Creative Writing Fall 2019 Newsletter

“I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to say something about home." SF State Creative Writing Graduate and Award Winning Author Ernest J. Gaines
Spring 2019 Graduation Ceremony

Bay Area Book Festival An Evening with Tommy Orange
“That's something we all want to know, isn't it? Is there a ‘purpose’ to our form and substance? Or are we simply the random result of billions of years of chemical reactions and accidents influenced by pressures from the environment..?" - Mazza Writer in Residence Peter Nachtrieb

Dear Students, Faculty, Alums, and Friends,
The Creative Writing Department has much to celebrate. Last spring, our department was the honored recipient of the Marcus Fund for Excellence in Creative Writing, granted by George and Judy Marcus in recognition of our program’s success. We are grateful for the Foundation’s confidence in our work and will use the funds to enact our vision of a program that supports an inclusive, engaged community of students and faculty in its lifelong practice of the literary arts. This spring we will be hiring two new faculty members: the Marcus Endowed Poetry Position and the Marcus Endowed Creative Writing position. We are excited to welcome new voices and perspectives to our rich, interesting community.

Book projects this year, backed by the Marcus funds, took faculty from Uruguay (Carolina DeRobertis) to China (May-lee Chai) to New York (Michelle Carter). Associate Professor, Chanan Tigay, flew off to a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, a laboratory of ideas where scholars, artists, scientists and practitioners draw insights from one another and generate new ideas. We are happy that he will be rejoining us in Fall 2020. Our faculty bring their wealth of insights and experiences back to our department, back to our students.
This Fall, Tommy Orange, the renowned author of the novel There, There, graced us with an evening of reading and discussion, which you can attend virtually. We also were able to sponsor the Bay Area Book Festival for the first time, presenting a panel entitled SFSU: Who’s Got the Power. And contributed to this major local literary event a festival booth, staffed by Creative Writing faculty and graduate students, in Downtown Berkeley for two full weekends. The booth received a great deal of foot traffic, inquiries, and expressions of enthusiasm about our program. As other local M.F.A. programs at private universities also held booths nearby, our presence was essential to reach prospective applicants, and for maintaining our profile as a premiere program and the Bay Area’s only public university M.F.A.

Our biggest challenge is the recruitment and retention of both students and faculty to this dynamic, diverse, artistically innovative yet spectacularly expensive Bay Area. The Marcus fund has allowed us to offer more small scholarships to incoming and second-year graduate students, and to support students to travel to conferences and festivals. We remain alert for other opportunities to support our students.
We would love to create a special fund for emergency scholarships for basic needs such as books, transportation, temporary housing, and tuition to allow students to continue their creative writing education during life’s inevitable upheavals. We begin this goal at Zero—no other fund allows for this type of crucial intervention. If you are so moved, please click on our nifty donate button and help us make this goal a reality. We also welcome support for our national literary magazine as well as other endeavors.

The faculty, student, and staff of the creative writing department wish you a cozy and fulfilling winter and New Year.
Sincerely, Nona

“I’m less scared of [running out of ideas] than I used to be. In life, you’re always going to try to find new challenges. Unless you’re done. And I’m not done. Maybe I won’t be able to write well at a certain point, but I won’t ever run out of ideas.” –Mazza Writer in Residence Peter Nachtrieb


Dodie Bellamy had a series of commissioned experimental essays/fictions published in 2019: “Bee Reaved,” for the catalogue accompanying The Making of Husbands, Christina Ramberg exhibition, curated by Anna Gritz, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, September 14, 2019 – January 5, 2020; dialogue with Kevin Killian, for Mike Kelley: Pushing and Pulling, Pulling and Pushing, 500 Capp Street, San Francisco, November 3, 2018 – February 16, 2019, Colpa Books, 2019; “Boobs,” in Legsicon, catalogue for Laure Prouvost, Book Works and M HKA, 2019; “The Violence of the Image,” for Henrick Olesen exhibition, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, published by Museo Reina Sofia, 2019; “The Kingdom of Isolation,” in Hello Leonora, Soy Anne Walsh,ed. Rachel Churner, no place press, 2019. (Catalogue essay for They, a solo exhibit by Anne Walsh at the Luggage Store, San Francisco, winter 2018.)

Nona Caspers' novel THE FIFTH WOMAN was a LAMBDA Literary Awards Finalist, SILVER Winner in Literary Fiction and Finalist in LGBT Fiction for the 2018 Foreword Indies Book of the Year, and Fiction Bronze Medalist for the IPPY Awards. She presented at the AWP annual Conference and the Creative Writing's inaugural featured appearance at the Bay Area Book Festival with Carolina De Robertis, May-lee Chai, and Michael David Lukas.

May-lee Chai’s latest collection of short stories, Useful Phrases for Immigrants, won a 2019 American Book Award. The awards ceremony at the San Francisco Public Library was taped for broadcast on C-Span. She had essays published or forthcoming in the Kenyon Review Online, Catapult, and Kweli.

Maxine Chernoff’s Collected Prose Poems, Under the Music, were published by MadHat Press, and she has given four local readings as well as two events in Boston. Her poems will also appear in Hambone and ElevenEleven. She is collaborating with an artist on a children's book.

Matthew Clark Davison’s essay, “Lapsed,” which first appeared on Guernica, will be a part of the anthology EMPTY THE PEWS: Stories of Leaving the Church, edited by Chrissy Stroop and SFSU alum Lauren O'Neal for Epiphany Publishing (November, 2019).

Donna de la Perriere's new book, Works of Love & Terror, was published by Talisman House in October.

Heather June Gibbons' poetry collection Her Mouth as Souvenir, winner of the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, was published by the University of Utah Press (2018). It was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award, and was recommended by O, the Oprah Magazine, The Millions, KQED Arts, ZYZZYVA, and Tupelo Quarterly, among others. A new poem "Barns Are Painted Red Because of Dying Stars" appeared in Pangyrus (January 2019) and her poem "Anthem" was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle's "State Lines" column (December 2018). An interview with her appeared in the Chicago Review of Books "Poetry Today" feature. She was a presenter at the annual AWP Conference, the Bay Area Book Festival, The Atlanta Journal Courier Decatur Book Festival, and Litquake. Additionally, she was a Guest Writer at the University of Utah and Western Washington University; and gave poetry readings in New York, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Michael David Lukas' recent publications include "Bracing for the Worst of Fire Season" and "Turning 40 and Looking Death in the Eye," both in the New York Times. His novel The Last Watchman of Old Cairo won the Sami Rohr Prize, the ALA's Sophie Brody Medal, and the Harold U. Ribalow Prize.

Chanan Tigay won a fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where he is at work on a number of projects including a book about the Portuguese consul in Bordeaux at the onset of World War II, a man who saved as many as 30,000 refugees including Salvador Dali and HA Rey.

Barbara Tomash’s current manuscript in progress, Her Scant State, has been published in excerpted form in Shearsman Magazine, Connotation Press, E.ratio Poetry, New American Writing, Parentheses, Posit, Vestiges, Interim, Adirondack Review, Denver Quarterly, and The Account. In September, a series of poems she wrote in memory of poet and publisher Marthe Reed was featured as a Conjunctions Online Exclusive. She has read her work at a number of Bay Area venues including Alley Cat Books, Moe’s Books, and Studio One. An earlier version of Her Scant State was a finalist for the 2019 POL Book Prize.


Ben Black was recently hired as an Assistant Fiction Editor at AGNI magazine.

Kelly Daniels’ essays, "The Apostate of Orange Street," and "First Place" have appeared in The Sun Magazine in 2019. His 2016 essay, "The Water Song," was recently adapted into a short film by the same title, which premiered in the Philadelphia Film Festival in October of this year.

Dylan Brie Ducey's essay, "Bride of Hunger Artist," appeared in Superstition Review, December, 2019.

Diane Frank received honors for her new book of poems, Canon for Bears and Ponderosa Pines at the San Francisco Book Festival. Dreams and Visions, published by Chrion Publications, 2019.

Jeff Kaliss continues post-MFA study in creative writing and music at the City College of San Francisco. His short story “Oceanside” was published on the blog of CCSF literary magazine Forum in the spring of 2019.

Joy Lanzendorfer's short stories are forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review and Raritan. Her essay "Bohemian Tragedy" was a notable in the Best American Essays 2019 and her short story “Sleep Disturbance” is included in The Best Small Fictions 2019. She's a recent recipient of a writing residency from Hypatia-in-the-Woods and a winner of the Discovered Awards for Emerging Literary Artists 2019.

Mimi Lok’s debut fiction Last of her Name was published in October 2019 by Kaya Press.

John Mancini's flash fiction piece, "No Future in Oysters," originally published in New World Writing, was selected to appear in the Best Small Fictions 2019 anthology. His poem, "What the Tow Truck Driver Told Me," will be published in Atlanta Review.

Peter Nachtrieb was the Mazza Writer in Residence at the SFSU Poetry Center and is teaching the MFA workshop in Playwriting this Fall Semester. His “wilfull ignorance to human driven climate change” musical comedy, Fall Springs, had its world premiere at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, M.A. in August.

Kelly O'Rourke's recent publications are “The Future is Perfect” and “Yankee Doodle,” in The Hong Kong Review, “Perennial,” and “Route” in South Florida Poetry Journal, “Bronfenbrenner,” in Transfer Magazine, “Steady,” in Eckerd College Review, “head*lamp,” in London's The A3 Review, “Prep” and “Welcome Golden Shovel” in Red Earth Review and “A Wealth of Information,” in Crab Orchard Review. Three of her translations from Elisa Biagini's work "Fiato" in Italian are forthcoming in the fall 2019 issue of VIA: Voices in Italian Americana by Bordighera Press.

Evelyn Jean Pine's one-person play, Freeloader in the House of Love, won the "Most Compelling Story" Award at the 2019 Boulder Fringe Festival in August. Her short play, Wreck My Car, was performed at the San Francisco Fringe Festival as part of the production, Fingertips by Steven Westdhal. In Tempe, Arizona, the Bridge Initiative: Women in Theatre performed her play, Mom, I had an Abortion, as part of their ROAR Festival celebrating female theatre artists and the development of new work by female writers.

Patrick Earl Ryan has been named this year’s winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction for his collection of short stories If We Were Electric.

Phyllis Stowell's most recent publication is a creative non-fiction book entitled TRANSFORMATIONS: Nearing the End of Life published May 2019.

Joan Tollifson’s fifth book, Death: The End of Self-Improvement, will be published this November by New Sarum Press.

Sandra Wassilie had poems appear in two anthologies published in 2019. "Fire Dance" appeared in Naked Bulb Anthology 2018. "Skin in the Game," previously published in Naked Bulb Anthology 2016, and "The Haunting" were published in Civil Liberties United: Diverse Voices from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lenore Weiss’ publications are the following works of flash fiction: “Catalogue of Unpretentious Gripes,” meluzinasine (Prague Summer Writers Program, July 2019; “Janis in Port Arthur Texas,” Pandemonium Press, February 2019; Houses that Flip, and Portland Review January 2019.

Current Creative Writing Students

Dasha Bulatova is expecting her MFA in Poetry in December 2019. Over the past year, she completed editorial internships at Best American Nonrequired Reading and Two Lines Press. She published her first book review of Colette Fellous' "This Tilting World" in Vol. 1 Brooklyn and her poetry was released in the September and October issues of Mojave He[art] Review. She is currently Poetry Editor at Fourteen Hills.

TreVaughn Malik Roach-Carter is in the MFA program in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University. His recent publications are an excerpt from his short story “Where the Heart is," published in Ramblr LiteraryMagazine, winning runner-up for the Ramblr Fiction award. His poem “Entitled," was published in Tayo Literary Magazine’s special issue: SOFT. His flash fiction story "The Necromancer," was published in issue 4 of BAD EGG. His debut novel The Marked Ones: Uprising, a speculative Young Adult Fiction novel, was published in June of 2019.

Joshua A.H. Harris' novel, Unorthodoxy, about a Berkeley man obsessed with his microbiome, is scheduled to be published in mid-November by Atmosphere Press. Joshua also published a political pamphlet entitled “Common Sense 2019: A Bipartisan Call To Take Back Our Government” and poems in Gravitas (Pub House Books) ("My Name Is Not Gregor") and the Berkeley Times ("What Midnight Country Mistakenly Exposed").

Lily Kaylor Honoré's multi-genre lyric essay/ historical nonfiction short story "Bzou" appeared in Foglifter (April 2019.)

Nancy Fishman spent two weeks this summer at Write On, Door County, a writing residency in Door County, Wisconsin (three hours north of Milwaukee). Write On, Door County encourages residents to teach a workshop while in residency; Fishman had a blast teaching a memoir writing class at Scandia Village, a senior living community in Sister Bay, WI.

Molly Olis Krost received the Myna Brunton Hughes Award from the San Francisco Browning Society for Best Dramatic Monologues. Her full-length play Nanay received a staged reading at San Francisco Playhouse. Her short plays Batok and After Hubris received a staged readings at PlayGround’s Monday Night PlayGround. After Hubris went on to receive its world premiere at the Best of PlayGround Festival, and had a subsequent production at MaArte Theatre Collective in San Diego. Her short play School Haze, received its world premiere production at Ain’t I A Woman Playfest in Kentucky. Her short play Unwedding was performed at SF State’s Fringe Festival. Her poem “you should dances in it” was published in the 2019 issue of {m}aganda magazine and her poem “Mahjong” was published in Undertone Collective Issue #3.

Sean M. Sanford is currently working on his B.A. in Creative Writing. He's been writing fiction for Lowcard Magazine for close to ten years, and they will be publishing a compilation of his works in October. The collection is called A Manbaby's Requiem, and will include his photography, as well as some of his longer format fiction which was featured in the online periodical Defiant Scribe.

Joe Wadlington is pursuing his M.F.A. in Fiction at SF State. His debut short story, "Pitch Pines" was published by Catapult in 2019.

Maury Zeff's short story "Violeta, Violeta" will be published in bosque journal in November. His recent and upcoming play productions are "Eternal Hellfire and Damnation: A Love Story" (Pittsburgh New Works Festival, September, one act), "Rose-colored Contact Lenses" (SF Fringe Festival, September, short play, ensemble, winner of a Best of Fringe Award), "A Holiday Dilemma" (PianoFight's Pint-sized Plays, December, short play), and "North by North Pole" (Holidays with a Twist, December, short play, PianoFight).

In Memoriam

Ernest J. Gaines Nanos Valaoritis
Former San Francisco State University Creative Writing student and prominent author, Ernest J. Gaines, recently passed away at the age of 86. Gaines was born in Oscar, Louisiana on a plantation outside of Baton Rouge. As a child, he developed his writing by transcribing letters for those who could not read or write. He eventually moved to California, where his mother was residing in Vallejo and it was the first time in his life that he was able to go into a library. Gaines enrolled at SF State after a stint in the army, and wrote “The Turtles,” which was published in Transfer Magazine #1 in 1956. Gaines earned Stanford University’s Wallace Stegner Fellowship and completed his SF State degree in 1957. Gaines eventually received notoriety for his novel The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, the fictional story of a Black woman’s life that begins during the era of slavery and throughout the Civil Rights Movement. Gaines was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1993, received the National Humanities Medal in 2000, and the National Medal of Arts in 2013.
Former SF State Creative Writing professor, Nanos Valaoritis, recently passed away at the age of 98. Valatoritis was born in Lausanne, Switzerland and would go on to live in Athens, London, and Paris. Valaoritis was active in the translation of celebrated Greek poets of the 1930s, and the surrealist culture in Paris during the 1950s. Valaoritis taught creative writing and comparative literature at SF State from 1968 to 1993 and was appointed emeritus in 1991. He was a celebrated Greek playwright, poet, translator, and novelist and was awarded the Golden Cross of the Order of Honor in 2004.