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 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 VegasSong For Night, The Virgin of FlamesBecoming AbigailGraceLand, and Masters of the Board. His poetry collections are SanctificumThere Are No Names for RedFeed Me The Sun - Collected Long PoemsHands Washing WaterDog WomanDaphne’s Lot, and Kalakuta Republic. His nonfiction book, The Face: A Memoir, was published in 2014.

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 WitnessParkettThe New York TimesO 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 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 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, The Southern Review, The 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. Visit his website.

Photo of Ellen Bass

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, The 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 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 Merrill), 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 an extensive interview with Marvin Bell about writing and teaching here.


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 GuardianThe ObserverDetails, 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 knocked out the literary world with her collection of nonfiction essays, Breaking Clean. 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.


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.


Eduardo C. Corral's poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 2012, New England Review, Ploughshares, and The New York Times. 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. In 2016 he won the Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University. 


Claire Davis’ first novel, Winter Range, was listed among the best books of 2000 by The Washington Post, Chicago Sun TimesThe 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. Her stories and essays have appeared in numerous literary magazines such as The Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and Best American Short Stories. In addition, she teaches creative writing at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho. 


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. In 2018, he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. 

Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffith

Claire Dederer

Claire Dederer is the author of two critically acclaimed memoirs: Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning and Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, which was a New York Times bestseller. Dederer is at work on Monsters, a nonfiction book investigating good art made by bad people, forthcoming from Knopf. Her essays, criticism and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, The Nation, Vogue, Slate, Salon, New York, Elle, and many other publications. Visit her website


Jack Driscoll is the author of four books of poems, three collections of short stories, and four novels. In addition, he is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including two NEA Creative Writing Fellowships, 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 work has appeared 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. His newest short story collection, The Goat Fish And The Lover's Knot, was published in 2017.


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. In 2018, Pacific University created the Katherine Dunn Scholarship fund for exceptional female student writers who have demonstrated financial need. Please see the MFA Give page for more information.

Photo by Robbie McClaran


Vievee Francis is the author of Blue-Tail FlyHorse in the Dark, and Forest Primeval, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous print and online journals, textbooks, and anthologies including Poetry, The Best American Poetry, Cura, Waxwing, and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American. In 2009 she received a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award and in 2010, a Kresge Fellowship. She is an associate professor at Dartmouth College and an associate editor for Callaloo.


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 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). 


Molly Gloss is a novelist and short story writer whose work has received, among other honors, a PEN West Fiction Prize, an Oregon Book Award, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Awards, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, a Theodore Sturgeon Award, and a Whiting Writers Award. Her work most often concerns the landscape, literature, mythology, and life of the American West. She writes both realistic fiction and science fiction. 


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’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 The 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 and is in the process of selling her forthcoming novel, The Year We Won a Firebird. 


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, and Slam: The Art of Performance Poetry. His poetry has appeared in journals such as The American Poetry Review, Brilliant Corners, PloughsharesObsidian III: Literature in the African Diaspora, Warpland: A Journal of Black Literature and Ideas, Mosaic, Indiana Review, Nashville Review, and 580 Split.


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 U.S. publication in Publishers Weekly and the Kirkus Reviews, 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.


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


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.


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, 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's newest poetry collection, Only As The Day Is Long: New and Selected, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton in 2019. She is also the author of The Book of Men (winner of the Paterson Prize)Facts about the Moon (winner of the Oregon Book Award), as well as two collections of poetry from BOA Editions: AwakeWhat We Carry (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Smoke. She is co-author of The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry. Her work has been translated into many languages and has appeared in The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and in The Best American Poetry four times. She has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, two fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She also serves among the faculty at North Carolina State University.


David Long's short stories appear in The New Yorker, GQ, Story, and many anthologies including The O. Henry Prize Stories. His third collection of stories, Blue Spruce, 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, The Daughters of Simon Lamoreaux, and The Inhabited World. He is currently finishing a book on sentence craft called Dangerous Sentences. His loves: coffee, reading, the Seattle International Film Festival, blues harmonica, English football, and his family.


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, Bicycling, Salon, Popular Mechanics, The Massachusetts Review, The Big Smoke, Best American Sports Writing, and other publications. Recently, he has completed a biography of legendary orchestral conductor Harry Rabinowitz, and he is working on a novel about an underground newspaper in Ghent, Belgium, at the time of the 1944 Tour of Flanders bicycle race. Mike lives on the north shore of Lake Winnebago, in Menasha, Wisconsin. Visit his website

Shara McCallum

From Jamaica, Shara McCallum is the author of five books of poetry, published in the U.S. and UK. Her most recent collection, Madwoman, won the 2018 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature Poetry Prize. Her work has been widely published in the U.S., the Caribbean and Europe, has been translated into several languages, and has received such recognition as a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress and an NEA Poetry Fellowship. From 2003-17 she directed the Stadler Center for Poetry and is now a liberal arts professor of English at Penn State University.


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 a young adult novel, Lord of the Ralphs. He has also written a memoir, The Boy Who Really, Really Wanted to Have Sex: The Memoir of a Fat Kid, and three books on writing, Vivid and Continuous: Essays and Exercises for Writing Fiction, The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide: Advice from an Unrepentant Novelist, and most recently, The Promise of Failure: One Writer’s Perspective on Not Succeeding. He has edited, co-edited or guest edited seven anthologies. His work has appeared in over a hundred publications including The Washington Post, One Teen Story, New England Review, The Sun, and Virginia Quarterly Review. He has been the recipient of fellowships from Paramount Pictures, the University of Iowa (James Michener Award), George Washington University (Jenny McKean Moore Fellowship), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Djerassi Fellowship).


Joseph Millar’s four collections are Kingdom, 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, The American Poetry Review, and Ploughshares.


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 2014–2015, 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.

Matthew Shenoda

Matthew Shenoda is a writer, professor, and university administrator whose poems and essays have appeared in a variety of newspapers, journals, radio programs, and anthologies. He has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his work has been supported by the California Arts Council and the Lannan Foundation among others.

His debut collection of poems, Somewhere Else, was named one of 2005's debut books of the year by Poets & Writers magazine and was winner of a 2006 American Book Award. He is also the author of Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone, editor of Duppy Conqueror: New & Selected Poems by Kwame Dawes, and most recently author of Tahrir Suite: Poems, winner of the 2015 Arab American Book Award, and with Kwame Dawes editor of Bearden’s Odyssey: Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden.

Shenoda teaches in the fields of ethnic studies and creative writing and has held several faculty and administrative positions at various institutions. Formerly the Assistant Provost for Equity and Diversity at CalArts and the Dean of Academic Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Columbia College Chicago, he is currently the Vice President of Social Equity & Inclusion and Professor of Literary Arts and Studies at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Additionally, he is a founding editor of the African Poetry Book Fund. Visit his website.

Photo by Joe Mazza

Mahtem Shiferraw

Mahtem Shiferraw is a poet and visual artist form Ethiopia and Eritrea. Her first full-length collection, Fuchsia, and her chapbook, Behind Walls and Glass, were published in 2016. Her second collection, Your Body Is War, is forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press in 2019. Her work has been published in various literary magazines, including Poets.org, Callaloo, The 2River View, Prairie Schooner, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Numero Cinq, Barrow Street Journal, At Length, World Literature Today, Chaos Hermeneutics Journal, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the Sillerman Prize for African Poets. She is the founder of Anaphora Literary Arts, a non-profit organization working to advance the works of writers and artists of color; co-founder of the Ethiopian Artist Collective, and editor of black lioness press, an imprint of Tsehai Publishers. She has served as the managing editor of Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine, and the founding editor for The Bleeding Lion: A Journal of Arts and Letters among many others. Mahtem served as a jury member for the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. Her poems have been included in the anthologies Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles and Leimert Park Voices Anthology. In 2018, she was awarded the Imani Prize for Artistic Excellence.


Mary Helen Stefaniak’s second novel, The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia, 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, 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, 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 The Antioch Review, AGNI, Epoch, The Iowa Review, New Stories from the South, and A Different Plain


Willy Vlautin has published four novels: The Motel Life (2007), which was The New York Times Editors’ Choice and Notable book, and was made into a major motion picture starring Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsh, Stephen Dorff, and Kris Kristofferson; Northline (2008); Lean on Pete (2010), which won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction, was short-listed for the IMPAC award, and is soon to be a film 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 into eight languages.

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


Kellie Wells is the author of a collection of short fiction, Compression Scars, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Prize, and the novels Skin and Fat Girl, Terrestrial. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and the Great Lakes Colleges Association's New Writers Award for Fiction. Her fourth book, God, the Moon, and Other Megafauna, is the winner of the Sullivan Prize. She directs the graduate writing program at the University of Alabama.

MFA Faculty Anthology: When the Rewards Can Be So Great

When the Rewards Can Be So Great (Pacific University Press, 2016) 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.