KWLS Alumni Newsletter, Fall 2019

Our alumni continue to amaze us with their productivity and dedication. Here you’ll find the most recent achievements of our past workshop students, Emerging Writer Award winners, scholarship recipients, and writers in residence.

We are proud of their industriousness and the considerable acclaim they continue to receive in the literary community. We hope their successes also inspire you!

Support local & independent booksellers! Purchase any book highlighted here from Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West and get a 20% discount. Use code “KWLS20” at checkout.

featured achievements

Jacqueline Allen Trimble, PhD, wrote five episodes for the first South African online soap opera ever to air in Afrikaans on Netwerk 24. The show, Die Testament, is the first Afrikaans drama primarily written by a team of black women. Jacqueline’s first poetry collection, American Happiness, won the Balcones Poetry Prize. (2017 Teacher & Librarian scholarship)

Celia Viggo Wexler ‘s book, Catholic Women Confront Their Church: Stories of Hurt and Hope was published by Rowman & Littlefield. Celia writes about Catholic feminist issues for the San Francisco Chronicle, where one of her op-eds earned an award from the Society of Professional Journalists DC Chapter and was a finalist in a national competition for religion journalists. She had an essay published in Visions and Vocations (Paulist Press), and another will be published in Third- and Fourth-Wave Catholic Women Writers by SUNY Press. (2014 Madeleine Blais/ 2016 Kate Moses workshops)

Garrison Keillor selected and read aloud Paige Riehl‘s poem “Things That Cannot Die” for the Writer’s Almanac this August. Paige was interviewed by WriteOn! Radio about her new poetry book, Suspension, and presented on two panels at AWP in Portland in 2019. (2016 Billy Collins workshop)

Michael Adno’s first front-page story “Citrus Farmers Facing Deadly Bacteria Turn to Antibiotics, Alarming Health Officials” ran earlier this year with Andrew Jacobs in the New York Times. Michael worked on an investigative feature for the Times with Vivian Wang “New York Rejects Keystone-Like Pipeline in Fierce Battle Over the State’s Energy Future.” His essay “The Sum of Life: Zora Neale Hurston” recently came out in the Bitter Southerner. (2018/ 2019 writer in residence)

short stories

Vanessa Blakeslee‘s latest book, Perfect Conditions: Storiesis winner of Foreword Reviews’s 2018 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award for Short Stories (Gold); the 2019 IPPY Medal for Short Story Fiction (Silver); the NIEA (Gold); and was a Chicago Tribune “Summer Reads” Pick, among other accolades. She has recently been awarded residencies at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology and will be the Fairhope writer in residence in December. (2012 Margaret Atwood workshop)

Ayşe Papatya Bucak‘s short story collection, The Trojan War Museum and Other Stories, was published by W.W. Norton in August. The short story she workshopped at KWLS was published in One Story this July, and other stories from the collection were recently published in Guernica and BOMB. (2017 Marie Myung-Ok Lee workshop)

Esperanza Cintron‘s fourth book, Shades, Detroit Love Stories, a collection of interconnected short stories, was released in August by Wayne State University Press. (2018 Teacher & Librarian scholarship)

Joe Dornich‘s debut short story collection, The Ways We Get By, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in December 2020. (2019 Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award winner)

Ross Feeler‘s short story “The Diver” appeared in the most recent edition of Story|Houston. Another short story, “Parisian Honeymoon,” is forthcoming in Electric Literature, and a brief craft essay entitled “On People-Watching,” was published in the Masters Review Blog earlier this year. (2019 Marianne Russo Award winner)

Kelly Fordon‘s second collection of short stories, I Have the Answer, will be published by Wayne State University Press in 2020. Her first poetry collection, Goodbye Toothless House, was published by Kattywompus Press this year. (2010 WFA scholarship/ 2018 Joy Williams workshop)

Donna Gordon workshopped a short story, “Blood Moon,” with Dani Shapiro that was published in Post Road. She received the 2018 New Letters Publication Award for “Primates,” which appeared in the July 2019 issue, and she was a finalist for the 2019 Black Lawrence Press Big Moose Award for her novel, What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me. Donna is currently a writer in residence at Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts in Wyoming. (2017 Dani Shapiro workshop)

Jordan Jacks has published short stories in the Iowa ReviewStoryElectric LiteratureTerritory, the Organist, the podcast from KCRW and McSweeney’s. The novel he excerpted for his award application is now in its seventh—and hopefully close to final—draft. (2016 Marianne Russo Award winner)

Jen Logan Meyer’s story “Stop.” is in the summer issue of the Sewanee Review. She was also recently interviewed in their Spring 2017 issue. (2018 Joy Williams workshop)

Anne Oman‘s debut novella/linked stories Mango Rains in March will be published by Galaxy Galloper Press in March 2020. She received feedback on her manuscript from Hilma Wolitzer, Susan Shreve, Tim Seldes, and her KWLS classmates. (2007 Hilma Wolitzer workshop)

plays/ short fiction/ essays

Debra A. Daniel‘s new novella-in-flash, The Roster, was a highly commended entry in the Bath Flash Fiction Award and, as a result, was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in the UK. (2014 Billy Collins/ 2015 Daniel Menaker workshops)

Will Dowd‘s book of essays, Areas of Fog, was named a Massachusetts Book Awards Nonfiction Must Read. (2010 Scotti Merrill Award winner)

The play Drew Larimore worked on while in residency at KWLS, The Cannibals of McGower County, received a workshop and public reading at Denizen Theatre in New Paltz, New York. Drew is an October writer in residence at the Djerassi Residency Program. (2018/ 2019 writer in residence)

Maija Makinen‘s short story “Country Fiction” was published this September in Porterhouse Review. (2019 Emily Raboteau workshop)

Lucy McKeon has published an essay “On Love and Blindness” in the Point and was awarded a residency at Crosstown Arts in Memphis, Tennessee, where she finished her novel. (2019 writer in residence)


Pam Braswell‘s debut book Survivor. Hero. Woman. Warrior. is a true crime memoir with an open letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom and will be published in 2020 by McFarland/Exposito Publishing. (2015 Susan Shapiro workshop)

Kenneth D. Michaels‘s book, How’s Your Prostate? A Cancer Survivors Candid Journey was published by La Mancha Press in May. Incorporating acceptance and humor, he shares his feelings from detection of the disease to recovery and includes helpful tips for others. “A positive, informative, and delightful guided tour through the snarls of surviving a distressing cancer diagnosis written with comedic grace,” according to Kirkus Reviews. (2019 Daniel Menaker workshop)


Ginny Lowe Connors edits Connecticut River Review, a national poetry journal that comes out annually. She will begin taking submissions for the next issue in February 2020. (2019 Dara Weir workshop)

Jay Deshpande is completing a Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford. Recent work is forthcoming in AGNIHyperallergicKenyon ReviewPleiades, and more. He has also received fellowships from Kundiman and Civitella Ranieri. (2015 Scotti Merrill Award winner)

Adrienne Drobnies published a book of poetry, Salt and Ashes, with Signature Editions. (2008 Mark Doty/ 2014 Jane Hirshfield workshops)

Jeremy Freedman has recently had poems published in Ghost City ReviewOtoliths, and Dispatches. (2018 Rowan Ricardo Phillips/ 2019 Gregory Pardlo workshops)

Katherine Gekker‘s poetry collection, In Search of Warm Breathing Things, has been published by Glass Lyre Press. (2019 Kevin Young workshop)

Abigail King‘s poem “Call in the Ents” was accepted for publication in Raw Art Review, as well as shortlisted for their Charles Bukowski Prize for Poetry. Her first stab at humor writing, a short piece called “What Should I Wear to the Revolution?” was picked up by Defenestration for their January issue. (2017 Billy Collins workshop)

Michael Lee‘s poetry collection The Only Worlds We Know has recently been published by Button Poetry. (2018 Scotti Merrill Award winner)

Carol Ann Russell recently presented her poems at the Watermark Art Center ITALIA, with music composed by Dr. Paul Brandvik. Carol will be a resident artist in St. Mark’s Church, Florence, Italy, where she will design a new book of original poetry and art. She was chosen as a recipient of the 2018-19 Artist Fellowship by the Region 2 Arts Council. (2019 Dana Weir workshop)

Emily Vizzo‘s poetry manuscript BIO, which she wrote during her year-long art residency with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, was named a finalist for the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. (2017 Teacher & Librarian scholarship)


Diana Abu-Jaber‘s second novel, Silverworld, will be published in March 2020 by Random House. This middle-grade novel is a fantasy adventure story about a Lebanese-American girl who finds the courage to save her grandmother. (2016 faculty/ 2018 & 2019 writer in residence)

Chelsea Catherine‘s second novel, Summer of the Cicadas, won the Quill Prose Award and will be published in 2020. (2016 WFA scholarship)

Marie Myung-Ok Lee‘s 28-year-old YA novel, Finding my Voice, will be reissued in spring 2021 (2016 faculty/ 2016 writer in residence)

Brooks Whitney Phillips‘s The Grove, a debut middle-grade novel set in the Florida orange groves of the early 1960s, will be published by Philomel, Penguin publishing’s children’s press, in 2021. (2013 Marianne Russo Award winner)

Audrey Wick released a duet series of contemporary romances this summer called On the Market and Off the Market, an undertaking in which a dozen authors all write in the same fictional world. Frolic, a pop culture and romance brand, named On the Market a Contemporarily Ever After Top Pick of the Week. Audrey was one of the featured authors at the West Texas Book Festival this year. (2018 Teacher & Librarian scholarship)

awards & more

Ben Bush recently received residency fellowships from Vermont Studio Center, Kimmel Harding Nelson, and a scholarship from Wesleyan Writers’ Conference. He is an incoming Dornsife Fellow at the literature/creative writing PhD program at the University of Southern California. (2016 Antonya Nelson workshop)

Flower Conroy‘s first full-length manuscript, Snake Breaking Medusa Disorder, recently won the National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ Stevens Manuscript Contest, selected by the poet Chen Chen. Flower currently has an art assemblage and poetry exhibit at The Studios of Key West. (2015 Billy Collins/ 2016 Kevin Young workshops)

Kathleen Lenane will launch The Clueless Caregiver website and blog in November, offering quirky, humorous advice on caring for aging parents. The blog will serialize episodes of her personal story, “Familyville,” about returning home to intractable parents, troubled cousins, a backyard Ferris wheel, and other accidents waiting to happen. (2018 Daniel Menaker workshop)

Jessica L. Moore‘s manuscript am●phib●ian won the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award from Broadside Lotus Press. The book is due out in February, and a poem from the manuscript titled “Junk Science” will be published in Poet Lore. (2018 Billy Collins workshop)

Beverly Tan Murray‘s memoir/non-fiction piece, “Trauma Is Our Country” was winner of the Briar Cliff Review‘s 2019 nonfiction contest. (2017 Marie Myung-Ok Lee workshop)

Patty Smith received a fellowship from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and appeared on a panel at George Mason University called “Society, Secrets, and Sexual Misconduct” along with KWLS alum Aaron Hamburger. Patty has a flash essay forthcoming in Hippocampus(2015 Elizabeth Jarrett Andrews workshop)

We love hearing what KWLS alumni are up to!
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