Creative Writing MFA
For a complete list of Department of English faculty with contact information, visit the Faculty Contact page.
Rita Ciresi is author of the novels Bring Back My Body to Me, Pink Slip, Blue Italian, and Remind Me Again Why I Married You, and three award-winning story collections, Second Wife, Sometimes I Dream in Italian, and Mother Rocket. Under the pen name of Meg West, she is author of the e-romances Love on Longboat Key, Love on Lido Key, and Love on the Links. She is professor of English at the University of South Florida, a faculty mentor for the Bay Path University MFA program in creative nonfiction, and fiction editor of 2 Bridges Review.
John Henry Fleming (PhD, University of Louisiana-Lafayette) is the author of Songs for the Deaf, a story collection; The Legend of the Barefoot Mailman, a novel; Fearsome Creatures of Florida, an illustrated bestiary; and The Book I Will Write, a novel-in-emails originally published serially. His short stories have appeared in McSweeney's, The North American Review, Mississippi Review, Fourteen Hills, New World Writing, and Carve. His awards include two Literature Fellowships from the State of Florida and an International Book Award for Songs for the Deaf. At USF, he serves as Creative Writing Program Director, teaches the Fiction Writing and Literary Editing and Publishing courses, directs graduate theses, and advises the graduate-student staff of Saw Palm: Florida Literature and Art. Visit his website at www.johnhenryfleming.com.
My courses focus on the free (and often funny) exchange of aesthetic ideas, the importance of production and revision, and opportunities to publish and to build a literary career. I run my graduate fiction workshop as a two-for-one: a standard, full-class workshop running alongside small-group workshops that allow students to share work every week—including partial drafts, revisions, weird experiments, and novel outlines. My Literary Editing and Publishing course gives students hands-on experience in literary magazine production (our own Saw Palm); introduces students to the business side of the literary world, using Skype discussions with publishers, editors, and literary agents; and allows students to pursue a major literary project to help advance their careers. For my undergraduate Novel Writing course, students frequently participate in National Novel Writing Month to complete an entire novel draft in a month. I love teaching and strive to make my courses both fun and practical.
Jay Hopler is author of Green Squall (Yale University Press, 2006) and The Abridged History of Rainfall (McSweeney's Poetry Series, 2016); the editor of The Killing Spirit (Overlook Press, 1996) and, with Kimberly Johnson, Before the Door of God: An Anthology of Devotional Poetry (Yale University Press, 2013); and the editor and translator of The Museum of Small Dark Things: 25 Poems of Georg Trakl (Poetry International, 2016). He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including The Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, the Whiting Award, a fellowship from the Lannan Foundation, two Florida Book Awards, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, and the Rome Prize in Literature. In 2016, he was a Finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry. Photo credit to Ryan Johnson.
Julia Koets is the author of The Rib Joint: A Memoir in Essays (2019, Red Hen Press), Pine (forthcoming in 2020, Southern Indiana Review Press), and Hold Like Owls (2012, The University of South Carolina Press). She is the winner of the 2017 Red Hen Press Nonfiction Book Award judged by Mark Doty, the 2019 Michael Waters Poetry Prize, and the 2011 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize judged by National Book Award Winner Nikky Finney. Julia's essays and poems have been published or are forthcoming in literary journals including Creative Nonfiction, Indiana Review, Nimrod, The Los Angeles Review, Carolina Quarterly, and Portland Review. She earned her MFA. at the University of South Carolina and her PhD in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Cincinnati.
Jarod Roselló is a Cuban-American cartoonist, writer, and arts-based researcher from Miami, Florida. He holds an MFA in creative writing and a PhD in curriculum and instruction from Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on language and literacy development, Latinx studies, and childhood studies. He is the author of The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found, and is at work on two graphic novels, Red Panda and Moon Bear and Those Bears, both forthcoming from Top Shelf Comics.
Roselló teaches comics, fiction, and pedagogy in the graduate and undergraduate creative writing programs. His courses are designed as studio courses—collaborative spaces for making and sharing—and focus on imagination-based learning. In his courses, students engage with theories of art-making, explore digital tools and art materials, and experiment with narrative, form, and genre.
Natalie Scenters-Zapico is the author of The Verging Cities (Center for Literary Publishing 2015) and Lima :: Limón (Copper Canyon Press 2019). Originally from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, USA and Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, México, she has won awards and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, CantoMundo, PEN/America, the Great Lakes Colleges’ Association, and a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, among others. In 2020 she was a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize and the Griffin International Poetry Prize. Her poems have been published and anthologized in POETRY, the Kenyon Review, the Paris Review, Best American Poetry 2015, and more.
As a teacher of poetry I impart the refining of craft, the articulation of aesthetic choices of one’s own as well as of others’ work, and the importance of continued revision: three elements that I conceive of as a “re-envisioning project.” I pay attention to the particular needs of all students. I recognize that not all students access material from the same social, cultural, and political position, and therefore I value merit as much as final products. Still, I expect my students to conceive of all work as assemblages of a larger corpus, placing responsibility on students to take initiative and exceed my expectations. As a bilingual poet, I have focused a great deal on creating a strong sense of community in my classroom so that students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions in my class, while defending students’ right to their own language.
Heather Sellers, PhD, is the author of You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know: a true story of family, face-blindness, and forgiveness, an O, Oprah book-of-the-month club selection featured on Good Morning America, Dateline, Rachel Ray, NPR's All Things Considered, and Dick Gordon's The Story. Her essays appear in Tin House, Parade, Reader's Digest, The Sun, Good Housekeeping, O Magazine, The London Daily Telegraph, Brevity, The New York Times, Best American Essays and the Pushcart Prize anthology. Sellers is the author of three volumes of poetry: Drinking Girls and Their Dresses, The Boys I Borrow and a new collection forthcoming from BOA Editions Spring 2022. Georgia Under Water (Sarabande), a collection of linked short stories, won a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers award. She's written a children's book, Spike and Cubby's Ice Cream Island Adventure (Henry Holt), two books on craft, Page after Page and Chapter after Chapter (Writer's Digest), and a popular textbook for the multi-genre creative writing classroom, The Practice of Creative Writing (Bedford St. Martin's) now in its fourth edition.
Sellers teaches memoir, essay, poetry, hybrids and experiments, literature of mindfulness, short-story cycles and linked stories, flash fiction, micro-memoir, and the middle grade novel. She offers creativity workshops at Kripalu, a yoga center in the Berkshires, and at Esalen in California; mindfulness-based writing practices are at the core of every class. At USF, her student-centered writing workshops focus on the creative process and close reading, along with detailed technical instruction in structure, craft, and technique, alongside unique approaches to revision. She has received campus-wide awards for her teaching at Florida State University, Hope College, where she was a professor from 1995-2013, and at USF, where she received an undergraduate teaching award from the university in 2017.
Karen Brown was born in Connecticut. She is the author of a novel, The Longings of Wayward Girls (July 2013), and two short story collections, Pins & Needles (July 2013) and Little Sinners and Other Stories, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and named a Best Book of 2012 by Publishers Weekly. Her work has been featured in The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, The New York Times, and Good Housekeeping, and in many literary journals. She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of South Florida.
I have always conceived of the classroom as a supportive writing community that relies on the promotion of camaraderie, trust, and the constructive exchange of ideas and opinions. The workshop approach affords a class the opportunity to recognize others as readers, and to value and weigh the utility of the advice they receive. Reading widely helps students place themselves among contemporary writers today, and gain respect for style and experimentation. We read craft essays from writers like Anthony Doerr, Robert Boswell, and Aimee Bender, along with classic short fiction, and novel excerpts, always with an eye to the ways in which structure and language play their roles in the work. Students reading and writing on a schedule develop the rigor and consistency necessary to maintain this schedule outside of class. They begin to see their work in relation to an audience that lies beyond the classroom, and they find the courage to write beyond the safety of the everyday world.
Mark E. Leib's plays and adaptations have been produced in New York, Chicago, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Tampa, St. Petersburg, and at the Singapore Theatre Festival. Leib has worked in Hollywood for Universal Studios/Turman-Foster productions, and has written TV scripts for a small cable network in the Orlando area. Leib's theatre criticism for the alternative weekly Creative Loafing has won seven awards for excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists, including three first-place statewide Sunshine State Awards. He has also published essays in the Boston Review, American Theatre magazine, and Stage Directions magazine. His short stories have been published by the Two Bridges Review and JewishFiction.net. Before joining the staff of Creative Loafing, Leib was named by that newspaper as the Best Playwright in the Tampa Bay area. Leib was the first playwriting lecturer at the Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University in 1989-90, and now teaches playwriting, fiction, screenwriting and related courses as a continuing instructor in the English department at the University of South Florida. He was the recipient of an Individual Artist's Grant from the Hillsborough County Arts Council in 2015. Leib is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, where he won the CBS Foundation Prize in Playwriting, and of Harvard College.
In my writing workshops, I strive to acquaint students with those principles of good writing--whether for plays, screenplays, or short stories--that undergird most successful literary/dramatic works from the most conventional to the most avant-garde. In fiction classes, this means mastering description, plot, thoughts, backstory, and dialogue; in screenwriting it's about three-act form, "off-the-nose" dialogue, movie format, and eficient scene description; and in playwriting it means advancing action through dialogue, creating 3-dimensional characters, imagining stageworthy plots, and establishing objectives for all characters. Reading the great works in one's art is an essential part of becoming a writer, so I use anthologies in fiction and playwriting courses, and show film segments in both playwriting and screenwriting. Art is what each individual brings to the page; craft is what can be taught and can make art possible. In my survey courses—Modern Drama, Intro to Fiction, and others—I try to acquaint students with works that are the backbone of world literature. And I stress that reading is a lifetime effort, never to be considered finished.