WITS Writers

Gloria Alvarez is a novelist and freelance writer. Her third book, Desert Kiss, won a Latino Literary Hall of Fame award. She has lived in Mexico, Spain, and Indonesia and has worked with WITS for 10 years. A member of Novelists Inc. and the Authors Guild, Gloria holds a B.S. in Spanish from Georgetown University and an M.A. in linguistics from the Ohio State University. In her spare time, she enjoys pottery, knitting, and scuba diving.  She lives in Houston with her husband and two teenage daughters.

Megan Applegate writes for (and with) the young and young at heart. A former writer for the El Paso Times and the Anchorage Daily News, she is a graduate of the bilingual MFA program at the University of Texas at El Paso. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Border SensesRio Grande Review and Antietam Review and her middle grade novel Jasper and the Fiddlers Three will be released in the fall of 2013. She lives in Katy with her very own Prince Charming and four adorable minions. This is Megan’s second year with WITS.

D’Lynn Barham is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Houston and a fiction editor at Gulf Coast. A native of Louisiana, she lives in Houston with her three kids. She brings with her a practical pedagogy that comes from raising children and various posts as a pre-school educator. She has a passionate love of reading that ranges from the Homeric classics to contemporary fiction. When she is not tending to her family and graduate studies, D’Lynn likes to sew without patterns, experiment with new bread recipes, and revisit her favorite classic films starring Katharine Hepburn. D’Lynn joined WITS in 2010.

Nancy Barnhart recently earned her Ed.D in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston and currently teaches at UH as an adjunct instructor. She had the great fortune of blending WITS with her academic studies, as her doctoral research focused on the effectiveness of the WITS organization through the writers’ perspective. Before becoming a WITS writer, she attended the Greater Houston Area Writing Project and taught at Kids’ U Summer Writing Camp, UH-Clear Lake, where she taught writing through filmmaking. She has published journal articles in Teachers and Writers, The Ohio Journal of the English Language Arts, The English Record, and RDH National Magazine. Nancy joined WITS in 2008.

Emanuelee "Outspoken" Bean ranked 9th in the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2012. His one-man show "Converse" will go to Theatre Row in New York City in November 2013, as part of the United Solo Theatre Festival. Bean coaches the WITS youth poetry program, Meta-Four Houston. Recently he appeared at TEDxHouston. He has taught with WITS since 2010.

Layla Bentiez-James was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She realized early on that she absolutely loved the Texas landscape and decided to stick around, studying English, Spanish, and creative writing at Trinity University in San Antonio. She was lucky enough to continue her Texas tour in Houston where she is currently an MFA student in the University of Houston’s creative writing program. Layla enjoys getting outside the loop to ride her horse, Tonka, and reading and writing poetry and short fiction. She is currently obsessed with translation and art and would love to learn how to paint. She joined WITS in 2012.

Carolyn Bolton so enjoyed her work as a substitute teacher while an undergraduate economics student that she enrolled in the education program at the University of Houston-Clear Lake where she earned her M.S. in early childhood education in 2004. While pursuing her graduate degree, she combined her entrepreneurial spirit with her love of literature and opened a children's book store in 2002. After a successful and stressful run, Carolyn sold her business to focus on her family, her writing, and finishing her graduate degree. She joined WITS in 2006 for the opportunity to share the excitement of reading and writing with young children. She is currently working on her first novel and a large sack of possibilities for the second. Carolyn lives in La Porte with her husband of 18 years and their five children.

A Corpus Christi native, Pamela Bond received her degree in journalism writing from the University of North Texas in 2007 and has worked as a reporter and editor for several Texas newspapers in addition to ventures in Europe and Australia. She continued to freelance while earning her master’s degree in creative nonfiction writing from Johns Hopkins University in D.C. After moving to Houston in 2011, she began teaching writing and literature (fiction, poetry, and drama) at San Jacinto College – North and assisting with a graduate course in communicating medical science topics at the University of Texas – Medical Branch. She is also the print editor for Medical Discovery News, a news service that aims to publish promising biomedical science research in an approachable and understandable way. Her current writing projects include a memoir, short story collection, and an assortment of independent articles and essays on people, places, or ideas that fascinate her. This is her second year with Writers in the Schools.

Nancy Bonsembiante received a Spanish literature degree from the Ministry of Education in Argentina. She has taught Spanish literature at various middle and high schools and is a private Spanish tutor for adults. She won an Award for Excellence at Houston Community College after completing the ESL program. She has been working for WITS for ten years and has written different poems to use in her classes as well as for personal achievement. She was one of the contributors of Illuminations Book: Expressions of the Personal Spiritual Experience. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Houston, where she is pursuing an MA in Hispanic literature.  Her non-writing interests include dancing, reading, and spending time with her two kids and husband.

Ann Boor loves helping people tell their stories. She has been writing professionally for many years and has helped tell hundreds of stories in the corporate and service arenas. She also works with clients on personal memoirs, family histories, and books that express their personal and business philosophies. Ann has volunteered many hours in school libraries and served as a writing mentor to students. She holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Houston and takes continuing education classes in writing through Rice University and Inprint.

Lesa Boutin is a children’s author who discovered a love for every aspect of a book’s life, from concept to completion. With a background in education, Lesa started her own publishing company, Boot in the Door Publications, in 2006, followed by the release of her young adult novels, Amanda Noble, Zookeeper Extraordinaire in 2007, and Amanda Noble, Special Agent in 2008. Lesa enjoys sharing her imagination and passion for storytelling with her students. This is her fifth year with Writers in the Schools.

Nancy Brown is a native Houstonian and lifelong educator.  She earned her liberal arts B.A. and teaching certification from the University of St. Thomas focusing on literature and art. She brings her love of children, literature, art, and learning to the classroom. Habitat gardening for butterflies, hummingbirds, and other native critters keeps her grounded in nature. She enjoys water aerobics and spending time with her dogs. As a classroom teacher, she has been inspired by the WITS writers with whom she collaborated for many years. This is her first year as a WITS writer. 

From rural Iowa, Karie Buss received her B.A. in English from the University of Iowa and MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston. She writes poetry that has appeared in Zero DucatsLamination Colony, and La Petite Zine and in 2012, was awarded the Inprint Donald Barthelme Award in Poetry. In addition to WITS, she teaches at HCC NW and Project Row Houses. When not writing poetry or teaching, she enjoys writing in her journal, baking, and walking her dog at the arboretum. She joined WITS in 2012.

Thomas Calder is currently working on his MFA in fiction at the University of Houston. In 2008, he received his B.A. in English from the University of Florida. This is his third year with WITS. Thomas is an Assistant Editor at Gulf Coast Magazine, conducts online interviews for the Collagist and is a teaching assistant at the University of Houston.

Darlene P. Campos holds a B.A. in English-creative writing from the University of Houston and is pursuing an MFA in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. In 2013, she won the first annual Glass Mountain magazine contest for prose and was awarded the Sylvan N. Karchmer Fiction Prize and has many publications. She has worked as a writer and editor for small presses since she was 17 years old. She is currently a writing tutor at Houston Community College. She is originally from Guayaquil, Ecuador, but has lived in Houston most of her life. Her website is www.darlenepcampos.com. This is her first year with WITS. 

Chris Cander is a writer with many outlets. Although she focuses her efforts mostly on fiction, Chris also contributes regularly to health and fitness, lifestyle, and parenting magazines, and collaborates with her writing partners on screenplays. Her debut novel, 11 Stories, was released this spring to critical success, and became an Amazon bestseller. Her children’s book, The Word Burglar, released in the fall of 2013 by Bright Sky Press, encourages young readers to acquire rich vocabularies and develop a love of reading. A former fitness competitor and model, she currently holds a 2nd dan in taekwondo. This is her second year to work with Writers in the Schools.  

Marcia Chamberlain earned a B.A. from the College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Rice University.  She has taught with WITS for 16 years.  In addition to receiving an Envision Grant from Rice University, she also has won a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Practicum Fellowship, a Teaching Tolerance grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Emerging Filmmaker Grant from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County (now Houston Arts Alliance), and was a finalist for the 2009 Bechtel Prize. She has published essays about medieval nuns and Chicano revolutionaries and is working on a collection of nonfiction.

Justin Chrestman was born in El Paso, TX, and raised mostly in New Mexico. He has an MFA in creative writing from New Mexico State University. He currently lives in Houston where he is pursuing a Ph.D in fiction and literature at the University of Houston. He also works as an assistant editor for Gulf Coast magazine. His work has appeared in the Owl Eye Review and Puerto del Sol.

Carina Christensen is an artist and educator from Rosario, Argentina. She has a wealth of experience teaching art, writing, yoga, Spanish, and swimming. Because her interests are so diverse, she particularly enjoys working in a multi-disciplinary setting. Carina has exhibited her paintings at MECA's "Mujeres Latinoamericanas" Art Festival. She joined WITS in 2003 and lives with her husband and two sons. 

Kelsie Cleboski has an MFA in Fiction from New Mexico State University and a B.A. in creative writing from the University of Houston. She sees teaching, learning, and writing as symbiotic activities, each informing and enhancing the others. She publishes under the name Kelsie Hahn, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Barrelhouse, NANO Fiction, Metazen, Matchbook, and others. She's happy to be back in Houston with her husband, a very silly dog, and a bearded dragon. She taught with the Writers in the Schools program in Las Cruces, New Mexico, for two years. This is her first year with WITS in Houston.

Katie Condon received her B.A. in English and secondary education from Elms College where she was a member of the women's basketball team. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Two Serious Ladies, LEVELER, Heavy Feather Review, and Country Music Poetry. She traveled to Italy in September 2013 as a participant in the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Katie is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Houston, where she serves as an Assistant Editor in poetry for Gulf Coast and is studying for her MFA.

Sara Cooper comes to Houston from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she received an MFA in poetry. While there, she directed a college-access program for high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds and taught writing through The Border Book Festival’s Emerging Voices Program, The Women’s Intercultural Center, and Las Cruces’s Writers in the Schools program. Since becoming a Writer in Residence with Houston’s WITS three years ago, she has introduced alternative media to the writing classroom, including filmmaking and blogging through collaborations with the Aurora Picture Show and a Houston-area high school. She currently teaches at the University of Houston, where she is pursuing a Ph.D in English.  Her writing has appeared in The Mid-American ReviewPuerto del Sol, and Arizona Highways.

Kay Cosgrove was awarded the 2011 John B. Santoianni Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets, was the winner of the 2013 Writers Under 30 Contest from The Westchester Review, and was a finalist for the 2013 New South Writing Contest. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow Street, Conduit, and EPOCH Magazine, among other journals. She is currently a doctoral student in the University of Houston's Creative Writing & Literature program. This is her first year teaching for Writers in the Schools. 

Merrilee Cunningham holds a B.A. in creative writing from Northwestern University and a Ph.D in renaissance literature from Vanderbilt University. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Houston-Downtown, and she has won several teaching and poetry awards. Her work has been published in On, Versus, Visions, The Ball State Review, Renaissance and Reformation, The South Central Bulletin of the Modern Language Association, and many other places. She received an honorable mention in the Virginia Poetry Society Awards. Merrilee has been a WITS writer since 2002.

Delicia Daniels is a poet, essayist, and biographer. She received her B.A. in English from Dillard University and her MFA in creative writing from Chicago State University. She is the founder of Dark Symphony: the new literary journal at Wiley College. Ms. Daniels is the recipient of the Sam Taylor Fellowship Award, and the Editor in Chief of a groundbreaking literary journal titled Lone Star Legacy: Poetry, Prose, and History in Texas. She also had the privilege of being appointed to the Advisory Board for the African Americans in Texas Travel Booklet, sponsored by the Texas Historical Commission. Delicia joined WITS in 2011. Her publications appear in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African-American Women Writers, Thin Air Magazine, Callaloo, and several other journals and anthologies.

Laurie Dreyfuss is a graduate of the University of Texas with degrees in elementary and special education. She has taught for over thirty years working primarily with second to fourth grade students in public and private schools. In addition, Laurie has worked in after school programs with Playback Theatre.  She has been a teacher and site supervisor with the Creative Writing Camp. Through the years Laurie has been recognized as an educator and for her work in the community. Laurie enjoys mentoring teachers and watching the imaginations of children come to life.

Katherine Elliott grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and received a B.A. in literature and art history from the University of Virginia. She attended the University of Houston's MFA program in creative writing. This is her sixth year with WITS.

Mischa Enos is starting her seventh year with WITS.  Her love for teaching is fueled as much by her interest in observing and understanding children's literacy development as in imparting the joys of reading and writing to children.  For the past four years, she has worked as a research associate for projects on adolescent reading comprehension, work she continues while also taking on a recent position as an educational consultant.  When three jobs are not consuming her time, Mischa enjoys journaling, editing historical diaries, and developing ideas for a series of children's books.  Far and away her most fulfilling time is spent with her two sons, Elias and Nathaniel, who are both avid readers and writers.  Mischa holds a B.A. in English from the State University of New York at Binghamton, an M.A. in applied English linguistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an Ed.D from Harvard Graduate School in education.

David Feil earned his B.A. in English from Rice University and his M.A. in English from New York University. David has spent time studying around the world and has taught English in Reykjavik, Paris, and Vienna. He currently teaches for WITS, Nameless Sound, HCC, and MECA. He also runs his own software programming business. David has a diverse portfolio of personal and collaborative creative work that includes writing, performance, visual art, interactive media, and gallery installations. He is also an accomplished musician who has previously performed with internationally renowned artists and in such unique spaces as the Menil Collection's Rothko Chapel and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. David writes and studies poetry and prose with a focus on the imagination and language play. He has been a WITS writer since 2010.

Olga Feliciano was born and raised in New York City’s Lower East Side. She began her writing career in the first grade when she became obsessed with the quotation mark. She decided to channel her energy into a series of comic books with her best friend in the second grade and hasn’t stopped writing since. She earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston and a B.A. in English and African American literature from Queens College, CUNY.  She is currently working on a collection of stories.  When she is not writing, she loves to make arts and crafts, collect mini fashion dolls from the 1970s, and spend quality time with her pets, Bones and Mina. Olga has been a WITS writer since 2006.

Sharon Ferranti holds an MFA in directing for film and theater from the California Institute of the Arts.  She is a published playwright and filmmaker.  Her short film, A Thousand Miles, was selected as one of the top ten short films for American Cinemateque in 2000.  Sharon’s feature film, Make A Wish, won the Best in Festival award at the Paris Women’s Film Festival and is distributed by Wolfe Video.  She currently owns her own production company, The Sharon Show, and received AVA and Telly awards for documentary editing in the category of religion/spirituality.  She has been teaching with WITS for eleven years and looks forward to many more.

Jill Frischhertz is a poet who claims New Orleans as home. She earned a B.A. in English from Indiana University and a MFA from San Diego State University, where she also taught creative writing and composition and co-edited two literary journals: Poetry International and Pacific Review. She was the featured graduate student in the Honey Land Review, a 2010 Fulbright alternate, and the 2012 University of New Orleans / The Pinch poetry winner. Jill is currently working on her first collection of poetry, as well as a series of children’s stories. This is her third year with Writers in the Schools.

Deborah Frontiera grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and came to Houston in 1985. She taught kindergarten, pre-K, and K-5 science in HISD for over twenty years and was part of the Project A.C.C.E.S.S. curriculum writing project. Deborah has been with WITS since 2008. Experienced at presenting workshops for teachers and writers, she has published fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children’s works with eight books currently in print. For more information, visit her website.

Matthew Glasgow was born and raised in the Houston area. Since graduating from the University of Texas, he has worked with young people in a variety of settings, including a residential treatment center, a children's hospital and as an educator in New York City. Currently, Matthew is an editor for MobyMax, an educational software company, where he writes articles, short stories, and curriculum. Though his writing interests are focused primarily in the genres of poetry and short fiction, his biographical essay on philosopher Dr. Arnold Farr, “The Liberating Mind,” was published in The Harbrace Guide to Writing in 2009. In his free time, he enjoys playing tennis, traveling with his volleyball team and trying his hand at French cuisine in the kitchen.

Maryann Gremillion is in her sixth year as a writer-in-residence with Writers in the Schools and has taught writing workshops at Inprint, the Spectrum Center Writers Guild, and True You Creativity Studio. Her work has appeared in The Sun magazine, Telling Our Stories Press will publish her ultra-short memoir this fall, and an essay is scheduled for publication this winter in Teachers & Writers magazine. She also collaborates with other artists on both collage and writing projects, and her work has appeared at Winter Street Studios, Archway Gallery, and Lawndale Art Center. Maryann has taught in schools for twenty years, and writes a blog on education reform, Tales from the Classroom Door. She studied the teaching of writing at Columbia University.

Mosie Hackett wrote a play that the Alley Theater produced when she was seventeen years old, instilling a passion for the written word at a young age. She now holds a Masters degree in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles where she lived and worked in the entertainment industry for six years. While in LA, she simultaneously worked with a program called The Young Storytellers Foundation where she taught inner city students creative writing, eventually becoming a member of their board. She recently returned to her native Houston where she was recently elected to the Advisory Board of Inprint while pursuing a business marketing degree at the University of St. Thomas. This is her first year with WITS.

Leah Hamilton French was born and raised in Cambridge, MA.  She studied anthropology at Wellesley College and joined Teach for America shortly after commencement.  As a prekindergarten teacher in the Louisiana public schools, she fell in love with teaching and inspiring budding young writers.  Throughout her life, Leah has been blessed with opportunities to travel and live in many different countries.  She enjoys writing about these experiences in new places and about the characters and events she encounters there.

Angélica Hernández-Viera was born in Monterrey, N.L. México. There, she got her B.A. in modern languages and literature (Spanish) in 1998. In Monterrey, she taught Hispanic literature and ESL to high school students. She published book reviews, poems, interviews, and short stories in the local newspapers and university publications. In 2003, she moved to Houston and became a bilingual teacher in the public school system. After eight years of teaching, Angélica started her career as an English-Spanish interpreter and translator, and also as a tutor for English and Spanish students. In 2013, she joined WITS. Also in this same year she earned her Master in Education at Sam Houston State University. She loves traveling. She continues writing poems and short stories, and is a big fan of Greek mythology and stories centered on Medieval Europe. She lives in Spring, Texas, with her family and their little yorkie.

Sarah Gajkowski-Hill is a 2000 graduate of the University of St. Thomas, where she studied English literature and creative writing. She published Distracted and Other Poems the same year with a small publishing house out of Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to teaching middle school English, Sarah also creates written art, and writes music and food reviews for various Houston publications including, the Houston Press, ENVY, and 002 Houston Magazine. She is currently a development writer for the University of Houston. Her recent poems have appeared in Dappled Things and Relief Journal. Although originally from Waukesha, Wisconsin, Sarah currently resides in Houston with her husband--a debate instructor for HISD--and their three children, Magdalena, Jude, and Frances. Sarah has been with Writers in the Schools for ten years.

Tamekia Jackson is a native Houstonian with a passion for theater and education. Tamekia graduated with a B.A. in theater from St. Edward's University. Upon returning to Houston, she began working with several local theaters as an artist and a teacher. She also pursued a career in education, first working with teachers at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, then as a theater teacher with KIPP Sharpstown. During her time at KIPP, Tamekia cultivated an appreciation for the stories youth have to tell and recognized their need to share those stories. She has written and produced several videos for 5 Stones Productions and a short play with Teen Mania Ministries. Tamekia hopes to make art that challenges and inspires people to push their limits and encounter greatness beyond their expectations.

Artist and elementary school teacher Carmen Erna Jacobsen began her career in Mexico City. She worked for a private school teaching English as a second language, paying her way through medical school. Some of her articles have been featured on the RICE University educational program blog known as REEP. She has also completed her first book of poems called Saudade and is currently working on a collection of haikus dedicated to Alaska. She has been a featured poet at the Barnes and Noble Poetry Reading Series and the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event. She loves to explore new ideas and created a small Ballet Folklorico group named Aztlan, that combined the rhythm of poetry with the beat of the Mexican “zapateado.”  Carmen lives in Houston and is going into her eighth year with WITS. She believes every student carries a story waiting its turn to be discovered.

Patrick Clement James is a poet, essayist, and musician.  A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, he is currently a Master of Fine Arts candidate at the University of Houston.  Having taught in Montessori and public schools, he is excited to engage educationally with the community of Houston.  In this capacity, Patrick hopes to help students discover the power of their experiences, voices, and imaginations. This is his second year to work with WITS.

Andrew Karnavas is a fiction writer, songwriter, and freelance copywriter. He earned a B.A. in English and the Edith Garber Krotinger Prize for his short story fiction writing from Case Western Reserve University. After graduation, Andrew worked in Scleroderma research for three years and was accepted to medical school, but he chose to write and sing words instead. As a songwriter Andrew has written and produced five albums with three music projects under his own record label, YAWP Records. Always looking for ways to distill his diverse experiences into focused artistic projects, Andrew created a children’s music project AndyRoo and the AndyRooniverse. AndyRoo was a featured performer at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. in 2013. His first novel, Ice Walk, is an unpublished work of suspense and mystery fiction.

Elizabeth A. M. Keel is a local Houston gal, as well as a novelist and playwright. She participated in the Iowa Young Writers Studio as a teenager, and then obtained her bachelor's degree from the University of Houston, where she studied under Edward Albee, Lanford Wilson, and Mark Medoff. Her plays have been produced by UH, the Nova Arts Project, the Scriptwriters/Houston, Big Head Productions, Bootown, Mildred's Umbrella, Fresh Produce'd (NYC) and 14 Pews. Both of her novels, Running Into Trouble and Life After Myth, are available at Amazon.com. She also served as the Artist in Residence for 14 Pews in 2013. Elizabeth currently works as a teaching artist for the Alley Theatre, helping local teens write and produce short plays. This is her second year with WITS.

Rob Kimbro is a graduate of Rice University.  A theatre director and educator with a keen interest in new work, Rob has worked with young writers in the Alley Theatre’s Houston Young Playwrights Exchange (HYPE) and McCarter Theatre’s YouthInk! Program.  He was one of the founders of the Madison Young Playwrights Festival in Madison, WI.  Rob’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants premiered at Stages Repertory Theatre in 2011.  Rob has also been a stage carpenter, electrician, deck chief, hotel desk clerk, guy-who-builds-round-things, farmhand, and Jeopardy! contestant. He lives with his wife Rachel and his two children, Eleanor and Thomas, who are his best audience.  

Emily Koehn was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and received a B.A. from Oberlin College, an MFA from Purdue University, and an MSW from the University of Houston. She previously taught creative writing and literature at Bates College. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including Denver QuarterlySeneca Review, and Pleiades, and she has been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize. As a licensed social worker in Texas, she has also worked with youth and adults in a variety of settings. She loves walking around the Montrose area with her husband, baby, and hound dog. Emily has been a WITS writer since 2008.

Carrie Kornacki is a teacher, poet and children’s writer. She has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University and has taught English language arts and reading in Ohio; English as a second language in Suzhou, China, and British literature at Ball High School in Galveston.  Currently, Ms. Kornacki teaches English as a second language at Westfield High School in Spring, Texas.  In addition to her experience in education, Ms. Kornacki worked over 12 years as a copywriter and executive in print and broadcast advertising where she won regional CLIO awards for freelance radio campaigns.  Ms. Kornacki has been selected as a juried Poet for the 2013 Houston Poetry Festival and has been a featured poet throughout the Houston area. She lives in Spring, Texas, with her husband and three dogs and is currently working on a middle grade fantasy novel.  Ms. Kornacki joined Writers in the Schools in 2013.

Dana Kroos received an MFA in fiction writing from New Mexico State University in 2008. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Glimmer Train, The Florida Review, The Adirondack Review, The Superstition Review, Minnesota Monthly and others.  She also holds an MFA in ceramics from the Rhode Island School of Design and an M.A. in fine art from Purdue University and frequently uses visual arts in collaboration with her own writing and in teaching writing. She has taught creative writing and visual arts to pre-school to adult students in various parts of the US and abroad including working for three years as a full-time high school instructor at a charter arts high school in Las Cruces, NM. Currently, she is working towards a Ph.D in creative writing at the University of Houston. This is her second year with WITS.

Jameelah Lang is a creative writing Ph.D candidate at the University of Houston, where she is a nonfiction editor for Gulf Coast: a Journal of Literature and Fine Arts.  She received a 2012 Work-Study Scholarship from Bread Loaf Writers Conference and was the 2009-2010 Writer-in-Residence at HUB-BUB Artist Residency.  Her fiction appears in The Kenyon Review.  She has taught with Writers in the Schools since 2010.

Elizabeth Lyons is a Ph.D candidate in creative writing at the University of Houston, where she is a nonfiction editor for Gulf Coast. A recipient of fellowships from Inprint, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and the Vermont Studio Center, she holds a B.A. in English from the College of Charleston and an MFA in creative writing from Purdue University. She has worked with various non-profits, including South Carolina Young Playwrights, the Center for Talented Youth, and Communities in Schools. This is her third year with Writers in the Schools.

Weezie Mackey works full time as communications manager at the business school at Rice University and has been a writer and editor with Webster’s Dictionary, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Tootsietoy, Rotary International, and the Williams College Museum of Art. She holds a B.A. in English from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and an MFA in creative writing from American University in Washington, D.C.  Weezie is the author of the novel Throwing Like a Girl, which was nominated as Best Young Adult Book, 2007, by the Texas Institute of Letters. She has taught with WITS for six years and lives in Houston with her husband, two sons and two dogs.

Melanie Malinowski earned a Ph.D in creative writing and literature from the University of Houston where she was a recipient of a C. Glenn Cambor Fiction Award, an M.A. in English from the University of New Mexico, where she won a D. H. Lawrence Fellowship, and a B.A. in English from the Pennsylvania State University.  Melanie has taught at WITS since 2000 in various elementary, middle, and high schools as well as at M.D. Anderson and Texas Children’s Hospital in the Renal Dialysis Unit, where she is currently in residence.  She also teaches spinning, receiving the title Houston Spinning Instructor of the Year in 2010, and she is the author of an unpublished novel entitled Water Blindness, a haunting elegy to the characters of her youth and the dusky underbelly of her hometown.  Her essay, "Stone Cold Fox," about Steven Tyler, appeared this summer in Hippocampus Magazine.  A native Delawarean, Melanie now lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, Andy, and her daughter, Echo Mariposa, pining for Steven Tyler and counting the days until the next Aerosmith concert.

Sam Mansfield hails from southwestern New Hampshire. Since earning a B.A. in English from the University of New Hampshire, he has worked as a teacher of French and a choral director. Sam is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at the University of Houston. The natural world hasn't found its way into many of his poems, but it does provide a strong source of inspiration. When he's not teaching, Sam may be biking around town, or checking out the opalized ammonites at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Olga Mexina immigrated to New York City at the age of twelve.  She grew up in Brooklyn and received her BA from New York University. Currently she is a third-year MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Houston, where she is a Teaching Fellow. Her work appeared in The Pedestal Magazine, Mad Hatter’s Review, Big Pulp and others.  Olga lives with her four-year-old daughter, Elsa.

Florence Miyamoto is a wife, mother, retired teacher, and writer. A graduate of Fresno State College with a B.A. in Social Science, she later received Texas Lifetime Certification in Elementary Education (EC-8), Early Childhood Education, and English as second language (ESL).Reading Recovery trained through the University of Houston at Clear Lake, most of her teaching experience has been with the young struggling reader and writer, working as an Intervention Specialist in Humble and Spring Branch ISD. She is the author of Easy-to-Make Books That Target Specific Reading Needs (Pre-Kindergarten-1st grade) published by Scholastic. She joined WITS in 2013.

When Meggie Monahan told her friends up north that she was moving to Texas to study poetry, most of them laughed, but the good ones said, "Actually, that kind of makes sense." Before coming to Houston, Meggie studied literature in Washington, D.C. and spent some time with the Philadelphia deaf community teaching daily living skills to adults with special needs. Meggie received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston where she served as nonfiction editor for Gulf Coast. Her poetry has appeared in Best New Poets 2012, Willow Springs, Third Coast, Sonora Review, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. Meggie works as a writer/editor for a philanthropist and hangs out with the coolest young writers at Discovery Green on Saturday mornings. When she's not scribbling, teaching, or editing, Meggie can be seen at Big Yoga on Allen Parkway where she's learning how to create space for more YESES in her life.

Deborah ''D.E.E.P'' Mouton is an internationally-known poet/vocalist/songwriter. She published her first poetry anthology, Heartstrings and Lamentations, at the age of 19. In addition to having a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan and a M.Ed from the University of St. Thomas, she is a certified teacher and the head coach of the Houston VIP National Poetry Slam Team. She has traveled across the continent writing, performing, and leading workshops. In 2008, she was ranked as the #2 Best Female Performance Poet in the World. She has also been a Juried Poet for the Houston Poetry Festival (2012) and a Finalist for the Southern Fried Regional Poetry Slam (2013). Deborah has been a WITS writer since 2009.

Rosa Nam earned her B.A. in English and Asian American studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is in her fifth year teaching 9th, 10th, and 11th grade English in Alief ISD. Rosa plans to pursue a graduate degree in literature or creative writing in the distant future.

Michelle Oakes is a poet pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Houston. She is a Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast: a Journal of Literature and Fine Arts and an instructor for the 2012 Boldface Conference. Michelle earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Central Missouri, where she was also Associate Editor of Pleiades: a Journal of New Writing. Her work has appeared in The Laurel Review, and RHINO. Michelle joined WITS in 2012.

Dinorah Pérez-Rementería received a B.A. in theater from the Higher Institute of Arts in Havana, Cuba, and an M.A. in Latin American studies from the University of Miami. She writes about art and is very interested in exploring how concepts related to the fields of ethics and aesthetics can have a positive impact on the education of young kids. Her articles have appeared in different art magazines such as Art NexusArte al Día InternationalArtPulse, among others. This will be her fourth year as a Creative Writing teacher with WITS. 

Kristi Pewthers has been inventing fantastical worlds since she could hold a pencil. A native Houstonian, Kristi graduated from Sharpstown High School and, after receiving her B.A. in English literature from the University of Houston, she returned to her alma mater to teach high school English and AP literature and composition. While there, she created the literary club and produced Follow the Fire, Sharpstown's literary magazine. Recently, she finished her first novel and is hard at work on its follow-up. In her spare time, she's an imp wrestler, music geek, and tabletop gamer. This is her first year with WITS.

Caitlin Plunkett was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and spent the first 12 years of life roaming Europe, South America, and a tiny island in the Pacific.  After moving to the United States, she attended Virginia Tech for her undergraduate degrees in international relations and Spanish—all the while exploring the beautiful Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains. Caitlin’s environmental poetry has appeared on Poets for Living Waters, an online response to the recent Gulf Coast oil spill. She is currently in her final year as an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Houston. This is her third year with Writers in the Schools.

Terry Portillo has her degree in English Literature from the University of Houston. Her poetry and short stories have earned her five Pushcart Prize nominations; she has been a juried poet at the Houston Poetry Festival; and her work has been spotlighted on KPFT's Houston Living Arts broadcast. Over the years, Terry has taught English classes to middle school students, creative writing classes to adults, and English language classes to professionals from Asia and West Africa. Terry is state-certified to teach English, ESL, bilingual, and gifted and talented classes. She lives on a small farm in Conroe with her husband, their daughter, a horse, a donkey, a motley crew of rescue dogs, two cats, several chickens, and whatever else the wind blows in.

Justine Post is the author of Beast (Augury Books, 2014). She received her MFA in poetry from Columbia University and is currently earning her Ph.D in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston, where she is a poetry editor for Gulf Coast.  She is the recipient of the Inprint Verlaine Poetry Prize from the University of Houston and the “Discovery” / The Boston Review Poetry Prize from the 92nd Street Y, among others. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, The Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, The Kenyon Review, The Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, and others.

Harriet Riley is a freelance writer focusing on creative nonfiction. She has had four articles published in Teachers & Writers Magazine in the last few years. Harriet recently had a personal essay in Mississippi magazine and had a piece selected for publication with Telling Our Stories Press. Before moving to Houston in 2007, she taught undergraduate writing classes at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. She has also worked as a non-profit director, hospital marketing director, and newspaper reporter. She has her M.A. in print journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and her BA in English and journalism from the University of Mississippi.  She joined Writers in the Schools in 2008.

Martin Rock's poems have appeared widely in journals such as Bateau, Black Warrior Review, Conduit, DIAGRAM, Forklift; Ohio, Salamander and Third Coast, and his work has been anthologized by Flying Guillotine Press, Best New Poets, and InDigest. He is the co-author with Phillip D. Ischy of the chapbook Fish, You Bird (Pilot 2010) and recently published a chapbook-length collection in response to the work of Mark Rothko titled Dear Mark (Brooklyn Arts Press 2013). A recipient of fellowships from New York University, The Port Townsend Writers Conference, InPrint, and University of Houston, Martin is currently pursuing his PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at UH. He taught English in Japan for four years and spent two years as a writing mentor for hospitalized children at Mt. Sinai and St. Mary's Hospitals in New York. He believes poetry to be a positive force in our world. He has seen it. Visit him online at martinrockpoetry.com.

Matthew Salesses is the author of a novel, I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying, a novella, The Last Repatriate, and two chapbooks, Our Island of Epidemics and We Will Take What We Can Get. He was adopted from Korea at age two and has written about his family life for The New York Times, NPR, The Good Men Project, The Rumpus, Hyphen Magazine, and elsewhere. His fiction has recently appeared in Glimmer Train, Witness, American Short Fiction, and West Branch, among others.

Rebecca Spears, a poet and instructor, is the author of The Bright Obvious: Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2009). Her writing appears in If These Walls Could Speak: The Blanton Museum Poetry Project (Univ. of Texas, Austin), The Weight of Addition, TriQuarterly, CalyxMinnesota ReviewNatural Bridge, Nimrod, BorderlandsTexas Review, and other journals and anthologies. She has received scholarships from the Taos Writers Workshop, the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, and Vermont Studio Center and was a finalist for the Iowa Review Poetry Award. This is her third year with Writers in the Schools.

Gabriela Villegas was born in Mexico City, where she earned her degree in theater from El Centro Universitario de Teatro. She is the founder of Jaguar Sun, a non-profit organization that combines theater arts with education. Gabriela has written several plays for Young Audiences of Houston, and she is part of their roster of artists. She lives with her kids Marina, Claudia, and Patrick and spends two months of the year in Puerto Vallarta. Gabriela has been a WITS writer for eleven years.

Nicole Walker has an MFA in poetry from the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program.  She was born at Texas’s southernmost tip, in the city of Brownsville, and received her B.A. in English and psychology at the University of St. Thomas. This is her third year at Writers in the Schools. Her work can be found in Southern Humanities Review.

Elizabeth Winston is a fiction writer originally from the Washington, D.C. area. She earned a B.A. in fiction and literature from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY, and is currently pursuing an MFA in fiction at the University of Houston. In the intervening years, she worked as a newspaper reporter, freelance writer and editor, and grant writer, among other pursuits. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, photography, surfing, playing the drums, running, and taking care of her two bad cats and sixteen-year-old dog, Peanut. This is her second year as a WITS writer.