Writer to Writer’s Fall 2018 Mentors
AWP celebrates the writers serving as mentors in the Fall 2018 session of Writer to Writer. We received hundreds of applications for this session and selected twenty-six mentors based on their experience and 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 10th session, which will begin in February 2019.
“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 codirector of De-Canon: A Literary Project, and the curator of Have Book Will Travel.
Neil is working with Annette Wong of Los Angeles, CA.
“Writers are often isolated and in need of like-minded community. From day to day, I wrestle with the same challenges my mentee does: how to write, how to revise, how to publish, where to publish.”
Allen Braden is the author of A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood and Elegy in the Passive Voice. He has received fellowships from the NEA and Artist Trust. Braden teaches at Tacoma Community College and is the assistant poetry editor of Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments.
Allen is working with Lauren K. Carlson of Dawson, MN.
“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 Look Look Look (forthcoming in 2019 from Black Lawrence Press) and the chapbooks The Bloody Planet (Black Lawrence Press) and Double Mouthed (dancing girl press). Her work appears in Harpur Palate, Puerto del Sol, Salt Hill, Salamander, and many other journals, and she is the winner of DIAGRAM’s essay contest. She teaches at Franklin College in Indiana, where she advises the student literary journal and directs the creative writing reading series.
Callista is working with Brenda Joyce Patterson of Lakeland, FL.
“I have been a writer in residence with Houston-based Writers in the Schools (WITS) for six 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 Whisper Hollow, 11 Stories, and The Weight of a Piano, which is forthcoming from Knopf in January 2019, 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 3rd dan in taekwondo and is a certified women’s defensive tactics instructor. She lives in Houston with her husband and two children.
Chris is working with Laura Steadham Smith of Baton Rouge, LA.
“I felt strange seeing my name in print the first time—as if it were someone else. But I also felt elated and thrilled. I also felt that there was a responsibility—perhaps because I have always loved to read and I also worked for a newspaper as a copy editor when I was in high school, I knew that writers had a responsibility to the readers. I enjoy talking to other writers about their work and encouraging them to keep at it. It’s often all we need, a nudge that pushes us to continue, to delve deeper, to be what we are meant to be and write what we are meant to write.”
Norma E. Cantú is a daughter of the U.S.–Mexico borderlands. She is the Norine R. & T. Frank Murchison Professor in the Humanities at Trinity University and has published in folklore and Latina/Chicana studies. Dr. Cantú’s autobioethnographic work, Canicula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera received the Premio Aztlán. She cofounded CantoMundo, a space for Latinx poets and poetry. She is the series editor for Rio Grande/Rio Bravo book series for Texas A&M University Press and Literatures of the Americas for Palgrave. Her most recent publications include the coedited anthology Entre Guadalupe y Malinche: Tejanas in Literature and Art, and Transcendental Train Yard.
Norma is working with Natalia Reyes of Iowa City, IA.
“I hope to do my part in being accessible and accountable to those who will come after me, as I’ve benefited from those who’ve come before and taken the time to help my stumble toward the next creative possibility.”
Geffrey Davis is the author of Night Angler (BOA Editions 2019), winner of the James Laughlin Award, and Revising the Storm (BOA Editions 2014), winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Finalist. Other honors include the Anne Halley Poetry Prize, the Dogwood Prize in Poetry, the Wabash Prize for Poetry, and fellowships from Bread Loaf, Cave Canem, and the Vermont Studio Center. Davis teaches with the University of Arkansas’s MFA in Creative Writing & Translation and with the Rainier Writing Workshop. He also serves as poetry editor for Iron Horse Literary Review.
Geffrey is working with Mel McCuin of Newark, NJ.
“I’ve thought about fishing a lot as a metaphor for the act of writing... You’re fishing the same pool you’ve fished fifteen times and suddenly there are trout rising everywhere in it in a way you’ve never imagined before. I think a similar sensation can occur for the writer, too—when language is coming alive and bristling and sparking.”
Chris Dombrowski writes, teaches, and plies the rivers of western Montana. His nonfiction debut, Body of Water, was published to enthusiastic reviews in 2016. Also the author of two acclaimed poetry collections, his work has appeared in over 100 journals, including Poetry, Orion, Outside, The Southern Review, and The Sun.
Chris is working with Ainsley McWha of Saint Anthony, ID.
“Writing, as we know, is pretty solitary, and that's fine with me, but it is great to stay in contact with the world outside. The community of writers is a pretty great thing. While I don't teach, I do like to work with people one on one, and I found I was always best in that situation when I was teaching. I always got the most out of that as a student too.”
Jason Gray is the author of the forthcoming Radiation King, winner of the Idaho Prize for Poetry, as well as Photographing Eden, and the chapbooks How to Paint the Savior Dead and Adam & Eve Go to the Zoo.
Jason is working with Regina Chiuminatto of Silver Spring, MD.
“Mentorships can be generative, and have been for me in the past, in terms of granting permission. The emerging writers I know (and the one I have been) sometimes needed to be told that they were ‘doing it right’—that they deserved to apply for XYZ—whether that was submitting work or applying to programs or conferences. I think mentors can also help mentees cope with the many rejections that are inevitable in the writing world.”
Erin Hoover’s debut poetry collection, Barnburner, was selected by Kathryn Nuernberger for Elixir Press’s 2017 Antivenom Award. Individual poems from Barnburner have appeared in the Best American Poetry and Best New Poets series, and in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Narrative, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Pleiades. Hoover has served as past editor of the Southeast Review, volunteer for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, and cofounder of the literary organization Late Night Library. She earned a PhD from Florida State University and currently teaches first-year writing.
Erin is working with Romana Iorga of Pully, Switzerland.
“A healthy literary ecosystem comprises many different voices from many different backgrounds. As a mentor, I hope to share tools that can help emerging writers make themselves heard.”
Allegra Hyde is a fiction writer and essayist. Her debut story collection, Of This New World (University of Iowa Press, 2016), won the John Simmons Short Fiction Award. She has received three Pushcart Prizes, as well as fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Montalvo Arts Center, and the U.S. Fulbright Commission. Currently a resident of Houston, Texas, she teaches at the University of Houston and at community workshops around the city.
Allegra is working with Clare Sanders of Escondido, CA.
“The people who keep at it are the people who succeed. It's a slow, arduous journey.”
Zeke Jarvis is a Professor of English at Eureka College, where he edits ELM. His work has appeared in Bitter Oleander, Moon City Review, and Posit, among other places. His books include So Anyway…, Lifelong Learning, and In A Family Way. His play, Meeting, was produced in the spring of 2018.
Zeke is working with Elyse Durham of Royal Oak, MI.
“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 codirector 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. is working with Joyce Schmid of Palo Alto, CA.
“Nonfiction, essays, and travel narratives are explorations of self, identity, and place. I teach how trusting our memories through visualizations, both auditory and visual, inspires associative writing and a faith in the words themselves.”
Sarah Leamy is a queer androgynous immigrant who writes from that outsider perspective. She is the author of the award-winning books Van Life, When No One’s Looking, and Lucky Shot. An MFA candidate, she has received the Vermont College of Fine Arts Director's Award, the Vermont Book Award Fellowship, and a scholarship to the Post Graduate Writer's Conference. She has been invited to read her flash fiction at South Dakota State University Writer's Conference, and Arizona State University just awarded her a full conference teaching fellowship. Sarah is currently finishing Free to Be Me, a gritty novel set in London in the early ‘90s, and a collection of short stories/flash/prose poems titled Ambiguity.
Sarah is working with Helen Armstrong of Broomfield, CO.
Mira T. Lee
“There are three words every author needs to reckon with: Why. Not. Me. (From my own AWP mentor, and it's the absolute truth.)”
Mira T. Lee's debut novel, Everything Here is Beautiful, was selected by the American Booksellers Association as a Top 10 Debut title for 2018 and was featured as a Top Winter/2018 Pick by more than 30 news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, O Magazine, Poets & Writers, and Huffington Post, among others. Her short fiction has appeared in journals such as the Southern Review, the Missouri Review, and Harvard Review, and has twice received special mention for the Pushcart Prize. She lives with her husband and two children in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Mira is working with China Hill-LoBue of Berwyn, IL.
“Be tenacious in your writing work and compassionate in your workings with people.”
Alex Lemon’s Another Last Day will be published this spring (Milkweed Editions). He is the author of Feverland: A Memoir in Shards, Happy: A Memoir, and the poetry collections The Wish Book, Fancy Beasts, Hallelujah Blackout, and Mosquito. His writing has appeared in Esquire, American Poetry Review, the Huffington Post, Ploughshares, Best American Poetry, Tin House, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, AGNI, New England Review, The Southern Review, Grist, and jubilat, among others. Among his awards are a 2005 Fellowship in Poetry from the NEA, a Jerome Foundation Fellowship and a 2006 Minnesota Arts Board Grant. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and teaches at Texas Christian University.
Alex is working with Sarah Dalton of Union City, CA.
“The best advice about writing I have ever received was to ‘write into the fear.’ My fiction and nonfiction work often tackle challenging, dark, gritty queer themes. Early in my career I was nervous about how this work might be perceived by publishers/editors/readers. The best advice my mentors gave me was to write into that fear instead of trying to write around it. I know that this commitment to my voice has been key to all the success I’ve experienced and is ultimately what my readers have most connected with.”
Sassafras Lowrey is a straightedge punk who grew up to become the 2013 winner of the Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award. Hir books—Lost Boi, A Little Queermas Carol, Roving Pack, Leather Ever After, and Kicked Out—have been honored by organizations ranging from the National Leather Association to the American Library Association. Hir nonfiction book Left Out: How Marriage Equality Abandoned Homeless LGBTQ Youth is forthcoming from The New Press. Sassafras’s fiction and nonfiction work has appeared in numerous anthologies, literary journals, and magazines, and ze facilitates writing workshops at colleges, conferences, and homeless shelters across the country. Sassafras has recently relocated from Brooklyn to Portland with hir partner, and their menagerie of dogs and cats.
Sassafras is working with Tahirah Alexander Green of Washington, DC.
“We have to support one another. This means reading other writers, reviewing books, and loudly and publicly supporting good work, both from established authors and writers just starting out. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed.”
Steph Post is the author of the novels Miraculum, Walk in the Fire, Lightwood, and A Tree Born Crooked. She graduated from Davidson College as a recipient of the Patricia Cornwell Scholarship and winner of the Vereen Bell award, and she holds a master’s degree in Graduate Liberal Studies from UNCW. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, a Rhysling Award and was a semifinalist for the Big Moose Prize. She lives in Florida.
Steph is working with Lauren Dostal of Tampa, FL.
Young Adult Fiction
“My hope is to dispel the myth behind publishing and writing. I came late to writing fiction, leaving behind a full career as a journalist. I feel it's important for me to give back what knowledge I have in regards to being a writer of color in this industry.”
Lilliam Rivera is an award-winning writer and author of the young adult novels Dealing in Dreams, forthcoming from Simon & Schuster on March 5, 2019, and The Education of Margot Sanchez, available now in bookstores everywhere. Her work has appeared in Lenny Letter, Tin House, Los Angeles Times, and Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, to name a few. Lilliam lives in Los Angeles.
Lilliam is working with Monica Villavicencio of San Francisco, CA.
“We're all in this together, and in a world that's so isolated, it's so important to build those long term and meaningful connections with others.”
Keena Roberts is the author of Wild Life, a childhood memoir due out in November 2019 from the Hachette Book Group. She grew up half in a tented camp in Botswana and half in the U.S., where she still struggles to adjust to microwaves, smoke detectors, and refrigerators. Though her debut is nonfiction, her upcoming works include both adult and YA fantasy.
Keena is working with Amy Blakemore of Hartford, CT.
“Structure your life in protection of your writing, so that you don't depend solely on writing to live, pay bills, etc. If you don't, eventually (unless you're one of those lightning-strike writers) your inability to make it solely on writing will cause such anger and resentment that you'll give up, and that robs the world of your voice.”
David Rocklin is the author of The Luminist and The Night Language. He is also the founder and host of the Roar Shack Reading Series in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He is currently at work on his third novel, The Electric Love Song of Fleischl Berger.
David is working with Ann Feldman of Wilmette, IL.
“When I was working full-time as a journalist in New York City, my creative writing suffered. 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 novelist, memoirist, and journalist. Her third book, a novel about Austrian Jewish refugees in Bolivia, is forthcoming from Viking. Previous work includes The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (Broadway Books 2010), the tale of her tenure as editor of a Yemeni newspaper, and the novel The Ambassador's Wife (Doubleday 2015). The Ambassador's Wife won the Best Novel award in the 2013 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition and the 2016 Phillip McMath Post Publication book award. It was shortlisted for both the Bisexual Book Award and the Lascaux Novel Award.
Jennifer is working with Olivia Katrandjian of Luxembourg.
“Some developing writers are focused on understanding their own practice. Others might be focusing on how to process taking their work out into the world—from querying to pitching to marketing/promoting. In my opinion, it is critically important for writers to remember themselves in the midst of navigating these poles: their personal goals, their personal well-being, their curiosities, the love of writing and reading that drove them to put pen to paper in the first place.”
Tom Stern is the author of the novels My Vanishing Twin (Rare Bird Books, 2017) and Sutterfeld, You Are Not A Hero (Rare Bird Books, 2015) and his words have appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books, Monkeybicycle, Memoir Mixtapes, and Hypertext Magazine. He is also the writer/director of the feature films Half-Dragon Sanchez and This Is A Business as well as other films which have been official selections of festivals across the United States and in Europe. Tom lives and writes in Los Angeles where he is also the Vice President of Admissions at Art Center College of Design.
Tom is working with Jarika Johnson of Shreveport, LA.
“My approach to mentorship is two-fold: 1. Help young writers realize the kind of writer they want to be and help them be the best version of that. 2. Help them navigate the complex literary world to find their niche, the magazines and presses and communities that are the best fit for them, and work with them on the skills that contribute to and build welcoming, nurturing, inclusive literary communities.”
Chris Tonelli is a founding editor of the independent poetry press Birds, LLC, and he curates the So & So Series and edits So & So Magazine. He is the author of five chapbooks and two full-length collections, most recently Whatever Stasis (Barrelhouse Books, 2018). He works in the Libraries at North Carolina State University and co-owns So & So Books in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lives with his wife, Allison, and their two kids, Miles and Vera.
Chris is working with Jennifer Wholey of Ithaca, NY.
“I love being part of the greater literary community. At the end of the process, I hope to have gained one more person I can cheer on, one more person I can enjoy reading, one more person I can celebrate when they find success, one more person to value as a peer.”
Erica Trabold is the author of Five Plots (Seneca Review Books, 2018), winner of the inaugural Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Book Prize. Her essays appear in The Rumpus, Passages North, The Collagist, South Dakota Review, Seneca Review, Essay Daily, and elsewhere. A graduate of Oregon State University's MFA program and the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Erica writes and teaches in Portland, Oregon.
Erica is working with Laura Laing of Baltimore, MD.
“It can be really tough for emerging writers to develop the confidence that’s needed to make time and space for a lively and sustainable writing practice, while also learning to claim their identity as a writer, roll with inevitable rejection, find their writing community, and understand how to navigate the process of placing short pieces, finding an agent, selling a book, and marketing that book. A mentor can help with all of these pieces.”
Jessica Wilbanks is the author of When I Spoke in Tongues, a memoir about faith and its loss (Beacon Press, 2018). She has received a Pushcart Prize as well as creative nonfiction awards from Ninth Letter, Sycamore Review, Redivider, and Ruminate magazine. Her essays have received Notable Mentions in Best American Essays and Best American Nonrequired Reading, and she was recently selected as a finalist for the PEN Center USA’s annual Literary Award in Journalism. Jessica received her MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Houston, where she served as nonfiction editor for Gulf Coast.
Jessica is working with Nelle Mills of New Orleans, LA.
“Mentorship is companionship on a long and often lonely road. Any writer can benefit from that, and perhaps also from the voice of someone who can say, ‘Don't keep checking your Submittable’ and ‘Take a breath and keep going.”
Hilary Zaid is the author of the novel Paper is White (Bywater, 2018). Hilary was the 2012 James D. Houston Scholar at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, a 2017 Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and is a two-time alumna of the Tin House Writers' Workshop. Her short fiction has appeared in journals including Lilith Magazine, the Southwest Review, the Utne Reader, Day One, the Santa Monica Review, and the Tahoma Literary Review. She lives in Oakland, California, with her wife and two sons.
Hilary is working with Christine Madsen of Moretown, VT.