M. Molly Backes is the author of the young adult novel The Princesses of Iowa (Candlewick Press, 2012), which was named Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Fiction for Teens (2013), Forever Young Adult’s Best YA Books of 2012, and was a finalist on NPR.org’s Best-Ever Teen Novels list in 2012. Her work has appeared in The Prairie Wind, Human Parts, The Rumpus, and the anthology Good Dogs Doing Good. She has performed her personal essays at reading series including Essay Fiesta, Funny Ha-Ha, Is This a Thing? and Sunday Salon, and is a frequent guest at writing conferences and festivals across the country.
An accomplished teacher, she has run creative writing workshops for adults and teens across the Midwest. Her teaching career began in rural New Mexico, where she got all 135 of her seventh and eighth grade students to write novels for National Novel Writing Month. Later she moved to Chicago, where she became the assistant director of StoryStudio Chicago, a creative writing studio on the city’s north side, and served as a poet-in-residence with The Poetry Center of Chicago’s Hands On Stanzas program and as an educational ambassador for the Lincoln Park Zoo.
A graduate of Grinnell College, Molly has lived in Wisconsin, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Illinois. She’s not the kind of person to play favorites or anything, but she might just like Iowa the best.
Cathleen Bascom pursues an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and the Environment from a platform of 24-years as an Episcopal priest, and involvement in prairie preservation and restoration efforts both rural and urban. Bascom holds literature and theology degrees from the University of Kansas; Seabury-Western Seminary (Evanston, IL) and Exeter University, England. Her Doctorate is in homiletics from Iliff School of Theology (Denver, CO).
Besides weekly compositions for the pulpit, and a lovely family, Bascom considers leadership in transforming a dilapidated parking lot in downtown Des Moines into a sustainable, native, public green-space, to be her most notable artistic offering to-date. She has published pieces on the portrayal of religious experience in C.S. Lewis’ fiction, and wrote her dissertation on the spiritual themes and craft in the lyrics of George Harrison (of Beatle fame.)
During her course at Iowa State she hopes to pen essays and a memoir that portray both the astonishing losses and the sensitive recovery of native grasses in the Midwest, as well as the colorful people involved in this unfolding saga of our sod.
Taylor Brorby is an award-winning essayist, poet, and environmentalist. A fellow at the Black Earth Institute, Taylor received his M.A. in Liberal Studies from Hamline University in 2013, and is currently pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University. Taylor’s work has appeared in Rock, Paper, Scissors, The Englewood Review of Books, on Minnesota Public Radio, North Dakota Public Radio, numerous newspapers, Augsburg Fortress, On Second Thought, the Northern Plains Ethics Journal, Chelsea Station, The EcoTheo Review, Sleet Magazine, Bearings, High Country News, The Loft’s Writer’s Block, and the anthology Kissing in the Chapel, Praying in the Frat House: Wrestling with Faith and College.
Taylor has been awarded grants from Hamline University, St. Olaf College, Iowa State University, the North Dakota Humanities Council, and received Honorable Mention in The Loft’s Mentor Series. He has held residencies at Holden Village, St. Olaf College, and St. John’s University, and Blue Mountain Center. Taylor has been interviewed about his work as a writer and environmentalist on North Dakota Public Radio, KHOI, WVIK, and National Public Radio.
Taylor is currently writing A Vespers for Climate Change, working on two poetry collections, one related to the Bakken oil boom and the other about the Adirondacks in upstate New York, as well as an essay collection about western North Dakota. Taylor edited an anthology of creative writing on fracking for Ice Cube Press–Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America is due out this winter. He has lectured at St. Olaf College, the University of Minnesota–Crookston, Central College, Luther College, Augustana College–Rock Island, Concordia College, Seattle University, and at Holden Village, with upcoming engagements at University of Texas–Austin, University of Utah, University of Colorado–Boulder, Grinnell College, and University of Wyoming. He is a blogger for The Huffington Post, where he writes on education and environmentalism, reviews books for The Englewood Review, as well as journals for Review Review. He is a member of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.
Born and raised in Northern New Mexico, Iza Bruen-Morningstar spent most of her life in arid, jagged places. Iza earned a degree from Prescott College in Natural History and Ecology, with a minor in writing. While pursuing her degree, she discovered that Natural History is, in many ways, interpretive storytelling, as a Naturalist’s purpose is to observe honestly and accurately the many connections within the natural world and condense those observations into cohesive narratives. This realization is why she attends ISU.
Iza has been fortunate to work as an avian field biologist, naturalist, and obsessive analyzer and creator of narratives in Nevada, California, Utah, Idaho, Maine, New Mexico and Sonora, Mexico. During her time at ISU she hopes to hone her abilities as both a writer and a naturalist, and to further explore the overlap between those vocations.
Danielle Lea Buchanan, an upcoming second year Master of Fine Arts student, was fortunate to receive the generous 1st year CWE Graduate Fellowship that granted her time to further pursue her writing interests: classism, socio-economics, Midwestern and Southern rurality, trauma theory, collective and generational trauma, intergenerational relationships in adverse family structures, social systems that perpetuate oppression, enculturation and acculturation, the cyclical navigations of poverty, and family system’s models—most notably Urie Bronfenbrenner’s bioecology of human development. She remains in un-ebbed awe of humanities resilience.
Most presently, she’s a “fiction” candidate at Iowa State University who revels in the opportunity to be deeply re-rooted home: The Midwest. Danielle is at work on “Zonkey!”—a novel-in-progress whose focus lies within marginalized communities of the Ozark region with aims to obliterate systemic structures that cyclically perpetuate social injustice, as well as explore trauma’s navigations through generational lineage. Lastly, she’s difficultly at work on a difficult project to make the difficulty of the Avant Garde less difficult by difficultly rejuvenating difficulty in wildly bombastic, fresh effervescence.
Danielle’s poetry, hybridities, fiction, book reviews, interviews and oddities have appeared in McSweeney’s, Puerto del Sol, New Delta Review, Mid-American Review, Psychopomp, Robot Melon, Dinosaur Bees, Whole Beast Rag, and other elsewheres.
Renee Christopher is a first-year MFA candidate in the Creative Writing & Environment program at Iowa State. She grew up under the sunny skies of Southern California where she earned her B.A. in English and Communications at UC, Santa Barbara.
She writes fiction that explores feminism and the monstrous aspects of human nature in relation to natural and urban environments. Her poetry seeks to amplify voices that are often silenced or unheard and to explore the human body and the ways in which we live through trauma, grief, and loss. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with non-fiction, but she’s doing it a lot.
Renee participated in a poetry workshop with Cave Canem, a premier center for black poetry, and interned with Abbot Entertainment where she read and reviewed screenplays. When she’s not writing, she enjoys dancing, the occasional yoga session, watching television, petting other peoples’ animal companions, and cooking spectacular breakfasts.
Kristen Daily is a third-year MFA candidate in the Creative Writing & Environment program at Iowa State University, and she has served as Managing Editor for Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment. She graduated from Iowa State University with a B.A. in English in 2013.
Her poetry and creative nonfiction explores language, recipe writing, food, and plants. She loves reading food memoirs and cookbooks, and aspires to publish her own recipe collection someday. As a vegetarian and food activist she is invested in food politics and sustainable agriculture, as well the intersection between gender and cooking. When she’s not writing, Kristen can be found in the kitchen making ice cream, baking sourdough, or canning pickles. She enjoys connecting to the Iowa landscape through biking and foraging.
Abby Darge-Weeks is a second-year student who primarily explores how uncomfortable realities can be rendered creatively for the purposes of constructive impact in our life contexts. Trauma, disaster, destruction, transformation, regeneration, death, rebirth, and ability are common themes in her fiction and nonfiction, with implicit or explicit commentary on cultural issues. Her work tends to be minimal and genre-recombinant, and she is inspired by personal, family, and community experiences. The only thing she enjoys more than writing is exposing her students to the skills and perspectives necessary for effective communication. She embraces the unexpected, the magical, the absurd and the hyperstrange, and always tries to be brave.
Matthew Glasgow hails from the great state of Texas. A native of Sugar Land, he much prefers the sweet creative elixir of poetry and prose to any shade of refined cane. He holds his Bachelor of Arts in French from the University of Texas, where he also studied English and journalism. After his undergrad year, Matthew worked with youth in many environments, including a residential treatment center, Dell Children’s Medical Center and in New York City with the Teaching Fellows. He also volunteered as a mentor to LGBTQ teens and led their digital literacy program. For the past three years, he has worked with Writers in the Schools, teaching creative writing to students in classrooms, community projects and art galleries throughout the city of Houston.
A first-year MFA candidate in Creative Writing & Environment at Iowa State, Matthew writes poetry to explore issues both deeply personal and political. His poems reflect his sense of humor and love of satire in addressing some of the most profound issues of our time: race, sexuality and the environment. He is the recipient of a Creative Writing and Environment Graduate Fellowship at ISU, and his essay “The Liberating Mind” was featured in the Harbrace Guide to Writing in 2009. During his time away from the page, you might find him practicing sun salutations on his purple yoga mat, camping, preparing a vegetarian meatloaf or, perhaps, all three at once.
Shane Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in History from Iowa State University. He graduated from Western New Mexico University with a Masters in Inter-Disciplinary Studies with concentrations in English and Creative Writing in 2013 and is now a candidate in the MFA CWE at Iowa State University. He has been working as a Firefighter/Paramedic for the Des Moines Fire Department for 14 years. Shane is also a 14 year veteran of the US Armed Forces. Shane, his wife and three daughters live on an acreage east of Ames.
Shane grew up in a farming family and farmed as an adult for a while. He has always been displeased with current farming practices and hopes to see farming become more sustainable. After writing an essay on the natural migration of mountain lions to Iowa and the Midwest, which appeared in the Wapsipinicon Almanac, Shane was inspired to become politically active, seeking protection for Iowa’s lost species, such as the mountain lion, wolves, black bear, elk, and moose. Shane has been working for two years to try to pass an all-inclusive wildlife bill to protect these species and to aid in their return to Iowa. The spirits of these animals and the loss of natural habitat have been recurring themes in his work.
During his time at Iowa State, Shane plans on writing a novel or two concerning the ecological disaster that is occurring here. He plans on melding the cultural change that occurred within him concerning corporate agriculture, with the ignorance that Iowa lawmakers have with their own environment, and to protect and to regenerate what is left of the natural resources in Iowa. He hopes that one day his work will change minds and policy in Iowa. In his free time you may find Shane fishing and canoeing or cheering on his daughters at one of their many sporting events, or you may stumble across him in the woods searching for tracks and signs of what was the wild of Iowa.
After over a year of searching, we have been able to locate and capture Eliza Hamilton-Poore. We received a tip that she was working as a wilderness instructor in an area just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. After finding a small encampment with a tarp, bivy sack, stove, and a few spilt lentils we found her. Although at first a little discombobulated, we eventually convinced her to join us on our journey back to Ames, IA. We had heard she once studied creative writing at Warren Wilson College, and were eager to put her to work at Iowa State. Still a little smelly from not showering, she’s slowly figuring out civilization once again and hopes her writing will have some sort of impact.
Meghann Hart grew up in Richmond, Kentucky, an old tobacco town situated at the bottom of the Appalachian foothills. In May 2013, she graduated from the University of Kentucky with a B.A. in cultural anthropology. In 2012, she received the University’s Dantzler Award for Fiction. As of August 2014, Meghann has begun her journey as a first year MFA candidate in Iowa State’s Creative Writing and Environment Program, where she hopes to further pursue writing interests that live somewhere in between mangos and magical realism. If she could exist as any living being on this earth, she would be a tree—deep roots, green canopy—the whole bag.
Laura Hitt is a first year MFA candidate at Iowa State University’s Creative Writing and Environment program, and is honored to have received the 2015 Pearl Hogrefe Fellowship. She earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Prescott College, and accepted a fellowship from the Frederick & Frances Sommer Foundation during her senior year. Her work has been published on the National Geographic Voices blog, plain china anthology, Alligator Juniper, and Slush Pile. A transplant from the high desert of northern New Mexico, she is excited to explore the prairie and its stories.
Emily Horner is the author of A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, a top-ten title on the American Library Association’s Rainbow Project Book List for 2011.
A first-year MFA candidate in the Creative Writing & Environment program at Iowa State University, she also holds a BA in Linguistics from McGill University and a Master’s of Library and Information Science from the University of North Carolina. In 2001 she studied classical Japanese literature in Nagasaki, Japan as a recipient of a scholarship from Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology.
Before relocating to Ames, she spent eight years as a young adult librarian with Brooklyn Public Library. She writes about girlhood, adolescence, cyborgs, witches, and how humans exist in relationship with urban and suburban environments.
Ana Hurtado was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and grew up in Quito, Ecuador. She is bilingual and writes both fiction and poetry in English and Spanish. Ana’s poetry has been published by RHINO Poetry, Word Riot, and TinderBox Poetry Journal. Ana is currently working on a short story collection about her hometown, Quito. This collection explores Quito’s important time periods (pre-Inca, pre-Columbian, colonial, post-colonial, and contemporary) through realismo mágico. Her aim for this collection is to pay tribute to the culture that raised her. Ana wants to explore where she’s from, the narratives that made her who she is, and honor the environment of the Andes and all of the ghosts that reside in it.
Claire Kortyna graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a major in English and a minor in Environmental Studies. She won both the Michael S. Glaser Writing Award as well as the Female Academic Athlete Award for her graduating class. Her writing interests center on how nature stimulates the imagination and contributes to personal identity. Although most comfortable with non-fiction, Claire seeks to explore the interplay between facts and the imagination across many genres. In our everyday experience, the “scientific” and the “personal”—or the objective and the subjective—lie closer together than we usually think and she hopes to find a voice and a rhetorical stance that reflects this balance.
Amalie Kwassman is a first-year poet from Brooklyn, New York and a graduate of Smith College. She has experience teaching in New York with Teach for America. Amalie has received scholarships from the Juniper Summer Writing Institute. She has been a guest speaker and spoken word performer at The Anne Frank Center, Dixon Place and The National Conference for Community and Justice. She reflects on urban life, religion and how many poems she can write while riding the NYC subway train.
Renee LeClaire is a third-year MFA candidate in Creative Writing & Environment at Iowa State University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Women’s Studies, and Anthropology from Northern Arizona University, and a graduate degree in Geographic Information Systems from Portland State University. Born in Arizona, Renee has also lived in (and loved) Oregon and southern California, and the environments and myths of the West feature prominently in her writing. She held the position of fiction editor for Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment from 2015-2016, and won Iowa State University’s Dark Horse Award for fiction in 2015.
Zach Lisabeth wrote a thing once. Unless apprehended he will likely write again. He was born on Long Island and took a circuitous route to MFA by way of Brooklyn, NY, Burlington, VT, Chicago, IL and Los Angeles, CA where his writing career began in earnest. He is a graduate of the 2014 Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Workshop at UCSD, an experience he credits with exacerbating his Weirdness. His work has appeared in several publications including Liquid Imagination, Freeze Frame Fiction, Fantasy Scroll Magazine, Gaia: Shadow & Breath vol. 2 (Pantheon Press), Burningword Literary Journal and the anthology RealLies (The Zharmae Publishing Press). You can follow his intermittent outbursts on Twitter @zachlisabeth or check in with him any time at www.zachlisabeth.com.
Jenna Mertz grew up on a road in Wisconsin named after the two-hundred-year-old burr oak that stood, quite literally, in the middle of the street. She believes, with all the beer and cheese of her soul, that few places on earth rival the beauty of Lake Superior in summer and the Kettle Moraine State Forest in fall.
Jenna earned her BA in English, Spanish, and Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As an undergraduate, she served as a peer writing tutor and interned with Lakeshore Nature Preserve. In her final year, she received the Eudora Welty prize for her fiction thesis, Lake Tilson.
Before graduate school, Jenna taught English in a small town in Norway whose name you can’t pronounce, lodged somewhere between canola fields and a Viking grave. In addition to helping Norwegian and international university students with their academic writing, she learned that caviar and bacon-cheese do, in fact, come in tubes.
Jenna serves as a communications consultant at Iowa State’s Writing and Media Center. She plans to write a short story cycle set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
A native of the Seattle area, Camille Meyers doesn’t use umbrellas, defines distance as time, understands the weather based on the visibility of certain mountains, and always waits for the light to change before crossing the street. She earned a B.A in Biology and a B.A. English from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. During her undergrad experience she was a Nitze Fellow, a Folger Shakespeare Library Lannan Fellow, and was awarded a Research Experience for Undergraduates from the National Science Foundation to study salamanders.
Before starting her life as a grad student, Camille hand raised and released rare Orange-breasted Falcons into the wilds of Belize and studied the declining wild population for The Peregrine Fund. During the winter months, she was a zookeeper at the Cougar Mountain Zoo in Issaquah, Washington and worked with a variety of species including lemurs, emu, reindeer, wallabies, and parrots.
Her non-fiction, fiction, and poetry often pull from science and frequently involve animals and the environment. She currently lives in Ames, Iowa with her pet gecko named Dalton.
Ebonesiah Morrow is a first year MFA candidate at Iowa State University’s Creative Writing and Environment Program. She earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in English/ Literature and Professional and Creative Writing at Central Washington University. Although she is a candidate of fiction writing at ISU, she is an experimental writer, who values writing in all genres. Ebony describes herself as a poet who loves to tell stories. With her literature, she strives to be a voice for those who are devoiced by society. During her years here at ISU, her goal is to break the boundaries of the traditional novel, developing experimental works that highlight a variety of writing forms.
Joel Nathanael is a first year MFA candidate for poetry at Iowa State University and a Public Speaking Teaching Assistant. Recently Joel graduated From Iowa State University with a B.A. in Communication (emphasis in Nonverbal Communication). He served in the United States Army from 2002 – 2005.
Through the MFA program, Joel wishes to further his study of poetry as an art through practice. Predominately, Joel’s work deals with the intersection of scientific thought and human significance. His primary interests are in educational, scientific, social, religious, and militaristic systems as they manifest in a given environment.
While making music is his creative compliment to poetry, Joel also enjoys graphic novels, quality hair ties, The X-Files, and single malt Scotch.
Eric Fisher Stone is from Fort Worth, Texas where he completed his undergraduate degree at Texas Christian University. He has had poems published in various literary journals, print and online, including Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Third Wednesday, The Lyric, Jersey Devil Press, Eunoia Review, Yellow Chair Review, Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry, Turtle Island Quarterly and New Mexico Review,
His poetic influences are many, but often stem from Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Mary Oliver, Roethke, WS Merwin, Albert Goldbarth and BH Fairchild and he has also studied under “Pete” Fairchild, who gave Eric the gift of poetry in the first place.
He is fascinated by immensity, whales in the deep sea and galaxies arching forever across space and time, and he also loves microbial spots of being, what Blake called “a world in a grain of sand.” He finds that the mundane is a bridge between these two universes. He has discovered there are no ugly animals, only cute ones. Some animals, such as tarantulas and blobfish, have a cuteness that is discovered, not presented at first sight. He is fascinated by animals and his favorite animal is a javelina. He frequently includes animals in his work.
Shelby Rae Stringfield is a graduate of the University of Tennessee where she worked with the university’s undergraduate literary arts magazine, the Phoenix, as fiction editor and then editor-in-chief. She writes primarily fiction, occasionally creative nonfiction, and when prompted has been known to turn out a poem or two for which her dog, Gavin, is the primary subject and muse.
In her free time, she enjoys long walks around her apartment complex with Gavin, binge-watching the best of TV drama and comedy (Orphan Black, VEEP, Jane the Virgin, Orange is the New Black, and more that she will adamantly and repeatedly recommend whether her advice is solicited or not), eating, and marveling at the vastness of the corn fields in her new environment that contrast greatly against the mountain views she grew up with in the Tennessee Valley.
Her literary loves include Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jeffrey Eugenides, Donna Tartt, Jhumpa Lahiri, Michael Chabon, Colum McCann, and (when in need of a chuckle) Nick Hornby.
Phoebe Wagner grew up in Pennsylvania, the third generation to live in the Susquehanna River Valley. She spent her days among the endless hills, and while she is still getting used to the flatness, Iowa does have its charms. She graduated with a B.A. in English: Creative Writing from Lycoming College where she also met her husband. Phoebe writes primarily fiction but explores poetry and creative nonfiction as well. Her interests revolve around mythology, fantasy, and science fiction, focusing on finding wonder where others have forgotten to look. Her work has appeared in Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Hearth Magazine, Rose Red Review, and The Allegheny Review.
While Phoebe has worked as a college admissions counselor, street artist, graphic designer, theatre box office manager, and barista, her writing remains one of the few constants in her life. When not reading or writing, she enjoys weekend adventures with her husband, kayaking, literature discussions over a pint of craft beer, and playing with her cat Mithrandir.
Born in a log cabin built with his own tiny hands, Connor White was raised in the deep-fried, sweltering suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. After a childhood’s worth of napping by creek beds and nosing around neighbors’ yards, he attended Georgia Southern University, and although he received his Bachelor’s in Multimedia Communications (namely out of laziness to swap majors halfway through undergrad), it was out in that little town swamped by cotton fields he learned to write, and that he loved to write.
His work explores the wisdom of children and elders, blurred cultural and geographic boundaries, idiosyncrasies and peculiarities, and the conflict versus nature and the self rather than versus one another. He enjoys the history, linguistics, and musical traditions of other cultures and peoples, and draws inspiration from them for his work when he can, respectfully and enthusiastically. Who needs the Kardashians when you have the Habsburgs, rulers of Europe and just as self-destructive?
Hagan Faye Whiteleather is a first year MFA candidate in ISU’s Creative Writing and Environment program. Hagan graduated Summa Cum Laude from Kent State University with degrees in English and Psychology, a minor in Writing, and a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language. She was also president of the English honorary society, Sigma Tau Delta and editor of her university’s literature and arts magazine Luna Negra.
Hagan’s writing is generally of the creative nonfiction variety. Her (yet to be completed) short story cycle revolves around her Aunts and their rural upbringing.
Outside of the MFA, Hagan’s passions include reading children’s literature, watching copious amounts of television, walking aimlessly, sitting in cars, and when she is at her Ohio home—tending to her family’s youngs and olds. Additionally, she is more than mildly obsessed with Shirley Jackson, John Steinbeck, Sylvia Plath, Shel Silverstein, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Vladimir Nabokov, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Roald Dahl, and any/all of the Brontës.
Brontë Christopher Wieland thinks about language, culture, nature, and storytelling. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.