Writer to Writer’s Spring 2018 Mentors
AWP celebrates the writers serving as mentors in the Spring 2018 session of Writer to Writer. We received hundreds of applications for this session and selected 30 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 next session, which will begin in September 2018.
“I believe a good mentor not only shares from their own accumulated writing experience, received training, and invested reading, but can also model how an up-and-coming writer can pursue their own unique writing path—one that does not need to resemble their mentors, but can benefit from some of the lessons others have learned over time.”
Neil Aitken is the author of two books of poetry, Babbage’s Dream (Sundress Publications, 2017) and The Lost Country of Sight (Anhinga Press, 2008), and a poetry chapbook, Leviathan (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2016). Of Chinese, Scottish, and English descent, he grew up in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and various parts of western Canada. He is a past Kundiman fellow and holds both an MFA and PhD in creative writing. In addition to writing and teaching, he also serves as the editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, the co-director of De-Canon: A Literary Project, and the curator of Have Book Will Travel.
Neil is working with Allison Albino of New York, New York.
“At different points in my life I’ve found myself with accidental mentors—a poet who liked to meet by moonlight in her darkened, gabled office, a younger classmate in my MFA program at The City College of New York, grizzled with life on the city streets. Those accidental mentors made me believe I had a purpose: to write for them, for no one else, to put the world to the side—they were reading my work.”
Caroline Bock is the author of two young adult novels, Lie (St. Martin’s Press, 2011) and Before My Eyes (St. Martin’s Press, 2014). She is a lecturer in the English department at Marymount University in Arlington, VA and was awarded a 2018 Artists & Scholars project grant from the Montgomery (Maryland) Council of the Arts and Humanities for her novel-in-progress.
Caroline is working with Carolyne Van Der Meer of Montreal, Quebec.
“I think mentorships can be profoundly beneficial—up-and-coming writers should have access to the writing community and the knowledge held by that community. I always tell my students that a part of good literary citizenship is helping bring good work into the world.”
Callista Buchen is the author of the collection Look Look Look (forthcoming in 2019 from Black Lawrence Press) and the chapbooks Double Mouthed (dancing girl press, 2016) and The Bloody Planet (Black Lawrence Press, 2015). Winner of DIAGRAM’s essay prize and the Lawrence Arts Center’s Langston Hughes award, her work has also appeared in Harpur Palate, Puerto del Sol, Salt Hill, The Offing, Fourteen Hills, and other journals. She teaches creative writing at Franklin College, where she advises the literary journal and is the founder of the Franklin College creative writing reading series.
Callista is working with Aurora Masum-Javed of Ithaca, New York.
Sandy Spencer Coomer
“I believe poets need each other. The world is harsh and poets are often sensitive beings. We need to share our wisdom and insights with each other.”
Sandy Coomer is a poet and mixed media artist living in Brentwood, TN. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks: Continuum (Finishing Line Press), The Presence of Absence (Winner of the 2014 Janice Keck Literary Award for Poetry), and Rivers Within Us (Unsolicited Press). Coomer is the founding editor of the online poetry journal Rockvale Review and the director of an Ekphrastic poetry project that pairs poems with photography. She is a seeker, a dreamer, and an explorer. Her favorite word is “Believe.”
Sandy is working with Adeeba Rana of Brooklyn, New York.
Jenny Yang Cropp
“I remember starting out and having a zillion questions but being too afraid to ask them. A mentorship builds confidence because it gives you a chance to ask what you really want to ask, no matter how small or big the questions, and so it starts you down a road of asking questions and participating in this larger conversation about writing and publishing.”
Jenny Yang Cropp is the author of the poetry collection String Theory, a 2016 Oklahoma Book Award finalist, and the chapbook Hanging the Moon. Her newest chapbook, Not a Bird or a Flower, is forthcoming from Ryga, and her poetry has appeared in Boxcar Poetry Review, Ecotone, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Poemeleon. She teaches creative writing and small press publishing at Southeast Missouri State, where she also serves as poetry editor for Big Muddy.
Jenny is working with Emily Goff of Herndon, Virginia.
“I strongly believe that though most of us are taught that there are limited opportunities, and we have to fight for them, opportunities actually grow when we extend our hands to those who are on their way up, as most of us had others do for them.”
Alex DiFrancesco is a writer of fiction, creative nonfiction, and journalism. Their work has appeared in The Washington Post, Tin House, Brevity, Pacific Standard, and more, and won Sundress Academy for the Arts' OutSpoken contest for LGBTQ+ work in 2017. Their first novel was published in 2015, and their second novel and a collection of hybrid essays are forthcoming in Spring of 2019 from Seven Stories Press and Civil Coping Mechanisms Press. They are currently an MFA candidate in the NEOMFA at Cleveland State University.
Alex is working with Sarah Leamy of Montpelier, Vermont.
“Writing was a means for me to relive my pain over and over and over again until I could somehow grasp its depth and complexity. Once I compartmentalized my emotions into metaphors, italics, paragraphs or ellipses—once I committed my silent voice to a narrative form—I began to heal.”
Anjali Enjeti is a board member of the National Book Critics Circle. Her work has most recently appeared in the Atlantic, The Week, Longreads, NPR, Vice, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her essays have been named notables in Best American Essays 2016 and 2017, nominated for Best of the Net 2017 and three Pushcart Prizes, and received an honorable mention from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She was recently named one of “9 Essayists of Color You Should Know About” by Electric Literature and teaches creative nonfiction in the Etowah Valley MFA program at Reinhardt University.
Anjali is working with Arun Chittur of Las Vegas, Nevada.
“You do the best you can to balance writing with everything else. Sometimes you manage this very well, and sometimes you don't. One of the great mistakes many writers make is to believe there will be a point in your career, when you've written enough or published enough or sold enough, that the struggles will cease. That time will likely never come. And I'm not sure we should even want it to. What would we have left to write about?”
Tyler Dilts received his MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Best American Mystery Stories, and he is the author several novels, including A Cold and Broken Hallelujah, an Amazon #1 Bestseller, and the Edgar Award-nominated Come Twilight. His newest novel, Mercy Dogs, will be published by Thomas & Mercer in March 2018. He has served as the Writer-in-Residence at John Cabot University in Rome, and as teaching staff with the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. He currently teaches fiction writing at CSULB.
Tyler is working with Kira Sutherland of Mount Vernon, New York.
“It's happened with every book I've written. There is a hump I can't get over. A snarl I can’t see through. I almost give up. And then with the help of voices I trust I find my way forward.”
David Ebershoff’s novels include The Danish Girl, adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Academy Award-winners Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander, and the #1 bestseller The 19th Wife, which was adapted into a television movie that has aired around the globe. Formerly Vice President and Executive Editor at Random House, he teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia University and is finishing a new novel.
David is working with Noah Bogdonoff of Providence, Rhode Island.
“I believe a mentor can benefit an emerging writer by encouraging him/her to concentrate on the work first and foremost, wherever that may lead.”
Pamela Erens is the author of the novels The Virgins, The Understory, and, most recently, Eleven Hours. She has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction, the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and the John Gardner Fiction Book Award. Eleven Hours was named a Best Book of 2016 by NPR, the New Yorker, Kirkus, and Literary Hub. Erens’s essays and criticism have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Vogue, Elle, Slate, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Los Angeles Review of Books.
Pamela is working with Molia Dumbleton of Evanston, Illinois.
“I think seeing how a writer moves through the world, even one that is not academic, as mine has turned out to be, can be comforting or even eye opening. I would have loved to have seen other options for a working writer.”
Natalie Giarratano, originally from rural Southeast Texas, received her PhD in creative writing from Western Michigan University. She is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, Best New Poets, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives near the foothills of Northern Colorado with her partner and daughter.
Natalie is working with Megan Lahman of Frostburg, Maryland.
Elizabeth Isadora Gold
“The writing world is diffuse and competitive. In our current financial and political climate, it is difficult to parse out which voices are the loudest versus which are speaking truth to power, and unpacking problems—with beauty, clarity, grace, and humor. Writers need each other, as sounding boards, peers, and confidants.”
Elizabeth Isadora Gold's writing about motherhood, books, music, and feminism has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, the Believer, Tin House, the Rumpus, Time Out New York, ROAR, and many other publications. Her nonfiction book, The Mommy Group: Freaking Out, Finding Friends, and Surviving the Happiest Times of Our Lives was published by Atria Books in 2016. According to the New Yorker, she “writes vividly and humorously about the trials and trip-outs of new-motherhood.” She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter.
Elizabeth is working with Mariette Williams of Lake Worth, Florida.
Creative Nonfiction and Fiction
“Believe in your love of language and your vision for your work. Read constantly, listen to the voices and conversations around you, and always remember you are feeding the river of literature.”
Amy Gottlieb's debut novel The Beautiful Possible (Harper Perennial) was a finalist for the Ribalow Prize, a 2016 National Jewish Book Award, and Edward Lewis Wallant Award. Her fiction and poetry have been published in Storyscape, the Ilanot Review, Lilith, Puerto del Sol, On Being, Zeek, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, and elsewhere. She lives in New York City, where she teaches college writing and literature.
Amy is working with Ruth Ebenstein of Jerusalem, Israel.
“The connections that writers build with their mentors are essential in the transitional phase between being an apprentice writer and professional writer.”
Keith Kopka is the Managing Director of the creative writing program at Florida State University. His poetry and criticism have recently appeared in The International Journal of The Book, Mid-American Review, New Ohio Review, Ninth Letter, and many others. Kopka was a finalist for the 2017 National Poetry Series and won the 2017 International Award for Excellence from the Books, Publishing & Libraries Research Network. He is also the co-founder and the Director of Operations for Writers Resist, a Senior Editor at Narrative Magazine, a recipient of a Chautauqua Arts Fellowship, and a Vermont Studio Center poetry fellow.
Keith is working with Kelley Nebosky of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Laura Ellen Joyce
“Don't look at trends, and don't try to fit into a marketplace. Write the book you want to read and disregard all of the noise and myth.”
Laura Ellen Joyce is a Lecturer in creative writing and literature at the University of East Anglia. Her recent monograph, Luminol Theory (Punctum, 2017), focusses on the intersection of forensics, psychoanalysis, and hermeneutics. She has written two experimental genre novellas: The Museum of Atheism (Salt, 2012) and The Luminol Reels (Calamari, 2014). Her forthcoming book on cinema, Deadly Landscapes: Sexuality and Violence in Contemporary Eco-horror, will be published by Bloomsbury in 2019. She worked on her first creative nonfiction project under the mentorship of Xu Xi during the AWP Writer to Writer Mentorship Program in 2017.
Laura is working with Kirin Khan of Oakland, California.
Sandra Gail Lambert
“The pundits are always talking about needing to build a writing platform. For me, it's always been about building community. In the lesbian-feminist community of the eighties, I learned that community was about survival, and I've carried that understanding forward into writing.”
Sandra Gail Lambert writes fiction and memoir that is often about the body and its relationship to the natural world. She is a 2018 NEA Creative Writing Fellow, and her memoir, A Certain Loneliness, will be released from the University of Nebraska Press. Her work has been published in journals such as the Southern Review, New Letters, and Brevity, and has been widely anthologized. Lambert is the co-editor of the anthology Older Queer Voices: The Intimacy of Survival. The River's Memory is her debut novel.
Sandra is working with Kelsey Myers of Boardman, Ohio.
“Being a mentor is a way of paying forward some of the wonderful mentoring I've received in the past. I hope to pay off a small bit of my karmic debt.”
Barbara Lindsay’s first full length play Free won the NY Drama League’s 1989 Playwrighting Award and was given its premiere performance in London in 1991. Since then there have been more than 400 productions of her plays and monologues in 33 states, 13 countries, and on every continent except Antarctica. Besides being a playwright, she is an actress, writing teacher, and art model. Barbara is a fifth-generation Californian now living in Seattle, married to an amazing man, and ridiculously happy.
Barbara is working with Jennifer O’Grady of Pelham, New York.
“I knew perfectly well that what I’d observed in my mentee could have been observed by countless other people. Why hadn’t any of them said it to her?”
Benjamin Ludwig is the author of Ginny Moon, which was a Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers selection, one of Amazon.com’s 20 Best Books of 2017, and received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, BookPage, and Booklist. His novella, Sourdough, won the 2013 Clay Reynolds Prize. A former English teacher and new-teacher mentor, he holds an MAT in English education and an MFA in creative writing.
Benjamin is working with B.C. Krygowski of Saint Petersburg, Florida.
“My favorite part about mentoring is helping a mentee locate his/her/their literary kin, be they living or deceased, and introducing the mentee to new writers and journals.”
Kristi Maxwell is the author of five books of poetry, including Realm Sixty-four (Ahsahta Press), That Our Eyes Be Rigged (Saturnalia Books), and PLAN/K (Horse Less Press). Her new work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bennington Review, Black Warrior Review, and Boston Review. She lives in Kentucky, where she is an Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville.
Kristi is working with Alex Niemi of Iowa City, Iowa.
“The benefits of mentorship blissfully cannot be quantified; and yet they have the capacity to change everything.”
Claire Messud’s five novels include The Emperor’s Children, a New York Times Book of the Year in 2006; The Woman Upstairs (2013); and, most recently, The Burning Girl (2017). She is also the author of a book of novellas, The Hunters (2001). Twice a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, a recipient of the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, and of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, she teaches creative writing at Harvard University. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and the New York Times Book Review, and lives in Cambridge, MA with her family.
Claire is working with Amy Nastase of Oceanside, California.
“Mentors can offer not only feedback on writing but also advice, encouragement, and wisdom on the artistic and practical sides of the writing life. For many writers who are working outside of a graduate program or other kind of writing community, the personal attention is invaluable.”
Maggie Smith is the author of three books of poetry: Good Bones; The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, winner of the Dorset Prize and the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards Gold Medal in Poetry; and Lamp of the Body, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award. She is also the author of three prizewinning chapbooks. Smith’s poems have appeared in many other journals and anthologies. Her poem “Good Bones” went viral internationally, was called the “Official Poem of 2016” by the BBC/Public Radio International, and has been translated into nearly a dozen languages.
Maggie is working with Lupita Eyde-Tucker of Palm Bay, Florida.
“We cannot ever fully, directly repay the work a mentor does for us, but we can repay it karmically by doing the same for someone else.”
Joe Schuster is the author of The Might Have Been, which earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and was one of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's best books of 2012.His short fiction has appeared in Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, and Missouri Review,among other journals, and he has contributed more than 600 articles, essays, and reviews to national and regional magazines and newspapers. Recently retired as a professor at Webster University, he holds an MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College and lives outside of St. Louis, where he is at work on a new novel.
Joseph is working with David L. Mintzer of Baltimore, Maryland.
“I would want my mentee to feel they have a real human who cares about the future of their writing and their career.”
Shanthi Sekaran is a writer and educator who lives in Berkeley, California. Her recent novel, Lucky Boy (Penguin Random House), was named a best book of 2017 by NPR and the San Francisco Chronicle. The New York Times calls it "brilliantly agonizing" and USA Today says "Lucky Boy pulses with vitality, pumped with the life breath of human sin and love." Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Canteen Magazine, the Rumpus, and Literary Hub. She's a currently a Distinguished Visiting Writer at St. Mary's College, and also teaches at California College of the Arts and the San Francisco Writers' Grotto.
Shanthi is working with Dayna Cobarrubias of West Hollywood, California.
“I think it is invaluable to have the devotion of a one-on-one relationship with someone who is in the same boat, so to speak. There is a common goal or destination or trip that we share, and in that sharing we learn things about not only our craft, but about each other as individuals, our sensibilities.”
Grant Souders is the author of the chapbook, Relative Yard (Patient Sounds, 2011), and a collaborative book with Nathaniel Whitcomb and Matthew Sage, A Singular Continent (Palaver Press, 2014). In 2014, he joined Matthew Sage in editing Patient Presses, Intl., including their chapbook series and their quarterly, digital magazine, WINDOW. Recently, his poetry has appeared in the Boston Review, jubilat, iO, OmniVerse, Denver Quarterly, Paperbag, and other venues. His first full-length collection, Service, is out on Tupelo Press. He received his MFA from the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop and currently lives in Denver, where he teaches English at the University of Colorado.
Grant is working with Rese Schille of Wasilla, Alaska.
“Writing can be a lonely pastime, and the “no” from editors, the form rejections, can take their toll. We all need an advocate, someone who is truly on our side, and that, I hope, is what mentors can provide. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t sometimes express our viewpoints and share things we have learned, but only that our main goal should be to offer that sympathetic ear to writers who are kind enough to share with us their vision.”
Doug Ramspeck is the author of six poetry collections and one collection of short stories. His most recent book, Black Flowers, is forthcoming by LSU Press. His story collection, The Owl That Carries Us Away (2018), is published by BkMk Press. Individual poems and stories have appeared in journals that include Kenyon Review, Slate, Georgia Review, and Southern Review. He teaches creative writing at The Ohio State University at Lima.
Doug is working with Sheree Shatsky of Melbourne, FL.
“I have a document listing all the rejections I received for my manuscript of The Way We Weren't: A Memoir—there were 194 among the no-thank-yous from agents and editors. After two years, I was weary, but I believed in the project and what I was doing, so I was committed to pursue it. I ended up with offers from two presses within two days, which is rare, but what I realized is that I sent out the manuscript too soon, before I had the arc and the concept in place and before I really knew how to talk about my project.”
Jill Talbot is the author of The Way We Weren’t: A Memoir and Loaded: Women and Addiciton. She is also the co-editor of The Art of Friction: Where (Non)Fictions Come Together and the editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Agni, Brevity, DIAGRAM, Ecotone, Fourth Genre, Passages North, Slice, the Normal School, the Paris Review Daily, the Rumpus, Slice, and more.
Jill is working with Kendra Vanderlip of Memphis, Tennessee.
“I'd like to help an up-and-coming writer focus on the signal instead of the noise, and best foster their sense of confidence in their own work as well as the tools to help them zero in on their own signal.”
Anne Valente is the author of the novel, Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down (William Morrow/HarperCollins, 2016), and the short story collection, By Light We Knew Our Names (Dzanc Books, 2014). Her second novel, Utah, is forthcoming from William Morrow/Harper Collins in 2019. Her short stories have appeared in One Story, the Kenyon Review, the Southern Review, and the Chicago Tribune, and her essays appear in the Believer and The Washington Post. Originally from St. Louis, she currently lives in upstate New York where she teaches creative writing and literature at Hamilton College.
Anne is working with Christina Consolino of Kettering, Ohio.
“There’s always satisfaction in seeing someone attain goals. And as mentors/teachers, it gives us another chance to learn new lessons ourselves.”
Ken Waldman has eight full-length poetry collections, a memoir, a kids' book, and nine CDs that combine original poetry with Appalachian-style string-band music and Alaska-set storytelling. Since 1995, he's been a full-time touring artist, appearing in a wide range of venues for a wide range of audiences: He has an MFA (with fiction writing emphasis) from University of Alaska Fairbanks, and has had work in Beloit Poetry Journal, Massachusetts Review, Quarterly West, and many other publications. The past year, Ridgeway Press has published Trump Sonnets, Volume 1, and Trump Sonnets, Volume 2. He's nearing completion of Volume 3.
Ken is working with Gabriela Halas of Anchorage, Alaska.
Stephanie Powell Watts
“Develop a routine. Get good at developing a routine. You will have to change your routine for the many changes in your life. You are not finished. Ever! You are always coming of age.”
Stephanie Powell Watts’ debut novel No One Is Coming to Save Us is the 2018 winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work and the inaugural selection by Sarah Jessica Parker for the American Library Association’s Book Club Central. She won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her debut story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need (2012), also named one of 2013’s Best Summer Reads by O: The Oprah Magazine. Her short fiction has been included in two volumes of the Best New Stories from the South anthology and honored with a Pushcart Prize.
Stephanie is working with Ona Anosike of Dallas, Texas.
Kao Kalia Yang
“Persistence pays. Just keep doing what you love for the people you love, and one day the people will realize they love you in return.”
Kao Kalia Yang is the author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, which was a finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award, the Asian American Literary Award, and received the Minnesota Book Award. Her most recent book is the National Book Critics Circle Award–nominated The Song Poet. Kao Kalia Yang, a graduate of Carleton College and Columbia University School of the Arts, is a member of the Hmong ethnic minority. Born in Thailand’s Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, she is now an American citizen and lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her family.
Kalia is working with Saba Sebhatu of Woodside, New York.