Of all the features on our website that we get to share with the Lesley MFA community, our End-of-Year Celebration and Gift Guide is our favorite. Not only do we get the opportunity to show the cumulative yearly efforts of our alums and mentors from every genre, but we know that this is only a portion of a much bigger body of work. And truly, doesn’t that speak to our collective power as writers? Because the list we have compiled for you is already so impressive, and we know there is so much more beyond it. So read on, find out what your fellow writers have been up to in 2023, support some old friends, and discover some new reading loves to carry you into 2024!


Writing Successes

We’ve had so many successes to celebrate this year, all of which can be found in our Publication News and Announcements. Check out a few of the highlights below!

Emily Inouye Huey (WFYP, June 2011) received the Golden Kite Award for her YA novel Beneath the Wide Silk Sky, an “intimate portrait of the lead-up to Japanese incarceration, racism on the World War II homefront, and the relationship between patriotism and protest in this stunningly lyrical debut. It was also awarded the 2023 Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature

Enzo Silon Surin’s (Poetry, 2012) second poetry collection American Scapegoat was included in the reading list by the Academy of American Poets for National Poetry Month: “This timely collection looks to the past and the future and fosters a deeply essential conversation about what it means to be Black and American in a democracy at war with itself and its humanity.” He was also the Guest Poetry Editor for the Spring 2023 issue of Solstice: a Magazine of Diverse Voices.

Katherine Karch (WFYP, June 2018) has had a very fruitful year, publishing four stories in different literary magazines. In, “A Wielder Does Not Know Regret,” (Metaphorosis. August, 2023) a woman with the power to shape reality is tested by the Guild who trained her. “Between the Mountain and the Sea” (MetaStellar. August, 2023) is a nordic-inspired flash fiction tale of parental love and sacrifice in a world filled with cold and uncaring Gods. “The Colony Ship’s Companion” (Radon Journal. September, 2023) reveal that a lonely AI is a terrible thing. And “The Portal in Andrea’s Dryer” (Uncharted Magazine. November, 2023) tells the tale of a crew of gal friends coming together to unlock the mysteries of a portal that Richard Dreyfus has accidentally discovered in the back of Andrea’s dryer!

Erin Cecilia Thomas (Fiction, January 2023) had two short stories out this year: “A Rapture Coming,” featured in the Spring 2023 issue of Arts & Letters, and “The Shed,” forthcoming in the 2023 Winter issue of Alaska Quarterly Review.

Amy Mevorach‘s (Nonfiction, January 2023) personal essay, “A Pearl, a Thumb, a Fish,” was published in Boulevard Magazine. It’s about her grandfather, about loss, and about a lesson she learned underwater: if you don’t know which way is up, look for the light.

Julia Leef‘s (Fiction, June 2018) flash story about the intersection of technology and the afterlife, “Don’t Leave the Grim Reaper on Read,” was published in Wyldblood Press.

Lisa Pegram (Poetry, June 2012) was on the steering committee for the 2023 St. Martin Book Fair in June and secured features for five U.S. authors to attend, including Lesley’s own Enzo Silon Surin & Melanie Henderson. Her food essay, “Breakfast in Mexico City” was also recently published in the Reclamation Exhibit cookbook and catalog printed by the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Hurley Winkler (Fiction, January 2017) interviewed Cindy House (Fiction, June 2017) in The Creative Independent: “On Making Honest Conversation About Yourself.” They talked about Cindy’s new book Mother Noise: a Memoir and navigating the ethics of writing about family members (including children), the unique benefits of uncovering the darker sides of ourselves in our work, and nurturing relationships with mentors.

Nancy Temple‘s (Writing for Stage and Screen, June 2021) short story, “Riverbend Blue,” about the consequences of a woman’s discovery of her husband’s infidelity, was published in issue 35 of riverSedge, the annual literary journal of the U of TX Rio Grande.

Karin Cecile Davidson’s (Fiction, June 2009) story collection The Geography of First Kisses was published by Kallisto Gaia Press, and was the winner of the 2022 Acacia Fiction Prize. In these stories, “one finds portrayals of quiet elegance reminiscent of early-20th-century art films. The fourteen ethereal stories are tethered to the bays and backwaters of southern Louisiana, the fields of Iowa and Oklahoma, the pine woods of Florida, places where girls and women seek love and belonging, and instead discover relationships as complicated, bewildering, even sorrowful.” Karin was interviewed about the collection in BloomNewfound, and Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb. An excerpt from one of her stories appears in Vol 1. Brooklyn.

Katie DeBonville (Nonfiction, January 2023) had an essay “Bridges” in the March 2023 issue of Quibble.

Aqueela C. Britt (Fiction, June 2018) had an excerpt from her YA novel-in-progress, Everything Falls Apart in the End, included in the 2022 edition of Emerge: Lambda Literary Fellows Anthology.

Eileen Cleary (Poetry, June 2016) was interviewed in Tupelo Quarterly about her poetry collection 2 A.M. with Keats.

Rex Arrasmith’s (Poetry, June 2020) poem “Diamond Three Dial” was a finalist in the National Baseball Poetry Contest. A video of him reading his poem can be found here.

Kate Fussner’s (WFYP, June 2021) middle-grade novel-in-verse The Song of Us was listed in Lambda Literary as one of May’s Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ BooksThe Song of Us was also listed in Rainbow Reads New Release Round-Up: Children’s Books with LGBTQIA+ Representation Publishing in May. Kate also has an author interview on Nonbinary Knight Reads and Reviews.

Candice Iloh’s (WFYP, June 2017) new YA novel, Salt the Water, was featured in the Publishers Weekly feature U.S. Book Show 2023: Upcoming Big BooksSalt the Water is available from Penguin Random House. Candice also had a poem “everyone knows what happened” in Split This Rock.

Saraciea J. Fennell (WFYP, January 2020) co-edited The Black Girl Survives In This One, a YA anthology of horror stories centering Black girls who battle monsters, both human and supernatural, and who survive to the end. The collection is available from Macmillan.

Benjamin Roesch (Fiction, June 2016) won the Next Generation Indie Book Award for Young New Adult Fiction for his debut YA novel Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze.

Thato Mwosa (WSS, June 2017) had two of her short films, Stay Here With Me and Something to Tell You, taken as official selections for the 2023 Roxbury International Film Festival.

Michael Mercurio (Poetry, January 2017) was the lead author of a chapter in “The Foundation of and Future Directions for JEDI [Justice, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion] @ University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries” in IGI Global.

Boston Gordon (Poetry, January 2015) has been curating the “You Can’t Kill a Poet” reading series, bringing together queer and trans writers in the Philadelphia area for nine years. The series was recently named “Best Literary Event” in Philadelphia Magazine.

Jasmine Warga’s (WFYP, June 2013) middle grade novel A Rover’s Story was selected for inclusion in Global Read Aloud Choices 2023.

Stephanie Willing (WFYP, June 2017) was the winner of the Best Audiobook Performance in Fiction at the 2023 One Voice Awards. She also has an article “5 Tips for Writing Middle-Grade Fiction” in Career Authors. She is also featured in a profile in Jungle Red Writers.

Bonita Lee Penn’s (Poetry, January 2015) poem “something about Miles” was a finalist in the Summer 2023 issue of Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices.

Elizabeth Shick (Fiction, January 2019) discussed her novel The Golden Land in an interview on the GSMC Book Review Podcast.

Greg Berman‘s (WSS, June 2018) new play Bartow had a premiere staged reading in Astoria, Oregon. The play centers on the characters of the late artist Rick Bartow and a young med student who, according to a synopsis of the play, “attempt their own form of therapy by entering Bartow’s art as expressions of prior traumas, lost Indigenous heritage, abstract animal paintings, sculptures, masks, and lost songs.” 

Rose Viña’s (WFYP, January 2016) picture book Alicia Alonso Dances On was included in the list “60 Empowering Books Starring Latina Mighty Girls” in A Mighty Girl.com.

Jody Hobbs Hesler’s (Fiction, June 2017) short story collection What Makes You Think You’re Supposed to Feel Better? and Nada Samih-Rotondo’s (Fiction, June, 2017) memoir All Water Has Perfect Memory were both listed in “The 15 Must-Read Small Press Books of Fall” in Electric Lit.

Amber Wong (Nonfiction, January 2014) had an essay “A Toxic Mess: Seattle’s Gas Works Park and the Politics of Environmental Cleanup” in Terrain.org.

Amy Grier (Nonfiction, January 2017) had a review in The Hooghly Review of MFA faculty Steven Cramer’s poetry collection Departures From Rilke.

Natalie Padilla Young’s (Poetry, January 2009) poetry collection All of This Was Once Under Water is reviewed by Joyce Peseroff.

Holiday Gift Guide

If you need a gift for the holidays, look no further than the works from alums and mentors below, and check out our Bookstore for even more!

The Song of Us by Kate Fussner

Katherine Tegen Books; May 30, 2023

“In this gorgeous tale, Fussner delivers what feels like…a song. Of us. Of anyone who has ever been in love. Or anyone transformed by it. An impressive debut!” — Jason Reynolds, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Sensitive by Sara Levine

Carolrhoda Books; October 3, 2023

“The emotionally resonant text and striking illustrations capture the healing one can find in art and creativity. The text seems best suited for elementary-aged children, though the powerful message resounds for all ages.” — The Horn Book Magazine

West of the Sea by Stephanie Willing

Penguin Young Readers Group; August 15, 2023

“There’s a new cryptid in town! This wildly imaginative exploration of a troubled, loving family with a mysterious ancestry will have you rooting for anyone who has ever had to hide their true selves.” — Tracey Baptiste

The Blood of Seven Queens: Prologue by E. Christopher Clark

Clarkwoods; December 2023

Join the mischievous Cheshire Cat, the world’s worst scarecrow, and the gifted Granny Goose for an adventure in the magical, post-apocalyptic paradise called Eden.

What Makes You Think You’re Supposed to Feel Better by Jody Hobbs Hesler

Cornerstone Press; October 15, 2023

“Hobbs Hesler writes stories that are disarming in their simplicity yet devastating in their tenderness. Her characters are everyday folk, and yet as they traverse their ostensibly average lives, in average neighbourhoods, Hobbs Hesler manages to tease out the moral conflicts which sit at the heart of what it means to be a human in relationship with another human. It’s difficult to say who’s the hero and who’s the anti-hero, in these stories. All we know is that each character loves and wants and aches for a connection which is quite often elusive. In this way, Hobbs Hesler has crafted such a facsimile of real life that you will shed real tears and, after the last page, look at your neighbours with a softened gaze.” — Celeste Mohammed, author of Pleasantview

My Year at the Good Bean Café by Gene Luetkemeyer

Laughing Buddha Books; May 1, 2023

“An intense, beautiful, often dark but wonderful read. It has everything: love, hate, drugs, altered states, joy and pain.” — Ginna BB Gordon, author of Bear Me Away to a Better World

All Water Has Perfect Memory: A Memoir by Nada Samih-Rotondo

Jaded Ibis Press; September 2023

“Nada Samih-Rotondo’s memoir is a dazzling, necessary act of storytelling. Through generations of memory, myth, science, history, and her own coming-of-age, this lyrical work is an act of immense love and resistance. We become witnesses, not only to Palestine’s complex, violent occupation and the cruel displacement of millions, but we learn the profound beauty of the land, the scents, water, and the everyday moments, imprinted forever on foremothers. Even in their struggle to be free of forces beyond their control, they can never forget all they’ve survived, and after reading this book, neither will we.” — Tanaïs, author of In Sensorium: Notes for My People

The Red Shoes: A Phantasmagoric Ballet on Paper by Shari Caplan

Lambhouse Books; September 2023

“A feminine rhapsody, bound in satin ribbon; a proscenium of yearning—Shari Caplan’s fevered retelling of The Red Shoes dances in the mind (and heart and lungs and feet) long after the final words have pirouetted across the page, bright and unapologetic as a flame.” — GennaRose Nethercott, author of The Lumberjack’s Dove, Thistlefoot, & Fifty Beasts to Break Your Heart.

The Palace of Unbearable Feeling by Anne Riesenberg

Lily Poetry Review; February 1, 2023

“Anne Riesenberg’s forays into the concrete have produced the amazing feast that is this book. These poems shimmer in their repetitions and refusal to be consumed conventionally, asking to be perceived as much as read. To meet them requires both a stepping back and a zooming in, a noticing of the relationship of shape and meaning in aesthetic expression. I love work this engaging, visually pleasing, and beautiful.” — Danielle Legros Georges, author of The Dear Remote Nearness of You

Don’t forget about these other works published in 2023!

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