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Upcoming Special Guests

Ibtisam Barakat, Summer 2020 Residency

© Matt Peyton

Ibtisam Barakat is bilingual Palestinian-American poet, artist, translator, educator, and the author of the critically acclaimed memoirs Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood and Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine. The two memoirs combined won more than 30 awards and honors, including the International Reading Association’s best book award, the Middle East Council’s best book award, and the Arab-American Museum’s best book award. Her Arabic language books include The Letter Ta’ Escapes, which won the Euro-Mediterranean Anna Lindh Foundation’s best book award for children’s books in Arabic. Her most recent books include The Jar that Became a Galaxy, which was the title for Palestine’s national reading campaign in 2019, and The Purple Girl, which is long-listed for the 2020 Sheikh Zayed Book Award. Ibtisam’s TEDx talk about her love for language can be viewed here.

Shonda Buchanan,
Summer 2020 Residency

©Dennis Lovelace

Shonda Buchanan is the author of five books, including a memoir, Black Indian, the tale of a mixed race Midwest family caught in intergenerational bi-ethnic and tri-ethnic identity crises. An award-winning poet and educator, Shonda is editing her first novel about Black/American Indian intersections, a second memoir, and a collection of poetry about Nina Simone. Having received several Virginia Foundation for the Arts and Arts Midwest/National Endowment for the Arts grants, she is a Sundance Institute Fellow, a PEN Center Emerging Voices Fellow, a California Community Foundation Fellow, and a Jentel Artist Residency Fellow. Shonda teaches at Loyola Marymount University. Follow her on social media @shondabuchanan, or visit

Sheela Chari,
Summer 2020 Residency

© Keerthana Chari

Sheela Chari is the author of Finding Mighty, a Junior Library Guild Selection and Children’s Choice Award Finalist; and Vanished, an APALA Children’s Literature Honor Book, Edgar finalist for best juvenile mystery, and Al’s Book Club Pick on the Today Show. Her forthcoming novel, The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel, based on the Peabody Award-winning mystery podcast by Gen-Z Media, will be published by Candlewick/Walker US in October 2020. Sheela teaches fiction writing at Mercy College and lives with her family in New York. To learn more about Sheela and her work, visit

Jeffrey S. Cramer, Summer 2020 Residency

© Tom Hersey

Jeffrey S. Cramer is the author of Solid Seasons: The Friendship of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was called “an engaging account of the friendship between Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson” by The Wall Street Journal. Daegan Miller (LA Review of Books) called it “a minimalist history, Thoreauvian in its desire to be just as it is, generous in the way it bares itself, full of trust that readers are smart enough to spin conclusions for themselves, and intense in its demand that they elevate themselves to the task.” Jeff’s work also includes a series of biographical interviews with poets; among them, “With Jane and Without: An Interview with Donald Hall” (The Massachusetts Review; reprinted in Contemporary Literary Criticism) and “Long Love and Constant Spirits: An Interview with Richard and Charlee Wilbur” (The Literary Review), in which he examines the role of the poet’s spouse in the creative process. Jeff has appeared on various radio and television programs, including “On Point with Tom Ashbrook,” WUMB-Boston’s Commonwealth Journal, Wisconsin Public Radio’s “To the Best of Our Knowledge,” and C-SPAN’s Book-TV. For more information about Jeff, visit
Rebecca McClanahan, Summer 2020 Residency

© Lana Rubright

Rebecca McClanahan’s eleventh book, In the Key of New York City: A Memoir in Essays, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in May 2020. Her work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, Boulevard, Brevity, The Sun, and River Teeth, as well as anthologies published by Simon Schuster, Beacon, Norton, and Bedford/St. Martin, among others. Recipient of two Pushcart prizes, the Glasgow Award in Nonfiction, the Wood Prize from Poetry Magazine, the Carter Prize for the Essay (twice), and the N.C. Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education, she teaches in the MFA programs of Rainier Writing Workshop and Queens University and in the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. She can be reached at

Jennifer Murvin, Summer 2020 Residency

© Ethan Edwards

Jennifer Murvin’s stories, essays, and graphic narratives have appeared or are forthcoming in The Southampton Review,
The Pinch, DIAGRAM, The Florida Review, Catamaran Literary Reader, CutBank, Indiana Review, Post Road, American Short Fiction, The Sun, Mid-American Review, The Cincinnati Review, Bellingham
Review, Phoebe, and other journals. She was the winner of the 2015 American Short(er) Fiction Contest, judged by Stuart Dybek, and in 2017 was a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers Conference. Jen teaches courses in fiction writing, memoir writing, comics, literature, and narrative theory at Missouri State University and is recurring faculty for the biannual River Pretty Writers Retreat in the Ozarks. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University and is the owner of Pagination Bookshop in Springfield, MO. Find more at

Catherine Parnell, Summer 2020 Residency

© Betsy Walker

Catherine Parnell teaches at Southern New Hampshire University in the online MFA program and at Grub Street in Boston. She is the editor for Consequence Magazine, and her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Rumpus, Tenderly, Cleaver, TSR: The Southampton Review, Post Road, Baltimore Review, Redivider, and other publications. Catherine also works as an independent consultant in communications, writing, and the arts. She is author of The Kingdom of His Will.

Renée Watson,
Summer 2020 Residency

© NAACP 2012

Renée Watson is a New York Times Bestselling author, educator, and activist. Her young adult novel, Piecing Me Together (Bloomsbury, 2017) received a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor. The middle-grade novel Betty Before X she wrote with Ilyasah Shabazz. Renée’s newest work, Watch Us Rise, is co-written with Ellen Hagan. Her children’s picture books and novels for teens have received several awards and international recognition. She has given readings and lectures at many renown places including the United Nations, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Embassy in Japan. The New York Times calls Renée’s writing, “charming and evocative.” Her poetry and fiction often centers around the lived experiences of black girls and women, and explores themes of home, identity, and the intersections of race, class, and gender. Her books include young adult novels, Piecing Me Together and This Side of Home, which were both nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults by the American Library Association. Her picture book, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills received several honors including an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s literature. Her one woman show, Roses are Red Women are Blue, debuted at the Lincoln Center at a showcase for emerging artists. One of Renée’s passions is using the arts to help youth cope with trauma and discuss social issues. Her picture book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen is based on poetry workshops she facilitated with children in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Renée has worked as a writer in residence for over twenty years teaching creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers through out the nation. Her articles on teaching and arts education have been published in Rethinking Schools and Oregon English Journal. She is on the Council of Writers for the National Writing Project and is a team member of We Need Diverse Books. She currently teaches courses on writing for children for the Solstice MFA program at Pine Manor College. Renée has also worked as a consultant within the non-profit sector, specifically around teaching for social justice and the role of art in social justice, providing professional development workshops and leadership trainings to artists, staff, executives, and board of directors. Some of her clients include Carnegie Hall, DreamYard, Lincoln Center, RAW Art Works, and Writers in the Schools-Portland. In the summer of 2016 Renée launched I, Too, Arts Collective, a nonprofit committed to nurturing underrepresented voices in the creative arts. She launched the #LangstonsLegacy Campaign to raise funds to lease the Harlem brownstone where Langston Hughes lived and created during the last twenty years of his life. Her hope is to preserve the legacy of Langston Hughes and build on it by providing programming for emerging writers. Renée grew up in Portland, Oregon and currently lives in New York City. For more information about Renée visit her website.