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Student readings are held once a month at 5:30pm at the Art Kitchen
We invite you to come and enjoy the work of these wonderful writers
45 Halsey St. Newark, NJ 07102.
2016-2017 MFA Student Bios
First-Year Poetry Students
Tracy May Fuad (poetry) grew up in Minnesota and earned a B.S. in Political Science at Northwestern University before going on to study education at Relay Graduate School. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Sixth Finch, CutBank, BOAAT, PANK, Nashville Review, SOFTBLOW, Hayden's Ferry Review, Gigantic Sequins, DIALOGIST, and elsewhere. Her essay about queerness, ISIS, and her Kurdish identity was recently selected as a finalist for the Gulf Coast Prize and won the Montana Prize in Nonfiction. She sometimes teaches teenagers and occasionally caters Kurdish food. Currently she is completing a series of poems about Saddam Hussein and a collection of essays about identity.
Emma Green (poetry) grew up in Michigan. She studied English and Biology at Baruch College, has worked as a stage manager, jewelry designer, and trainee farmer, and spent time as an artist assistant doing sculpture work for local photographers/artists. For the past year, Emma has been managing a dragon fruit farm and apiary. She hopes to work on visual poetry as a student in the RU-N MFA. She spends her free time studying bees and working with metal.
Antonio Lopez (poetry) is a native of East Palo Alto, California. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he received a double B.A. in Global Cultural Studies (Literature) and African-American studies from Duke University. An inaugural John Lewis Fellow, a recipient of the Rudolph William Rosati Creative Writing Award, and a Summerbridge Teaching Fellow in the Humanities, Antonio works in the intersections of language, faith, social justice movements, and education. His undergraduate thesis, Spic’ing into Existence, explores ethnopoetics, the concept of artistic-political response to regimes of power by peoples of color.
Cheswayo Mphanza (poetry) was born in Lusaka, Zambia, and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He earned a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing from Middlebury College. Cheswayo’s work primarily focuses on intersecting the shared cultural past of the diasporic community through music, folklore, and oral traditions. His work has been featured or is forthcoming in New American Press: New Poetry from the Midwest Anthology 2016, Columbia Journal, and Cargo Literary Magazine. He is a Bread Loaf Writers Conference contributor, Columbia University fellow, and a Cave Canem fellow. Cheswayo is hyped to start a new chapter in his life as part of the Rutgers University-Newark MFA program in poetry.
Alegra Padrón (poetry) is a Miami native with a B.A. in English and Medieval Studies minor from Florida State University. She is drawn to poetry as a form of performance, and in the synthesis between film, art, and the written word. She’s also very interested understanding medieval gender and sexuality norms in the context of modern times. This summer she had a two-month long adventure in Europe and is excited to start her new adventure at RU-N this year.
Dimitri Reyes (poetry) received his B.A in English from Rutgers University-Newark, where he also studied Anthropology. He is very excited to return to RU-N and join the new RU-N MFA cohort. From his upbringing as a Latinx youth in the historic “Forest Hills” section, he breathes “Brick City” and dreams of one day contributing to the great legacy of Newark poets. While in the MFA program, he will remain a substitute teacher in his childhood middle school, and continue to help facilitate the Rutgers- Newark “Cherry Blossoms in Winter” public art project. Aside from the arts and teaching, his other interests include the vegan diet, a minimalist lifestyle, his astrological beliefs, and his pair of black cats.
Grey Vild (poetry) is a Queer Art Mentorship & Brooklyn Poets fellow as well as the Unofficial, Unannounced & Unwanted Poet Laureate of T-County. Born & raised in Believeland territory, he loves nothing more than explaining his B.A. in Women’s Studies from The Ohio State University, preferably to strangers on playgrounds. His work can be found at Them Lit, Vetch, Winter Tangerine Review, Harriet & elsewhere. He is working on his first collection of poems, The M4T Files. He is ridiculously excited to spend the next two years making his MFA colleagues listen to poems about LeBron, The Godfather, & LeBron’s relationship to The Godfather.
Ariel Yelen (poetry) is from Boston, Massachusetts. She curates and organizes the Workshops and Fantasy Reading Series at Bowery Poetry. She is also a visual artist, and a recipient of grants and fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Purchase College Foundation, and the Hearst Foundation Scholarship, among others. Her poems have been published in Two Serious Ladies and jdbrecords. She has exhibited her artwork at Peninsula Gallery in New York and holds a BFA from Purchase College, SUNY School of Art + Design.
First-Year Fiction Students
Amy Bitterman (fiction) is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and Harvard Law School and currently teaches at Rutgers Law School - Newark. Her short fiction has appeared in The Cream City Review, The Chicago Quarterly Review, The G.W. Review, The William and Mary Review, Switchback, Kerem, Jewishfiction.net, The Crescent Review, Poetica, The Sand Hill Review, The Manhattanville Review, Emrys Journal, Folio and Lilith. In 2015 she was awarded a "Special Mention" for the Pushcart Prize.
Shara Davis (fiction) is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She graduated from Tuskegee University and obtained her law degree at UC Berkeley. She has worked as an attorney, criminal investigator, and Uber driver. She writes fiction about race, class, and the criminal justice system, and plans to work on a collection of short stories and a novel.
Bronwyn Douman (fiction) was born in the heart of the Mother City: Bo-Kaap in Cape Town. She holds a B.A. in English, a BPhil in Journalism, and an M.A. in Creative Writing. Her mini-thesis includes a collection of short stories titled The Marginal Grey. She is a founding editorial member and former Editor of Creative Writing for the online academic journal WritingThreeSixty: The UWC Journal of Research and Creative Writing. Her fiction appears online in Aerodrome, in the UWC CREATES This is My Land anthology, and in an e-book entitled The Ghost Eater and Other Stories. Her poems were included in the 2016 Harvest poetry anthology. Her short documentary film, 'Till Death Do Us Part,' was screened at the 2016 Encounters South African International Documentary Festival. She is thrilled to be part of the MFA program at Rutgers University-Newark.
Martina Fouquet (fiction) hails from sunny South Florida, although she's hesitant to define exactly where home is for her. A recent graduate of Princeton University, she brings a perspective in both politics and statistical thinking to creative writing. She loves to combine the accessibility and entertainment of fiction with the analytics of political commentary. Her work has appeared in Guernica. She is excited to learn and grow as a writer at RU-N MFA and is always looking for the next spontaneous conversation.
Samuel Harkness Hutchings (fiction) was born in Providence, Rhode Island. He recently graduated from Assumption College with a B.A. in English Literature & Philosophy. His fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in such publications as The Worcester Journal and Boston Poetry Magazine.
Thierry Kehou (fiction) earned a B.A. in Individualized Study focused on Africana and French Studies from New York University. A lifelong educator, he is a founding member of the New York French American Charter School in Harlem, NY, and in 2012 was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in La Courneuve, France. His fiction addresses the themes of trauma, silence, memory, and displacement. He lives in Maplewood, NJ, where chances are he's happily cooking for his wife and daughter, or watching his beloved New York Knicks.
Karen May (fiction) grew up in north Texas. She earned a B.S. in Radio, Television, and Film from the University of Texas at Austin. For the last two and a half years she taught English in Osaka, Japan. She was born with mild cerebral palsy; most of her fiction focuses on people with disabilities and chronic illnesses because she wants to see more characters like her out there in the world. She is thrilled to be a part of the MFA program at Rutgers University-Newark.
Jodi Manjourides (fiction) was born in Jerusalem in 1980 to a Sephardic father and Ashkenazi mother. In 1985, the family, including her three siblings, moved to Denver, Colorado, for four years before moving back to Israel; in 2003, Jodi decided to permanently uproot to NYC. A recent English graduate of Rutgers-Newark University, with a double minor in Creative Writing and LGBTQ Studies, Jodi has mostly worked as a private English and Hebrew tutor. A voracious reader of Alice Munro and Raymond Carver from an early age, she has always been captivated by the short story form and inspired to write stories of her own. Her work mainly focuses on the dysfunctional familial ties that bind people together. She is a 2016 recipient of the Toni Cade Bambara Endowed Scholarship, and is beyond pleased to be a one of the newest members of the RU-N MFA Program.
Maia Morgan (fiction) was born in Alabama and grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C. She received a B.A. in English from Carleton College, moved to Chicago, and after a brief turn as a performance poet, worked in theater as a playwright, actor and monologist. She also taught writing and theater in schools, health care facilities and jails—working with Urban Gateways, Columbia College, Chicago Public Schools, Steppenwolf, Lookingglass and Lyric Opera Chicago. Her essays have appeared in The Best American Nonrequired Reading, Glamour, Creative Nonfiction, The Chattahoochee Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review and The Rumpus. She is working on a memoir, The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures and blogs at thesaltwatertwin.com about words, memory, road trips, yoga and dogs. She’s thrilled to dive into the craft of fiction as part of the RU-N MFA program at Rutgers University-Newark.
Musa Syeed (fiction) was born to Kashmiri parents and raised in Indiana. As a writer/director in film, his work includes the features Valley Of Saints (Sundance 2012, Audience Award; New York Times Critics Pick) and A Stray (SXSW 2016). As an educator, Musa has taught for the Tribeca Film Institute and Williams College, and he serves as the artistic director for the Muslim Youth Voices Project. Musa was a Fulbright Fellow in Egypt and is an alumnus of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies Department. These days, he mostly composes lullabies for his newborn son.
Second-Year Poetry Students
Nadia Choudhury (poetry) was born in Paterson, New Jersey and grew up in Michigan. She graduated from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with a B.A. in English (concentration in Creative Writing), and has worked as a freelance writer, high school English instructor, and sales account specialist. At eight years old, while watching a television airing of Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club on a Saturday afternoon, she understood her American citizenship and literary determination. Her poetry addresses the issues of family, first generation histories, Islamic upbringings, political identity, and reincarnation.
Jeremy Clark (poetry) is from Louisville, Kentucky, which, despite everyone's attempts to re-define it as otherwise, is the South. His poems and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Callaloo, Vinyl, Horsethief, Public Pool, The Rumpus, Pluck!, Day One, The Conversant, and Forklift, Ohio. He has received recognition and support from the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Cave Canem, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, The Conversation Literary Festival, and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. He's looking forward to his second year at Rutgers University-Newark and is excited about stealing great lines from a whole new crop of poets.
Amy Dougher (poetry) grew up in Harrison, New Jersey. She holds a B.S. in Chemical Biology from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and is currently employed by the Department of Mathematical Sciences at New Jersey Institute of Technology. Her poetry focuses on family—her infinite source of inspiration, joy, and grief. Amy is grateful to the MFA community at Rutgers-Newark for another year of growth and healing.
Colin Schmidt (poetry) grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey and Newark, Delaware. After graduating from the University of Delaware with a B.A. in History, he worked as a teaching assistant, a surveyor, a landscaper, a home repairman, an intern at CBS and a program coordinator in hospital administration. His work currently appears online in The Paris-American and in Birdfeast Magazine.
Second-Year Fiction Students
John Allia (fiction) shrimped the inside edge of America, built motorcycles in Daytona Beach, Florida, and spent years exploring the skinny, gulf-side waters of the Florida Keys. He also wrote investment bank software and was responsible for maintaining the continuity of his firm’s global trading systems. He has lived in Europe and Asia and came to writing late in life; he earned a BA in English two years ago at Montclair State University and was the recipient of the Carter Ross Fiction Award. John hopes to complete an MFA before collecting social security; he’s the old guy who has lost his taste for shrimp, prefers bicycles over motorcycles, doesn’t own a smartphone, and has never texted, tweeted, or maintained any social media presence. He has been around the world dozens of times and finds it ironic, comforting, and nostalgic to study writing on the same block as St. Michael’s Hospital, Newark, where he was born.
Lauren Barbato (fiction) was born and raised in New Jersey. She reports on reproductive rights, women’s rights and religion for Cosmopolitan, Ms. magazine, the Women’s Media Center, Conscience: the News-journal of Catholic Opinion, and Bustle, and continues to do activist work with Catholics for Choice. Her short fiction has appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue and Corium Magazine, and has been a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers and the Kore Press Short Fiction Prize. A graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, her screenplays have been finalists for the Sundance Screenwriting Fellows Lab and the Austin Film Festival. Lauren is excited about entering her second year at Rutgers University-Newark.
Darise JeanBaptiste (fiction), a 2015-16 Trustee Fellow at RU-N, is a Bronx native who currently resides in Harlem. Darise is one of four daughters and an auntie to two brilliant little boys and a spectacular niece. Darise earned her MA in English from
Brooklyn College, where she had the wildly amazing opportunity to teach English composition to incoming freshman. For the past five years, Darise served in the nonprofit sector to provide college access to under-resourced communities. Her pathway to writing fiction began with her journal. She then found herself writing for The Press & Sun-Bulletin, The Ithaca Journal, City Limits, at Gotham Writer's Workshops, and now at RU-N. In 2016, Darise attended VONA (Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation) Workshop for fiction.
Leslie Jones (fiction) was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. Dark winters, big glaciers, neighborhood moose — all that stuff. She spent four years working in China and Taiwan, but presently lives in Brooklyn. Her fiction has appeared in Baltimore Review, Day One, Narrative, and Necessary Fiction. On twitter: twitter.com/lesleslielie
Eliza Minot Price (fiction) is the author of the novels The Tiny One and The Brambles, both published by Alfred A. Knopf. Her novels have been named to various lists, such as The New York Times Notable and Booksense 76. She is a 2007 fellowship recipient from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Her work has appeared in Real Simple, The New York Times Magazine, Allure, Travel and Leisure Family, Lincoln Center Theater Review, and Cookie, among others. Her work is included in the anthologies, The Dictionary of Failed Relationships, and Sex and Sensibility. She is currently at work on her third novel, American Standard, which will be published by Knopf. She has taught writing at Barnard College, NYU, and The Writer's Circle. Eliza is very excited to continue the MFA program at Rutgers University- Newark and to regularly work at reading, and writing, now that her four kids are a little bigger.
Aarti Monteiro (fiction) grew up in cities across India, the Middle East, and Illinois. She graduated with a BA in English from Grinnell College and spent much of her professional career working with middle and high school students in New York City. She has participated in the VONA Writing Workshop as well as the New York State Summer Writers Institute. She looks forward to another year at the Rutgers University-Newark MFA.
Soili Smith (fiction) is a writer and forever-student originally from Prince George, British Columbia—a community recently famous for sharing the name of England's Royal Baby. She has spent the last ten years working in the forestry industry and pursuing a B.Sc. in Biology from the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, and a B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from Concordia University in Montreal. Her writing often revolves around northern BC, and focuses on the relationship of people to place, and vice versa. She is a program assistant for Summer Literary Seminars and an editorial assistant for Cosmonauts Avenue. She is the recipient of Concordia's 2015 Irving Layton Award for Poetry.
Matt B. Weir (fiction) was raised in Naperville, Illinois. He’s an animator whose cartoon pilot, "Cool Cars and Science," was an official selection of the 2013 New York Television Festival; he writes about experimental music for Tinymixtapes.com, and his jokes have appeared on Funny or Die and McSweeneys. In his free time, he has organized and written Dungeons & Dragons campaigns for middle-schoolers. When not writing or reading, he's working as a tutor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his girlfriend and their cat.
Angela Workoff (fiction) grew up in Brooklyn, NY. She earned her BA in History at the State University of New York in Geneseo, a village of five thousand. The time spent in Western New York, both in the small towns and in the city of Rochester, helped to knock a Brooklyn-sized chip off her shoulder and established her great love and respect for the varied regions of New York State. After earning her B.A. she returned to Brooklyn, working in technology and finance for nearly ten years in Midtown Manhattan and dabbling as a production assistant for concerts in Brooklyn on summer weekends. She’s always interested in improving her craft and telling new stories.
Magally Zelaya (fiction) is a Salvadoran-Canadian writer and journalist who grew up in the prairie city of Winnipeg. Before joining the RU-N MFA program she spent three years traveling the world with her husband while reporting in print, radio, and video. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Cosmopolitan UK, Al Jazeera America, & the Christian Science Monitor, among others. She’s worked as a television news writer and reporter at the CBC in Vancouver and won a 2012 grant from the International Development Research Centre to produce a documentary in Papua, New Guinea. She holds a Master of Journalism from the University of British Columbia and a BA in Drama from the University of Manitoba. Magally is at work on her first novel, which explores the intersection of identity, family, and culture through the lens of globalization.
Third-Year Poetry Students
Christopher Pillette (poetry) grew up in Portland, Oregon, and graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S. in journalism. He acted in regional theater and was employed in various sales positions before he moved to New Jersey in 2001. He has taught in Jersey high schools since then. Pillette counts Roberto Bolańo, Joseph Conrad, and Ovid among his heroes.
Third-Year Fiction Students
Mary Barr Mann (fiction) was born and raised in Philadelphia where much of her large extended family still lives. Mary earned a BA in English Literature from La Salle University and has dabbled in non-matriculated graduate work in film (Temple University) and architecture and planning (Cooper Union). She has fluctuated between the worlds of writing/communications and urban planning/economic development over a 25-year career. Recently, Mary worked as the Deputy Director of NJ News Commons at Montclair State University. She is now launching a hyperlocal news site called The Village Green for Maplewood and South Orange, NJ. She lives in Maplewood with her husband and two children.
Esther Barsella (fiction) was born and raised in Israel. She earned a Bachelor of Art degree from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Hebrew Language and Education. She graduated from Tel Aviv University with a Master of Science in Management Science. She earned a Postgraduate Diploma in Short-term Psychotherapy. Since her arrival in the United States in 2010, she writes fiction and non-fiction. She looks forward to continuing her membership in the RU-N MFA community of writers.
Mary Ann Koruth (fiction) has worn many hats, including that of a radio host, news reader, TV correspondent, scriptwriter, web and graphic designer, freelance journalist, poet, and blogger. Yet the thread that has woven together her many interests is writing. No longer a closeted writer of short stories, she is happy to be a card-carrying member of the part-time RN-MFA cohort. She grew up in India and moved to the States for graduate studies in new media design. Her reviews, essays, and profiles have been published in newspapers and magazines, including Rutgers Magazine, The Indian-American, New Brunswick Today, The Hindu and NewestAmericans.com. Most recently, her fiction appeared on NewestAmericans.com. Her blog on immigrant gas jockeys in the tri-state area is located at desigas.tumblr.com