Amy C. Evans is an artist, writer, educator, and documentarian based in Houston, Texas. She 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 ten years and taught an annual documentary workshop. Amy has served on the editorial board of Mississippi Folklife since 2015. Her writing has appeared in Saveur, The Bitter Southerner, The Local Palate, and Cornbread Nation 5: The Best of Southern Food Writing. Amy’s paintings have appeared in Southern Living, Southern Cultures, and on CNN’s Eatocracy and the Oxford American blog. She holds a BFA in Printmaking from the Maryland Institute College of Art and an MA in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. Amy is a teaching artist with Literacy Through Photography, joined WITS as a teaching writer in 2017, and has been represented by Koelsch Gallery since 1997.
Ana Leticia De León grew up in Veracruz, México. She migrated as a teenager to Canada and later to the United States. She is a graduate of Earlham College, where she obtained her B.A. in Peace and Global Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Currently, she is an M.A. candidate in Spanish Literature at the University of Houston. She serves as a writer for the community of Gulfton, Texas, in the Houston Art Alliance’s Storyteller Program, an initiative of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Office. She is working on a novel, and a collection of short stories.
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 six years. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in North American Review, The Greensboro Review, and North Dakota Quarterly.
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.
Elizabeth Lyons holds a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston, where she served as a teaching fellow and senior nonfiction editor for Gulf Coast. Her first book, The Blessing of Dark Water, is forthcoming from Alice James Books.A recipient of fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and I-Park, she holds an MFA from Purdue University and a BA in English from the College of Charleston. She has worked with Writers in the Schools since 2011.
Bill Moran is a performance poet and a former EMT. He was the 2012 & 2013 Austin Poetry Slam Champion, president of poetry non-profit Mic Check, and has an MFA in Poetry from Louisiana State University. He has toured regularly since 2011, performing and lecturing throughout Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia, and the US. His work has been featured on Button Poetry, University of Hell Press, Alien Mouth, and Pressure Gauge Press. He became a proud WITS Writer in 2017, and his solo debut book Oh God Get Out Get Out is now available through Write Bloody Publishing.
Brendan Stephens received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Central Florida and Master of Arts in Teaching from Frostburg State University. His prose and poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming in the Southeast Review, Carola Quarterly, and many others. Currently, he is a PhD student at the University of Houston.
Brittany Roeper is a native Houstonian, writer, knitter, and dog parent. She has been fortunate to have many great teachers in her life who encouraged her to find her voice. As a new WITS writer, she is excited to share the bravery of writing with others.
Brooke Bailey is a puppeteer and storyteller and founder of the story and creative play class SunBee Circle. She studied storytelling and puppetry at the Sunbridge Institute in New York and has worked as a teacher for years at preschools and for Air Alliance Houston’s Ozone Theater program. Brooke has taught and performed with Young Audiences, Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston Theater District Day and Earth Day Houston.
Brooke is fascinated and awed by the creative capacity of young children. She uses stories and puppetry to inspire kids to develop their inner imaginative world and tell their own stories.
Brooke Summers-Perry grew up in the woods in Kentucky and reconnects to these roots through contemplative looking, listening, and responding in poetry and visual arts. She holds degrees in psychology and architecture and certification as a spiritual director. In 2005, halfway through her 20 year career in architecture, she founded itscool2care. By managing peer lead teams in grades K-12, this community service group engaged youth in designing and executing advocacy and fundraising projects. Inspired by the fruits of the itscool2care team, in 2015 she shifted away from design to become the founding director of the Hines Center for Spirituality and Prayer. She is the author of four children’s books and a book of compassionate practices, Transforming Habits. She is currently illustrating the latest version of her children’s book, Made of Stardust, and is working on the essays Architecture of Spirituality and a memoir piece, How to Burn Out.
Cait Weiss is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Poetry at the University of Houston. She earned an M.F.A in Poetry with a focus in Global Health from Ohio State University, and was a founder of The Writers’ Guild’s Community Creative Writing Workshops throughout public schools in Columbus, Ohio. She has been published in Field, Tupelo Quarterly, the Notre Dame Review, and elsewhere.
Cameron Dezen Hammon is a writer and musician living in Houston. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University, and her essay “Infirmary Music” has been named a notable in the Best American Essays 2017. Her essays, poems, and stories have appeared in or are forthcoming from The Rumpus, Ecotone, Guernica‘s “The Kiss” series, Houston Chronicle, The Butter, The Literary Review, Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog, Columbia Poetry Review, The Brooklyn Review, Literary Orphans, and elsewhere. Her music has been featured on Houston Public Media KUHF, Houston Pacifica Radio KPFT, as well as the PBS television programs Skyline Sessions and Oxford Sounds. She is the host of “The Ish” podcast, and her memoir about religious and romantic obsession is currently on submission. Follow her @camerondhammon.
Carina Christensen is an artist and educator from Rosario, Argentina. She has a wealth of experience teaching art, writing, yoga, Spanish, and swimming. Because her interests are so diverse, she particularly enjoys working in a multi-disciplinary setting. Carina has exhibited her paintings at MECA’s “Mujeres Latinoamericanas” Art Festival. She joined WITS in 2003 and lives with her husband and two sons.
Artist and elementary school teacher Carmen Erna Jacobsen began her career in Mexico City, where she taught English as a second language at a private school while paying her way through medical school. She has published two collections of poetry: Saudade and Men of Fish, a collaborative project with an Alaskan photographer. She has been a featured poet at the Barnes and Noble Poetry Reading Series, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, and elsewhere. Her articles have appeared in the RICE University educational program blog, REEP. Carmen also created Aztlan, a small Ballet Folklorico group that combines the rhythm of poetry with the beat of Mexican “zapateado.” Carmen lives in Houston and is going into her tenth year with WITS. She believes every student carries a story waiting for its turn to be discovered.
Carol Denson is excited to return to the WITS after spending the last 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, Literary Mama, among other journals. Her essay “Transfertle the Plum” on poetry and parenting was published in Rattle. 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 writes poems, stories, and essays.
Carolyn Bolton earned her M.S. in early childhood education from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. While pursuing her graduate degree, she combined her entrepreneurial spirit with her love of literature and opened a children’s bookstore in 2002. After a successful run, Carolyn sold her business to focus on her family, her writing, and her graduate degree. She joined WITS in 2006 to have the opportunity to share the excitement of reading and writing with children. She is currently working on her first novel and lives in La Porte with her husband of 18 years and their five children.
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. 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.
Chelsea B. DesAutels serves as Poetry Editor of Gulf Coast. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, Pleiades, TriQuarterly, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the Inprint Verlaine Prize in Poetry and the Virginia Reiser Memorial Scholarship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Chelsea holds degrees from Wellesley College and the University of Minnesota Law School, and is an MFA candidate at the University of Houston, where she teaches.
Chris Cander is an award-winning author of novels, children’s books, screenplays, and more. Her most recent novel, The Weight of a Piano, will be released by Knopf in January 2019.
Chris serves on the Inprint advisory board and stewards several Little Free Libraries in her community. A former fitness competitor and model, she currently holds a 3rd dan in Taekwondo and teaches Krav Maga-based self-defense workshops for women. This is her sixth year at Writers in the Schools.
Christopher Diaz is a Chamorro poet, freelance photographer, and U.S. military veteran. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 2009 where he received a B.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. While at A&M he served as co-president of Mic Check Poetry and during his military career founded a weekly open-mic night on a Honduran military base. After serving for six years as a U.S. Air Force Public Affairs officer, he hung up the uniform at the rank of Captain to pursue his love for poetry and photography. He recently represented Houston at the National Poetry Slam competition after qualifying for the 2016 Write About Now (WAN) Slam Poetry Team. He currently serves on WAN’s staff as a resident poet, photographer and video producer. His greatest writing accomplishment was in the fourth grade when his poem was published in his school district’s annual art anthology. Ever since then he has been in love with poetry and the power of words.
Colby Ornell was born and raised in Massachusetts and holds degrees from Wheaton College and Butler University. She is currently 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, a native of Buffalo, NY, has enjoyed a professional performing career for more than 30 years. He has starred in film, television, Broadway, Off-Broadway, national tours, regional theatre, as well as voiceover, industrial film and commercial credits. Mr. LaDuca holds a BA in Professional Studies in the Performing Arts, with a concentration in communications. Mr. LaDuca teaches voice, acting and audition techniques, and has served as Artist-in-Residence for Arts Access, teaching storytelling and improvisation at Pugh Element and Hamilton Middle School. He has written and produced several plays and theatrical presentations for businesses, and is a winner of Theatre Week’s Straw Hat awards for his musical production of “The Open Door.” David also enjoys his work as an executive speech coach, and his efforts with Every Child Counts in the Bahamas, helping special needs children express themselves through music. He currently serves on the Board of Directors at Express Children’s Theatre and is an advisory member of the Board of Directors for the Houston Arts Alliance.
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.
Dede Fox attended the University of the Americas in Mexico City and graduated with a BA in English from Washington University in St. Louis. She earned an M Ed in Supervision from SFASU. A former public school teacher and librarian, Dede is the Artist in Residence at the Bryan Federal Prison Camp for Women. She is very proud of her three school years and two summers with WITS. Her writing credits include The Treasure in the Tiny Blue Tin, a children’s novel, multiple nonfiction articles for Highlights Magazine, and two poetry books–Confessions of a Jewish Texan and Postcards Home. Her most recent manuscript is a YA novel in verse.
Devereux Fortuna is a writer, visual artist, and educator from Arizona. She received an MFA in Poetry from NYU, where she was awarded the Goldwater Fellowship for mentoring in poetry at Coler-Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island. She is currently a C. Glenn Cambor Fellow at the University of Houston, pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing. She is Poetry Editor of Gulf Coast magazine, teaches college writing at UH, and leads creative workshops through the Inprint Literary Performance Program. She has poetry forthcoming in American Chordata, and visual art in Waxwing Magazine.
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.
Dottie Lee is a working dance teacher and teaches tap, ballet, and jazz to children and adults including those with mobility challenges. Her students’ favorite part of class is “Dance Me a Story,” wherein Dottie motivates students to create stories from movement to the written word. She studied dance in New York City and at the Boston Ballet School. She is a founding member of the National Registry of Dance Educators and a member of the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators. Dottie earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
Elizabeth A. M. Keel is a native Houstonian playwright, director, actress, and novelist. She participated in the Iowa Young Writers Studio as a teenager and obtained her BA at the University of Houston, where she studied with Lanford Wilson, Mark Medoff, Mark Bly, and Edward Albee. Her plays have been produced by METDance, The Landing Theatre, Cone Man Running, This Is Water Theatre, Mildred’s Umbrella, the Nova Arts Project, Scriptwriters/Houston, Bootown, Fresh Produce’d (NYC), and 14 Pews, among others. She has published two novels, Running Into Trouble and Life After Myth. She also served as the 2013 Artist in Residence for 14 Pews, and more recently as a slam poetry coach for Houston’s fiery teenage team, Metafour, at the Brave New Voices Festival in DC. She currently works as a teaching artist and coach for Stages Repertory Theatre and Writers in the Schools, and previously taught through the Alley Theatre’s Education department for seven years. She was named as Ambassador for the Houston Dramatists Guild in 2017. Elizabeth is currently completing her Master’s in Theatre Studies at UH, focusing on Arts Leadership, new play development, and science fiction onstage.
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.
Originally from New York, Erica Nicole is a Houston-based psychiatric nurse & poet. She uses her poetry as a way to work through her own life experiences and to hopefully create a space for conversation & healing for others. Erica Nicole is a two-time member of the Houston VIP Slam Team, ranked fifth in the nation. She was a finalist in the 2017 Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival and a semifinalist in the 2016 Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival. She placed third at the 2017 Bayou City Poetry Slam Festival. She has hosted writing & performance workshops for youth and adult audiences. Erica Nicole has been published in 310 Brown Street’s Texas Slamthology and Z Publishing House’s Texas’s Best Emerging Poets: An Anthology. 310 Brown Street published her first book of poetry, To The One Who Loves Her Next. Recordings of her work can be found on the Write About Now, The Shout Houston, and Tedx Talks YouTube channels.
Erika Jo Brown is from New York. Her debut poetry collection, I’m Your Huckleberry, was released by Brooklyn Arts Press in 2014. Her chapbook, What a Lark!, was published by Further Adventures Press in 2011. She graduated from Cornell University and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston, where she is a poetry editor at Gulf Coast.
Fern Brady is the CEO of Inklings Publishing and the Houston Writers Guild, a local nonprofit. A former foreign correspondent for the Mexico City Daily Bulletin, Fern taught for 15 years in Alief ISD and is now a full-time realtor. Her children’s book, The Smiley Face Blatoon, won 1st place in the Texas Author’s Association’s Contest for Best Picture Book for All Ages. Her short story, Todd, won 1st place in Sci-Fi with the Texas Author’s Association and is now featured in their compilation of stories by Texas authors. She has published several short stories in various anthologies, and served as co-editor of Spider Road Press’s anthology, Eve’s Requiem.
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.
G’eral “Raie” Crawford is a Wiley College Alumna from Houston, Texas. As a two-time Houston VIP Slam Champion and 2017-2018 Houston Performance Poet of the Year, Raie is ranked within the top 20 among the Women of the World Poetry Slam and top 25 within the rankings of the Individual World Poetry Slam. In 2018 she released for first book “In Between |Space|” which captures the journey and movement of black bodies in today’s climate. Raie has a deep love for HBCUs. With the firm understanding of the impact communication has on minority communities, Raie created A Conversation for Colored Girls (AC4CG), an organization dedicated to creating a space for minority women to come together and discuss the systemic issues in their communities. This organization has cultivated impactful community conversations at several HBCUs and aims to further reach every HBCU in the US.
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.
Gretchen Cion holds a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and a M.A. in Education from Hunter College in New York City. While teaching in NYC, she was involved with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, which ignited her love of creative writing. Thanks to her profession as an educator and literacy specialist, she has written countless stories to help teach the craft of writing. Currently, she is working on a collection of essays and an umpteenth revision of her screenplay, Good Liar. When she is not writing, she can be found compiling the perfect mix for her rise-and-shine dance parties. She lives in Houston with her artist husband Ian and their two wildly cool boys.
Harriet Riley is a freelance writer focusing on creative nonfiction. She publishes primarily nonfiction pieces in magazines and on-line publications. Before moving to Houston in 2007, Harriet taught undergraduate writing classes at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. She has also worked as a non-profit director, hospital marketing director, and newspaper reporter. She has her MA in print journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and her BA in English and journalism from the University of Mississippi. She is in her tenth year with Writers in the Schools and is honored to teach in a variety of settings with WITS.
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.
Jann Jackson is a writer and artist whose teaching career began in New York City, where she combined her love of the arts with children’s theatre and playwriting. A native Houstonian, she returned to teach at Mark Twain Elementary where she specialized in the school’s magnet program, the Literary Development Center. She has participated in many Summer Creative Workshops through the WITS program.
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.
Jerome Madison is a poet who goes under the stage name “Malcolm Xorcist.” He graduated from Prairie View A&M University with a BA in English and a minor in African American Studies. Before working with WITS, he worked closely with Meta-Four Houston to pursue his writing destiny and was able to compete in California at Brave New Voices. In 2012, he was involved with in Glass Mountain’s Boldface conference at the University of Houston. Jerome believes that writing is a form of therapy and is a deep discourse between the pen, the journal, and the mind. He was an intern for WITS during the summer of 2017 and now, he will be working with them as a classroom leader.
Jonathan Sload was born and raised just north of Houston. He graduated from the University of Houston in 2017 with a degree in Creative Writing, and spent the past year teaching writing at the Awty International School. 2018 marks both the start of his time with WITS, and the first publication of his writing.
Joshua Gottlieb-Miller holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Houston, where he has returned to pursue his PhD and currently serves as the Digital Nonfiction Editor for Gulf Coast. Joshua divides his time between teaching, writing, raising his son Owen, and haunting art museums. His poems can be found in Seneca Review, Four Way Review, Pleiades, and elsewhere, and a non-fiction/poetry hybrid can be found at Pacifica Lit Review. Previously he has been a MacDowell Fellow and a recipient of the Inprint Robert J. Sussman Prize in Poetry and the Inprint Donald Barthelme Prize in Poetry. Joshua loves teaching creative writing to young writers and is always inspired by the limitlessness of their imaginations.
Josie Mitchell is in her third year of her MFA at the University of Houston. She is a Non-Fiction Editor for Gulf Coast and student advisor to the UH undergraduate literary magazine, Glass Mountain. She has taught English in Dalian, China, creative writing in Vancouver, BC, and memoir writing in Houston, TX. She is from San Diego, California, and is at work on an apocalyptic short story collection set there.
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 B.A. 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 sixth year 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.
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.
Kristi Pewthers is a fiction writer who received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of Houston. After college, she returned to her alma mater, Sharpstown High School, 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, and she is hard at work on its follow-up. Her manuscript Tracing Ursa is a finalist in the LERA 2015 Rebecca Contest. In her spare time, she’s a music geek and tabletop gamer. This is her third 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.
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 writes both fiction and personal essay, and is a native Houstonian. LeeAnne attends the University of Houston in the graduate Creative Writing Program. A farmer, LeeAnne makes amazing goat cheese and is obsessed with innovative ways of encouraging writing through the nurture of nature.
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.
Loyce Gayo is a Tanzanian born creative, aspiring scholar and teaching artist based in Houston, TX. Gayo’s work is influenced by her experience in the African Diaspora and celebrates the journey of a people dispersed. Gayo was the slam champion of the UT Spitshine poetry slam team who won the 2014 Collegiate Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI). Her work has been featured on Button Poetry, Write About Now, Badilisha Poetry, Fields Magazine and PBS. She teaches creative writing for Writers in the Schools, Houston and founded a creative writing and performance initiative for East African youths called Paza Sauti.
Marcia Chamberlain earned a B.A. from the College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Rice University. She has taught with WITS for 16 years. In addition to receiving an Envision Grant from Rice University, she also has won a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Practicum Fellowship, a Teaching Tolerance grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Emerging Filmmaker Grant from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County (now Houston Arts Alliance), and was a finalist for the 2009 Bechtel Prize. She has published essays about medieval nuns and Chicano revolutionaries and is working on a collection of nonfiction.
Matthew Boyleston is the author of one collection of poems, Viewed from the Keel of a Canoe. He is an Associate Professor of English and Writing at Houston Baptist University and was the founding Dean of the School of Fine Arts. He received his PhD in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston and MFA from the University of South Carolina. He has worked with Writers in the Schools for many years.
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.
Matty Layne Glasgow hails from Sugar Land, Texas. In his five years with WITS, he has worked with young writers at Discovery Green, The Menil Collection, Rice University, and in various schools throughout Houston and Beeville. Having led a therapeutic writing group for those living with mental illness and having co-facilitated the Ames High Creative Writing Club, Matty believes writing can be an empowering and invaluable part of every community. He recently received his MFA in Creative Writing & Environment from Iowa State University, and his debut poetry collection deciduous qween was selected by Richard Blanco as the winner of the 2017 Benjamin Saltman Award with Red Hen Press.
Melanie Malinowski earned a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston, where she was a recipient of a C. Glenn Cambor Fiction Award. She also holds an M.A. in English from the University of New Mexico, where she won a D. H. Lawrence Fellowship, and a B.A. in English from the Pennsylvania State University. Melanie has taught at WITS since 2000 in various elementary, middle, and high schools as well as at M.D. Anderson and Texas Children’s Hospital in the Renal Dialysis Unit, where she is currently in residence. A spinning instructor, she won Houston Spinning Instructor of the Year in 2010. She is the author of an unpublished novel entitled Water Blindness, and her essay about Steven Tyler, Stone Cold Fox, appeared this summer in Hippocampus Magazine. A native Delawarean, Melanie now lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, Andy, and her daughter, Echo Mariposa, pining for Steven Tyler and counting the days until the next Aerosmith concert.
Miah Arnold is the author of Sweet Land of Bigamy and a number of short pieces of literature. Her essay, “You Owe Me” (originally published by Michigan Quarterly Review) appeared in Best American Essays 2012. She holds a Ph. D. in Writing and Literature from the University of Houston, and teaches adults and children throughout Houston in university and nonprofit settings. She has served as a Fiction editor at Gulf Coast and a Poetry editor at Lyric Poetry Review. Her work has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Nanofiction, Confrontation, Painted Bride Quarterly, Story Houston, and the South Dakota Review. She has received a Barthelme Award, an Inprint/Diana P. Hobby Award, and an Established Artists Grant from the Houston Arts Alliance for her work. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two children.
Michael Floyd Cox grew up in Houston. He has lived in Austin and New York City. He has a great love for music, film and architectural fragments. He had several pieces published in the London-based arts & culture magazine FAULT in addition to The Luminary’s Temporary Art Review. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Houston Downtown with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. In addition, he was awarded the 2018 Fabian Worsham prize for excellence in poetry. He’s a great fan of avant-garde experimental text and poetry and has a predilection for creating work that exists in these worlds.
Michelle Orsi is from Spokane, Washington, where she received her BA in English and Spanish from Gonzaga University. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Reflection and Lilac City Fairy Tales Vol IV: Towers and Dungeons, among others. She currently serves as Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts and teaches at the University of Houston, where she is pursuing her MFA in Poetry.
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. She served as the Education and Community Outreach Coordinator for Generation Spoken and has helped facilitate and develop spoken word and writing curriculum for countless high school, grade school, professional and community programs. Monica has a passion for working with young people and believes every young mind has a great talent waiting to be discovered.
Nancy Barnhart recently earned her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston, where she currently teaches. She had the great fortune of blending WITS with her academic studies, as her doctoral research focused on the effectiveness of the WITS organization through the writers’ perspective. Before becoming a WITS writer, she attended the Greater Houston Area Writing Project and taught at Kids’ U Summer Writing Camp (UH-Clear Lake), where she taught writing through filmmaking. She has published journal articles in Teachers and Writers, The Ohio Journal of the English Language Arts, The English Record, and RDH National Magazine. Nancy joined WITS in 2008.
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.
Omer Ahmed is an educator, writer, and performer. He explores what happiness is and balances that with bitterness, forming the core of his writing style. Omer is a National Slam Poetry semi-finalist for Houston’s Write About Now 2018 slam team. He is proud to have placed 5th in the nation. Currently he plans on expanding the place happiness has in the writing community and making room for joy. He currently works for Writers in the Schools and hopes to share his love of writing with many others.
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.
Patricia Coral Ayala is a writer and educator with over 10 years’ experience in the education field, primarily in Spanish literature, creative writing, and instructional coaching. Ayala founded Fuente Collective, a Houston-based collective that provides space for generative retreats and creative journaling for teens and adults. A poet and essayist, Ayala received a B.A. in Hispanic Studies from the University of Puerto Rico and an M.A. in Spanish at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico.
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.
Reyes Ramirez is a Houstonian, educator, and writer. He has taught creative writing to underserved youth in Austin, Houston, and Lockhart, TX at universities, community centers, libraries, and detention centers. In addition to having an MFA in Fiction, Reyes received the 2014 riverSedge Poetry Prize, the 2012 Sylvan Karchmer Fiction Prize, and has presented at several conferences, including NACCS- Tejas Foco and UT Institute of Latin American Studies Student Association Conference on topics such as creative writing pedagogy, grass roots activism, and Latinos in professional wrestling. He is a graduate of Harvard University Kennedy School for Public Leadership’s Latino Leadership Initiative and is currently working on a novel.
Ryan McMasters is an internationally published performance poet out of Pasadena, Texas. He is the author of three books of poetry: Polarize, Co. Lab Oration, and Connect the Dots. His latest work is published in Dublin, Ireland’s HCE Review, Peculiar Journal, and forthcoming work with Moon Tide Press. Find him twittering & Instagramming @rmcmastewriter.
Sara Ahmed has an M.A. in Mass Communications from the University of Houston. She is a freelance writer who covers beats in parenting, the Muslim-American identity and the South-Asian diaspora. This is her first year working with Writers in the Schools.
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 an assistant 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 is a member of The Director’s Guild of America and The Writer’s Guild of America, and is a published playwright. An MFA graduate of The California Institute of the Arts, Sharon’s first film, A Thousand Miles, was seen in over 80 film festivals world-wide, and received the award for Ten Best Shorts of 2000 from American Cinemateque. Her first feature film, Make A Wish, won Best in Fest at The Paris Women’s Film Festival in 2002. As an editor, she won the Platinum AVA award for editing on Living Proof, in the category of religion and spirituality. Recent commissions include Telling The Truth in an Imaginary Place, and We Are In The Business of Changing the World: documentaries about the sculpture and public art installations of Houston artist, Tara Conley. Sharon is comfortable in both narrative and documentary genres and has created hundreds of projects for corporations and non-profit organizations in the South Texas region.
Sofia Morffe is a writer and former English teacher from Houston, Texas. She attended the University of Houston with a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies and acquired a Master’s in Occupational Therapy from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She believes in the energizing combination of arts and sciences and the use of multimodal methods of learning to enhance the writing experience and the pursuit of creativity. She loves to help young writers realize the power and potential of their creative contributions and voices.
Summer Magee first fell in love with Reading and Writing in the 5th grade, and hasn’t looked back since! She earned a BA in English Literature from Trinity University followed by a Masters in Education, specializing in Literacy and Language Arts, from the University of Texas at Austin. After teaching Readers/Writers workshop for 11 years at Lanier Middle School in HISD, including one year as Literacy Coach for the school, she moved over to the WITS world, where she shares her passion for language and stories at schools all across Houston. Summer has worked in some capacity with WITS since 2006, and currently serves as a Writer within the WITS Collaborative cohort as well as the Creative placements. She has led professional developments for large school districts including Pearland ISD and Houston ISD, and she loves engaging students and teachers alike, renewing their love for authentic and unique writing practices, and seeing them come alive on the page. When she is not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children, and her not-so-well-trained Airedale puppy, Ivy Bear, as well as scouring the cheese section at her local grocery store.
Treva McKissic is a WITS Writer and art teacher who holds both a B.A. in English and a M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction for Reading and Writing from the University of Houston. With over 17 years experience in education, she has worked with students in PK-8th grades, junior college students, and undergraduates as a teacher, literacy coach, writing specialist, teacher trainer, and teacher development specialist. Treva’s educational philosophy and motivation is to stimulate autonomy in children and create a path for them to discover their own gifts and individual genius through reading and writing. Her winding educational 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 spontaneous poetry and doodling, all while watching her daughter dance ballet, paint masterpieces, and make hand-crafted jewelry.
Tria Wood is a writer and educator who has worked with WITS for over a decade. In addition to her M.A. in English, she holds an M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction with a specialization in Art Education. Her poetry, short fiction, and essays appear in a variety of publications such as Sugar House Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Texas Poetry Calendar, and Literary Mama. In 2012, she was the featured poet for the first annual Emerald Isle Writing Conference in Kodiak, Alaska. In 2014 and 2016, she was selected as a juried poet for the Houston Poetry Festival. She currently lives in Houston with her husband, their son, their rescued miniature schnauzer, and two pet lizards.
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.
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.