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Creative Writing Students

Class of 2019

TALI COHEN is a poet from Baltimore, Maryland. She received her BA in Philosophy from The University of Tampa. Her poetry focuses on female autonomy and explorations of domestic life, with frequent pit stops into Existentialism.

or the last four years, MIRRI GLASSON-DARLING has lived, written, and trained for marathons in the Arctic village of Barrow, Alaska: the northern most community in the United States. Prior to this she lived for a year in Juneau, Alaska and is excited to rejoin the Lower 48 and attend Virginia Tech for her MFA. She has received an honorable mention in Glimmertrain, and previously published stories of hers can be found in the Crab Orchard Review, South Dakota Review, The Dr. TJ Eckleburg Review, and Bosque Literary Magazine. A new short story of hers “In Babble” is forthcoming in Willow Springs.

LESLIE JERNEGAN, with Wisconsin inscribed on her birth certificate and in her spirit, embodies a land of homey pubs and genuine how-are-you’s. Forever nostalgic about farm fields, hometown memories and Madison, she’s also an innate wanderer. From studying and working in Asia, Europe, South America and Alaska, to fashioning makeshift car-hotels on cross-country drives, she’s never without stories to tell. Good thing her stacks of childhood-to-present-day journals, poems, lyrics and fiction, and degrees in English and Spanish attest her joy in telling them. Welcoming new excursions, reflections and gratifying uncertainty, she’s onto her next setting: Virginia and (who knows?).

DANIEL KENNEDY is a fiction writer from rural Pennsylvania. He holds a BA in English from Boston University. He competed in the sport of wrestling for eighteen years and was a member of BU’s Division 1 team. Frequent childhood nightmares are to blame for his turn to storytelling. His work challenges binary modes of thinking and explores the ways in which people attempt to maintain—or reshape—who they believe themselves to be. He enjoys spending time with his family, watching good films, and reading near water.

DEVIN KOCH is a Nebraskan poet who instead of deciding between using the Valencia or Hudson Instagram filter to find his place in the world, he uses the power of language. If forced to choose, he’d pick Valencia. Hands down. He graduated from University Nebraska Lincoln where he won the Vreeland and Marjorie Stover Award for his work. Family dynamics, religion, Greek/Roman mythology, and pop culture are what inspires him. His life goals include becoming a winner of Survivor, the Pulitzer, and the lottery.

DAN MELLING is originally from London, UK. He holds a BA in Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University. Since graduating (and becoming sick of zero-hour contracts and minimum wage night-shifts) he has lived a fairly nomadic life; working in China and India, and spending a lot of time in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as many other places. Dan likes artists and poets who portray poverty and shine a light on forgotten people. He has many influences, from Philip Levine and Alden Nowlan to Gustav Courbet. He is currently teaching in Portugal and is looking forward to swapping the valleys and vinho of Douro for the mountains and moonshine of Virginia.

LOTTE MITCHELL REFORD is a Londoner who has spent the last seven years living in Glasgow, where she completed an MA (which is what the Scots call their BAs) in English Lit; Classical Civilisation and an MLitt (which is what they call some of their MAs) in Creative Writing. She has worked as an incompetent but endearing waitress, a passable barista, and a (hopefully) decent editor. She writes stories and sometimes poems.

KELSEY SCHURER grew up in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. She graduated from Florida State University where she received a BA in Creative Writing and won the Louis and Mart P Hill Outstanding Undergraduate Thesis award. She worked as a journalist and, most recently, for an investigative company dealing in surveillance, recorded interviews, and scene investigations. Her fiction primarily deals with the dysfunctions of families, friends, and romantic relationships. She loves ice cream and salt water, and, if she could, she would like to be Jane Goodall for a day.

CHRISTOPHER WILSON was born and raised in suburban Chicago and received his Bachelor's in English from Southern Illinois University. Before coming to study at Virginia Tech, he worked in a shipping warehouse, a book store, and spent the last decade as a bartender. He was the runner-up in 2015 for the Illinois Emerging Writer Award. In his free time he enjoys watching and playing basketball.

Class of 2020

TOLU ADEYEYE was born and raised in London, and has skipped through 21 years of life, and is about to cross over the Atlantic Ocean. She’s currently studying geology and is excited to swap rocks and fossils for writing and reading as her main priorities. She writes fantasy novels as well as literary fiction, and she focuses on the events in life that shape our psychology. She’s an ENTP who can’t get enough of cheesecake, Sidney Sheldon (OTP honestly), and the sun, and hopes she won’t get buried in snow in Blacksburg (yes, she’s from England and she hates snow).  

MAKENSI CERIANI is from South Central Pennsylvania and grew up in the house her parents built. She cultivates many interests and hobbies, but has too much a Gemini mentality to ever decide on her favorite pursuits. However, she will admit writing poetry holds a high spot in the top five. She has taught at the Pennsylvania State University, where she completed her English and Creative Writing degrees.  

LAUREN GARRETSON is an Affrilachian creative from the mountains of West Virginia. She received her BA in Africana Studies & Creative Writing from Hampshire College. Non-traditional in most ways, Lauren enjoys pushing boundaries and genres in her writing, working with science-fiction, magical realism and historical fiction.  You can be sure to find images of aged hands, winding rivers and fingers plunged into soil within her stories. At its core, her writing explores Black love and resilience in all its forms.  When Lauren writes, she envisions pieces of her heart being left between the lines of every page in hopes that whoever reads it will find them and feel loved.

SARAH HANSEN is a poet from McLean, Virginia. She received her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Mary Washington where she won the Barbara Thomas Phillips Scholarship for her work and was the poetry editor of the Rappahannock Review. Her writing often delves into the history and geography of her home state and she is looking forward to exploring the stories of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Blacksburg.

YASMINE KAMINSKY is an Iranian-American poet with a B.A. in English from Johns Hopkins University. Her work explores diasporic experience, hybrid identities, translation, erasure, docu-po, and the connections/discontinuities between memory and familial storytelling/mythology. Born in Worcester, MA, she holds a special place in her heart for bubblers, jimmies, and all things wicked. She hangs out too much in coffee shops and only asks for tea, and the bookmark in your last library book was probably hers!

ASHIEDA MCKOY was born in Washington D.C., but thinks she can live anywhere since living in Maryland, Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, Italy, and Spain. She has loved poetry since having to memorize and recite "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou for her family when she was 5. She has a B.A. in Political Science from Dickinson College and has won national awards for her community service, teaching, and poetry. She will only drink sweet tea with lemon and mint and, inevitably, takes at least 30 minutes to pick out a card for special occasions.

UCHE OKONKWO has an MA in Creative Writing from University of Manchester, UK, and several years’ experience working with one of Nigeria’s leading independent publishers. She was awarded a writing residency at Writers’ Omi, Ledig House, in spring 2017. Her stories have appeared in Ploughshares, Per Contra, The Ember Journal and Ellipsis. In 2016 her essay ‘What the Road Offers’ – experiences from a six-week trans-Nigerian road trip project with other writers, photographers and filmmakers – was published by Invisible Borders as a chapbook. She is working on her first short story collection.

GIDEON SIMONS returns to Virginia after a stint in the sometimes frozen lands of Colorado, having acquired an English BA for his troubles. Other than graduating from the University of Colorado Denver, this eccentric orbit has seen him working as a technical writer, a journalist, an editor, and an independent game developer. “Working” might be a stretch for that last one. Under the influence of writers like Flann O’Brien and Angela Carter, as well as a childhood dream of being a cartoonist, he seeks to create strange new fiction.

ADELE WILLIAMS was born in Louisiana and grew up in North Carolina. Her family hails from the deep south and are wet survivors of many hurricanes. She explores a southern sense of place, family and loss in her poetry. She is an Executive Pastry Chef. Food culture from cultivation to preservation is central in her daily life. She earned her BA in Creative Writing from Appalachian State University. Adele is eager to be wooed by Southwest Virginia and write poems with new people.