In the Spotlight

Featuring AWP members who represent AWP’s mission to foster literary achievement, to advance the art of writing as essential to a good education, and to serve the makers, teachers, students, and readers of contemporary writing.

  • Larissa Lai

    Larissa Lai

    Calgary, Alberta, Canada

    “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.”

    This month, in a special exchange with our sister organization in Canada, The Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs (or CCWWP, pronounced “quip”), our Spotlight is on novelist and poet Larissa Lai in an interview with Canadian-French author Pierre-Luc Landry.

    About: Larissa Lai has authored three novels, The Tiger Flu, Salt Fish Girl, and When Fox Is a Thousand; two poetry books, sybil unrest (with Rita Wong) and Automaton Biographies; a chapbook, Eggs in the Basement; and a critical book, Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s. A recipient of the Astraea Foundation Emerging Writers' Awardand a finalist for seven others, she holds a Canada Research Chair at the University of Calgary, where she directs The Insurgent Architects' House for Creative Writing.

    This interview first appeared on the CCWWP website, and CCWWP will be featuring our In the Spotlight interview with fiction author and playwright Dan Calhoun.


  • Kwoya Fagin Maples

    Kwoya Fagin Maples

    Birmingham, Alabama      Member Since: 2015

    “…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.”

    About: Kwoya Fagin Maples grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, and is a lover of sharks, particularly the Great White and Marcus. Her new poetry collection Mend (University Press of Kentucky), a finalist for the AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and written with a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, tells the story of the birth of gynecology and the role black enslaved women played in that process. She also runs the 3D Poetry program at the Alabama School of Fine Arts where she teaches creative writing.


Previously in the Spotlight

  • Allen Gee

    Allen Gee

    Columbus, GA      Member Since: 2004

    “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.”


  • Donna Kaz

    Donna Kaz

    New York, NY      Member Since: 2012

    “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.’”


  • Gianna Russo

    Gianna Russo

    Tampa, FL      Member Since: 2005

    “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.’”


  • Jeff Sirkin

    Jeff Sirkin

    El Paso, Texas      Member Since: 2006

    “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.”


  • Ashley M. Jones

    Ashley M. Jones

    Birmingham, Alabama      Member Since: 2012

    “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.”


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In the Spotlight highlights AWP members who are making exceptional contributions to the literary community.

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