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Women on Writing

Kismet, fate, or a random turn of events—somehow, we’ve ended up with a newsletter written by women about women, all of whom are connected to the Wilkes Creative Writing community. Faculty, alumni, and grad students have contributed, and they’re all female. This edition of the newsletter wasn’t intentionally created from a gender perspective—it just happened. But now that I’ve called it out and made it a thing, I would like you to envision the process of creation and see beyond the obvious. . .

As you scroll through this digital offering, you’ll bear witness to the stories of a dynamic publisher and a sharp-minded, successful literary agent. You can also wrap your mind around some excellent crafting tips from a brilliant playwright and mentor, a thriving grad student, and a damn good alum author, who is generous enough to share the story behind the story, writing tips, and allow a private interview to go public. 

Is it a coincidence that we [the creators and subjects of this newsletter] share the same gender or has the globe turned on its axis and selected the James Jones First Novel Fellowship Competition winner in the same manner? Read on and find out.

Wilkes Creative Writing Program updates

Community Workshops

The following community writing workshops are offered through October and November. Please spread the word, by using this link:

  • “Writing Popular Fiction”(Jennifer McLaughlin, instructor), Oct. 23-24
  • “Writing Places and Spaces”(Vicki Mayk, instructor), 6 weeks, Oct. 25 – Nov. 29
  • “Improv for Empathy” (McCall Logan, instructor), 6 weeks, Oct. 27 – Dec. 1
  • “Expressing Diverse Voices in Fiction” (Monique Franz, instructor), Oct. 28 – Dec. 2
  • “The Art of Misjudgment” (Screenwriting)  (Ross Klavan, instructor), Nov. 20-21

It’s Recruiting Season!

Please tell any friends considering a graduate degree in creative writing to attend one of the following information session:

  • Saturday, Nov. 20, 1-3 p.m. (free workshop in Spoken Word by Angelique Palmer or in playwriting/screenwriting by Juliette Dunn, with info session to follow. Register at

A Warm Welcome to Our New Faculty

We are excited to announce the hiring of Ru Freeman to the Fiction/Nonfiction faculty, Christine Renee Miller to the Playwriting faculty, and Sari Botton to the Nonfiction faculty. They, along with Lisa Jones in Screenwriting and Remica Bingham-Risher in Poetry, will officially begin working for us in January. 

January Residency Will Be Presencial

The upcoming winter residency (Jan. 7-15, 2022) will take place on campus (with any and all COVID precautions required at the time). Those students who cannot make it to Wilkes-Barre will be able to participate in residency classes via our Weekender program (dates forthcoming via email), not via Zoom during the residency.

The Creative Writing Office Gets a Makeover

We’re making the CW office space more writer-friendly, by turning the SenArts room (near the front door) and the office reception area/conference room into large writing spaces, with armchairs, a conference table, and plenty of seating–along with refreshments, of course. Students and alumni in the area will be invited to write with us every Thursday from 11:00-1:00. Stay tuned for the announcement of the grand opening!

In Conversation with Chris Tomasino: A Woman with Agency

By:  Kristin Ivey and Stephany Sekera  

Chris Tomasino

Chris Tomasino is a literary agent, a generous outside reader/Board member for the Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing, and a badass book doctor we had the privilege of interviewing. We are both recent graduates of the M.F.A. program who are polishing our novels for publication and about to step out onto that precipice known as querying.

Stephany: Kristin, remember that first terrifying night of the program when we were asked the question: “When was the first time you knew you were a writer?” And remember how none of us believed we really were?

Kristin: I remember both the question and the anxiety in finding just the right way to answer, and I wonder what Chris Tomasino would say if we asked her where her own journey with the writing industry began.

“Definitely as a reader, not as a writer,” Chris responded. “I was always a reader.”

As a girl, Chris fell in love with books and read all the time. She was fascinated with the transportive power of narrative and developed an appreciation for the elegance of lyrical prose.

At Vassar, she pursued a degree in psychology instead of the traditional trajectory of most bibliophiles, i.e. as English majors. As part of her undergraduate work, she conducted market research for The Electric Company, a children’s public television show focused on reading. “I watched kids watching the show to see what worked and what didn’t, what affected their growing ability to read and their interest in it.”

Chris’s story comes full circle here. What began as a childhood love of consuming story became a career of bringing story to the lives of others. Chris has been in tune with the kinds of stories readers look for and has made a career of finding the people who could tell them.

After college, Chris worked for an educational film company writing scripts and editing material written by the company’s owner, a man whose first language wasn’t English. Here, she got her first taste of working behind the scenes when it came to communicating through narrative. A producer there who was doing a show on reading and writing soon left that company and asked Chris to join her as a production assistant. “She was renting an office from a talent agent, and I became everyone’s assistant. I was lucky enough to work with two agency clients who were stellar southern writers—Shelby Foote, the novelist and Civil War historian, and Calder Willingham, novelist and screenwriter—who motivated me to concentrate on developing the literary side of the agency. I was astonished that I could earn a living from reading, something I’d loved from childhood.”

She paused for a moment as if making a new connection, then continued. “You know, one of the projects I’ve been working on for a while is a memoir for a prominent television showrunner/writer who’s also a physician and has overseen shows like ER and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. He believes that stories help free people from their traumas and other issues. He always says, ‘Storytelling is the key to all of it.’  There’s no greater connection than seeing yourself in someone else’s well-told story. So it makes sense that telling your own story, or a fictional version of stories you know or relate to helps free you.” As an agent, Chris is devoted to helping writers find the most effective ways to tell their stories and find the right publishing partners to launch them into the world. Everyone involved in the life of a book has a role to play, and Chris sees her own as being the ultimate facilitator.  

Chris’s reflection on roles caused us to pause. As recent alumni, we can’t help but think back on our experiences in the Wilkes M.F.A. program. Throughout the program, students are tasked with writing in different genres, doing internships, and networking with people in various sectors of the industry. Here, Chris reminds us that regardless of the role you play, everyone is working together to bring stories to life. The success of the process relies on hard work and gleaning as much experience as you can while practicing your craft. But one’s ability to deliver a great story to the reader may not solely come from writing itself.   

We asked Chris if she would have any suggestions for those of us looking to transition into the publishing industry as agents, editors, or publishers, or ideas about how we might find our own way into the business.

She hesitated and said, “I don’t know if other people would agree with this, but I don’t think you should make it known that you’re a writer, especially if you’re applying for a job as an editor or assistant editor. They may assume you’re there just to make contacts to help you get published rather than being interested in that specific job. And you never know—you might end up falling in love with the job you’re doing, and your professional plans could morph into doing something in the business of publishing rather than writing.”

We recalled an Oyster Bar conversation with another industry professional who offered this observation: “The publishing industry is 100% a network-based industry. It’s about people.” We asked Chris if she had any suggestions for establishing or expanding one’s network.

“Start with the people you meet through Wilkes. The faculty, the people—they are all willing to help you. Talk to them. Get to know them and let them get to know you. It’s a really special place, a program with a generous spirit. After graduation, maintain the relationships with the people you’ve already met in the industry and do your research about how those folks’ specialties relate to the writing or work you want to do. And keep your ego in check. Listen to the people who have had lots of experience and have given you useful feedback in the past.”

About that ego thing: “How often does the writer’s ego get in the way, from your perspective?”

Chris smiled. “If the writer is really resistant to solving the problems I identify in the material, then as a reader and as an agent, I’m not likely to be interested in working through them either. I get a ton of submissions. The truly great ones are few and far between, and easy to spot. Then there are those that simply aren’t commercially viable for any number of reasons. But then there’s this huge group in the middle—writing with potential, stories that COULD be great if the writers put in the work. So not only am I looking at what’s on the page when I make decisions about representation, but I also think a lot about whether I feel the writer will work hard and is capable of delivering new material based on my feedback. Even the best writers need guidance. This is especially important in the first fifty pages or so of a book.  If the agent or editor isn’t grabbed by those, they won’t read beyond, and it doesn’t matter how fabulous the rest of the book might be.”

Chris’s reflection on ego brings a valuable lesson to all Wilkes students. Sometimes, the feedback we get can be difficult to hear. But those tough moments are when the most growth occurs. In establishing our writing community, we begin to realize that critical analysis from people we trust helps to make the work better. 

We wanted to know more about the kinds of issues Chris sees in those manuscripts that are in the middle of the pack. To see her response and learn more through Chris’s valuable insight—the full article (with a damn good reading list) can be seen at Wilkes: The Write Life Blog.

Contributed by: 

Kristin Ivey (‘21 M.F.A., Wilkes University) is the Dog Days writer, an English teacher, and the Managing Editor at Kaylie Jones Books. Her work has been published in Hippocampus Magazine, The Obsequious Pen, Spark Anthology IX, the Pennsylvania Bards Northeast Poetry Review (2020), and the Lehigh Valley Lit Magazine (2021). She facilitates writers’ workshops in and around the Lehigh Valley area in Pennsylvania.

Stephany Sekera (‘21 M.F.A., Wilkes University) is an English teacher in the Chambersburg Area. She is the creator of the wine-themed writing workshop, SipandScribewithSteph. She is currently working on revising her novel. 

Author Barbara J. Taylor Speaks…

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What started as a conversation about writing sequels and trilogies became an unveiling of how alum Barbara J. Taylor magically found her way into the Wilkes program and writing success. Take a minute to click on the link and view Wilkes’ The Write Life video blog—and an interview subject worthy of your time. Bravo, Barb!

Publisher Donna Talarico Shares Her Story

Talarico followed her dreams and launched a publishing company. It’s difficult territory to enter—many have gone before her and failed. But this is not an example of ignorance is bliss. It’s the story of a brilliant woman navigating her life in the world of publishing through a pandemic and the naysayers of the industry, bringing her love of creative nonfiction to readers and writers globally. 

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Donna Talarico

Our very own Donna Talarico, who graduated with her MFA in 2009, is the founder and publisher of Hippocampus Magazine,  HippoCamp: A Conference for Creative Nonfiction Writers, and her more recent endeavor and lifelong dream, Hippocampus Book Division. As an independent publisher, Talarico offers more than niche online eBooks; her business model includes print books and a distributor.

Talarico has so many impressive attributes, but what stands out for me is her focus and intention. She’s an entrepreneur, self-employed at her day job, where she utilizes her public relations, marketing, and social media experience to assist companies in developing and managing their content. If you’ve been lucky enough to experience a Talarico class in the Creative Writing program at Wilkes, then you understand why her business acumen is in hot demand.

So how does an individual with a dream to be a publisher build an empire? My grandpa Lavarini would say a brick at a time, and it sounds like Talarico heard him! With a methodical approach, Talarico inched her way through each phase of growth and executed carefully timed events. She built a team of like-minded talent to assist, while continuing her day job, knowing it’s a labor of love that will pay off one day. That’s why she remains in business and continues to thrive. Her passion for publishing is undeniable, witnessed in her sparkling eyes and the speed at which the words escape her mouth during this interview—fast and happy.

Her love for creative nonfiction is what spurred her interest in writing. “I never knew I could do that. I didn’t know about creative nonfiction until I enrolled at Wilkes. True stories, I love. Everybody has a story and that’s fascinating.” Donna’s parents were entertainers, which undoubtedly led to her connection with storytelling. 

The idea for an exclusively online creative nonfiction magazine emerged in a workshop at Wilkes during Talarico’s last MFA semester. Teamed with two members of her cohort, they presented this concept during an in-class assignment. At that time there was one similar creative nonfiction online offering, Brevity Magazine. After graduation, Talarico confesses, “I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.” A year later, she established Hippocampus Magazine, an online publication set out to entertain, educate, and engage writers and readers of creative nonfiction

Talarico has built an army of support through volunteer readers, volunteer editors, and section editors. The original team formed locally through our community at Wilkes. With the growth Talarico has experienced, she has expanded her volunteer-base nationally, sharing this labor of love across the U.S.

HippoCamp: A Conference for Creative Nonfiction Writers debuted in August 2015. Talarico said, “I wanted a conference where attendees and speakers are not separate. A small venue for the writer community.” This year the conference had nearly 200 attendees. I’m awestruck over the list of past and present keynote speakers. It’s a list of who’s who in the nonfiction creative writing world—Mary Karr, Tobias Wolff, Beverly Donofrio, Jane Friedman, and more. The conference is located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It’s a three-day event with exhibitors, 40+ speakers for sessions, panels and readings, breakout sessions, and book sales. On the website, there’s a call for session proposals for the next event: HippoCamp Conference. If you’re interested in creative nonfiction, this is a well-planned, inspiring  conference worth attending.

Books by Hippocampus, Hippocampus Magazine’s small press division, launched in August 2016 and released its first book early in 2017, Selected Memories: Five Years of Hippocampus Magazine. Queries were open, and the selection team read submissions for seven months, ultimately choosing to publish two books: By the Forces of Gravity and Dig: A Personal Prehistoric Journey.  

With eleven books now in print, Talarico aspires to grow the book division’s catalog and sales history to attract a larger distributor, one with a national sales team. Her decision to begin this press with a small distributor has enabled readers to request a book at their local bookstore and keep printed copies on hand of better quality than print on demand. The risk is the upfront investment in small runs at the press. But with quality books and a marketing and PR background, Talarico is poised for more success.

Eleven years have passed since Talarico began her publishing journey. When asked about major milestones over the years, or moments where she realized she was accomplishing what she set out to do, of course, Donna shared stories about people. “About five years in, I read a tweet that stated: Just got accepted by my dream publisher, Hippocampus.” Another moment occurred during an AWP event a few years after Hippocampus began when Talarico was singlehandedly manning the Hippocampus booth. An attendee at the event told Talarico that “they” are the nicest people. “They” sent her the nicest rejection. The attendee was referring to Hippocampus. “She kept referring to they as if we were this giant business,” Talarico said. “I didn’t want to tell her it’s just me. I realized they think we are much bigger than we are. That felt good.”

Talarico says she’s learned a lot about the writing process by reading submissions. “I know we’ve been taught that to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. But usually when you’re reading, the books have been through an editorial process. There’s something about reading some of the rougher stuff [in the slush pile]. You can sometimes see your own mistakes. Like when you reject something because it has way too much exposition and then you realize, oh no, I do that sometimes, too.” 

“I also am beginning to realize, hard work pays off,” Donna said. “We’ve taken it a step at a time and it’s working.”

Donna shared some excellent advice. “If you want to be published, whether you’re a student or alum, or somebody who’s interested in writing, get involved in a literary community in some way. Get your hands dirty. It could be volunteering for a literary magazine or in a local community that has a literary organization. Find a way to get your hand in the publishing process or the event production process, because that behind-the-scenes experience is invaluable.”

What’s your next dream, Donna?

“To publish a book myself. I think it’s about time for me to focus on one of my writing goals and use everything I’ve learned through this journey from starting the MFA to where I am now and finally tell my own story.”

Contributed by: Roni Teson, editor of Revise This! Newsletter, currently pursuing an M.F.A. at Wilkes.

Why Every Writer Should Learn to Write A Play

By Jean H. Klein

Jean Klein

In full disclosure, my MFA is in Fiction, but I’ve almost always written plays—possibly because I didn’t like writing descriptions and those “he said – she saids” drove me nuts. But what I finally realized is that learning the art of playwriting informed my prose work immeasurably.

As a playwright, I have to keep a plot or storyline interesting. Every minute. Readers can skip a few boring paragraphs or even pages; they can put a book down and come back when they have more patience. But audiences have a nasty habit of walking out—for good.

I found certain plot devices hooked audiences in their seats better than others. That, in a plot analysis, “because” dramatically trumps “and” every time. (Any action summed up by “She bought a Rolex watch and then went to visit her sister“ is automatically less compelling than “She bought a Rolex watch because she was going to visit her sister.”)

In the pursuit of learning to tell dynamic stories, I also uncovered useful craft phrases like “triggers and heaps,” “Inciting incidents,” and “French Scenes.” (If you don’t know what these are, follow the breadcrumbs to your nearest playwriting course or email me.)

Playwriting taught me that characters are more than their descriptions. Character traits can be weaponized. Greed, a desire for revenge, a need for redemption—these are all not only character traits but the drivers of action. Character “descriptions” are a waste of time unless they forward an audience’s understanding of the inner needs and compulsions.

And let us not forget dialogue. Dialogue, to me, is the weakest element of much prose writing. It sometimes feels as if the writer knew she should drop in dialogue to break up the page and didn’t quite know what that conversation should be. Dialogue is 90 percent of a playwright’s ammunition. To keep an audience engaged, each line of dialogue must have a purpose—to provide information, to produce an emotion in another character or the audience, to persuade them, to confuse them. Don’t know how? Ask a practicing playwright.

Finally, writing plays taught me the gold standard of conciseness and clarity. The story train must keep moving. A reader can ruffle back to Chapter Two and remind himself of who Uncle Charley was. Audiences don’t have the luxury of standing up and asking the actors to repeat three lines from a previous scene. They just get lost. And bored. And leave at intermission.

How do I know that writing plays for all these years has been a tutorial for writing prose? My former Wilkes Playwriting Foundation students, now novelists, tell me so. And as I continue to teach fiction at The Muse Writing Center in Norfolk, Virginia, I find myself repeating to students, “You really need to learn to write a play.”

Contributed by: Jean Klein, a former semi-finalist in the O’Neill competition and an internationally produced playwright. She holds an MA in English and an MFA in Fiction from the University of Iowa, and currently teaches in the MA/MFA Program in Creative Writing here at Wilkes.

Pause, Rewind, Play, Repeat

Interviewing as a Writer

By: Jennifer Tarr

For me, becoming a writer wasn’t a long-time dream that simmered on the back stove for years. I stumbled (was pushed) into writing. It looked an awful lot like a principal telling me I would be teaching an AP English writing class the next school year. The first year was pure survival. The second was filled with intrigue at the Mary Poppins-like toolbox an author had available to them. By the third, I was enrolled in Wilkes Creative Writing program, a deep lover of writing. I felt way out of my league but couldn’t let go of this newfound desire to write a biography. It seemed like the perfect union to my love of people, history, and stories. But long before writing, I needed to learn to listen . . .

She looked at me. “I don’t really know that I can be of any help, so I brought pictures. Maybe they will help you.”

“That will be great, definitely helpful! Thank you,” I said, knowing that they genuinely would be. To put her at ease, I also continued with, “I am not looking for something specific, just to understand.” 

She nodded. We stared at each other. A woman in the café behind us dropped a tin plate that clattered to the floor. I tried again. 

“What was it like to step off the boat for the first time in Bangladesh?” 

The next four hours glided by as she talked, I listened, peppering the conversation with questions when needed, or my curiosity bubbled out of me. But mostly, I just sipped my tea and nodded as she spoke—the voice recorder sitting between us, chronicling all of it. 

I like to listen, to observe, to engage with people. I always have. Perhaps it is my love of people, or stories, or my constant amazement at the size of our world, or quite possibly, it is the part of me that secretly loves a little drama but doesn’t want to be at the center of it. Either way, I have often found myself at the interesting crossroad of being labeled as an extrovert, yet much preferring to allow others to talk while I listen, taking in their story. I have always found other people’s stories far more exciting and more accessible to write than my own. Somehow it feels more honest to me, and I feel humbled to have someone else’s story entrusted to me. 

However, I came into the Wilkes program relatively inexperienced at interviewing yet wanting to write a biography. Actually, the “Interview” assignment during the Writing Creating Nonfiction foundation class was the most difficult for me. I wasn’t sure who to interview or what to ask. It was also the assignment that “didn’t quite hit the mark.” Eventually, though, the class was over, I pitched my biography, Mike Lennon became my mentor, and I set up my first interview. Before pushing the young bird out of the nest, Mike recounted his conversations with the Mailer family, encouraging me to consider how he sometimes started: “When was the first time you encountered death?” 

I’m happy to report the first interview went fairly well. Though I didn’t start by asking about death, I eventually found my own rhythm to march to and place to start. I had a lot to learn and still have a lot to learn. But in the past few years of biography writing, laced with endless amounts of research and interviewing, a pattern has developed for me:

  • Conduct an interview.
  • Go home.
  • Listen to the recording.
  • Transcribe the interview.
  • Create a chart of chronological events, utilizing color to indicate which interview the information came from for easy access while writing.
  • Begin to write.
  • Want a detail I forgot to ask about.
  • Get annoyed with myself for not asking a helpful detail.
  • Dive into more research.
  • End up with more questions than I had before researching.
  • Call, email, or set up another interview for additional questions depending on the necessity and type of questions. 

And the cycle continues, constantly bridging the divide between the world and the page. But honestly, that’s my favorite part. Because sometimes, it is not until the words come alive on the page that a piece of the story starts to emerge from the shadows. A follow-up interview allows an opportunity to coax it out of hiding and into the light— a forgotten detail, a historical nuance playing a decisive role, an unknown force pulling strings behind the scenes. A picture begins to emerge. The snapshot’s faint colors develop into vibrancy until my mind is at rest and enough is exposed to write honestly. Then I can write. 

Light seeps out of the dining room window, merging into the glowing Edison lights hanging above the front porch. Sipping a hot cup of tea, I take in the night around me, cut off from the world by the blooming pink rose bushes that trim the front of the porch. My attention is drawn back into the sanctum by the sound of my own voice cutting through the crisp air. Pause. Rewind. Play. Pause. I continue rewinding and listening until the story is bubbling out of me and my hands twitch, ready to dance over the keys, building, forming, seeking, striving to find the sacred union between truth and creativity so the story isn’t just being told but felt.

Contributed by: Jennifer Tarr is a high school English and social studies teacher while also serving as the Nonfiction Editor for The Start Literary Journal. She earned her MA in nonfiction writing from Wilkes and is currently finishing her MFA. She is grateful for the growth, relationships, and experiences she gained through the Wilkes Creative Writing Program.

Rose Whitmore Wins 2021 James Jones First Novel Fellowship Competition

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Rose Whitmore

The 30th Annual James Jones First Novel Fellowship awarded first place and $10,000 to Rose Whitmore of San Leandro, California, for her novel Feats of Strength in the Time of Hoxha. Whitmore was selected from more than 700 entries in the competition co-sponsored by the Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Wilkes University and the James Jones Literary Society.

Rose Whitmore is the recipient of the Peden Prize from The Missouri Review, a work-study scholarship from the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, and a residency from HedgebrookA former Wallace Stegner fellow in fiction, she is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford. Her writing has recently appeared in The Southern ReviewThe Kenyon Review, Image and Alaska Quarterly Review. Feats of Strength in the Time of Hoxha follows five characters searching for redemption and freedom in post-World War II Albania. 

Runners-up are Michael Hawley of New York, New York, for his novel Galla Placidia, and Alice Hawari of Culver City, California, for her novel, History of Paradise. Each receives $1,000. 

The James Jones First Novel Fellowship was established in 1992 to “honor the spirit of unblinking honesty, determination, and insight into modern culture as exemplified by (the writings of) James Jones.” Jones was the author of the National Book Award-winning novel From Here to Eternity as well as the novels Some Came Running and The Thin Red Line. It is awarded to a North American author of a first novel-in-progress.

Entries for the 2022 James Jones First Novel Fellowship Competition will be accepted beginning Oct. 1. A two-page (maximum) outline of the entire novel and the first 50 pages of the novel-in-progress are to be submitted. Entries should be sent to no later than midnight, March 15, 2022 EST. Entry fee is $30 plus a $3 processing fee. For more information, please contact

It’s Submission Season for River and South Review!

Did you know that River and South Review was founded by Lori A. May? She brought the journal to life as her MFA internship project and published it for several years with MA and MFA students serving as editors and readers.

River and South was paused for a period of time and then rebooted in 2018 as the program’s online literary journal to continue giving students the opportunity to gain real-life editorial experience. We publish two issues a year, the releases coincide with the start of residencies. We accept poetry, fiction, and nonfiction from writers 18 years and older who are not students, alumni, or employees of Wilkes University. (There are plenty of other journals looking for our work!)

The editorial team for our Winter 2022 issue includes: 

Mildred Mills, managing editor; Katie King, creative nonfiction editor; Juton Myers, fiction editor; Caroline Hayduk, poetry editor; Lydia Poer, social media editor; Jake Cannington, production/design editor; Amanda Rabaduex, outreach and marketing editor; Lynn Mitchell, proofreader; and Wayne Benson, Michael Hardin, Jonathan Lawrence, and Roni Teson, readers.

We’re excited to be using Submittable for the first time to manage submissions, which we’re currently reading now through October 30th for our next issue. It’s scheduled to go live on January 7, 2022.

To date, almost 70 students (this includes the students who worked with Lori) have served in various editorial positions. Some have gone on to create and manage their own literary journals. If you are curious about how a literary journal works behind the scenes, please consider joining the editorial team for our Summer 2022 issue! 

In the meantime, to read our Summer 2021 issue, please visit

Dawn Leas (MFA ’09)

Faculty News

Nancy McKinley’s interview about writing her novel-in-stories St. Christopher on Pluto  was published in the Colorado Sun:

Jean H. Klein. Production of The Devil’s Due, Cairn Little Theatre, Cairn Australia, is scheduled for December 1 – 3.

Christine Gelineau recently had two poems accepted for VerseVirtual’s October offerings, and her poem Worm Moon well be published in the latest issue of the Paterson Literary Review, Issue 49. 2021, out this summer. 

Gelineau also has a poem, Seawall, in the new anthology WAYFINDING: Poetry Celebrating America’s Parks and Public Lands from Parks & Points, edited by Amy Beth Wright and Derek Wright. She participated in a Zoom reading to launch this anthology back in May, just prior to accident that landed her in the hospital for three weeks and “…rather blew up my summer. Recovery coming along nicely, thank you.” 

Bonnie Culver’s Education in the Age of Covid essay is included in THE DISRUPTIVE FACTORY QUARTERLY. Filmscript I DO is a quarterfinalist in Cinestory Foundation Film Contest and a second-round finalist in Austin Film Festival new work awards. SNIPER is scheduled for production (October 1-2; 8-10) by Intime Theater Company, Princeton University. A TICKET TO THE CIRCUS, one woman show starring Anne Archer, produced and directed by Michelle Danner, is scheduled for streaming in October/November followed by in-person opening in Santa Monica, CA.

Nisha Sharma’s latest novel, Dating Dr. Dil, is coming out (Harpercollins Publishing) March 15. Sharma has recently contracted two more young adult books with Skyscape Publishing starting winter of 2023.

Robin McCrary co-authored a paper with Zoë Bossiere: (Re)Considering Craft and Centralizing Cultures: A Revision of the Introductory Creative Writing Workshop. The paper will appear in a special issue of the Journal of Creative Writing Studies in October 2021.

Alumni News

Dawn Leas’s (MFA 2009) After I Leave My Husband is published in the latest online version of New York Quarterly, and “i woke up at 3 a.m. thinking I was somewhere else” appears in the Summer 2021 issue of Redheaded Stepchild. Dawn runs a free, virtual co-writing space, Lunch Lines, every Monday at noon (ET). Email her at for the link to participate.

Heather Taylor (MFA 2014) was recently promoted from Assistant Professor of English to Associate Professor of English at Bethany College. Ms. Taylor serves as the Director for the McCann Learning Center at Bethany and has also been appointed to the Appalachian College Association (ACA) Board for the Virtual Center for Teaching and Learning that launched in June of this year.

Lynn Braz’s (MA 2019) short story, Stella Artois Comes in Cans, will be featured in the November 2021 issue of 3 Elements Literary Journal. “This story began as an assignment in Bill Schneider’s foundations class and his and Bonnie’s reaction to it when we workshopped inspired me to flush it out into a submittable story. Thank you, Bill, Bonnie, and Wilkes!”

Michelle Chmielewski (MFA 2019) spent the previous fall semester teaching two courses (Motion Picture Masterpieces and Intro to Screenwriting) at Lycoming College. Recently, she accepted an editing position at the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). In her free time, she’s working on a screenplay to an R-rated version of a much-beloved early-aughts movie.

Vicki Mayk’s (MFA 2013) book, Growing Up On The Gridiron: Football, Friendship and the Tragic Life of Owen Thomas, originally published in 2020, was released in paperback on Aug. 31, 2021. In spring 2021, she was a visiting writer at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre. Vicki was featured in the Authors Read series at Tunkhannock Public Library in Tunkhannock, PA in September 2021. She has started her sixth year teaching her class on The Power of Story for Wilkes University first-year students.

Jonathan Pierce (MFA 2015) is finishing his third novel, McKay’s Rescue: Coming Into the Light. He’s prepping for a fast pitch and a Quick Critique in October at the Latter-day Saint Publishers and Media Association Conference, hoping to get an offer from one of the publishers. If not, you’ll get a chance to pick it up on Amazon in November 2021.

Christoph Paul (MFA 2017). His press CLASH Books has been accepted by Consortium Books Sales & Distribution to represent the press for 2022. (They also represent fellow Wilkes-adjacent presses Akashic Books and Etruscan Press.) The first chapter of Christoph’s novella, Mummies in Massachusetts, will be published on Young Mag in October. The book Darryl by Jackie Ess, CLASH Books recently published was featured in The Atlantic for top 6 books to read this summer. 

Christopher Bullard’s (MFA 2011). In 2020, Grey Book Press published Bullard’s poetry chapbook, Continued. Moonstone Press recently published Going Peaceably to the Obsidian Knife, his chapbook of environmentally themed poetry. Main Street Rag is scheduled to publish Bullard’s poetry chapbook, Florida Man, early next year.

Catherine Arne’s (MA 2012) first book, ANIMALS, INC—a satire of unchecked capitalism and corporate greed—is scheduled for publication on October 15, 2021. Kirkus calls it both “a raucous, imaginative spoof of corporate stupidity and callousness” and “a sprightly, thought-provoking sendup of the beastliness of predatory capitalism.”  

Jason Miller (MFA 2021) has accepted an adjunct position in the English Department of Luzerne County Community College for the Fall 2021 semester.

Lori A. May (MFA 2013) has new travel writing in AFAR, Business Insider, and Time Out magazine. She recently participated in a local authors fundraiser event in Seattle and is offering a few one-on-one sessions this fall through a Nevada nonprofit. This summer, Lori received an educator-artist grant through MLA: Modern Language Association. 

Maura Maros (MFA 2018) took on an adjunct professor position at Keystone College teaching Critical Reading and Analysis for the Fall 2021 semester.

Austin Grant Bennett (MFA ’15) has reviewed Field Notes for the Self by Randy Lundy, a Barren Lands (Cree) First Nation poet and finalist in the High Plains Book Awards, for the Billings Gazette published Sept. 13. Currently, he is seeking publication for a collection of interactive poems, Poems at Play, which he completed in 2020.

Internship Updates 

Juliette Dunn combines her interests in theatre and playwriting with the development of an Improv/writing series for college students at DeSales University, Center Valley, PA. 

Caroline Hayduk instructs all phases of the writing process for three sections of Freshman Composition at Keystone College, La Plume, PA. 

Sue Minsavage, an experienced speech teacher, will transition to writing instruction by using her nonfiction skill set with the development of a workshop, “Point of View in Nonfiction.”  Minsavage is teaching the online classes through Wilkes University’s Creative Writing workshop series.

Juton Myers instructs Transition English at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, NC. Her two sections of the foundational course include online instruction and in-person writing labs. 

Jen Tarr will draw from her biography writing skill set by developing a new writing based program at Abington Heights High School, Clarks Summit, PA. Jen will aid high school students with the interviewing and crafting of Veteran narratives for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project. 

Student News

Michael Hardin has had poems accepted for two anthologies: Commonwealth: Pennsylvania Poets (2022), and Moonstone Arts Center’s 2021 Poetry Ink.

Mary Ethel Schmidt’s one act play, Wait For It, was produced at the Ridgefield Theatre Barn in Connecticut last June and was recently chosen for a festival in Garrison, NY held in September 2021.

Roberto Figueroa appears in four feature films coming out in 2022, one with Owen Wilson, Wendy McLendon, Stephen Root, and Michaela Watkins. He recently finished his first draft of a feature film and will also be directing a short film later this year that he wrote. 

Thank you for participating through sharing, reading, or contributing. If you would like to contribute to future issues, please reach out to the Creative Writing office and let your voice be heard.

“A word after a word after a word is power.” —Margaret Atwood