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MFA

Faculty and Staff

Scott Cairns

Scott Cairns

Program Director
Email: cairnss@spu.edu
Phone: 206-281-2109
Office: Marston 236 
Education: PhD, University of Utah; MFA, Bowling Green State University

Scott Cairns is a librettist, memoirist, translator, and author of nine poetry collections. His poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Image, Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, Prairie Schooner, etc., and both have been anthologized in multiple editions of Best American Spiritual Writing. He is a regular blogger for the religion section of Huffington Post, and contributes to a podcast, Flesh Becomes Word, for Ancient Faith Radio. His recent books are Anaphora (2019), Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems (2015), Idiot Psalms (2014), Short Trip to the Edge (spiritual memoir, 2007), Endless Life (translations and adaptations of Christian mystics, 2014), and a book-length essay, The End of Suffering (2009). He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006, and the Denise Levertov Award in 2014. His new projects include Descent to the Heart, a verse adaptation of selections from the writings of Saint Isaak of Syria. His spiritual memoir was recently released in Greek and Romanian editions, and a second, expanded English edition appeared from Paraclete Press in 2016. He is Emeritus Professor of English at University of Missouri, and founding director of Writing Workshops in Greece, a program now in its eleventh year bringing writers to Greece every June for engagement with literary life in modern Greece. With Carolyn Forché and Ilya Kaminsky, he will lead Mystikós: A Poet’s Retreat in Greece in June, 2020.


Dena Jones

Assistant Director
Email: denajones@spu.edu
Phone: 206-281-2070
Office: Marston 245
Education: MAIS, University of Washington

Puget Sound native Dena Jones received a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) from the University of Washington. Her poetry has appeared in Tahoma West, UW Literary and Visual Arts magazines. Additionally, she worked as an editorial assistant for Tiger Oak Media, Inc. She has written articles for Seattle Magazine, Seattle Bride, and Northwest Home + Garden. Most recently, she worked as an academic advisor and writing instructor for the University of Washington. Jones, along with Program Director Scott Cairns, manages SPU’s MFA program.


Teresa Tsang

Email: tsangt@spu.edu
Phone: 206-281-2727
Office: Marston 229
Education: BA, English Creative Writing and Social Justice and Cultural Studies

Teresa Tsang is a graduate from Seattle Pacific University, who, along with a double major, double-minored in political science and Women's Studies. She is passionate about creative projects that illustrate marginalized experiences, one of her own being a collection of poetry surrounding second-generation Asian-American experiences titled What the Silence Did Not Teach Me. During her time at SPU, she was on the board of the literary arts journal, Lingua, and helped start the Asian-American Student Association club. She is published in Cultural Consent, an online magazine hosted by Dr. Yelena Bailey.


suzanne paola

Susanne Paola Antonetta

First-Year Creative Nonfiction Mentor
paolas@spu.edu
Education: MFA, University of Virginia

Susanne Paola Antonetta’s Make Me a Mother, ranked a Top Ten Book of the Year by Image Journal, was published by W.W. Norton. A digital chapbook, Curious Atoms: A History with Physics, was published by Essay Press in May 2016. She is also author of Body Toxic, A Mind Apart, the novella Stolen Moments, and four books of poetry. She is a blogger with the Huffington Post. Awards for her poetry and prose include a New York Times Notable Book, an American Book Award, a Library Journal Best Science Book of the Year, a Lenore Marshall Award finalist, an Oprah Bookshelf pick, a Pushcart prize, and others. Her essays and poems have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Orion, The New Republic, and many anthologies. Her work has been translated intoKorean, Dutch, and Italian and distributed internationally. She lives in Bellingham, Washington and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Bellingham Review.


lauren winner

Lauren F. Winner

Second-Year Creative Nonfiction Mentor
Email: winnerl@spu.edu
Education: PhD, Columbia University

Lauren F. Winner is the author of numerous nonfiction books, including Wearing God, Still, Girl Meets God (which was selected for the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers program, the first book with faith as a central theme to be thus selected), A Word to Live By,and Mudhouse Sabbath. In October 2018, Yale University Press published her study, The Dangers of Christian Practice: On Wayward Gifts, Characteristic Damage, and Sin. She has written for the New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, The Christian Century, Image, and Christianity Today. Her research has been supported by numerous institutions, including Monticello, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, and the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University. She has appeared on PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly and has served as a commentator on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” An Episcopal priest, Lauren is vicar of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Louisburg, North Carolina, and she teaches at Duke Divinity School.


Gina Ochsner 

First-Year Fiction Mentor
Email: gina@ginaochsner.com
Education: MA, Iowa State University; MFA, University of Oregon 
www.ginaochsner.com

Gina Ochsner is the acclaimed author of the short story collection The Necessary Grace to Fall, which received the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and the story collection People I Wanted to Be. Both books received the Oregon Book Award. Her novel entitled The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight received the Grub Street Book Prize in 2011, and was long listed for the Orange Prize in 2010. Her most recent novel is titled The Hidden Letters of Velta B. Ochsner has been awarded a John L. Simon Guggenheim grant and a grant from the National Endowment of Arts. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, Glimmer Train, and Kenyon Review. 


robert clark

Robert Clark

Second-Year Fiction Mentor
Email: clar260@spu.edu
Education: MA, University of London
www.robertclark.us.com

Robert Clark is the author of five books of nonfiction and five novels, most recently the nonfiction book Dark Water: Flood and Redemption in the City of Masterpieces and the forthcoming novel Two-Hearted River. His other novels include Lives of the Artists, Love Among the Ruins, Mr. White's Confession (Edgar Award for best novel of the year), and In the Deep Midwinter. He is also the author of a spiritual memoir, My Grandfather's House: A Genealogy of Doubt and Faith, River of the West, and the essay collection Bayham Street. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and his books have been TLS and The New York Times Notable Books of the Year. He is a winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the Washington State Book Award as well as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Awards and the IMPAC Dublin Award. Mr. White’s Confession and Love Among the Ruins are in development as films, and he has just completed a memoir/cultural history of Victorian writers, artists, and critics titled My Victorians: Lost in the Nineteenth Century.


Mischa Willett

Mischa Willett

First-Year Poetry Mentor
Email: mwillett@spu.edu
Education: PhD, University of Washington

Mischa Willett is the author of The Elegy Beta (Mockingbird 2020) and Phases (Cascade, 2017), which was listed among the Best Books of 2017 by the Washington Independent Review of Books. Also a scholar of Romantic aesthetics, Willett serves as editor of the poems of Phillip James Bailey, and publishes research on Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Shelley. 

His poems, academic articles, essays, and translations appear in journals such as Chronicle of Higher Education, The Gospel Coalition, Victorian Literature and Culture, Rio Grande Review, The Cresset, Comment Magazine and elsewhere. 


Jennifer Maier

Jennifer Maier

Second-Year Poetry Mentor
Email: jmaier@spu.edu
Education: PhD, Tulane University

Jennifer Maier is a professor of poetry and modern literature, as well as Writer in Residence, at Seattle Pacific University, where she also co-founded and directs the English Department's Rome Study Abroad Program. From 2007-2018 she served as associate editor of the arts quarterly Image. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Plume, The Gettysburg Review, American Poet, New Letters, and elsewhere. Her first book, Dark Alphabet (Southern Illinois UP), was named on of the Ten Remarkable Books of 2006 by the Academy of American Poets and was shortlisted for the 2008 Poets' Prize; a second, Now, Now, was published in 2013 from The University of Pittsburgh Press. Her latest collection The Occupant, is expected in 2021 from The University of Pittsburgh Press. 


Bryan Bliss

First-Year Young Adult Fiction Mentor
Email: bryanbbliss@gmail.com
Education: MFA, Seattle Pacific University

Bryan Bliss is the author of No Parking at the End Times, Meet Me Here, and We’ll Fly Away, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. He holds master’s degrees in theology and creative writing. You can find his works in Image, the Good Letters blog, and various other places online and in print. He lives in Saint Paul, MN with his wife and two children.


Sara Zarr

Second-Year Young Adult Fiction Mentor
Email: sarazarr@gmail.com
Education: BA, San Francisco State University

Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of seven novels for young adults, most recently Gem & Dixie. She's a National Book Award finalist and two-time Utah Book Award winner. Her books have been variously named to annual best books lists of the American Library Association, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, the Guardian, the International Reading Association, the New York Public Library and Los Angeles Public Library, and have been translated into many languages.

Visiting Writers

Our program is pleased to supplement the instruction at each of our residencies with an array of visiting writers. Each of them is both an accomplished writer and a talented and effective teacher, and each provides both a craft talk in one or more genres and a reading from original works.

Upcoming Visitors

March 2021 Residency: