meet our 2017 participants
Sonja Cendak is an arts manager with over 15 years experience in grantmaking, exhibition design, and nonprofit administration. She has previously worked at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She has consulted and collaborated on projects for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, the Venice Art Walk, and the California Museum of Photography. Sonja holds a B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from the University of California, Riverside.
Michael Downs’s debut novel, The Strange and True Tale of Horace Wells, Surgeon Dentist, is forthcoming from Acre Books (May 2018). His other books include The Greatest Show: Stories (Louisiana State University Press) and House of Good Hope: A Promise for a Broken City (University of Nebraska Press), which won the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize. Hollywood's Team: Grit, Glamour, and the 1950s Los Angeles Rams, written with Jim Hock, was published in 2016 by Rare Bird Books. Downs's stories and essays have appeared in The George Review, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. His writing has won fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and most recently the Greater Baltimore Arts Council.
Margaret Guroff is a freelance writer and AARP The Magazine‘s features editor. She previously worked as the top editor at Baltimore Magazine. Her essays and articles have appeared in Newsday and The Baltimore Sun, among other publications. Guroff holds a BA from Wesleyan University and is a graduate of The Writing Seminars at Hopkins, where she has taught graduate and undergraduate students for many years. She lives in Washington, DC.
Eleanor Herman, a Towson grad, is the New York Times best-selling author of Sex with Kings, King Peggy, several other historical non-fiction books, and the new Young Adult series on Alexander the Great, Legacy of Kings, which has been optioned by the Warner Brothers Network as a Game of Thrones-type TV series. King Peggy, the true story of a D.C. secretary turned African king, is currently in pre-production as a major motion picture starring Queen Latifah. Eleanor currently lives in McLean, VA with her longsuffering husband, an eight-year-old Black Lab puppy named Charlie, and four extremely important rescue cats.
Margot Livesey grew up in a boys' private school in the Scottish Highlands where her father taught, and her mother, Eva, was the school nurse. After taking a B.A. in English and philosophy at the University of York in England she spent most of her twenties working in shops and restaurants and learning to write. Her first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was published by Penguin Canada in 1986. Since then Margot has published seven novels: Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, Eva Moves the Furniture, Banishing Verona and The House on Fortune Street, and The Flight of Gemma Hardy. Her eighth novel, Mercury, was published in September 2016 by HarperCollins. In July 2017, Tin House published Livesey's The Hidden Machinery, a collection of essays on the craft of writing.
Margot has taught at Boston University, Bowdoin College, Brandeis University, Carnegie Mellon, Cleveland State, Emerson College, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Tufts University, the University of California at Irvine, the Warren Wilson College MFA program for writers, and Williams College. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the N.E.A., the Massachusetts Artists' Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts. Margot is currently teaching at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. She lives with her husband, a painter, in Cambridge, MA, and goes back to London and Scotland whenever she can.
Alice Sebold says, "Every novel of Margot Livesey's is, for her readers, a joyous discovery. Her work radiates with compassion and intelligence and always, deliciously, mystery."
Jeannie Vanasco is the author of The Glass Eye, a memoir (Tin House, 2017). Her writing has appeared in The Believer, Longform, Longreads, NewYorker.com, Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere. She lives in Baltimore and is an assistant professor at Towson University.
Longtime All Things Considered commentator (1991-2006) Marion Winik is the host of The Weekly Reader radio show and podcast. She reviews books for Newsday, People, Kirkus Review and other venues and is a board member of the National Book Critics Circle. She is the author of First Comes Love, The Glen Rock Book of the Dead and seven other books. Her Bohemian Rhapsody column at BaltimoreFishbowl.com has received the "Best Column" and "Best Humorist" awards from Baltimore Magazine, and her essays have been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Sun and many other publications. She is a professor in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore. She has appeared on Today, Politically Incorrect and Oprah. Other honors include an NEA Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction, and the yearly "Best Local Writer" Award from the Austin Chronicle from 1993 - 1997. More info at marionwinik.com.
Bill Beverly teaches at Trinity University in Washington DC and lives in Maryland. His novel Dodgers won the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Award in the mystery/thriller category. His doctoral research on criminal fugitive stories became the book On the Lam.
Nate Brown’s fiction has appeared in the Iowa Review, Mississippi Review, Five Chapters,Carolina Quarterly, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Vermont Studio Center, the Ucross Foundation, and multiple work-study scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. He lives in Baltimore.
Jeanine Cummins was born in Spain, but calls Gaithersburg, Maryland her home town. She studied creative writing at Towson University before living in Belfast for several years. After ten years working in the publishing industry her first book, A Rip in Heaven, became a bestseller, and she turned to writing full time.
Jeanine's fiction is deeply influenced by Ireland, where both her novels are set. Her stories draw on her Irish and Puerto Rican heritage, and the blend is uniquely American. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Faerie Magazine, and The New York Times. She lives in New York with her husband and their two daughters.
Mark Drew has been with the Gettysburg Review since 1998, serving first as assistant editor and currently as editor. He earned his AA at Elgin Community College, BA at Knox College, and MFA in creative writing at the University of Alabama. While in Tuscaloosa, he received an Academy of American Poets Prize, served as managing editor and editor of the Black Warrior Review (1993–95). He has had poems appear in the Gettysburg Review, Lament, the Mankato Poetry Review, and elsewhere, and has published a limited-edition, letterpress chapbook titled Uncertainties.
Leslie Harrison's second book, The Book of Endings, was the 2016 Editor's Choice at the University of Akron Press. It was published in February 2017, and is a nominee for the National Book Award. Her first book, Displacement, won the Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize in poetry from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. It was published by Mariner Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, in 2009. She is a 2011 recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry.
Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, The Bennington Review, The New Republic, New Limestone Review, Cherry Tree and elsewhere. She teaches at Towson University.
Stewart Lewis is a young adult author and singer-songwriter who is based out of Washington, DC and Nantucket, MA. His novels have been translated into five languages and his songs have been used in TV and film worldwide. Stewart has toured and opened for artists such as: Andy Grammer, Better than Ezra, Graham Nash, Sheryl Crow, and Ani Difranco. Stewart’s songs have been featured in the following TV shows: Body of Proof, Party of Five, Ghost Whisperer, Laguna Beach, Joan of Arcadia, Jockeys, Dawson's Creek, The Biggest Loser, and Dante's Cove. Stewart’s songs have been featured in the following films: Shelter, Firehouse Dog, A Four Letter Word, and Violet Tendencies. His favorite things are his french bulldog Oliver, traveling, good food and good friends.
Sonia Shah is a science journalist and prize-winning author. Her latest book, Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond has been called “superbly written,” (The Economist) , “bracingly intelligent” (Nature), “provocative” and “chilling,” (New York Times), a “lively, rigorously researched and highly informative read,” (Wall Street Journal) and “absorbing, complex, and ominous,” (Publishers Weekly). It was selected as a New York Times Book ReviewEditor’s Choice and as a finalist for the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in science/technology.
Steven Skerritt-Davis is the Director of the Individual Artist Awards, Community Arts Development, and Arts and Entertainment Districts programs at the Maryland State Arts Council. Prior to joining MSAC, he served as Director of External Relations at Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts where he helped elevate the organization to national prominence by securing grants and partnerships to build and expand its programs, implement a national scholarship program to increase diversity in dance education, and build a new residency facility/creative placemaking project in rural upstate New York. He has also worked as Program Coordinator for the National Dance Project at the New England Foundation for the Arts, and he earned a BA magna cum laude from Brown University after retiring from a ten-year career as a professional ballet dancer.
Jung Yun was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. She studied at Vassar College, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing.
Her work has appeared in Tin House (the “Emerging Voices” issue); The Best of Tin House: Stories, edited by Dorothy Allison; The Massachusetts Review; The Atlantic Monthly; and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She has also received two Artist’s Fellowships in fiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a CSG Fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and an honorable mention for the Pushcart Prize.
Currently, Jung lives in Baltimore with her husband and serves as an assistant professor of English at the George Washington University .
Shelter is her first novel.
Special Critique Faculty: