Creative Writing Alumni
We’re proud of our MFA Creative Writing alumni
Brian Anderson lives in Flagstaff with his wife and two children. He spends his time working for the Flagstaff Fire Department, enjoying the mountains with his kids, driving an old pickup, and writing when everyone else is asleep or out of the house. Brian and his wife, Kristin, published Candy Monster in 2017 with Rook Publishing.
Robert Mateo Keegan, is editor-in-chief and founder of SlashnBurn and past fiction editor for Four Ties Lit Review. Robert received his MA in creative writing from Northern Arizona University where he served as assistant managing editor for Thin Air, and on the staff of Fiction International out of San Diego State University. Robert has been a writer, playwright, college educator, adult educator, social worker, grill cook, and professional safecracker. His work has been performed at the Northern Arizona Playwriting Showcase, has appeared in the inaugural editions of Four Ties Lit Review and the Narrow Chimney Reader, Hocus Bogus, and elsewhere. Robert does not currently have an agent or book deal. He is grateful to have pants.
You can contact Robert Mateo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lyncia Begay is a newly emerging Diné writer and artist based out of so-called Arizona who creates nonfiction pieces, acutely focused on the impacts of colonization. Her work often features elements of prose, poetry, essay, and story. In this essay, her work offers an integration of Indigenous philosophy, to offer the similitude that knowledge systems often share. Throughout this essay, there are a constant stream of themes that generously offer a series of humanizing moments in what is so often viewed as inhuman. Her ideas cause readers to challenge their perceptions of water and how they relate and honor the continuity of the water ways that are exceedingly disappearing in response the the sixth extinction. Lyncia’s interests consist of creating community projects geared toward cultural revitalization and Indigenous education systems.
Chelsey Burden received an MFA in Creative Writing: Poetry in 2016 and published her chapbook “Thorax Carnival” through dancing girl press in 2017. She works as a library clerk and freelance copy editor (www.rosefincheditorial.com). Her other publications can be found at www.chelseyburden.wordpress.com.
Chelsea Burk has worked as a high school English teacher and an advisor to first-generation college students. She currently lives in Mexico where she works as a freelance editor and spends her free time exploring ancient Maya ruins and drinking micheladas on the beach. You can find her at chelseamburk.com.
David Cain, a 2010 graduate, teaches English at Hendersonville High School in the mountains of western North Carolina.
Blake Carrera is the former fiction co-editor of Thin Air Magazine. He lives in Austin, where he works in marketing. He has previously been published in FlagLive and the Manhattanville Review.
Gavin Cobb lives in the DC area (i.e., the belly of the orange beast) with his fiance. He works as a federal contractor, where his sympathies are squarely aligned with the so-called “deep state.” Well, at least with a tiny part of it. While he hasn’t yet published anything less narcotizing than his office newsletter, he still works on his fiction every morning in the hope that, to quote Jahiz, “Whoever gives learning the devotion it deserves will be requited with the rewards they have earned.”
Christine Davis is an instructor at NAU, where she teaches composition classes, rhetoric in the media, and (this semester) fiction. She recently had a poem published by Clarion magazine and is currently working on a poetry collection and a novel. In 2016, she gave birth to a cool little dude named Jett.
Eric Dovigi lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. His piece “here is a list of words I prefer” was the 1st place winner of Grist Literary Journal‘s 2017 Pro Forma contest. Other work has appeared in Waxwing, Hobart, Flash Fiction Magazine, Blue Planet Journal, and elsewhere.
Lindsay Dragan is a musician and poet living in Pittsburgh, PA. A graduate of Pitt (’08) and Northern Arizona University (’10), she spent her 20s playing music in New York City and elsewhere. She returned to also writing poems after the birth of her daughter in 2016. She loves Pittsburgh sports teams, craft beer, and Italian Greyhounds. When she’s not playing or writing music or caring for her daughter, she likes to curl up with a good book or magazine at her favorite neighborhood coffee shop.
Stephanie Flood is a Filipino American adoptee currently living in Flagstaff, Arizona. She is a creative writer, information professional, mixed media artist and substitute teacher. As a Pushcart Nominee (2015), she hails with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Bachelor of Journalism from Northern Arizona University. Mixed media art has been featured in Oyster River Pages, The Tishman Review, Helen Literary Magazine, the Sonder Review, Storm Cellar, and The Healing Muse. Fiction and nonfiction essays have been featured in Third Flatiron Anthologies, The Story Shack, On the Rusk, Gone Lawn Journal, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, The Writing Disorder, The Journey Magazine, and Hole in the Donut Blog. Stephanie’s adoptee media has been physically displayed at Morning Glory Cafe, The Flagstaff Public Library. A video was presented at AdopTree Project: Exploring Asian Adoption Narratives (2012); Stephanie had also published an autobiographical multimedia MFA thesis at Northern Arizona University, while her adoptee life story has been featured at Intercountry Adoptee Voices and Overcoming Odds. For fun, Stephanie enjoys traveling and documenting her journeys. She is working on a fiction story collection tentatively titled, Bright Confetti and Glittering Oceans, and a fantasy novella, The Town of Blackthorn, as well as a nonfiction book about being adopted.
Jerry Gabriel’s first book of fiction, Drowned Boy, won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and was published in 2010 (Sarabande Books). It was a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” pick and awarded the 2011 Towson Prize for Literature. His second book, The Let Go, was published in 2015 (Queen’s Ferry). His stories have appeared in One Story, Epoch, Fiction, Five Chapters, The Missouri Review, and Alaska Quarterly Review, among other publications. His work has been short-listed for a Pushcart Prize and he has received grants and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts (2004), the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference (2011), and the National Endowment for the Arts (2016). He lives in Maryland and teaches at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where he directs the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference and is the faculty editor for Slackwater: A Journal of Cultural and Environmental Change in Southern Maryland.
T. Greenwood is the author of thirteen novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and, most recently, the Maryland State Arts Council. She has won three San Diego Book Awards. Five of her novels have been BookSense76/IndieBound picks. BODIES OF WATER was finalist for a Lambda Foundation award. Her thirteenth novel, KEEPING LUCY, was published in August 2019. She teaches creative writing for San Diego Writer’s Ink and online for The Writer’s Center. She and her husband, Patrick, live in San Diego, CA with their two daughters. She is also a photographer. More information on T. Greenwood can be found at her websites: http://www.tgreenwood.com.
Zoë Estelle Hitzel earned her MA in Creative Writing studying poetry at Northern Arizona University and her MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Oregon State University. Her work has appeared in Uproot, The Fourth River, Blue Lyra Review, entropy, and elsewhere. Zoë is a citizen of the wind, currently stalled in Kansas City. She has been a full-time Lecturer in English at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, scored SATs remotely, freelanced, and edited for literary publications, most recently Best of the Net. When not writing, she plays drums in a blues band, tinkers with her PC, and leads hunts in Final Fantasy XIV. Her debut full-length poetry collection, Gender as Flytrap, was published in 2018 by Sundress Publications.
Emily Hoover is a poet, fiction writer, and book reviewer based in Las Vegas. Her fiction has most recently appeared in Bird’s Thumb, BULL, and Gravel, and her poems have been featured in Potluck Magazine, FIVE:2:ONE, and the tiny journal. Emily’s book reviews have been published by The Los Angeles Review, Necessary Fiction, Ploughshares blog, The Collagist, and others. She is a Lecturer of English at Nevada State College.
Khara House currently serves as the Property Management and Operations Coordinator for a property management company operating in Northern Arizona (Flagstaff, Cottonwood). Khara works to stay active culturally and politically on both a local and national level; she is active with the NAACP, NAMI Flagstaff, Flagstaff Young Professionals, National Diversity Council, Coconino County African American Advisory Council, et cetera. In 2017, Khara was awarded the Arizona Multihousing Association’s Community Manager of the Year (Outside the Valley) award, and in 2018 she was honored to be a nominee for the Athena Young Professionals Award. Khara enjoys working to serve and better the community in which she lives, advocating on a local, state, and national level for resources, the arts, and other needs she sees in her community.
Jeff Huizinga completed his MA in English/Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University in 2013. While studying at NAU, he served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the University Writing Program, and as Editor-in-Chief of Thin Air Magazine. He then went on to earn MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) in 2015 from Boston University, where he was a Leslie Epstein Global Fellow and taught creative writing courses at the university and high school levels. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he works as a Senior Researcher for the Harvard Business School California Research Center and continues to write (and attempt to publish) short fiction.
James Jay has worked as a bartender, a wild land firefighter, book seller, surveyor, and furniture mover. He lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he has taught poetry at the jail, the public schools, Northern Arizona University, and given Irish Literature lectures at Northern Arizona Celtic Festival. For nine years, he wrote the Bartender Wisdom bi-monthly column in Flag Live. He owns a bar, Uptown Pubhouse, with his wife, the musician Alyson Jay, and they have two sons, Wilson and Henry, and two dogs, Emma and Jack (a boxer mutt and a coyote mix from parts unknown). When not writing, working at the bar, and running with the kids and dogs, James Jay plays the ancient Irish game of hurling as a half-forward for the Flagstaff Mountain Hounds. Recently, he received the Copper Quill Award. His third collection of poems, Barman, was published by Gorksy Press in May 2019.
Jesica Juleseus, MA English (Fiction), graduated in 2012. After teaching high school English in Florida for five years she is currently taking time off to raise her son.
Grace Shuyi Liew is the author of CAREEN (Noemi Press, 2019). Her work has appeared in West Branch, Black Warrior Review, Kenyon Review, cream city review, and elsewhere. She is a Watering Hole fellow, and her other honors include the Lucille Clifton Poetry Fellowship from Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Aspen Summer Words scholarship, resident writer at Can Serrat in Barcelona, resident at Agora Affect, and others. She holds a BA in Philosophy and MFA in Creative Writing.
Jeanne Mack lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer, copywriter, and social media strategist. She has had poetry, flash fiction, and nonfiction previously published in Mid-American Review, Dime Show Review, Trampset, TEMPO, Ciele Journal, and forthcoming in Meter. She was the 2017 Winner of the Charles E. Bull Award for Creative Writing in Poetry, a finalist for the 2017 Fineline Competition judged by Diane Seuss, and currently serves as editor at large for Trampset. She dreams of running fast and writing consistently. She hates to admit it, but she doesn’t really like coffee.
After graduating with her MA in English from NAU in 2009, Rachel Marsom received her MFA from Georgia College and State University in 2011. Marsom has been teaching at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock, NC, since 2012. She teaches composition and creative writing. She won the 2017 Dr. Eliza B. Graue Extra Mile Award for her dedicated investment in the lives of students at Blue Ridge. Her essay “We’ve believed boys long enough, America” was recently published in the New York Daily News. When she isn’t teaching, she is writing, playing board games, and watching horror movies.
Ben McClendon recently completed his PhD in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and accepted an Assistant Professor position in the writing program at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, where he now teaches poetry and composition courses and directs the campus writing center. After a long trek through several national parks for his dissertation work in the summer of 2017, he is currently attempting to pare his behemoth of a poetry dissertation into a book manuscript of manageable length before it decides to swallow him whole and slowly digest him over the next thousand years.
Mel McCuin is a biracial, bisexual, gender fluid poet, from Phoenix, AZ. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University in 2014. She currently lives in Newark, NJ, where she works as a Program Coordinator for the LGBTQ and Intercultural Resource Center at Rutgers University-Newark. She is currently working on a book of poetry.
Stacy Murison’s work has appeared in Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies (where she is a Contributing Editor), Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog, Hobart, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, River Teeth, and The Rumpus among others. She holds an MA in Humanities from Georgetown University and MFA in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University where she now teaches composition.
When Nkechi “Jen” Obi, first came to the Northern Arizona University campus, she had a few things in mind: soak in the beautiful, scenic landscape of Flagstaff, write inspiring fiction, live in creative bliss. Now she can say that for two years of her life, a mountain was her neighbor, and she definitely did get to write a lot of strong fiction, but she’s done so much more since. These days she juggles motherhood with being a full-time professional, which is definitely harder than juggling classes and writing assignments, but also, possibly, just as rewarding. Fiction writing will always be her calling, but writing and editing are now firmly her profession. Jen works as a writer and editor under her own business–Prose Pro–where she gets to feel like she’s back in workshop everyday as she helps her clients create engaging writing and perfect their content. She owes a lot of the success she sees now to the supportive and encouraging environment she had in her creative writing cohort while pursuing her MFA. With fond memories, she’s grateful that she was able to have the experience to further develop her craft with amazing fellow writers and influential instructors.
Kama O’Connor (formerly Shockey) has been working and teaching writing at NAU since receiving her Masters’ of Fine Arts in Fiction in 2015. She has fiction and nonfiction publications featured in Military Experience and the Arts, Military Spouse Magazine, Bird’s Thumb, Zone 3, and many others. She lives in Flagstaff with her husband and daughter, where they take advantage of the outdoors to an almost-unhealthy extreme. While she dreams of writing the great American war novel, she is getting by right now writing genre fiction and loving every word of it. In fact, she recommends you try it, too, though argues that its best when done with an adult beverage of choice and your MFA diploma staring you in the face.
Lydia Paar co-founded NOMAD International and NOMADartx, sister organizations for helping artists of all kinds to share work and opportunity. She is currently completing her MFA in creative nonfiction writing at Washington University in Saint Louis. She has been published in Alligator Juniper, Five:2:One Magazine, Essay Daily, Four Ties Lit Review and Monzano Mountain Review.
Samantha Payne holds an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Fiction from Northern Arizona University where she teaches composition. She is the author of the new-adult-romance novel Maleficium and is currently working on the second volume in the series. Her short stories have been featured in Alt Hist, Flash Fiction Magazine,Fantasia Divinity, Outposts of Beyond, among others, with her nonfiction works appearing in Gravel, The Tunnels, and Entropy. She was the fiction and visual arts editor for Thin Air Magazine and is an active publishing assistant for the speculative fiction magazine, Bards and Sages Quarterly. When she isn’t teaching or writing, Samantha draws manga and practices coloring inside the lines.
Lisa Papsin is native to the Phoenix area, where she practices law and lives with her family. Lisa received her law degree from ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, where she served as President of the Moot Court Board and was selected by her peers to be the Graduation Speaker at the commencement ceremony. Prior to attending law school, Lisa worked as an educator and a writer, having received her Masters of Fine Arts in Writing and Bachelors Degree in Sociology from Northern Arizona University. Lisa is passionate about free speech, social justice, transparent and responsible governance, and setting a good example for her daughters. #womenlead #thisisemerge #azdem @emergeamerica @emergearizona.
Jamie Paul is a librarian, teacher, writer and artist who lives outside of Flagstaff, Arizona in a little house that feels like a tree house and is mostly structurally sound. She loves to hike, take pictures, read, write, draw, and come up with grand plans to solve the world’s problems. She does not know how people live without pets, and shares her home with a perfect dog named Minute, a lion cat named Opie, a Dragon cat named Norbert, and a princess cat named Derbie. She can sometimes be heard telling warring cats to “get their lives together,” and is earnestly waiting for them to comply. Jamie has also lived in and around Denver and Houston. She grew up in Sierra Vista, Arizona, and Woodbridge, Virginia. She has published another short story in the Narrow Chimney Anthology, as well as several children’s picture books available on Amazon in English, Spanish, and Navajo. She is currently working on the 578th revision to her YA novel in which she explores hate, identity, politics, what we take for reality, and the love of Northern Arizona.
Patty Petelin, MA ’08, received her MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where her graduating thesis, Inventing Lucy, was staged for six weeks by the Curious Theatre Branch. She returned to Flagstaff in 2017 and is honored to serve on the board of the Northern Arizona Playwriting Showcase. She is the creator/writer/producer of The Midrange (www.themidrange.org), and some of her other writings can be found online at Wigleaf, Atticus Review, and Smokelong Quarterly. She is currently pursuing a certificate in Documentary Arts (Audio) from Duke University.
One of the only reliable things that can be said about Hannah Pralle is that she writes every day. Otherwise, her pattern of existence is enigmatic. The secret is, Hannah has figured out how to use her lifestyle to hack a large problem. The problem, art versus money, kicked Hannah’s ass for many years. She railed against fate, society, the world, for destroying artists while singing their posthumous praises — “died in abject poverty! of syphilis! unrecognized genius!” — etc. She staggered, for decades, from job to job, industry to industry, alternately attempting to not conceptualize herself as an artist, then exploding back out, or in, to her native thoughtscape, as someone uncomfortable living anywhere but on her own leading edge. In this fashion, she compromised her own success on both sides of every equation. Everything seemed hopeless. The turning point came when she realized the entire problem was in fact a false dichotomy. Anything can be elevated to an art. Anything can be diminished to a transaction. Any pursuit can blossom, illuminating everyone involved. Anything can stagnate. There are no lines or teams or answers. No one gives you permission, or takes it away. Brilliantly, bravely, curiously engaging with one’s own preferences and abilities is the only job worth doing. Having realized this, Hannah currently makes plenty of money doing a bunch of weird shit she greatly enjoys, mostly involving wildland fire fuel trucking, and also records and sells music, produces voiceovers and narrates audiobooks, teaches truck driving, writes poetry, and is very much enjoying authoring a first book. She is a lifelong vegetarian, incidentally, and credits her own early realization of the personhood of animals as a helpful influence in discerning what has become an important truism: just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s not crazy. Authenticity is a complex inner dialogue, and one Hannah believes well worth pursuing. As such, Hannah writes every day. Everything else is negotiable.
Bo Schwabacher’s poems have appeared in Cha, diode, Eleven Eleven, Foundry, Pretty Owl Poetry, Radar Poetry, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and others. She has taught elementary school, middle school, high school, and college students. Bo has been a judge for Poetry Out Loud. She currently teaches at Northern Arizona University.
Jesse Sensibar spends his time writing and promoting the art of storytelling. You can usually find him in the dying Ponderosa Pine forests surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona, or in the old barrios of Tucson, Arizona. Otherwise, he is probably somewhere out on the highway, documenting the passing of his rapidly disappearing American West. Jesse’s work has appeared in such places as The Tishman Review, Stoneboat Journal, and Waxwing. Jesse’s first full-length work, Blood in the Asphalt, is forthcoming from Tolsun Books. You can find him atjessesensibar.com.
Sacha Siskonen graduated from Northern Arizona University with an MA in Creative Writing. She dropped out of a PhD program and now works as a Museum Education Curator for the Arizona Historical Society, where she leads tours, gives lectures, writes grants, assists with research and exhibit design, and collaborates with community organizations to share Arizona’s history with school kids and the public. She exists to remind you a creative writing degree is valuable outside of academia.
Ana Maria Spagna lives with her wife, Laurie, in Stehekin, Washington, a remote community in the North Cascades accessible only by foot, boat, or float plane. She is the author of several award-winning nonfiction books including Reclaimers, stories of indigenous women reclaiming sacred land and water, 100 Skills You’ll Need for the End of the World (as We Know It), a humor-infused exploration of how to live more lightly on the planet, the memoir/history Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus: A Daughter’s Civil Rights Journey, winner of the River Teeth literary nonfiction prize, and three essay collections, Potluck, Now Go Home, and most recently, Uplake: Restless Essays of Coming and Going. Her first novel for young people, The Luckiest Scar on Earth, about a 14-year-old snowboarder and her activist father, appeared in 2017. Ana Maria’s work has been recognized by the Society for Environmental Journalists, the Nautilus Book Awards, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Awards, and as a three-time finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Her essays have recently appeared in Orion, Ecotone, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, The Normal School, and Hotel Amerika. After working fifteen years on backcountry trail crews for the National Park Service, she turned to teaching creative nonfiction in the MFA program at Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, at Whitman College, and now at Antioch University, Los Angeles.
Katy Sperry holds an MFA from Northern Arizona University, where she studied hybrid and flash writing. She previously worked as the nonfiction and hybrids editor of Thin Air Magazine. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Essay Daily, Ghost City Review, The Gambler, and PIVOT Literature. Sometimes she writes about citrus.
L. E. Sullivan is a teacher who lives in rural Texas. Her works has appeared in Barely South Review, The Flagler Review, Dark Matter, Red Earth Review, Typehouse, and many more.
When Eric Susak was 10 years old, he was gifted his first Magic: The Gathering cards that inspired him to put a pen to a piece of paper and write the first page of his first unfinished story. In his junior year of high school, he dressed up as the teacher for an English project because that teacher was technically a published author. In his senior year of college, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to become a teacher like he had planned, so he followed suit of one of his favorite professors and joined the MFA program in nonfiction at NAU. And that’s when things got weird.
NAU Creative Writing MFA and MA Literature graduate Jesse Valencia’s first book, Keep Music Evil: The Brian Jonestown Massacre Story was published by UK-based publisher Jawbone Press on April 16, 2019. Jesse spent ten years writing the book, and workshopped portions of it while in the Creative Writing MFA program. The book is currently available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and Booksamillion in the US, Amazon and Indigo in Canada, and Amazon in the UK and France. The book is distributed by Quarto. Jesse Valencia graduated from the Creative Writing MFA program in 2014.
Erin Renee Wahl is currently the Instruction Coordinator Librarian at New Mexico State University. Since graduating from NAU, her work has been published in many literary journals that she loves. She currently has two micro-chapbooks of poetry alive in the world: Secure the Night (Bitterzoet 2017) and Cloud Physics (Ghost City Press 2018).
Laura Walker is a Lecturer of English at Southern Utah University. Originally from Southern California, she earned her B.A. in English with an emphasis in creative writing at CSU, San Bernardino, and a Master of Education at UC, Riverside. After teaching composition and literature courses at several colleges and universities in California and Arizona, she returned to school to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, graduating in May 2016. She is now in her third year at Southern Utah University, where she teaches developmental and introductory English composition courses as well as intermediate writing courses on identity and culture. She also teaches a writing class on nature for SUU’s Semester in the Parks program, and does her own writing—both poetry and fiction—whenever she can.
Leah Waller is an Assistant Professor of creative writing and the Program Director of the Media and Communications Department at Maharishi University of Management. Leah’s work has been published in literary journals, magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. Her book, Under the Cedar Tree, had a soaring debut in Amazon’s top ten best seller list for poetry and continues to be a popular favorite among reading circles.
Brooke Wonders’ work has appeared in Clarkesworld, Black Warrior Review, and DIAGRAM, among other publications, and her work is frequently anthologized, including in the NOW Awards: Best Innovative Writing and the Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Northern Iowa, where she also serves as Nonfiction Editor of the North American Review. She recently embarked on a new project: editing feminist witch magazine Grimoire with fellow writers Annah Browning and Jessica Berger.
Thomas Yellowhair holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English, and a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University. He currently resides in Flagstaff, Arizona. He is a reviewer/editor for Arrowhead Engineering Inc., and has an evening job. In his free-time, Thomas moonlights as a musician, and a poet. He is a proud father of a handsome son, and a beautiful daughter. As a Native American, he is Tódích’íi’nii (Bitter Water Clan), and he is born for Tł’ááshchi’i (Red Ochre On the Cheeks Clan).