Writer to Writer's Fall 2021 Mentors

AWP celebrates the writers serving as mentors in the Fall 2021 season of the Writer to Writer Mentorship Program. We selected 20 mentors for this session 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 now being accepted for our sixteenth season, which will begin in May 2022.

  • Neil Aitken

    Neil Aitken



    “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 Megan Pinto.

  • Maryka Biaggio

    Maryka Biaggio



    “A good mentor can share knowledge about the craft of writing, the ins and outs of publishing, and the importance of community. But writing is a subjective business, and mentors can also help writers trust in their own vision and thus learn how to filter and use feedback, including that from agents and editors, in a constructive way.”

    Maryka Biaggio is a psychology professor turned novelist who specializes in historical fiction based on real people. She enjoys the challenge of starting with actual historical figures and dramatizing their lives—figuring out what motivated them to behave as they did and recreating some sense of their emotional world through dialogue and action. Doubleday published her debut novel, Parlor Games, in January 2013. Her second novel, Eden Waits, was published by Milford House Press in August 2019, and The Point of Vanishing is currently in press with Milford House. She has served on the board of the Historical Novel Society North America since 2015.

    Maryka is working with Katheryn Gallant.

  • Jen Breach

    Jen Breach



    “A creative mentor's job is to challenge and encourage their mentee and to grow and learn alongside them.”

    Jen Breach is a queer, nonbinary writer of stories for children. Their books include the middle grade adventure graphic novel series Clem Hetherington from Scholastic Graphix and the funny, punny picture book Something's Amiss at the Zoo from Lothian/Hachette. Jen is an MFA candidate in VCFA's Writing for Children and Young Adults program. Originally from a tiny town in rural Australia, Jen now lives and writes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    Jen is working with Rachel Howard.

  • Alexa Doran

    Alexa Doran



    “My best advice to up-and-coming writers is to immerse themselves in the world of contemporary literature, to come at this love from every direction—writing, reading, editing, workshopping, organizing, etc. Participating in an AWP mentorship is an excellent way to immerse yourself in that world. It's also a wonderful chance to have someone truly listen to your work. Since this is not an evaluation but a conversation about craft, there is so much room for wonder and growth.”

    Alexa Doran is currently working on her PhD in poetry at Florida State University. Her full-length collection DM Me, Mother Darling won the 2020 May Sarton Poetry Prize and will be published by Bauhan Publishing in the spring of 2021. She is also the author of the chapbook Nightsink, Faucet Me a Lullaby (Bottlecap Press 2019). You can look for work from Doran in recent or upcoming issues of Passages North, Literary Mama, Pithead Chapel, THE BOILER, and Harvard Review, among others. For a full list of her publications, awards, and interviews, please visit her website at alexadoran.com

    Alexa is working with Nina Murray.

  • Jehanne Dubrow

    Jehanne Dubrow



    “What I like so much about this program is that it's a really pure form of teaching; there's no grading and, therefore, I can focus on simply helping the mentee learn as much about poetry as possible.”

    Jehanne Dubrow is the author of nine poetry collections, including most recently Wild Kingdom (Louisiana State University Press, 2021), and a book of creative nonfiction, throughsmoke: an essay in notes (New River Press, 2019). Her second book of nonfiction, Taste: A Book of Small Bites, will be published by Columbia University Press in 2022. Her writing has appeared in POETRY, New England Review, Colorado Review, and The Southern Review. She is a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of North Texas.

    Jehanne Dubrow is working with JC Williams.

  • David Eye

    David Eye

    Creative Nonfiction


    “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 Samar Al Summary.

  • Lucy Ferriss

    Lucy Ferriss



    “I never had a mentor when I was a young writer. I would like to feel I am paying this forward, giving someone the help and support I'd have liked to have, and then perhaps they will pay it forward in their turn.”

    Lucy Ferriss is the author of eleven books, mostly fiction, most recently the award-winning collection Foreign Climes (Brighthorse, 2021). Currently she is completing a new novel and a series of self-styled meditations, most of which have appeared in literary magazines. She is writer in residence emerita at Trinity College.

    Lucy Ferriss is working with Laysha Ostrow.

  • J. Kates

    J. Kates


    “A chronic illness rages in our blood—/ convinced, of course, that what we write is good.” —translated from Juvenal’s seventh satire

    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 has translated a dozen books by 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 Simona Carini.

  • Lara Lillibridge

    Lara Lillibridge

    Creative Nonfiction


    “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 (she/zher) is the author of The Truth About Unringing Phones: Essays on Yearning (forthcoming with Unsolicited Press); Mama, Only Mama: An Irreverent Guide for the Newly Single Parent, and Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home (both with Skyhorse Publishing). Lillibridge coedited an anthology with Andréa Fekete entitled Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility (Cynren Press), winner of the 2019 Foreword Reviews Indies Silver Award in Women's Studies. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from West Virginia Wesleyan College. Lara is the interviews editor for Hippocampus Magazine and a reader for HeartWood Literary Magazine. Lillibridge judged AWP's 2019 Intro Journals Award and was Hippocampus Magazine’s 2019 Literary Citizen of the Year. In 2016 Lara won Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest, and the American Literary Review's Contest in Nonfiction. Find her on the web at Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

    Lara Lillibridge is working with J. P. Der Boghossian.

  • Daniel A. Olivas

    Daniel A. Olivas



    “I am delighted when another underrepresented voice gets published. It is good for that writer and for the community at large.”

    Daniel A. Olivas is a fiction writer, poet, playwright, and book critic. He is the author of ten books, including How to Date a Flying Mexican: New and Collected Stories (University of Nevada Press), The King of Lighting Fixtures: Stories (University of Arizona Press), and Crossing the Border: Collected Poems (Pact Press). He coedited The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles (Tía Chucha Press) and edited Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press). Olivas earned his degree in English literature from Stanford University and law degree from UCLA.

    Daniel A. Olivas is working with Lorinda Toledo.

  • Anne Leigh Parrish

    Anne Leigh Parrish



    “Mentoring builds confidence—confidence is what so many young/new writers lack and desperately need.”

    Award-winning writer Anne Leigh Parrish ’s next novel, an open door, will be published in October 2022 by Unsolicited Press. Recent titles from Unsolicited Press are the moon won’t be dared, a poetry collection (2021), and a winter night, a novel (2021). She is the author of nine other books. She has recently ventured into the art of photography and lives in the South Sound region of Washington State. Find her online at her website, Twitter, Facebook, Medium, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

    Anne Leigh Parrish is working with Laura Davis.

  • Mark Pleiss

    Mark Pleiss



    “The hardest part of being a writer is being alone during rejection. You can write very good stories, and they'll still be rejected by the dozen, and the feeling is that there's no point, and it's easy to give up. Good mentors keep you grounded and remind you that this is part of the gig. Good mentorship will also help you grow.”

    Mark Pleiss is a writer in Denver. He publishes essays, scholarly criticism, reviews, and fiction. His work has appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Colorado Review, Fine Lines, The Omaha Pulp, Sequel, and elsewhere. His recent collection of linked short stories, April Warnings (2019), was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Mark holds a doctorate in Contemporary Peninsular Spanish Literature and currently teaches at the University of Denver. He's from Omaha, Nebraska.

    Mark Pleiss is working with Sal Ragen.

  • Dawn Raffel

    Dawn Raffel

    Creative Nonfiction


    “I think it's just important for an emerging writer to feel that someone is really paying attention and believes in her. 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's most recent book, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney , was chosen as one of NPR’s best books of 2018. Her next book, Boundless as the Sky, is a hybrid collection that will be out in January 2023. Previous books include a memoir, The Secret Life of Objects; a novel, Carrying the Body; and two story collections. Her writing has been published in O, The Oprah Magazine; BOMB; New Philosopher; the San Francisco Chronicle; Conjunctions; Black Book; Open City; The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories; Arts & Letters; the Quarterly; NOON; and numerous other periodicals and anthologies. She works as an independent editor for individuals and creative organizations.

    Dawn Raffel is working with Lacey Dunham.

  • Sean Singer

    Sean Singer



    “I would like to pass on what I've learned to others.”

    Sean Singer is the author of Discography (Yale University Press, 2002), winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, selected by W. S. Merwin, and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America; Honey & Smoke (Eyewear Publishing, 2015); and Today in the Taxi (Tupelo Press, 2022). He runs a manuscript consultation service at www.seansingerpoetry.com.

    Sean Singer is working with Sharon Browning.

  • Joann Smith

    Joann Smith



    “A writer needs a community, even if it is a community of two. Sharing ideas, resources, and just talking about writing with another writer is critical to creating a sustained writing life.”

    Joann Smith has published stories in many literary journals, and her work has been anthologized and selected as notable stories of the year by Best American Short Stories. She is also the author of A Heaven of Their Choosing, a collection of short stories, and When I Was Boudicca, a novel of historical fiction. She lives in the Bronx where she finds most of her characters.

    Joann Smith is working with Jess Guinivan.

  • Rochelle Spencer

    Rochelle Spencer


    “Mentors can keep us calm and sane . . . or they can try. They can buy us a cup of coffee and listen to our dreams and ideas.”

    Rochelle Spencer is coeditor, with Jina Ortiz, of All About Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color (University of Wisconsin, 2014) and author of The Rat People (The Fantasist, 2017) and AfroSurrealism: The African Diaspora's Surrealist Fiction (Routledge, 2019).

    Rochelle Spencer is working with Chital Mehta.

  • Doug Sutton-Ramspeck

    Doug Sutton-Ramspeck



    “Writers can feel isolated and unappreciated. Mentors can help encourage and sustain a belief in the process. Praise is important to encourage growth. As a teacher, I always made a point of praising the parts of the writing that were strongest.”

    Doug Sutton-Ramspeck is the author of eight collections of poetry, one collection of short stories, and a novella. His most recent book is Book of Years (Cloudbank Books, 2021). Individual poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Slate, the Southern Review, the Georgia Review, and other journals. His short story “Balloon” was listed as a Distinguished Story for 2018 in The Best American Short Stories. In 2021, he received first place in the Bath Flash Fiction 19th Award. He is a three-time recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award.

    Doug Sutton-Ramspeck is working with Christopher Vaughan.

  • Matthew Thorburn

    Matthew Thorburn



    “I think the biggest benefit is encouragement—that helpful push to believe in yourself and your work, and to keep writing.”

    Matthew Thorburn’s most recent book, The Grace of Distance, was a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize. His book Dear Almost won the Lascaux Prize. He’s also the author of three earlier books and two chapbooks. His work has been recognized with a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, as well as fellowships from the Bronx and New Jersey arts councils. He works in corporate communications and lives near Princeton, New Jersey, with his wife and son.

    Matthew Thorburn is working with Jennifer Poteet.

  • Claire Wahmanholm

    Claire Wahmanholm



    “It’s crucial for writers who have more reliable access to audiences/resources/opportunities to have a sense of emerging writers’ priorities and roadblocks—to use our expertise to build ladders rather than pulling them up behind us.”

    Claire Wahmanholm is the author of Night Vision (New Michigan Press, 2017), Wilder (Milkweed Editions, 2018), Redmouth (Tinderbox Editions, 2019), and the forthcoming Meltwater (Milkweed Editions, 2023). Her work has most recently appeared in, or is forthcoming from, the Account, Ninth Letter, Blackbird, Washington Square Review, Couplet, Copper Nickel, and Beloit Poetry Journal. She is a 2020–2021 McKnight Fellow and lives in the Twin Cities.

    Claire Wahmanholm is working with Amy Alvarez.

  • Kristen Witucki

    Kristen Witucki



    “I also think that having a mentor gives the writer a space to hold her/their/his writing sacred. If a writer has not worked in a writing program, she has had to cram writing in among the obligations of daily life. If the writer has been fortunate enough to attend an MFA program, transitioning into a world in which creativity is not given financial or emotional support can be very difficult. Claiming or reclaiming the creative space can be challenging, and having a mentor who knows what that is like and can support you to take the time and space your work needs can be helpful.”

    Kristen Witucki is the author of two books: The Transcriber, a Gemma Open Door Book for Emerging Adolescent Readers, and Outside Myself, her first novel. Her shorter fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Brain, Child; Literary Mama; Exceptions: The Art and Literary Journal for Students with Disabilities; Wordgathering; and LightHouse Interpoint, the literary blog of the LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco. She works as the curriculum and content editor for Learning Ally's College Success Program for students who are blind or visually impaired, a teacher for Vistas Education Partners, a mentor for New Jersey's EDGE Program, and, during the pandemic, a homeschooling mother. She lives with her husband and three children in Highland Park, New Jersey.

    Kristen is working with Sarah Schiff.

Previous Participants

See lists of previous Writer to Writer participants.