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LIFE OF A WRITER: April 2017

Here’s what Spalding MFA students, alumni, faculty, and staff have been publishing, producing, and doing since our last update!


Stephen Brown’s (F) Extended Critical Essay, “Please Repeat That: Repetition as a Stylistic Device in Tony Hillerman’s Skinwalkers,” has been added to the University of New Mexico Libraries research portal. The goals of this project are to create a comprehensive information resource about the life and work of Tony Hillerman, and to develop a major Digital Humanities research tool to aid students and faculty in studying contemporary Southwestern literature. More information can be found at this link.

Melanie Haws Sakalla’s (F) flash fiction story “Still Here” was selected for publication by Literally Stories. Her story will appear on the site on April 27.

Jeffrey Fischer-Smith’s (PW) short play “A Dog Dreams” will be included in the first Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater Writer’s Voice 10-Minute Play Festival at the West Side YMCA in New York City. Charlie Schulman is producing the festival. Jeffrey was also a finalist for The Kennedy Center / National New Play Network MFA Playwrights’ Workshop. More information about Jeffrey can be found at his Facebook page.

Landon Spencer’s (W4CYA) work in progress Circus Girl won SCBWI’s Golden Gate Award for best novel and a Claire Carmichael scholarship with UCLA’s writers group.


John Styron (F) collaborated with Donna Lawrence Productions of Louisville on two new films—Deep Time and People of the Pecos—which debuted at the New Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas, on March 3. Deep Time is an orientation to the museum storyline, which explores the unique intersection of land, water, and sky that has shaped the natural and social history of Texas. People of the Pecos introduces a major gallery dedicated to the life and ways of the people who thrived in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands beginning nearly 14,000 years ago. The film features large-scale pre-historic paintings, some as old as 6,000 years, that still remain on rock shelter walls. Both films were part of a $100 million dollar renovation of the Witte Museum, first established in 1926.

Troy (T. E.) Wilderson’s (F) poem “Chapel of Ease” was published by The Ekphrastic Review in March. Troy’s poem, her first published one, was the product of Spalding’s cross-genre assignment following a visit to the Speed Museum. Her full credits can be viewed at her website.


Kathleen Driskell’s craft essay “Meaning Making for Poets” will be featured in the forthcoming The Writing Craft: A Creative Writing Textbook for Beginning Writers of [Non]Fiction and Poetry by C.E. Cardiff, from Great River Learning. During National Poetry Month, she presented from her work at Ivy Tech in Madison, Indiana, on April 25, at the Bard’s Town in Louisville on April 21, and at The Carnegie Center in Lexington on April 11. She recently signed and read from her new book of poems Blue Etiquette during the AWP Conference in Washington, D.C., at a Red Hen Press event at Busboys and Poets and the 40th anniversary celebration of The Louisville Review. Kathleen was also a featured presenter at the Kentucky Woman’s Book Festival on March 4 at the University of Louisville, and she appeared the day before on Great Morning Live WHAS-TV11 to promote that event. She was also a visiting writer at Western Kentucky University on March 10 and a visiting writer at the University of Southern Indiana, where she gave a reading, on January 25. Kathleen can also be heard discussing her work on the podcast Five Things. Click here to listen.

Roy Hoffman’s novel Come Landfall has been reissued in paperback by the University of Alabama Press (UAP). Among the reviews highlighted on the back cover is one from The Louisville Review. His nonfiction book Alabama Afternoons: Profiles and Conversations will also be reissued in paperback by UAP later this spring. More info can be found at his website. Roy’s recent writing and speaking activities include writing a New York Times Book Review of Edward Hoagland’s novel, In the Country of the Blind, conducting an audience discussion of the movie Mensch at the Mobile Jewish Film Festival, and leading a panel, “The Influences of E.O. Wilson,” naturalist and author, at the annual meeting of the Community Foundation of South Alabama.

Robert Lehrman’s piece about the 100th anniversary (April 2) of Woodrow Wilson’s speech urging Congress to declare war on Germany was posted by PBS to accompany its American Experience documentary about World War I. USA Today (digital and print editions) ran his op-ed about President Donald Trump’s first speech to Congress. The Forward also ran his longer piece about a new Republican approach to legal immigration.

Jody Lisberger was invited to be on a panel, “The Coyote in the Parking Lot: Writers Invoking Animals in an Increasingly Wild World,” at the Northeastern MLA conference in Baltimore March 23-26. She read the Hawaiian centipede scene from her story “Down Under.” In December, her creative nonfiction essay “Two Halves” was published in the online journal Six Hens.

Lesléa Newman recently had a new short story entitled “Maidel” published in Persimmon Tree.

Sam Zalutsky is very close to finishing his new feature, Seaside, a thriller set on the Oregon Coast starring Ariana DeBose (Hamilton, A Bronx Tale on Broadway). You can find updates about the movie on Instagram and Facebook @seasidemovie. Sam is busy developing multiple TV and film projects and is excited for the summer.


Lynda Archer (W4CYA/F ’05) is delighted to share that her debut novel, Tears in the Grass, is a finalist in the Lesbian Fiction category for a Lambda Literary Award. Winners will be announced in New York City on June 12. Lynda extends a special thanks to faculty and staff Robin Lippincott, Roy Hoffman, Neela Vaswani, Julie Brickman, Karen Mann, and former fiction faculty member Mary Waters, all of whom read various versions of her book.

Priscilla Atkins (P ’08) has poems in two journals: “Above the Lake, Pouring Forth” and “Woman Eating an Orchid” in Hotel Amerika (Winter 2017), plus “At Union Station, 5 PM” and “Black Cat at Mykonos” in Allegro (March 2017).

David Carren (SW ’05) earned national recognition with two of his screenplays. His western drama, The Clever Girl, was a finalist in the International Family & Faith Film Festival and the Hollywood Screenplay Contest. His Vietnam project, Lullabies for Lieutenants, which he co-wrote with Franklin Cox, won Best Military Screenplay in the Next Page Contest and was a Bronze Prize Winner in the Hollywood Screenplay Contest.

Shawna Casey (PW/F ’12) was invited to read one of her short stories at Library Girl in Santa Monica, on April 9, alongside Francesca Lia Block, Jim Krusoe, Steve De Jarnatt and Elliott Sky Case, in celebration of the publication of Earth to Skye, a new novel by Diane Sherry Case.  Shawna was also invited to bring her new play to the Last Frontier Playwright Conference in Valdez, Alaska, in June. She’s heard it will stay light till close midnight up there. Rental cars are expensive in Valdez, so she’s been advised to rent a U-Haul truck instead, which she plans to do. (PHOTO)

Sonja Farah de Vries (P ’09) will be reading new work as part of the Kentuckiana Poetry Festival on April 28th, 6:00 – 9:00 pm at the Tim Faulkner Gallery in Louisville.

Joe Gisondi (CNF ’10), a journalism professor at Eastern Illinois University, wrote an article, “How To Write Visually,” that was published in the Winter 2017 issue of Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication. The article focuses on ways to improve writing skills by employing photographic approaches. Joe also recently submitted revisions for the second edition of his sports journalism text, The Field Guide to Covering Sports (Sage Publishing/CQ Press), which is used in sports media courses at colleges across the country. The book is scheduled for release in June. Joe also presented two sessions and served as program director for the fourth annual three-day CMI national sports journalism workshop for college students, which was held at Bridgestone Arena, home to the Nashville Predators. He also developed four sessions presented at the College Media Association national conference last fall in Atlanta: “Personal Fouls: Athletes & Access,” “Invigorate Your Sports Coverage,” “Long-Form Journalism: Finding Bigfoot and other Stories from the Road,” “Writing the Perfect Sports Profile,” and moderated a sports journalism roundtable consisting of student sports editors.

Karen George’s (F ’09) Tomas Tranströmer’s found haiku was published at concīs and her found poem, composed from a list of words in The Diary of Frida Kahlo, appeared in the Spring Issue 14 of 3Elements Review. She read from her collection, Swim Your Way Back, and her chapbook, The Fire Circle, along with two other poets, Kate Fadick and Annie Hinkle, at the Prelude to Poetry Month reading at Earth Connection, Mount St. Joseph University, on March 26.

Alice-Catherine Jennings (P ’14) has poems forthcoming in the following publications: “The Morning After the Super Moon” in Portage Magazine from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and “Two Icelandic Tales” in an anthology series of Lilac City Fairy Tales: Weird Sisters by Scablands Books. In February, she was an invited reader at Saqueo de Palabras at Jardín Cebú in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Carla Kirchner (F/P ’09) recently won the 2016 Concrete Wolf Poetry Chapbook Contest for her poetry chapbook, The Physics of Love. Her chapbook will be published in the fall of 2017 and will be available through Amazon and Concrete Wolf Press. Kirchner has also recently published several pieces of short prose/fiction. Her flash piece “Tidal Volume” appears in issue 4.1 of Rappahannock Review, where she was also the February featured author for the Contributor Spotlight Interview. “The Flood Near Comfort, TX” was the March 2nd story-of-the-day at Eunoia Review. “The Frog Prince” appears in the April issue of Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. Her prose piece “Let Down Your Hair” can be found in the April issue of Unbroken Journal. Her flash piece “The Lion on Canal Street Line,” is forthcoming in Issue 29 of Literary Orphans Journal.

Mary Knight (W4CYA ’13) is thrilled to announce that her debut novel, Saving Wonder, is the winner of the 2017 Green Earth Book Award for Children’s Fiction. The award is given to books that “inspire children to grow a deeper appreciation, respect, and responsibility for their natural environment.” Click here for more about the award and sponsoring organization. Mary will attend an awards banquet in Washington, D.C., this fall, as well as visit schools in the Washington, D.C., area. Saving Wonder has also been selected as a 2017 Notable Book for Social Studies by the Children’s Book Council and as a finalist for the 2017 Ohioana Book Award.

Kelly Martineau (CNF ’10) gave a reading in March at Phinney Books through the Dock Street Press Salon series. She was awarded her first residency by Hypatia-in-the-Woods and spent a week on the Olympic Peninsula reading, drafting poems and a new essay, and embracing the silence of a single occupancy cabin. This year, she received her first poem acceptance; “In the Sound” will be featured on the Seattle Poetry on the Buses Project on December 16th. More information about Kelly is available on her website.

Heather Meyer (PW ’16) will be an artist-in-residence in Akumal, Mexico, this May teaching and performing with the Minneapolis theatre company Table Salt Productions. She has also been hired as a performer at ComedySportz Twin Cities. Heather will be teaching Comedy Writing for the Non-Humor Writer at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis this July.

Brooklyn Publishers is publishing Cheri (Thomas) Maxson’s (W4CYA ’13) play, The Scandalous Scheme at the Sweet Shoppe. It will be featured in the upcoming Spring catalog. This 1920s-themed melodrama is full of period slang, jazz & ragtime music, flappers and lots of gangster fun. This will be Maxson’s second professional play publication. Her first, Murder at the Malt Shop, was the winner of the Shubert Fendrich Memorial Playwriting Contest with Pioneer Drama Service. She specializes in period plays geared for high school and community theatre groups. She currently teaches high school English in western New York and is an adjunct professor for Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford where she teaches Academic Writing, Introduction to Creative Nonfiction, Introduction to Poetry, and Introduction to Dramatic Writing. Maxson resides in northwestern Pennsylvania with her husband Robert and two very spoiled Siamese cats named Cuddles and Hotrod. For more info about Cheri, you can visit her website or her Facebook page.

Andrea Nasfell’s (SW ’15) movie, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, was in theaters in January and is now available for digital download or on DVD and Blu-Ray (May 2). The script was workshopped at Spalding and was released by WWE Films, Walden and BH Tilt.

Loreen Niewenhuis (F ’07) just released her third Great Lakes Adventure book as an audiobook. She continues to travel and give dynamic presentations about her Great Lakes Adventures. In May, she will hike Isle Royale again as part of a MooseWatch Team. She finds searching for moose bones on this wild island to be the most fun ever! For more info about Loreen and her adventures, visit her website. (PHOTO OF THIRD AUDIO BOOK COVER)

Mary Popham (F ’03) published a collection of short stories in March called Love is a Fireplace. In January, she presented “Writing Your Life Story” to the Corn Island Chapter NSDAR, and in the fall of 2016, she reviewed The Unfinished Man, by Jim Wayne, and The Birds of Opulence, by Crystal Wilkinson, in The Louisville Review. In October, her article “An Account of Pioneer Hardships and Dangers” appeared in The Compass, a periodical from The Boone Society. In September, her poem “Where I’m From: Nelson County” was included on George Ella Lyon’s website for the Kentucky Arts Council.

Linda Busby Parker (F’03) published Oliver’s Song, a legal thriller/mystery, with Lindell Publishing earlier this year (with some legal consulting from Spalding MFA grad Jim Robertson ’05.) Her short story “Driving Lessons” appeared in Minerva Rising, Issue 12, Winter 2017, pp. 49-63. She is publisher of a small press, Excalibur Press. The press (and its author, Amber Hart), took the silver award in the Independent Book Publishers Awards for short story collections. Medals are to be presented in New York on May 30. And Excalibur Press author Kim Teter speaks at the New Orleans Museum of Art on April 28. Linda will be in New Orleans for that presentation. Excalibur Press will publish other works in 2017-2018.

Diana Raab (CNF ’03) has a regular column on Psychology Today called “The Empowerment Diary,” which merges writing, psychology and creativity. She also has a monthly newsletter of musings, published works, information about readings, and book reviews. Click here to subscribe. Her website is also newly updated. Her book, Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life is forthcoming by Loving Healing Press in September (pre-orders on Amazon in May). If you’re interested in reviewing for a journal, please email her through her website for a free copy.

Rosemary Rhodes Royston (P ‘09) was accepted for an artist’s residency at the Lillian E. Smith Center. The Lillian E. Smith Center offers time and space for those who pursue varied forms of artistic expression, critical inquiry and social justice. Basis for admission is selective, based on a review by a panel of scholars from Piedmont College. More info about Rosemary is available on her website.

Michele Ruby (F ’05) has a short short, “Alphabetical Order,” coming out in the May/June issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, available starting April 25.

Catherine “Cappy” Rush (PW ’12) moved to Seattle in 2016 and is finding the new location productive for work. She was awarded a Leighton Colony Artist fellowship at the Banff Centre of Art and Creativity in late 2016, and while in residence, completed the first draft of a new play. She says this year is shaping up to be full of both familiar and new experiences. On the side of the familiar, Cappy and her husband Adrian Blue presented a reading of their new play, Chilmark, at New York Theatre Workshop, where they have worked several times. Chilmark is slated for the 2017 season at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse on Martha’s Vineyard opening September 14. On the side of new experiences, Cappy’s one-act play, The Sum of Me, was chosen with seven others for production in the Spokane Civic Theatre’s Playwright’s Forum Festival June 8 -18. Shortly after, she will fly to Finland for a month-long residency at Arteles, an artist residency program for all genres of creative work. Here, she will work on her latest project, Blast Wave, a multi-disciplinary solo show.

Kathrin Seitz (Fiction ’15) teaches Method Writing classes and edits books for private clients from around the country. Kathrin also reports that, upon the sudden death of a local writing colleague and in coordination with the woman’s husband and the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, she has helped to raise over $20,000 to fund two scholarships for Maine women writers. Kathrin recently co-founded the Midcoast Editors Alliance, a team of five experienced editors who work with local, national and international clients in the fiction, nonfiction, marketing materials, media projects and business communications arenas. Kathrin is also a part of a Spalding writers group formed about two years ago. The group submits material to each other and then participates in monthly calls giving notes on their work. It is with this group that she continues her work on a novel, The Baby Comes with a Loaf of Bread. To learn more about Kathrin’s work, visit her website.

Rosanna Staffa’s (F ’13) short story “Hotel Du Nord” will appear in the Tampa Review, and “Dove Dormono/Where They Sleep” will be published in The Timberline Review this summer.

Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen (a.k.a. S.A. Bodeen) (W4CYA ’03) sold film and television rights for her YA thriller, The Compound, and its sequel, The Fallout, to producer Grant Curtis, who produced Spider-Man 1, 2, and 3, among other films.

Kathleen Thompson’s (F/P ’03) short story “Envenomation” will be included in Belles’ Letters 2, from University of West Alabama’s Livingston Press, Publisher Joe Taylor, and editors Don Noble and Jennifer Horne. Kathleen says her snaky piece was conceived, written, and workshopped as one of her thesis stories at Spalding. She says her workshop group may, in fact, remember the principal characters Radio and Lovie, but will not know that the preacher’s name was changed to Silas because Silas House was in their group, and he had some very good things to say about the dialogue. Kathleen says she is thrilled to be among the other Alabama Belles listed on the back cover.

Cristina Trapani-Scott’s (F/P ’09) chapbook collection of poems, The Persistence of a Bathing Suit, will be released by Finishing Line Press in May. Her chapbook was a semi-finalist for Finishing Line Press’s 2016 New Women’s Voices Competition. Also, her poem “Awakening” is forthcoming in the Voices Journal.


Want to see what else the Spalding MFA family has been up to lately? Check out more updates here: Life of a Writer.


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