Program Staff

A teacher explaining a concept to their class during the Summer Residential Program

Teachers and counselors at the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio are chosen, with rare exceptions, from among the students and graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, founded in 1936, was the first graduate creative writing program in the United States and is still regarded as one of the finest. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop typically accepts 25 fiction writers and 25 poets every year from an application pool of over 1,500. Teachers and counselors for the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio are thus by default not only extraordinarily accomplished writers in the early stages of their careers, but have had the opportunity to acquire extensive teaching experience while studying at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, in many cases teaching creative writing to undergraduates. It is for their teaching experience, enthusiasm, and expertise that we hire them to work at the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. In short, the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio offers young, passionate, high school-age creative writers the opportunity to study with some of the finest writers and teachers in the country.

Current Staff

Alexia Arthurs
Alexia Arthurs is a writer and keeper of Persian cats--she has two so far, Cous Cous and Fable! She was raised in Jamaica and New York, which inspired the stories in her debut story collection, "How to Love a Jamaican." She has taught creative writing at the high school, college, and graduate levels. 

Micah Bateman
Micah Bateman is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was a Teaching-Writing Fellow and postgraduate Provost’s Fellow in poetry. He received the Poetry Society of America’s Lyric Poetry Award in 2013, and his poems appear in a chapbook, Polis, as well as in numerous anthologies and journals, including Boston Review, jubilat, and Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics. His criticism, nonfiction, and other prose are also published in Iowa Review, Kenyon Review Online, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and elsewhere. Presently he is a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is an Andrew W. Mellon Engaged Scholar Initiative Fellow and serves as the assistant director of the New Writers Project M.F.A. program in creative writing. He knows a lot about Walt Whitman, and American poetry more broadly, and would love to chat about those things and others. He has been a residential teaching counselor for the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio since 2015, and campers have awarded him the quite unofficial Walt Whitman Award, which paper plate he still keeps.

Jamel Brinkley
Jamel Brinkley is a writer from Brooklyn and the Bronx, New York. He is the author of A Lucky Man: Stories, a finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction, the Story Prize, the John Leonard Prize, and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, and winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. His writing has appeared in The Best American Short StoriesPloughshares, Gulf Coast, The Threepenny Review, Glimmer Train, American Short Fiction, and Tin House, among other placesA graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he was also a Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. He is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford University.

Abigail Carney
Abigail Carney is a writer from rural Ohio, a place that shows up in her stories. Abigail is currently an MFA candidate in fiction writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she is an Iowa Arts Fellow and at work on her first novel. Her plays include SUNDAY MORNING (The Road Theatre & the Yale Playwright’s Festival), THE GLOAMING (The Young Playwrights Festival at the Lucille Lortel Theatre), TAXIDERMY (The LIC One-Act Play Festival), BLOODY SQUISHY (Montserrat), and BELLADONNA (New School for Drama). DUST CAN’T KILL ME, a folk musical co-written with Elliah Heifetz, was produced at the New York Musical Festival, where it won five Awards for Excellence. The show was a Time Out New York Critics' Pick and also appeared at NYC Fringe, Le Poisson Rouge, and Yale University. Abigail has taught playwriting at the New Haven Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School. As a spoken word poet, she competed and performed at Rustbelt, the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, Brave New Voices, and opened for The Strivers Row. She graduated from Yale University cum laude.

Scott Ditzler
Scott Ditzler is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was a Capote Fellow and a Teaching Writing Fellow.  His fiction has appeared in Crazyhorse, December, and Puerto del Sol.  His articles and reviews have appeared in The Kansas City Star.  Scott currently lives and teaches in Iowa City, where he is working on a novel narrated as a series of apologies.  

Janelle Effiwatt
Janelle Affiong Effiwatt was born in Tucson, Arizona. After receiving a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, she applied to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she graduated this spring with an MFA in poetry writing. Janelle’s poetry attempts to make a spectacle of the mundane, and is concerned with visibility, blackness, and humor. In her work you will find institutions, domestic spaces, and a lot of birds, intersecting, always, with issues of race and class. As an instructor she is interested in the Lyric (poem) as a mutating and hybridizing art form, teaches mainly women and writers of color, and sees the classroom as a generative, sacred, writing space. Her first chapbook is forthcoming this Fall 2019 from Letter Machine Editions. She lives and teaches in Iowa City.

Jane Huffman
Jane Huffman has an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa, where she is currently an instructor for the Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, POETRY, Ninth Letter, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere. She is editor-in-chief of Guesthouse, a literary journal ( Jane is from metro-Detroit, Michigan and has a BA in theatre arts and English from Kalamazoo College.

Jing Jian
Jing Jian (JJ) immigrated from Wuhan, China to Long Island, NY when she was thirteen. Before coming to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she is an Iowa Arts Fellow, to study fiction writing, JJ received a B.S in mathematics from MIT and worked as a software engineer. You bet her parents were not as thrilled as she was about her career change. Before Iowa, JJ studied writing with Junot Diaz, Bret Anthony Johnson, and David Mura. She is a graduate of VONA, a multi-genre workshop for writers of color. She practices and teaches aerial dance in her spare time.


Riley Johnson
Riley Johnson was born and raised in Montana. Whether he knows it or not, all his fiction is set there, which can be confusing sometimes. For example, the lilacs in his stories bloom in June, regardless of latitude. He spent much of his childhood alone in the attic of a Victorian house. He has been writing stories since he was five or six years old, and has never really considered doing anything else with his life, except maybe writing poetry, or writing nonfiction. In a better world, he might have been a beekeeper. He graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2014. He has taught fiction writing to undergraduates at the University of Iowa and to high school students at the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. He used to enjoy reading books in his spare time, but now feels obliged to read books, and consequently has no spare time. Fortunately, he still enjoys reading books. Riley lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

Matthew Kelley
Matthew B. Kelley is a writer from Atlanta, GA. He is a fiction fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has received fellowships from Kimbilio Fiction and Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.


Maria Kuznetsova
Maria Kuznetsova was born in Kiev, Ukraine and came to the United States as a child. Her first novel, OKSANA, BEHAVE! was published by Spiegel & Grau/Random House in March 2019 and is a Barnes & Noble Spring 2019 Discover pick. You can also find her work in journals such as The Southern Review, The Threepenny Review, Guernica, and Crazyhorse. She lives in Iowa City with her husband, daughter, and cat. 

Elyse Mele
Elyse Mele, a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and Arizona State University, lives in Iowa City with her dog, Ada, who appears extensively in her poems. She comes from Tempe, Arizona, where she learned how to make books by hand and poems by heart. Now she makes poems, pottery, and tasty baked goods, drawing inspiration for all creative pursuits from the daily wants and needs of life. Her poems respond to immediate and everyday influences—friendships & loneliness, food & flowers, weather, car rides & car trouble, busy days & lazy days. You can find her writing online or on the wind, her pots in the kitchens of Iowa City, and her pastries wherever you like—as long as you ask nicely.

Carl Napolitano
Carl Napolitano is a writer, ceramicist, and occasional drag performer from Little Rock, Arkansas. He holds a BA in English-Creative Writing and Studio Art from Hendrix College and is currently finishing his MFA in fiction at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His work has appeared or is forthcoming Assaracus: A Journal of Gay Poetry, CRAFT, and The Rumpus. He is an associate editor for Sibling Rivalry Press. 

Karen Parkman
Karen Parkman graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 2016 and now lives and teaches in Iowa City. She’s also lived in West Virginia, Ohio, Boston, and New Zealand. Her favorite books include Escapes by Joy Williams, Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison, and The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury. Hanging out in a classroom with other people who love writing is one of the great joys of her life. Karen’s stories have been published in Joyland and Witness, and she is currently working on a novel.

Alyssa Perry
Alyssa Perry is from Iowa. She holds an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, where she studied creative writing and theatre as an undergraduate. Approximately 5.72% of the meals she has eaten in her lifetime were consumed in University of Iowa dining halls. Since 2013, she’s served as an editorial assistant with Rescue Press, a small press publisher of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and hybrid texts. She currently teaches creative writing and literature at Cleveland State University. Her poems appear in jubilat, LVNG, petri press, Poetry Northwest, and West Branch Wired. 

Anna Polonyi
Anna Polonyi is a trilingual writer interested in obscure chapters of history, the uncanny in the mundane, where scientific knowledge ends and mystery begins. Before pursuing her M.F.A. in fiction with the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she worked as a news reporter in Paris, France. Her bylines include the International New York Times, The Irish Times, Foreign Policy and the French public radio. Wayword, her first chapbook of poems, is out with Finishing Line Press. She studied History and Literature at Harvard University and researched the made-up language Esperanto during a Fulbright year in Berlin, Germany. She is currently at work on a novel that tells the true story of the Beast of the Gévaudan, an unidentified man-eating creature that prowled 18th-century France.

Eliana Ramage
Eliana Ramage is of course a writer, and also a high school English teacher in Tel Aviv. A Cherokee Nation citizen from Nashville, she is at work on a novel about an aspiring astronaut from her tribe. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Baltimore Review, the Beloit Fiction Journal, and the anthologies All the Women in My Family Sing and Re(Sisters). She loves dance parties, television, and the Cherokee language. Eliana is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  


Margaret Reges
Margaret Reges is from Michigan. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, her honors include a 2015 “Discovery”/Boston Review prize, the 2012 Page Davidson Clayton Prize for Emerging Poets from the Michigan Quarterly Review, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, the MacDowell Colony, and the Vermont Studio Center. Her poems have appeared in The Boston Review, The Iowa Review, jubilat, B O D Y, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere.

Helen Rubinstein
Helen Betya Rubinstein's essays and fiction have recently appeared in Gulf Coast, The Kenyon Review, Literary Hub, and The Arkansas International. She's been a nomad for two years and is working on a foolish number of writing projects. Life loves include dormer windows, warm colors, walking uphill, cabbage, breakfast, cabbage for breakfast, and her bicycle.



Sanjena Sathian
Sanjena Sathian (SUN-jun-ah) is a 2019 graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her fiction has been published in Boulevard, Salt Hill, and Joyland, and been first runner-up for the Boulevard Emerging Writers’ Prize. She was supported at Iowa by the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. She is also an alumna of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, otherwise known as nerd camp for adults. Prior to Iowa, she was a journalist. She worked as a foreign correspondent based in Mumbai and a tech reporter in San Francisco. She also served as the Kaiser Family Foundation Fellow at the Boston Globe. She holds a B.A. from Yale University in English and Writing, where she focused on fiction and literary non-fiction. While at Yale she received fellowships to report from Nepal, Chile, and Turkey. She was raised in Atlanta, Georgia by south Indian immigrant parents, and spent her high school summers at nerd camp for kids.

Keenan Walsh
Keenan Walsh is a graduate of the fiction program at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was a President’s Fellow. Before moving to Iowa with his cat, he lived in New York City, Vermont, China, India, and Florida, and worked in an ice cream shop, a library, a clinic, a youth homeless shelter, three theaters, and several schools. Initially a musician, and a student of poetry before he started writing fiction, he spends a lot of time thinking about how different art forms and genres inform one another. Before Iowa, he studied at Bennington College and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. His work can be found in American Short Fiction, The Salon, Brazenhead Review, Deep South Magazine, and elsewhere.

Danielle Wheeler
Danielle Wheeler was born in the Midwest and was the Rona Jaffe fellow in poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she earned her MFA. Since then, she has lived in Florida, Louisiana, and now Austin, Texas, where she teaches college-level writing, literature, and rhetoric. Her chapbook of poetry, Teenage Exorcists, was published by Slim Princess Holdings and she’s currently at work on her first novel.


Connor White
Connor White is from Long Island, New York and is a 2017 graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa and at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He graduated with a BFA in Film and Television from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and worked for several years as a film director, producer and editor before coming to Iowa City.

Ada Zhang
Ada Zhang is a fiction writer who is interested in exploring family, foreignness, and the lingering effects of history on the lives of ordinary people. Before coming to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop to pursue her Masters in Fine Arts, she was living in New York City, where she worked for three years as a children’s book editor at Sterling Publishing. Her list included titles in the board, picture book, nonfiction, activity, and middle grade categories. Ada’s own fiction is hugely influenced by classics such as William Trevor, Chekhov, and Alice Munro, as well as by contemporary favorites Yiyun Li, Danielle Evans, and Daniyal Mueenuddin. She currently lives in Iowa City with a sweet kitty named Tofu, and in her spare time, she likes to read short stories, FaceTime with friends who live far away, and see what Cardi B is up to on Instagram. Her stories have been published in Witness Magazine and The Rumpus. 


Former Staff

Writers who have taught or counseled at the Iowa Young Writers' Studio since its founding in 2000 include Daniel Alarcón, Andy Axel, Katherine Bell, Amy Bernhard, Catherine Blauvelt, Shane Book, Marion Bright, Sarah Braunstein, Thea Brown, Suzanne Buffam, Austin Bunn, David Busis, Amy Butcher, Scott Butterfield, Greta Byrum, Marjorie Celona, Daniel Cesca, Ashley Clarke, Harriet Clark, Lindsay Coleman, Arda Collins, Ben Doyle, Nick Dybek, Jason England, Michelle Falkoff, Joe Fassler, Sarah Fay, Adam Fell, Jorge Guerra, David Gorin, Jane Gregory, Jill Haberkern, Ben Hale, Meg Hartmann, Amy Hassinger, Mary Hickman-Fernandez, Nate Hoks, Naomi Jackson, Evan James, Leslie Jamison, Rebecca Johns, Nimo Johnson, Amanda Kallis, Daniel Khalastchi, Sally Keith, Kristin Kelly, Justin Kramon, Josh Kryah, Kerrie Kvashay-Boyle, Nam Le, Anna Lewis, Jason Lewis, Jane Lewty, Jack Livings, Claire Lombardo, James Longley, Carmen Maria Machado, Alex Madison, Dora Malech, Steve Marlowe, Anthony Marra, Peyton Marshall, Aaron McCollough, Madeline McDonnell, Sara McGuirk, Nancy Mendoza, Andrew Milward, Fatima Mirza, Kevin Moffett, Melissa Mogollon, Paula Morris, Anna Morrison, Becca Myers, Andrew Nance, Thisbe Nissen, Derek Nnuro, Emily Pettit, Daniel Poppick, Alex Ruskell, Lewis Robinson, Dan Rosenberg, Margaret Ross, Anjali Sachdeva, Christian Schlegel, Lauren Shapiro, Vivian Shotwell, Nina Siegal, Lucy Silag, Will Smiley, Jared Stanley, Kate Sullivan, Michelle Taransky, Tim Taranto, Catherine Theis, Vu Tran, Justin Tussing, Christine Utz, Kelsi Vanada, Anya Ventura, Cara Wall, Keenan Walsh, Patricia Walsh, Malena Watrous, Elizabeth Weiss, Lisa Wells, Monica West, Julia Whicker, Vinnie Wilhelm, Antoine Wilson, De'Shawn Winslow, Rachel Yoder, C. Pam Zhang and Jenny Zhang.