Postgraduate Writers' Conference Faculty

VCFA is pleased to present the following faculty for the August 2019 Postgraduate Writers' Conference:


Sonia LSONJA LIVINGSTON is an award-winning essayist whose work appears in publications such as Salon, The Kenyon Review, Sojourners, Brevity, The Rumpus, and Creative Nonfiction. Her first book, Ghostbread, won an AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction and has been widely adopted for classroom use. She is also the author of the essay collections, Queen of the Fall and Ladies Night at the Dreamland, which explore and illuminate the lives of women. Her latest collection of lyric essays (The Virgin of Prince Street, forthcoming 2020) blends elements of travel writing, historical research and spiritual memoir to examine Catholic tradition and personal concepts of devotion within a rapidly shifting religious landscape. Her essays are widely anthologized in texts such as Waveform: Twenty-First Century Essays By Women; Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction; Poverty/Privilege: A Reader; Southern Writers on Writing, and many others. Her writing has been honored with a New York State Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, an Iowa Review Award, an Arts & Letters Essay Prize, a VanderMay Nonfiction Award, and grants from Vermont Studio Center and The Deming Fund for Women. Sonja teaches in the MFA Program at Virginia Commonwealth University.

On the web:

Dinty MDINTY W. MOORE's books include the memoir Between Panic & Desire, The Accidental Buddhist, and numerous writing guides, among them Crafting the Personal Essay, The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy, and The Mindful Writer. He has published essays and stories in The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Normal School, and elsewhere. Moore is founder and editor of Brevity, the flash nonfiction journal. He lives in Athens, Ohio, where he grows heirloom tomatoes and edible dandelions and directs the Creative Writing program at Ohio University.

On the web:

Sue SilvermanSUE WILLIAM SILVERMAN’s most recent book is a memoir-in-essays, The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, chosen as a finalist in Foreword Reviews’ IndieFab Book of the Year Award. Her debut memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award in creative nonfiction. Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction was made into a Lifetime television original movie nominated for two PRISM Awards. Sue is also the author of Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir and a poetry collection, Hieroglyphics in Neon. A second book of poems, If the Girl Never Learns, is forthcoming in April. Her newest work of creative nonfiction, How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences, is due from the University of Nebraska Press in 2020. One of Sue’s personal essays appears in The Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present (Simon & Schuster), while four others won contests with Hotel Amerika, Mid-American Review, Water~Stone Review, and Blue Mesa Review. A flash essay is featured in’s 20th Anniversary Special Issue. Other essays and poems have appeared in such places as The Rumpus, Bellingham Review, Prairie Schooner, The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit Free Press, Arts & Letters, Creative Nonfiction, and River Teeth. Sue was featured in an interview in The Writer’s Chronicle and has been the subject of several documentaries including for the Discovery Channel and WE-TV. As a professional speaker, she has appeared on national radio and television programs such as “The View,” “Anderson Cooper-360” and “CNN-Headline News.” She holds an honorary doctorate from Aquinas College for her work in literature and child abuse victim advocacy. She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a regular member of the Conference faculty.

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Clifford TCLIFFORD THOMPSON received a Whiting Writers’ Award for nonfiction in 2013 for Love for Sale and Other Essays, published by Autumn House Press, which also brought out his memoir, Twin of Blackness (2015). His personal essays and writings on books, film, jazz, and American identity have appeared in publications including Best American Essays 2018, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice, The Times Literary Supplement, The Threepenny Review, Commonweal, Cineaste, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. He is the author of a novel, Signifying Nothing, and his poems have been published in journals that include The Georgia Review and Clockhouse. For over a dozen years he served as the editor of Current Biography, and he has taught creative nonfiction writing at the Bennington Writing Seminars, New York University, Columbia University, Queens College, and Sarah Lawrence College. His book What It Is: Race, Family, and One Thinking Black Man’s Blues will be published in 2019. He lives in Brooklyn.

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William GWILLIAM GIRALDI's most recent novel is Hold the Dark, released in September as a Netflix film starring Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgård, and James Badge Dale. His debut novel was Busy Monsters. His volume of critical essays, American Audacity: In Defense of Literary Daring, was released by W.W. Norton in August 2018. He is also the author of the memoir, The Hero’s Body. His essays and reviews appear frequently in venues such as The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Commonweal. He is Fiction Editor for the journal AGNI at Boston University, where he has taught creative writing and literature for over a decade. He lives in Boston with his wife and sons.

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Lee MLEE MARTIN is the author of the novels, The Bright Forever, a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction; River of Heaven; Quakertown; Break the Skin; and Late One Night. A new novel, Yours, Jean, will be out in 2020. He has also published three memoirs, From Our House, Turning Bones, and Such a Life, in addition to a craft book, Telling Stories: The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life. His first book was the short story collection, The Least You Need To Know, and his most recent is another volume of stories, The Mutual UFO Network. He is the co-editor of Passing the Word: Writers on Their Mentors. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in such places as Harper’s, Ms., Creative Nonfiction, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, Fourth Genre, River Teeth, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, and Glimmer Train. He is the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council. He teaches in the MFA Program at The Ohio State University, where he is a College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor, and where he was also the winner of the 2006 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching.

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Bernice L. McFaddenBERNICE L. McFADDEN is the author of The Book of Harlan, winner of the 2017 American Book Award and the 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. Her eight other critically acclaimed novels include Sugar, Loving Donovan, Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), and Glorious, which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and was an NAACP Image Award finalist. Bernice is a four-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of three awards from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Other honors include two Editor’s Choice picks from the Historical Novel Society, two Great Group Reads Selections for National Reading Group Month, and the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers’ award for Sugar. Praise Song for the Butterflies, a tale of ritual servitude in contemporary West Africa, is her latest novel. She currently teaches creative writing at Tulane University in New Orleans.

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David JDAVID JAUSS is the author of four collections of short stories. Most recent are a pair of “new & selected” volumes, Nice People and Glossolalia, from Press 53 in 2017 and 2013, respectively. Black Maps, winner of the AWP Award in Short Fiction, came out from University of Massachusetts Press in 1996. Dzanc Books has reissued both that volume and Crimes of Passion, David’s debut collection. His volume of essays, originally titled Alone with All That Could Happen: Rethinking Conventional Wisdom on the Craft of Fiction, was reprinted in paperback in 2011 as On Writing Fiction. David has also edited Words Overflown by Stars, a collection of craft essays by VCFA’s MFA in Writing faculty, and The Best of Crazyhorse. His short stories and poems have been included in numerous journals and reprinted in the Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize, and Pushcart Prize annual anthologies, as well as in The Pushcart Book of Short Stories: The Best of the Pushcart Prize, and The Poetry Anthology, 1912-2002: Ninety Years of America’s Most Distinguished Verse Magazine. His essays on fictional craft have appeared regularly in The Writer’s Chronicle. David is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the James A. Michener/Copernicus Society of America, the Arkansas Arts Council, and the Minnesota Arts Board. He taught for many years at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, and is a longtime core member of the VCFA MFA in Writing faculty. 

Ellen LesserELLEN LESSER is working to complete her linked collection of stories about mothers and teenage daughters in crisis around drug abuse and addiction, which she regrets is so urgently topical. Stories from the cycle have appeared in The Iowa Review, The Antioch Review, North American Review, upstreet, and a Brain, Child magazine special issue on parenting teenagers, and garnered multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Ellen was awarded a Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant in support of the project. Her previous story collection is The Shoplifter's Apprentice (Simon & Schuster). Work from that volume has been performed in the “Selected Shorts” series on National Public Radio, anthologized in Houghton Mifflin's Images of Women in Literature and in Contemporary Vermont Fiction, and originally published in journals including The Missouri Review, Epoch, and Mississippi Review. She is also the author of two novels, The Other Woman (Simon & Schuster) and The Blue Streak (Grove). Ellen’s essays on fictional craft have been featured in The Writer’s Chronicle and in craft anthologies including Words Overflown by Stars (edited by David Jauss). A long-time member of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing faculty, she is currently the program’s Faculty Chair, as well as Postgraduate Writers’ Conference Director. She grew up on Long Island, New York but is a proud Vermont transplant.


Eduardo CEDUARDO C. CORRAL is the author of Slow Lightning, which won the 2011 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition—the first collection by a Latinx author to do so. His second book of poems, Guillotine, will be published by Graywolf Press in 2020. He's the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and the Holmes National Poetry Prize and Hodder Fellowship, both from Princeton University, among other honors. His poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review, Huizache, Indiana Review, The Journal, Jubilat, New England Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Post Road, Quarterly West, Salt Hill, and Witness. A CantoMundo Fellow, he has held the Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship in Creative Writing at Colgate University and was the Philip Roth Resident in Creative Writing at Bucknell. He currently teaches in the MFA program at North Carolina State University.


Matthew DickmanMATTHEW DICKMAN’s newest collection of poems is Wonderland (W.W. Norton, 2018.) He is the author of All-American Poem (American Poetry Review/ Copper Canyon Press, 2008), 50 American Plays (co-written with his twin brother Michael Dickman, Copper Canyon Press, 2012), Mayakovsky’s Revolver (W.W. Norton, 2012), Wish You Were Here (Spork Press, 2013), 24 HOURS (One Star Press, Paris, France, 2014), and Brother (Faber & Faber UK, 2016.) He is the recipient of The Honickman First Book Prize, The May Sarton Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Kate Tufts Award from Claremont College, and a 2015 Guggenheim fellowship. His poems have appeared in McSweeny’s, The Believer, The London Review of Books, Esquire, Best American Poetry, and The New Yorker, among other places. Matthew previously served as Poetry Editor of Tin House magazine, and is now Poetry Editor at Large for Tin House Books. He is a core faculty member of the MFA in Writing Program at VCFA, and has also taught for VCFA’s residential MFA in Writing & Publishing.

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Kathleen GraberKATHLEEN GRABER is the author of two books of poetry, Correspondence and The Eternal City, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her third collection, The River Twice, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press in the fall of 2019. Graber’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, American Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, and AGNI, among other magazines. She is a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She is an associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, and a regular member of the Conference faculty.

A Van JA. VAN JORDAN is the author of four collections of poetry. His most recent volume, The Cineaste (W.W. Norton, 2013)—a montage exploring film, poetry, and the elusiveness of reverie—was a finalist for both an NAACP Image Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. His debut volume, Rise (Tia Chucha Press, 2001), won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award and was selected for the Book of the Month Club from the Academy of American Poets. M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A (Norton, 2005) tells the story of the first African American to reach the National Spelling Bee finals in 1936; it was awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Award and selected as one the Best Books of 2005 by The London Times. Norton also published his third collection, Quantum Lyrics (2007). Jordan has been awarded a Whiting Writers Award and a Pushcart Prize, is a recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and a United States Artists Williams Fellowship, and had work selected for inclusion in Best American Poetry 2013. He is currently Collegiate Professor in the Department of English Language & Literature at the University of Michigan and distinguished visiting professor at Ithaca College. He previously served as the first Henry Rutgers Presidential Professor at the Rutgers University-Newark, and teaches in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. To add to his poetry MFA from Warren Wilson, he recently earned one from Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA in Film Program.

patricia smithPATRICIA SMITH is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist; and Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, a collaboration with award-winning Chicago photographer Michael Abramson. Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, and Life According to Motown; the children's book Janna and the Kings; and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Tin House and in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays and Best American Mystery Stories. She co-edited The Golden Shovel Anthology—New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks and edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir. She is a Guggenheim fellow, a Civitellian, a National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient, a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, a former fellow at both Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition’s history. Patricia is a professor at the College of Staten Island and in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, as well as a regular instructor at the annual VONA residency and this Conference.

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Conference Dates

  • 24th Annual Postgraduate Writers' Conference: August 12-18, 2019


Ellen Lesser

Conference Director
[email protected]