Alumni Newsletter, Fall 2020 (vol. 6)

Photo courtesy Florida Keys Public Libraries: Betty Suarez's third grade class, Reynolds Elementary School, 1965-66. Gift Lisa Suarez.
Photo courtesy Florida Keys Public Libraries: Betty Suarez's third grade class, Reynolds Elementary School, 1965-66. Gift Lisa Suarez.

We’re delighted to share here the many accomplishments of our community of writers. The French painter Paul Cezanne once said, “We live in a rainbow of chaos.” Artists and writers—like you—take those colors and that chaos and turn them into something from which others can learn and grow. We thank you for that important and challenging work.

Support local & independent booksellers! Purchase any book highlighted here from Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West and get a 20% discount. Use code “KWLS21” at checkout.

featured achievements

kYmberly Keeton‘s second book of poetry Emerging From The Wind: Love In The Time of Corona (written under the pseudonym Atlas Brown) is available through Indie Texas on the BiblioBoard Library mobile and web platform. Keeton is a native Texan, a nationally published writer, an art librarian and archivist, and a genealogy curator.

By day, the ALA Emerging Leader and Library Journal 2020 Mover & Shaker is the African American Community Archivist and Librarian at the Austin History Center, Austin Public Library. Independently, Keeton is the Chief Artistic Officer of NOVELLA MEDIA, a creative multimedia production company and the founder of ART | library deco. Currently, she is pursuing a doctorate in data science at the University of North Texas. (Workshop Financial Aid 2018/ Manuel Gonzales 2018)

kYmberly Keeton
Chase Burke

Chase Burke‘s chapbook of very short stories, Lecturewas released in July by Paper Nautilus as a winner of their 2019 Debut Series contest. He contributed a story, “The Mask, the Ride, the Bag,” to the Tiny Nightmares anthology, recently released by Catapult.

His fiction chapbook, Men You Don’t Know You Know, won the Cupboard Pamphlet’s 2020 contest, chosen by Kim Chinquee, and will be published Spring 2021. A very short story, “Favoring the Nightcap,” was published this summer in the Cincinnati Review as part of their miCRo series. (Emerging Writer Award 2020/ Claire Messud 2020)

Arida Wright‘s new book Then Sings My Soul, released by Powerlines Publishing, offers 365 days of inspirational reflections. It is the story of the life-changing journey during which she learned to listen to God’s voice, a still, small voice she describes as “soul singing.”

As a Shinnecock Indian/Afro-American woman, Arida teaches the power of spirituality through the use of traditional ceremonies. Currently she is a member of the Key West Poetry Guild and the Key West Writers Guild and resides in Key West. (Workshop Financial Aid 2018/ Manuel Gonzales 2018)

Arida Wright
Maija Rhee Devine

Maija Rhee Devine recently had three poems published in an anthology, When the Virus Came Calling: COVID-19 Strikes America (Golden Foothills Press), in which 11 of the 45 writers are poets laureate, including Richard Blanco, the US presidential poet laureate at Obama’s second inauguration. Maija’s poem, “Comfort Women of WWII,” was a featured poem of the week in Pleiades this summer. Her poem “Death By Sex, Death By Corona” and her essay “The Korean War and Chocolate Candies” were both published in DoveTales, a Writing for Peace Literary Journal of the Arts.

Maija celebrated the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage with four First Ladies and created 100 one-minute videos that were posted by the Washington Post in August. Maija’s video can be seen here. (Greg Pardlo 2020/ Kevin Young 2019/ Billy Collins 2018/ Dana Weir 2014/ Sharon Olds 2013/ Susan Shreve 2012/ Porter Shreve 2011)


Michael Adno is reporting for the New York Times as well as the Guardian this year and writing features for the Bitter Southerner and Surfer’s Journal. Over the summer, he and Kathryn Harrison raised over $45,000 for social justice organizations through a benefit called Photographs for Purpose. In October, Adno and his co-author Matt Titone released a collection of interviews called “On Surfing,” and he has launched a Kickstarter campaign to turn it into a book. (Writer in Residence 2018, 2019, 2020)

Pam Braswell‘s debut Rising from Rape, A Memoir of Justice and Survival will be released by McFarland/Exposito late this year. It is a firsthand true crime narrative that gives a victim’s perspective on the harrowing investigation of the crime, the revelations in the press, and the grand jury indictment and capital murder trial. (Susan Shreve 2015)

Chaney Kwak will publish his first book of nonfiction, The Passenger: How a Travel Writer Learned to Love Cruises & Other Lies from a Sinking Ship, with Godine, Publisher in 2021. In a bit of KWLS synergy, the book’s editor is Joshua Bodwell, who also won an Emerging Writer Award in 2015. (Emerging Writer Award 2015

Priscilla Mainardi‘s essay “To Melinda,” about the death of a friend from cancer during the pandemic, was published in the November issue of the narrative medicine journal the Intima. (Nicole Dennis-Benn 2020)

Judy Seldin-Cohen published two essays this year: “Farmer Daughter/Uptown Mother,” in the May issue of Hadassah Magazine and “Beyond Casseroles” in the anthology Impact: Personal Portraits of Activismpublished by Musewrite Press. (Writer’s Toolkit 2019)

Jay Sennett‘s essay “A Wide Landscape of Blanks,” which he workshopped in his KWLS class, has been published in phoebe – A Journal of Literature and Art based at George Mason University. (Fernanda Eberstadt 2020)

Celia Viggo Wexler was honored for her commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun by the Religion Newswriters Association. Judges called her work, which is largely focused on Catholic feminism, “sharp, original analysis.” Essays by Celia and her daughter, Valerie, will be published in the upcoming book, Unruly Catholic Women (SUNY Press). She has also been writing op-eds for NBC News’ website, THINK. (Kate Moses 2017/ Madeline Blaise 2014)


Rebecca Bruff‘s children’s Christmas adventure, Stars of Wonder, illustrated by artist Jill Dubin, will be released this month by Koehler Books. It’s the story of four curious kids who follow a star, encounter challenges and obstacles, and find their own strength along with joy, love, and great wonder. (Kate Moses 2017)

Chelsea Catherine‘s second novel, Summer of the Cicadas, was published by Red Hen Press in August. It follows the narrator, Jessica, as she investigates a strange brood of seventeen-year-old magicicadas that have infected her rural West Virginian town. Chelsea recently signed with literary agent Mary C. Moore of Kimberley Cameron & Associates to work on her third book, Blessed Be, about a coven of queer witches in the south. (Workshop Financial Aid 2016/ Kevin Young 2016)

Summer of the Cicadas by Chelsea Catherine
Should Grace Fail by Priscilla Paton

The second novel in Priscilla Paton‘s Twin Cities Mystery series, Should Grace Failis coming out this December with Coffeetown Press.

When a disgraced policeman who rescues trafficking victims is murdered, Detectives Erik Jansson and Deb Metzger have their skills put to the test as killers target a biracial pianist and a man generous to a fault. (Fernanda Eberstadt 2020)

Cindy Simmons’s debut novel, Wrong Kind of Paper, is due out next year from Sunbury Press. It tells the story of a young reporter confronting systemic racism in a small-town police department. (Marie Myung-Ok Lee 2017)


Chloe Firetto-Toomey‘s poem “Empty House” will appear in the 3Elements Review. It’s the first poem she’s written since completing her MFA program. Chloe says, “In many ways, it’s the ‘bravest’ poem I’ve written to date in that it tells a family secret; inspects generational trauma, emotional inheritance. The poem attempts to fathom the stories we inherit.” (Emerging Writer Award 2020/ Billy Collins 2020)

D. E. (Doug) Greens book of poems, Jumping the Median, which has it’s seeds in his KWLS workshop, was recently published by Encircle Publications. (Billy Collins 2012)

Emily Vizzo was awarded an art residency with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, during which time she wrote two poems that were published by the literary and arts site Empty Mirror. The focus of the residency is how open data and data synthesis can help address the climate crisis. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2019/ Rowan Ricardo Phillips 2017)

short stories & articles

Adela M. Brito has had two short stories published: “Adrift” in Moko, Caribbean Arts and Letters and “Category-5 Effects” in the Acentos Review. She recently earned her MFA from the University of Memphis. (Workshop Financial Aid 2018/ Naomi Jackson 2018)

Joe Dornich‘s debut short story collection, The Ways We Get Bywill be released by Black Lawrence Press in January 2021. The collection contains the story that won the Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award. (Emerging Writer Award 2019/ Joy Williams 2019)

I have the Answer by Kelly Fordon

Kelly Fordon‘s short story collection I Have the Answer was recently published by Wayne State University Press. In addition, her poetry collection Goodbye Toothless House was released by Kattywompus Press. (Valerie Martin 2010/ Joy Williams 2018)

Mary Garber, writing under the byline M. E. Garber, has had two flash fiction stories published: “What You Do for a Friend,” in the scientific journal Nature in the “Futures” section and “Jancy8146 and the RealHouse” at Daily Science Fiction. (Writer in Residence 2018)

Amy Lantinga‘s essay “No Room on the Boat? Pets vs People in Disaster Relief Efforts” was published in Animals and Ourselves: Essays on Connections and Blurred Boundaries, edited by Kathy Merlock Jackson, Kathy Shepherd Stolley and Lisa Lyon Payne. This book chapter chronicles the blurred lines between humans and their animals through the lens of rescue and relief efforts during natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina, Irene, Irma, and Harvey. (Krystal Sital 2020/ John Dufresne 2019)

Maija Makinen‘s short story “1993” was selected as fiction winner of the 2020 Iowa Review Awards and will appear in the Winter Issue; Lan Samantha Chang judged. Her essay on the pandemic was published in the Bare Life Review. Maija’s short fiction “The Ghosts of Other Immigrants” is forthcoming in “Short, Vigorous Roots: An Anthology of Immigrant Fiction in the Age of Dissent” edited by Susan O’Neill and Mark Budman and published by Ooligan Press. She is currently in residence at Art Omi: Writers in Ghent, NY. (Emily Raboteau 2019)

Gale Massey‘s collection of 13 short stories, Rising and Other Stories, is coming out with Bronzeville Books in April 2021. Gale is a Florida native and lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. More information at (Claire Messud 2020)

Kristine Mietzner‘s short story “Crossing Over” was published by the literary journal166 Palms in July. (Dan Menaker 2018 / Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2017)

Vicki Riley‘s multi-genre book Cayo Hueso: Literary Writings and Artwork From Key West has been published in a linen-bound volume with book jacket as a cherished keepsake and conversation piece. It contains poems and stories that capture Key West and includes paintings by Linda Cabrera. (Paulette Alden 2015/ Lee Smith 2012)

Andrea Rinard was nominated for Best of the Net for her flash fiction, “Lovebugs,” which was published in Cease, Cows. (Emerging Writer Award 2020/ Lauren Groff 2020)

Cayo Hueso: Literary Writings and Artwork From Key West by Vicki Riley

April Sopkin received a dual-genre MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is finishing a short story collection and teaches writing at both VCU and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. Her writing has won the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Patricia Aakhus Award. Her prose appears/is forthcoming in Black Telephone Magazine, Carve Magazine, Southern Indiana Review, Parhelion Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. More information at (Francine Prose 2020)


John Baum was awarded a fellowship at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts, and his short story “The Day Mark Nolan Gets Shot” is forthcoming in the Carolina Quarterly online edition. (Mary Kay Zuravleff 2016)

Debra Daniel won the Kakalak 2020 First Prize for her poem, “Things Lost,” and her poem “How We Make It Through” won the John Robert Doyle Prize from the Poetry Society of South Carolina. Her flash piece, “If My Mother Really Loved Me, She Would’ve Had Sex With Gene Kelly,” was selected for the UK’s National Flash Fiction Day Anthology. (Dan Menaker 2016/ Billy Collins 2015)

Aurora Dominguez won a third place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for a blogpost in Worthy Magazine. In October, she was designated “Teacher of the Month” at Boca High School. Aurora contributes young adult book reviews and content for Frolic Media and was recently hired by Book Riot to contribute journalistic pieces. She will be teaching communication courses at Nova Southeastern and Florida Atlantic University in 2021. More at (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2020)

Maria Lisa Eastman‘s poem “Violets, History” won first place in the Wyoming Writer’s contest. A poem that was written during the KWLS workshop as a homework assignment, “Suite No. 1 in G Major for Solo Cello, or JS Bach’s Dog,” received an honorable mention in the same contest. Participants from that workshop have formed a monthly group, called “The Cigar Factory Poets” to continue reviewing one another’s work and to support each other in poetry. (Billy Collins 2020)

Aaron Hamburger‘s novel Nirvana Is Here was awarded a Bronze Medal in the 2019 Foreword Reviews Indies Awards. Aaron received a fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities. More at (Writer in Residence 2018)

Elizabeth Jacobson was awarded a 2020 Poets Laureate Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets for her current civic project in which she will support a poetry and visual arts venture for high school teenagers encompassing the study and crafting of poems, graphic design, silk screening, poetry tee-shirts, photography, portraiture, readings, group shows, and the publication of an anthology. (Writer in Residence 2020)

Audrey Wick was named a 2019 Teaching Excellence Award Winner at Blinn College. She was recognized for her innovative approaches to student success. She has been on faculty since 2003. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2018)


Nancy Freund Fraser received her Masters in Creative Writing from Cambridge University. She’s pleased to report that her 2019 KWLS workshop group has remained in contact since working together in Key West. More at (Richard Russo 2019/ Billy Collins 2017)

Elizabeth Oxley was recently accepted to the M. Phil. in Creative Writing program at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. Her focus during the program will be poetry. Some of her poems can be found on her website (Gregory Pardlo 2019)

Janet Zinn has been writing a weekly blog since social distancing during the pandemic. It’s from a personal viewpoint and has a mental health perspective since she is a psychotherapist. Thus far there are 31 posts, some of which include photos she took in NYC and self-care tips. Each post is about a four minute read. (Emily Raboteau 2019)

in memoriam

It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of two of our friends and colleagues.

Daniel Menaker taught in our workshop program each year from 2013–2019. He was an influential editor as well as a critically acclaimed author. Learn more about his life in the New York Times obituary.

Robert Richardson served on our board of directors from 2001-2009, and on the honorary board since then. As a board member, he was one of the strongest advocates for our scholarship program. Bob was best known for his biographies of Thoreau, Emerson and William James. You can read more about him in the New York Times obituary.

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