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 G. Belin is a writer, multi-media artist, and citizen of the Navajo Nation. She lives on the Colorado side of the four corners. She has been described as a second-generation off-reservation Native American, a by-product of the U.S. federal Indian policies of termination and relocation. Both of her parents were taken off the Navajo reservation when they were teens to a federally run Indian boarding school in Riverside, CA. There they received the equivalency of an 8th grade education and some basic trade skills. As a result, she was raised in the Los Angeles area where she learned to transplant and strengthen her Diné worldview with the help of her parents and the small Indian community that remains there. She is grateful for those courageous relocatees who survived and adapted; their collective scar tissue has eased her path in life.

Belin’s art and writing reflect the historical trauma from those policies as well as the philosophy of Saah Naagháí Bik’eh Hózho, the worldview of the Navajo people. Her writing is widely anthologized and her poetry examines identity politics, checkerboard land status, and the interplay of words (abstraction) and image (realism). In 2000, she was awarded an American Book Award for her first book of poetry, From the Belly of My Beauty. Her most recent poetry collection is Of Catrography: Poems. She holds degrees from Antioch University, the Institute of American Indian Arts, and the University of California at Berkeley.

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 and Apprenticed to Justice. 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 2015–2016, is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. An enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe who grew up on White Earth Reservation, she earned her graduate degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She is 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, and her photographs, picto-poems, and ekphrastic poetry have been featured in various venues including the exhibits “Ancient Light” and “Visualizing Sovereignty.” A bi-lingual collection of her poetry, Résister en dansee/Dancing Resistance will be published in France in 2020.

Abigail Chabitnoy

Abigail Chabitnoy

Abigail Chabitnoy is the author of How to Dress a Fish, winner of the 2020 Colorado Book Award for Poetry and shortlisted in the international category of the 2020 Griffin Prize for Poetry. She was a 2016 Peripheral Poets fellow and her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Gulf Coast, LitHub, and Red Ink, among others. Most recently, she was the recipient of the Witter Bynner Funded Native Poet Residency at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, CO, and has guest-lectured at Colorado State University and Denver University. She is a Koniag descendant and member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak.

Cynthia Cruz

Cynthia Cruz

Cynthia Cruz

Cynthia Cruz is the author of six collections of poems, Guidebooks for the Dead, Dregs, How the End Begins, Wunderkammer, The Glimmering Room, and Ruin. She is also the author of Disquieting: Essays on Silence, a collection of critical essays exploring the concept of silence as a form of resistance. The Melancholia of Class, a collection of critical essays about melancholia and the working class, is forthcoming from Repeater Books in 2021. Cruz edits the interdisciplinary journal Schlag Magazine.

Ford

Kelli Jo Ford

Kelli Jo Ford

Kelli Jo Ford is the author of the novel, Crooked Hallelujah, and the recipient of the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize, a National Artist Fellowship by the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, the Dobie Paisano Fellowship, and the Everett Southwest Literary Award. In 2016, she served as Indigenous Writer-in-Residence at the School for Advanced Research. Her fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Missouri Review, among other places. She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

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

Prior to 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 prime-time 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, Harris 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 45 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.

Danielle Geller

Danielle Geller

Danielle Geller

Danielle Geller is a writer of personal essays and memoir and the author of Dog Flowers, her first book. She received her MFA in Creative Writing for Nonfiction at the University of Arizona, and a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award in 2016. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Brevity, and Arizona Highways, and has been anthologized in This Is the Place. She lives with her husband and two cats in British Columbia, where she teaches creative writing at the University of Victoria. She is a member of the Navajo Nation, born to the Tsi’naajinii, born for the Bilagáana.

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. In addition to teaching in the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Houston 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. A book of letters between Pam and environmental activist Amy Irvine will be published by Torrey House Press in October of 2020.

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.

Joan Naviyuk Kane

Joan Naviyuk Kane

Joan Naviyuk Kane is Inupiaq with family from King Island (Ugiuvak) and Mary’s Igloo, Alaska. Her publications include the essay collection A Few Lines in the Manifest, and poetry books and chapbooks The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, Hyperboreal, The Straits, Milk Black Carbon, Sublingual, and Another Bright Departure. She has been the recipient of the Whiting Writer’s Award, the Donald Hall Prize in Poetry, the American Book Award, the Alaska Literary Award, the United States Artists Foundation Creative Vision Award, a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, and fellowships and residencies from the Rasmuson Foundation, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, the School for Advanced Research, the Aninstantia Foundation, the Hermitage Artist Retreat, Lannan Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She has been a finalist for the PEN USA Literary Award, the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Prize, and the Dorset Prize. She raises her sons as a single mother in Cambridge and is creative nonfiction and poetry faculty in the graduate creative writing program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico and in the department of Race, Colonialism and Diaspora at Tufts University. Her short stories, essays, and poems have recently appeared in Before The Usual Time, Yale Review, and Ecotone.

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.

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.

Cedar Sigo

Cedar Sigo

Cedar Sigo was raised on the Suquamish Reservation in the Pacific Northwest and studied at The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. He is the editor of There You Are: Interviews, Journals, and Ephemera, on Joanne Kyger, and author of eight books and pamphlets of poetry, including Royals, Language Arts, Stranger in Town, Expensive Magic, and two editions of Selected Writings. He was the Bagley-Wright lecturer for poetry in 2019 and is currently a mentor in the MFA program at The Institute of American Indian Arts. He 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

New York Times best-selling author David Treuer is an Ojibwe Indian from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He is the author of seven books–fiction, nonfiction, and literary essays. His most recent book is The Heartbeat Of Wounded Knee, finalist for the National Book Award, and Minnesota and Midland Authors Book Award Winner. He is a Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellow. He divides his time between his home on the Leech Lake Reservation and Los Angeles, where he is a Professor of English at USC.

Mentors on Leave

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, Foerster teaches for the Rainier Writing Workshop. She also co-directs, with the poet, Joy Harjo, an arts mentorship program for Mvskoke youth in Oklahoma, serves as the Literary Assistant to the U.S. Poet Laureate, and is a Project Director with the non-profit organization InnerCHANGE WORKS. She is the author of two books of poetry, Leaving Tulsa and Bright Raft in the Afterweather. Foerster is of German, Dutch, and Mvskoke descent, is a member of the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, and lives in San Francisco.

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.

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.

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