Alexander Banks attended high school in Indianapolis, Indiana where he was a multi-sport athlete and excelled in advanced Drama — writing, directing, and starring in several public shows at the school’s Performing Arts Center. He later attended Tennessee State University on a football scholarship where he majored in Journalism and wrote film and television critiques for the university newspaper. His love for all things pop-culture and writing led him to continue his education in Full Sail University’s Media Production program where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree — with a concentration on narrative storytelling and cinematography. He is currently based in the Houston/Pearland area where he works as a youth sports coach, an independent filmmaker and a proud member of the WITS team of writers.
Amy C. Evans is an award-winning artist, writer, and documentarian based in Houston, Texas. She graduated from the city’s acclaimed High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), holds a BFA in Printmaking from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and an MA in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. Amy’s paintings have appeared in Southern Living, Southern Cultures, and on CNN’s Eatocracy and the Oxford American blog. Her writing has appeared in Saveur, The Bitter Southerner, The Local Palate, and Cornbread Nation 5: The Best of Southern Food Writing. Amy built the documentary program at the Southern Foodways Alliance, headquartered at the University of Mississippi, where she served as their lead oral historian for more than a decade. The Mississippi Historical Society has twice recognized her work, and Food & Wine magazine named Amy one of the “most fearsome talents” in the culinary world. She returned home to Houston in 2014 and embarked on an exciting freelance career, utilizing her varied skills and interests to explore new methods of storytelling. This experimentation birthed Amy’s groundbreaking multimedia project, “My Houston,” which documents her hometown through original paintings, photographs, and oral history interviews. Her first book, co-authored with Martha Hall Foose and published by Chronicle Books, A Good Meal Is Hard to Find: Storied Recipes from the Deep South, is set for release in early 2020.
Amy Lin is celebrating almost 20 years in education and returning to WITS! She worked nine years in elementary school, and taught reading, writing, science, and Mandarin. Previous to that, she also worked as a high school teacher, tutor, and freelance writer. Amy enjoys being creative through her writing and acting with Houston Playback Theatre.
Andrew Karnavas is a fiction writer, songwriter, and freelance copywriter. He earned a B.A. in English and the Edith Garber Krotinger Prize in Fiction from Case Western Reserve University. Andrew has also written and produced six albums under his own record label, YAWP Records, and created the children’s music project AndyRoo and the AndyRooniverse. AndyRoo has been featured nationwide, including the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. In 2015, Andrew released Color Your World with AndyRoo and the AndyRooniverse, his first children’s book and coloring app.
Angélica Hernández-Viera earned her B.A. in Spanish Modern Languages and Literature in Monterrey, México, and her Masters in Education from Sam Houston State University in 2013. Angélica, who joined WITS in 2013, is a bilingual teacher with 8 years of public school experience, teaching such courses as Latin American literature and English as a Second Language to high school students. Her poems, interviews, and short stories have appeared in various newspapers and university publications.
Anna Meriano graduated from Rice University with a B.A. in English and earned her MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Writing for Children from the New School in New York. Her work has appeared in The Rice Review, where it was awarded the George Williams Prize for Fiction. A certified teacher, Anna has been a teacher, mentor, and tutor for students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.
Annie Shepherd is a teaching fellow at the University of Houston creative writing PhD program, concentrating in fiction. Before coming to Houston, she taught ESL in China for two years and earned an MFA in creative writing from Texas State University. She has won writing fellowships and awards from Inprint, University of Houston, and Texas State University, and has taught writing and literature at the college level for over eight years. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in North American Review, The Greensboro Review, and North Dakota Quarterly.
A former Editor-in-Chief for Sycamore Review, Anthony Sutton holds an MFA from Purdue University and has had work appear or forthcoming in The Journal, Rabbit Catastrophe, Prairie Schooner, Passages North, Puerto del Sol, Quarter After Eight, Third Coast, and elsewhere. 25+ years as journalist, author of 2 children’s books, many multi-faceted freelance writing jobs including public relations, corporate communications, website content, and magazine feature writing.
Autumn Hayes is a freelance writer, poet, and educator; her poetry and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in Storm Cellar, The Washington Spectator, 3:AM, African American Review, Teachers & Writers Magazine, and the Houston Poetry Festival anthology, among others. Her poem “On Them” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her choreo-poem, Δεν ‘Ηχω (Then Echo), is available on YouTube. She holds an MFA in poetry from Texas State University and teaches in her hometown of Houston.
Baylea Jones holds an MFA in fiction from Western New England University. Her short story “The Girl from Montana” was a finalist for the 2017 New Letters Prize for Fiction, and her story “Dad & I” received an honorable mention in Glimmer Train‘s Family Matters contest. Publications include Autostraddle.com, Leur Magazine, and Cactus Heart. She enjoys bourbon, brunch, bow ties, and spending time with her wife, Britney.
Bill Moran is a performance poet and former medic from Houston, TX. He is a two-time Austin Poetry Slam Champion, and has an MFA Poetry degree from Louisiana State University. He has toured regularly since 2011, performing and teaching throughout Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia, and the US. His work has been featured on Button Poetry (video), University of Hell Press, Alien Mouth, Pressure Gauge Press, and Phoebe. He currently lives and works in Houston as a teaching artist for Writers in the Schools, and his solo debut book ‘Oh God Get Out Get Out’ is now available through Write Bloody Publishing.
Brendan Stephens is a writer and musician from Maryland. He attends the University of Houston creative writing and literature PhD where he serves as the Online Fiction Editor for Gulf Coast Magazine. His work has appeared in Epoch, the Southeast Review, Notre Dame Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere.
Brook Bailey has a passion for providing very young children with magical, exciting, emotionally resonant stories, and providing a safe and fun space for them to tell their own. She uses Waldorf-inspired table-top puppets and oral storytelling to share with pre-literate children, and she finds stories from all cultures and backgrounds, as well as making up her own. Her goal is for children to tap into their own innate creativity and give them developmentally appropriate ways to let their stories be told. She makes puppets with kids, help them dramatize their stories, provide space and props for their own dramatic play, work with parents in family story workshops, and go into classrooms as a guest teaching artist for Writers in the Schools. As children learn to write, she is there to help them stay connected to the joy of creativity.
Cameron Dezen Hammon’s writing has appeared in Ecotone, The Rumpus, The Literary Review, The Butter, NYLON, Them, The Houston Chronicle, and elsewhere. Her essay “Infirmary Music” was named a notable in The Best American Essays 2017, and she is a contributor to The Kiss: Intimacies from Writers (W.W. Norton), My Caesarean: Twenty Mothers on the Experience of Birth by C-Section and After (The Experiment) and Common Prayer: Reflections on Episcopal Worship (Wipf & Stock). She is co-founder of The Slant reading series, host of The Ish podcast, and her debut book This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession is forthcoming from Lookout Books on October 22, 2019.
Born in Kansas City, Mo. and raised in Mexico City, Carmen Erna Jacobsen is a non-fiction, poetry writer and a teacher. She has written education articles for The Rice Entrepreneurship Educational Program Blog known as REEP in 2012. She has published poems in magazines such as Harbinger Assylum, Houston and Nomadic Voices Magazine and Degenerates by Weasel Press. She has been a featured guest poet at the Barnes & Noble Poetry Series and is a constant participant in different literary events. She has published 2 books of poems. Saudade published in 2013 and Men of Fish a collaborative work with an Alaskan photographer David Little now available through Amazon.
Carol Denson spent 11 years teaching 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade in Austin, Texas. She earned an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston, and has published poems in The Adirondack Review, Gulf Coast, J Journal, and Literary Mama. Her essay “Transfertle the Plum” on poetry and parenting was published in Rattle, and is available online. Her chapbook, Across the Antique Surface, was published in 2013. Her work has been supported by the Jentel Foundation and The Cultural Arts Council of Houston and Harris County. She has lived in Bhopal, India, Mexico City, Chicago, Columbia, Missouri, and Austin, before returning to her hometown of Houston. She works at Writers in the Schools, volunteers for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, cares for her 91-year-old mom, takes classes at Grackle and Grackle, and writes poems, stories, and essays.
Catherine Gentry graduated from Princeton University with a degree in English, and after practicing law in Houston for several years, retired to raise her three now nearly grown children. She currently works as a writing instructor and freelance writer, and her work has been featured in online publications including Grown and Flown, Literary Mama, and The Princeton Alumni Weekly, as well as the Houston Chronicle and the book, Women Under Scrutiny: An Anthology of Truths, edited by Nancy MacDonald. Her love of literature has inspired her to encourage students of all ages through creative writing and she is excited to continue this journey with WITS. A native Houstonian, Catherine loves exploring her city to find new places and inspiration. Catherine believes in compassionate creativity and is committed to changing the world one word at a time.
Colby Ornell is a Ph.D. candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston, where she also serves as an assistant fiction editor for Gulf Coast. Her fiction has been published in The Cobalt Review and Curbside Splendor.
Cristina A. Kindred is a former Creative Writing and Literature teacher from the Alief Independent School District in Houston. She has published poetry in Spider Road Press and recently she has had her art commissioned for two upcoming children’s books.
Currently, she is working on the art for her two commissions as well as her own children’s book and she is finalizing her first novel, an arcane punk YA debut.
She lives on a ranch in San Jacinto, Texas with her fellow author (and husband) Julian, their two fur babies, Caspian and Oberon, along with a myriad of ranch animals.
David LaDuca is a playwright, poet, lyricist and author of short stories, as well as being a professional actor, singer, producer, and musician. He received his Bachelor of Professional Studies in Theatre from Empire State College in New York. As an educator, David loves his work with schools for students with special needs. His work with Texas Children’s Hospital working with oncology patients is especially rewarding. David enjoys empowering youth to express themselves through various genres, and sharing a lifetime of diverse creative endeavor.
David Nikityn is a fiction writer from Blairstown, New Jersey. He earned his B.A. in Communication at Monmouth University and briefly studied Creative Writing and Philosophy at Columbia University before moving to Houston. David is currently an MFA candidate in the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program and is working with undergraduate students studying English composition. He cares deeply about the communicative, empathetic and empowering nature of writing and is eager to support its life-changing capability.
Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, Dede Fox is the 2016-2019 DOJ/NEA Artist in Residence at Bryan Federal Prison Camp for Women. She also teaches with WITS-Houston at Texas Children’s Hospital. In 2019 Lamar University Literary Press published her fourth book On Wings of Silence: Mexico ’68, a novel in verse.
Berkeley native Despy Boutris has had work published or forthcoming in Cream City Review, The Adroit Journal, Palette Poetry, Third Coast, Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast Online, and more. Currently, she teaches at the University of Houston and serves as an Assistant Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast.
Devereux Fortuna is a genderqueer writer, artist, and educator from Arizona. They are currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing and Literature as a C. Glenn Cambor Fellow at the University of Houston, and received their MFA in Poetry as a Goldwater Fellow from NYU. They work as Poetry Editor at Gulf Coast Magazine, and teach creative workshops as a resident teacher for Writers in the Schools. Their poetry, essays, and art have been published by or are forthcoming in Waxwing Magazine, American Chordata, Ahsahta Press, and Triangle House Review..
Dillon Scalzo is a poet and translator with a passion for working back and forth between the mediums of Spanish and English. For 12 years he was based on the U.S./Mexico border in San Diego, CA/Tijuana y Tecate, Baja California, where he completed a B.A. in English and Spanish at the University of San Diego and later an MFA in Creative Writing at San Diego State University. He has studied in México, Spain, and most recently in 2016 completed a U.S. Fulbright grant in Uruguay where he taught English and Creative Writing while working on translations of Uruguayan poets. Dillon is interested in all things transfronterizo, especially the movement of poetry and art across physical and imaginal borderlands. He is an enthusiastic newcomer to Houston and currently works as an ESL teacher for adults, as well as a translator and member of the FAQ Team at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH).
Dinorah Pérez-Rementería received a B.A. in Theater from the Higher Institute of Arts in Havana, Cuba, and an M.A. in Latin American studies from the University of Miami. As a teacher, she often considers how ethics and aesthetics can have a positive impact on youth education. Her articles have appeared in such magazines as Art Nexus, Arte al Día International, ArtPulse, and others. This will be her sixth year with WITS.
Doni Wilson teaches literature and writing at Houston Baptist University and freelances for publications such as Houstonia and The Houston Chronicle.
Elizabeth A. M. Keel is a Houstonian playwright, director, actress, dramaturg, producer, and novelist. Her plays have been read or produced in Chicago by Shattered Globe Theatre and Otherworld Theatre Company, in NYC by Squeaky Bicycle and Fresh Produce’d, and around Texas by Landing Theatre Company, Stages Repertory Theatre, Mildred’s Umbrella, METDance, T.E.T.A., Cone Man Running, This Is Water Theatre, Nova Arts Project, and 14 Pews. She currently works as a teaching artist for Grackle & Grackle, Stages Repertory Theatre, and Writers in the Schools. She is proud to serve as an Ambassador for the Dramatists Guild. She recently graduated with her M.A. in Theatre Studies from the University of Houston, where her thesis work explored the increasing role of science fiction onstage. Upcoming projects may be found at elizabethamkeel.com.
Elizabeth Marquis-Mayorca received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts and her BFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU. She has published a book of her poems and her sister Francesca Greene’s paintings titled Sister Symmetry; she also edited a book of poetry by her uncle Walter John Hawver, A Sea of Images, which chronicles the changes his mind underwent as he developed what the doctors called schizophrenia after returning from the Vietnam War. Elizabeth is currently writing a memoir about her New York born, Calabrese grandmother, Concettina Hawver, better known as Nonnie. Elizabeth is the other half of the Seriously Silly Sisters Shadow Puppetry Troupe. She is married, has two young daughters and has been teaching violin at the Mayorca Violin Studio for the past thirteen years.
Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean was ranked 9th in the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2012 and appeared at TEDxHouston in 2013. His one-man show “Converse” went to Theatre Row in New York City in November 2013, as part of the United Solo Theatre Festival. Bean coaches the WITS youth poetry program, Meta-Four Houston. He recently co-authored a peer-reviewed article on performance poetry in Children at Risk’s Journal of Applied Research on Children. Bean has taught with WITS since 2010.
Emelie Griffin is a PhD student at the University of Houston, where she also teaches. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Syracuse University, and has been the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and the Leonard Brown Prize.
“Be the person you needed when you were younger” is the quote that Erica Nicole lives life by. Originally from New York, Erica Nicole is a nationally ranked poet, adolescent psychiatric Registered Nurse, Certified Child & Adolescent Trauma Professional, American Sign Language Interpreter student and has a post-graduate certificate in LGBT Health Policy & Practice. Erica Nicole is a Program Manager for Houston VIP Slam and serves on the Board as Community Relations Director for Invisible Strings Bookshop-a bookstore and community space for queer youth in Oregon. Erica Nicole found healing in poetry and hopes to facilitate healing in others through words.
Erika Jo Brown is the author of I’m Your Huckleberry and co-editor of Beatrice Hastings: On the Life & Work of a Lost Modern Master. She earned her PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston. Organizer of the Poison Pen reading series, she teaches poetry at UH and MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital through WITS.
Fern Brady is a former public school teacher and journalist turned author and publisher. She has various short stories and poetry published in anthologies as well as two picture books. Her full length science fantasy novel is nearing publication this year.
Florence Miyamoto is a wife, mother, retired teacher, and writer. A graduate of Fresno State College with a B.A. in Social Science, she later received Texas Lifetime Certification in Elementary Education (EC-8), Early Childhood Education, and English as a Second Language (ESL). Reading Recovery-trained through the University of Houston-Clear Lake, most of her teaching experience has been with the young, struggling reader and writer, working as an Intervention Specialist in Humble ISD and Spring Branch ISD. Florence is the author of Easy-to-Make Books That Target Specific Reading Needs (Pre-Kindergarten-1st Grade) published by Scholastic. She joined WITS in the fall of 2012.
Gabriella Adriana Iacono is a first year MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Houston. She grew up in Staten Island, New York, where she earned her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the College of Staten Island CUNY. She has worked in public education since 2014, and has served as an editor for NYSAI Press. Iacono is currently working on her first collection of poems.
Gigi Airheart has taught WITS Summer Creative Writing Camp for several years. She says, “I enjoy finding avenues for students to express themselves through visual arts and the written word. Facilitating a means of connecting with a student’s own ideas, feelings, and imagination by playing with words and art is exciting. We learn much from one another as we share an environment Where Words Fly!” She has earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Baylor University and a Master’s degree in Counseling from the University of Houston – Victoria. She holds teaching certificates in Counseling, Art, Spanish, Elementary – K through 8, Secondary Art and Spanish, Special Education and English as a Second Language. This will be her third year to work with WITS as a writer at The Menil Collection. In her spare time, she paints, draws, writes poetry, and has recently begun to play violin.
Gloria Alvarez is a novelist and freelance writer. She has worked with WITS for 13 years and is a member of the Authors Guild and Novelists, Inc. Gloria holds a B.S. in Spanish from Georgetown University and an M.A. in Linguistics from the Ohio State University. Her novel Desert Kiss won a Latino Literary Hall of Fame award. In her spare time, she enjoys pottery, knitting, scuba diving, and travel. She lives in Houston with her husband.
Graciela Martinez graduated from the University of Houston in Spring 2015 with her Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology with a Minor in Medicine & Society. When she is not reading or writing, she is working with parents and students throughout the Greater Houston area. Her hope is to help student’s develop creative outlets that will continue beyond their school years.
Hannah Lacy McKeon has recently joined the WITS team as a Writer. Hannah graduated from Texas A&M University (WHOOP) in December of 2018 with a BA in English and has spent the last 4 summers working at Pine Cove Christian Camps. In addition to WITS, Hannah also works at a local non-profit book publishing house, Bright Sky Publishing, previously as an editorial intern and now as the Operations Manager. While at Texas A&M, Hannah worked at the University Writing Center, helping peers with their writing projects, and she also served for 6 semesters as a volunteer with Breakaway Ministries. Hannah loves animals, youth, writing poems, attending Write About Now poetry, and taking advantage of everything that Houston has to offer.
Hunter Gilson is originally from Kansas City, and he spent eight years attending and then teaching at Kansas State University. While there, he served as an instructor at Kansas State’s Young Writers’ Workshop during its inaugural season. He also grew fond the smell of prairie burnings and the way wheat fields ripple from the howling winds of the Flint Hills. He is currently pursuing an MFA in fiction at the University of Houston.
James Hershberger is an award-winning writer, comedian, musician, slam poet, and actor. He graduated with honors from Texas Tech University with degrees in Creative Writing and Political Science. He has performed live all over the U.S. as well as in Europe and Asia. In 2013, he was a member of the Houston V.I.P. Slam Team, winning 2nd place in Group Piece Finals at the National Poetry Slam in Boston. James is a volunteer teacher of a weekly creative writing workshop for the homeless.
Jasminne Mendez is an award-winning author, performance poet, and educator. She received her B.A. in English Literature and her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. Mendez has performed her poetry in venues all around Houston, including Rice University, the Alley Theatre, the Museum of Fine Arts, the University of Houston, and Barnes & Noble. She has shared the stage with respected writers and poets such as Sandra Cisneros and Taylor Mali. Mendez has been published both nationally and internationally. Her multi-genre memoir Island of Dreams was published by Floricanto Press and was awarded Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book by the International Latino Book Awards in 2015.
Jeffrey Bussey is a Poet, Community Organizer, Amateur urban historian, and adventure cyclist. He founded and runs Gentle Hour, Houston’s Monthly Morning Reading Series, and is the sole operator of The Pocket Center for Health & Wellness, a metaphysical community arts and engagement center. He is happy being in Houston, currently, and is excited to watch the trees grow here.
Joseph Roberts loves the theater of teaching and has a strong passion for writing, joining WITS has provided him a happy marriage of the two. He is now afforded the opportunity to serve the greater Houston area, to support and encourage those in their creative journey, and see that the disadvantaged in Houston are provided the means they are owed to express themselves.
Joshua Burton is a poet and educator from Houston, TX. He received his B.A. from the University of Houston and his MFA in poetry at Syracuse University. His work seeks to navigate the way historical, generational, and familial trauma crosses wires with mental illness. His main poetry influences are Elliott Smith, Marie Howe, Norwegian Wood, Terrance Hayes, Moonlight, Kendrick Lamar, Grave of the Fireflies, James Baldwin, and Songs of Solomon. He is a 2019 Tin House Winter Workshop Scholar, 2019 Juniper Summer Writing Institute scholarship winner, 2019 Center for African American Poetry and Poetics fellowship finalist, and received the Honorable Mention for the 2018 Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize. His work appeared in Figure1, BODY Literature, Mississippi Review and is forthcoming in Gulf Coast.
Joshua Gottlieb-Miller holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Houston, where he has returned to pursue his PhD in Creative Writing. Joshua most recently served as Gulf Coast’s Online Nonfiction Editor, and his own writing can be found in New Delta Review, Pacifica Lit Review, Grist, Four Way Review, Pleiades, Indiana Review and elsewhere. Previously Joshua served as Gulf Coast’s Print Poetry Editor, and has won the Inprint Barthelme Prize in Poetry, as well as the Inprint Robert J. Sussman Prize. Joshua has also been a Fellow at The MacDowell Colony and the Tent Writing Conference at the Yiddish Book Center. Currently Joshua teaches for Inprint, as well as Writers in the Schools at The Menil Collection, and he lives in Houston with his wife, Lauren, and son, Owen.
Josie Mitchell is a graduate of the University of Houston’s MFA program in fiction. Before moving to Houston, she worked as a preschool teacher in Dalian, China, where her Chinese name translated to “Dumpling”. Josie was a Non-Fiction Editor for Gulf Coast and student advisor to the UH undergraduate literary magazine, Glass Mountain and the Boldface Conference for Emerging Writers. She teaches creative writing at the University of Houston and Fifth Ward’s Finnigan Park, with Project Row Houses, inprint and WITS. She is from San Diego, California, and is at work on a story collection set there.
Julio Antonio Molinete is from Manzanillo, Cuba. A poet, journalist, and documentary director with an MFA in Creative Writing (UTEP). I am currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing (Spanish) at the University of Houston. Winner of the Dulce María Loynaz Poetry Prize (Miami FL 2017) and the BorderSenses Short Story Prize (El Paso TX 2014). Author of the poetry collection Brújula Quebrada (NEO Club Editions, 2017), La Piedad se llama Dalila (Bayamo Editions, 2002), and En Coche por el Arcoíris (Sanlope Editorial for Children, 2000). Published in the anthology Nueva Poesía y Narrativa Hispanoamericana Siglo XXI (Lord Byron Editions, España 2017) and Al sur esta la poesía (Bayamo Editions, 1997). Selected poems in Revista de Arte y Literatura Verbo(des)nudo (Santiago de Chile 2017). News producer NBC Universal – Telemundo Houston, TX. News producer Entravision Communications Univision 26 El Paso, TX. Editor Assignment, Reporter, and Fill-in Anchor MVS International Corporations, EXA/FM El Paso, TX. Editor Assignment, and Reporter El Diario de El Paso Newspaper. Anchor, Reporter, News Producer, and Documentary Producer Tunas Vision Channel, ICRT Las Tunas, Cuba
Justin Jannise studied poetry at Yale and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. A native of the Houston area, he is a Ph.D. candidate in literature and creative writing at the University of Houston, where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of Gulf Coast. His work has appeared in Columbia Journal, The Yale Review, North American Review, and The Awl.
K.C. Sinclair is a fellow in Fiction and Screenwriting at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. Her short works have appeared in the Texas Observer and the New Guard Literary Journal. She has been a finalist for the Master’s Review New Writers’ Competition, the Glimmer Train New Fiction Prize, and New Letter’s Short Story Award. Before her MFA, she was an elementary school teacher and vice principal for ten years. She left that beloved career to pursue a lifelong dream to write. Now, she lives in a Mont Belvieu with her husband, adorable dog, and self-absorbed kitty, and is working on a novel set in Houston about a group of four friends who have dreams of becoming astronauts. K.C. also teaches writing at Lee College in Baytown.
Katherine Elliott grew up in Richmond, Virginia and received a BA in literature and art history from the University of Virginia. She attended the University of Houston’s MFA program in creative writing. This is her eleventh year teaching with WITS.
Kathryn Peterson a.k.a. “Doctor Kat” holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature and an MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston, where she received a Barthelme and Glenn C. Cambor Fellowship. She also has an M.A. in playwriting from the University of Cincinnati, where she won the Elsie B. Westheimer Award for Playwriting and the Graduate Prize in Fiction. Originally from Virginia and trained as a journalist, Kathryn is a columnist for the Houston Chronicle’s online blog, Gray Matters. When she is not teaching for WITS, you can find her offering manuscript consultations, managing social media and blogs for business, or working on her novel.
Kelsie Cleboski writes as Kelsie Hahn, and her published work includes the dinosaur-themed prose chapbook “Last Days of the Microsaurs” and another prose chapbook, “Responsibility.” Her fiction has also appeared in Passages North, Caketrain, Cartridge Lit, NANO Fiction, and others. She holds an MFA in fiction from New Mexico State University.
In the early days of WITS writers sat around a table and brainstormed all the places WITS could go, all the ways WITS could change the world for young writers. Kiki Przewlocki was part of that broad conversation and has remained a part of WITS long enough to see those dreams become reality. Her passion for writing songs and performing fuels Third Ear Caravan Band www.thirdearcaravan, her dramatic nature nurtures an after school theatre troupe, and her art has been displayed on the walls of the Jung Center, in Santa Fe, NM, and in her upcoming line, Blue Raven Designs. This year she’s immersed in editing her novel, La Mia Sorella, My Sister, and in her playfully therapeutic card deck/book, Soul Dusters. Inspiring writers is as much a part of her as breathing.
Kimberly Povloski is a poet from Houston, Texas. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Eastern Washington University. She is a former poetry editor of Willow Springs Magazine. She currently teaches at the University of Houston. Her first collection of poems, Hell of Birds, was chosen by Erica Dawson as the winner of the 2018 Adrift Chapbook Contest and published by Driftwood Press. Other work appears in Gris-Gris.
Kristi Pewthers is a fiction writer who finds inspiration in the mundane. She believes kernels of magic can be uncovered anywhere, even in the most ordinary of places. A native Houstonian, Kristi graduated from Sharpstown High School and, after receiving her B.A. in English Literature from the University of Houston, she returned to her alma mater to teach high school English and AP literature and composition. While there, she created the literary club and produced Follow the Fire, Sharpstown’s literary magazine. Kristi’s debut novel was published in March of 2015, and she is hard at work on its follow-up. Her manuscript Tracing Ursa won the New Adult category in the LERA 2015 Rebecca Contest and finaled in the Emily Contest 2016. In her spare time, she’s an imp wrestler, music geek, and tabletop gamer. This is her seventh year with WITS.
Lajla Cline is a writer and teacher from Houston, Texas. She received her BA in English from Rice University and then completed an MA in literature at the University of Houston and an MFA in creative writing at the University of Arizona. Lajla taught writing to college students for seven years at the University of Houston, San Jacinto College, and the University of Arizona, where she was an adjunct lecturer in creative writing. She has received residency grants from the Vermont Studio Center and Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. She is at work on a novel.
Laura Biagi is an MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of Houston. Previously, she worked as a Literary Agent in New York at the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc. She teaches creative writing and composition with the University of Houston, Inprint, and WITS and serves as Fiction Editor for Gulf Coast.
Layla Al-Bedawi is a writer, teacher, and community builder. Born in Germany to Kurdish and Ukrainian parents, she immigrated to the US in 2006 and currently lives in Houston, TX, where she is an active and passionate member of the city’s literary community. She is one of the founders of Fuente Collective, an organization that facilitates experimentation, collaboration, and hybridity in writing and other arts. Her work has been published in Bayou Magazine, Winter Tangerine, Juked, Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Liminal Stories, Mithila Review, Crab Fat Magazine, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a collection of interconnected flash fiction. You can find her on Twitter under @frauleinlayla and at laylaalbedawi.com.
Leah Madof is a seasoned educator, writer, and parent. Originally from Chicago, Leah holds a B.A. in English and Journalism from the University of Iowa and an M.A. in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Certified to teach English and ESL in K-12 classrooms, Leah developed much of her teaching skills at an international high school in Queens, NY, where she created curriculum for 9th and 10th grade Humanities classes and developed a writing center for struggling writers. Leah looks forward to developing the future writers of Houston. This is her first year with WITS.
LeeAnne Carlson is an MFA student at the University of Houston, where she daily explores what is fiction and what is not. A midwife for two decades, she’s delivered hundreds of future people. In her spare time she milks goats, and tries to instil order upon her life, sometimes successfully.
Lesa Boutin is a children’s author who loves every aspect of a book’s life, from concept to completion. Consequently, Lesa started her own publishing company, Boot in the Door Publications, in 2006. Then in 2007 and 2008, the first two novels in her AMANDA NOBLE series were released. Book 2 of the series, AMANDA NOBLE, SPECIAL AGENT, was nominated for the Texas Lone Star Reading List. In the spring of 2014, Lesa, writing under the pen name Lesa Howard, brought Boot in the Door Publications into the twenty-first-century with the release of her new novel PHANTOM’S DANCE in both print and ebook formats. As a writer for Writers in the Schools, Lesa enjoys sharing her imagination and passion for storytelling with her students.
Marcia Chamberlain earned a B.A. from the College of William & Mary and an M.A. from Rice University. She is a writer, teacher, and storytelling coach. For two decades she has led multimedia and creative writing programs in hospitals, schools, homeless shelters, museums, libraries, parks, universities, and juvenile detention centers. Marcia has extensive experience in the fields of reminiscence writing, legacy projects, and guided memoirs. In addition to receiving an Envision Grant from Rice University, she has won a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Practicum Fellowship, a Teaching Tolerance Grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Artist Project Grant from the Cultural Arts Commission of Houston and an Emerging Filmmaker Grant from the Houston Arts Alliance. She has published essays about medieval nuns and Chicano revolutionaries and is working on a collection of essays about fainting, envelope art, and ice cream trucks.
Matthew Boyleston is a Professor of English and Writing and former Dean of the School of Fine Arts at Houston Baptist University. He received a Ph.D. in creative writing and literature from the University of Houston and an MFA from the University of South Carolina. He is the author of one book of poetry, Viewed from the Keel of a Canoe. His poems and essays have appeared widely. He lives in Houston with his wife and two daughters.
Matthew Krajniak was born and raised in Cleveland, OH, and after ten years of working in social services, he returned to school to pursue his love of literature and creative writing. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) at the University of Memphis in 2016, and is currently a PhD candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston. He has published work in The Avalon Literary Review and elsewhere.
Mauricio Patrón Rivera (México City, 1984) works with the text and its relationship with the community. With his work, he tries to travel from critical thinking to the streets. The outputs of his work are short stories, essays, curatorial projects, academic research, and collaborative processes. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing in Spanish at the University of Houston. His writing explores the outsiders’ corporalities
Miranda Ramírez is a multidisciplinary artist and author residing in Houston, Texas. You may find her publications in Ripples in Space, Glass Mountain, Shards, The Bayou Review, Coffin Bell, Puro Chicanx Writers of the 21st Century, Cowboy Jamboree. Recently, she was a semi-finalist in the Ember Chasm Review’s Winter Fiction Contest (2020) and a runner-up in the Sad Girl Club Short Story Contest (2021). She is a founding editor of Defunkt Magazine and a visual artist whose works have been exhibited at Williams Tower Gallery, Tea+Art Gallery, and Insomnia Gallery. She is currently drafting her first novel as an MFA candidate and fellowship awardee at Sam Houston State University
Monica Davidson is a youth activist, social justice change agent, TedX speaker, published author, spoken word poet, facilitator and educator from Madison, WI. Monica is a two-time member of Houston VIP Slam team, ranked 5th in the Nation. In Monica served as one of the inaugural Future Corps Fellows for Youth Speaks & worked collaboratively with Writers in the Schools in HTX. Countless high school, grade school, professional and community programs have worked with Monica to help facilitate and develop spoken word and writing curriculum. Monica believes we all deserve to help each-other out, every day.
Myrtha Olivares-Bonilla is a journalist, writer, and artist from the Caribbean. Born and raised in Puerto Rico. Her work has appeared in different newspapers, radio, and media, and has collaborated with international literary magazines. In the same way, has been part of several theatrical productions inside and outside of Puerto Rico. Graduated with a bachelor degree in Journalism and Foreign Languages from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She also studied Theater and Women and Gender Studies and lived in Italy as part of her studies in Communications and Theater at the Universittà Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan. Her poems have been published in the Antología Casa Emilio (2014) and his poem Olvido has been translated into Italian by the Progetto 7LUNE directed by Silvia Favaretto (2016). Living now in Houston.
Nancy Barnhart earned her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston, where she also taught as an adjunct instructor. Currently, she enjoys sharing the joy of writing with children in the classroom and at Texas Children’s Hospital Cancer and Hematology Center. Her poetry is published in Saudade, and she has journal articles published in Affective Reading Education Journal, Teachers and Writers, The Ohio Journal of the English Language Arts, The English Record, and RDH National Magazine. Nancy is beginning her 11th year with WITS.
Nancy Bonsembiante received a Spanish and Latin Literature degree from the Ministry of Education in Argentina and a Master Degree in Spanish from the University of Houston. She has worked teaching Spanish Literature at various middle and high schools in Argentina and Houston and is a private tutor for adults. She obtained an award for excellence at Houston Community College after completing her last semester of ESL. She has joined the WITS program and is currently teaching 2nd and 3rd graders at Port Houston ES in Spanish and English. She has written different poems to use in her classes and has been a collaborator for the book Illuminations: Expressions of the Personal Spiritual Experience. Her non-writing interests include dancing, reading, and spending time with her fifteen-year-old daughter, thirteen-year-old son, and husband.
Natasha Carrizosa is a poet, writer, and spoken word artist. In 2013, she won the National Poetry Award for multi-cultural poet of the year. Raised as the daughter of an African-American mother and Mexican father, her writing reflects the dichotomy of those two rich cultures. Natasha is a published author of several projects – including heavy light, mejiafricana, and Of Fire and Rain (co-authored with Joaquin Zihuatanejo). She has performed her work and conducted workshops for audiences in Madrid, Paris, St. Lucia, New York, Chicago, Houston, and elsewhere, appearing at over one hundred schools, colleges, and universities. Her love for the arts inspired the creation of natty roots & rhyme. Since 2009, she has hosted one of the most dynamic poetry open mics in the country.
Obi Umeozor received his B.A. in English from the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria and taught English Literature before moving to the States in 2015, where he obtained an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida State University. His work has appeared and is forthcoming in the New Orleans Review, adda, Shift and others. He has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and is currently a PhD (Fiction) candidate at the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program.
Omer Ahmed (Pronouns: He/Him) is an educator, writer, and performer. He explores the intersectionality of identity, which yields to his writing style. Omer is a National Poetry Slam semi-finalist for Houston’s Write About Now 2018 slam team. He is proud to have placed 5th in the nation with his team. He currently works for Writers in the Schools and hopes to expand his love of writing to many more.
Paige Quiñones is currently pursuing a PhD in poetry at the University of Houston while serving as a graduate fellow with the Center for Mexican American Studies. She earned her MFA from the Ohio State University with a focus in Latinx Studies, where she continued teaching as a Senior Lecturer the following year. Her work has appeared in Barrow Street Review, McSweeney’s, Southeast Review, and elsewhere.
Rachel Ballenger is a writer and translator from the San Francisco Bay Area. She was educated at UC Berkeley. Among other outlets, her work appears in Your Impossible Voice, Gulf Coast and the Los Angeles Review of Books. An excerpt from her novel-in-progress TAKE MY LIFE won the Inprint Alexander Prize in fiction.
After being thoroughly inspired by a WITS writer in her classroom, Rachel Odom joined the WITS team in the summer of 2015. She is a native Houstonian, a former teacher, and a mother of three enthusiastic children. She earned her degree in Early Childhood Education from Texas Tech University and promptly launched her teaching career. She later received her Master’s in Educational Administration from Texas A&M University. Rachel spent 13 years as a teacher in Spring Branch ISD. A lover of education, Rachel has taught students in grades 2-5 as well as adult professional development classes, and serves on the school board for Memorial Lutheran School. Rachel and her husband, David, can be found enjoying the outdoors around Houston and trying to keep up with their children, Emmet, Albert, and Edie.
Rama Yousef graduated from the University of Houston with a BA in Creative Writing. While at the University of Houston, she wrote for the opinion column for The Cougar. She also holds teaching certification in English and ESL for grades 7-12, and has taught English at the middle and high school levels. She currently works as a teaching assistant at the Arabic Immersion Magnet School in HISD. She writes short fiction, but would like to explore personal essay and memoir writing.
A veteran of the United States Air Force, Rebecca Danelly Oxley finished her undergraduate degree in creative writing in 1999 at the University of Houston where she won the Howard Moss Undergraduate Poetry Award the same year. She’s featured at several readings in Houston and was a juried poet at the Houston Poetry Festival in 2016. She’s had poems published in journals, magazines, and anthologies. She is co-facilitator of Poetry Around, a free monthly community workshop. Rebecca now publishes using the name Rebecca Danelly.
Reyes Ramirez is a Houstonian. Reyes won the 2019 YES Contemporary Art Writer’s Grant, 2017 Blue Mesa Review Nonfiction Contest, 2014 River Sedge Poetry Prize and has poems, stories, essays, and reviews (and/or forthcoming) in: Cosmonauts Avenue, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Deep Red Press, The Latinx Archive, december magazine, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Texas Review, TRACK//FOUR, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine, Houston Noir, Gulf Coast Journal, Origins Journal, The Acentos Review, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. Reyes has been awarded grants from the Houston Arts Alliance and The Warhol Foundation’s Idea Fund. He’s also been a finalist for several contests, including: Cosmonauts Avenue’s 2018 fiction prize; december magazine’s 2018 poetry prize; Texas Review Press’, Iron Horse Literary Review’s and Gold Line Press’ poetry chapbook competitions.
Sabino Luévano-Ortega was born in México. He has a bachelor’s in Hispanic Literature from the University of Sonora, in Mexico, and a PhD in Hispanic Studies from the University of Houston. Sabino specializes in Mexican Literature and Cinema. He has published articles on Mexican cinema. He is also a columnist in two Mexican Newspapers; El Nopal and La Jornada. Sabino has been teaching for the past 7 years in Mexico and the United States. In Mexico he taught courses of Spanish, Human Development and English. At the University of Houston, he has been teaching for 6 years courses of Spanish, Oral Communication and Hispanic Cinema. He is currently working on a short story collection. He writes in Spanish and English. His teaching methods are informed by the works of Paulo Freyre and Robert E. Slavin.
Sarah Jerasa is a teacher and writer originally from Charlottesville, Virginia. Sarah has been teaching writer’s workshop for over 10 years and is passionate about exposing her students to powerful language and challenging them to find their inner voice as writers. In addition to her work in the classroom, Sarah conducts research on instructional strategies related to writing. She has presented numerous times at national conferences such as NCTE and is currently working on her next research proposal. Sarah holds a Masters degree in teaching from the University of Virginia. Prior to moving to Houston, Sarah was a fellow for the National Writing Project in Central Virginia. Sarah writes poetry, memoir essays, and is currently working on her first novel.
Sarah Robinson is an MFA student at the University of Houston, where she serves as a fiction editor for Gulf Coast. She received her BA in English and Studio Arts from the University of New Mexico and spent several years working in publishing before deciding to pursue her fiction full-time. Writing has been an important part of her life since she could pick up a pencil and she’s enthusiastic about sharing this passion with the next generation.
Sharon Ferranti has been with WITS since 2002. She holds an MFA in filmmaking from CalArts. She made one feature film that is distributed by Wolfe Video and she just shot her second feature in May. It’s called The Queen of Cups and will be in post production until May of 2020. Sharon is a self-employed commercial filmmaker and she teaches because it is an essential pathway to a better world.
Shiarnice Taylor, better known as Lyric the poet, was born and raised by a single mother in Houston, TX. She began writing at 7 years old, her love for poetry at a youth center in the 5th Ward. There she found her passion for writing about personal experiences from her childhood. At the age of 17 she began attending college at Sam Houston State University where she became a part of Sam Houston’s Slam Poetry Team traveling to national competitions in Philadelphia and Corpus Christi. Her poetic stage name is Lyric as she’s known for combining singing and song lyrics into her poetry. She is active in Houston’s poetry scene and is also a Professor of Psychology at Houston Community College. Lyric released her first solo musical/poetic album in May 2014 and her first poetry book in 2016 called The Released. In 2018, she completed her 2nd book, a series of letters as poems called The Forgiveness Letters. She is currently working on her 3rd book, From Bitter to Better scheduled for release in 2019.
Summer Magee has a passion for teaching creative writing. After studying English Literature at Trinity University, she went on to earn her Masters in Education, specializing in Literacy and Language Arts, from The University of Texas at Austin. Summer taught middle school English for 11 years in HISD, and continues to grow her craft through her work with Writers in the Schools. When she is not teaching, or planning for teaching, you can find her happily wandering the cheese section at Whole Foods, or attempting to entertain her 3 busy children and unruly airedale puppy, Ivy.
Tanesha Morris is a writer and filmmaker from Shreveport, LA. She’s an award-winning writer and director with a degree in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. Tanesha’s writings demands a call to action and draws in an audience through her authentic storytelling. She founded and created the annual Shreveport Urban Film Festival to help share these stories. Tanesha has been featured on popular sites such as Afropunk and New Black Culture. Writer. Teacher. Student. Lover. Friend. MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the Mississippi University for Women.
Treva McKissic is a WITS Writer and art teacher who holds both a B.A. in English and an M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction for Reading and Writing from the University of Houston. With over 19 years experience in education, she has worked with students and teachers of all ages and experience levels to help spread the love of writing and art. Recently, Treva was selected to present workshops for the SXSWedu Conference and the Florida Creativity Conference about creativity, writing, and art. Her winding artistic journey has led her to copyright and self-publish her first poetry book, Erratic Epiphanies. In Treva’s spare time, she can often be found in her family room, on the chaise lounge, writing and doodling, all while watching her daughter play her guitars, paint masterpieces, and make hand-crafted jewelry.
Tria Wood is a writer who helps children and their teachers become confident creative writers through the Writers in the Schools program in Houston, Texas. She earned her M.A. in English from Texas A&M University and her M.Ed. in Art Education from the University of Houston. She also served for several years as Visual Arts Editor for ArtsHouston magazine. Her poetry, fiction, and reviews appear in a variety of publications such as Painted Bride Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Cheap Pop, Corvid Queen, and Sugar House Review, as well as in public art installations in Houston.
Valerie Sweeten, a native Houstonian, has over 25 years as a published writer in major news publications and is the founder/owner of the lifestyle blog, Hot in Houston Now. She is also the author of the children’s books, Shh, Listen: In the Rainforest and Shh, Listen: On a Safari. Living in northwest Houston, Valerie, along with her husband, their four kids and three mini dachshunds can be found out and about enjoying life as much as possible.
Vincent “BlackBluez” Johnson is a writer and spoken word artist who has been performing in Houston since 2002. His love for acting and writing is the perfect reason that he became a performance poet. He spent the last 3 school years teaching slam poetry residences in the city.
Mix media artist and conceptual photographer, Violette Bule studied at the Escuela Activa de Fotografía in Mexico City. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at art galleries, museums, and art fairs. Her social engagement work has been presented in several academic institutions such as Brown University, Pittsburg University, Rutgers University, Musashino Art University (Tokyo), among others. Violette’s work is part of private and institutional collections, including the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas, Venezuela. Among other recognitions for my work, she received a SOME SUMMER grant awarded by the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. Her projects have appeared in both print and online books and magazines such as Marking Time Prison (Rutgers University), Sueño de La Razón Latinamerican Photography Book, Analytic Room, Creator Projects, among others. Violette is also a founding member of www.dismantlingthesimulation.com, a visual arts collective formed in 2014 responding to student protests in Venezuela and engaging in critical dialogue about the country’s polarized political environment.
Xach Blunt is a spoken word artist who spends time competing in poetry slams across the country. He is a two-time member of the Write About Now Poetry slam team, which represented Houston at the National Poetry Slam. He was a finalist at the 2017 Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival. He incorporates his personal narrative with everyday experiences in hopes of making as many genuine connections with as many people as possible. His goal is to encourage people to embrace the human experience and the range of emotions that comes with it, because he believes this shows how much more we have in common with one another than we may think.
Born and raised in Mexico, Yolanda Schulte-Ladbeck, received an Associate’s degree in Audio Engineering from Houston Community College, where she interned and assisted with music recordings at a local studio. She worked as a substitute teacher in Spring Branch ISD for four years, where she had the great fortune of gaining valuable experience with all grade levels, elementary through high school . Yolanda has been a part of the WITS family for over ten exciting years teaching creative writing. In addition, she has held a variety of placements with WITS including the Menil Collection, The Arboretum, and participated with Art League Houston’s ArtBound! Project to create whARTon nARraTives. Yolanda is currently working on her own poetry, drafting her first children’s book, while raising three wonderful children with her husband.