Program Director, Mentor
Chigozie Obioma was born in Akure, Nigeria. His first two novels, The Fishermen (2015) and An Orchestra of Minorities (2019) were both finalists for the Booker prize. His novels have been translated into more than 29 languages and won the inaugural FT/Oppenheimer Award for Fiction, an NAACP Image Award, the LA Times Book prize, the Internationaler literaturpreis and was nominated for many other awards. The Fishermen was adapted into an award-winning stage play by Gbolahan Obisesan that played in the UK and South Africa between 2018-2019. He was named one of Foreign Policy's 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2015. He is the James E. Ryan Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and divides his time between the US and Nigeria.
Rebecca Makkai’s last novel, The Great Believers, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; it was the winner of the ALA Carnegie Medal, the Stonewall Book Award, the Clark Prize, and the LA Times Book Prize; and it was one of the New York Times' Ten Best Books of 2018. Her other books are the novels The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, and the collection Music for Wartime—four stories from which appeared in The Best American Short Stories. A 2022 Guggenheim Fellow, Rebecca is on the MFA faculties of the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe and Northwestern University, and is Artistic Director of StoryStudio Chicago.
Kwame Dawes is the author of numerous books of poetry and other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. His most recent collection UnHistory, was co-written with John Kinsella (Peepal Tree Press, UK 2022). Dawes is a George W. Holmes University Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner. He teaches in the Pacific MFA Program and is the Series Editor of the African Poetry Book Series, Director of the African Poetry Book Fund, and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival. He is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Kwame Dawes is the winner of the prestigious Windham/Campbell Award for Poetry and was a finalist for the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. In 2022, Dawes was awarded the Order of Distinction Commander class by the Government of Jamaica.
Scott Cairns is the author of ten poetry collections, including Idiot Psalms, Slow Pilgrim, and Anaphora. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Poetry, etc., and has been anthologized in Best Spiritual Writing and Best American Spiritual Writing. He has also written a spiritual memoir, Short Trip to the Edge, a theological meditation, The End of Suffering, and libretti for the oratoria “The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp” and “A Melancholy Beauty.” His spiritual memoir was also released in Greek and Romanian editions. Cairns has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was awarded the Denise Levertov Award in 2014. He was Curators’ Distinguished Professor of English at University of Missouri, and currently directs Seattle Pacific University's MFA in Creative Writing. Cairns is the founding director of Writing Workshops in Greece, a program that brings writers to engage with literary life in modern Greece.