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LIFE OF A WRITER: February 2017

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


Jeffrey Fischer-Smith’s (PW) short play “A Dog Dreams” placed 1st in the Judges Choice for Week 5 Short + Sweet Sydney! The production will now be competing in the Gala Finals in mid-March. The production will also be included in Short + Sweet – Queer, part of Sydney Mardi Gras 2017, in early March. “A Dog Dreams” also has been chosen as one of six finalists for participation in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region 8’s Ten Minute Play Festival in February at Mesa Community College in Mesa, Arizona. The play will be cast, rehearsed, and performed during the festival, and Jeffrey will be attending the conference. More information about Jeffrey can be found at his Facebook page.

Melanie Haws Sakalla (F) is pleased to announce the acceptance of her short story, “You Never Told Me,” for inclusion in the anthology Unbroken Circle: Stories of Diversity in the South, to be published by Bottom Dog Press. This is her first published piece.

A poem by Vivian Sánchez (P) was published in the second number of the multilingual Furman 217, a project originated at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.


In October, Susan Campbell Bartoletti received the Carolyn W. Field Award for Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)The award was established by the Pennsylvania Library Association to recognize the best book for young readers by a Pennsylvania author or illustrator. In November, she served on an National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) panel in Atlanta and received the 2016 Orbis Pictus Honor Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children for Terrible Typhoid Mary.   

Julie Brickman’s story “The Rampvan, the Skateboard and the Wheelchair” has been accepted for publication in Persimmon Tree.

Kathleen Driskell recorded a podcast interview with Tara Anderson (PW) on Tara’s show Five Things, which is excerpted on 89.3 WFPL.

The New York Observer asked Robert Lehrman to imagine what kind of victory speech Hillary Clinton would give if she won the presidential election (see article here). The Observer also recently published his opinion piece on the game plan to make Trump a one-term president and his op-ed about the language that presidents use in speeches. Another op-ed, about the controversy over whether a largely Jewish country club in Washington should give membership to Obama, who didn’t block the UN resolution on West Bank settlements before leaving office, appears in The Forward. For the 75th anniversary of FDR’s speech after Pearl Harbor, PBS asked Bob to write an op-ed, which is published at both the PBS and Medium websites. He also did commentary for BBC radio about the Trump inaugural speech. Finally, CQPress/Sage has approved a second edition of The Political Speechwriter’s Companion, which has sold steadily since its release in 2009. For this edition he will collaborate with longtime friend Eric Schnure. The book is expected to be released in late 2018.

Robin Lippincott’s short story “The Gravediggers,” from which he read at a residency several years ago, has been selected for the anthology The Unbroken Circle: Diversity Stories of the South, to be published by Bottom Dog Press.

Lesléa Newman is proud to announce that her picture book Heather Has Two Mommies has received the Lee Lynch Classic Award, given by the Golden Crown Literary Society, because of the book being an “essential part of American literary history, children’s literature, LGBT literature, politics, and popular culture.”

Katy Yocom’s novel manuscript Three Ways to Disappear was named the winner of the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature, awarded by Ashland Creek Press. Her essay “Muhammad Ali, My Father and Me” appeared on on January 16, the day before what would have been the Champ’s 75th birthday. Her flash fiction piece “Honey Hunting” appeared in the February issue of decomP magazinE. In December, she was awarded a grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women to create a multimedia depiction of the sustaining, 56-year-long friendship between two women of different racial, economic, and educational statuses. (One of those women is her mom.)

— Alumni —

Kellie Carle’s (F ’16) review of the Players Club of Swarthmore’s production of Joseph Stein’s comedic play Enter Laughing, titled “ENTER LAUGHING: Harvesting the humor in humiliation,” appeared in Phindie. She is also pleased to announce that her short story “Them Quiet Hours” is a finalist for the 2016 Scribes Valley Publishing writing contest and will appear in their upcoming anthology. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website.

Phil Cohen (F ’16) is pleased to announce that his novel, working title The Search for Shmulie Shimmer, has been accepted for publication by Fig Tree Books. Phil says, “I’m more than a bit overwhelmed at this turn of events and more than a bit daunted at the prospect of the revision process that lies ahead. I don’t know how many of my fellow students enter the writing life with at least a modicum of insecurity over the chutzpah involved to believe, yes, I can call myself a writer, but I view myself as the poster child for writerly insecurity. This will not abate, but it is eased somewhat by this new adventure that awaits me, my computer, and my tush.”

Joan Donaldson (CNF ’08) was selected by Jane Yolen to receive an honor prize from the Jane Yolen Mid-list Author Awards for 2017. She now serves as a book reviewer for Michigan Public Radio and reviews narrative nonfiction books by Michigan authors.

Jessica Evans (F ’16) has seen the efforts of her creative thesis come to fruition with the publication of her debut novel, Hippie Mafia. Evans completed the work during her final term at Spalding. She lives at the base of a mountain range in Oklahoma and is currently working on a new novel. To learn more about her work, visit her website.

Thea Gavin (P ’05) had two poems from her time as Artist-in-Residence at Grand Canyon National Park on display as part of the exhibit “Grand Muse” at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff from November through February. This summer (June 16-18), she will lead her third annual creative writing workshop at Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim as an instructor for the Grand Canyon Association Field Institute. In October, she led a local “Nature Writing for Everyone” workshop as part of the 19th Annual Docent Day training at Santiago Oaks Regional Park; she will present a similar program on April 1 at Crystal Cove State Park during its annual “Art in the Park” celebration. Thea had a poem (“My Brain Radio Occasionally Gets Stuck”) and an essay (“Dear Writer”) published by Entropy in November. She continues to blog about her shoeless adventures at “Barefoot Wandering and Writing.”

Barry George (P ’09) has published poems recently in A Hundred GourdsGustsModern HaikuHaiku Canada ReviewVoices: A Literary Journal of Hope and Recovery, and Legal Studies Forum (West Virginia University Law School). His tanka “close to revelation” appeared as the title poem in American Tanka’s issue 26. In addition, his poems were selected for both the haiku and tanka English-Chinese anthologies published annually by editor/translator Chen-ou Liu: Butterfly Dream and One Man’s Maple Moon.

Karen George’s (F ’09) ekphrastic poem about Monet’s painting The Magpie was published by The Ekphrastic Review. This was one of the paintings she saw at Musée d’Orsay in Paris with the Spalding MFA in Writing Summer Residency. Her found poems were published by Heron Tree, Amethyst Arsenic, and  Blue Fifth Review. Two poems from her collection, Swim Your Way Back, were published in the anthology Realms of the Mothers: Ten Years of Dos Madres Press. She read along with other poets in the anthology on December 7 at the Mercantile Library in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Lauren Harr (F ’16) will have her flash essay “Serotiny” published in the Spring issue of 3Elements Literary Review, available April 1.

Lynn Hoffman’s (SW/W4CYA ’15) full-length play for teens, The Sidewalk Living Room, was a Semi-Finalist in the Biennial Write Now Competition, which seeks strikingly original theater for young audiences. In January, Lynn led a 4-week poetry workshop for all third-graders at the Asian Studies Academy, a public elementary school in Hartford, Connecticut. The residency culminated with a celebration featuring student readers and their poetry, accompanied by a jazz trio that interpreted the poems with music evoked by the students’ words.

Alice-Catherine Jennings (P ’14) is pleased to announce that Red Bird Chapbooks will be publishing her second chapbook of poetry, Notations: The Imagined Diary of Julian of Norwich, in 2017. In late December, she participated in a group reading with other Texas Poetry Calendar poets at Malvern Books in Austin, Texas, and on MLK Day she read “The 1984 Cesar Chavez Address to the Commonwealth Club of California” as part of the celebration of human rights event in front of the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa, Texas.  On March 4, Alice-Catherine will teach a class called Shoplifting the Poem: Jumpstart Your Poetry with Found Text at The Writing Barn – East Austin Satellite.

Kendra Langdon Juskus (P ’14) had two poems published by Literary Mama in the fall. Her poem “How to Die in Peru” is forthcoming in RHINO Poetrys 2017 volume. She is an associate poetry editor for BOAAT and writes for INDY Week in Durham, North Carolina.

Jessica Love Kim’s (W4CYA ’16) young adult novel In Real Life was chosen by the American Library Association for YALSA’s 2017 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list.


Mary Knight (W4CYA ’13) visited Burns Middle School in Owensboro, Kentucky, in December to talk about her middle grade novel, Saving Wonder, to 850 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. Saving Wonder was selected as their “One Book, One School” read. Saving Wonder also recently received a silver Parents’ Choice award. Mary is scheduled for more author visits in Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia this spring.

Nancy Chen Long (P  ’13)  is overjoyed and honored to announce that her manuscript Light into Bodies won the 2016 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry and will be published in 2017 by the University of Tampa Press. She is also delighted that the following poems have been published: “On Seeing the Embroiderer, or Mette Gauguin” in Alaska Quarterly Review and “Gretel’s Errata to her Father’s Version of the Story” in Hermeneutic Chaos. To learn more about her work, visit her website.

Angie Mimms (CNF ’15) received a grant for her blog, Special Needs Northern Kentucky, which tells stories about people, organizations, and events in her community that help individuals with special needs live their best lives. The $250 grant was part of the myNKY Nano Grant Program, which recognizes projects that propose creative ways to strengthen communities. Angie used the grant to upgrade the blog in hopes of expanding its audience and to host a community picnic last fall for special needs families.

Frances Nicholson (P ’04) has been invited into membership in the prestigious Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.

Lisa Veronica Pires (W4CYA ’15) has been selected to sit as judge on the Jack Reid Memorial Scholarship Competition through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Prior to this, she was asked to discuss the process of giving and receiving critiques at the Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia CritiqueFest.

“A Geometry of Life,” by Robert Sachs (F ’09), has been accepted for publication by the Chicago Quarterly Review. It will appear in the first quarter of 2017. His story, “Vondelpark,” published by The Louisville Review, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Nicholas Siegel’s (F ’13) story “The Locus” placed in The Molotov Cocktail’s Flash Fear Contest and was published in the Flash Fear mega-issue on Halloween. It will also be printed in the next The Molotov Cocktail: Prize Winners Anthology.

“Feeding the Dog,” Vickie Weaver‘s (F ’05) short story, which won second place in the Twisted Road Publications Fiction Contest 2014, now appears in Walking the Edge: A Southern Gothic Anthology, released October 2016. The judge was Dorothy Allison.


For more information about our program, students, and faculty, please visit our website or email us at


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