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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2022–2023 Distinguished Visiting Writers
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.
Yona Harvey's poetry books are You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love, winner of The Believer Book Award in Poetry, and Hemming the Water, winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her poems have appeared in Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, The Best American Poetry, Letters to the Future: Black Women/Radical Writing and A Poet’s Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry. She co-wrote Marvel Comics’ World of Wakanda, a companion series to the bestselling Black Panther comic, and co-wrote Black Panther & the Crew. She is a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow.
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.
Poetry and Writer in the World
Rachel Richardson is the author of two poetry collections, Hundred-Year Wave (2016) and Copperhead (2011), both from Carnegie Mellon University Press. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and Stegner Fellowship, and her poetry and essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, APR, the Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day, New England Review, Kenyon Review, Guernica, and elsewhere. She serves as Poetry Advisor for the Bay Area Book Festival and co-directs Left Margin LIT, a literary arts center and coworking space for the East Bay.
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.
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.
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.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Jamil Jan Kochai
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)
Sandra Lim (poetry)
Jane Miller (poetry)
Sue Miller (fiction)
Russ Rymer (nonfiction)
Tom Barbash (nonfiction)
Cristina Garcia (fiction)
Michael Palmer (poetry)