, Poetry

Kwame Dawes is the author of twenty-one books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism and essays. In 2016 his book, Speak from Here to There, a co-written collection of verse with Australian poet John Kinsella, appeared along with When the Rewards Can Be So Great: Essays on Writing and the Writing Life, which he edited. His most recent collection, City of Bones: A Testament, appeared in 2017. Also in 2017, Dawes co-edited with Matthew Shenoda, Bearden’s Odessey: Poets Responding to the Art of Romare Bearden. His awards include the Forward Poetry Prize, The Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, The Musgrave Silver Medal, several Pushcart Prizes, the Barnes and Nobles Writers for Writers Award, and an Emmy. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and is Chancellor Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. Dawes serves as the Associate Poetry Editor for Peepal Tree Books and is Director of the African Poetry Book Fund. He is Series Editor of the African Poetry Book Series and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival.

Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffith

Jack Driscoll, Fiction

Jack Driscoll is the author of four books of poems, two collections of short stories, and four novels. In addition, he is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including the NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, the NEH Independent Study Grant, two Pushcart Prizes and Best American Short Story citations, the PEN/Nelson Algren Fiction Award, the Associated Writing Programs Short Fiction Award, and seven PEN Syndicated Project Short Fiction Awards.

His stories have been read frequently over NPR’s The Sound of Writing, and his work has appeared nationally in magazines, literary journals and newspapers, such as Chicago Tribune, Kansas City Star, Civilization, Poetry, The Georgia Review, The Southern Review and Ploughshares.

His novel Lucky Man, Lucky Woman received the 1998 Pushcart Editors’ Book Award, the Barnes and Noble Discovery of Great New Writers Award, and the 1999 Independent Book Publishers Award for Fiction. Stardog, his third novel, appeared in 2000, and How Like an Angel, a University of Michigan Press Sweetwater release, appeared in May 2005. His newest short story collection, The World of a Few Minutes Ago, was published by Wayne State University Press in 2012.

Katherine Dunn, Fiction > October 24, 1945 - May 11, 2016

Katherine Dunn’s third novel, Geek Love, was a finalist for the National Book Award and for the Bram Stoker Prize. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines ranging from The Mississippi Mud to the Paris Review. Dunn was a freelance boxing journalist for more than three decades, writing about the sport for Mother Jones, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Vogue and Playboy, among many other publications. A collection of her boxing essays, One Ring Circus, was released in 2009. Her collaboration with photographer Jim Lommasson on the book Shadow Boxers won the Lange-Taylor Documentary Prize.

Dunn’s criticism and essays on cultural topics have been widely published. Death Scenes won the Firecracker Alternative Book Award. Dunn lived and worked in Portland, Oregon. For more on her life, see this article in The New York Times.

Photo by Robbie McClaran

Vievee Francis, Poetry

Vievee Francis is the 2017 recipient of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for her work Forest Primeval. She is also the author of Horse in the Dark, which won the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize for a second collection, and Blue-Tail Fly. Her work has appeared in numerous print and online journals, textbooks and anthologies including Poetry, Best American Poetry, Cura, Waxwing, and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She has also been a Poet in Residence for the Alice Lloyd Scholars Program at the University of Michigan. In 2009 she received a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award and in 2010, a Kresge Fellowship. She is currently an Associate Editor for Callaloo and an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Dartmouth College.

Pete Fromm, Fiction 

Pete Fromm is a record setting, five-time winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Literary Award for his novels If Not for This, As Cool As I Am and How All This Started; a story collection, Dry Rain; and the memoir, Indian Creek Chronicles. As Cool As I Am is also a feature film starring Claire Danes, James Marsden and Sarah Bolger, and Dry Rain is a short film starring James LeGros and Nathan Gamble. Pete is the author of four other short story collections and has published over two hundred stories in magazines. His most recent book, the memoir The Names of the Stars, winner of the Evans Handcart Award for excellence in biography and a Montana Book Award, was published in the fall of 2016. He speaks regularly at writer's conferences around the country and in Europe. He lives in Montana with his wife and two sons. 

Frank X. Gaspar, Fiction

Frank Gaspar

Frank X. Gaspar was born and raised in Provincetown, Massachusetts, of Azorean Descent (Pico, Sao Miguel). His ancestors were traditionally whalers and Grand Banks fisherman, sailing out of the Islands and then Provincetown. He is the author of five collections of poetry and two novels. Among his many awards are multiple inclusions in Best American Poetry, four Pushcart Prizes, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature, and a California Arts Council Fellowship in poetry. His debut novel, Leaving Pico, was a Barnes and Noble Discovery Prize winner, a recipient of the California Book Award for First Fiction, and a New York Times Notable Book. His second novel, Stealing Fatima, was a MassBook of the Year in Fiction (Massachusetts Foundation for the Book). 

Garth Greenwell, Fiction

Garth Greenwell

Garth Greenwell is the author of What Belongs to You, which won the British Book Award for Debut of the Year, was long-listed for the National Book Award, and was a finalist for six other awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, it was named a Best Book of 2016 by over fifty publications in nine countries, and is being translated into eleven languages. His short fiction has appeared in The Paris ReviewA Public Space, and VICE, and he has written criticism for the New Yorker, the London Review of Books, and the New York Times Book Review, among others. He lives in Iowa City. 

Debra Gwartney, Nonfiction

Debra Gwartney is the author of Live Through This, a memoir published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2009, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Books for a Better Life Award. Her book was also named one of the best books of 2009 by The Oregonian and Pacific Northwest Booksellers' Association.

Debra has published in many magazines and newspapers, as well as literary journals including Poets & Writers, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Prairie Schooner, Washington Square Review, Kenyon Review, Salon, Triquarterly Review, and others. She was co-editor, along with Barry Lopez, of Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, published in 2006 by Trinity University Press.

Laura Hendrie, Fiction

Laura Hendrie’s first book, Stygo, won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Award, the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Fiction Award, and was one of three finalists cited for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her novel, Remember Me, was a Book Sense selection, a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers selection, and a finalist for the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award.

Her fiction has been aired on National Public Radio and published in many anthologies including Missouri Review, Colorado Review, Best of the West, Writers Forum, and Going Green; her nonfiction has appeared in magazines such as Outside, Boston Review, LIFE, and Chicago Tribune. She teaches at writing conferences around the country, lives in Salida, and is in the process of selling her forthcoming novel The Year We Won a Firebird. Visit her website.

Cate Kennedy, Fiction

Cate Kennedy is an Australian writer who has published two short story collections, a novel, three poetry collections and a memoir. Her stories have appeared in many publications including the New Yorker, the Harvard Literary Review, World Literature Today and Prospect magazine, as well as numerous Australian literary journals and periodicals including Best Australian Stories in 2006, 2007 and 2009. Her debut collection Dark Roots was given a starred review upon its US publication in Publishers’ Weekly and the Kirkus Review, and was chosen as a Barnes and Noble Great New Writers selection for 2008 and as Oprah magazine’s ‘new voice of the month’ in July of that year.

She is the recipient of the Queensland Literary Award for her most recent collection Like a House on Fire and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for her 2011 poetry collection The Taste of River Water.  

Her novel The World Beneath was awarded the People’s Choice prize in the NSW Literary awards in 2010, and has been translated into French and Mandarin. Her short story "Cold Snap" (which appeared in the New Yorker as "Black Ice") was made into a short film in New Zealand in 2012, selected for the Venice Film Festival 2013 and won the Jury Prize at Hong Kong Film Festival in April 2014. As well as writing, she works as a teacher, editor and occasional mentor.

Scott Korb, Nonfiction

Scott Korb graduated from University of Wisconsin in 1997 and relocated to New York not long after. There he earned a degree in Theology from Union Seminary and another in Literature from Columbia University. His books include The Faith Between Us, a collection of personal essays presented as a conversation with Jewish writer Peter Bebergal; Life in Year One, a popular history of first-century Palestine; and Light Without Fire, an intimate portrait of the first year at America’s first Muslim liberal arts college. He is associate editor of The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers, which was awarded the American Historical Association’s 2009 J. Franklin Jameson Prize, and co-editor of Gesturing Toward Reality: David Foster Wallace and Philosophy. Scott is the director of First-Year Writing at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts.

Photo by Hong-An Tran

Valerie Laken, Fiction

Valerie Laken's short story collection, Separate Kingdoms, was longlisted for the Story Prize and the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. Her novel, Dream House, received the Anne Powers prize for fiction and was listed among Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2009. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Ploughshares, the Chicago Tribune and Alaska Quarterly Review, and has received a Pushcart Prize and a Missouri Review Editors' Prize. She holds an MA in Slavic literature and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, and she teaches in the graduate program for creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Dorianne Laux, Poetry

Dorianne Laux's newest poetry collection, The Book of Men, was published by W.W. Norton in 2011. Her book Dark Charms was published by Red Dragonfly Press in 2010 and Superman: The Chapbook, also by Red Dragonfly Press, was published in January 2008. Her previous and fourth book of poems, Facts about the Moon, published by W.W. Norton in 2005, was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Award and winner of the Oregon Book Award.

She is also author of three collections of poetry from BOA Editions: Awake (1990), introduced by Philip Levine; What We Carry (1994), finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Smoke (2000). She is co-author, with Kim Addonizio, of The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry (W.W. Norton, 1997). Her work has appeared in The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and has been twice included in Best American Poetry. She has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, two fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

She now lives, with her husband, poet Joseph Millar, in Raleigh, N.C., where she serves among the faculty at North Carolina State University.

David Long, Fiction

David Long was born in Boston, and spent many years in Northwest Montana, before relocating to Tacoma, Washington. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, GQ, Granta, Story, and many anthologies, including the O. Henry and Pushcart Prize volumes.  His third collection of stories, Blue Spruce (1997), was given the Lowenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In the 1970s, he was a student of Richard Hugo and William Kittredge at the University of Montana.

His novels include The Falling Boy (1997), The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux (2000), and The Inhabited World (2006). He is at work on a book of essays on sentence craft, "Dangerous Sentences," and a book of short fiction, "Bonfire." His loves: coffee, reading, blues harmonica, English football, the Pacific Northwest, his family.

Mike Magnuson, Nonfiction/Fiction

Mike Magnuson is the author of two novels, The Right Man for the Job and The Fire Gospels, and three books of nonfiction, Lummox: The Evolution of a Man, Heft on Wheels: A Field Guide to Doing a 180, and Bike Tribes. His short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Esquire, Gentleman’s Quarterly, Men’s Health, Backpacker, and other publications, and he is a longtime contributing writer with Bicycling magazine.

His piece, “Whatever Happened to Greg LeMond,” originally published in Bicycling, has been reprinted in Best American Sports Writing 2010. He lives in Oshkosh, Wisc., where he is finishing a long novel about working people in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley region. He is also working on a documentary film about the intense political divisions in Wisconsin. In his spare time, Mike is an avid cyclocross racer and an indoor cycling instructor at the downtown Oshkosh YMCA.


John McNally, Fiction

John McNally is author of three novels, The Book of Ralph, America’s Report Card and After the Workshop, two story collections, Troublemakers and Ghosts of Chicago, and two nonfiction books, Vivid and Continuous: Essays and Exercises for Writing Fiction and The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide: Advice from an Unrepentant Novelist. He has edited seven anthologies.

His work has appeared in more than 100 publications, including The Washington Post, the Sun, Virginia Quarterly Review, and several anthologies, including Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury (William Morrow), New Sudden Fiction: Short-Short Stories from America and Beyond (Norton), and Don't You Forget About Me: Contemporary Writers on the Films of John Hughes (Simon & Schuster).

He has been the recipient of fellowships from Paramount Pictures (Chesterfield Writer’s Film Project), the University of Iowa (James Michener Award), George Washington University (Jenny McKean Moore Fellowship), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Djerassi Fellowship). As a screenwriter, he has a script in development at Anonymous Content with the producer of Winter’s Bone.

He holds degrees from Southern Illinois University (BA), the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (MFA), and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (PhD). A native of Chicago’s southwest side, John lives in Louisiana, where he is Writer-in-Residence at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.


Joseph Millar, Poetry

Joseph Millar’s three collections are Overtime, a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, Fortune, and Blue Rust (all available from Carnegie-Mellon). Millar grew up in Pennsylvania, attended the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars and spent 30 years in the San Francisco Bay area working at a variety of jobs, from telephone repairman to commercial fisherman. His poems record the narrative of a life fully lived among fathers, sons, brothers, daughters, weddings and divorces, men and women.

His work has won fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, a Pushcart Prize, and has appeared in such magazines as DoubleTake, New Letters, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, The Southern Review, American Poetry Review, and Ploughshares.


Laurie Parker, Screenwriting 

Laurie Parker is a screenwriter, film producer, and teacher. She has written screenplays for directors Jane Campion (Lucky, adapted from the novel by Alice Sebold), Alison Maclean (an original script entitled ‘+1’), and Christine Jeffs (Horse Heaven, adapted from the novel by Jane Smiley). In 2014-15, she co-wrote Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s Prison of Trees. She is currently developing TV series based on stories from the Jamaican literary anthology Kingston Noir, and The Stags, a series about the Pacific Northwest music scene.

Laurie has produced films and soundtracks for Jane Campion (In the Cut, 2003), Rodrigo Rey Rosa (Prison of Trees, 2015, and What Sebastían Dreamt, 2004) Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, 199, and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1994), Niki Caro (The Vintner’s Luck, 2009), Michael Tolkin (The Rapture, 1992) and John Curran (We Don’t Live Here Anymore, 2004). She was the production executive on Gus Van Sant’s film Drugstore Cowboy in 1988. As president of Tim Burton Productions at Warner Bros, she oversaw the animation production of Mars Attacks! 1996, and developed the screenplays for The Corpse Bride, 2005, and Sleepy Hollow, 1999.

Laurie has taught screenwriting and creative film development at UCLA, Hunter College, Brooklyn College, the IFP, the Screen NSW Aurora development course, the NZ film commission's Screenwriters Program, and the Calabash Literary Festival Foundation. 

Mary Helen Stefaniak, Fiction/Nonfiction

Mary Helen Stefaniak’s second novel, The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia (W. W. Norton, 2010) received a 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction. Anisfield-Wolf Awards recognize books that make important contributions to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures.

The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia was also selected by independent booksellers as an Indie-Next “Great Read.” Her first novel, The Turk and My Mother (W. W. Norton), received the 2005 John Gardner Fiction Award and has been translated into several languages. It was named a Favorite Book of 2004 by The Chicago Tribune.

Her first book, Self Storage and Other Stories (New Rivers Press), received the Wisconsin Library Association’s 1998 Banta Award, and a novella was shortlisted for the O. Henry Prize. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in many publications, including Antioch Review, AGNI, Epoch, The Iowa Review, New Stories from the South (Algonquin), and A Different Plain (University of Nebraska). An occasional Iowa Public Radio commentator, Mary Helen divides her time between Iowa City, where she and her husband John live in a 150-year-old stagecoach inn they restored, and Omaha, where she teaches at Creighton University. She currently serves as contributing editor for the international journal Cerise Press.

Willy Vlautin, Fiction

Vlautin has published four novels: The Motel Life (2007--New York Times Editor’s choice and notable book, made into a major motion picture starring Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsh, Stephen Dorff, and Kris Kristofferson); Northline (2008); Lean on Pete (2010--Winner of the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction, short-listed for the IMPAC award, and soon to be a major motion picture starring Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny); and The Free (2014--Winner of the Oregon People’s Choice Award). His fifth novel, Don't Skip Out On Me, will be published in 2018. His work has been translated in eight languages.

Vlautin founded the bands Richmond Fontaine in 1994 and The Delines in 2014, featuring vocalist Amy Boone (The Damnations). Vlautin currently resides in Scappoose, Oregon. See more on his website.

Kellie Wells, Fiction

Kellie Wells is the author of a collection of short fiction, Compression Scars, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Prize, and the novel Skin, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in the Flyover Fiction Series, and edited by Ron Hansen. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and the Great Lakes Colleges Association's New Writers Award for Fiction. Her story, “Rabbit Catcher of Kingdom Come,” was selected by Kevin Brockmeier for inclusion in the most recent Best American Fantasy anthology. Her latest novel, Fat Girl, Terrestrial, was published by FC2 in 2012. She teaches in the graduate writing program at the University of Alabama.


Visiting Faculty

Bonnie Jo Campbell, Fiction

Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of the acclaimed novel Once Upon a River. She was a 2009 National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for her collection of stories, American Salvage, which won the Foreword Book of the Year award for short fiction.

Campbell is also author of the novel Q Road and the story collection Women & Other Animals. She’s received the AWP Award for Short Fiction, a Pushcart Prize, and the Eudora Welty Prize. Her poetry collection, Love Letters to Sons of Bitches, won the 2009 CBA Letterpress Chapbook award.

“American fiction waited a long time for Bonnie Jo Campbell to come along,” writes Jaimy Gordon, winner of the 2010 National Book Award. “A lot of us, not only women, were looking for a fictional heroine who would be deeply good, brave as a wolverine, never a cry baby, as able as Sacagawea, and with a strong and unapologetic sexuality.”

Campbell holds a second degree black belt in Koburyu kobudo, an Okinawan weapons art, and in her spare time tries to train her donkeys, Jack and Don Quixote. Visit her website and her writer’s life blog, The Bone-Eye.

Tyehimba Jess, Poetry

Detroit native Tyehimba Jess is the recipient of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his book Olio. His first book of poetry, leadbelly, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. The Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review both named it one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2005.” Jess, a Cave Canem and NYU Alumni, received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was a 2004-2005 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. Jess is also a veteran of the 2000 and 2001 Green Mill Poetry Slam Team, and won a 2000 – 2001 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Poetry, the 2001 Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award, and a 2006 Whiting Fellowship. He exhibited his poetry at the 2011 TedX Nashville Conference. Jess is Associate Professor of English at College of Staten Island.  

Jess' fiction and poetry have appeared in anthologies such as Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American PoetryBeyond The Frontier: African American Poetry for the Twenty-First Century, Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art, Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Power Lines: Ten Years of Poetry from Chicago's Guild Complex, Slam: The Art of Performance Poetry. His poetry has appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, Brilliant Corners, Ploughshares, Obsidian III: Literature in the African Diaspora, Warpland: A Journal of Black Literature and Ideas, Mosaic, American Poetry Review, Indiana Review, Nashville Review and 580 Split.

Steve Kuusisto, Nonfiction

Steve Kuusisto is director of the Renee Crown Honors Program at Syracuse University, where he is also a University Professor in Disability Studies. He has taught creative writing at The Ohio State University and The University of Iowa. His memoir, Planet of the Blind, was named a New York Times Notable Book and he is the author of Eavesdropping: A Memoir and Do Not Interrupt, a book-length essay on the art of conversation. He is also a poet with Copper Canyon Press.

Craig Lesley, Fiction/Nonfiction

Craig Lesley is the author of four novels, numerous short stories and, most recently, a memoir. His work has received The Western Writers of America Best Novel of the Year, three Pacific Northwest Booksellers' Association Awards, an Oregon Book Award, and the Medicine Pipe Bearer's Award. He has been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Bread Loaf Fellowship in the Novel, as well as two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships to study Native American literature. Both Storm Riders and The Sky Fisherman were submitted for the Pulitzer Prize.

Craig’s memoir, Burning Fence, received outstanding praise, including these words from Kent Haruf, author of Plainsong: "Craig Lesley has been justly celebrated for his novels. Now this vivid, unflinching story of his own life, as a son and as a father, can only serve to increase his already considerable stature as a writer and, not incidentally, as a human being."

MFA Faculty Anthology

When the Rewards Can Be So Great is a compilation of selected crafts talks delivered by faculty at the Pacific University MFA program. An exciting introduction to some of the most alert and engaged minds in literary writing in the US across many genres, this collection allows readers to see how the authors think about writing and about teaching writing. The essays are at times deeply personal, providing insight into the development of the writers in their craft; others are sharply practical and filled with long-tested approaches for writing with power and effectiveness. All are characterized by care, generosity, and good humor-and reflect a wonderfully welcoming eclecticism of styles, interests, traditions, and diversity of voices.

Purchasing Information
$18.95 (USD) - available from Powells and Amazon