MFA in Creative Writing Mentors

The writers who serve as MFA Mentors are outstanding for both their level of literary achievements and for their teaching records and abilities. These accomplished authors bring careful attention and diverse writing styles and voices to the mix.

Santee Frazier

Santee Frazier

Director, Santee Frazier

Santee Frazier is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. He received his BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and his MFA from Syracuse University. He has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, The School for Advanced Research, and The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Frazier’s poems have appeared in Ontario Review, American Poet, and Prairie Schooner, among others. The author of Dark Thirty, University of Arizona Press, 2009, Frazier’s second collection of poems Aurum is forthcoming from the University of Arizona Press in Fall 2019.

Ramona Ausubel

Ramona Ausubel

Ramona Ausubel

Ramona Ausubel is the author of two novels and two story collections. Her most recent book, Awayland, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection, a Finalist for the California Book Award, Colorado Book Award and long-listed for the Story Prize. She is also the author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, No One is Here Except All of Us and A Guide to Being Born. She is the recipient of the PEN/USA Fiction Award, the Cabell First Novelist Award and was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Award. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Tin House, One Story, Ploughshares and many other journals. She teaches in the low-residency MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts and joins the faculty at Colorado State University in the fall of 2019.

Esther Belin

Esther Belin

Esther Belin (Diné) is a multimedia artist and writer. She is the author of two collections of poetry, From the Belly of My Beauty (1999), which won the American Book Award form the Before Columbus Foundation, and Cartography (2017). She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Durango, Colorado.

Marie-Helene Bertino

Marie-Helene Bertino

Marie-Helene Bertino

Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of the novel 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas and the story collection Safe as Houses, and was the 2017 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Fellow in Cork, Ireland. Her work has received The O. Henry Prize, The Pushcart Prize, The Iowa Short Fiction Award, The Mississippi Review Story Prize, and has twice been featured on NPR’s Selected Shorts. She teaches at NYU, The New School, and Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM, and lives in Brooklyn, where she was the Associate Editor for One Story and Catapult. Her third book, Parakeet, is forthcoming from FSG in Spring 2020. For more information, please visit at www.mariehelenebertino.com.

Sherwin Bitsui

Sherwin Bitsui

Sherwin Bitsui

Sherwin Bitsui (Diné) is originally from White Cone, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. He is Diné of the Todich’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tl’izilani (Many Goats Clan). He is the author of Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003), Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), and Dissolve (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). His honors include a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship and a Native Arts & Culture Foundation Arts Fellowship. He is also the recipient of a 2010 PEN Open Book Award, an American Book Award, and a Whiting Writers Award. In addition to teaching at the Institute of American Indian Arts, he joins the faculty at Northern Arizona University in the fall of 2019.

Kimberly Blaeser

Kimberly Blaeser

Kimberly Blaeser

Kimberly Blaeser is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Copper Yearning, (forthcoming from Holy Cow! Press) and Apprenticed to Justice (Salt Publishing). Her scholarly work includes the monograph Gerald Vizenor: Writing in the Oral Tradition, and she is the editor of Traces in Blood, Bone, and Stone: Contemporary Ojibwe Poetry and Stories Migrating Home. Blaeser, who served as Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2015-16, is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. She is an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and grew up on White Earth Reservation.  An editorial board member for the “American Indian Lives” series of the U of Nebraska Press and the “Native American Series” of Michigan State University Press, Blaeser’s short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and scholarship has been widely anthologized.

Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline (Georgian Bay Metis Community) is the author of the novels Red Rooms, The Girl Who Grew A Galaxy, and the collection of short stories, A Gentle Habit. Her latest work, a dystopian YA novel, The Marrow Thieves, was released by Cormorant Books in 2017 and has since won the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature, the Burt Award for First Nations Metis and Inuit Literature, and the prestigious Kirkus Prize for Young People.The book has been shortlisted for 2018 CBC Canada Reads, the White Pine Award, the Trillium Award and has landed on numerous ‘Best of’ lists for 2017 including National Public Radio, New York Public Library, American Indians in Children’s Literature and the School Library Journal. It was 2018’s #1 bestselling Canadian book and is being adapted for television.

In addition to writing, Cherie has edited numerous publications including Spirit, FNH and Muskrat magazines. She was named the 2014 Emerging Artist of the Year—Ontario Premier’s Award, and was named the first Writer in Residence—Aboriginal Literature for the Toronto Public Library. Cherie also held the position of Writer in Residence for First Nations House at the University of Toronto and faculty for the Humber College Editing Indigenous Manuscripts program and the Humber School for Writers. She sits on numerous literary and arts boards and councils and continues to advocate for Indigenous literature and writers globally, work which has taken her from the Banff, Alberta to Gujurat, India. Cherie works closely with Elder storytellers in the community to carry forward protocols, histories and the stories themselves.

Cherie currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, where she coordinates the annual Indigenous Writers’ Gathering and is building a national Indigenous literary organization. Her next work of literary fiction, Empire of Wild, will be published with Random House Canada and William Morrow in the US, Fall 2019. Her next YA book is forthcoming in Spring 2020 with Penguin Books.

Jennifer Foerster

Jennifer Elise Foerster

Jennifer Elise Foerster received her PhD in English and Literary Arts from the University of Denver, her MFA from the Vermont College of the Fine Arts and her BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Writing Residency Fellowship, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford. In addition to teaching in the IAIA MFA program, which she served for one year as Interim Director, Jennifer teaches for the Rainier Writing Workshop. She also co-directs, with the poet, Joy Harjo, an arts mentorship program for Mvskoke youth in Oklahoma, and is a Project Director with the non-profit organization InnerCHANGE WORKS. She is the author of two books of poetry, Leaving Tulsa (2013) and Bright Raft in the Afterweather (2018), both published by the University of Arizona Press. Foerster is of German, Dutch, and Mvskoke descent, is a member of the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, and lives in San Francisco.

Santee Frazier

Santee Frazier

Santee Frazier

Santee Frazier is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. He received his BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and his MFA from Syracuse University. He has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, The School for Advanced Research, and The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Frazier’s poems have appeared in Ontario Review, American Poet, and Prairie Schooner, among others. The author of Dark Thirty, University of Arizona Press, 2009, Frazier’s second collection of poems Aurum is forthcoming from the University of Arizona Press in Fall 2019.

Sydney Freeland

Sydney Freeland

Sydney Freeland

Sydney Freeland (Diné) is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker. Her debut feature film, Drunktown’s Finest, premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win a number of awards, including the Grand Jury Prize and HBO Outstanding First Feature awards at LA Outfest 2014, as well as a GLAAD Media Award nomination for Outstanding Feature. In 2016, she directed the web series Her Story, which was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Short Form Drama. Sydney is also a recipient of the 2015 Fox Global Director’s Initiative, 2015 Sundance Women’s Fellowship, 2015 Ford Fellowship, 2014 Time Warner Fellowship, and a 2004 Fulbright Scholarship. She was selected to participate in both the 2010 Sundance Screenwriting and Directing Labs and the 2009 Sundance Native Lab. Upcoming projects include the Netflix original film Deidra and Laney Rob a Train, which is due for release in 2017. Sydney currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

Geoff Harris

Geoff Harris

Geoff Harris

Before becoming a professional TV writer and teacher, Geoff Harris worked as Vice-President of Story and Writer Development at NBC, where he oversaw the Story Department and developed primetime TV shows in all formats, from comedies and dramas to movies and mini-series. In addition, he discovered and placed talented new writers from around the U.S. As a writer, Geoff creates and develops TV shows and has pitched and sold his series to various production companies and networks. He also uses his storytelling talent and Industry experience to mentor the next generation of writers. He runs intensive, story-incubation labs that prepare diverse writers for the rigors of working on a TV series. Under his tutelage, more than 40 writers have been staffed on series across all platforms—network, cable, premium cable, and streaming. Geoff holds two Master’s degrees, one from Columbia University and the other from University of Notre Dame, and an undergraduate degree from St. Johns College.

Brandon Hobson

Brandon Hobson

Brandon Hobson is the author of Where the Dead Sit Talking, a winner of the Reading the West Book Award and finalist for the 2018 National Book Award. His other books include Deep Ellum and Desolation of Avenues Untold. He has won a Pushcart Prize, and his stories and essays have appeared in such places as Conjunctions, The Believer, The Paris Review Daily, NOON, Publisher’s Weekly, and elsewhere. In addition to mentoring in the MFA program, Brandon is beginning in the Fall 2019 as Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at New Mexico State University. He holds a PhD from Oklahoma State University and is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

Pam Houston

Pam Houston

Pam Houston

Pam Houston is the author of the memoir, Deep Creek: Finding Hope In The High Country, as well as two novels, Contents May Have Shifted and Sight Hound, two collections of short stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat, and a collection of essays, A Little More About Me, all published by W.W. Norton.  Her stories have been selected for volumes of The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize, Best American Travel Writing, and Best American Short Stories of the Century among other anthologies. She is the winner of the Western States Book Award, the WILLA Award for contemporary fiction, the Evil Companions Literary Award and several teaching awards.  She teaches in the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, is Professor of English at UC Davis, and co-founder and creative director of the literary nonprofit Writing By Writers, which puts on between seven and ten writers gatherings per year in places as diverse as Boulder, Colorado, Tomales Bay, California and Chamonix, France. She lives at 9,000 feet above sea level on a 120-acre homestead near the headwaters of the Rio Grande where she raises horses, donkeys, Icelandic Sheep and Irish Wolfhounds. She learned everything she knows about being a teacher and much about what she knows about being a human being from her years at Denison, and from the professors in the English department in particular.  Her father always said, “Pam, one of these days you are going to realize you spend your whole life lying in the gutter with somebody’s foot on your neck.”  And then she went to Dension and her professors said, “You can do anything you want with your life as long as you work hard and keep the greater good in mind.”  Needless to say it was a turning point, and so far the foot on her neck has never materialized.

Toni Jensen

Toni Jensen

Toni Jensen

Toni Jensen is the author of a short story collection, From the Hilltop, and a memoir-in-essays about gun violence, Carry, forthcoming from Ballantine. She is the recipient of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction and the Gary Wilson Short Fiction Award. Her essays and stories have been published in journals such as Orion, Catapult, and Ecotone. She teaches in the Programs in Creative Writing and Translation at the University of Arkansas and in the low residency MFA Program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is Métis.

Kristiana Kahakauwila

Kristiana Kahakauwila

Kristiana Kahakauwila

Kristiana Kahakauwila is a hapa writer of kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiian), German, and Norwegian descent. Her first book, This is Paradise: Stories (Hogarth, 2013), takes as its heart the people and landscapes of contemporary Hawai`i. She earned a BA in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Michigan. A former Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, Kristiana currently lives in Bellingham, WA, where she is an Associate Professor at Western Washington University. Recent work has appeared in RED INK, Kartika Review, Mistake House Magazine, and GEO Magazine. She is currently at work on a historical novel set on the island of Maui.

Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones (Blackfeet) is the author of sixteen novels and six story collections, and, so far, one comic book. Jones has been an NEA recipient, has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction and the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, has won a few This is Horror Awards, and he’s been a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award and the Shirley Jackson Award a few times each. He’s also made Bloody Disgusting’s Top Ten Horror Novels. Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Joan Naviyuk Kane

Joan Naviyuk Kane

Joan Naviyuk Kane’s books and chapbooks of prose and poetry include The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife (2009), Hyperboreal (2013), The Straits (2015), Milk Black Carbon (2017), A Few Lines in the Manifest (2018), and Sublingual (2018). She is a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow, has won a Whiting Writer’s Award, the Donald Hall Prize in Poetry, the USA Projects Creative Vision Award, an American Book Award, the Alaska Literary Award, and fellowships from the Rasmuson Foundation, Alaska State Council on the Arts, Alaska Arts and Cultures Foundation, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, the School for Advanced Research, and the Aninstantia Foundation. Kane was a Harvard National Scholar, and the recipient of a graduate Writing Fellowship from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Iñupiat with family from King Island and Mary’s Igloo, she raises her children as a single mother in Anchorage, Alaska.

Chip Livingston

Chip Livingston

Chip Livingston

Chip Livingston is the mixed-blood Creek author of four books: two collections of poetry, Crow-Blue, Crow-Black (2012) and Museum of False Starts (2010); a collection of short stories and creative nonfiction, Naming Ceremony (2014); and a novel, Owls Don’t Have to Mean Death (2017). His writing has received awards from Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, and the AABB Foundation. Chip’s writing has appeared in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, South Dakota Review, Cincinnati Review, and on the Academy of American Poets’ and Poetry Foundation’s websites. He has taught at the University of Colorado, University of the Virgin Islands, Brooklyn College, and Regis University.

Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange was born and raised in Oakland, California. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts. His first novel, There There (Alfred A. Knopf 2018) received the 2019 Pen-Hemingway Award for “Distinguished” new novel, the John Leonard Prize-National Book Critics Circle Award, and was also recognized as one of the 10 Best Books of 2018 by The New York Times.

Derek Palacio

Derek Palacio

Derek Palacio

Derek Palacio received his MFA in Creative Writing from Ohio State University. His short story Sugarcane appeared in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013, and his novella, How to Shake the Other Man, was published by Nouvella Books. His debut novel, The Mortifications, was published in 2016 by Tim Duggan Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group. He is the co-director, with Claire Vaye Watkins, of the Mojave School, a free creative writing workshop for teenagers in rural Nevada. He lives and teaches in Ann Arbor, MI.

Migizi Pensoneau

Migizi Pensoneau

Migizi Pensoneau

Migizi Pensoneau was born and raised in Minnesota, and attended Wesleyan University. Pensoneau has worked for several Hollywood studios and independent companies as a writer and a producer for film and television. He is the recipient of awards, commissions, fellowships, and grants from ABC/Disney, The Institute of American Indian Arts, the Sundance Institute, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, among others. Migizi has published several pieces on the interaction of American Indians and popular culture. He recently received his MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM, and is a co-founder and writer for the popular comic group the 1491s.

Brooke Swaney Pepion

Brooke Swaney Pepion (Blackfeet Tribal Member & Salish Descendent) is a 2003 Stanford graduate. She went on to obtain her MFA from NYU.  A 2013 Native Arts and Cultures Fellow, a 2014 Sundance Native Lab Fellow and a Time Warner Fellow, her work has screened at Sundance, ImagineNative, the Autry and the Museum of Modern Art amongst others.  She is versed in both short and long-form content creation.

Eden Robinson

Eden Robinson

Eden Robinson

Eden Robinson is a Haisla/Heiltsuk author from Kitamaat Village, a reserve on the northwest coast of British Columbia. She is the author of the novels Monkey Beach, Blood Sports and the upcoming Son of a Trickster; Sasquatch at Home: Traditional Protocols & Modern Storytelling, which originated as a Henry Kreisel Lecture at the Canadian Literature Centre in Edmonton; and the short story collection Traplines. Traplines won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1998. Monkey Beach won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize in 2001, was long-listed for Dublin IMPAC Award, and shortlisted for both The Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction in 2000. One of the stories from Traplines, “Queen of the North,” was also published in The Penguin Anthology of Stories by Canadian Women. She was honored for her contributions to Canadian literature with the 2016 Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award.

Cedar Sigo

Cedar Sigo

Cedar Sigo was raised on the Suquamish Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. He studied at The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute. Sigo is the author of Royals (Wave Books, 2017), Language Arts (Wave Books, 2014), and Stranger in Town (City Lights, 2010). He is also the editor of There You Are: Interviews, Journals, and Ephemera, on Joanne Kyger. Of his work, Ron Silliman writes, “Cedar Sigo is a Frank O’Hara for the 21st century: witty, erudite, serious, with a terrific ear and eye for the minutest details, at home in the world of the arts.” He has taught at St. Mary’s College and Naropa University. He lived in San Francisco, California for many years and now lives in Lofall, Washington.

James Thomas Stevens

James Thomas Stevens

James Thomas Stevens

James Thomas Stevens is an Associate Professor in the BFA Creative Writing Program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. A member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation in upstate New York, Stevens grew up between three reservations, the two where his grandparents came from, Akwesasne Territory and Six Nations Reserve, and the one where they settled, the Tuscarora Nation. Stevens earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University. He has taught at Haskell Indian Nations University and the State University of New York at Fredonia. Stevens has published seven books of poetry, including Combing the Snakes from His Hair, for which he was awarded a 2000 Whiting Writer’s Award, A Bridge Dead in the Water, Mohawk/Samoa: Transmigrations (with Caroline Sinavaiana), Bulle/Chimere, and Tokinish. His work has been anthologized in works such as Genocide of the Mind, Visit Teepee Town, and Sovereign Bones.

David Treuer

David Treuer (Ojibwe) is from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, two Minnesota Book Awards, and fellowships from the NEH, Bush Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He divides his time between his home on the Leech Lake Reservation and Los Angeles, where he is a Professor of English at USC. The son of Robert Treuer, an Austrian Jew and Holocaust survivor and Margaret Seelye Treuer, a tribal court judge, David Treuer grew up on Leech Lake Reservation. After graduating from high school he attended Princeton University where he wrote two senior theses—one in anthropology and one in creative writing—and where he worked with Toni Morrison, Paul Muldoon, and Joanna Scott. Treuer graduated in 1992 and published his first novel, Little, in 1995. He received his PhD in anthropology and published his second novel, The Hiawatha, in 1999. His third novel The Translation of Dr Apelles and a book of criticism, Native American Fiction; A User’s Manual appeared in 2006. The Translation of Dr Apelles was named a Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post, Time Out, and City Pages. He published his first major work of nonfiction, Rez Life, in 2012. His next novel, Prudence, was published by Riverhead Books in 2015. His essays and stories have appeared in Granta, Harper’s, Esquire, TriQuarterly, The Washington Post, Lucky Peach, The New York Times, The LA Times, Orion, and Slate.com. His most recent book of nonfiction, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, (2019), is a New York Times Bestseller.

Ken White

Ken White

Ken White is a poet and screenwriter. He co-wrote and and co-produced the feature film Winter in the Blood, co-directed and co-wrote the short film Universal VIP, as well as directed and co-wrote the short film The Conservationist, currently in development as a feature, which White will direct. He has written or co-written ten feature scripts, including Blight, and The WeremanThe Sorrows, and Cullen’s Hound, as well as new scripts, The Orpheum CircuitThe Conservationist, and a television pilot, LIT, with James Meetze. White is the author of three books of poetry, EidolonThe Getty Fiend, as well as Middlemost Constantine (forthcoming from Spork). His work has appeared in The Boston ReviewThe Tusculum ReviewColumbia: A Journal of Literature and ArtOmniverseManor House QuarterlyVersalSporkHorsethief, and Poets.org, among others. White teaches screenwriting in the IAIA Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing program and joins the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the fall of 2019.

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