Literary Arts News, Youth Programs

Introducing the 2020-2021 WITS Writers Roster

Now more than ever, creative writing offers students an opportunity to express themselves and share their stories. Writers in the Schools (WITS) Writers guide students through creative writing residencies in high school classrooms and virtually. WITS Writers and Apprentices will be teaching 28 residencies at eight high schools in Portland Public Schools and East County schools this fall and spring.

We are so excited to introduce the 2020-2021 WITS Writers and 2020-2021 WITS Apprentices.


2020-21 WITS Writers

Alex Behr

Alex Behr is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. After receiving an MFA in creative writing from Portland State, she’s taught fiction and creative nonfiction at Portland high schools through Writers in the Schools residencies. Her writing has appeared in many online and print publications, including Bitch, Mutha, Propeller, Nailed, Salon, and Tin House. Her debut story collection, Planet Grim, was published in October 2017 (7.13 Books).

Amy Minato is the author of a memoir Siesta Lane, (Skyhorse Press, 2009) and two poetry collections Hermit Thrush (Inkwater Press, 2016) and The Wider Lens (Ice River Press, 2004). Amy has been a recipient of both a Literary Arts Fellowship for her poetry and a Walden Residency for her prose. She teaches writing through Literary Arts, Multnomah Art Center, Fishtrap and at Breitenbush Retreat Center as well as a community service course in sustainable living at Portland State University. She holds both an MFA in Creative Writing and an MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon.

april joseph is a poet from East L.A., California, who creates mixed media performance art by employing movement and music to mourning songs. Her performance art is informed by her study of ancestral trauma, healing through Buddhist-psychology, musical composition, Contemplative Dance Practice, evolutionary astrology, and working at a mortuary in Oregon. april earned her MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University and a BA in Literatures of the World from the University of California, San Diego. april’s chapbooks include Excerpts from: Rose Body Fell and First Call Home. Her work has appeared in TAYO, Gesture, Galatea Resurrects, Bombay Gin, The Lune, and can be found at bodyfulspace.com.

Brian Benson is the author of Going Somewhere (Plume, 2014), and co-author, with Richard Brown, of This Is Not For You: An Activist’s Journey of Resistance and Resilience (OSU Press, March 2021). In addition to his work with Literary Arts, Brian teaches at the Attic Institute and facilitates free Write Around Portland workshops in schools, treatment centers and affordable housing. His short nonfiction has been published in EntropyThe Sun and Off Assignment. He is at work on his third book, a novel.

Bruce Poinsette is a writer and community organizer whose work is primarily based in the Portland Metro Area. A former reporter for the Skanner News Group, his work has also appeared in the The Oregonian, Street RootsAround the O, and We Out Here Magazine, as well as projects such as the Mercatus Collective and the Urban League of Portland’s State of Black Oregon 2015. In addition to his professional writing work, Poinsette also serves as the Media Action Team Leader for Respond to Racism LO, a grassroots anti-racism organization in his hometown of Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Cari Luna is the author of The Revolution of Every Day, which won the Oregon Book Award for Fiction. A fellow of Yaddo and Ragdale, her writing has appeared in GuernicaSalonJacobin, Electric Literature, CatapultThe Rumpus, PANK, and elsewhere.

Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, Carolina Gómez-Montoya moves between various languages, disciplines and mediums. She currently teaches at Portland State University and in the Language & Thinking Program at Bard College. Carolina’s writing appears in Literal: Latin American Voices/Voces Latinoamericanas¡Basta! Mujeres colombianas contra la violencia de género (Bogotá: Debate escrito, 2015) and in Oregon Humanities magazine. Carolina holds an MA and PhD in Latin American and Peninsular Literature from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Damien Miles-Paulson teaches slow dancing, writes and still dreams of an overseas basketball career. He is a founding member of the now disbanded experimental German noise band, Flu Shot.  His stories, poems and sounds can be found at The Whole Beast RagThe Washington Square ReviewtheNewerYork, Alice Blue ReviewMarco Polo Arts MagEveryday GeniusPast-TenAxolotl and The Alarmist.  He now walks the world with an MFA in Creative Writing from UCR in hand.

David Ciminello is a Portland-based writer and educator. His fiction has appeared in the Lambda Literary Award-winning anthology Portland Queer: Tales of the Rose CityUnderwater New YorkLuminaNailed Magazine, and in the podcast series Storytellers Telling Stories.  As a professional screenwriter, David has developed projects with Aaron Spelling Productions, All Girl Productions, Sony Pictures, HBO, and Twentieth Century Fox. His original screenplay, Bruno, appears on DVD as The Dress Code.

Dey Rivers is a mixed-media visual artist, poet and storyteller based in Portland Oregon on Cowlitz and Clackamas Native lands. After earning a degree in Fine Art in Pennsylvania they returned to the west coast as a teaching artist with local non-profits and museums. Dey is one of the featured writers in Oregon Writers of Color 2020 Spring Showcase through Ooligan Press. Their current creative writing examines relationships, nature, culture, and history from a Black, neuro-diverse, queer perspective. 

Ed Edmo is a Shoshone-Bannock poet, playwright, performer, traditional storyteller, tour guide and lecturer on Northwest tribal culture.  Ed offers guided tours to the She Who Watches petroglyphs on the Columbia Gorge, as well as to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in central Oregon’s high desert country.  He conducts workshops, traditional storytelling performances, dramatic monologues and lectures on issues such as cultural understanding and awareness, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental health.  Ed is a published short story writer, poet and playwright, and serves as a consultant to the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian.

Elisabeth Geier is a writer, editor, teacher, and enthusiast whose short stories and essays have appeared in publications such as Porter House Review, Okey-Panky, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Nanofiction, and The Toast. She’s taught writing and literature in public high schools, community colleges, youth correctional facilities, affordable housing communities, and elsewhere. Elisabeth has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Montana and lives in Portland with several pets. Read more at elisabethgeier.com.

Jennifer Perrine is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Again (Airlie Press, 2020). Perrine’s other books include No Confession, No Mass, winner of the Publishing Triangle Audre Lorde Award and the Prairie Schooner Book Prize; In the Human Zoo, which was selected for the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize; and The Body Is No Machine. A recipient of fellowships from Literary Arts and the Vermont Studio Center, Perrine lives in Portland.

Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, interdisciplinary artist, multi-award-winning poet, and author of several books. Place, space, and personal ancestry inform much of her work. She’s also the owner of an award-winning small business. MehtaFor is a writing services company that offers pro bono services to Native Americans and indigenous-serving non-profits. 

Her novel The Wrong Kind of Indian won gold at the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) and at the American Book Fest Best Book. Mehta’s Savagery won the Reader Literary Reviews 2020 award for “most innovative collection of poetry.” Selected Poems: 2000 – 2020 received the 2020 Birdy Prize from Meadowlark Books. Jessica has also received numerous fellowships in recent years, including the Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship at the Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington and the Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowship at The British Library in London. Jessica is a popular speaker and panelist, featured recently at events such as the US State Department’s National Poetry Month event, “Poets as Cultural Emissaries: A Conversation with Women Writers,” as well as the “Women’s Transatlantic Prison Activism Since 1960” symposium at Oxford University.

She has undertaken poetry residencies around the globe including at Hosking Houses Trust with an appointment at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and at the Crazy Horse Memorial and museum in South Dakota. Her work has been featured at galleries and exhibitions around the world, including IA&A Hillyer in Washington DC, The Emergency Gallery in Sweden, and Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico. Her doctoral research addresses the intersection of poetry and eating disorders. Learn more at www.jessicamehta.com.

John Sibley Williams is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another(Orison Poetry Prize, 2019), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, University of Nebraska Press, 2019), Summon (JuxtaProse Chapbook Prize, 2019), Disinheritance, and Controlled Hallucinations. A nineteen-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous literary awards, including the Wabash Prize for Poetry, Philip Booth Award, and Laux/Millar Prize. He edits The Inflectionist Review and works as a poetry editor, writing coach, workshop leader, and literary agent. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rivier University and an MA in Book Publishing from Portland State University. Visit him at www.johnsibleywilliams.com.

Katie Borak is a current instructor in the Community Education program at Portland Community College and a previous facilitator of writing workshops with Write Around Portland. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Portland State University and recently published the erasure poetry chapbook Range. Visit her at www.katieborak.com.

Laura Moulton is the founder of Street Books, a bicycle-powered mobile library that serves people who live outside in Portland, Oregon. She has taught writing in public schools, prisons, and teen shelters, and is an adjunct professor at Marylhurst University and Lewis & Clark College. Her social art practice projects have involved postal workers, immigrants, prisoners, and students. She earned an MFA from Eastern Washington University.

Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg is a cartoonist and teaching artist. She is a regular contributor The Nib, a nonfiction comics periodical, and her comics have been published in a variety of zines and anthologies. Currently, Lisa is at work on a YA graphic novel that combines her high school autobiography with the life and career of Sylvia Plath, forthcoming from Street Noise Books in 2021. In addition to her work with Literary Arts, Lisa teaches comics and zine making through Young Audiences, the Right Brain Initiative, and Comic Cave PDX.

Mark Pomeroy’s first novel, The Brightwood Stillness, was published by Oregon State University Press in 2014. He has received an Oregon Literary Fellowship for fiction, and his short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in Open Spaces, The Wordstock 10Portland MagazineThe Oregonian, NW Book Lovers, and What Teaching Means: Stories from America’s Classrooms. He holds an MA in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, where he was a Fellow in Teaching.

Matt Smith grew up in Iowa and Arizona. He earned his BA in English Literature from Arizona State University. He spent the subsequent four years after college in South Korea as an ESL teacher. His short fiction work centers on the intersections of race and identity. He is currently working on a collection of short stories focused what it means to be multi-racial in America. Matt was a 2017-18 WITS apprentice.

Meg E. Griffitts is a poet, educator, and freelance writer. She’s the author of the forthcoming collection— Hallucinating a Homestead, which was chosen by Traci Brimhall as the winner of the 2020 Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize. Her poem “When the Doctor Doesn’t Believe Your Pain” was a finalist in Inverted Syntax’s 2020 Sublingua Contest chosen by Dr. Khadijah Queen, and in 2018, her essay “Hyemation” was a runner-up for the Wabash Prize for Nonfiction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Missouri ReviewMediumBlack Warrior Review, Homology Lit, and others. She is currently working on her first full- length poetry collection and a memoir. She lives in Portland with her partner and many animals. Find more of her work at megegriffitts.com.  

Monty Mickelson is the author of the novel Purgatory (St. Martin’s Press), for which he received a Bush Foundation Individual Artist Fellowship. Mickelson’s short fiction has been published in LoonfeatherMinnesota Monthly magazine, and online at The Whistling Fire. His creative journalism and essays have been published online at Gently Read Literature and Salon. Two of his YA feature film scripts have been produced for cable television. Mickelson has an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside.

Rashmila Maiti holds a doctorate in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Originally from India, she is an independent scholar who lives in Oregon. She has taught writing and literature to undergraduates for seven years. She is excited to be a part of the WITS.  She is on the board of the Friends of the Multnomah County Library, a blogger for Feminist Book Club; and cohost of a podcast on books and reading, Reading Squad. When not writing about books or films, she volunteers as an editor and social media coordinator for various non-profit organizations. 

Valarie Pearce is a Portland-based writer, educator, and curriculum content developer. Having earned her M.Ed. from Concordia University, she has taught high school women’s studies and social sciences.  Valarie has written four children’s books: When Mommy Needs A Timeout, When Daddy Needs A Timeout, I Love Colors, and Little Dot.  Her work  appears in SMART’S Oregon Reads Aloud:  A Collection of 25 Children’s Stories by Oregon Authors and Illustrators. She is currently working on a YA novel centering a young girl, abandoned and troubled, who finds the miracles of love and compassion shine brightest in the darkest of nights. For more information about Valarie www.imarapublishing.com

2020-21 Apprentices

Fall Apprentice

CJ Wiggan is a Nebraskan writer and illustrator creating emotional artwork about gender, relationships, magic, nature, and hair. CJ relocated shortly after earning a double BA in English and Art from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD and now works in youth art programming in Portland. Some of CJ’s art can be found in Theories of HER: An Experimental Anthology, JUR(Y): The Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, and a little bit on this locked tumblr page: https://chanelheart.tumblr.com.

Spring Apprentice

Aliera Dulcinea Zeledon-Morasch is a Nicaraguan writer who was born and raised in Portland. Her work as an educator inspires her to honor her community through writing. Her creative non-fiction, prose poetry, and audio work explore family, ancestry, the forgotten, and the limits of language. She strives to use storytelling to understand movement and memory. Aliera completed an MFA in Writing at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and you can find her work in Oregon Humanities and The Felt print literary journal.

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