2021-22 Visiting Writers

photo of the Catalyst Building in Spokane, WA.

Every year the MFA program invites several prestigious writers to campus, where they lead workshops of student work and give readings to the broader community.

Here are the writers we got to work with for the academic school year of 2021-22:

Phong Nguyen

Phong Nguyen is a writer of historical fiction (Bronze Drum), experimental fiction (Roundabout), literary spinoffs (The Adventures of Joe Harper), alternate history (Pages from the Textbook of Alternate History), dirty realism (Memory Sickness), and more. Nguyen teaches fiction-writing at the University of Missouri, where he is the Miller Family Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing. He has edited volumes including Nancy Hale: On the Life and Work of a Lost American Master and Best Peace Fiction: A Social Justice Anthology.

Oct. 29, 2021 at 7:30pm PST

Watch online here

Laura Read

Laura Read is the author of Dresses from the Old Country (BOA, 2018), Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012), and The Chewbacca on Hollywood Boulevard Reminds Me of You (Floating Bridge Press, 2011). She served as poet laureate for Spokane, Washington from 2015-17 and teaches at Spokane Falls Community College.

Nov. 19, 2021 at 7:00pm PST at Auntie’s Bookstore

Maya Zeller

Maya Jewell Zeller (she/her) was born in the walk-up apartment above her parents’ gas station on the Oregon Coast. She is the author of Rust Fish; Yesterday, the Bees; and the interdisciplinary collaboration, Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts; recent prose appears/is forthcoming in Gettysburg ReviewGuesthouse Literary, and The Rumpus. Maya serves as Poetry Editor for Scablands Books, Associate Professor at Central Washington University, and Affiliate Faculty in Western Colorado’s low-residency MFA. Photo by Dean Davis.

Nov. 19, 2021 at 7:00pm PST at Auntie’s Bookstore

Rachel Yoder

Rachel Yoder is the author of Nightbitch (Doubleday), which has been optioned for film by Annapurna with Amy Adams set to star. She is a graduate of the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program and also holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Arizona. Her writing has been awarded with The Editors’ Prize in Fiction by The Missouri Review and with notable distinctions in Best American Short Stories and Best American Nonrequired Reading. She is also a founding editor of draft: the journal of process. Rachel grew up in a Mennonite community in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Ohio. She now lives in Iowa City with her husband and son.

Feb 11, 2022 at 7:00pm PST 

Click here to watch online!

Peter Markus

Peter Markus is the author of several books, the most recent of which is When Our Fathers Return to Us as Birds (Wayne State University Press). Other books include the novel Bob, or Man on Boat, the collection of short fiction We Make Mud, and the book of non-fiction Inside My Pencil: Teaching Poetry in Detroit Public Schools. His writing has appeared in such journals as Northwest Review, Willow Springs, Seattle Review, Quarterly West, Puerto del Sol, Denver Quarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, Chicago Review, and Iowa Review, among others. He lives in Michigan where he teaches at Oakland University and is the Senior Writer with InsideOut Literary Arts in Detroit.

This event has been canceled. 

Isabel Yap

Isabel Yap writes fiction and poetry, works in the tech industry, and drinks tea. Born and raised in Manila, she has spent the past decade living and working in the US. She holds a BS in Marketing from Santa Clara University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. In 2013 she attended the Clarion Writers Workshop. Her work has appeared in venues including, Lithub, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction. Her debut story collection, Never Have I Ever, was published in 2021 by Small Beer Press. She is @visyap on Twitter and her website is

March 18, 2022 at 7:30pm PST


Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel

Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel is the author of Fear Icons, winner of the inaugural Gournay Prize from The Ohio State University Press.

She has published prose in Shirley Magazine, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the Richard J. Margolis Award for social justice reporting and many grants and fellowships. A graduate of the University of Montana’s Environmental Studies Program and the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, she is an Associate Professor of English at Whitman College.

April 8, 2022 at 7:00pm PST at Auntie’s Bookstore

Lia Purpura

Lia Purpura is the author of nine collections of essays, poems, and translations. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for On Looking (essays, Sarabande Books), her awards include Guggenheim, NEA, and Fulbright Fellowships, as well as five Pushcart Prizes, the Associated Writing Programs Award in Nonfiction, and others.  Her work appears in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Orion, The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, Agni, Emergence, and elsewhere. She lives in Baltimore, MD, where she is Writer in Residence at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She has taught in the Rainier Writing Workshop’s MFA program, at Breadloaf Writers Conference, The University of Iowa’s Nonfiction MFA program and at conferences, workshops, and graduate programs throughout the country. Her newest collection of poems is It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (Penguin) and her latest collection of essays is All the Fierce Tethers (Sarabande Books).

May 6, 2022, 7:30pm

Lesley Nneka Arimah

Lesley Nneka Arimah is the author of What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (Riverhead, 2017). Evocative, wrenching, and subversive, this dazzlingly accomplished collection explores the times that bind us – parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends – to one another and to the places we call home. Her short story, Skinned, published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern Issue 53, was awarded the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing.

Winner of the 2017 Kirkus Prize for Fiction and the  NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, finalist for the Aspen Prize, and named one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by Time Magazine, Elle, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Millions, Nylon, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, it was also selected by the National Book Foundation as a 2017 5 Under 35 honoree. Arimah has also won an O. Henry Prize and was the Africa Regional Winner for the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, as well as being shortlisted for the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing. Her work has received grants and awards from AWP, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Jerome Foundation and others. Her short stories have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including The New Yorker, which nominated her for a National Magazine Award, Harper’s, and Granta.

Born in the U.K., Arimah moved grew up in both Nigeria and the U.K. before moving to the U.S. in her early teens, where she spent a decade in Louisiana before relocating to Minnesota. She is currently at work on a novel.

April 22, 2022

Geffrey Davis

Geffrey Davis is the author of two full collections of poetry: Night Angler (BOA Editions, 2019) and Revising the Storm ​(BOA Editions, 2014), winner of the A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize and a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Finalist. He is also the author of the chapbook Begotten (URB Books, 2016), coauthored with F. Douglas Brown. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Crazyhorse​, ​Mississippi Review, New England Review, ​New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, PBS NewsHour, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. ​A native of the Pacific Northwest, Davis teaches for the University of Arkansas’s MFA in Creative Writing & Translation and for The Rainier Writing Workshop low-residency MFA program.

June 10, 2022