Previously In the Spotlight

Previously featured In the Spotlight members.

Date Featured Member
January 2021 Eileen Cleary Rebecca Connors

Eileen Cleary & Rebecca Connors

“One of the greatest gifts poetry has given me is that it collapses distance and time. Poets around the world over various centuries can be in conversation with one another simply by being read by the same person. ” —Eileen Cleary

“I met Eileen Cleary, poet and editor, in a Grub Street Master Poetry Workshop in 2014. I have always been impressed with her dedication to her craft and her generosity to other poets. Her work in the literary community has been remarkable, and she is always finding new ways to connect poets and amplify their work. This conversation took place through email over the course of a few months. ” —Rebecca Connors

November 2020 LeAnne Howe

LeAnne Howe

“Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Do something that you can write about later. Otherwise your fiction will not grow, you will not get a publisher, and you will give up creative writing because you will have nothing interesting to say.”

October 2020 Melissa Fraterrigo, Carol D. Guerrero-Murphy & Yiyun Li

Melissa Fraterrigo, Carol D. Guerrero-Murphy & Yiyun Li

About: AWP is proud of the support and amazing contributions that our members are making to the literary community as writers, educators, organizers, and publishers in spite of our current climate. Over the next few months, AWP will be shining a spotlight on these members to recognize and honor their valuable contributions. Our October members in the Spotlight are Melissa Fraterrigo, Carol D. Guerrero-Murphy and Yiyun Li.

May 2020 Martha McPhee

Martha McPhee

“Hearing that I have moved a reader is the most powerful compliment. That’s what I want to accomplish after all with my storytelling, take the reader into emotional terrain and have her/him feel it, connect to it viscerally.”

March 2020 Hélène Cardona & Laura J. Braverman

Hélène Cardona & Laura J. Braverman

“Whether writing or acting, I find myself in an exalted state of concentration and consciousness, like a meditation or trance. It’s as if time stops or expands, and I’m able to touch other worlds and keep a sense of connection with what is bigger than me.” —Hélène Cardona

“There is intensity and ‘headiness’ that can come about when writing, the experience of which is very satisfying but also sometimes draining. Painting helps to bring me back to my body, and to the nonverbal.” —Laura J. Braverman

February 2020 Joanne Veal Gabbin & Lauren K. Alleyne

Joanne Veal Gabbin & Lauren K. Alleyne

“Navajo poets have attempted to define or locate the meaning or phrase(s) for Poetry in Navajo language, but we are constantly debating whether one person’s name for it, which then also houses meaning, is also shared by someone else. In that sense poetry is continually mysterious—a depth within language, it beautifies and generates thought and connection to a moment in time and connects us again to some truth of an experience. It’s energy, carried into the world through utterance and song.” —Sherwin Bitsui

“Poets, if equipped, if so moved, have the same essential responsibility as any critical time implicates; to address, articulate, call, summon, insist, portray. The entire planet is endangered, in crisis. The consuming empires are literally killing us. To not speak would seem to some criminal” —Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

January 2020 Sherwin Bitsui & Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

Sherwin Bitsui & Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

“Navajo poets have attempted to define or locate the meaning or phrase(s) for Poetry in Navajo language, but we are constantly debating whether one person’s name for it, which then also houses meaning, is also shared by someone else. In that sense poetry is continually mysterious—a depth within language, it beautifies and generates thought and connection to a moment in time and connects us again to some truth of an experience. It’s energy, carried into the world through utterance and song.” —Sherwin Bitsui

“Poets, if equipped, if so moved, have the same essential responsibility as any critical time implicates; to address, articulate, call, summon, insist, portray. The entire planet is endangered, in crisis. The consuming empires are literally killing us. To not speak would seem to some criminal” —Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

November 2019 Emma Bolden

Emma Bolden

“Now more than ever, it is crucial to support, celebrate, and promote works written, edited, and compiled by underrepresented and marginalized identities. Literature is, in my opinion, the clearest, most intimate representation of the human experience. I feel that it is the responsibility of the publishing industry in general—and small presses in particular—to uplift the voices of the full spectrum of human experience.”

October 2019 Octavio Quintanilla

Octavio Quintanilla

“Polish your craft. Spend time reading. Talking about what you read and about what you write. Publication will come and you’ll be happy you were not in a rush.”

June 2019 James McNulty

James McNulty

“Read as much as you can, and when you do read, don’t just read for the content. Pay attention to the language, the paragraphs, the punctuation: the execution. Don’t write sentences just for their content; instead, look at a sentence as a piece of art that belongs to a larger work of art.”

May 2019 Jenny Romero Llaguno

Jenny Romero Llaguno

“I read every book I could lay my hands on—literature from all over the world—found in the library, borrowed from friends, some I even bought, gifts from various suitors. I was definitely hooked, intoxicated with words.”

April 2019 Julie Hensley

Julie Hensley

“Write what you want to read, and dwell in the work. Let the work sustain you until you find an audience.”

March 2019 Philip Kenney

Philip Kenney

“What I loved about a writing practice from the beginning was that it asked me to be awake… Soon I noticed I was less preoccupied with my insecurities and more present with my experience of the moment and the enchantments of life.”

February 2019 Larissa Lai

Larissa Lai

“In the life I dream of, students, colleagues, friends, and strangers would have a lot more freedom to engage their practices from the cores of their beings, without so much administration, so many hoops, exams, requirements, and most of all without so much competition. Both inside the academy and out, we would have very different forms of governance.”

January 2019 Kwoya Fagin Maples

Kwoya Fagin Maples

“…what we most need in life is empathy and a capacity for understanding. We also need to know that where we are is not always indicative of where we will be.”

December 2018 Allen Gee

Allen Gee

“Editing is time consuming; I bring all of my attention to the editing process when working with a writer. You always have to strike the right balance, supporting the author with what they’ve intended to do, and not rewriting or commandeering a manuscript.”

November 2018 Donna Kaz

Donna Kaz

“Finding my voice as a writer took time. It is also an ongoing and never-ending quest. The voice I had yesterday will not necessarily be the voice I have tomorrow. So being true to myself and honest in my work is key for me.”

October 2018 Gianna Russo

Gianna Russo

“I ask students to think about what potters do: They throw a big, messy, unwieldy slab of clay on a wheel and then slowly start shaping it. ‘Lower your standards’ means be okay with that big slab of words. Don’t strive for perfection, just get the raw material on the page, get something down. Later you’ll start to shape. As Steve Martin said, ‘I think I did pretty well considering all I had when I started was a blank sheet of paper.’”

September 2018 Jeff Sirkin

Jeff Sirkin

“We want our students to have the opportunity not just to listen to and buy the books of the visiting poets, but to talk to them, see in the writers we invite a possibility for themselves, to see in poetry not just the creation of pretty objects, but a living form of communication, exchange, activism, and an ongoing conversation of which they are already a part.”

August 2018 Ashley M. Jones

Ashley M. Jones

“Since graduate school, I’ve made a point to surround myself with poets (and people) who are in the life-giving business. That means, poets who aren’t caught up in creating a flock of sheep who write exactly as they do. That means poets who are writing their authentic experience and who give space for others to do the same.”

July 2018 Elizabeth Austin

Elizabeth Austin

“Writing is odd: it’s just putting words down on a page essentially, trying to get them just right. If I can do that and use that to connect with another human being and pull them out of any isolation they might be experiencing, then that’s everything to me.”

June 2018 Brian Kaufman

Brian Kaufman

“‘Balance’ is the key word, and I wish I were better at it… There is always something more you can do or try when trying to publicize and market the books. So, at some point I have to say, ok, enough, a bit of ‘me’ time now.”

May 2018 Natalia Sylvester

Natalia Sylvester

“I think the question needs to shift and progress past asking POC authors to continually answer it. I'd love to see this question asked just as often to non-POC booksellers and literary journals, and then be taken several steps further: what are they actively doing not only to invite a more diverse community of writers, but to make their space one in which our community feels welcome, valued, and centered?”

April 2018 Brenda Hillman

Brenda Hillman

“The adrenalin of happily creating first versions/drafts can’t be confused with finishing work you think will last and you will be proud of. I often will return to a poem over and over because it is not yet in the zone of its initiating impulse, but rather has been the product of false pride.”

March 2018 Theodore Wheeler

Theodore Wheeler

“The idea is to start conversations about books and how literature fits into a modern person's life—and to do this in a specific way, in a specific place. There are always people drawn to see what titles we brought along on the cart. It's a challenge, a game, for them to be surprised by what titles we felt were appropriate for the venue and for them to suggest what we forgot.”

February 2018 Erika T. Wurth

Erika T. Wurth

“As someone who has worked at a University with a large percentage of working class white, black and Latino/Indigenous students, I can say that some of them come ready-made, and all they need is for me to pull them in the right direction, show them there is one. Others, there’s a glimmer, but what they’ve needed all of their lives was a toolbox. I hand it to them, show them how to work on the car – and my god, if they don’t often blossom in ways that shock me.”

January 2018 Candace Wiley & Monifa Lemons

Candace Wiley & Monifa Lemons

“The Watering Hole has been creating arts spaces for adults and youth since 2013, and now we want to do this in a permanent home—a Live Work Arts building… Imagine grabbing a coffee at The Watering Hole Lofts, hearing some poetry, seeing someone painting, and heading back to work. Or dropping the kids off at a collage class and sitting in on a poetry class in the next room, both classes taught by professional artists in residency. Or spending Saturday mornings doing yoga in the community garden.”

December 2017 Dan Calhoun

Dan Calhoun

“I also tell my undergrads that workshops aren’t the end all of writing. Don’t read all the critiques of your story (brutal and confusing). Don’t weigh everyone’s opinions equally (some people are horrible readers and some people are biased against certain genres). And if you experience a workshop from hell (I have), allow yourself a day or two to vent and steam and then brush it off and get back to work.”

November 2017 Fleda Brown

Fleda Brown

“Maybe our detrimental habits can be untaught... I think what happens in an MFA program like the one I teach in is that the learning process can be sped up. The work can get better faster.”

October 2017 Craig Santos Perez

Craig Santos Perez

“Write passionately every day. Read widely. Join a writing community. Travel. Attend literary events. Pay attention to the world.”

September 2017 Hélène Cardona

Hélène Cardona

“Read voraciously, in as many genres as you can. Let yourself be inspired by all kinds of art. And live. I believe artists and writers become better with time.”

August 2017 David Mura

David Mura

“My advice for writer's block, borrowed from William Stafford: 'Lower your standards.' I recall one graduate of the Iowa MFA program praising an instructor who critiqued her work so severely she didn't write for two years. That to me is malpractice. You can't improve your writing by not writing.”

July 2017 M.B. McLatchey

M.B. McLatchey

“…writing must be taught in a way that emphasizes discovery and growth of the student-writer’s voice, rather than emphasizing adaptation of a writer’s voice to a history of literature or to current trends in literature.”

June 2017 Zach Powers

Zach Powers

“There's no shame in having a style that evokes both love and hate. To me, at least, that's much more interesting than writing something that everyone sort of likes OK.”

May 2017 Adrienne Brodeur

Adrienne Brodeur

“Remember that writers today have to wear a lot of hats. I used to think: writers write, editors edit, publishers publish. The fact is, in today’s world, writers must actively participate in all these things.”

April 2017 Leslie Ullman

Leslie Ullman

“Each new piece of writing is its own universe suggesting its own potential laws and cause-effect connections. I offer my suggestions in a speculative manner, inviting the recipient to test them rather than swallow them whole.”

March 2017 Vidhu Aggarwal

Vidhu Aggarwal

“My father, in particular, had goals for me to rewrite the epic Mahabarata and Ramayana into English adaptations, which we would then make into films... Gorgeous, beautiful, expressive English was a family dream, as perhaps it is for many aspirational immigrants.”

February 2017 Ellen Meeropol

Ellen Meeropol

“…but I have never forgotten what Marnie shared with me—her insight and editorial expertise, but most importantly her unspoken and powerful message: that I was a writer and my novel was worth writing.”

January 2017 Jan Beatty

Jan Beatty

“I don’t like the word ‘career.’ I think we are making art and hoping to change worlds.”

December 2016 Michael Broder

Michael Broder

“Crazy right? I know. That’s how I know it’s worth doing.”

November 2016 Peg Alford Pursell

Peg Alford Pursell

“I’ve learned the hard way that if I’m not writing, I’m not really inhabiting myself.”

October 2016 Mani Iyer & Teresa Cader

Mani Iyer & Teresa Cader

“Technology keeps getting better at a rapid pace, and schools need to keep pace with it.”

September 2016 Vivian Faith Prescott

Vivian Faith Prescott

“I live with the tidal fluxes; I think I write differently at high tide than at low tide.”

August 2016 Allen Braden

Allen Braden

“Write from your instincts, not your intellect.”

July 2016 Emari DiGiorgio

Emari DiGiorgio

“It reminds us that we're writers, despite the other forces in our lives that demand attention.”

June 2016 Jodi Paloni

Jodi Paloni

“Once a festival author, always a festival author…their good news is our good news.”

May 2016 Ross White

Ross White

“I always try to remind writers that editors are human and therefore fallible.”

April 2016 Allison Hedge Coke

Allison Hedge Coke

“There is strength in unity.”

March 2016 Emily Carr

Emily Carr

“Ours is not a writer’s community. Ours is a community of people who all love to write.”

February 2016 Traci Brimhall

Traci Brimhall

“It's not time to give up; it's time to give more.”

January 2016 Lise Quintana

Lise Quintana

“I hate locking people into one book that everyone should read for all time—new, amazing literature is being written all the time.”

December 2015 Ron Capps

Ron Capps

“In many ways, I wrote my way home from war.”

November 2015 Jennifer Bartlett & Sheila Black

Jennifer Bartlett & Sheila Black

“I don’t know what I would have done in the days before typewriters.”

October 2015 Kathryn Winograd

Kathryn Winograd

“Write the best that you can at this moment, nurture it, believe in it, and present it to the world with the honor it deserves.”

September 2015 Caits Meissner

Caits Meissner

“The human fodder is often more exciting to me than the writer’s life—if one can even pull the two impulses apart.”

August 2015 Jarod Rosello

Jarod Roselló

“I get to work through my own big, heavy questions and draw cartoon bears at the same time.”

July 2015 Michael Steinberg

Michael Steinberg

“Each time you write, you hope to surprise yourself. When something unexpected, something unbidden, doesn’t show up on the page, it’s a bad writing day.”

June 2015 Lorraine Currelley

Lorraine Currelley

“Some of my proudest moments have been seeing seniors writing in isolation become actively engaged participants in programming.”

May 2015 Sam Slaughter

Sam Slaughter

“When I’m writing, I feel like I’m on top of the world, and when I’ve exhausted that feeling, I know I’m done for the day.”

April 2015 Susan Briante

Susan Briante

“Books are always a source of inspiration for me. But my students reminded me the poem can accept all kinds of data and images.”

March 2015 Minal Hajratwala

Minal Hajratwala

“Read more than you watch TV or movies or cat videos.'”

February 2015 Terry Kennedy

Terry Kennedy

“This sort of unplanned fellowship is what AWP is all about for me.'”

January 2015 Lisa C. Taylor

Lisa C. Taylor

“I love to finish a book and think to myself, 'I never could have written that.'”

December 2014 Luisa A. Igloria

Luisa A. Igloria

“I don't believe in writer's block.”

November 2014 Shauna Hambrick Jones

Shauna Hambrick Jones

“I try not to be too hard on myself because ideas sometimes need time to grow and mingle with other ideas.”

October 2014 Michael Khandelwal

Michael Khandelwal

“Because we constantly share ideas, none of us has to continually reinvent the wheel.”

September 2014 JP Howard

JP Howard

“We nurture each other both literally and figuratively.”

August 2014 Travis Kurowski

Travis Kurowski

“When read aloud in class, that rebellion almost always produces some of the most exciting art of the semester.”

March 2013 Jennifer Acker

Jennifer Acker

“I try not write in hardcovers, but paperbacks don’t stand a chance of escaping pen and pencil marks.”

March 2013 Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano

Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano

“I am an ambulant writer. Wherever my laptop goes, I go.”

November 2012 Sholeh Wolpé

Sholeh Wolpé

“Some people say one must respect books and not write in them. I guess in that regard I am shamelessly irreverent.”

November 2012 Michael Dumanis

Michael Dumanis

“Whenever you put a word on a page, remember that you are making a choice, and you should take responsibility for that choice.”

August 2012 Kirstin Chen

Kirstin Chen

“Sometimes I even wear earplugs in the silence.”

August 2012 Sarah Gorham

Sarah Gorham

“Wisdom, innovation, beautiful language, sadness. Kind of what W.G. Sebold has to offer.”

August 2012 Kelle Groom

Kelle Groom

“Day is ideal for revision; night for creation.”

August 2012 C.J. Hribal

C.J. Hribal

“I’ve always felt a tremendous debt to the people who took the time for me when I was a young doofus in college and who taught me what it meant to do your best work.”

August 2012 Gerald Richards

Gerald Richards

“I’ve never read War and Peace. Whenever people talk about it, I always try to change the subject to movie reviews.”

August 2012 Alex Shakar

Alex Shakar

“The real change has been audiobooks. Takes me back to the childhood pleasure of being read to.”