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MTSU Write

MTSU Write Director and Faculty

Mary Leoson

Mary Leoson, Director

Mary Leoson is a lecturer at Middle Tennessee State University and the author of YA novel The Butterfly Circle (Manta Press). She is also a Pushcart Nominee, Member of the Horror Writers Association, and Co-Host of Horror Writing Podcast Exhuming the Bones. Her short fiction can be found in anthologies and literary magazines such as Coffin Bell Journal. When she’s not teaching or writing about ghosts, you will likely find her in the garden or on the couch with her husband and two very spoiled dogs. You can learn more at

Amie Whittemore

Amie Whittemore, Program Advisor

Amie Whittemore served as MTSU Write Director from 2021-2024 and continues serving the program as an advisor. She is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Nest of Matches (Autumn House Press). She was the 2020-2021 Poet Laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and a 2020 Academy of American Poets Poet Laureate Fellow.

Kory Wells

Kory Wells, Community Liaison

Kory Wells has been a poetry mentor with MTSU Write since 2010. In addition to her role as mentor, she serves as Community Liaison, supporting MTSU Write’s outreach to middle Tennessee and beyond. A former software developer who now nurtures connection and community through the arts and advocacy, Kory founded and co-manages Poetry in the Boro and in 2017 was selected the inaugural poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Learn more about her at

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. 

We have mentors in the following genres: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children’s literature (YA and Middle Grade Fiction), and writing for the stage and/or screen. You can go directly to the genre of interest to by using the links below:

Interested in becoming a mentor? We are open to reviewing mentor applications on a rolling basis from high quality, well-published writing mentors. If this sounds like you, send a letter of interest, CV, and contact info for two references to [email protected].

Fiction & Nonfiction Mentors

Fred Arroyo

Fred Arroyo: Fiction & Nonfiction

Fred Arroyo is the author of Sown in Earth: Essays of Memory and BelongingWestern Avenue and Other Fictions, and the novel The Region of Lost Names. His writing has appeared in the anthologies Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing and The Colors of Nature: Essays on Culture, Identity and the Natural World. Fred’s writing is also included in the Library of Congress series “Spotlight on U.S. Hispanic Writers.”

Charlotte Rains Dixon

Charlotte Rains Dixon: Fiction & Blogging

Charlotte Rains Dixon is freelance 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

Linda Busby Parker

Linda Busby Parker: Fiction

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. 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.

Afabwaje Kurian

Afabwaje Kurian: Fiction

Afabwaje Kurian is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently at work on her debut novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Callaloo, Crazyhorse, Nat. Brut, Joyland, The Bare Life Review, and McSweeney’s. She has received residencies from Ucross, Vermont Studio Center, and Ragdale and has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa and for the International Writing Program.

Terry Price

Terry Price: Fiction

Terry Price, is a writer with an MFA in writing from Spalding School of Creative and Professional Writing. He leads workshops and retreats on creativity, writing, photography, and is hosting a new podcast titled The Creative Playground. Terry’s work has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and he has an essay in the anthology, Wisdom From Others: Life Lessons From Loss published in November, 2019. Learn more about Terry and his work at

Jennifer Chesak

Jennifer Chesak: Fiction & Nonfiction

Jennifer Chesak is the author of the forthcoming book The Psilocybin Handbook for Women: How Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelic Therapy, and Microdosing Can Benefit Your Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Health (Ulysses Press, distributed by Simon & Schuster, June 2023). She is a Nashville-based freelance journalist, editor, fact-checker, and adjunct professor with almost two decades of experience and a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill. Her byline appears in several national publications, including the Washington Post.

Karen Alea Ford

Karen Alea Ford: Fiction & Nonfiction 

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 nonfiction for, Huffington Post, The Establishment, Narratively and others. She lives in Franklin where she is owned by her dogs.

Gloria Ballard

Gloria Ballard: Nonfiction (Memoirs & Essays)

Gloria Ballard is a native of Nashville, where she was a feature writer and editor at The Tennessean before leaving the newspaper to become a freelance writer. Gloria led creative writing classes and workshops at Watkins Community Education for ten years. She also writes fiction, and was a 2004 participant at Sewanee Writers Conference. Currently, Gloria provides garden, health & wellness and general web content and copyediting services for and other media outlets, works as a freelance editor and copy editor, and is working on a memoir.

Eliana Ramage

Eliana Ramage: Fiction

Eliana Ramage is a Cherokee Nation citizen born and raised in Nashville. She received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2018, and holds an MA in creative writing from Bar-Ilan University and a BA in English literature from Dartmouth College. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Beloit Fiction Journal, The Baltimore Review, CRAFT, and the anthologies All the Women in My Family Sing, Re(Sisters), and The Masters Review. She is at work on her first novel.

Lee Matalone

Lee Matalone: Fiction, Nonfiction, & Hybrid Genres

Lee Matalone is the author of the novel, HOME MAKING (Harper Perennial 2020). She has work in The Offing, Denver Quarterly, Lit Hub, Cheap Pop, Hobart, The Rumpus and other publications. She lives in New Orleans.

Poetry Mentors

Kory Wells

Kory Wells: Poetry

Kory Wells is the author of Sugar Fix, poetry from Terrapin Books. Her writing has been featured on The Slowdown podcast and appears in The Strategic Poet, The Southern Poetry Anthology, James Dickey Review, Ruminate, and elsewhere. A former software developer who now nurtures connection and community through the arts and advocacy, Kory founded and co-manages Poetry in the Boro and in 2017 was selected the inaugural poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Learn more about her at

Jeff Hardin

Jeff Hardin: Poetry

Jeff Hardin is the author of six books, most recently No Other Kind of World and A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being. Recipient of the Nicholas Roerich Prize, the Donald Justice Prize, and the X. J. Kennedy Prize, his work appears in The Southern Review, Hudson Review, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere.

Marcus Jackson

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.

Allison Blevins

Allison Blevins: Poetry & Nonfiction

Allison Blevins is a queer disabled writer and the author of Cataloguing Pain (YesYes Books, 2023), Handbook for the Newly Disabled, A Lyric Memoir (BlazeVox, 2022) and Slowly/Suddenly (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2021). She is also the author of four chapbooks. Allison is the Director of Small Harbor Publishing and the Executive Editor at the museum of americana. She lives in MN with her husband and three children.

Lee Matalone

Lee Matalone: Fiction, Nonfiction, & Hybrid Genres

Lee Matalone is the author of the novel, HOME MAKING (Harper Perennial 2020). She has work in The Offing, Denver Quarterly, Lit Hub, Cheap Pop, Hobart, The Rumpus and other publications. She lives in New Orleans.

Carlina Duan

Carlina Duan: Poetry

Carlina Duan is a writer-educator from Michigan, and the author of the poetry collections I Wore My Blackest Hair (Little A, 2017) and Alien Miss (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2021). Carlina’s poems have appeared in POETRY Magazine, Narrative Magazine,, and other publications. She received her M.F.A. in Poetry from Vanderbilt University. She loves rivers.

Sally Rosen Kindred

Sally Rosen Kindred: Poetry

Sally Rosen Kindred’s third poetry collection is Where the Wolf, winner of the 2020 Diode Book Prize and longlisted for the 2021 Julie Suk Award. She is also the author of No Eden, Book of Asters, and three chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, The Massachusetts Review,, Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from The University of Maryland. For more information, visit

Denton Loving

Denton Loving: Poetry

Denton Loving is the author of the poetry collections Crimes Against Birds and Tamp (forthcoming April 2023 from Mercer University Press). He earned the Master of Fine Arts in Writing and Literature from Bennington College. He is a co-founder and editor at EastOver Press and its literary journal Cutleaf. His writing has appeared in numerous publications including Iron Horse Literary Review, Kenyon Review, Tupelo Quarterly, The Chattahoochee Review, Harvard Divinity Bulletin and The Threepenny Review.

Kerri French

Kerri French: Poetry

Kerri French is the author of Every Room in the Body (Moon City Press, 2017) winner of the 2016 Moon City Poetry Award and the North Carolina Poetry Society’s Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Her poetry has appeared in Washington Square Review, BOAAT, Copper Nickel, The Los Angeles Review, Mid-American Review, Barrow Street, and Nashville Review, among others. She received her MFA in Poetry from UNC-Greensboro and also holds degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill, Boston University, and Middle Tennessee State University. She lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee and teaches at the University of Memphis.  

Andrea Jurjević

Andrea Jurjević: Poetry & Poetry in Translation

Andrea Jurjević is a Croatian poet, writer and literary translator. Her poetry collections include In Another Country (2022 Saturnalia Books Prize), Small Crimes (2015 Philip Levine Prize) and Nightcall (ACME Poem Company Surrealist Series 2021). Her book-length translations from Croatian include Olja Savičević’s Mamasafari (Diálogos Press, 2018) and Marko Pogačar’s Dead Letter Office (The Word Works, 2020), which was shortlisted for the 2021 National Translation Award in Poetry. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Susan O'Dell Underwood

Susan O’Dell Underwood: Poetry & Fiction

Susan O’Dell Underwood’s most recent collection of poetry is Splinter (Madville 2023), which concerns the Appalachian diaspora. Her novel Genesis Road won the Tennessee Arts Commission Grant for Prose. Her work appears and is forthcoming in a variety of journals and anthologies, including The EcoPoetry Anthology (Trinity University Press), Alaska Quarterly Review, and Southern Poetry Anthology: Tennessee. She taught creative writing and literature courses at Carson-Newman University until her recent retirement.

Children’s Lit Mentors

Candie Moonshower

Candie Moonshower: YA & MG Literature & Adult Romance

Candie Moonshower is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Legend of Zoey, and also writes young adult fiction and adult romances. She is a Senior Instructor of English at MTSU. Moonshower holds BA degrees in English and Philosophy, an MA in English Literature, and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. She is happily married, lives in a log home, and she and her husband are managed by two cats, Marzipan Bing Crosby and Pepper Ann.

Katie A. Nelson

Katie A. Nelson: Children’s, YA, & MG Literature

Katie A. Nelson is the author of the young adult novel, The Duke of Bannerman Prep, and also writes middle grade novels as well as picture books. She holds a BA in English from Brigham Young University, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Originally from California, Katie lives outside of Nashville with her husband, four kids, and two very spoiled dogs.

Meg Eden Kuyatt

Meg Eden Kuyatt: Middle Grade Literature

Meg Eden Kuyatt is a 2020 Pitch Wars mentee, and teaches creative writing at Anne Arundel Community College. She is the author of the 2021 Towson Prize for Literature winning poetry collection Drowning in the Floating World (Press 53, 2020) and children’s novels, most recently Selah’s Guide to Normal (Scholastic, 2023). Find her online at or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal and Instagram at @meden_author.

Writing for Stage & Screen Mentors

Mary Donnet Johnson

Mary Donnet Johnson: Screen & Stagewriting

Mary Donnet Johnson (playwright, she/her/hers) has been fortunate to have three recent world premieres: To Know You at the Clayton Center for the Arts in Maryville, TN (November 2019), Party of Twelve at the Washington Theatre in Murfreesboro, TN (April 2022), and Shanktown at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, TN (July 2022). She wrote the screenplay for Nashville Rep’s 2020 online holiday show ‘Twas the Night, and her plays have been recognized by the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference (semi-finalist), American Shakespeare Center’s Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries (semi-finalist), and the Kentucky Women Writers’ Conference (finalist).In Nashville, Mary’s plays have been produced at the Darkhorse Theater, Tennessee Women’s Theater Project, and the Cordelle Event Center.

Andy Landis

Andy Landis: Screen & Stagewriting

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.

Questions or Comments

Please send an email to [email protected].