Writer to Writer’s Fall 2019 Mentors
AWP celebrates the writers serving as mentors in the fall 2019 session of Writer to Writer. We received hundreds of applications for this session and selected 44 mentors based on their experience, their willingness to serve, and the needs prevalent in the mentee applications. Mentors were each given several strong applications to choose from and selected their own mentees.
If you would like to volunteer as a mentor, applications are being accepted now for our 12th season, which will begin in February 2020.
“I think there can be an opaqueness about writing and publishing that can be hard to navigate as a new writer. I believe that pulling the veil back and being transparent with a mentee about every part of the writing world (contracts, revision, editing, querying, etc.) can be supremely helpful. I know I wouldn't be at my place in my career without mentors that showed me the way through difficult or mysterious areas.”
Rose Andersen is a writer of strange fiction and stranger nonfiction. She received her MFA in writing at California Institute of the Arts. Her memoir, The Heart and Other Monsters, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury in July 2020 and was awarded the CalArts Emi Kuriyama Thesis Prize. She is published in The Cut, Glamour, Jellyfish Review, and Forge Lit, among others.
Rose Andersen is working with A. Poythress of Chicago, Illinois.
Janée J. Baugher
“The key for me is remembering how much the process buoys me and remembering that the writing process, for the most part, is the only thing that we can control.”
Janée J. Baugher authored the ekphrastic poetry collections, Coördinates of Yes (Ahadada Books, 2010) and The Body’s Physics (Tebot Bach, 2013), as well as Ekphrastic Writing: A Guide to Visual-Art-Influenced Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction (McFarland, forthcoming 2020), and she’s performed at the Library of Congress. Baugher’s had work adapted for the stage and set to music at University of Cincinnati–Conservatory of Music, Contemporary Dance Theatre in Ohio, Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, Dance Now! Ensemble in Florida, the Salon at Justice Snow’s in Colorado, and University of North Carolina-Pembroke. Currently, she’s a poetry reader for Boulevard.
Janée J. Baugher is working with Anna K. Jacobson of Jacksonville, Florida.
“For me, the most important thing about writing is the daily practice of it, what I feel and think and make in the time I'm at the desk. When I lose sight of that, I struggle. I'm in a place right now where that's really my focus, and it's the happiest I've been. But I have lost that centering from time to time, and it's hard to find my way back sometimes.”
Matt Bell is the author of the novels Scrapper and In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, as well as the short story collection A Tree or a Person or a Wall, a nonfiction book about the classic video game Baldur's Gate II, and several other titles. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Tin House, Conjunctions, Fairy Tale Review, American Short Fiction, and many other publications. A native of Michigan, he is an associate professor at Arizona State University, where he currently serves as the director of creative writing.
Matt Bell is working with Maureen McGuirk of Parma, Ohio.
“I have been a writer-in-residence with Houston-based Writers in The Schools (WITS) for seven years, teaching non-curriculum-based creative writing to third graders. We begin each writing session with the mantra, ‘I am a fearless writer!’ That's how I like to think of the practice of creative writing--as an act of fearlessness, even when we are deeply fearful of doing it.”
Chris Cander is the award-winning author of the novels The Weight of a Piano, Whisper Hollow, 11 Stories, and the children's picture book The Word Burglar. For seven years she has been a writer-in-residence for Writers in the Schools, serves on the Inprint advisory board, and stewards several Little Free Libraries in her community. A former competitive bodybuilder, Chris currently holds a third dan in taekwondo and is a certified women’s defensive tactics instructor.
Chris Cander is working with Amy Widmoyer Hanson of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“A good mentor keeps their mentees' own goals in mind, helping to find the path that serves them best, rather simply leading them down the path the mentor took.”
Sarah Carson is the author of two poetry collections—Buick City (Mayapple Press) and Poems in Which You Die (BatCat Press)—as well as four chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Cream City Review, Guernica, the Minnesota Review, the Nashville Review, and New Ohio Review, among others. Her story “Self-Portrait” appeared on Wigleaf’s Top 50 Short Fictions list, and her poem “How to Baptize a Child in Flint, Michigan” was awarded the Copper Nickel Editors Prize.
Sarah Carson is working with Rachael Philipps-Shapiro of Chappaqua, New York.
“Sometimes all you need is someone to assure you that you’re a writer, and then you start to believe it, you start to live it.”
Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry, Crumb-Sized (Unnamed Press) and On That One-Way Trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press). She lives in Washington, DC, and uses her skeletal dysplasia as a bridge to scientific poetry. She writes freelance articles on renewable energy and green technology. Marlena is a bisexual poet and serves on the planning committee for OutWrite, Washington, DC's annual LGBTQ literary festival. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Breath & Shadow, The Deaf Poets Society, the Little Patuxent Review, Noble/Gas Quarterly, Paper Darts, Rogue Agent, Stoked Words, Wordgathering, and more. Find her at @mchertock.
Marlena Chertock is working with Cori Bratby-Rudd of Alhambra, California.
“I hope to mentor in the ways my mentors taught me, through guidance and attention, and a good close eye.”
Kim Chinquee sixth collection, Wetsuit, was published in 2019 with Ravenna Press. Her work has been published in over a hundred journals and anthologies including NOON, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, Story Quarterly, Story, Ploughshares, New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, the Pushcart Prize anthologies, and others. She is senior editor of New World Writing, chief editor of ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal), and associate professor of English at SUNY-Buffalo State. She lives in Glenwood, NY.
Kim Chinquee is working with Kimberly Ross of Redmond, Washington.
“I don't know a single writer who has not struggled with some element of the writing life at some time in their writing journey, whether it is outside constraints like family responsibilities, jobs, health, or our inner demons like fear, lack of confidence, or comparing ourselves with others. The hard times build muscles we can use later.”
Sandy Coomer Sandy Coomer is a poet, artist, Ironman athlete, and social entrepreneur from Nashville, Tennessee. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals, and she is the author of three poetry chapbooks and a full-length collection, Available Light (Iris Press). Over 150 pieces of Sandy’s art have been published in literary arts magazines both in print and online. She is the founding editor of the online poetry journal Rockvale Review and the founder and director of Rockvale Writers’ Colony in College Grove, Tennessee, a not-for-profit organization that exists to support, promote, and educate writers of all genres and backgrounds. Her favorite word is “believe.”
Sandy Coomer is working with Trish Hopkinson of Provo, Utah.
“Mentorship can be beneficial in so many ways. In reflecting over all that I have gained from my own mentors, I can easily say that mentors can help form supportive communities, they can work as sounding boards and voices of encouragement and experience, they can lead to overall greater confidence and satisfaction in one's work, they can impart a sense of carrying on the work begun earlier, and of course, they can be a source of professional advice and guidance.”
Sayantani Dasgupta, born in Calcutta and raised in New Delhi, is the author of Fire Girl: Essays on India, America, & the In-Between—a finalist for the Foreword Indies Awards for Creative Nonfiction—and the chapbook The House of Nails: Memories of a New Delhi Childhood. Her essays and short stories have appeared in The Rumpus, Bellingham Review, Phoebe, and others. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and has also taught creative writing in India, Italy, and Mexico.
Sayantani Dasgupta is working with Raksha Vasudevan of Denver, Colorado.
Allison Pitinii Davis
“My mentors taught me how my largest struggle--not being from an academic family--could be my strength. That my skill sets were different, not inferior.”
Allison Pitinii Davis is the author of Line Study of a Motel Clerk (Baobab Press, 2017), a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in Poetry and the Ohioana Book Award, and Poppy Seeds (Kent State University Press, 2013), winner of the Wick Poetry Chapbook Prize. She holds fellowships from Stanford University's Wallace Stegner program, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Severinghaus Beck Fund for Study at Vilnius Yiddish Institute. She’s currently a PhD student at the University of Tennessee, where she edits Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts.
Allison Pitinii Davis is working with Leah Tieger of Dallas, Texas.
“In graduate school, I was disappointed by the lack of a mentorship approach. My professors didn't seem to remember what it was like to be starting out on the writing journey and didn't really fellowship or commune with us. I really longed for that, and I think that's when I particularly started pouring into my students and writing community. I wanted to give others what I wish I had received in graduate school.”
Meg Eden's work is published or forthcoming in magazines including Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO, and CV2. She teaches creative writing at Anne Arundel Community College and the MA program at Southern New Hampshire University. She is the author of five poetry chapbooks, the novel Post-High School Reality Quest (2017), and the forthcoming poetry collection Drowning in the Floating World (2020). She runs the Magfest MAGES Library blog, which posts accessible academic articles about video games. Find her online at www.megedenbooks.com or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.
Meg Eden is working with Julie Zigoris of San Francisco, California.
“In some ways, I think every poem is a bit of a love letter, from poet to reader, even when it’s not what the poem is ‘about’.”
David Eye is the author of Seed (The Word Works, 2017), chosen by Eduardo C. Corral. David earned an MFA in 2008 from Syracuse University and has received support from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Fine Arts Work Center. Before turning to writing, David enjoyed a career in the theatre; before that, he spent four years in the military. This places him in an elite group of writers who have served in both the US Army—and the Broadway tour of Cats. David has taught at Manhattan College, Syracuse University, and Cazenovia College, and he serves as an associate editor at 32 Poems.
David Eye is working with Masha Lisak of Oakland, California.
Jenny Lee Ferguson
“The best advice: don't give up. Writing and publishing are marathons, and not sprints. The writers who make it to the end have a certain degree of luck on their side, but what they all have in common is perseverance. But, and here's the key, there's a different between giving up and taking much needed self-care breaks. Self-care is important, needed, and goes hand in hand with being able to finish the marathon.”
Jenny Lee Ferguson is Métis, an activist, a feminist, an auntie, and an accomplice with a PhD. She believes writing and teaching are political acts. Border Markers, her collection of linked flash fiction narratives, is available from NeWest Press. She teaches at Loyola Marymount University and in the Opt-Res MFA Program at the University of British Columbia. She’s also the fiction editor at This Magazine and the creative nonfiction editor at carte blanche. This is her third season as a fiction mentor for Writer to Writer.
Jenny Lee Ferguson is working with Sakae Manning of Altadena, California.
Rebecca Morgan Frank
“With each object we encounter, we are forced to experience the way we either are connected to it or alienated from it: both of those reactions intrigue me as a writer. Each of us has built distinct narratives of our histories and identities based on the materiality of our own lives. Imagery as a tool taps into this, but it also becomes problematic when we assume that we are all reading images the same way. Objects, the images, the left-behind stuff of these poems, seemed to me to be useful tools for trying to explore that tension between the familiar and the foreign, the way place and culture can cultivate nostalgia or a sense of displacement, of otherness.”
Rebecca Morgan Frank is the author of Sometimes We’re All Living in a Foreign Country and The Spokes of Venus, both from Carnegie Mellon University Press, and Little Murders Everywhere, a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her poems have appeared such places as the New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Orion, and the Slowdown podcast. She is co-founder and editor of the literary magazine Memorious and the 2019/2020 Distinguished Visiting Writer in poetry at Bowling Green State University.
Rebecca Morgan Frank is working with Hannah Yerington of Vancouver, British Columbia.
“My teacher Derek Walcott once said, ‘I'd rather you brought me one good, cheap love song that worked than three pages of difficult verse about your problems.’ It is very difficult to write good cheap love songs, but you can get out of the habit of writing difficult verse.”
Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H.N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His own debut collection, Rembrandt’s Bible, was published by Indigo Dreams, and his PEN Translates award-winning Lives of the Dead: Collected Poems of Hanoch Levin is out from Arc Publications. He translates a verse bible column for Mosaic magazine.
Atar Hadari is working with Cybele Garcia Kohel of Pasadena, California.
“There's a lot of info out there—so much it can be overwhelming. I think a mentor can be a great resource, a trusted resource, who has been through it before and can help filter the info and provide guidance.”
Alison Hammer is the founder of Every Damn Day Writers and has been spinning words to tell stories since she started to talk. A graduate of the University of Florida and the Creative Circus in Atlanta, she lived in nine cities before settling down in Chicago. During the day, Alison is a VP creative director at an advertising agency, but she spends her nights and weekends writing upmarket women's fiction. Her debut novel, You and Me and Us, is coming out April 7 from William Morrow (HarperCollins). You can follow her on all the social platforms @ThisHammer.
Alison Hammer is working with Rachel Borup of Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Every writer needs a thorough, productive, and encouraging writing group. Some of us are lucky enough to have that support system, but many of us do not. A good mentor serves as a sounding board for questions of craft, recommending reading, and career decision guidance. I've been lucky in that I have a stellar writing group and have been mentored well. I see the results in my writing and in my own approach to process. I would like to give back in that same way.”
Jessica Handler is the author of the novel The Magnetic Girl, a Wall Street Journal Spring 2019 pick, a Bitter Southerner Summer 2019 pick, and a SIBA Okra Pick. She is the author of Invisible Sisters: A Memoir, and the craft guide Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss. Her writing has appeared on NPR and in Tin House, Drunken Boat, The Bitter Southerner, Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, Newsweek, The Washington Post, and More magazine. A founding member of the Decatur Writers Studio in Decatur, Georgia, she teaches creative writing and coordinates the Minor in Writing at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, and lectures internationally on writing.
Jessica Handler is working with Judy Bolton-Fasman of Newton Centre, Massachusetts.
James Tate Hill
“When my first novel, the only novel for which I've ever had an agent, failed to sell, I struggled to begin another project. For months, I could only call it a project, not a novel. This one, too, was never published, and since it didn't even find an agent I felt like I was moving backward rather than forward. My writing finally began to find an audience when I started writing about my own blindness, first in fiction and later in nonfiction, and the acknowledgment and self-acceptance have been as helpful in everyday living as they've been in my writing.”
James Tate Hill is the author of Academy Gothic, winner of the Nilsen Prize for a First Novel. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in
Literary Hub, Prairie Schooner, Story Quarterly, Hobart, and Writer’sDigest, among others. He’s the fiction editor for the literary journal Monkeybicycle and a contributing editor for Lit Hub, where he writes a monthly audiobooks column. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife.
James Tate Hill is working with Eileen Cronin of Sherman Oaks, California.
“I believe hearing a mentor's experience with perseverance would have been priceless for me. A mentor would have also had the experience to show me what I was doing well in my writing. Of course, having a mentor is priceless in teaching craft, be it self-editing or avoiding the basic technical mistakes the sort I used to make such as in pacing. For instance, it took me years, and finally a light bulb moment during a passage in Jean Rhys' novel Wide Sargasso Sea, to realize that I did not have to show every step of my character making a cup of tea or walking from one room to another. Also, it took me a while to realize that these techniques apply across genre, be it fiction or essays and memoirs. Having a mentor, I believe, would have saved me many years of dead ends.”
Soniah Kamal is an award-winning novelist, essayist, and public speaker. Her most recent novel, Unmarriageable: Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan, is a New York Public Library and NPR Code Switch 2019 Summer Read Pick and a Financial Times Best Book of 2019 so far, and it has received praise from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Southern Living, LibraryReads, Forbes, People magazine and more. Her debut novel, An Isolated Incident, was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction and the KLF French Fiction. Soniah's TEDx talk is about regrets and second chances. Her work has appeared in critically acclaimed anthologies and publications including the New York Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic, Buzzfeed, and more. Soniah’s short story “Jelly Beans” was selected for the 2017 Best of Asian Fiction Anthology, and her short story “Fossils,” judged by Claudia Rankine, won the Agnes Scott 2017 Festival Award for Fiction. Soniah grew up in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and England and resides in Atlanta, Georgia.
Soniah Kamal is working with Minyoung Lee of San Francisco, California.
“My writing never goes as I hope it will, but why should that stop me?”
J. Kates is a minor poet, a literary translator, and the co-director of Zephyr Press. He has been awarded three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, an Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, and the Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation. He has published three chapbooks of his own poems and one full book, The Briar Patch (Hobblebush Books). He is the translator of a dozen books of translations of Russian and French poets, and has edited two anthologies of translations. He has also collaborated on four books of Latin American poetry in translation.
J. Kates is working with Lynn Pattison of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“I've learned that opportunities don't come to you; you have to invite them. And I've learned that my poetic growth depends on my own determination to feed it and sustain it.”
Athena Kildegaard is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Course (Tinderbox Editions, 2018). Her poems have appeared or will shortly appear in December, Cimarron Review, RHINO, North American Review, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. They have been set to music by Linda Kachelmeier, Libby Larsen, Jake Endres, and others. She has been a recipient of grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Lake Region Arts Council. She teaches and directs the Honors Program at the University of Minnesota Morris.
Athena Kildegaard is working with Lucy Griffith of Comfort, Texas.
“Don't be in a hurry. Think of the long-term benefits. It doesn't matter whether you publish next year or three years from now. Take time and hone your work over and over again until it's the best it can be.”
Angie Kim is the debut author of the national bestseller Miracle Creek, a literary courtroom drama that has been named an IndieNext and LibraryReads pick, a Best Book of 2019 So Far by Time magazine and Amazon, and a Top 10 AppleBooks Debuts of 2019. Her writing has appeared in Vogue, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Glamour, Salon, and Slate. She moved from Seoul, Korea, to Baltimore as a preteen, and attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Writing is her fifth career.
Angie Kim is working with Mimi Wong of Brooklyn, New York.
“I feel like it’s the things that you don’t want to think about that are often the things worth writing about.”
Phil Klay is a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War and the author of the short story collection Redeployment, which won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction. He is also the 2018 laureate of the George W. Hunt, S.J., Prize for Journalism, Arts & Letters for outstanding work in the category Cultural & Historical Criticism. A graduate of the Hunter College MFA program, his writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, and the Brookings Institution’s Brookings Essay series.
Phil Klay is working with Nathaniel Blaesing of Iowa City, Iowa.
“The connections that writers build with their mentors are essential in the transitional phase between being an apprentice writer and professional writer. Because of the solitary nature of our craft, at some point, all writers feel as though we are writing and living in a vacuum. A mentoring relationship is a way out of this kind of isolation.”
Keith Kopka is the author of the critical text Asking a Shadow to Dance: An Introduction to the Practice of Poetry. His poetry and criticism have recently appeared in The International Journal of The Book, Mid-American Review, New Ohio Review, Berfrois, Ninth Letter, and many others. Kopka is the recipient of the 2017 International Award for Excellence from the Books, Publishing & Libraries Research Network. He is also the cofounder and the director of operations for Writers Resist, a Chautauqua Arts Fellow, and a senior editor at Narrative Magazine. He’s currently an assistant professor at Holy Family University in Philadelphia.
Keith Kopka is working with Kelsey Zimmerman of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Marie Myung-Ok Lee
“Having a non-traditional writing work life—majoring in a STEM subject then working in banking in order to live in NYC, a lifelong writer’s dream as a small-town Minnesotan—having a lack of writer friends or even colleagues interested in literature made for a lonely life and sheer confusion as to how one ‘becomes’ a working writer. When I started meeting people who had MFAs, I was jealous of their built-in networks of peers and professors and decided if I ever was in a position to help others, especially fellow non-MFAers, that’s what I’d want to do.”
Marie Myung-Ok Lee is the author of the novel The Evening Hero, forthcoming with Simon & Schuster, and the rerelease of her young adult novel, Finding My Voice (Soho Teen). Her journalism and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Nation, the Guardian, the Atlantic, the Paris Review and many others. She is a founder and former board president of the Asian American Writers' Workshop and teaches fiction at Columbia, where she is the writer in residence.
Marie Myung-Ok Lee is working with Alex Sujong Laughlin of Brooklyn, New York.
“I had 4 advisors in my MFA program. The best were the ones who expressed enthusiasm and faith in my work as they taught me the mechanics of good writing. Writers often swing from ‘this is the best thing I've ever written!’ to ‘I should never write again.’ Sometimes the difference between a published book and an unpublished one is more about willingness to stick through the lows than the quality of the work.”
Lara Lillibridge is the author of Mama, Mama, Only Mama (Skyhorse, 2019) and Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home (Skyhorse, 2018) and co-editor of the anthology Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility with Andrea Fekete (Cynren Press, 2019). Lillibridge judged creative nonfiction for AWP’s Intro Journal Project in 2019. She was the 2019 recipient of Hippocampus Magazine’s Literary Citizenship Award. Lillibridge graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in creative nonfiction. In 2016 she won Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest and the American Literary Review's Contest in Nonfiction.
Lara Lillibridge is working with Michael Todd of Radford, Virginia.
“Everyone around me had professional jobs and I somehow had the notion that I should have a book published before the age of 30. Somewhere down the line, I realized that quality trumped quantity and that being a poet was a lifelong pursuit for me and that I could be a poet while being a mother. Being a poet didn't just mean writing, it meant reading, observing, and understanding the poetic legacy left by others as well. I ended up reading/studying poetry more when my children were younger (often while nursing them) and wrote my poems as they came. My first book was published at 41 and all the waiting, studying, and honing paid off.”
Shikha Malaviya is a South Asian poet and writer. She is co-founder of The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, a mentorship model press publishing voices from India & the Indian diaspora. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and featured in PLUME, Prairie Schooner, and other fine journals. Shikha was a featured TEDx speaker in GolfLinks, Bangalore, in 2013, where she gave a talk on poetry. This will be her fourth time as an AWP Writer to Writer Mentor. She was selected as poet laureate of San Ramon, California, 2016. Her book of poems is Geography of Tongues.
Shikha Malaviya is working with Diana Babineau of Chicago, Illinois.
“Being a writer can be hard and often lonely, but it doesn't have to be. I was lucky enough to have access to some really great mentors as a developing writer, and I hope I can return the favor.”
Emily Maloney is the author of the forthcoming memoir Cost of Living (Flatiron Books, 2021), about the failure of the American healthcare system seen both through her transition from patient to practitioner and her work as an ER tech and EMT at a busy Level II trauma center. Her essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from the New York Times, the Washington Post, Glamour, the Atlantic, the American Journal of Nursing, and other publications. Her essay, “Cost of Living,” which originally appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, was selected for Best American Essays 2017, edited by Leslie Jamison. She is also a MacDowell Fellow and a 2015 graduate of the MFA program at the University of Pittsburgh.
Emily Maloney is working with Kimberly Kaye of Blacksburg, Virginia.
“Write in whatever form gets you to write. Be OK with writing work that doesn't sound like you, that is a departure from what you typically write. It's stretching your writerly muscles. Stay limber.”
Michelle Menting is the author of Leaves Surface Like Skin (Terrapin Books) and two poetry chapbooks. Her poems, essays, and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Verse Daily, American Life in Poetry, DIAGRAM, Midwestern Gothic, and New South, among others. She has served as an editor of numerous literary magazines and presses and is the recipient of scholarships and awards from Sewanee, Bread Loaf, and the National Park Service, as well as other conferences and residencies. She lives in Maine and teaches creative writing at the University of Southern Maine.
Michelle Menting is working with Erin Bach of Clarkston, Georgia.
“Balance wild energy with humility. Be willing to write about anything, bluntly if necessary, but don’t be heartless. Don’t be in a rush to publish... It’s better to really work on the craft, make it something you’ll be proud of. Think of poems as your children. Sure, they need their vegetables, but give them some junk food once in a while.”
Michael Meyerhofer is the author of two fantasy trilogies, as well as five books and five chapbooks of poetry. His debut fantasy novel, Wytchfire, won the Whirling Prize from the Kellogg Writers Series, was an honorable mention in the Readers Favorite Fantasy category, and was also nominated for a Readers' Choice Award by Big Al's Books and Pals. His fifth book of poetry, Ragged Eden, is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press. He also serves as the poetry editor of Atticus Review. For more information and an embarrassing childhood photo, visit his website.
Michael Meyerhofer is working with Amy Lerman of Mesa, Arizona.
“No one tells you that after your books come out, it might be a long time before you get good, dedicated writing time again! So, these days, I tell my students and mentees to enjoy their writing time. Don't be in a rush! Focus on the work as much as you can! Success will come in its own time, and when it does, you'll be wishing you could just stay home and write!”
Chinelo Okparanta is the author of Happiness, Like Water, and most recently, Under the Udala Trees. Her honors include an O. Henry Prize, two Lambda Literary Awards, and finalist selections for the International DUBLIN Literary Award, and for the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award. She has published work in the New Yorker and Granta, and in 2017 was named one of Granta's Best of Young American Novelists.
Chinelo Okparanta is working with Angèle Devant of Denver, Colorado.
Anne Leigh Parrish
“I always learn more about my own work when I help someone else with theirs. That said, what I really want is to give someone courage to find their voice. Once that voice is found, to have the courage to never quit.”
Anne Leigh Parrish's fifth novel, A Winter Night, will be published in April 2021 by Unsolicited Press. Previous titles are Maggie’s Ruse, a novel, (Unsolicited Press, 2019); The Amendment, a novel, (Unsolicited Press, 2018); Women Within, a novel (Black Rose Writing, 2017); By the Wayside, stories (Unsolicited Press, 2017); What Is Found, What Is Lost, a novel, (She Writes Press, 2014); Our Love Could Light The World, stories (She Writes Press, 2013); and All The Roads That Lead From Home, stories, (Press 53, 2011). She lives among the evergreen trees in the South Sound region of Washington State.
Anne Leigh Parrish is working with Terri Wise of Somerville, Massachusetts.
Mark Jude Poirier
“A writing life is one full of rejection. No matter how successful you are, rejection looms. There is very little affirmation. I've found teaching and mentoring to be affirming, a nice antidote to the harsh reality of being an artist in 2019.”
Mark Jude Poirier is the author of two collections of stories, two novels, and, with Owen King and Nancy Ahn, a graphic novel. His books have been New York Times Notable Books of the Year, as well as Barnes & Noble Discover and Waterstone’s UK picks. In 2018 he won both a Pushcart Prize and an O. Henry Award. Films he has written have played at Sundance, the Toronto International Film Festival, MoMA, and the American Film Festival in Deauville. He lives in New York. He has taught at Harvard, Bennington, Columbia, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Mark Jude Poirier is working with Daniel Fergus Tamulonis of New York, New York.
“When you are starting out, you don’t know who to trust. You don’t know whose advice to listen to. Sometimes, having just one person in your corner can make all the difference. It allows you to keep writing even in the face of setback after setback after setback.”
Dean Rader has written, edited, or co-edited eleven books, including Works & Days (2010 T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize) and Landscape Portrait Figure Form (2014), a Barnes & Noble Review Best Poetry Book. Three books appeared in 2017: Suture, collaborative poems written with Simone Muench (Black Lawrence Press), Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, edited with Brian Clements and Alexandra Teague (Beacon), and Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry (Copper Canyon), a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award and the Northern California Book Award. He is a professor at the University of San Francisco and a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry.
Dean Rader is working with Luisa Caycedo-Kimura of Bloomfield, Connecticut.
“I think it's just important for an emerging writer to feel that someone is really paying attention and believes in the work. The reality is that failure is a part of the creative process at every stage of your career and the marketplace can be hard. Feeling that there is someone who believes in you enough to want to nurture your career is part of creating a sustainable writing practice.”
Dawn Raffel is the author of five books, most recently The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies. The book was chosen as one of NPR’s great reads for 2018 and received a 2019 Christopher Award for work that “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” Previous books include a memoir, two critically acclaimed story collections, and a novel. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from O, The Oprah Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle to BOMB and NOON and has been widely anthologized. A longtime magazine editor, she served as executive article editor at O magazine for seven years. She has taught creative writing at Columbia University (undergraduate and MFA level), Summer Literary Seminars (St. Petersburg, Russia, Vilnius, Lithuania, Montreal, Canada, and Tblisi, Republic of Georgia), Wildacres (Little Switzerland, North Carolina), and the Center for Fiction in New York. She currently works as an independent book editor.
Dawn Raffel is working with Brian Michael Murphy of Bennington, Vermont.
“My constant struggle is balance. As a mother and a writer, my son takes priority, so when he had heart surgery, my writing switched from the fantastic to memoir; I wrote about him as an outlet and a release.”
Kate Ristau is the author of the middle grade series Clockbreakers and the young adult series Shadow Girl. She is the executive director of Willamette Writers. You can find her essays at the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Kate Ristau is working with Jenny Sue Gamboa of Bountiful, Utah.
“My mentors have shared writing books with me, they've helped me figure out befuddling experiences that almost derailed my career, they've championed me to others (agents, editors, other writers) fed me, led me to paying freelance work when my bills were stressing me out, listened to me whine about my jealousy, my deadlines, my stress, and encouraged me, finally and perhaps most important, to keep writing.”
Joshunda Sanders is the award-winning author of five books, including her first children's book in a series, I Can Write the World, published by Six Foot Press in 2019. In 2019, she was selected as a Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Fellow, Fiction Fellow at the Martha’s Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing, and a finalist for a fellowship from the Jerome Foundation. In 2018 she received an excellence in fiction grant from the Bronx Council on the Arts. Her byline and stories have appeared in Time, the Nation, the New York Times, and many others. She’s at work on her sixth book and lives in her hometown, The Bronx.
Joshunda Sanders is working with Tonesha Russell of Oakland, California.
Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel
“I think writers are really struggling to balance writing life with life. I also think they struggle to balance their social media presence with being present with the writing. I've struggled with this as well—especially post book publication—and have learned a great deal about how to set boundaries, get back to writing, and be a writer, not just an author.”
Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel is the author of Fear Icons, winner of the inaugural Gournay Prize from The Ohio State University Press. She has published prose in Shirley Magazine, Tin House, the Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the Richard J. Margolis Award for social justice reporting and many grants and fellowships. A graduate of the University of Montana's Environmental Studies Program and the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, she is an assistant professor of English at Whitman College.
Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel is working with Shahnaz Habib of Brooklyn, New York.
“When I was working full-time as a journalist in New York City, my creative writing suffered. After a long day of writing for newspapers and magazines, I struggled to make myself sit down at a computer again to work. I felt I was stagnating and not writing what I wanted to be writing. It took moving to Yemen to run a newspaper to spring me from this rut. I always tell my students that if they want to make sure they have great stories to tell, they should move somewhere that makes them profoundly uncomfortable and where they know no one, and they will be guaranteed stories.”
Jennifer Steil is an award-winning author and journalist. Her third book, the novel Exile Music, is forthcoming from Viking in May 2020. It follows the lives of Austrian Jewish musicians who seek refuge from the Nazis in Bolivia in 1938. Her first book, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky (Broadway Books 2010), is a memoir about her tenure editing the Yemen Observer newspaper in Sana’a. Her novel The Ambassador’s Wife (Doubleday 2015) has won awards. She is now writing a novel about an underground Bolivian community of LGBTQ artists.
Jennifer Steil is working with Ivy Ge of San Francisco, California.
“A good mentorship can cut valuable time in what can be a long, circuitous route to publication and finding your voice. Some of the most helpful mentors I've had helped me to see what was unique in my writing before I could identify those qualities myself.”
Rachel Swearingen’s stories and essays have appeared in Vice, the Missouri Review, Kenyon Review, Off Assignment, American Short Fiction, and elsewhere. Her story collection, How to Walk on Water and Other Stories, winner of the 2018 New American Press Fiction Prize, will be published in 2020. She is the recipient of the Missouri Review Editors’ Prize in Fiction, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, and the Mississippi Review Prize in Fiction. In 2019, she was named one of 30 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.
Rachel Swearingen is working with Casey Reiland of Arlington, Virginia.
“We all know that the world at large doesn't care much about your writing, much less about the third line of that sestina you've been struggling with; writers, mentors are readers. They prove that art can have consequences. They should bring out the best in the writer.”
Richard Terrill is the author of two collections of poems, Coming Late to Rachmaninoff, winner of the Minnesota Book Award, and Almost Dark. His memoirs include Fakebook: Improvisations on a Journey Back to Jazz and Saturday Night in Baoding, winner of the AWP Award for nonfiction. He has held fellowships from the NEA, the Wisconsin and Minnesota State Arts Boards, the Jerome Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, as well as three Fulbright Fellowships. He is Professor Emeritus at Minnesota State, Mankato, where he taught in the MFA program and was Distinguished Faculty Scholar. He works as a jazz saxophonist.
Richard Terrill is working with Bruce Parker of Portland, Oregon.
“While the strength of a writer's work is truly what matters, and the right kind of mentorship can give a writer that, connections within the literary community are just as essential. From experience, I can say so many people have given me a leg up and insight about how publishing works. As much as writing well, we need to learn these things if publication is a goal.”
Erica Trabold is the author of Five Plots (Seneca Review Books, 2018), selected by John D'Agata as the winner of the inaugural Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Book Prize. Her work appears in Brevity, Literary Hub, The Rumpus, Essay Daily, and elsewhere. She is a visiting assistant professor at Sweet Briar College in central Virginia.
Erica Trabold is working with Kianna Eberle of Cleveland, Ohio.
“It only takes one person to be a champion of someone, in order for that writer to purse their dream.”
M.A. Vizsolyi is the author of The Lamp with Wings: love sonnets (HarperPerennial) winner of the National Poetry Series, selected by Ilya Kaminsky. His newest collection is Anthem for the Wounded. He is also the author of The Case of Jane: a verse play (500places Press), which was produced for Performa 13 and broadcast on NPR. Vizsolyi’s work can be found in numerous journals, including Narrative, Crazyhorse, Cream City Review, Ninth Letter, Ploughshares, and Gulf Coast. He is faculty in the BFA in Creative Writing Program at Goddard College and faculty advisor for the college’s journal, Duende.
M.A. Vizsolyi is working with Lynne Ellis of Seattle, Washington.
“It's often overwhelming for a young writer to realize how much you are alone, confronting so many questions, not only about writing itself, but how to construct your life and to learn some tricks and suggestions that may help keep you going—such as the importance of carrying a notebook with you; doing small exercises as much as possible; sitting down for a set number of hours every day to develop discipline in carving out time for yourself as well as develop a committed schedule. And reading—suggesting books, discussing books, minutely dissecting books—and arguing about them. It all keeps the passion alive.”
Pat Willard is the author of four books—Pie Every Day, A Soothing Broth, Secrets of Saffron, and America Eats! On the Road With the WPA—that blend together memoir, history, and food. They were chosen by the Atlantic Monthly, Amazon, and Bon Appetit as among the top ten books of the year, nominated for best literary writing by the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and translated into several languages. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Topic, and Medium. She's received residencies at the MacDowell Colony and grants from the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts.
Pat Willard is working with Johnny Neill of Austin, Texas.