Creative Writing 2020 Winter Newsletter

Dear Creative Writing Community & Friends:

From our cluttered living rooms, kitchen tables and home offices, the Creative Writing faculty, students and staff shout out a big hello. From this critical point of the 2020 collision of a novel virus with our centuries-long pandemic of white supremacy and anti-Blackness we offer our humble notes below as a bit of light.

The fact that:

  • Two caring teachers and brilliant writers joined the Creative Writing community: Joseph Cassara started this semester as Assistant Professor & Marcus Endowed Chair in Creative Writing; and Tonya Foster will begin Fall 2021 as Assistant Professor and Marcus Endowed Chair in Poetry. View an interview with Joseph Cassara and Tonya Foster.
  • The Creative Writing Department initiated a Student-Faculty Work Group to help build community during this isolating pandemic and to make changes that support racial equity and inclusion.
  • Graduate students created the Graduate Writers Collaborative, which hosts Zoom writing events and mentors peers in the graduate program.
  • Super literary hero Gabby Rivera, author of Juliette Takes a Breath and inventor of Marvel Superhero America Chavez partied with us on Zoom in October! Thank you to George and Judy Marcus funds for making this possible.
  • SF State alumni Jose Antonio Vargas talked with us about his experiences as an undocumented immigrant as noted in his memoir Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.
  • Many of our alumni and current students have found homes for their creative work—take a look at following pages for more.

Perhaps most heartening, Creative Writing renewed our commitment, now and always, to making education a practice of freedom for all students. We are working to further support our BIPOC/LGBTQIA students. This includes investigating department curriculum, structures, policies, and practices through the lens of the following questions: “How does the structure, policy and/or practice affect BIPOC/LGBTQ faculty and students in the short and long run?” and “What more can the Creative Writing Department do to create a deeply welcoming environment?”

As Chair, I want to acknowledge the remarkable faculty and student body trapeze act of teaching and learning virtually. I wish all of you could have witnessed the creativity, labor and kindness that helped make our virtual semesters the best that they could be.

Wishing you all the wellest of wellness and happy new year with a vaccine!





Maxine Chernoff’s prose poems are featured in Prose Poetry: An Introduction (Princeton University Press) and the Penguin International Anthology of the Prose Poem. She read her poems for the LA Times (Virtual) Book Fair and published poems in Volt, The Tampa Review and Hambone.

Nona Caspers presented on a panel of directors and chairs of M.F.A. programs, "Future of M.F.A. Programs" at the Weekend of Words Festival virtual event. "The Horse," a story from her award winning & critically acclaimed novel The Fifth Woman was reprinted in New American Writing.

Current Creative Writing Students and Alumni

Kim Airola (published under the name Noreia Rain) is an M.F.A. student at SF State with an emphasis in Fiction. Her recent publications include a short story "The Loveseat" and a poem "open," along with two visual art pieces published in Issue #4 of The Ana, an online literary magazine created by SFSU students and alumni.

Michael Banister published two novels in 2020. Mystics and Warriors was published on March 17, 2020 in paperback and Kindle versions. Around the Horn and Back was published on October 5, 2020 in paperback and Kindle. He also published Collected Stories on June 1, 2020, as an ebook.

Traci Chee’s most recent novel, We Are Not Free, was published in September 2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It has been named a Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Kelly Daniels' new novel, A Candle for San Simón, received a starred review from Booklist, among other praise. His personal essay, "No Accident," appeared in the April 2020 issue of the Sun magazine.

Dean Engle’s short story, “Sweet Nightmares” was recently published by Toyon Literary Magazine, winning the Richard Cortez Day Award. His analytic essay, “Levine’s Marxist Toys” was published by Humboldt State’s peer reviewed journal, IdeaFest: Interdisciplinary Journal of Creative Works and Research.

Antony Fangary’s 2020 publications include "Ya Besha," and "Dear Diary" in Collateral Journal, "Dear U.S." in Hiram Poetry Review, "Dear Diary" in Lucky Jefferson, "Dear Diary," "Vespers," and "Private Prayer" in Interim, "Dear Diary," and "Dear Europe" in The Oakland Review, and "Markings" and "Bes" in New American Writing. He was a Finalist for the Wabash Prize, nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Runner-up for the Test Site Poetry Series.

Alisa Golden’s recent flash publications are “Just Because You Have a Ticket,” “They Never Leave,” and “There, There My Dear Ghosts” in Blink-Ink, “She could either” in Nanoism, “Shelter” (poem) in Eunoia, and “The Hidden Owl” in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts (CNF). “Building the Butternut” is forthcoming in 100 Word Story.

Alysia Gonzales’ recent publication is "My Papa Shakes and It's All the Same to Me" in The Ana (short fiction). She was also selected to attend the Rooted & Written 2020 Literary Conference, hosted by the San Francisco Writer's Grotto.

Edward Gunawan's mental-health webcomic Press Play is nominated for a Shorty Social Good and 2 Webby Awards. Recently it won a mini-grant from ARTogether, an Oakland-based organization supporting immigrant and refugee artists. In addition to Chinese, Thai and Bahasa Indonesia, the non-fiction project will now be translated into Spanish.

Joshua A.H. Harris's debut novel, Unorthodoxy (Atmosphere Press, 2019), won an IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards) in the popular fiction category.

Harriet Heydemann's story "The Truth About My Mother" was published in the Spring 2020 issue of The Fourth River. Earlier versions of this story were workshopped in Junse Kim's class on Earning Dramatic Emotion and in Toni Mirosevich's Nonfiction Workshop.

Jeff Kaliss continues music journalism for San Francisco Classical Voice and other regional, national, international and online publications. His poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction pieces will be published again in Forum magazine. He’s a featured and contributing reader at open mics locally in his home state of Maine, Canada and Ireland.

Miah Jeffra released their criticism/memoir hybrid The Fabulous Ekphrastic Fantastic! (Sibling Rivalry Press) in March 2020. Other 2020 publications include The Forge, Interim, The Pinch, The Boiler, Litro, Barrelhouse, December and Wildness. The literary magazine they co-founded, Foglifter, was a 2020 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, The Firecracker Award and winner of the 2020 Whiting Award.

Joy Lanzendorfer's recent publications include "The More You Know" in Raritan (short fiction), "Breaking In" in Alaska Quarterly Review (short fiction), "Searching for Mary Austen" in Alta (essay), and "Reading A Diary of a Greedy Woman" in Literary Hub (essay, forthcoming). She's also the host of a weekly book-oriented radio show/podcast, What's The Story? on 95.9. The Krush.

David Madden’s sixty-sixth book is The Voice of James M. Cain: An Innovative Biography, in which he meshes Cain’s voice with his own. In doing so, Madden continues Cain’s narrative through their correspondence while learning Cain’s creative process through the unique perspective of Cain as a world-famous tough-guy novelist in decline and Madden as a young novelist on the rise.

Eireene Nealand published pieces from her "overheard" series in Beach Reads: Adrift and Imitation Fruit. Her co-translation with Alta Ifland of The Darkroom, a text by Marguerite Duras previously unpublished in English, was accepted for publication in 2021 by Contra Medium Press. She also received a Fullbright Specialist Grant to work with the NextPage Foundation to translate two works of Bulgarian literature. Her book The Nest ,co-authored by Megan Lueneburg, is currently being translated into Japanese.

Jim Nelson's recent publications include Stranger Son, the third book of his Bridge Daughter series, In My Memory Locked, a cyber-noir thriller set in near-future San Francisco and his upcoming Man in the Middle about paranoia in the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alvin Orloff’s memoir, Disasterama! Adventures in the Queer Underground 1977 - 1997 was a finalist in the Gay Memoir category for the Lambda Literary Awards 2020.

Evelyn Jean Pine, a 2020-2021 PlayGround Resident Playwright and her co-author Katja Rivera, received a CA$H Grant from Theatre Bay Area to present a workshopped staged reading of their play, THE INVISIBLE PROJECT in October 2020.

London Pinkney is in the fiction M.F.A. program. In 2020. She had three poems ("A Black Poem," "Graft," and "Redbone") published in OmniVerse. She also co-founded the digital literary magazine called The Ana where she serves as editor-in-chief.

Joan Tollifson’s newest book, Death: The End of Self-Improvement, got a great review by Oliver Burkeman in the UK Guardian Weekend magazine on August 15:  The book is about embracing the process of aging and dying in all its grittiness and wonder.

Sandra Wassilie’s first collection of poems, The Dream That Is Childhood: A Memoir in Verse, is coming out in November from Cirque Press. It is about growing into an awareness of the world through an apprenticeship with the wilderness of territorial Alaska during the Cold War.

Darryl White’s submission Catch Virus: A Collection was chosen as one of the finalists in Ramblr Magazine's 2020 Quarantine Chapbook Contest.

Creative Writing Associates

Toni Mirosevich's collection of stories is forthcoming from Counterpoint Press. Her recent publications include: a nonfiction story about surviving a sea storm on the Adriatic Sea in the anthology, Best Women's Travel Writing, Vol. 12. An essay about the masked versus the maskless and a whale who has an opinion on it all in (November 10, 2020).

Your Support Can Make a Difference

Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to support the Department of Creative Writing. We need your support now more than ever! Your gift will allow us flexibility in supporting events, guest lecturers, supplies, subscriptions to publications and most importantly, our students.

Make a gift online

If you would like to discuss other ways to give to Creative Writing, please contact Director of Development, Amanda Todd by email at or by phone at (415) 405-3827.