Visiting Writers Series
One of the most anticipated aspects of the MFA in Creative Writing residencies is the Visiting Writers Series. Our visiting writers are generous with their expertise and are happy to share their craft with you through readings, workshops, and informal discussions.
Below are profiles of some of our program recent visiting writers at the Plainfield, Vermont, and Port Townsend, Washington, residency sites.
Chris Abani is an acclaimed novelist and poet. His most recent books are The Secret History of Las Vegas, The Face: A Memoir and Sanctificum. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Hemingway Award, An Edgar Prize, A Ford USA Artists Fellowship, the PEN Beyond the Margins Award, a Prince Claus Award, the Hurston Wright Legacy Award, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship, among many honors. Born in Nigeria, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Board of Trustees Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago. More at chrisabani.com
Kim Addonizio is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently What Is This Thing Called Love (W.W. Norton). Her novel, Little Beauties, was recently published by Simon & Schuster. With Dorianne Laux, she co-authored The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry (W.W. Norton). She has received numerous awards for her poetry and fiction, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, two NEA Fellowships, and the Mississippi Review Fiction Prize.
Dorothy Allison received mainstream recognition with her novel Bastard Out of Carolina, (1992) a finalist for the 1992 National Book Award. The novel won the Ferro Grumley prize, an ALA Award for Lesbian and Gay Writing, became a best seller, and an award-winning movie. It has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Cavedweller (1998) became a national bestseller, NY Times Notable book of the year, finalist for the Lillian Smith prize, and an ALA prize winner. Adapted for the stage by Kate Moira Ryan, the play was directed by Michael Greif, and featured music by Hedwig composer, Stephen Trask. In 2003, Lisa Cholendenko directed a movie version featuring Krya Sedwick. The expanded edition of Trash (2002) included the prize winning short story, “Compassion” selected for both Best American Short Stories 2003 and Best New Stories from the South 2003.
Julia Alvarez is a poet and fiction writer. She spent her early childhood in the Dominican Republic, the homeland of both her parents. In 1960, at the age of ten, her family fled to this country after her father’s underground activities against the dictatorship were discovered. Here, in the English language, she discovered the magic of books and writing. She attended Abbot Academy, Middlebury College, and Syracuse University where she earned a Masters in Creative Writing. Her first collection of poems, Homecoming, was published by Grove Press, fall l984, and reissued again with new poems by Dutton in 1996 as Homecoming: New and Collected Poems. The papers for “33,” a long sonnet sequence in Homecoming, were bought by the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library and included in their 1996 exhibit, “The Hand of the Poet: Original Manuscripts by 100 Masters, From John Donne to Julia Alvarez.” Her first novel, How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, won the PEN Josephine Miles Book Award for 1992 and was selected a Notable Book by The New York Times and an American Library Notable Book, 1992. Her second novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, was a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Award in fiction, 1995. Her second book of poems, The Other Side/EL Otro Lado, was published in 1995. Her third novel, ÁYO!, was published in January, 1997. Her novels have been translated into several languages including, Spanish, French, Danish, Norwegian, Italian, Greek, Swedish, and German. Her book of essays, Something to Declare, was published in the fall, 1998. A children’s story, The Secret Footprints, will be out in the spring 2000 from Knopf. In addition to her writing career, Alvarez has also been active as a teacher. She has served as Kentucky’s poet in the schools for two years; she has conducted creative writing workshops for bilingual students in Delaware and senior citizens in North Carolina, workshops which culminated in two anthologies, Yo Soy/I Am and Old Age Ain’t for Sissies.
Russell Banks’s novels include, among others, The Book of Jamaica (1980), Continental Drift (1985), Affliction (1989), The Sweet Hereafter (1991), Rule of the Bone (1995), and most recently Cloudsplitter (1998). Paul Schrader directed a film version of Affliction and is seeking a distributor, while The Sweet Hereafter, directed by Atom Egoyan, showed in theaters this winter. Continental Drift may also find its way to film under the direction Agnieszka Holland. Russell Banks has been widely honored, receiving awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Before Columbus Foundation, and Ingrain Merrill Foundation, among many others.
Lynda Barry has worked as a painter, cartoonist, writer, illustrator, playwright, editor, commentator and teacher and found they are very much alike. She is the inimitable creator behind the seminal comic strip that was syndicated scross North America in alternative weeklies for two decades, Ernie Pook’s Comeek featuring the incomparable Marlys and Freddy, as well as the books One! Hundred! Demons!, The! Greatest! of! Marlys!, Cruddy: An Illustrated Novel, Naked Ladies! Naked Ladies! Naked Ladies!, The Good Times are Killing Me which was adapted as an off-Broadway play and won the Washington State Governor’s Award. Her bestselling and acclaimed creative writing-how to-graphic novel for Drawn & Quarterly, What It Is, won the Eisner Award for Best Reality Based Graphic Novel and R.R. Donnelly Award for highest literary achievement by a Wisconsin author. D+Q plans to publish a multivolume collection of Ernie Pook’s Comeek, Barry’s next prose novel, and the follow up and creative drawing companion to What It Is, November 2010’s Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book.
Marilyn Chin is the author of Dwarf Bamboo, and The Phoenix Gone, The Terrace Empty. Her new book, The Ballad of the Plain Yellow Girl, was published by Norton in 2002. Her books have become Asian American classics and are taught in classrooms nationally. She has won numerous awards for her poetry, including two NEAs, the Stegner Fellowship, the PEN/Josephine Miles Award, four Pushcart Prizes, a Fulbright Fellowship to Taiwan, residencies at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Lannan Residency, the Djerassi Foundation and others. Marilyn is featured in a variety of anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, The Norton Introduction to Poetry, The Oxford Anthology of Modern American Poetry, Unsettling America, The Open Boat, and The Best American Poetry of l996. She was featured in Bill Moyers’ PBS series The Language of Life. She co-directs the MFA program at San Diego State University. In Fall, 2003, she will be a Radcliffe Institute Fellow at Harvard.
Nilo Cruz, winner of the 2003 Pulitzer prize for Drama, is a young Cuban-American playwright whose work has been produced widely around the United States. His plays are many and include Anna in the Tropics,The Beauty of the Father, Night Train to Bolina, Dancing on her Knees, A Park in Our House, Two Sisters and a Piano, A Bicycle Country, Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams (World premiere at New Theatre 2001), Lorca in a Green Dress, and translations of Lorca’s Doña Rosita the Spinster and The House of Bernarda Alba. Nilo has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including two NEA/TCG National Theatre Artist Residency grants, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, San Francisco’s W. Alton Jones award and a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays award. His work has been seen at the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey, at New York’s Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theatre, at South Coast Rep, at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, New York Theatre Workshop, Magic Theatre, Minneapolis Children’s Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Washington’s Studio Theatre, Florida Stage, The Coconut Grove Playhouse, and at New Theatre.
Meghan Daum is the author, most recently, of the essay collection The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion. Her other books include the essay collection My Misspent Youth, the novel The Quality of Life Report, and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, a memoir. Since 2005, Meghan has been an opinion columnist for The Los Angeles Times, writing on political, cultural, and social affairs. She has contributed to public radio’s Morning Edition, Marketplace, and This American Life, and has written for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, GQ, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and The New York Times Magazine. She lives in Los Angeles.
Erik Davis is a San Francisco-based writer, performer, and teacher. He is the author of The Visionary State: A Journey through California’s Spiritual Landscape, and TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information, which has become a cult classic of visionary media studies. He also wrote a short book of “occulture criticism” on Led Zeppelin’s fourth album. Davis has lectured at universities and festivals around the world, has contributed to scores of magazines and books, was a contributing writer for Wired and the Village Voice for many years, and has taught at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Pacifica, Maybe Logic Academy, and the California Institute of Integral Studies. He also wrote the libretto for How to Survive the Apocalypse, a Burning Man-inspired rock opera.
Mark Doty, the only American poet to have won Great Britain’s T. S. Eliot Prize, is the author of seven books of poems, including Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems (2008, Harper). The first, Turtle, Swan, appeared in 1987. His third collection, My Alexandria (1993), received both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Since then he has published Atlantis (1995), Sweet Machine (1998), Source (2001), and School of the Arts (2005, HarperCollins). He is the author of the memoirs Heaven’s Coast (1996), Firebird (1999), and Dog Years (2007), for which he won an American Library Association Stonewall Book Award. His interest in the visual arts is evident not only in his poems but also in his book-length essay “Still Life with Oysters and Lemon” (2001). Among his many other awards are two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships, a Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Award, and the Witter Byner Prize. As the award citation for the last of these noted, “Mark Doty’s poems extend the range of the American lyric.” Doty teaches in the graduate program the University of Houston, and is a frequent guest at Columbia University, Hunter College, and NYU. He lives in Houston and in New York City.
George Evans is the author of five books of poetry published in the US and England, including his most recent, The New World (Curbstone Press), and Sudden Dreams (Coffee House Press), shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He also translated The Violent Foam: New & Selected Poems (Curbstone Press), by Nicaraguan poet Daisy Zamora, co-translated The Time Tree: Selected Poems of Huu Thinh (Curbstone Press) from Vietnamese, and edited the two volume scholarly work Charles Olson & Cid Corman: Complete Correspondence, 1950 1964 (National Poetry Foundation: University of Maine). His poetry, fiction, essays, and translations have been published in literary magazines throughout the US, including Conjunctions, DoubleTake, Exquisite Corpse, Grand Street, Manoa, New Directions in Prose and Poetry, New Letters, Ploughshares, Poetry, Southwest Review, and Sulfur. His work has also been published (in English and translation) in Australia, England, France, Ireland, Japan, Nicaragua, and Viet Nam. Twice the featured poet in Cid Corman’s seminal literary magazine Origin, his work is represented in a number of major anthologies, including the Norton anthologies Postmodern American Poetry, Against Forgetting, the forthcoming Contemporary Voices of the Eastern World, and in The Other Side of Heaven: Postwar Fiction by Vietnamese and American Writers (Curbstone Press). An antiwar activist veteran of the Viet Nam American War, he is one of the subjects of a forthcoming multi segment radio series addressing the impact of war on culture and society, produced for National Public Radio (NPR) by the Center for Emerging Media at WYPR in Baltimore. George’s grants and awards include a 2003 Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship, two US National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowships, a Literature Fellowship for Poetry from the California Arts Council, and an earlier Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship.
Mary Gaitskill is the author of the novels, Veronica (2005), Two Girls, Fat and Thin (1991) and the collections, Bad Behavior (1988) and Because They Wanted To, which was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1998 . Her stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Esquire, The Best American Short Stories (1993), and The O. Henry Prize Stories (1998). Her story Secretary was the basis for the film of the same name. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she teaches creative writing at Syracuse University. She lives in New York. “….Gaitskill is reaching further into her preoccupations than ever before, and the novel is full of very real pleasures. Her prose has a perfumed clarity. She tacks against the upright dichotomies of our historical moment – dichotomies that shape how we think and who we are but are often more contingent than we know. In Veronica, as ever, Gaitskill’s brand of brainy lyricism, of acid shot through with grace, is unlike anyone else’s. And it constitutes some of the most incisive fiction writing around.” – The New York Times Sunday Book Review – Meghan O’Rourke.
Cristina García is the author of four novels: Dreaming in Cuban, The Agüero Sisters, Monkey Hunting, and A Handbook to Luck. She has edited two anthologies, Cubanísimo: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Cuban Literature and Bordering Fires: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Mexican and Chicano/a Literature. Two works for young readers, The Dog Who Loved the Moon, and I Wanna Be Your Shoebox were published in 2008. A collection of poetry, The Lesser Tragedy of Death, will be published by Akashic Press in 2010. García’s work has been nominated for a National Book Award and translated into fourteen languages. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, A Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and an NEA grant, among others. She is currently the artistic director for the Centrum Writers Exchange in Port Townsend, Washington and teaches at Mills College.
Thomas Glave was born in the Bronx and grew up there and in Kingston, Jamaica. A graduate of Bowdoin College and Brown University, Glave traveled as a Fulbright Scholar to Jamaica, where he studied Jamaican historiography and Caribbean intellectual and literary traditions. While in Jamaica, Glave worked on issues of social justice, and helped found the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG). Glave is author of the essay collection Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent (Minnesota), nominated for a 2006 Publishing Triangle Gay Mens’ Nonfiction Award and winner of a 2005 Lambda Literary Award. His fiction collection, Whose Song? and Other Stories (City Lights), was nominated by the American Library Association for their Best Gay/Lesbian Book of the Year award and by the Quality Paperback Book Club for their Violet Quill/Best New Gay/Lesbian Fiction Award. His edited anthology, Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles, will appear from Duke University Press in 2008. The recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including an O. Henry Prize for fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fine Arts Center in Provincetown, Glave was named a Writer on the Verge by The Village Voice in 2000. He presently teaches in the English department at the State University of New York at Binghamton.
David Greenspan has directed and performed in his plays Jack, Principia, The Home Show Pieces, 2 Samuel 11, Etc., Dead Mother, or Shirley Not All in Vain, She Stoops to Comedy (Obie), The Myopia, an epic burlesque of tragic proportion and The Argument. These have been produced in New York by the Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, The Foundry and Target Margin Theater and overseas by The Royal Court in London, Citizens Theatre in Glasgow and Stükke Theater in Berlin. He is currently collaborating with Stephin Merritt on a musical adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and adapting Aristophanes’ Frogs for David Herskovits and Target Margin Theater. As an actor, he received an Obie for his performances in Terrence McNally’s Some Men at Second Stage and Goethe’s Faust with Target Margin. Additional credits include The Beebo Brinker Chronicles with Hourglass (directed by Leigh Silverman), The Dinner Party with Target Margin, Kathleen Tolan’s The Wax at Playwrights Horizons, Lipstick Traces with The Foundry and Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band (Obie). An alumnus of New Dramatists, he has received Revson, McKnight, Guggenheim, Lucille Lortel Foundation fellowships and an Alpert Award.
Todd Haynes is an American screenwriter and director known for films that examine fame, sexuality, and the lives of people on the periphery of mainstream society. In Far from Heaven (2002), Haynes re-created the style of a Douglas Sirk melodrama. His next film was I’m Not There (2007), an unorthodox biography of American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, in which various actors (including Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, and Heath Ledger) played characters representing Dylan at different stages of his life. Haynes later cowrote and directed the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce (2011). In 2015 Haynes released Carol, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt. The critically acclaimed drama is set in the 1950s, and it centres on the romantic relationship between a female store clerk (Rooney Mara) and an older married woman (Blanchett).
Shelley Jackson is the author of the story collection The Melancholy of Anatomy, the novel Half Life, hypertexts including Patchwork Girl, and several children’s books. Her stories and essays have appeared in journals including McSweeney’s, Conjunctions, The Paris Review and Cabinet Magazine. In 2004 she launched her project SKIN, a story published in tattoos on 2095 volunteers. The recipient of a Howard Foundation grant, a Pushcart Prize,and the 2006 James Tiptree Jr Award, she is the co-founder with artist Christine Hill of the Interstitial Library, and headmistress of the Shelley Jackson Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children, a work in progress.
Hettie Jones is a poet and prose writer, author of How I Became Hettie Jones, a memoir of the “beat scene” of the fifties and sixties, currently available in a paperback edition from Grove Press. In 1998 Jones’s poetry collection, Drive, was issued by Hanging Loose Press and went on to win the Poetry Society of America’s 1999 Norma Farber First Book Award. Jones’s second collection, All Told, was published in 2003. Her third collection, Doing 70, appeared in March 2007. In 1958, Hettie (nee Cohen) married the as-yet-unpublished poet LeRoi Jones (now Amiri Baraka). One of the few visible interracial couples at that time, they had two children, co-edited Yugen, an influential literary magazine, and were at the “hot center” of the downtown bohemian New York literary, jazz, and art worlds. It is this story of their life together, and their acquaintance with other outstanding figures of that era, that is told in her memoir, How I Became Hettie Jones. Photo Credit: Colleen McKay.
Maxine Hong Kingston
Maxine Hong Kingston is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who operated a gambling house in the 1940s, when Maxine was born, and then a laundry where Kingston and her brothers and sisters toiled long hours. While in Hawai‘i, Kingston wrote her first two books. The Woman Warrior, her first book, was published in 1976 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award, making her a literary celebrity at age thirty-six. Her second book, China Men, earned the National Book Award. Still today, both books are widely taught in literature and other classes. Kingston has earned additional awards, including the PEN West Award for Fiction for Tripmaster Monkey, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, and the National Humanities Medal, which was conferred by President Clinton, as well as the title “Living Treasure of Hawai‘i” bestowed by a Honolulu Buddhist church. Her most recent books include a collection of essays, Hawai‘i One Summer, and her latest novel, The Fifth Book of Peace. Kingston is currently Senior Lecturer Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley. Her next book, I Love a Broad Margin to My Life, will be released by Alfred A. Knopf in January 2011.
Joan Larkin’s latest book, My Body: New and Selected Poems (Hanging Loose Press), received the Publishing Triangle’s 2008 Audre Lorde Award. David Ulin of the Los Angeles Times has called Larkin’s voice “unsentimental, ruthless and clear-eyed…. This is poetry without pity, in which despair leads not to degradation but to a kind of grace.” Larkin’s previous books include Housework, A Long Sound, Sor Juana’s Love Poems (co-translated with Jaime Manrique), and Cold River, winner of the Lambda Award for poetry. Larkin co-founded the independent press Out & Out Books as part of the feminist literary explosion of the 1970s and co-edited the groundbreaking anthologies Amazon Poetry, Lesbian Poetry with Elly Bulkin, and Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time with Carl Morse. Her anthology A Woman Like That was nominated for Publishing Triangle and Lambda awards for nonfiction in 2000. Among other awards, Larkin has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her writing includes two books of daily meditations in the Hazelden recovery series, If You Want What We Have and Glad Day. Now in her fourth decade of teaching writing, she will join the faculty of Drew University’s MFA program in poetry and translation in January. Poet and critic David Bergman has written, “There are few poets in America who can combine Joan Larkin’s formal mastery with her emotional intensity, and so it has been something of a mystery to me why she’s not better known or more widely valued as one of the finest poets in America.”
Dorianne Laux is the author of three collections of poetry from BOA Editions, Awake (1990), introduced by Philip Levine, What We Carry (1994), finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Smoke (2000). She is also co-author, with Kim Addonizio, of The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry (W.W. Norton, 1997). Recent work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The American Poetry Review, Shenandoah, and Ploughshares. Among her awards are a Pushcart Prize for poetry, two fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Dorianne is an Associate Professor and works at the University of Oregon Program in Creative Writing.
His one-man play, Word of Mouth: The Story of a Human Satellite Dish, was presented Off Broadway by Mike Nichols and Elaine May in 1995 and won the Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Solo Performance. Word of Mouth premiered at The Home for Contemporary Theater in NY and played at La Mama ETC., The New Mexico Repertory Co., The Coast Playhouse in L.A. (The L.A. Theater Weekly Award), San Francisco’s Bayfront Theater (Bay Area Theater Award) and at the International Boulevard Theater Festival in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The short feature film, Trevor, which was written by Mr. Lecesne and based on one of the stories from Word of Mouth, received an Academy Award in 1995 for Best Live Action Short Film, and also won first prize at the Hamptons’ Film Festival and honorable Mention at Sundance Film Festival. Trevor went on to inspire The Trevor Helpline — a national, twenty four-hour, suicide-prevention hotline for Gay and Lesbian Teens. The musical play, One Man Band, written by Mr. Lecesne with music and lyrics by Larry Hochamn and Marc Elliot, premiered Off-Broadway and was produced at The Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, The Grand Center in St. Louis, and The Downstairs Cabaret Theater in Rochester. Mr. Lecesne created The Road Home: Stories of Children of War, which was presented last year at The Asia Society in NYC, and at the International Peace Initiative at The Hague. He just completed adapting Armistead Maupin’s Further Tales of the City for Showtime, which will air in the Spring of 2001. His feature film, Virgin Territory, is being produced by John Lyons. As an actor, Mr. Lecesne’s theater credits include, Cloud 9, directed by Tommy Tune, Extraordinary Measures, written and directed by Eve Ensler at Here, the 30th Anniversary production of Boys in the Band, directed by Ken Elliot, and last summer he played Armold Beckoff in Provincetown’s 25th Anniversary Production of Torchsong Triology. He teaches playwriting at NYU.
Gary Copeland Lilley
Gary Copeland Lilley is a North Carolina native and earned his MFA from the Warren Wilson College Program for Writers. His publications include four books of poetry of which the most recent is Alpha Zulu from Ausable Press/Copper Canyon Press. He currently lives and teaches in Port Townsend, WA.
Paul Lisicky is the author of Lawnboy and Famous Builder, both published by Graywolf Press. Recent work appears in Five Points, Conjunctions, Gulf Coast, Subtropics, The Seattle Review, The Pinch, and in the anthologies Truth in Nonfiction and Naming the World. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the James Michener/Copernicus Society, the Henfield Foundation, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where he was twice a Winter Fellow. He has taught in the graduate writing programs at Cornell University, Sarah Lawrence College, and Antioch University Los Angeles. He currently teaches at NYU and in the low residency MFA program at Fairfield University. A novel and a collection of short prose pieces are forthcoming. He lives in New York City.
Patricia Marx writes comedy because she is too shallow to do anything else. She writes for film and television; she also writes books and magazine pieces. Patricia Marx’s television credits include Saturday Night Live and Rugrats. Among her books are: How To Regain Your Virginity, Blockbuster, You Can Never Go Wrong By Lying, and several children’s books illustrated by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, including Now Everybody Really Hates Me and Now I Will Never Leave the Dinner Table. Her book Meet My Staff was the winner of the Friedrich Medal—an award that was invented by Patricia Marx and named after her air-conditioner. The Friedrich Medal has never been received by anyone other than Patricia Marx. Patricia Marx’s writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Vogue, and the Atlantic Monthly. She would rather not talk about her film credits (a view shared, apparently, by various studio executives). Patricia Marx teaches sketch comedy at New York University. She was the first girl on the Harvard Lampoon. She is able to take a baked potato out of the oven with her bare hand. Patricia Marx is the oldest and favorite of three children. She grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia where she attended Abington High School, which, as was pointed out over the PA system every morning, was “First in the alphabet, first in achievement, and first in attitude!” Patricia Marx, usually known as Patty, is neither the Patricia Marx married to Daniel Ellsberg, who changed history when he released the Pentagon Papers; nor is she the ravishing young Brazilian singer Patricia Marx, whose popular albums contain a blend of hip hop, funk, Bossa Nova, and even some terrific make-out music. She would like to be mistaken for either of these women. Because she trusts you, Patricia Marx would like you to know that her banking card password is “BROKE”. For security reasons, we cannot reveal which Patricia Marx we are talking about.
Frances McCue, artistic director and co-founder of Richard Hugo House, is a poet, art reviewer, essayist, teacher and an arts instigator. Frances was a winner of the Barnard New Women Poets Prize in 1992, and her book, The Stenographer’s Breakfast, was published by Beacon Press. She has published in magazines from MS to Poetry Northwest. Frances has an M.F.A in Creative Writing from the University of Washington and a doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is an Adjunct Professor of Education at Seattle University, a Visiting Scholar at the University of Washington, a freelance art reviewer for The Seattle Times and she was an Echoing Green Fellow from 1998-2002. She has won grants from Hedgebrook, Artist Trust and 4 Culture. Frances is interested in poets who are turning to prose projects and would love to talk more about that.
Pablo Medina was born in Cuba and moved to New York City at the age of 12. He was educated by the Jesuits and thought about entering the order but then he discovered girls, who took him out of the straight and narrow and showed him the intricate steps of the dance of romance. He started writing poetry as a way of impressing members of the opposite gender and has revolved around the twin stars of literature and sex ever since. He has published 13 books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and translation and is determined to publish his next book as soon as he can in order to get away from that nasty number. His most recent books include the poetry collection The Man Who Wrote on Water and the novel Cubop City Blues.
Dinaw Mengestu is is an Ethiopian-American novelist and writer. In addition to three novels — All Our Names (2014), How to Read the Air (2010), and The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) — he has written for Rolling Stone on the war in Darfur, and for Jane Magazine on the conflict in northern Uganda. His writing has also appeared in Harper’s, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other publications. He is the Program Director of Written Arts at Bard College. In 2007 the National Book Foundation named him a “5 under 35” honoree. Since his first book was published in 2007, he has received numerous literary awards, and was selected as a MacArthur Fellow in 2012.
Rick Moody’s first novel, Garden State, was the winner of the 1991 Editor’s Choice Award from the Pushcart Press and was published in 1992. The Ice Storm was published in May 1994 by Little, Brown & Co. Foreign editions have been published in twenty countries, and a film version, directed by Ang Lee, was released by Fox Searchlight in 1997. His newest novel is entitled The Diviners. Right Livelihoods, a novella, was published in 2007. A collection of short fiction, The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven, was also published by Little, Brown & Co. in August 1995. The title story was the winner of the 1994 Aga Khan Award from The Paris Review. Moody’s third novel, Purple America, was published in April 1997. Foreign editions have appeared widely. An anthology, edited with Darcey Steinke, Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited, also appeared in November 1997. In 1998, Moody received the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2000, he received a Guggenheim fellowship. In 2001, he published a collection of short fiction, Demonology, also published in Spain, France, Brazil, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Italy, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. In May of 2002, Little, Brown & Co issued The Black Veil: A Memoir with Digressions, which was a winner of the NAMI/Ken Book Award, and the PEN Martha Albrand prize for excellence in the memoir. His short fiction and journalism have been anthologized in Best American Stories 2001, Best American Essays 2004, Year’s Best Science Fiction #9, and, multiply, in the Pushcart Prize anthology. His radio pieces have appeared on The Next Big Thing and at the Third Coast International Audio Festival. His album Rick Moody and One Ring Zero was released in 2004, and an album by The Wingdale Community Singers was released in 2005. Moody is a member of the board of directors of the Corporation of Yaddo. He is the secretary of the PEN American Center, and he co-founded the Young Lions Book Award at the New York Public Library. He has taught at the State University of New York at Purchase, the Bennington College Writing Seminars, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the New School for Social Research. Rick Moody was born in New York City. He attended Brown and Columbia universities. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Tracie Morris, one of the country’s most exciting and popular spoken word poets, has worked steadily over the last decade to redefine the limits of what poetry, and a poet, can be. While she is the author of two poetry collections—Intermission and Chap-T-her Won—and has been anthologized in a host of literary volumes, an important part of her process is to determine which “medium” best suits each poem. Some of her poems are to be experienced by being read on the page, others by being performed sonically, and some poems which do both. In the case of sound poems—poems whose meaning is based on the sounds of words, not just their literal meanings—Morris believes they are meant to engage the body by the auditory and physical presence created by the incremental manipulation of the words. She holds a BA and MFA from Hunter College and an MA from New York University where she is now a PhD candidate.
Walter Mosley is the critically acclaimed author of twenty-three books. His work has been translated into twenty-one languages. Many readers first discovered Walter’s writing in the Easy Rawlins mystery series. The first book in the series, Devil in a Blue Dress, was made into a feature film starring Denzel Washington and Jennifer Beals. In addition to his successful mysteries, Walter’s books span the genres of literary fiction, young adult fiction, science fiction and nonfiction. Both his fiction and nonfiction appear in a wide array of publications including The New Yorker, GQ, Esquire, Los Angeles Times Magazine and The Nation. Walter’s decisions as a businessman and writer reflect his commitment to empowerment and building community. He chose the small independent press, Black Classic Press, to publish the prequel to the Easy Rawlins series, Gone Fishin’. He felt it was important “to create a model that other writers, black or not, can look at to see that it’s possible to publish a book successfully outside mainstream publishing in New York.” Black Classic Press also published What Next, part political essay, part handbook for community action that examines the singular kinds of contributions and patterns of belief and action African Americans can add to any approach towards world peace. Life out of Context (Nation Books) moves from Walter’s personal experience of cultural dislocation to his call for African-Americans creation of a new political party.
Harryette Mullen teaches American poetry, African American literature, and creative writing at UCLA. She has been a visiting faculty member at Callaloo Writers Workshop, Cave Canem Poets Workshop, Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, Idyllwild Summer Arts, Napa Valley Writers Conference, and Naropa University, and a visiting writer and scholar at many other universities, arts institutions, and artist communities. Her poems, short stories, and essays have been published widely and reprinted in over seventy anthologies. Her work has been selected twice for the annual Best American Poetry anthology series. She is a recipient of a Katherine Newman Award for Best Essay on Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Poetry. Her poetry is included in the latest edition of the Norton Anthology of African American Literature and Oxford Anthology of African American Poetry. Her poems have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, French, Polish, Swedish, Turkish, and Bulgarian. She is the author of several poetry books, most recently Recyclopedia (Graywolf, 2006), winner of a PEN Beyond Margins Award. Her book Sleeping with the Dictionary (University of California, 2002) was a finalist for a National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She received a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in 2004; a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 2005; and an Eli and Edythe Broad Fellowship from United States Artists in 2008. Photo Credit: Hank Lazer
Dael won an OBIE Award for Beauty’s Daughter, which she wrote and starred in at American Place Theatre. She toured extensively with the Nuyorican Poets Café (Real Live Poetry) throughout the US, Europe and Australia. Her play, Monster, premiered at New York Theatre Workshop in November 1996. Dael attended Sundance Theatre Festival Lab for four summers developing new plays. The Gimmick, commissioned by the McCarter Theatre, premiered on their Second Stage on Stage and went on to great acclaim at the Long Wharf Theatre and New York Theatre Workshop. Yellowman was commissioned by and premiered at the McCarter in a co-production with the Wilma and Long Wharf Theatres. Vintage Books and Dramatists Play Service published Yellowman and a collection of earlier work. She was a Pulitzer Prize Award finalist and Drama Desk Award Nominee as an actress in and for Yellowman which premiered at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2002. She was a Susan Smith Blackburn Award Finalist with The Gimmick in ’99 and won for Yellowman. She is the recipient of a NYFA Grant,The Helen Merrill Emerging Playwrights Award, a Guggenheim and The 2005 Pen/Laura Pels Foundation Award for a playwright in mid-career. In 2006 Dael won a Lucille Lortel Playwrights Fellowship. Dael premiered a new work in collaboration with David Cale at Long Wharf called The Blue Album in 2007.
Ozeki’s first two novels, My Year of Meats (1998) and All Over Creation (2003), have been translated into eleven languages and published in fourteen countries. Her most recent work, A Tale for the Time Being (2013), was the winner of the LA Times Book Prize for Fiction, the Independent Bookseller Week, Book of the Year, and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Awards, and the American Booksellers Association (ABA) Indies Choice Award for Fiction, among others. Ozeki’s documentary and dramatic independent films, including “Halving the Bones,” have been shown on PBS, at the Sundance Film Festival, and at colleges and universities across the country. She lives in British Columbia and New York City.
Jeremy Pikser is an award-winning screenwriter best known for Bulworth (co-written with Warren Beatty), which was nominated for Academy, Golden Globe, and WGA Awards for best screenplay, and won the LA Film Critics Best Screenplay award for 1998. Pikser got his start working as a “special consultant” and uncredited writer on the film Reds (also with Beatty, and also nominated for an Academy Award for screenplay). He wrote The Lemon Sisters, starring Diane Keaton, Carol Kane, Elliott Gould, Kathryn Grody, and Ruben Blades, and War, Inc. (co-written with Mark Leyner and John Cusack), starring Cusack, Marissa Tomei, Ben Kingsley, and Hilary Duff, which premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.
Native New Yorker Marie Ponsot was born in 1921. She has published numerous works, including Springing (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002); The Bird Catcher (1998), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The GreenDark (1988); Admit Impediment (1981); and True Minds (1957). When asked why poetry matters, Ponsot replied: “There’s a primitive need for language that works as an instrument of discovery and relief, that can make rich the cold places of our inner worlds with the memorable tunes and dreams poems hold for us.” Ponsot, who also translates books from the French, has taught in graduate programs at Queens College, Beijing United University, the Poetry Center of the YMHA, and New York University. Among her awards are a creative writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize, and the Shaughnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association. Marie Ponsot teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia University in New York City.
Patricia Powell is the author of Me Dying Trial, A Small Gathering of Bones, The Pagoda and a recently completed novel manuscript, The Fullness of Everything. Her awards include the Bruce Rossley Literary Award, the Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction, PEN New England Discovery Award, and the Lila Wallace Readers Digest Writers’ Award. Powell has taught creative writing at Harvard University, Wellesley College, the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Graduate Writing Program at the University of Houston, and the Low Residency Program at Queens University in Charlotte. Powell lives in Watertown, Massachusetts.
Born and raised in Canada, David Rakoff is the author of the book Fraud (Doubleday hardcover; Broadway paperback). A regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine, Outside, and Public Radio International’s This American Life, his writing has also appeared in GQ, Salon, Details, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Wired, New York Magazine, and The New York Observer, among others. He has appeared on “The Late Show with David letterman,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” As an actor and director, he has worked with Amy and David Sedaris on the plays Stitches, One Woman Shoe, The Little Freida Mysteries, and The Book of Liz. He directed Jail Babes by The Dueling Bankheads at La Mama, E.T.C., and Mike Albo’s one-man show, Spray, at P.S. 122 in New York, appeared in Cheryl Dunyé’s film The Watermelon Woman, and has portrayed Lance Loud on stage, Vladimir Mayakovsky on public television, and Sigmund Freud in the window of Barney’s department store. He lives in New York City, and has done so since 1982.
Claudia Rankine is the author of four collections of poetry–Plot, The End of the Alphabet, and Nothing in Nature is Private–and, most recently, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric. She is co-editor, with Goddard MFA in Creative Writing faculty member Juliana Spahr, of American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language. She teaches in the writing program at the University of Houston.
Jose Rivera is a recipient of two OBIE Awards for Playwriting — for Marisol and References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, both produced at The Joseph Papp Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival. His screenplay, The Motorcycle Diaries, (directed by Walter Salles) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award, and a Writers Guild Award. The screenplay received Spain’s Goya Award and Argentina’s top award for screenwriting. Other honors include the Imagen Foundation’s 2005 Norman Lear Writing Award, a Fulbright Arts Fellowship in Playwriting, and a Rockefeller Foundation grant.
Dani Shapiro is the author of the memoirs Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, Vogue, The New York Times Book Review, the op-ed pages of The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times and has been broadcast on This American Life. Shapiro was recently Oprah Winfrey’s guest on Super Soul Sunday. She has taught in the writing programs at Columbia, NYU, the New School, and Wesleyan University; she is cofounder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy.
Peter Trachtenberg is the author of the nonfiction books 7 Tattoos: Memoir In The Flesh (1997) and The Casanova Complex: Compulsive Lovers and Their Women (1988) He has taught writing and literature at the New York University School of Continuing Education, the Johns Hopkins University School of Continuing Education, and the School of Visual Arts and is a frequent commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered. From Library Journal “In a highly original and absorbing memoir, the short-fiction author Tractenberg struggles to explain the ways of God to man or maybe just to himself. Each tattoo, like Catholicism’s seven sacraments, leaves an indelible mark on Tractenberg, which he uses to trace his life from early rebelliousness in the 1960s, through drug addiction on New York’s Lower East Side, to an attempt at atonement with parents, lovers, and himself. Tractenberg views God as a Mafia capo di tutti capi, a supreme being with a ‘trigger finger…as itchy as Dirty Harry’s.’ Yet, for all its irreverence, his memoir records a serious spiritual quest, a search for answers to questions at the heart of the world’s major religions: the nature of God, the cause of suffering, and the meaning of life itself. Highly recommended.”
Jean Valentine is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently The Cradle of the Real Life (Wesleyan, 2000). She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, The Graduate Writing Program at NYU, and The 92nd St. Y, and lives in New York City. A list of recent books: Home.Deep.Blue, alicejamesbooks; The River at Wolf, alicejamesbooks; and Growing Darkness, Growing Light, Carnegie Mellon.
Christine Vachon produced Todd Haynes’ first feature, Poison, which was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival. Since then, she has gone on to produce many acclaimed American independent films, including Far From Heaven (nominated for four Academy Awards), Boys Don’t Cry (Academy Award winner), One Hour Photo, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Happiness, Velvet Goldmine, SAFE, I Shot Andy Warhol, Go Fish, Swoon, I’m Not There, Gigantic, Cracks, and Cairo Time. Her latest and upcoming projects include a short film collaboration with ACE Hotel and online-film-content producers Massify, entitled Lulu at the Ace Hotel as well as a five-part HBO mini-series adaptation of James M. Cain’s 1941 novel, Mildred Pierce.
Meg Wolitzer’s novels include The Uncoupling; The Ten-Year-Nap; The Position; and The Wife, among others. Her first novel, Sleepwalking, was published the year after she graduated from Brown University, and she has been living and working as a fiction writer ever since then. Wolitzer’s short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. She has taught writing at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop; the MFA program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts; Boston University; the University of Houston; Skidmore College; and the 92nd Street Y in New York City. In the summer she teaches at the Southampton Writers’ Conference on Long Island. Wolitzer has collaborated with singer-songwriter Suzzy Roche, of the Roches, on a series of songs based on works of literature. Her children’s book, The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman, about kids who play competitive Scrabble, will be published in September.
Jacqueline Woodson is the author of a number of books for children, young adults and adults including If You Come Softly, I Hadn’t Meant To Tell You This, Autobiography of A Family Photo, From The Notebooks of Melanin Sun, and The Other Side. She is the recipient of two Coretta Scott King Honors, two Jane Addams Peace Awards, three Lambda Literary Awards, The Kenyon Review Award for Literary Excellence, a Granta Best Writer Under Forty Award, and a number of American Library Association Best Book Awards. Jacqueline teaches creative writing in the Graduate Program at City College and to young people from underserved communities at the National Book Foundation’s Summer Writing Camp.