April 6, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS (Aug. 12, 2016) — The Loft Literary Center has selected 12 emerging Minnesota writers for a one-year intensive mentorship with award-winning writers.

The Loft Mentor Series in Poetry and Creative Prose offers twelve emerging Minnesota writers the opportunity to work intensively with six nationally acclaimed writers of prose and poetry. Selected participants work throughout the year with the six mentors, and all participants and mentors give public readings at the Loft. Dates for those readings will be announced this fall. This program is funded by the Jerome Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and by the generous support of Loft members.


The Loft Literary Center received 220 entries to the 2016-2017 Loft Mentor Series in Poetry and Creative Prose, from which the preliminary judges had the difficult task of choosing 20 finalists per genre. We received 81 entries in nonfiction; 60 poetry applications; and 79 fiction submissions.


Nonfiction mentors Allison Adelle Hedge Coke and Laura Flynn selected Stephanie Chrismon, Lorissa Gottschalk, Erin Sharkey, and Michael Torres.

Honorable mentions went to Carrie Salberg and Katherine Schaefer. Finalists are Ruth Berger, Emily Cain, Samantha Ten Eyck, Adrienne Frank, Jeannie Goodspeed, Juhee Kwon, David LeGault, Patrick Cabello Hansel, Jennifer Howe-Salzwedel, Shelly Gill Murray, Elise Sanders, Anna Schick, Taylor Seaberg, and Laura Theobald.


Poetry mentors Abdul Ali and Sun Yung Shin chose poets Anthony Ceballos, Elizabeth Meyers, Chavonn Shen, and Elizabeth Tannen.

Honorable mention went to Fayise Abrahim. Finalists are Kyle Adamson, Jim Bohen, Lauren Carlson, Elena Cisneros, Audrey Colasanti, Sandy Gillespie, Katie Howe, Hassen Hussein, Farhia Omar, Erin Sharkey, Preeti Rajpal, Michael Torres and Marg Walker.


Fiction writers selected for the program by mentors Ayana Mathis and Julie Schumacher are Angela Ajayi, Trisha Collopy, Cole Asong Nfonoyim-Hara, and Michele Valenti.

Honorable mentions went to Ari Baum-Hommes and Rebecca Collins. Finalists are Debra Blake, Anna Brown, Ting Ting Cheng, Josh Cook, Amy Fladeboe, Amy Hanson, Shoshanna Matney, Celina McManus, Alison Nowack, Marcia Peck, Cristina Pippa, Kate Allen Schultz, Erin Sharkey, and Rachel MacDonald.


Angela Ajayi spent over ten years in publishing, mainly as a book editor, until she became a freelance writer. Her essays and author interviews have appeared in Wild River Review, the Star Tribune, and Afroeuropa: Journal of Afro-European Studies. She currently writes book reviews for The Common Online. Her first short story, “Galina,” will be published by Fifth Wednesday Journal this fall. She likes to think she defies easy categorization, identifying through birth and citizenship as a Nigerian-Ukrainian-American writer. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and daughter.

Anthony Ceballos received his BFA from the Creative Writing program at Hamline University in 2015. He has been a guest on KFAI’s Write on Radio and Fresh Fruit radio programs and has read for the Intermedia Arts Queer Voices Reading Series, Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Night of Native American Music and Poetry, and The Many Faces of Two-Spirit People gallery show at Two Rivers Art Gallery in Minneapolis. In 2014 he won the George Henry Bridgeman Poetry Award from Hamline University for his poem “Walking Across Soil.” His work has been featured in The Fulcrum and Yellow Medicine Review. He can be found in various coffee shops and music stores around South Minneapolis when he’s not waiting for a bus.

Stephanie Chrismon mostly writes urban and dystopian fantasy stories that explore issues of race, sexuality, family karma, and social justice. When she’s not obsessing about point of view, she is a pop culture junkie with a somewhat healthy obsession with Legos, Marvel Superheroes, and the Assassins Creed video game series. She received her MFA from Hamline University.

Trisha Collopy is a writer, book reviewer, and copy editor who lives ten minutes from the St. Paul house she grew up in. Her journalism has appeared in the Washington Post, theStar Tribune, and many other publications. Her fiction and poetry have been published inBlithe House Quarterly, rock, paper, scissors, and the anthology Queer and Celtic. She is currently finishing her MFA thesis in fiction at Hamline University.

Lorissa Gottschalk is a poet and writer whose work explores and embraces the influence of nature, grief, death, and mystery in our everyday lives. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Hamline University, where she was an Outstanding Thesis Award finalist. Lorissa studied with Philip Lopate and Patricia Hampl at the Prague Summer Writing Program through a scholarship from Western Michigan University. She was also a participant in the SASE Intermedia Arts Writer to Writer Mentor Series and the Orma Lerum Trust Soaring Garden Writing Residency. Her work has appeared in Water-Stone Review, Confluence, and various academic publications. She worked as an Assistant Director at Saint Catherine University for seven years and as an adjunct professor in the English Department. She is currently consulting part-time for Saint Catherine’s Writing Intensive Program. Lorissa lives in South Minneapolis with her husband and daughter where they look forward to meeting daughter number two, due in January.

Elizabeth Meyers was born and raised in northern Wisconsin. She graduated with a BA in English and Creative Writing from Northland College and now lives on the eastern edge of Minnesota in the St. Croix River Valley. She writes poetry and short fiction that often focuses on rural life.

Cole Asong Nfonoyim-Hara is a Rochester-based writer and anthropologist. Raised in New York City, she was born in the Dominican Republic with Cameroonian, Afro-Costa Rican, and Gujarati parentage. She earned her BA in Anthropology/Sociology from Swarthmore College, PA and holds an MSc. in Migration Studies from the University of Oxford, England. Her work grapples with issues of migration, diasporas, cities, identity, culture, and both personal and collective myth-making. She was a 2016 Fellow with the Givens Foundation for African American Literature and her first short story will be published in Joyland Magazine. After almost a decade of moving from country to country, she is settling into Minnesota life with her husband and their prolific backyard vegetable garden.

Erin Sharkey is a writer, producer, educator, and graphic designer based in Minneapolis. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Hamline University and is the co-founder of an artist collective called Free Black Dirt. She recently served as production manager for the Heart of the Beast Theatre’s Mayday Parade and Ceremony. Erin is the co-host of Black Market Reads, a weekly podcast about literature and black cultural production and has appeared in publications such as Walker Art Center’s Untitled and Paper Darts. Erin is a 2016 VONA/Voices Travel Writing fellow, a 2015 Givens Foundation for African American Literature Emerging Writers fellow, a Givens Foundation cultural producer-in-residence as well as a Coffee House Press in the Stacks artist-in-residence at the Archie Givens Sr. Archive at the University of MN.

Chavonn Shen is an educator and artist with a love of words. A South Minneapolis native, she continues to live in the city with her husband. She is a self-identified world traveler, and dreams of going to every inhabitable continent. She is a graduate of Carleton College and hopes to one day go to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing. A passionate person, she hopes to use her many identities to advocate for the marginalized through her work.

Elizabeth Tannen is a Brooklyn-born, Minneapolis-based writer with essays, stories and poems published or forthcoming in places like Salon, The Rumpus, Front Porch, Southern Humanities Review, BODY, and others; one of her poems was recently selected as a finalist for Southeast Review’s Gearhart Poetry Prize. Elizabeth is a former producer for NPR’s All Things Considered, and holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of New Mexico. Currently, she teaches writing at Anoka Ramsey Community College, with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop, and at The Loft Literary Center. She founded and curates the monthly reading series, Five Writers, Five Minutes, Five Watt (555 Reads), at Five Watt Coffee in South Minneapolis.

Michael Torres is a CantoMundo fellow, born and brought up in Pomona, California where he spent his adolescence as a graffiti artist. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in The Acentos Review, BOAAT, Forklift, Ohio, Huizache, Miramar, and Paper Darts among others. Torres is the recipient of a 2016 Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant. Currently he lives in Mankato, Minnesota where he teaches creative writing and hosts art workshops for homeless youth at the Reach drop-in center.

Michele Valenti grew up in Lexington Massachusetts. He earned a BFA from Roger Williams University and an MFA from Minnesota State University Moorhead. Until recently, he wrote for the Isanti-Chisago County Star and the Braham Journal. His work has been published by Weber: The Contemporary West and accepted to the 2012 Bread Loaf/Orion Environmental Writer’s Conference. His writing focuses on the peculiar power of a natural environment to shape identity, strengthen bonds, and to hold our collective memories. These themes are at the heart of his current project, a novel set in Teddy Roosevelt National Park and the Bakken shale formation. He lives in Cambridge Minnesota with his wife CJ. You can read more of his work at: www.m-valenti.com


Abdul Ali (Poetry) is the author of Trouble Sleeping, winner of 2014 New Issues Poetry Prize. His poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle,Gathering of Tribes, National Public Radio, New Contrast (South Africa), The Atlantic,Poet Lore, and the anthology, Full Moon on K Street, among other publications. He has received grants, awards, and fellowships from The DC Commission of the Arts and Humanities, American University, College Language Association, and the Mt. Vernon Poetry Festival at George Washington University. He is a board member of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation and teaches high school English at The Bryn Mawr School.

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke (Nonfiction) is an American Book Award winning poet and the author of Dog Road Woman, Off-Season City Pipe, Blood Run, and Burn, as well as a memoir, Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer. She is the editor of anthologies Sing: Poetry of Indigenous Americas, Effigies, and Effigies II. Currently, she serves as Distinguished Writer at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. Hedge Coke came of age working fields, factories, and waters and is currently at work on a film, Red Dust: Native Resiliency in the Dirty Thirties, chronicling mixed-blood and Native life.

Laura Flynn (Nonfiction) was born and raised in San Francisco. She is the author ofSwallow the Ocean: A Memoir (Counterpoint, 2008), which chronicles life growing up with her mother’s catastrophic mental illness. It was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, and a BookSense Notable Pick for March 2008. She received her BA from Wesleyan University and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota. She was a participant in the 2006-2007 Loft Mentorship Series, a recipient of a 2008 Jerome/SASE Award for emerging artists, and a 2009-2010 Bush Foundation Artist Fellow. Flynn is the editor of Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization by Jean-Bertrand Aristide (Common Courage Press, 2000). Her essay “Carrefour” was selected for Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011 (Traveler’s Tales). She teaches in the graduate creative writing program at Hamline University, and at The Loft Literary Center.

Ayana Mathis (Fiction) is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the 2014–15 New York Public Library’s Cullman Center Fellowship. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, her first novel, was a New York Times Bestseller, a 2013 New York Times Notable Book of the Year, an NPR Best Books of 2013, and was chosen by  Oprah Winfrey as the second selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Mathis taught Creative Writing at The Writer’s Foundry MFA Program at St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn. She is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Julie Schumacher (Fiction) grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and graduated from Oberlin College and Cornell University. Her first published story, “Reunion,” written to fulfill an undergraduate writing assignment, was reprinted in The Best American Short Stories 1983. Subsequent stories and essays have been published in The Atlantic, the New York Times, Ms., and Prize Stories 1990 and 1996: The O.Henry Awards. Her first novel, The Body Is Water, was an ALA Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. She has also published a short story collection, An Explanation for Chaos, and five novels for younger readers, including The Book of One Hundred Truths, winner of a Minnesota Book Award. Her most recent book is the nationally best-selling Dear Committee Members, winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Schumacher is a professor of English and the director of the Creative Writing program at the University of Minnesota.

Sun Yung Shin (Poetry) is the author of poetry collections Unbearable Splendor(forthcoming), Rough, and Savage, and Skirt Full of Black (Asian American Literary Award), all from Coffee House Press. Her new anthology, A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota from Minnesota Historical Society Press was released in 2016. She is the co-editor of the anthology Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption, and is also the author of Cooper’s Lesson, a bilingual Korean/English illustrated book for children. She is a 2014–15 McKnight Foundation fellow for literature and has received grants and fellowships from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and elsewhere. Shin has written for the likes of Star Tribune, Gazillion Voices,The Nerds of Color, and presents her work in a wide variety of community, literary, and academic venues. She lives in Minneapolis.


Incorporated in 1975, The Loft Literary Center is one of the nation’s leading independent literary centers. The Loft advances the artistic development of writers, fosters a thriving literary community, and inspires a passion for literature.

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