MTSU Write Director and Faculty




 Jennifer Wachtel Kates, Director

Jennifer is a Tennessee native who earned her M.A. in creative writing from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers and her Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State University.  She teaches creative writing at Middle Tennessee State University, where she has taught in the English department since 1997; she won MTSU's Outstanding General Education Teaching Award in 2016 and the Outstanding Public Service Award in 2011.  Her short stories have appeared in The Southwestern Review and GSU Review, where her story “Egg and Spoon” earned the short fiction award.  She is the recipient of the Allen Tate Creative Writing Award, and serves as editor in chief of SHIFT: A Publication of MTSU Write.  She was the 2015 President and serves as current co-executive director of the Southern Literary Festival. She serves on the Rockvale Writers' Colony Board of Directors.  She lives in Murfreesboro with her three sons, two dogs, and a bearded dragon named Steve. 

MTSU Write Faculty

Given the intensity of one-on-one mentoring, we cannot promise that all mentors listed here are available to you in any given trimester, but please make your request known and we will do the best we can to secure the mentor of your choice. 

Gloria Ballard

Gloria Ballard--non fiction, travel writing

Nashville, Tennessee

B.A., The University of Tennessee

Gloria Ballard is a native of Nashville, where she enjoyed a career in journalism as a feature writer and editor at The Tennessean before leaving the newspaper to become a freelance writer. During her career, she covered fashion, home design, gardening, travel and other features, and was travel editor at The Tennessean from 1998 until 2006. Currently, Gloria writes style, garden and travel features for the Memphis Commercial Appeal and The Tennessean, and maintains two garden blogs. She is a mentor in nonfiction at MTSU Write, a writing certificate program at Middle Tennessee State University. She also teaches creative writing classes and workshops at Watkins Community Education, works as a freelance editor, and leads creative writing and travel writing workshops. Gloria is the winner in the Travel Writer category of the Mississippi Tourism Association’s 2015 Travel Media awards. She also writes fiction, and was a 2004 participant at Sewanee Writers Conference. Her fiction has been published in Drafthorse literary journal.

 Fred Arroyo

Fred Arroyo--fiction and memoir

Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2001).                                                              M.F.A., Warren Wilson College (1997)                                       M.A., Purdue University (1997)                                                    B.A., Purdue University (1994)

Fred Arroyo is the author of Western Avenue and Other Fictions, shortlisted for the 2014 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and The Region of Lost Names, a finalist for the 2008 Premio Aztlán Prize. A recipient of an Individual Artist Program Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission, Fred’s fiction is included in the Library of Congress series “Spotlight on U.S. Hispanic Writers.” 


Charlotte Rains Dixon--fiction, blogging

Portland, Oregon
MFA in Writing, Spalding University 
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon

Charlotte Rains Dixon is free-lance journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and author who also teaches and coaches writers. She is the author of a dozen books, including a book on fund-raising to be published by Atlantic Publishing, and Oregon Coast, for Beautiful American Publishing. 

Her fiction has appeared in The Trunk, Santa Fe Writer's Project, Nameless Grace, and Somerset Studios. Her articles have been published in Vogue Knitting, the Oregonian, and Pology, to name a few. She is currently seeking an agent for her novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior. 

Visit her blog at

Kory Wells

Kory Wells--poetry

Murfreesboro, Tennessee 

Kory Wells is author of the poetry collection HEAVEN WAS THE MOON (March Street Press, 2009). Winner of the 2016 HeartWood Broadside Series and twice a finalist for the Rash Award for Poetry, her work appears in over 60 online and print publications, including  the Tennessee edition of THE SOUTHERN POETRY ANTHOLOGY from Texas Review Press. She also performs her poetry on the album DECENT PAN OF CORNBREAD, a collaboration with daughter and old-time musician Kelsey Wells.

In June 2017, Kory was selected the inaugural poet laureate of Murfreesboro. She is principal founder and curator of Poetry in the Boro, a monthly reading and open mic series for poetry and spoken word. 

Like many MTSU Write students, Kory returned to her long-time interest in writing after her formal education was complete, her career was established, and her children were old enough to make themselves a sandwich if she became lost in the creative moment and forgot to make supper. After many years as a software developer, she now writes and works as an advocate for the arts, literacy, democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. 

Kory holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Middle Tennessee State University. She has studied in workshops and privately with numerous poets and has been a writer-in-residence at Rivendell Writers Colony.


Jeff Hardin

Jeff Hardin--poetry

Columbia, TN

Jeff Hardin teaches at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, TN. His recent and forthcoming poems appear in The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, Ploughshares, The Gettysburg Review, Grist, Measure, Smartish Pace, Iron Horse Literary Review, Sou'wester, Zone 3, Meridian, The Florida Review,and Southern Poetry Review, among others. He is the author of two chapbooks, Deep in the Shallows(GreenTower Press) and The Slow Hill Out(Pudding House). His first collection, Fall Sanctuary, received the 2004 Nicholas Roerich Prize from Story Line Press.

Linda Busby Parker

Linda Busby Parker--fiction

Mobile, Alabama 

MFA in Writing, Spalding University 
Ph.D. in Communication Studies, University of Michigan 
M.A., University of Michigan 
B.A. in English and Creative Writing, University of South Alabama

Linda Busby Parker is the author of two novels: Seven Laurels, a literary novel, and Oliver’s Song, mainstream commercial fiction. Seven Laurels won the James Jones First Novel Award and the Langum Prize for Historical Fiction. Linda’s short pieces have been published in Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Big Muddy,

Provincetown Arts, Oracle, Confluence and most recently in Minerva Rising.  Her book reviews have appeared in The San Diego Union Tribune, The Mobile Press Register, 2nd and Church (a magazine for writers), First Draft, and Alabama Writers Forum.  In addition, she has published two university-level textbooks. She has served as a Tennessee Williams Scholar in Fiction at the Sewanee Writers Conference and as a Fellow in Fiction at Bread Loaf. Linda is also publisher and editor-in-chief of a small independent press, Excalibur Press, which publishes literary and upmarket fiction. She teaches creative writing at the University of South Alabama and serves as a mentor in a low-residency writing program at Middle Tennessee State University. Linda has given readings and workshops on the craft of writing at numerous venues across the southeast. 

Terry Price

Terry Price--fiction

 Springfield, TN

Terry Price, is a Tennessee based writer and photographer, with an MFA in writing from Spalding University in Louisville. He is a former Program Director and current mentor in MTSU Write (formerly The Writer’s Loft) creative writing program at Middle Tennessee State University. (  He works with creatives one on one and leads workshops and retreats.

A self-described lifestyle photographer, his portfolio includes street, landscape, and travel photography and his current traveling exhibit features work from Italy plus has work currently being exhibited in a show in Springfield, Tennessee. He photos have accompanied pieces in various journals, newspapers, and magazines and sold to individuals. 

He is also a labyrinth facilitator and leads workshop on using the labyrinth as both a spiritual and creative tool. His work has appeared in Writer’s Notes magazine, Bloodlotus, The Trunk, The Tennessee Writer, the Timber Creek Review, New Southerner and The Best of New Southerner and 2nd & Church. He has had two pieces nominated for the Pushcart Prize.  You can find more of his work and how to work with Terry at

 Jane Marcellus

 Jane Marcellus--Creative Non-fiction

Jane Marcellus holds a bachelor’s in English from Wesleyan University, a master’s in journalism from the Medill School at Northwestern, a second master’s in English from the University of Arizona, and a Ph.D. in Media Studies from the University of Oregon.

Her published work includes creative non-fiction, critical analysis of media, and journalism. Her essays have appeared in journals including Gettysburg Review, Sycamore Review, and Hippocampus. In 2018, she received both the Betty Gabehart Award in non-fiction from the Kentucky Women Writers Conference and the Editor’s Prize for non-fiction given by New Ohio Review. Her work was listed as “Notable” in Best American Essays 2018 and 2019.

Critical analysis includes The Legacy of Mad Men: Cultural History, Intermediality, and American Television (as co-editor), Mad Men and Working Women: Feminist Perspectives on Historical Power, Resistance, and Otherness (as co-author), along with Business Girls and Two-Job Wives: Emerging Media Stereotypes of Employed Women (as sole author).

She is a former full-time newspaper feature writer. Free-lance pieces include work in the Washington Post, the Oregonian, and the Nashville Scene. In addition to her work as a university professor, she has taught workshops at the Porch Writers Collective in Nashville and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University. She has also attended numerous CNF workshops, including the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop.

As a writing coach, she believes that a writer’s own voice and truth come first. To that end, her goal is to help writers discover and develop writing strengths through feedback and revision.

Jennifer Chesak

Jennifer Chesak--fiction, nonfiction

Nashville, Tennessee

BA Mass Communications from Minnesota State University Moorhead                                                                                        MSJ from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and Strategic Media                                                                        BA English Literature with an emphasis on Creative Writing from Minnesota State University Moorhead                                           BA Mass Communications from Minnesota State University Moorhead

 Jennifer Chesak is an East Nashville-based freelance writer, editor, and instructor. Through her business Wandering in the Words Press, she assists writers in honing their manuscripts for publication and tackling the self- or indie-publishing process. As a freelance health, fitness, and adventure writer, she has been published in Field & Stream online, Trail Runner, Runner’s World, Women’s Running, Motorcycle Cruiser, Escape, Baggers, ATV Rider, Healthline, HuffPost, and more. Jennifer's experience as both an editorial and marketing writer allow her to do what she loves for a living, play with the written word. She is currently working on her first novel set in her native state of North Dakota. Jennifer is passionate about helping others grasp the writer within and achieve the satisfaction of creative thinking and production. When not tethered to her pen or computer, she's usually out gardening or running area greenways and trails.


Karen Alea Ford

 Karen Alea Ford--fiction, essays

 Franklin, Tennessee

Karen Alea Ford has her MFA from Bennington College, is an alumna of Sewanee Writers’ Conference, a Fellow at Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the former director of MTSU Write. Her short stories have been published in literary magazines including Eureka, Stickman Review, Riverwalk Journal and the anthology, Catch Fire in the Treetops. Her short story “The Next Guy” won The Nashville Scene fiction contest judged by Ann Patchett, which led to a guest column in the publication. She has written non-fiction for, Huffington Post, The Establishment, Narratively and others. She lives in Franklin where she is owned by her dogs.


 David LumpkinDavid T. Lumpkin--memoir, fiction               

D. T. Lumpkin spent the first sixteen years of his life in Delta, an unincorporated community in east Alabama of less than two hundred inhabitants. He attended the University of the South—the first member of his family to attend college—where he was also fortunate enough to participate in one of the few creative writing workshops led by late author William Gay. After graduating with a B.A. in English, he attended the Sewanee Writers Conference and went on to earn a M.A. in Literature from the University of Alabama and a M.F.A. in Fiction from the Ohio State University. His prose has earned numerous awards and honors, including publication in The Mid-American Review and the Oxford American, the AWP Intro Journals Award, an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence grant, and notable mention in Best American Essays 2013. Gail Hochman of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc, is currently representing his memoir, Shiloh Church Road. He is a lecturer in the English Department at Middle Tennessee State University and a facilitator of the creative writing workshop on Unit 2—the death row unit—at Riverbend Maximum Security Penitentiary.


Andy LandisAndy Landis--playwriting

Kay ‘Andy’ Landis’ full-length plays include The Volunteer, A Special Day, Deep Purple, and the musicals HOWDEE! and Aesop. Her short plays and/or ten minute plays are Praying for a Hurricane, Camden on Ice, Hating Hope, 8.8.88, and Whatever. The Volunteer was a semi-finalist in the 2016 O'Neill National Playwright Conference, won the 2015 Centre Stage New Play Festival, and was a semi-finalist for both the 2015 Ashland New Plays Festival and the 2015 Playwrights’ Center Core Apprenticeship. The Volunteer enjoyed its world premier at Centre Stage in September 2016 with positive reviews.

Landis’ short and 10-minute plays have been produced and/or developed by Warner Theater Festival, Ramapo College Theater Festival, ATHE, The Great Plains Theatre Conference, and Metropolitan Theatre Festival, to name a few. Her short play, Whatever, was a 2014 Kennedy Center ACTF finalist. Landis was twice selected for the Cape May International Theater Festival and was a 2005 guest artist for the Kennedy Center playwriting intensive. She is The Dramatists Guild's Regional Rep for Tennessee, a member of The Dramatists Guild, SAG and AFTRA, the Ninth Floor Playwrights in New York, and a founding member of The Dramatists Guild’s Women’s Initiative. She earned an MFA in writing for stage and screen from Lesley University. Landis was a chosen playwright for Ingram’s Writing Room program in Nashville, Tennessee, for the 2017 season.

Landis teaches the art of playwriting and her theory on musicality in non-musical theatre at seminars throughout the state of Tennessee and surrounding areas.

Before returning to theatre, her first love, Landis was a professional singer and songwriter with Warner Chapel Music. Prior to that she studied acting in Los Angeles and appeared in television and on stage. Landis now divides her time between New York and Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives on a farm with her husband and an assortment of dogs, chickens, sheep, cats, horses, and cattle.

 Marcus Jackson--poetry

Marcus Jackson earned a BA from the University of Toledo and continued his poetry studies at NYU and as a Cave Canem fellow. His poems have appeared in such publications as The American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, and Tin House. His first collection of poetry, Neighborhood Register, was published in 2011, and his second book of poems, entitled Pardon My Heart (Northwestern University Press/TriQuarterly Books), was recently released. Of Pardon My Heart,The New York Times writes, “Jackson's collection confirms the arrival of a thrilling new voice in American poetry, one whose writing, on page after page, has the fullness and glow of a jubilee." Jackson lives with his wife and child in Columbus, Ohio, and he teaches in the MFA programs at Ohio State and Queens University of Charlotte





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