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Why We Write

Meet the new editors!

Hi! I’m Elizabeth Cunningham and I’m very excited to be one of the editors for Revise This! and The Writer’s Life! I started my graduate journey in June 2023 straight out of undergrad and I’m currently working on my M.A. capstone project in fiction. When I’m not reading and writing, I can be found gaming on my Nintendo Switch or hammering puzzles together.

Hello, I am Zyen Smoot and I am also very happy to be one of the editors for Revise This! as well as Writer’s Life. I began my graduate journey this year, so I am now in my 510 courses and I plan to receive my M.F.A in poetry. When I am not processing the world’s emotions through metaphors and double-consciousness, I am figuring out the best way to better the institutionalization of our school systems at a high school. Nice to meet you all!

Please contact us at or if you have any story suggestions, interview opportunities, or want to contribute!

Why We Write

To be a writer is to find yourself speaking for many and representing hundreds. James Baldwin notes, “A writer is by definition a disturber of the peace.” Many of us write for the simplicity of having something to say. For Travis Harman, it is because of his life experiences.

Harman is a former military veteran who joined in 2004 and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008. After going through school and being acclaimed for his writing skills, Harman knew he had an affinity for the hobby. He did not begin cultivating himself as a writer until after he left the army and went into cognitive behavioral therapy for his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Although being in the military was influenced by his father and grandfather, Harman lost his sense of purpose and community. He wrote about his trauma until he could cope with it, and writing became his primary mode of expression. He is now known for his moving and evocative pieces about the effects of war, the life of the military corps, and the question of “why?” after mourning the suicides of his loved ones.

As we’re all in this program to write, we create pieces from where we
know, and what we know becomes transcribed into how we shape our narratives. However, this is not to say we stick to only one subject.

“I am going on beyond the veteran aspect…
reaching out to other people seeking acceptance.”

-Travis Harman

After starting the Creative Writing Program at Wilkes in 2022, Harman found his community. He states, “It really opened my eyes being around people from all walks of life. It inspired me to look outside the general veteran population and reach out to others seeking acceptance.” The phrase “seeking acceptance” is layered for Harman. However, after being at Wilkes, he can apply his expression across many domains of stories that share the theme of “seeking acceptance.”

Like Harman, our identities transcend into our writing where, whether or not we address the primary topics in our pieces, our voice and perspective emotions are a beacon to our visions. Harman still honors the movement of his passions as a member of My Life, My Story. The program, started by Virginia Veteran Affairs, helps veterans who want to tell their story, but lack the ability. Volunteer writers interview them for first-hand accounts of their life. Harman’s first case was James, a veteran with ALS. The biggest question James had for Harman was if anyone would read his story.

“…giving them a voice.
Still keeping them alive in my writing” – Travis Harman

For writers from a specific demographic community, our voice may become our community’s voice, whether intentional or not. The act of representation can be overwhelming as much as it can be a form of healing. Harman states, “I love helping people. I love advocating for those who feel they do not have a voice. That’s what it’s all about—that and those who I have lost in my life…giving them a voice is like still keeping them alive . . .”

We write because we have something to say. Our occupation derives from our deepest passions, and sometimes that can mean speaking for others as a way of speaking for ourselves.

Maslow Family Graduate Creative Writing Program Updates

New Assistant Director
Dawn Leas, who has served our program as part-time coordinator for the past year, has just been promoted to full-time Assistant Director. Please join us in congratulating her!

Get Ready for the 20th!
The Wilkes Creative Writing graduate program will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year! At the summer residency (June 13-21, 2025), we’ll feature readings from the co-founders and the original core faculty members, toast them at the closing banquet, and celebrate all week long with as many alumni as we can fit onto our little campus. More information coming soon!

A New Partnership with Scholastic
Beginning this year, our students and alumni will serve as jurors and judges of the Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Writing Awards featuring a celebration of the winners at the Darte Center every April. Our thanks to current M.A. student Jason Maxey for proposing this great partnership!

New Videos!
At last year’s residency, the Wilkes Marketing Department videotaped some of our students and alumni talking about our program. They may be found here: Please share on social media, with the hashtag #writeatwilkes

Return to AWP
We will return to the AWP Conference next year in Los Angeles. We will have a booth there, where we will host readings by our faculty, alumni, and students, and we will cover the conference registration for any faculty or alumni who are participating in accepted panels.

WVIA Features LitFest’24
Fiction faculty mentor Jeff Talarigo, MFA graduate (and Wilkes Director of Digital Marketing) Mandy Pennington, and director David Hicks were recently featured on WVIA’s “ArtScene,” hosted by Erika Funke, focusing on the upcoming summer residency LitFest readings and events. Listen here:

Faculty Updates

Ursula Villarreal-Moura’s novel, Like Happiness, was published on March 26. It was an April Indie Next Pick and received a great review at NPR. More info here:

Gregory Fletcher’s novella, Tom and Huck Sitting in a Tree, came out in January with a summer reading at Provincetown Bookshop on July 18th at 4 pm. Also, He will read from two short stories at Readercon in Boston July 11-14.

J. Michael Lennon and his co-editors, G.R. Lucas and Susan Mailer, edited Norman Mailer’s last
unpublished work of any significance. Arcade Books will publish Lipton’s: A Marijuana Journal, 1954-55 on June 25th. It includes an introduction, extensive notes, and most of the text of the journal, written over a 4-month period while he was smoking marijuana regularly. Also included is his correspondence with a psychologist, Dr. Robert Lindner, a close friend and author of A Rebel Without A Cause. The upcoming book will be 356 pages with hardbound and Kindle versions available on Amazon.

Robin McCrary’s new “Normalizing Creative Writing Scholarship in the Classroom” now appears in Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies issue 10.2 and can be found here:

Rachel Weaver has multiple essays in the spotlight! “Dizzy” will be included in a social justice
anthology, We Can See into Another Place, in June 2024 by Bower House Books. “Twisted Up”
appeared in Medicine and Meaning in March 2024. “A True Fiction” was a finalist in CutBank’s Montana Prize in CNF, and is forthcoming in SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Center for Bioethics & Humanities publication The Healing Muse. “Twisted Up” can be read here:

Christine Gelineau signed a book contract with Excelsior Editions, an imprint of SUNY Press, for the publication of her creative nonfiction book, Almanac: A Murmuration. The expected publication date is the fall of 2025. This is the manuscript she read from at the June 2023 residency.

Kao Kalia Yang is excited to have a new picture book, Caged, out, which was released on May 28 from Kokila Books. She also delivered the Carleton College commencement address and was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters on June 8th.

Dania Ramos was commissioned by Literary Safari to write a leveled reader picture book companion story for McGraw Hill’s New Literacy Program.

Nancy McKinley was thrilled to receive the Wilkes University Adjunct Faculty Award.

Shanta Lee won the Abel Meeropol Social Justice Writing Award, (inspired by Abel Meeropol, the
composer, writer, and educator who originally wrote the poem, “Strange Fruit” – that would later be sung by Billie Holiday). She gave a major keynote as a part of the award at a writing conference in early April. Also, Lee’s This Is How They Teach You How to Want It… The Slaughter (Harbor Editions, 2024), a hybrid work, is out this month, a collection that is in direct communication with the ancient mythology of the wild hunt, in which supernatural/ghost riders are pursuing a target. And finally, Lee’s multimedia exhibition, Dark Goddess: Sacroprofanity, a digital installation paired with sound composition, includes some of Lee’s photographic images, items selected from the Bennington Museum’s permanent collection, and a digital installation accompanied by a sonic element created by composer, performing artist and academic Damon Honeycutt specifically for this iteration of the exhibition. As Re, one of the models/collaborators, has framed it, to the viewer encountering the Dark Goddess, “It is either profound or profane.”

Student and Alumni Updates

From Travis Harman (M.F.A. in progress):
Remote Outpost is now out. I am continuing to teach my Veterans Writing Series for vets and first
responders at the Hughesville Library. I am also volunteering with the VA’s My Life, My Story program.

From Lori Coughlin: (M.A. in progress): On April 22nd, I received the Outstanding Service Award from The Live Theatre League of Tarrant County on behalf of Theatre Off the Square.

Randee Bretherick (M.F.A. 2013) (publishing under the name Randee Green) will release a new novel, Wrestling with Death, with Coffeetown Press on July 9, 2024. It is the first novel in the Zoey Wilde Mystery series.

From Savannah Lostaunau (M.F.A. in progress):
This last semester, I did my practicum at Park University to meet my M.F.A. requirements. I taught one class, which I met in person and was academic writing. This semester went incredibly well, and they asked me to return for the next year and take on three class loads! I will now be teaching two English 105s and one English 106.

From Alan Yount (M.A. 2018):
My essay “Ken and Me, or iKENography” was published in RFD Magazine’s Winter 2023 edition. The
theme for that edition was ‘Queer Iconagraphy/Icons.’ The essay was originally written while I was at Wilkes, for my Creative Nonfiction class with Kevin Oderman.

Sara Pisak’s (M.F.A. 2020) poem “The Mine” was recently published as part of the commentative 15th anniversary edition Women Speak: Women of Appalachia Project. Sara’s braided essay “In My Veins” was published with Chatham University’s The Fourth River.