MFA in Creative Writing, Faculty

MFA in Creative Writing, Faculty

Poets. Writers. Mentors.

The SMC MFA faculty are award-winning writers and committed teachers who offer decades of experience mentoring artists at all stages of their artistic journeys. 

Our core faculty members teach full-time in the program and advise students on their creative thesis projects.  

In addition to our core faculty, each year the MFA community invites Distinguished Visiting Writers to teach courses, deliver craft talks and readings, and serve on students' thesis committees. These groundbreaking artists add to the program's inclusive community with their diversity of experiences and aesthetic approaches. 


Core Faculty


Headshot of Marilyn Abildskov.

Marilyn Abildskov

Creative Nonfiction

Marilyn Abildskov (Creative Nonfiction) is the author of The Men in My Country. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program and is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award for her nonfiction, and a Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award for her fiction, as well as honors from the Corporation of Yaddo, the Djerassi Writing Residency, and the Utah Arts Council. Her essays and short stories have been published in Ploughshares, Story, The Sun, Colorado Review, The Southern Review, AGNI, and Best American Essays, and elsewhere. She teaches regularly at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.


A portrait of Chris Feliciano Arnold

Chris Feliciano Arnold

Fiction and Creative Nonfiction

Chris Feliciano Arnold has written essays and journalism for The Atlantic, Harper's, Outside, Vice News, The New York Times and more. His fiction has been published in Playboy, The Kenyon Review, Ecotone and other magazines. His work has been noted in The Best American Sports Writing and The Best American Short Stories. He has received fellowships and scholarships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Disquiet International Literary Program in Lisbon. His first book, The Third Bank of the River: Power and Survival in the Twenty-First Century Amazon, is a hybrid work of investigative journalism, history and memoir. 


A portrait of Matthew Zapruder

Matthew Zapruder


Matthew Zapruder is the author of five collections of poetry, including Come On All You Ghosts, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Father’s Day (Copper Canyon, 2019), as well as Why Poetry, a book of prose (Ecco, 2017) and the forthcoming Story of a Poem (Unnamed Press, 2023). He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a William Carlos Williams Award, a May Sarton Award from the Academy of American Arts and Sciences, and a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship. His writing and translations have appeared in many publications and anthologies. His poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 2009, 2013, 2017, and 2020—and he edited the 2022 edition. He is editor at large at Wave Books, where he edits contemporary poetry, prose, and translations. He currently holds the 2022–23 Olivia Filippi Chair in Creative Writing. 


2023–2024 Distinguished Visiting Writers


headshot of zeina looking contemplative in front of an outdoor setting

Zeina Hashem Beck


Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet. Her third poetry collection, O, won the 2023 Arab American Book Award for Poetry and was named a Best Book of the Year by Literary Hub and The New York Public Library. Her previous full-length collections are Louder than Hearts, winner of the 2016 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize, and To Live in Autumn, winner of the 2013 Backwaters Prize. She’s also the author of two chapbooks: 3arabi Song, winner of the 2016 Rattle Chapbook prize, and There Was and How Much There Was, a 2016 Laureate’s Choice selected by Carol Ann Duffy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Nation, Academy of American Poets, and elsewhere. She’s the co-creator and co-host, with poet Farah Chamma, of Maqsouda, a podcast in Arabic about Arabic poetry. After a lifetime in Lebanon and a decade in Dubai, Zeina has recently moved with her family to California.


Headshot of Visiting Writer Ingrid Rojas Contreras on a yellow background.

Ingrid Rojas Contreras


Ingrid Rojas Contreras was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. Her memoir, The Man Who Could Move Clouds, was a Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist. It was a a winner of a California Book Award. Her first novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree was the silver medal winner in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and a New York Times editor's choice. Her essays and short stories have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The Cut, Zyzzyva, and elsewhere. Rojas Contreras has received numerous awards and fellowships from Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, VONA, Hedgebrook, The Camargo Foundation, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture. She is a Visiting Writer at Saint Mary’s College. She lives in California.


headshot of writer lauren markham in an orange shirt and cream background

Lauren Markham

Creative Nonfiction

Lauren Markham is the author of the 2017 award-winning The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life. Her essays and reportage regularly appears in outlets such as the Atlantic, Harper's, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine and VQR, where she is a contributing editor. She has spent over fifteen years working at the intersection of education and immigration. Her next book, A Map of Future Ruins: On Borders and Belonging, is forthcoming from Riverhead in Spring 2024.


2022–2023 Distinguished Visiting Writers


A portrait of Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo 

Poetry and Creative Nonfiction

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s most recent book is Children of the Land: a Memoir, (Harper Collins 2020). He is also the author of Cenzontle, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. prize (BOA editions 2018), winner of the 2019 Great Lakes Colleges Association Award, The Foreword Indies Prize, The Golden Poppy Award from Northern California Booksellers Association, and a finalist for the Northern California Book Award, the California Book Award, The Thom Gunn Award from the Publishing Triangle, the Lambda Literary Award, and named a best book of 2018 by NPR and the New York Public Library. His first chapbook, Dulce, was the winner of the Drinking Gourd Prize published by Northwestern University Press. As one of the founders of the Undocupoets campaign, he was the first undocumented student to graduate from the Helen Zell Writers Program at the University of Michigan. His work has been featured in the New York Times, People Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, The Paris Review, Vanity Fair, and the Wall Street Journal among others. He lives in Northern California where he teaches poetry to incarcerated youth and also teaches at the Ashland University Low-Res MFA program.


A portrait of Nayomi Munaweera

Nayomi Munaweera


Nayomi Munaweera’s debut novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, won the Commonwealth Book Prize for the Asian Region, was short-listed for the DSC Prize and Man Asia Prizes, and was chosen as a Target Book Club book. Her second novel What Lies Between Us, won the Sri Lankan National Book Award and was short-listed for the Northern California Book Prize. The Huffington Post raved, “Munaweera’s prose is visceral and indelible, devastatingly beautiful—reminiscent of the glorious writings of Louise Erdrich, Amy Tan and Alice Walker, who also find ways to truth-tell through fiction.” She lives in Oakland, California, and is working on her third novel, a psycho-sexual literary thriller.


headshot of writer rachel richardson in front of a shadowy background

Rachel Richardson

Poetry and Writer in the World

Rachel Richardson is the author of the poetry collection Smother, forthcoming from W. W. Norton in 2025, and two previous books of poetry, Hundred-Year Wave and Copperhead, both from Carnegie Mellon University Press. She is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow and National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. Her poetry has appeared in The New York Times, American Poetry Review, Orion, Yale Review, on The Slowdown; her nonfiction has been published in Literary Hub, Kenyon Review, at the Poetry Foundation, and elsewhere. Born and raised in the Bay Area, she is a co-founder of the literary center Left Margin LIT and serves on the advisory board of the Bay Area Book Festival. 


A portrait of Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton


Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, born and raised in New Orleans, studied creative writing at Dartmouth College and law at UC Berkeley. Her most recent novel, The Revisioners, won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work and was a national bestseller as well as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her debut novel, A Kind of Freedom, was long-listed for the National Book Award and the Northern California Book Award, won the Crook's Corner Book Prize, and was the recipient of the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Paris Review; Zyzzyva; O, The Oprah Magazine; The New York Times Book Review; and other publications. 


A portrait of Naomi Williams

Naomi J. Williams


Naomi J. Williams is the author of the novel Landfalls (FSG, 2015), long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals, garnering a Pushcart Prize and a Best American honorable mention. Distinctions also include a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant and residencies at Hedgebrook, Djerassi, and Willapa Bay AiR. Educated at Princeton, Stanford, and UC Davis, she has taught creative writing in many places, including UC Davis, Sacramento City College, and the low-res MFA program at Ashland University. A biracial Japanese-American, Williams was born and partly raised in Japan; she currently lives in Sacramento, California.


Professor Emerita


A portrait of Brenda Hillman

Brenda Hillman

Professor Emerita, Poetry

Brenda Hillman is the author of 11 collections of poetry, most recently In a Few Minutes Before Later, and Practical Water, for which she won the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry, Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, which received the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize, and Extra Hidden Life, among the Days, which received the Northern California Book Award for Poetry. Hillman’s awards include the 2012 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the 2005 William Carlos Williams Prize for poetry, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. She is currently a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets.


Past Distinguished Visiting Writers

More than 60 visiting writers have taught in the SMC MFA program over the years, often while working on a milestone book. Through their teaching and artistic practice, they have left a lasting legacy, and many of them return to mentor alumni in our Book Manuscript Consultation post-graduate course.  


Aria Aber
Brian Broome
Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Jamil Jan Kochai
Ruchika Tomar



Chris Feliciano Arnold (creative nonfiction)
Ingrid Rojas Contreras (fiction)
Cyrus Cassells  (poetry)
Christine Lee (creative nonfiction)
Marie Mutsuki Mockett (creative nonfiction) 


Samina Ali (creative nonfiction)
Jane Gregory (poetry)
Christine Lee (fiction)
Tongo Eisen Martin (poetry)
Lori Ostlund (fiction)


Bryn Saito (poetry)
Shanthi Sekaran (fiction)
Gabrielle Selz (creative nonfiction)



Natalie Baszile (fiction)
Joyce Maynard (creative nonfiction)
Arisa White (poetry)


Rachel Howard (creative nonfiction)
Cristina Garcia (fiction)
Sarah Manguso (creative nonfiction)
Geoffrey G. O'Brien (poetry) 
Porter Shreve (fiction)


Cristina Garcia (creative nonfiction)
Cedar Sigo (poetry)
Mary Volmer (fiction)



Norma Cole (poetry)
Joshua Mohr (fiction)
Kaya Oakes (creative nonfiction)



Kazim Ali (poetry)
Lou Berney (fiction)
Susan Griffin (creative nonfiction)



Samina Ali (creative nonfiction)
Shane Book (poetry)
Judith Claire Mitchell (fiction)


Elizabeth Stark (fiction)
Josh Braff (fiction)
Kathryn Ma (fiction)
Dora Malech (poetry)
David Lau (poetry)
Peter Trachtenburg (nonfiction)
Alex Green (nonfiction)



Glen David Gold (fiction)
Bruce Snider (poetry)
Jane Vandenburgh (nonfiction)



Rusty Morrison (poetry)
Katharine Noel (fiction)
Eric Puchner (fiction)
Leslie Carol Roberts (nonfiction)



Sandra Lim (poetry)
Jane Miller (poetry)
Sue Miller (fiction)
Russ Rymer (nonfiction)



Tom Barbash (nonfiction)
Cristina Garcia (fiction)
Michael Palmer (poetry)



Norma Cole (poetry)
Julie Orringer (fiction)
Michelle Richmond (fiction)
Linda Spalding (nonfiction)
John Daniel  (nonfiction)



School and Department Information

Chris Feliciano Arnold
Director, MFA in Creative Writing

Collin Skeen
Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruitment