Creative Writing Fall 2017 Newsletter

Dear Students, Faculty, Alums, and Friends,

This has been a year of exciting developments for our students and faculty, as you can see from the long list of accomplishments below. It has also been a period of change following Maxine Chernoff’s retirement as Chair after twenty years of service.  She is now the Graduate Student Advisor and is focusing her attention on her very successful career as a poet and the teaching of poetry.  After fourteen years of teaching at SFSU and seeing his book, Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Peter Orner has accepted a tenured position at Dartmouth College.  He will be very much missed and we wish him the best in his new position.  We are delighted to have in his place the novelist Carolina De Robertis, now in her second year, author of Invisible Mountain (Knopf, 2009), Perla (Knopf, 2012), and The Gods of Tango (Knopf, 2015), and the outstanding fiction and non-fiction writer, May-lee Chai, who joined us this fall.  May-lee’s books include My Lucky Face (Soho Press, 1997), Glamorous Asians:  Stories and Essays (University of Indiana Press, 2008), the very well received memoir Hapa Girl (Temple University Press, 2007).  We are currently engaged in a search for yet another faculty member in fiction, to join the faculty in the fall of 2018.

Congratulations to Austin Messick for winning the 2017 Rubin Book Award for his poetry volume, The Rose Window.

The Poetry Center received a $90,000 bequest from the John L Norton estate that will be used to support video documentation and other operating costs.

We are happy to announce that the Creative Writing Graduate Reading Room, HUM 500A, is open and available, Monday – Friday for graduate students.

Thanks to the generosity of alumnus Jerome Gagnon, we have established the Kay Boyle Poetry of Witness Award competition for the best poem or group of poems on a socially conscious theme, to be held in the month of March.  The winner, be it grad or undergrad, will receive $500.

Because the funding for some of our special programs has changed, we hope to make up the difference through alumni giving and other fundraising. Any amount that you can contribute would be greatly appreciated.  Please see related information at the end of this newsletter.  Such programs include the Gina Berriault Fiction Award, 14 HillsTransfer, and GreenHouse.

Above all, have a wonderful 2017-2018 year!

-Paul Hoover, Acting Chair


Andrew Joron’s new poetry collection, The Absolute Letter, was released this spring by Flood Editions in Chicago. A book of poems that he co-translated from German, Of Things by poet Austrian Michael Donhauser, was a finalist for the 2017 Best translated Book Award given by University of Rochester’s Translation program. Joron also received the SFSU Presidential Award.

Maxine Chernoff’s book of poems, Camera, was published by Subito Press this month, and she is giving readings from it at KGB and DIA Foundation in New York, three sites in Los Angeles, and Alley Cat Books and Moe’s in the Bay Area.  She also served as the outside reviewer for the University of Las Vegas Creative Writing MFA/PHD program. Her essay, “Trump Trauma” appeared in the most recent issue of Tikkun.

Carolina De Roberts’s new anthology, Radical Hope, was launched last May, with book events and group readings in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and New York, as well as at the Bay Area Book Festival. Her short story “The Tango Police” was published in’s Technically Literate series. De Robertis was honored by the Yerba Buena Center of the arts by being included in their Arts 100 List of artists and innovators who are “shaping the future of culture,” along with Rachel Maddow, Barry Jenkins, Colson Whitehead, and others. Her translation of the poem “Triptich,” by Raquel Lubartowski (Uruguay), appeared in the Words without Borders June 2017 Queer Issue. In July, she gave a presentation called “The Tango as a Tool of Feminism, Multiculturalism, Literature, and Liberation” at the Latin American Studies Association Conference in Montevideo, Uruguay. De Robertis also taught at the Las Dos Brujas Writers’ Conference and Litquake-sponsored master workshop called “Writing from Your Activist Heart.”

Michelle Carter’s play, How to Pray, is being produced by Bridge Street Theater in New York this fall. She was also selected to write the libretto for Iron Shoes, a musical theater piece being created in collaboration with Erika Chong Shuch and Kitka that will be produced by Shotgun Players next spring.

May-lee Chai’s novella Training Days, will be published this year by Gemma Media Open Door, a series dedicated to teaching adult literacy. A Collection of short stories, Useful Phrases for Immigrants, winner of the Bakwin Prize for best fiction by a woman, will be published by Blair Publishing in 2018.

Chanan Tigay’s The Lost Book of Moses came out in paperback and he appeared on the Michael Krasny Show.

Nona Caspers won the 2016 Mary McCarthy Award in Short Fiction for Alley Stories, forthcoming in 2018 from Sarabande Books.  Elected Chair of the Creative Writing Department, she is currently on leave due to illness.

Paul Hoover has three works coming out in 2018, a poetry collection, The Book of Unnamed Things (MadHat Press / Plume Editions); his translation with Maria Baranda, The Complete Poems of San Juan de la Cruz (Milkweed Editions); and the Italian translation of his novel Saigon, Illinois (Carbonio editores of Milan). He will be residing at the American Academy in Rome and working with his translator, Nicola Mannupelli, for two weeks in January. His translation of two long poems of María Baranda, Nightmare Running on a Meadow of Absolute Light, appeared last spring from the British press, Shearsman.

Donna de la Perrière’s chapbook, “Night Calendar,” was published recently by Omerta Publications.

Heather Gibbons has been selected by Jericho Brown as the 2017 winner of the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize for her poetry collection Sound is a Pressure Wave, forthcoming from University of Utah Press in spring 2018. She also had several poems published in Eleven ElevenJet Fuel ReviewMilk JournalNew American WritingSparkle + Blink, and The Turnip Truck(s), and has read her work at a number of Bay Area venues, including the Parks celebration in Mt. Tamalpais State Park. In response to the 2016 election, Heather also co-founded and organized the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Writers Resist, a national network of literary artists and organizations.

Barbara Tomash’s fourth book of poetry, PRE-, is forthcoming from Black Radish Books in early 2018. Poems from this collection have been published in A Bad Penny ReviewBlazeVOXBombay Gin; Colorado Review; Denver Quarterly; Handsome; Hotel Amerika; Interim; Inter/rupture; New American Writing; Posit; The Account; The Offending Adam; Verse; Web Conjunctions; and Word For/Word. An earlier version of PRE- was a finalist for the Colorado Prize.    


Barbara Jane Reyes, of the James Laughlin Award, for her second book, has published her most recent book, Invocation to Daughters, with City Lights Books.

Natasha Dennerstein's, MFA, latest book, About a Girl, a novella in verse, just released from Norfolk Press, San Francisco.

Jennifer S. Cheng, MFA, won the Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize for her forthcoming book, Moon:  Letters, Maps, Poems.

René Vaz (MFA) published his first poetry book, The Planet of the Dead, with Nomadic Press in 2017.

Barbara Sapienza, MA, has published Anchor Out (She Writes Press, 2017), the novel that she workshopped with Camille Dungy, Maxine Chernoff, Junse Kim, Dodie Bellamy, and Nona Caspers.

Juliana Delgado Lopera, MFA, celebrates a new edition of Cuéntamelo!, a collection of oral histories and illustrations from LGBT Latinx immigrants who arrived in the U.S. between the 80s and 90s. She also published Quiéreme, a collection of essays on longing for love.

M. Todd Gallowglas, BA, has published another volume in his DEADWEIGHT series with WordFire Press. He has also won The Kindle Hub Award for best Fantasy Series.  He is currently part of the Sierra Nevada College MFA Program. 

Lily Iona MacKenzie, MFA, has published her second novel, Curva Peligrosa (Regal House Publishing, 2017).  

Maria Trombetta, MFA, had two pieces published in spring 2017, the essay "This is a Dickie Lee Song" in the online journal, BioStories, and an article co-authored with Ervin Laszlo, “Black Mountain College: A Creative Art Space Where It Was Safe to Fail” (The Journal of New Paradigm Research 73).

Bleriana Myftiu Beatty, MFA, recently published “Gravitational Punishment,” a short story, in Atticus Review, which can be viewed online at

Gil Zamora, BA, had a story published in Inlandia VII.1 (spring 2017). 

Philip Harris, MFA, had his story collection, The Flowers in My Mother’s Name, published in 2017 by Nomadic Press.  He also had a photo published in Inlandia VII.1 (spring 2017). 

Nate Waggoner, MFA, published Dilettantes and Harmless Manipulators, an essay collection, with Snow Goose Press.

Melanie Metranga, BA, has just finished a chapbook

Annie Dawid MA, has published her fourth book, also her first poetry chapbook, Anatomie of the World:

Martin Nakell had an interview of him by David Moscovitz, “Dada after Dada,” published in Rain Taxi’s online edition.  The dialogue covers some of the central issues of aesthetics and culture in our era.

Emil DeAndreis has published the memoir Hard to Grip with Schaffner Press (2017) about a professional baseball career ended by rheumatoid arthritis.  Often humorous, it consists of short stories and takes place mostly in SF.  Stephanie Han, MA, published her first short fiction collection, Swimming in Hong Kong: Stories that Cross Borders and Boundaries in late fall, 2016, with Willow Springs / Eastern Washington University Press.  The collection won the AWP Prize for fiction and the Santa Fe Writer's Project Award. She is grateful for the SFSU Graduate Equity Fellowship that she received as a student at SFSU. In 2014, she received the first PhD awarded in literature by the City University of Hong Kong.  She is currently an adjunct lecturer at Hawaii Pacific University.

Nate Waggoner, MFA, published the story collection, Dilettantes and Harmless Manipulators with Snow Goose Press

Kelly Loy Gilbert, MFA, will have a young adult novel, Picture Us in the Light, published by Disney-Hyperion in spring, 2018.

Christopher Charman, MFA, published a novel, Alex and Dog Go Hunting, with Ragnarok Publishing in 2017.

Jayne McPherson has published the poetry collection, Orphan at the Well, with Visigraf / Spaceframe Press in 2017.

Mimi Lok, MFA, is executive director and editor of Voice of Witness, the nonprofit organization co-founded with Dave Eggers.  The most recent edition of Voice of Witness, The Voice of Witness Reader:  Ten Years of Amplifying Unheard Voices, won the Edward O’Brien Award for Arts Education.

Current Students

Nicole Jost, MFA candidate, had a staged reading of The Cure, a dark comedy, at the San Francisco Playhouse in May 2017.  Set in the near future, it concerns a woman diagnosed with cancer of the armpit. Her play The Terror Fantastic will be produced by the 20% Theatre Company in Minneapolis in December 2017. Her play Sucia will be presented at SFSU in spring, 2018, in a production directed by Roy Conboy. Nicole also received a commission from PlayGround to develop Monarchs in Space, inspired by the real-life experiment that sent three monarch caterpillars to the International Space Station in 2009. For the second year in a row, Nicole was awarded the James Milton Highsmith Playwriting Award, this time for her play Slut. Her poem, "Helen of Now," received the Leonard Isaacson Award from the Browning Society and will be presented by ReproRights! Theater as part of their “Radical Hope and The New Resistance” benefit performance for NARAL on August 19th at Potrero Stage. You can read her short plays “You, the Accused” in the Winter 2017 issue of Fourteen Hills and “The Definition of Sex” in the Spring 2017 issue of Transfer Magazine.

Jennifer Cross, MFA candidate, is touring to promote her book Writing Ourselves Whole: Using the Power of Our Own Creativity to Recover and Heal from Sexual Trauma (Mango Media, 2017).

Adam Zane Cook, MFA candidate, had an excerpt from his novel published in Inlandia VII.1 (spring 2017). Online at

Fisayo Adeyeye, MFA student, published his first full-length poetry collection, Cradles, with Nomadic Press in 2017. 

Miah Jeffra, MFA candidate, published a collection of essays, The First Church of What’s Happening, with Nomadic Press in 2017.

Shobha Rao’s short story collection, An Unrestored Woman, was published by Flatiron Books (Putnam) in 2016 to rave reviews.  Winner of the Katherine Ann Porter Prize in Fiction offered by Nimrod magazine, she has been a resident at Hedgebrook arts colony.  Her first novel, Girls Burn Brighter, will be published by Flatiron Books in March of 2018. She is a current MFA student.

The following Creative Writing students were selected to receive the Edward Kaufmann College of Liberal & Creative Arts scholarship, awarded at the beginning of fall 2017:  Nicole Jost, Kelly O’Rourke, and Cynthia Kaye.

The following Creative Writing students were selected to receive the Marshall J. Miller Scholarship, awarded at the beginning of fall 2017:  Mitchel Duran, Megan Holland, and Daniel Davis-William.

Please email us at if your publication isn’t listed, and we’ll be sure to include it in the newsletter and on our website.


The next official Creative Writing advising day will be November 27, 2017. A complete list of advisors including all tenured and tenure-track faculty is posted online at our website and at the department office, HUM 573. Advising is also available on a drop-in basis.

Department News

Students, past and present, faculty past and present: your Creative Writing Department wants to hear from you! Please email us your news at .

Add your voice to the Creative Writing Department by attending events and contributing to the department magazines and contests. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr (from our website, click on the “f,” “t,” or bird icons; all accounts are public, so you don’t have to have an account with any of the three social media sites to follow us!) Watch our bulletin boards outside the department office (HUM 573) and by HUM 128 for news of local events, publications, and contests. Check out the Poetry Center schedule online:

A BIG THANK YOU! to all of you who have been so generous in giving.  Without your help, the department would have to do without many things including scholarships, student awards, membership fees and journal subscriptions, honorary stipends for guest speakers, support for our student-edited magazines, and our annual spring playwriting incubator project, GreenHouse.

Tax deductible contributions to The Creative Writing Department Fund, literary journals and scholarship accounts (a full list of our account names below) may be made online.