Alumni

Our Alumni

Our graduates stay busy! Since earning their MFAs, many of our alumni have been published or received awards.

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Get Featured: If you are an alum who would like to be featured below, please e-mail Lea at lvandermolen@ewu.edu.

Accomplishments

Portrait of Ashley Wurzbacher
Ashley Wurzbacher’s writing has appeared in The Iowa Review, Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, The Cincinnati Review, Colorado Review, Gettysburg Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and teaches creative writing at the University of Montevallo. National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree

Book Cover: Chosen Companions of the Goblin
Kathryn Smith’s chapbook, Chosen Companions of the Goblin, won the 2018 Open Country Chapbook Contest, chosen by Heather Cahoon, and was published in 2019 by Open Country Press. Her second full-length collection, Self-Portrait with Cephalopod, is the winner of the Copper Nickel Jake Adam York Prize. Milkweed Editions will publish the book in early 2021.

Book Cover: Hell of Birds
You can now read 2018 graduate Kimberly Povloski’s chapbook, Hell of Birds, as of January, 2019. It won the Adrift Chapbook Contest by Driftwood Press.

Book Cover: Ultra-Cabin
Kimberly Lambright’s debut collection Ultra-Cabin won the 42 Miles Press poetry award and was published fall 2016. Here is what Christopher Howell had to say about her collection: “I am stunned by Kimberly Lambright’s verbal acuity, its lightning shifts and sudden, diamond-like stillnesses. And there are images in this book that would wake Breton from the dead. Hats off to this uniquely adventurous and mature first volume.” – Christopher Howell

Book Cover: Without Warning
Tim Greenup’s debut poetry collection, Without Warning was published by Scablands Books in 2016.
Kathryn Nuernberger is the author of The End of Pink (BOA Editions, 2016), which received the 2015 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, given to recognize a superior second book of poetry by an American poet. She is also the author of Rag & Bone, which won the Antivenom Prize from Elixir Press and was published in 2011.
Poets.org | Poetry Foundation | Kathryn Nuernberger

Book Cover: Grist
2014 graduate Kate Peterson’s chapbook Grist won the 2016 Floating Bridge Chapbook Prize and was published in October of 2016.

Book Cover: Godforsaken Idaho
On September 29, 2014—The PEN American Center on Monday announced that Shawn Vestal (alumnus and Visiting Writer/Professor) is the winner of this year’s $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Mr. Vestal earned the honor for “Godforsaken Idaho,” a collection of short stories. He received the prize from Louise Erdrich at a ceremony at the New School.

Karen Maner
2013 Alum Karen Maner’s essay “Hugo” was been selected for the 2014 Best American Nonrequired Reading anthology. Our warmest and most delighted congratulations to you, Karen!

Karen Babine
We also extend congratulations to another nonfiction alum, Karen Babine, whose forthcoming essay collection Water and the Shape it Takes has just been added to the line-up of The University of Minnesota Press.

2001 INCW Alum Wendy J. Fox of Denver, Colorado, was named the winner of the 2014 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction for her manuscript, The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories.

Bios

Ashley WurzbacherAshley Wurzbacher earned her MFA in Fiction from Eastern in 2010 and her PhD in Literature and Creative Writing, with a certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies, from the University of Houston in 2016. Her stories have appeared in The Iowa ReviewThe Cincinnati ReviewPrairie SchoonerGettysburg ReviewNew Ohio ReviewThe Southeast Review, and elsewhere. She is currently an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Montevallo, where she teaches creative writing and literature. She is at work on a novel and her story collection, Happy Like This, won the John Simmons Iowa Short Fiction award and is forthcoming from the University of Iowa Press.

Kathryn SmithKathryn Smith (2004, poetry) is the author of Book of Exodus, which will be published by Scablands Books in 2017. Her poems have appeared in Mid-American ReviewBellingham ReviewRedividerSouthern Indiana ReviewCarve MagazineThird CoastRock & SlingRuminate, and elsewhere, and her work has been nominated for Best American Poetry, Best New Poets and the Pushcart. She lives in Spokane and was awarded a grant from the Spokane Arts Fund in 2017.To learn more, visit Kathryn’s Website

Jennifer PullenJennifer Pullen graduated from EWU in 2012 with an MFA in Fiction, and went on to earn her PhD in Creative Writing at Ohio University. She will be beginning a job as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Ohio Northern University in the Fall semester of 2017.  Her fiction and poetry have appeared or are upcoming in journals and anthologies including: Going Down Swinging (AU), CleaverPhantom Drift Limited, Clockhouse, Prick of the Spindle, GravelOff the Coast, and Behind the Mask: Superhero Anthology (Meerkat Press).  She grew up in Eastern Washington, 45 minutes north of Spokane, and will forever associate summer with the smell of baking evergreen needles. She currently lives in Ohio with her husband and a very large and demanding orange tabby cat.

Check our Jennifer’s work via the links above, and read her story “Once Upon a Bed Time Dreary” in Defenestration.

Tom HunleyTom C. Hunley: I’m the author of two textbooks, five full-length collections, and six chapbooks. Books of mine have been favorably reviewed in New Orleans ReviewTexas ReviewCrab Creek ReviewThe Broken PlateCollege English, Rattle, and Comstock Review, among others. My most recent books are the full-length collections Plunk (Wayne State 2015) and The State That Springfield Is In (Split Lip 2016). In 2015, Southern Illinois University Press released Creative Writing Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century, which I co-edited with Alexandria Peary. It was a finalist for this year’s CCCCs Outstanding Book Award. I’ve published over 400 poems in journals and anthologies such as TriQuarterlyRiver StyxVirginia Quarterly ReviewExquisite CorpseNorth American Review, RattleNew York Quarterly, and The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. I’m a father of four, a professor in the MFA and BA Creative Writing programs at Western Kentucky University, and the director of Steel Toe Books. In my spare time, I’m the lead singer/guitarist for Night of the Living Dead Poets Society and Dr. Tom and the Mini-Mes.

Emily Van KleyAfter receiving her MFA in fiction in 2004, Emily Van Kley quickly switched to writing poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, Best New Poets, and Best American Poetry among others. She’s a recipient of the Iowa Review Award, the Florida Review Editor’s Award, and the Loraine Williams Prize from the Georgia Review. Her collection, The Cold and the Rust, received the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize and comes out from Persea Press in spring of 2018. Raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she now lives with her partner in Olympia, Washington, where she also works at a cooperative grocery and teaches and performs aerial acrobatics. Find her online at emilyvankley.com

Sandra Hosking (’04) is a professional writer and photographer based in Spokane, WA. Her work has appeared in 3 Elements ReviewJoeyEdify FictionWest Texas ReviewRedactionsGlass InternationalThe Spokesman-ReviewJournal of BusinessInland NW Homes & LifestylesDown to Earth NWInsight for Playwrights, and various anthologies. Hosking’s plays have been performed across the U.S. and internationally, including the Last Frontier Theatre Conference, Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival, the American Globe’s 15-minute play festival in New York, and others. A champion of new works, she is founder of Play-Makers Spokane and formerly a resident playwright at Stage Left Theatre and Spokane Civic Theatre. In addition to her MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, Hosking holds an MFA in theatre/playwriting from the University of Idaho and is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America. After spending many years as a writing teacher at the secondary and college levels, Hosking now serves as an editor and production manager in the marketing department of a global corporation based in Spokane. Learn more at sandrahosking.webs.com and follow Sandra on Twitter at @SandraHosking

Danielle WardAfter graduating from EWU with her Masters in creative writing, Danielle Ward helped spread the joy of reading and writing as the Get Lit! Program Director from 2008 to 2011. She then moved to San Diego, California and became the Literary Manager at the San Diego REPertory Theatre. This includes reading over 250 plays a year and leading the selection of plays for produced each season. She also supports the development of new plays by serving as the dramaturg on world  premieres like: Steal Heaven by Herbert Siguenza, Into the Beautiful North by Karen Zacarias, and the innovative interactive play Beachtown by Herbert Siguenza and Rachel Grossman. Plus, when San Diego REP collaborates with other theaters in the National New Play Network, Danielle has been a co-dramaturg for multiple productions in a Rolling World Premiere such as: The Exit Interview by William Missouri Downs and Uncanny Valley by Thomas Gibbons. She is also the Editor for The Curious Report e-magazines which showcase in-depth information about each play and its themes. She mentors several interns interested in this work each year from local colleges.

She landed in her dream job after gathering some extremely useful tools through her theatre studies at the University of California at Irvine, with an emphasis on playwriting, her work in film as the Assistant to the Head of the Story Department at Dreamworks SKG, and all that she learned about creative writing at Eastern.

She currently is enjoying the San Diego sunshine with her wife and son and has many things… in process.

Holly Williams DoeringHolly Williams Doering grew up in a USFS family in the mountains of McCall, Idaho. She wandered through the world in her youth: Studying literature at University of Idaho, teaching English in Tokyo, Japan;  bicycling through India, Thailand, and Malaysia;  then teaching inmates to read at the Rappahannock Regional Jail in Virginia. Afterward, she was accepted into 2 different writing programs. Although EWU didn’t offer a teaching assistantship like the other program, she chose EWU due to Spokane’s vibrant writing scene: (1) the large number of generous writers in the community like Jess Walter, Sherman Alexie, Linda Lawrence Hunt, Claire Rudolph Murphy, Sherry Jones, and so many more (2) Auntie’s Bookstore, which brings in big-name authors like Chuck Palahniuk and David Sedaris, and features exciting new writers like Asa Maria Bradley (an EWU grad with a Scandinavian paranormal series) and (3) EWU’s Get Lit! program which brings writers to the city like Alexander McCall Smith and Walter Mosley. Spokane is a wonderful place to live and that “sense of place” is very important to Holly’s writing.

Fun fact: After her graduation from the MFA program, Holly learned her EWU application was almost rejected because it was on stonewashed pink paper. Her publication list is eclectic, as follows: Holly is a second-place winner of the Pacific Northwest Inlander’s annual Flash Fiction contest and a one-time judge of the event, although not in the same year. She wrote for Spokane & Coeur d’Alene Living magazine for almost a decade, in addition to serving as its Book Review Editor, and had one article in its sister publication, the Inland Business Catalyst. She also reviewed books for almost a decade for Foreword Reviews, a bookstore industry publication. Naturally, Holly works at Auntie’s, since she can’t manage to stay away from books. She didn’t try very hard.

In 2003, Holly published her short story “Blue” in ZYZZYVA, after which she was contacted by Richard Russo’s agent about any longer fiction she might have ready. Holly’s current projects include a blog in which she is reading one book from every country in the world, because she is tired of the cannon of old dead white guys. Visit her blog at 365bookworm.wordpress.com. On a personal note, Holly and her husband, a former manager at Auntie’s, are the companion humans to two rescued dogs, cats, and rats.

Ingrid KeriotisIngrid (Johnson) Keriotis received her MFA from Eastern Washington University in 2000. Her poems have recently appeared in Blue Unicorn, Talking River, and the Summer 2016 issue of Poetry Now Online. She is also published in the 2011 anthology More Than Soil, More Than Sky. She teaches English at Sierra College in California and recently read as part of the Yuba Lit reading series.

Matthew SpaurMatthew Spaur: I graduated in 1998 with an MFA in Fiction and Literary Design and Editing. While in the program, I served as fiction editor for the university’s literary journal and was nominated for the Associated Writing Programs Intro Awards. I also hold an MBA from the University of Nevada, Reno. I have published work in HeliotropeOwen Wister ReviewSouth Dakota ReviewWillow Springs, and Wisconsin Review, as well as the anthologies Microsoft in the Mirror and Secrets. After leaving the program, I was the co-owner and editor of The Local Planet Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Spokane. I currently reside in the San Francisco Bay area.

Laura EnderLaura Ender earned her MFA in fiction from Eastern Washington University, where she worked as an assistant managing editor for Willow Springs. Her short fiction has appeared in One Teen StoryIndiana ReviewBellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. She is a blogger, cartoonist, and bookseller. Currently at work on a young adult novel. Find out more at lauraender.wordpress.com.

Ruth WilliamsRuth Williams is the author of two poetry collections, Flatlands (Black Lawrence Press, 2018) and Conveyance (Dancing Girl Press, 2012). Her poetry has appeared in Michigan Quarterly ReviewjubilatCimarron ReviewPleiadesThird CoastFourteen Hills, and Faultline, among others. She has also published creative nonfiction in South Loop Review and DIAGRAM and her scholarly work on women’s literature has appeared in Tulsa Studies in Women’s LiteratureThe Journal of Popular Culture and Michigan Feminist Studies. In 2011-2012, she was a Fulbright scholar in Seoul, South Korea where she researched U.S.-Korea relations and interviewed Korean women poets Kim Hyesoon, Jeongrye Choi, and Kim Seung-hee. In 2013, she graduated with a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the University of Cincinnati; currently, she is an Assistant Professor of English at William Jewell College. You can find links to her writing and interviews at www.ruthcwilliams.com.

“At EWU, I learned how to work, really work, on my writing. In using the word ‘work,’ this isn’t to suggest that the activity was without pleasure, but to suggest that receiving feedback in workshop, revising, and risking failure were all necessary steps in a process that required dedication. Being in an environment where this work and its products were taken seriously by students and teachers alike was not only inspiring, it also validated my love of writing and my belief in literature’s power. Additionally, working on Willow Springs and at EWU Press gave me the experience of viewing creative writing ‘from the other side,’ learning how editors make their selections, an awareness that has certainly helped me as I continue to pursue publication. Now that I’m a teacher of creative writing, I can see ways my own workshops have been shaped by my teachers and peers at EWU, so in that sense, the ‘work’ of my time in the MFA program goes on.” — Ruth Williams

Charles Scott Kinder-PyleScott Kinder-Pyle loiters along the Spokane River, where, as an adjunct professor of philosophy at Eastern Washington, Spokane Community College and Gonzaga University, he’s reduced to nine poetic fingers. There are framed pieces of paper on the walls of Scott’s study from Princeton Theological Seminary (MDiv, 1988), from Columbia Theological Seminary (DMin, 2008) and from Eastern Washington University’s MFA in Creative Writing (MFA, 2013). Of course this last piece of paper is the most significant as it helped this ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to survive what he hopes will be, in the final analysis, his ‘mid-life crisis.’ We’ll see… In addition to writing and occasionally publishing some verse in Sojourners, the Santa Clara Review and Redactions among others, Scott ventures forth into his 30th year of marriage to Sheryl, whom he met at Princeton, and with whom he celebrates two children and two dogs.

Amaris KetchamAmaris Feland Ketcham is an Assistant Professor in the University of New Mexico’s Honors College. She teaches interdisciplinary courses that combine anthropology, creative writing, fine arts, graphic design, and history. In 2015, she was named the University of New Mexico’s Outstanding New Teacher of the Year. She has creative work published in or forthcoming from Creative Nonfiction, the Kenyon ReviewThe Los Angeles ReviewPrairie SchoonerRattleThe Rumpus, and The Utne Reader. Amaris can be found at www.amarisketcham.com

Hattie Fletcher of Essay Daily, had this to say about Amaris’s essay “Recorded Lightning”: “It’s impossible to satisfactorily explain the experience of falling in love with a piece of writing. Really, you should stop reading this and just go read the piece itself, and fall in love with it yourself.” (The entire piece can be read in issue 58 of Creative NonFiction.)

Check out some of Amaris’s work and interviews:

Daryl MuranakaAfter graduating in 1996 (poetry), Daryl Muranaka spent three years in Fukui, Japan in the JET Program, realizing a childhood dream of living in Japan. While there, he fulfilled his adolescent dream of becoming a black belt in aikido. He lives in Massachusetts with his family. In his spare time, he still enjoys aikido when he can as well as practicing taijiquan and exploring his children’s dual heritages. His first book, Hanami, was published by Aldrich Press and his first chapbook, The Minstrel of Belmont, was published Finishing Line Press in 2015.

Poetry

Website: darylmuranaka.com
Blog: darylmuranaka.wordpress.com

Marie HoffmanSince graduating from the MFA program in poetry, Ann Huston has pursued her dream job of being a park ranger. She has worked as seasonal park ranger at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah; Coronado National Memorial in Arizona; Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Alaska; and most recently Chiricahua National Monument in AZ. These parks and other wild, public lands inspire her poetry and she’s managed to get a few publications and lots of rejections! She also has been able to use some of her writing skills to write informative site bulletins on park resources as well as website text for park websites. You can find Ann’s poems in AscentKestrelCape RockCimarron ReviewNatural Bridge; Poecology; and Flyway.

Here is what Ann had to say about her experience in the program:

“Even though I applied to a handful of MFA programs for creative writing, I never called myself a “poet.” Poetry was something that I did, and I wanted to write better poetry, but I never felt comfortable enough to say “I am a poet.” When I visited EWU, Jonathan Johnson picked me up from the airport and began introducing me to everyone as, “this is Ann, a prospective poet.” His simple introduction changed the way I saw myself, and throughout my time in the MFA program I continued to feel uplifted and supported by the community of professors and students, and I felt validated in who I am. A poet. (among a few other titles I claim).”

Shann RayShann Ray grew up in Montana and spent part of his childhood on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. His work has been featured in PoetryNarrativeEsquireMcSweeney’sPoetry International, and Salon. Named a finalist with Ted Kooser’s Splitting an Order and Erin Belieu’s Slant Six, Ray’s debut book of poems, Balefire, won the High Plains Book Award in Poetry.

A National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, he is the winner of the American Book Award, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize, the High Plains Book Award in both poetry and fiction, the Western Writers of America Spur Award, the Foreword Book of the Year Readers’ Choice Award, the Subterrain Poetry Prize, the Ruminate Short Story Prize, the Crab Creek Review Fiction Award, the Pacific Northwest Inlander Short Story Prize, and the Poetry Quarterly Poetry Prize. Ray is the author of Balefire: Poems (Lost Horse), American Masculine: Stories (Graywolf), American Copper: A Novel (Unbridled), and a book of political theory, Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity (Rowman & Littlefield). A member of a group educational Fulbright grant to South Africa, and a United Nations Sustainable Development Grant titled Intercultural Dialogues through Beauty as a Language of Peace, Shann has served as a research psychologist for the Centers for Disease Control, a panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and as a visiting scholar in Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America. He teaches leadership and forgiveness studies at Gonzaga University. Because of his wife and three daughters he believes in love. Learn more at shannray.com

Read a few of Shann’s poems: “Hesperus”  and  “My Dad, in America”  from Poetry   “Ecstasy” from Narrative Magazine

Maya ZellerMaya Jewell Zeller, EWU MFA alum 2007, is the author of Rust Fish (which came out of her thesis project) and Yesterday, the Bees. Her poems and essays appear in such journals as PleiadesBellingham ReviewWest BranchCincinnati Review, and High Desert Journal. She has been a resident in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, recipient of a Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and honored with awards from Crab Orchard ReviewNew Ohio ReviewNew SouthSycamore ReviewDogwood, & elsewhere. Maya edits fiction for Crab Creek Review and is assistant professor at Central Washington University. She lives in Spokane with her husband. Together they are raising their two children, ages 7 and 4. Follow Maya on Twitter @MayaJZeller and visit her website, mayajewellzeller.com, where she posts prompts for your writing. Check out this contributor spotlight on Maya in Bellingham Review.

Read some more of Maya’s work: “Biological Half Lives”The James Franco Review

J. Duncan WileyJ. Duncan Wiley earned his MFA in Fiction from EWU in 2006, and since his fiction has been anthologized in Best Small Fictions 2015 and has appeared in PleiadesCream City ReviewSouth Dakota Review, and Nimrod where his short story “Inclusions” won the 2015 Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction. His essays have appeared in Pleiades and Bayou Magazine. In addition to his MFA from Eastern Washington, he holds a PhD from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Learn more at jduncanwiley.com.

Asa Marie BradleyClass of 2010 nonfiction graduate Asa Maria Bradley sold her debut novel in a three-book deal to Sourcebooks. The first book in her paranormal romance series, Viking Warrior Rising, was a double finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA awards for Best First Book and Best Paranormal Romance. The second book, Viking Warrior Rebel, earned 4.5 stars and Top Pick! status from the Romantic Times Book Reviews. Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times Bestselling Authors describes Asa’s Viking Warriors series as “Action-packed, sexy, and fun! Reminiscent of JR Ward–but with Vikings.” The third book in the series is a Fall 2017 release. Find out more about Asa at AsaMariaBradley.com

Kathryn CollisonKathryn Collison (nee Allen) earned her MFA in poetry from EWU in 2006. Since 2007, she has taught in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico. She teaches humanities, writing and speaking, and fine arts classes. She was also faculty advisor for the award-winning Honors College literary magazine Scribendi in 2007-2008. She serves as an Honors College copy editor and has led staff and student writing workshops. She has also taught creative writing classes online at the University of Phoenix since 2009. Her work has appeared in The Pedestal MagazineNew Works Review, and The Furnace Review. Her full-length poetry collection Like Rain Returning Home (which came out of her thesis project) is forthcoming in 2018 by FutureCycle Press. She, her husband, and her cousin also founded a water consulting firm, Agua del Sol Consultants, LLC, where she serves as Chief Copy Editor and bookkeeper. Check out this profile on Kathryn from Scribendi.

Tom HolmesTom Holmes (class of ’04) is the editor of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics. He is also author of: The Cave, which won The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013; Poems for an Empty Church (Palettes & Quills Press, 2011); The Oldest Stone in the World (Amsterdam Press, 2011); Henri, Sophie, & the Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex(BlazeVOX Books, 2009); Pre-Dew Poems (FootHills Publishing, 2008); Negative Time (Pudding House, 2007); and After Malagueña (FootHills Publishing, 2005).

He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize seven times, Best of the Net twice, and has appeared a number of times on Verse Daily. As of September 2, 2016, he had accumulated 1058 rejection letters from journals and book publishers. In spring 2016, he earned a PhD in English with Creative Writing emphasis from the University of Southern Mississippi. His current prose writing efforts about wine, poetry book reviews, poetry, and sometimes football can be found at his blog, The Line Break. You can follow him on Twitter at: @TheLineBreak and check out his Poets & Writers page. Read some of Tom’s work and interviews: “My Mouth (an Apology)” Rattle One Badass Poet: An Interview with Tom Holmes.

Jessica LakritzJessica Lakritz’s dream is to live without manmade clocks. So far, it has been successful intermittently, and she has been able to work online in mainly freelance writing, tutoring, and editing for the past three years. Since graduating from Eastern in 2010, Jessica has lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Portland, Oregon, Zihuatanejo, Mexico, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and is currently residing in Barcelona, Spain. This lifestyle has allowed her to focus on new ways to develop her passion for writing. Her first poetry collection You Had Me At Topography is forthcoming in December, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. It is a story in poems whose structure is inspired by Julio Cortazar’s novel Hopscotch. Instead of just reading the collection from front to back, there is another reading offered. At the end of each poem are instructions telling which poem to read next. The idea of this dual structure is that, depending on which way you read the book, a different story will emerge. While the campaign is still running, she is now hoping to expand the project to include a custom soundtrack for the book, a goal that plays into her master plan to convert more of the population into poetry lovers.

In concordance with that plan, Jessica started a multimedia project called Sex on Sundaze, in which she writes her poems on people’s bodies, often in a manner intending to invoke a sensual and/or sexual response. The poems are inspired by the models on which they are written; the purpose of this is to connect the art with the process, the internal experience of the words with the external representation of it. The project as a whole is meant to bridge the obvious gap between poetry and the mainstream, as she feels that the positive effects of poetry on the human psyche are important and should be enjoyed by a much wider audience. It has progressed to address issues like body image, slut shaming, and the spiritual crisis that seems to have plagued the globe as a result of an overexposure to violence, porn, and the deceptive nature of “reality” television. Needless to say, sex sells, and the point is to get poetry out there and to dissolve the notion that poetry is an art for intellectuals only. The project has generated interest from various venues, including interviews from Barcelona’s English radio station, The Grid, Seattle-based writing website, Prose, and the EWU MFA program’s literary blog, Bark, as well as web shout-outs from Tin House and The Arthunters.

Over the years she has been published in Cream City ReviewGristSlateFive Quarterly, and Third Coast, among others. Some of her recent publications also include:

You can find her at jessicalakritz.com.

Melissa RhoadesBorn and raised in the deciduous greenery of eastern Kansas, Melissa Rhoades moved to the Evergreen State in 2001 to attend EWU. After receiving her MFA in 2003, Melissa taught English Composition and Intro to Literature at Big Bend Community College and Spokane Falls Community College before accepting a full time position as an in-house copywriter for a local e-commerce company. After 12 years as a full time copywriter, Melissa joined the Public Services team at the Spokane County Library District. She continues to write copy as a freelancer on occasion. Before receiving her MFA in Creative Writing, Melissa earned a Master’s Degree in Cultural Studies from Birmingham University in Birmingham, England, and a BFA in Art History from the University of Kansas. Published in Coal City ReviewRedactionsNerve Cowboy, and other journals, Melissa was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2003. During her time at EWU, Melissa served as a Director of the Voice Over Graduate Student Reading Series, an Assistant Editor of Willow Springs, an Intern at Lynx House Press, and a Reader for the Lynx House Prize. Melissa loves the beautiful landscape of the Northwest, but misses fireflies, cicadas, and sunshine nine months of the year.

You can hear Melissa read a few of her poems in archived sessions of The Poet’s Weave radio broadcast:

Regarding her time at EWU, Melissa recalls: “It was the best academic experience I’ve had. The small class sizes; easy access to professors; casual, respectful atmosphere; and multiple opportunities to become involved were all huge assets. Even without a teaching assistantship, I was given opportunities to teach and receive additional vital experience for my CV and my life.”

Wendy J. Fox (’01) is the author of the collection The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories (winner of the Press 53 award for short fiction in 2014) and the novel The Pull of It (Underground Voices, 2016). Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in ZZYZZVAWashington SquareThe Tampa ReviewPMS poem memoir storyHawai’i Pacific Review, and Painted Bride Quarterly, among others. Her essays and interviews have been included in Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey (Seal Press, 2006), The Missouri Review (online), OxMag, and on various blogs and public radio stations. In her day job, Wendy is the VP of marketing for a green technology company. More at her website, wendyjfox.com.

Stories:
In the Northern Hemisphere (short-story)
When the Glitter Hits the Ground (short-story)
Zinc (short-story)

Blog: Reconciling Books Sales as a Debut Author
Interview: Writing Through Grief (interview on Colorado Public Radio).

Greg LeunigGreg Leunig is a 2011 graduate of the Eastern Washington University MFA in fiction writing. While there, he was Web Editor for Willow Springs and dabbled in the Writers in the Community program as well. His short stories can be found in Daily Science FictionRead Short FictionShimmer, and others. His poetry can be found at Strange Horizons and Apex. His day job involves selling solar panels for Sungevity, aka saving the world. He also has a website, pleasefeedthesquirrels.com, if that sort of thing interests you.

Kimberly LambrightKimberly Lambright‘s work has appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, ZYZZYVA, Sink Review, Bone Bouquet, The Boiler, Wicked Alice, and Big Bridge. Her first full-length collection of poems, Ultra-Cabin (2016), won the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award. She is a MacDowell Colony fellow and holds an MFA from Eastern Washington University (2006) and an MA in humanities from NYU (2012). She lives in Austin, TX.

Heather SolsvikHeather Solsvik: “I have been an English teacher at Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy since 2001 and a resident of Coeur d’Alene my entire life. I enrolled in the EWU Creative Writing MFA program (non-fiction) while also teaching full-time, which made it possible for me to acquire my Master’s Degree while still working—a great bonus. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the program. It energized my teaching, it enriched my writing, and increased my knowledge of all genres. I enjoyed the discussions in class with my knowledgeable professors and diverse classmates, which gave me many lenses through which to view writing and the world. The time spent with my classmates felt like being a part of a crazy, intellectual family, and I loved learning from them. We read great literature and essays, which helped us to see different approaches to writing and inspired me to expand my own writer’s scope.

“I was also forced out of my comfort zone, being asked to write not only academic essays, but poetry and fiction. It was fun to branch out and try my hand at all genres of writing, even though my specific focus was non-fiction. I had wonderful guidance from my thesis advisor, Natalie Kusz, who supported my efforts and always made me laugh. Jonathan Johnson, whom I met at a writer’s retreat in Sandpoint, was kind, encouraging, and made me feel like I could actually write decent poetry. To be honest, I miss trekking off to Spokane for two nights of classes with such wonderful people, and I think about them often. I hope all of my friends are finding success with their writing in one form or another. Since graduating in 2008, I have had three essays published in Idaho Magazine, and hopefully my thesis manuscript will one day be found in print.”

Seth MarlinSeth Marlin is a former Web Editor of Willow Springs, and received his MFA in Fiction from Eastern in 2013. He is the author of Shred, a chapbook of poetry, and his stories and verse have appeared in SparkKnockoutBetwixtA cappella Zoo, and Silk Road Review, among others. He is the winner of University of Glasgow’s 2016 prize for Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities, and he is a former Spokane Poetry Slam Grand Champion, and in 2015 represented the Lilac City along with a team of poets at the National Poetry Slam Championships in Oakland, CA. He makes his home in Spokane, with his wife and son. Check out Seth’s website at sethmarlin.com.

Here is what Seth had to say about his experience in the program:

“The decision to pursue a creative writing degree is ultimately a decision to invest: in one’s craft, in oneself as an artist. Part of that means investing wisely, through internships and through submitting work, but it’s also a matter of set and setting. The places and people you surround yourself with are a huge part of helping you shape your own creative identity, and what I found at EWU helped me find that for myself. The workshops carried a strong focus on practical theory, and the voices that the program selected helped ensure a broad range of thoughtful and constructive feedback. Not only that, but the city of Spokane is an incredible place for the arts right now. Whether you’re into music, or visual arts, or slam poetry, there are things going on here that you simply won’t find anywhere else. It’s part of why I chose to make this city my home – we’re on the ground floor of something amazing right now, and I’m incredibly grateful to be part of it.”

Summer HessSummer Hess: “I had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand with my partner as he conducts doctoral research at the University of Canterbury on a Fulbright Fellowship through the end of 2016. What an amazing and diverse experience it has been!

Here’s what I’ve been up to since taking to life on the road:

  • I am working on the manuscript for my first book, which is about social innovation and change-making in Spokane, WA and focuses on the Community Building. Many thanks to my friends and colleagues in Spokane for making it possible for me to work remotely this year!
  • I have a book chapter forthcoming through the WAC Clearinghouse and the University Press of Colorado titled Writing in the Performing and Visual Arts: Creating, Performing, and Teaching. The chapter is called “Visual Thinking Strategies in the Composition Classroom.” I am grateful for Dr. Justin Young of Eastern Washington University and Heidi Arbogast of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and their assistance on this manuscript.
  • I am still serving EWU students through the Writers’ Center online services.
  • Keeping close to my love of the outdoors and the Inland Northwest, I continue to contribute writing to Field & Compass and Out There Monthly. I also have work forthcoming in Nspire Magazine in 2017.”

Shawn VestalShawn Vestal’s debut novel, Daredevils, was published in spring 2016 by Penguin Press. His collection of short stories, Godforsaken Idaho, was published in 2013 and won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, which honors a debut book that “represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.” He also published A.K.A. Charles Abbott, a short memoir, as an e-book in October 2013. His stories have appeared in Tin House,McSweeney’sEcotoneThe Southern ReviewCutbank and several other journals. He writes a column for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane. A 2008 graduate of EWU creative writing program with an MFA in fiction, Vestal now teaches in the program. Shawn had this to say about his time as an MFA candidate:

“I spent three years studying fiction writing in the EWU MFA program, and it really did change my life. I have written short stories since I was a teenager, but it was only after I began working with the faculty and my fellow students at Eastern that I began to publish stories. I worked primarily with Sam Ligon, who was my thesis advisor, but also with Greg Spatz, John Keeble, Chris Howell, Jonathan Johnson and others. All of them helped me to recognize the weaknesses in the work I had been doing, and develop a way of working to improve them – a method that serves me still. The stories I wrote for my thesis made up more than half the stories in my collection, Godforsaken Idaho. In the years since, I have occasionally taught workshops and classes in the program, and it’s been wonderful to connect with young writers and help them find their own way. The process always re-energizes me, reconnects me with the experiences that helped me so much as an artist, and refocuses my attention on the need to work steadily and diligently to battle the distractions of the everyday world.”

Jeff FearnsideAfter graduating with his MFA in Fiction from EWU in 2000, Jeff Fearnside fulfilled a longtime dream by serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Central Asia for two years, remaining in the region for four years in all. He is the author of the short-story collection Making Love While Levitating Three Feet in the Air (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2016), which was a finalist for the New Rivers Press MVP Award and the Permafrost Book Prize in Fiction. His fiction has appeared widely in journals and anthologies such as The PinchRosebudMany Mountains MovingBayou MagazineCrab Orchard Review, and—most recently—StoryFourteen HillsPacific ReviewValparaiso Fiction Review, and Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet (Press 53, 2014).

Jeff’s essays and poems have also appeared in many publications, including The Fourth River, New Madrid, Permafrost, The Los Angeles Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Potomac Review, The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays(MacKenzie Publishing, 2012), and Forest Under Story: A Decade of Creative Inquiry in an Old-Growth Forest (University of Washington Press, 2016). His writing has been nominated for Best New American Voices and three times for a Pushcart Prize, and he is the recipient of a 2015 Individual Artist Fellowship award from the Oregon Arts Commission. Jeff has taught writing and literature for many years at the Academy of Languages in Kazakhstan, Washington State University, Western Kentucky University, Prescott College, and currently Oregon State University. He lives with his wife and their two cats in Corvallis. More info can be found at jeff-fearnside.com

A sampling of some more of Jeff’s work may be found below:

  • Essay: “Place as Self” from ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

Poems:

Author Interview:

Kathryn Nuernberger is the author of two poetry collections, The End of Pink (BOA, 2016) and Rag & Bone (Elixir, 2011). Her collection of lyric essays, Brief Interviews with the Romantic Past won the Non/Fiction prize fro OSU Press and will be released in 2017. She is the recipient of research fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society and The Bakken Museum of Electricity in Life, as well as the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. She is an associate professor of creative writing at University of Central Missouri, where she also serves as the director of Pleiades Press.

Here’s what Kathryn had to say about being in the program:

“During my time at EWU, I developed some of the most profound literary friendships of my life (with classmates and professors alike). In the years since I graduated my EWU colleagues have been inspirations, collaborators, editors, and even good for the occasional much-needed kick in the pants. The opportunities I had to work on Willow Springs and at EWU Press were incredibly valuable experiences to drawn upon both as a writer trying to figure out how to make my own work stand-out in a crowded literary marketplace and when I was a candidate for jobs where editing experience was considered a valuable supplement to personal publications and teaching experience.”

Yvonne Higgins LeachYvonne Higgins Leach is the author of Another Autumn (WordTech Editions, 2014). Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies. A native of Washington state, she earned a Master of Fine Arts from Eastern Washington University. She spent decades balancing a career in communications and public relations, raising a family, and pursuing her love of writing poetry. Now a full-time poet, she splits her time living on Vashon Island and Spokane, Washington. For more information, visit yvonnehigginsleach.com.

Here are some of Yvonne’s memories from her time in the program:

“I was in the EWU MFA program from 1983-1989, and was fortunate enough to study poetry under Jim McAuley and Bill O’Daly. I learned a tremendous amount from both of them. I also took a few fiction courses from the esteemed John Keeble. During my time in the program, I was honored to be part of the poetry editorial staff of Willow Springs. I also functioned as a TA of English Composition for two years and taught Creative Writing 101 the second year. I lived on the lower South Hill during those years and commuted to campus in my little Toyota Starlet. I remember a few winters the snow being as high as the windows of my car. I put myself through the graduate program by waiting tables and working the bar at the then Black Angus (now Anthony’s).”

Brandon GetzAfter graduating from the EWU MFA program in 2010, Brandon Getz lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Philadelphia, PA, before settling back in his home city of Pittsburgh. His first published piece, “Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before,” appeared in Versal #9 and was a joke story originally written for the EWU graduate-student reading series at the (now sadly defunct) Empyrean Café. His fiction and poetry have also been featured in Burrow Press ReviewThe Delmarva Review, Burningword, and other journals. His story “Robot on a Park Bench,” set in Spokane’s Riverfront Park, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2014 and adapted into a radio drama by Delmarva Radio Theatre in June 2015. Determined to finish a novel draft without rewriting the first chapter every two months, he began a serialized space adventure in mid-2015 called Lars Breaxface, Werewolf in Space, available online at JukePop Serials.

For money, Brandon has been a barista, an indie film actor, and a blogger for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Quantum Theatre Company. He now works as a freelance editor for Dorrance Publishing and is finishing a collection of short stories. He is still trying to figure out how rocket ships, schlock horror movies, Philip Marlowe, and quiet epiphanic fiction can be Frankensteined into one savage beast. Find more at www.brandongetz.com

In addition to the links above, read some more of Brandon’s work here:

Gabrielle LeeGabrielle “Rie” Lee is a California-based writer and editor. She has a BFA in Dance Choreography and a BA in English from the UC Irvine, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Eastern Washington University. She loves pizza, is BFFs with The Chicago Manual of Style, and has a mild case of hyphenitis. Serving as Managing Editor for Willow Springs prepared her well to be a logistical administrator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she works during the day. When not administrating or writing, she teaches speech and writing courses at a tutoring center in Rosemead, CA.

You can find some of her shorter work in magazines like Switchback and The Common‘s Dispatches section, or in anthologies like Answers I’ll Accept: True Accounts of Online Dating. The first section of her illustrated sci-fi novella, Jenny & The Labyrinth, will be released in two parts starting this December over at Monthly Fiction. Her first novel, Comforts We Despise, is forthcoming from Zoozil Media in 2017.

Please use the links above to read some of Rie’s work, and check out a few more pieces here:

Kate PetersonKate Peterson earned her MFA from Eastern Washington University in Spokane, where she now works as the interim director of Get Lit! Programs. Her poetry and prose has been published in Glassworks, The Sierra Nevada Review, Barnstorm, Sugar House Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Aethlon, Packingtown Review, among others. Her chapbook Grist won the 2016 Floating Bridge Chapbook Prize and was published in October, 2016.  Learn more at katelaurenpeterson.tumblr.com

Here is what Kate had to say about her experience at EWU:

“One of the greatest things about being part of the MFA program was that it helped me find my people. Writing is a solitary craft, but becoming part of a community of writers who understand the life you’ve chosen, because they have also chosen that life, was (and still is) so powerful. EWU is a place where even as an alumna I have such a strong connection with the professors and students that I sometimes feel like I’m in my fifth year. I still read for Willow Springs when I have the time, and still teach poetry at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital through WITC. I also work as a regional coordinator for Poetry Out Loud, via Get Lit!and do social media/marketing work for the MFA program. All of this reminds me on a daily basis how dynamic the program is, and how much it has to offer. I’m grateful every day that I get to live in this beautiful city, surrounded by such a talented and generous community of writers.”

LeAnn BjerkenOriginally from Minnesota, LeAnn Bjerken is a 2014 graduate of the MFA program. Upon graduating she spent a year writing for the Colville Tribes’ Tribal Tribune, earning a Native American Journalist Association award in 2015 for her feature story “Building a Dream”. She now works as a reporter for the Spokane Journal of Business, and continues to submit her poetry and participate in local readings in her spare time. Her work has appeared in Miracle Magazine, and several online magazines including Devilfish Review, The Artistic Muse, The Lake, and Fox Adoption Magazine. She and her husband Steve live in Spokane, with their cat Tikki.

You can read LeAnn’s work on the Journal’s website.

Ryan ScarianoRyan Scariano’s chapbook, Smithereens, was published by Imperfect Press. Some of his recent poetry has appeared in Verde Que Te Quiero Verde: Poems After Frederico Garcia LorcaLilac City Fairy TalesRailtown AlmanacPaper Nautilus and Ink Node. New work is upcoming in the Willow Springs Books anthology, Heart of the Rat. He has an MFA from Eastern Washington University (2015) and works at Eastern Oregon University. In his spare time, he can be found with his girlfriend, collecting driftwood and sea glass at the Browns Point Lighthouse Park in Tacoma (If you ask, he’ll make you a suncatcher for free—you can contact him through his website www.ryanscariano.com).

Andrew KochA graduate of the class of 2016, Andrew Koch now lives in Denton, Texas where he is pursuing a creative writing PhD at the University of North Texas.  He is the author of the poetry chapbook, Brick-Woman (Hermeneutic Chaos, 2016) and serves as managing editor of the online journal Stirring: A Literary Collection. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Ninth LetterPoetry NorthwestSugar House ReviewWhiskey IslandZone 3The Tusculum ReviewGargoyle and others. More about his work is available at andrewkochpoetry.com.

Leyna KrowLeyna Krow graduated with her MFA from EWU in 2012. Her fiction has appeared in Ninth LetterPrairie Schooner, Hayden’s Ferry Review, South Dakota Review, and other publications. She is the author of the short story collection I’m Fine, But You Appear To Be Sinking(Featherproof Books 2017). She lives in Spokane with her husband and daughter. More info at www.leynakrow.com.

Here’s what Leyna had to say about the program:

“I am so grateful for my time at EWU! I feel like I came to grad school at the exact right time in my writing career. I had been writing and reading a lot, but also sort of flailing around with it. Workshops and classes at Eastern helped me focus in on the sort of stories I really wanted to be writing. I met a bunch of super creative people through the program who I absolutely love having in my life. Some of best friends came out of EWU. Wouldn’t trade ’em for anything.”

Carol EllisCarol Ellis‘s volume of poetry, Catapult: Cancer with Ron, has been published by Gray Dog Press, 2016. Other poems have appeared online.

Her essay, “In Defense of Ice,” was published by Penguin Classics and the Union of Concerned Scientists, 2009.

Matthew Campbell Roberts was born in Napa, California, and attended a one-room schoolhouse in Wooden Valley set in the middle of a vineyard. He currently teaches English courses at Pierce College. His poems and other work appear in CloverCirque Journal, StringTown, Clackamas Review, The Adirondack Review, The Cortland ReviewWhatcom Places IIThe Kennesaw ReviewWindfallThe Methow NaturalistSmartishPaceJeopardy and other literary journals and anthologies. He was a recipient of the Jeanne Lohmann poetry prize. He lives in the south Puget Sound region where he fly fishes for sea-run cutthroat and salmon. When not teaching, he divides his time between Port Townsend and the Methow Valley.

We All Lived Here

Spokane is the kind of place you go to after you’ve killed your whole family and want to give yourself quietly over to a new life. A small city that acts like a big one: where you can walk the busy streets and still be hiding, your old life going gray and diffuse with each step. An air of anonymity lingers like beige over faces, buildings, and homes—a casual brown that distracts no one’s eyes. Sometimes, when I’m walking on the quiet streets after dark, I feel as if I am wearing headphones, light-headed and distracted, a fuzzy image of myself. With nothing but the music and the air, it feels as if my life is simply playing out in front of me. I imagine that this peaceful, hollowed feeling is exactly the way the reel man in those old theaters must have felt. Watching the movies from his small room, peering at the screen through a small window, he already knows how it will end. You change the reels, it starts over. The murderer walks the streets a free man, the theater sits in a stilled hush. He lets the film play through.

1. September Storm

Like Doppler radar,
kids scatter in bright patterns
across the lawn.

Their sides heave,
umbrellas flapping,
open and closed,
open and closed.

Screams erupt—delight, desire,
or the tension of this hangnail weather.

In the sky, the edged energy
of protruded irritation,
a red crust rising
on the periphery of a tired eye.

2. December Dusk

The wintering necks of trees
slash against the sky.
On the top floor, I shiver.

Tapping windowsills
for cold air, my finger gnarls
to a witch’s cane.

Down the hall, a couple fights.
Their yells angle under
my doorway.  I drowse the seeps.

The microwave ticks and ticks
while the woman weeps.

December’s a cold bitch.
In this bleak light,
even milk won’t get warm.

When the man slams the door,
I slit my blinds.  Many shuttered lips.
Down the stairs, his feet punch,
one by one.

The woman’s muffled cries sound
like the sky’s low sob of snow.

Outside, kids recede.
Pull up from sidewalks, front yards,
slip indoors. Snails sucked
into shells.

All down the street, silence gorges,
feasting on the chill.

3. August Cooling

Purple-rimmed clouds
retain heat until after nine,
a sky of velvet-lined gloves.

Kids stay up late, bodies
vaulted in quicksilver.

They swagger and swear.
Try on an older menace.

Across the lawn, yells pop:
Fire or die!

The glassy marbles
of their shouts clatter
to the end of sound’s register.

I cool to my chair, wait
drift out,

a stain smudged gently
into night.

Sarah Hauge is a 2010 graduate who earned her MFA in nonfiction. She contributes to publications such as Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living, Out There Monthly, Field and Compass, and others, and also works as an editor. She lives in Spokane with her husband and two daughters.

Landmarks

He walked with purpose, and he walked a lot. Or so I assumed, because several times a week while out for a run I would see him, striding down the sidewalk on what I imagined was his daily stroll, ruddy-cheeked, white hair bouncing with the footfalls of his sneakers, and always, always wearing the thing that had drawn my attention in the first place: a neon nylon windbreaker, 1990s-style, vibrant with fluorescent greens and pinks and oranges. It was not a common fashion choice for a man in his 60s in an upper middle class neighborhood, and because of this, it made me really, really happy.

Each time I saw him it somehow made me feel like I was in the right place, even though we never spoke. This man became one of my personal Spokane landmarks. That doesn’t technically refer to people, but when I say landmark, I simply mean the things I’ve noticed that make this city feel like it belongs to me, and I to it—the beautiful, the unexpected, the strange. When I moved here 12 years ago, a transplant from western Washington where I had lived my entire life previously, my landmark list was blank. Like any other transplant, after the move I felt lost, uprooted, a little fragile. My then-new husband was the only person I knew well and I missed my friends and family, the vast water of the Puget Sound, even the way each western Washington hub shares close quarters with the next, big cities shouldering against smaller cities shouldering against suburbs. By comparison, my eastern Washington home had what first felt like a paltry trickle of water and seemed land-locked and isolated. I also had a new job, a dull, unfulfilling 8-to-5 in a windowless basement. I found myself with lots of restless energy, which I channeled into running. I’d started jogging a couple of years earlier in a consistent but casual way. Now I became a disciplined, many-times-a-week runner.

Of course, I got lost a lot—my sense of direction has always been terrible. My first couple of weeks here I’d get turned around, pretty sure I was within a half mile of my apartment but, to my great embarrassment, clueless whether I needed to head east or west to get back home. Running on my lunch break at work, I’d get mixed up about which of the footbridges to take across the park to return to my office downtown, finally hurrying back to my desk sweaty and breathless. But, I kept running and slowly I found my way. I discovered routes I liked: early morning jogs through sleepy neighborhoods, past overgrown gardens and empty basketball courts; lunchtime runs along the water, where I’d pass by marmots snuffling along the river banks near the university; weekend loops through lush green parks, down a series of bluff trails, and back home.

As time passed I got to know the weather: four official, distinctive seasons that I appreciated after the consistent mild temps and trademark rain of the Seattle area. Running past, I’d make mental note of the day the duck pond froze over in the winter; on frigid mornings I also experienced the strange new sensation of frozen nose hairs (something I’ve written about before and will never get over). At the dreary tail end of winter I’d notice, with joy that surprised me, the delicate, climbing perennials starting to blossom on the rockery in one of my favorite parks, followed weeks later by the yellow wildflowers that bloomed along the bluff. In the summer, those hot, dry days that smelled like a dusty campground, I discovered that even a 6 a.m. run left me with bright red cheeks, my skin dripping with sweat. The seasons cycled on and on, and other things changed. I switched jobs, made friends, went back to school, had a baby, and then another. I kept running.

My mental list of landmarks is now quite long: the gorgeous parks, the river (which I now love), the way the seasons feel, the shortcuts and neighborhood side streets I’ve taken dozens of times. And then there are the quirks, the things that—though I realize this is not actually true—make it seem like the city somehow gets me. Such as windbreaker man, whose repeat appearances have given me a strange sense of comfort as I’ve pondered his backstory. (Jacket worn ironically, or continuously for the past few decades? Hopefully the latter.) Similarly, the pirate boy: a little kid I often see out with his parents and younger sister by the playground or coffee shop in my neighborhood, garbed in full swashbuckler gear, eye patch on and plastic sword in hand. Or, the decorative stone dogs on the front porch of one of the stately old homes in a historic neighborhood that overlooks the city skyline, whose owners accessorize them for holidays and special occasions—witches’ hats near Halloween, runners’ singlets around the Bloomsday road race, a parade of costumes that always catch me off guard, each a tiny, welcome surprise. Who are the people who dress these dogs, I’ve wondered. Where do they keep the off-season costumes? In boxes stacked neatly in the attic marked “Mardi Gras Beads” and “Leprechaun Beards”?

I’ve never learned the answer, but that’s not the point. It still feels like a private joke for anyone who finds their way down that particular side street and happens to notice. They go on the landmark list with all the rest, windbreakers and wildflowers, worn old bridges and unmarked trails, all these details accumulating, adding up to what feels like intimacy with the place I now call home.

Spokanites will surely recognize the setting (and maybe even the robot) in this WALH submission by Brandon Getz, though maybe not for long! Learn more about author Brandon Getz on his website, and on our alumni bios page. This story was originally published in The Delmarva Review.

Robot on a Park Bench

1

The robot’s knees had rusted in the autumn rains.  He lifted each leg, exercising the oxidation out of the joints.  According to his barometric sensors, there would be precipitation within the hour.  More complications for his joints.  A silicon frame, like the one the facility gave to newer models, might have been preferable: lightweight and unrustable.  But everything has its flaws.  In any case, he hadn’t been given the choice.

As he walked through the park, his square, heavy feet sunk into the earth.  Dirt clotted in their ridges of tread, which he would have to dig out later, before re-entering the facility.

A man was sleeping on one of the benches.  The robot couldn’t feel cold—a slowness in his metal body, maybe, but not the chill—though he knew the park was cold.  His temperature gauges read 0.6 centigrade.  Factoring the man’s approximate age, weight, the alcohol content level on his sleeping breath, and the relative thickness of his camouflage blanket, and assuming temperatures and all other variables remained constant (the man did not wake up, no one added a thicker blanket), the robot calculated that the man would be dead in five hours.

With his joints squeaking and grinding as they were, the robot was sure the man would wake, but he only stirred and shifted onto his side, giving himself another fifteen to seventeen minutes, approximately, to live.

By the time he reached the carousel, the robot was tired.  He had been tired, in fact, for a very long time.  Perhaps he had been programmed tired.  There were no recorded dates in his memory banks that were not tinged with some degree of weariness, some exhaustion with the world and his role in it, though what that role was he still did not seem to know.

The carousel’s lights and music were off, and a heavy green tarpaulin had been hung from hooks in its ornamented roof to shelter the wooden animals from winter.  Beyond the carousel, the river trickled toward the Water Power dam, the falls, and, after [Processing…Processing…] 825.06 kilometers of lakes and reservoirs and dams, the ocean.

The robot stomped his treaded feet on the sidewalk but the dirt stuck.  His knees were stiff.  The barometer was dropping.  He settled onto a bench, up the bank from the river, where two small birds wrestled over a lollipop stick.  The birds’ movements were so quick, they seemed incomplete, unfluid, as if from a film that was missing essential frames.  The birds hopped from moment to moment on their lithe, brittle legs, the stick like a thread between them.

2

When the first snowflake fell on the park, it settled on the robot’s heavy, bolted jaw and froze in place.  By then, the park seemed almost empty: the dying homeless man, an old woman dragging a little flat-faced dog, a jogger in gray sweats with white wires in her ears.  Across the river, two park workers were raking leaves into big black bags.  A young man with a beard walked his bearded dog past them and onto the footbridge.  The bearded man and the bearded dog: somewhere in the banks of the robot’s circuitry played an old television laughtrack.  The two bearded animals turned toward the river, the smaller beast sniffing loose duck feathers on the concrete.  They passed the robot without realizing he was there; he was part of the landscape.

“Please,” the robot said.  “Ask your dog not to urinate on my foot.”

The man nearly jumped out of his skin [Processing…“jumped out of his skin,” an idiom appropriate for the sensation of fright/surprise].  The robot had been integrating the idioms he overheard in the facility, and he prized his ability to use them in context.

“I have problems with rust,” said the robot.  “It is not pleasant.”

“Sorry,” the man said.  He jerked the leash, and the dog, already finished, wiggled off toward a garbage can to sniff.  “I’m sorry about that.  I didn’t see you.”

The robot tilted its skinny bucket head and shook the pee off its leg.  “It’s all right,” the robot said.  Its voice played like a vinyl recording from a speaker in its mouth, and when it spoke, it opened its jaw wide to project the sound.  “I have problems with rust.  There are problems with my joints.  The bolts, you see.”

“Is this a joke?” the man said.

“What is a joke?” the robot said.

“Am I on camera?”

“I’m sorry,” the robot said.  [ProcessingProcessing…]  “That does not correspond with my definition of ‘joke.’”

The man laughed.  The robot’s mouth opened again.  This time, the laughtrack played through its speaker.  The man stopped laughing.  The robot continued for a moment too long, then its jaw slammed shut.

“My data suggests that it is appropriate to express amusement when another is expressing amusement.”

The robot noticed a car pass the park without its headlights on.  It shrunk into the white horizon, its back lights flashing briefly red before it turned a corner, away from the river.  Snow was settling on the robot’s arms and legs.  It fell in spirals over the river and the carousel and the other benches lining the sidewalks.  It was collecting now, thin sheets and clumps of white over the whole park, the city.

“Your data is probably right,” the man said.  “This snow might be a problem too.  For your joints.  It’s really coming down.”

“I like the river,” the robot said.  He picked one snowflake out of the millions and followed its arc into the icy surface of the river.  “Do you watch it much?”

“Do I what?”

“Is this grammar not correct?  My data assures me this verb is correct.”

“No, it’s fine.  I don’t usually go around watching rivers.  It’s cold.”

“Minus zero-point-seven centigrade.”

“Right.”

The robot gestured toward the water.  The articulate fingers and wrist whirred with the working of gears.  “Can you see that?”

“See what?”

“A bird is dying.”

“I don’t see anything.”

3

The man with the dog asked him where he was from, and was he lost?  The robot wasn’t lost.  He had a GPS uplink in his chest.  The engineers and technicians, if they had use for him, would page his uplink and convey the exact coordinates of the next intelligence test or hardware upgrade or military demonstration.  Increasingly, because of the newer models, the more human-looking prototypes with their moving latex faces and silicon frames, they did not have a use for him.  For now, he was just taking a walk.  He’d been taking walks for months, each one a little further from the facility.  From the satellite maps, he had known a river ran nearby.  A runoff from the mountains, with a big rocky falls at the heart of the city.

He was watching the river now.  The river and the people and the snow: the world with all its moving parts.

“The snow is pleasant.”

“I guess so.”

In the storage room at the facility, two striped cats caught the mice that escaped from the laboratory cages, and when the mice were gone, it was the robot’s job to feed them tuna from cans he held in his palm.  The technicians had named them George and Gracie, though they were both females, the robot discovered, and he had secretly taken to calling the other Georgia.  He liked that, having a secret.  He liked learning that he could keep secrets.

He could feel the snow’s weight now.  The mean temperature of his body had lowered, though the networks of circuit boards throughout his head and abdomen were running at safe temperatures.  He calculated that, if he did not move from the bench, and if all other variables remained constant, his functions would begin to slow in less than two hours.  He didn’t think he would mind.  The river was still moving.  The man and the dog were still there.

As long as he wasn’t asked directly.  That was it.  The technicians and the engineers never asked by what name he called the smaller cat.  He was not compelled to tell them.  They did not ask where he went when he wasn’t in the storage room or why he never associated with the new models.  When they did ask about the rust, he said it had developed from the oxidation process that resulted from the chemical fusion of water and iron.  Technically, that had been a factual response.

The robot calculated that, as long as he was never asked directly, he could keep a secret indefinitely.

“My girlfriend is going to wonder where I am,” the young man said.  “The dog is getting cold.”

“Yes,” the robot said.  “The dog will die in three-point-two hours, if variables remain constant.”

“Right.  I don’t want him to do that.”

“That would be unpleasant.”

The robot leaned forward to pet the bearded dog.  The dog made a sound of fright and bit the robot’s flat steel hand.  This, it seemed, caused the dog more confusion than pain.

“He doesn’t like strangers much.  He’s starting to go blind.”

“If only he could be upgraded.”

“Right,” the man said.  “Don’t stay too long.”

“How long is too long?” the robot said.  It wasn’t a question for the man.

“Long enough to freeze, I guess.  To cause frostbite, or whatever.  Frost-rust.”

“Yes,” the robot agreed.  “That would be too long.”

4

On the telephone poles outside the park, there were no Missing Robot fliers.  Cars rolled through downtown, churning dirt and gravel through the new snow.  The man and the dog trudged through drifts of white toward home.  Snowflakes continued their analog whirl, falling faintly and faintly falling upon all the living and the digital.

5

The robot’s sensors noted the darkening of the sky over the park.  They measured spectroscopics and lumenscopics and the gradual shutdown of the robot’s own secondary functions.  Data relayed from chip to chip, in whatever network of copper and silica comprised the robot’s consciousness.  Now, under thick clumps of wet snow, he did not bother to move his limbs, and anyway, the joints had been frozen for an hour.  He watched the river move until it was too dark to see, or until his optics ceased to operate, he did not know which.  He listened to the water until his aural sensors froze over.  The temperature kept dropping.  He sat on the bench in the darkness of himself and waited for the last of his primary functions to cease, for the moment when he would no longer be aware of moments.

Who would feed Georgia and Gracie?  The little cans of tuna on the floor of the store room: who would open them, if not him?   That had been his job.  A job is a kind of purpose, a reason to exist, however small.  He thought of the cats mewing for their food, licking the juice from the cans off his hand.  And he thought of them without him, ceasing to function, the movement of their breathing stopping quietly in some corner of the lab.

Even cats die alone.  What happens then, that is a secret everything keeps.

Long after he could perceive it, the dark river reflected on the flat discs of his eyes.  Primary motor systems ceased.  Even if he’d wanted to, he could not move his limbs.  Remaining power diverted to memory banks, to cognition.  [Processing…]  Gradually, memory began to fade.  Hard drives froze in succession.  The man and his dog were the first to be forgotten.  Then the behavioral programs, the voice modulators.  He forgot to worry about the cats or the rust in his knees; he forgot what a knee was.  As the snow stopped falling, the last of his memory discs spun on its tiny wheels: the secret names of the cats, the walks he’d taken along the river, the way home.  [ProcessingError]

What is: cat.  [Error]

What is: river.  [Error]

What is: home.

#END

Below you will find a lyric essay by 2010 non-fiction graduate Amaris Ketcham. Amaris was inspired by Joe Brainard’s book I Remember. Learn more about Amaris on her website.

I Remember Winter

I remember eighty inches of snow falling in one week.

I remember icicles wider than me, even with my coat on, forming columns connecting the gutter of a second-story Victorian home to the ground.

I remember being told that because I was from the South I hadn’t known winter. I remember thinking that person was wrong.

I remember all the people from the North described their states as mitts and pointed out where they were from by how close or far they were from the thumb-peninsula.

I remember my first coat. I had moved with a jean jacket that I’d thought was a coat until I realized I was the only one shivering during smoke breaks. In February of my first winter, my father sent me his 80s Eddie Bauer down parka. Navy blue and several sizes too big, the coat often got me mistaken for a homeless teenager. As I walked across downtown Spokane, people offered me food or a ride to the shelter. I remember thinking how nice everyone was.

I remember building a snow-woman in Coeur d’Alene Park.

I remember a boy who skied down South Hill to work.

I remember the cuffs of my jeans frozen stiff. I remember wondering at what temperature frozen pants might shatter.

I remember walking eight miles each day, to work, to school, home and learning which streets got salt and which didn’t. Walking, slipping, and catching myself became an intense core workout.

I remember falling backward on the ice and landing on my cigarette lighter in my back pocket. I remember the swelling, a bruise the size of a grapefruit, and not wanting to sit for a week.

I remember being told to look for Yaktrax and Nikwax.

I remember buying myself a pair of Gore-Tex shoes for my birthday. Even though I bought them on clearance, I had never spent that much money on a pair shoes. They were $80 and they promised me warm, dry feet, which was worth a lot more.

I remember finding a pair of neon yellow ski pants at a yard sale that I could wear over jeans during my walking commute and shed in the bathroom. I remember the first time I wore them, how I felt impenetrable.

I remember other students losing their cars because they were in the path of snowplows.

I remember snow berms built between lanes on the roads. Car exhaust browned them and they melted in places but not entirely, resembling the rock formations in Arches National Park by March.

I remember the sun rising at 8 am and setting at 4 pm, and how some days I never saw daylight.

I remember “drive-thru espresso huts,” which were small, standalone cafes in parking lots. They often had puns for names: Brews Brothers, Bean Me Up Espresso, Higher Grounds, Hold Your Grounds, Java The Hut, The Supreme Bean, and Wake Up Call.

I remember switching from iced tea to hot tea. Earl Grey became my favorite, because bergamot reminded me of spring.

I remember making a lentil soup that lasted me a week and never wanting to eat lentil soup again.

I remember taking long baths in my clawfoot bathtub while listening to This American Life.

I remember my wet hair freezing if I stepped outside.

I remember carrying a space heater from room to room with me.

I remember wearing fingerless gloves while I typed my homework.

I remember using a hair dryer to seal a thin layer of plastic over the inside of the windows. The wind would beat against the plastic covering, drumming through the night. I eventually nailed saddle blankets over the plastic to better insulate the apartment. I forfeited what sunshine I might have seen for more warmth.

I remember dense fog settled over snowy plains.

I remember someone saying, “This is how I imagined the setting of Ethan Frome,” as he exhaled a cloud of breath.

I remember snowshoeing to the top of Mt. Spokane. Snow weighted the evergreens. Frozen moss dripped with icicles. Sunlight reflected off of unbroken snow, making it glitter. I remember realizing that this was the kind of “winter wonderland” Christmas settings tried to replicate.

I remember warm mist rising from the rushing waters of Spokane Falls.

I remember wondering if there was still more of winter to know.

I remember a sculpture of forty people running the Bloomsday race along Spokane Falls Boulevard, looking like they were tiptoeing across an inch of snow.

I remember spring potholes so deep and wide that you could fall through to China.

I remember reading a quote from Camus and adopting it as a personal motto: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”

I remember it snowing during the first few days of June. Just a flurry fell and the sun still shone and I remember thinking it was one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen.

At EWU we are proud of the accomplishments of our alumni, and want to share and promote their work as much as we can. We are also interested in giving prospective students a sense of what living in Spokane while pursuing their MFA might be like. As part of the We All Lived Here project, we publish work from our alumni that speaks to the idea of home while living in Spokane, or relates to the city in some way. We will be collecting these pieces for an anthology that will potentially be published by our very own Willow Springs Books. We hope that you enjoy these pieces as much as we do.

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