Board of Directors
AWP is governed by a board of directors who represent the creative writing programs and individual members of AWP. Board members serve four-year terms. The board includes the chairs of regional councils of creative writing programs.
Region: Mid-Atlantic Council Chair
Affiliation: Spalding University
Kathleen Driskell is program director of Spalding University’s low-residency MFA in Writing Program in Louisville, Kentucky, and the author of the poetry collections Blue Etiquette: Poems, a finalist for the Weatherford Award; Next Door to the Dead, a Kentucky Voices selection by the University Press of Kentucky and winner of the 2018 Judy Gaines Young Book Award; Seed Across Snow, a Poetry Foundation national bestseller; Laughing Sickness, and Peck and Pock: A Graphic Poem. Individual poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, and Rattle, among others, and have been featured in anthologies and online at Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and American Life in Poetry. She founded and served two terms as chair of the Low-Residency MFA Directors’ Caucus, which meets annually at the national AWP conference. She is a recipient of the Trustees Outstanding Faculty Award from Spalding University and recently completed her extended term as faculty representative to the Spalding Board of Trustees. Driskell received her MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
January Gill O’Neil
Office: Vice Chair
Affiliation: Salem State University & University of Mississippi
January Gill O'Neil is the author of Rewilding (CavanKerry Press, 2018); Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press, 2014), winner of a 2015 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; and Underlife (CavanKerry Press, 2009). She is an associate professor at Salem State University. The recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, O'Neil is the 2019-2020 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, Oxford where she lives. January previously served as the Northeast Council chair on the AWP board.
Office: Vice Chair
Region: WC&C Council Chair
Mimi Herman is a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist, director of the United Arts Council Arts Integration Institute, and codirector of Writeaways workshops in Italy, France, and New Mexico. Mimi has served as North Carolina Piedmont Laureate, founding North Carolina Poetry Out Loud director, associate editor of Teaching Artist Journal and faculty mentor for Lesley University. Her writing has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Crab Orchard Review, the Hollins Critic, and other journals. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson.
Bruce H. Saul
Affiliation: Attorney & Policy Analyst
Bruce H. Saul has spent most of his career as a senior legal officer in the US financial services sector, including chief counsel and chief compliance officer roles in insurance and other financial services businesses within Fortune 500 companies. He began his career at a business law firm in Baltimore, Maryland, specializing in federal securities law, mergers and acquisitions, and general corporate matters. Most recently, Saul was a policy analyst at the US Treasury Department, where he advised federal government departments and agencies on public policy and insurance regulatory issues. He is past chair of the Compliance Section of the American Council of Life Insurers and has held leadership roles in multiple insurance industry associations. He has also served on the boards of directors of several nonprofit organizations and as a volunteer tutor in adult literacy programs in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Alexandria, Virginia. Saul earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins University with a major in humanities and a Juris Doctor degree from the Duke University School of Law.
Region: Southern Council Chair
Affiliation: University of Central Arkansas
Stephanie Vanderslice is the author of several books, most recently The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life: An Instructional Memoir for the Rest of Us. She is professor and director of the Arkansas Writers MFA Workshop at the University of Central Arkansas.
Affiliation: Hachette Book Group
Michelle Aielli has been a book publishing professional for more than two decades. After several years at various houses, she spent a decade in the publicity department at Little, Brown and Company where she worked with (and learned from) some of the world’s leading authors, including James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Elin Hilderbrand, Donna Tartt, Jonathan Safran Foer, J.K. Rowling, Keith Richards, and more.
Michelle was a founding member of the Hachette Books imprint at the Hachette Book Group (HBG). As vice president and associate publisher, she oversees all publicity and marketing for the group, liaises with HBG’s sales team, engages media and booksellers, and consults on all aspects of the publishing process—from acquisitions and production to cover design and distribution. With HB’s publisher, she helps oversee the acquisition of new titles and authors, growing what has become a formidable and diverse list of important, powerful, opinion-driven nonfiction voices across many categories and under three imprints, including Lindy West, Julie Andrews, George F. Will, Malcolm Nance, Liza Mundy, Donna Brazile, Al Roker, and many more.
Michelle actively partners with authors and agents to create noteworthy, provocative, and enduring works—and to get those books into the hands of readers whose lives will be changed by them. She participates regularly in the NYU Summer Publishing Institute and in diversity and inclusion initiatives as a member of HBG’s Senior Management Group. She lives in Brooklyn with her two young daughters.
DeMisty D. Bellinger
Region: Northeast Council Chair
Affiliation: Fitchburg State University
DeMisty D. Bellinger teaches creative writing at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. She is an editor at Malarkey Books, the poetry editor at Porcupine Literary, and an alumna reader at Prairie Schooner. Her writing has appeared in many places, including Contrary Magazine, Okay Donkey, The Rumpus, and Best Small Fictions 2019. She is the author of the books Peculiar Heritage, forthcoming from Mason Jar Press, and Rubbing Elbows. DeMisty has an MFA from Southampton College and a PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Region: Western Council Chair
Affiliation: University of La Verne
Sean Bernard directs and teaches in the BA creative writing program at the University of La Verne in southern California, where he also edits the national literary journal Prism Review. Since 2004, he has served as assistant editor of Toad Press, a publisher of chapbook-length translations, and in spring 2021 he became the fiction editor for Veliz Books. He is the author of the novel Studies in the Hereafter (Red Hen Press) and the story collection Desert sonorous (winner of the 2014 Juniper Prize), and his work has appeared in journals including the Gettysburg Review, Glimmer Train, Crazyhorse, and Epoch. He has received grants and fellowships from groups including the National Endowment for the Arts, Jentel Artists Foundation, the University of Arizona Poetry Center, and Poets & Writers.
Affiliation: Normandale Community College
Kris Bigalk (pronounced BEE-yahk) is the author of the poetry collection Repeat the Flesh in Numbers; her work also appears in several anthologies. She has received two Minnesota State Arts Board Individual Artist in Poetry grants and a Minnesota State Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Teaching. Bigalk serves as director of creative writing at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota, where she founded the first AFA in creative writing program based on “AWP Recommendations on the Teaching of Creative Writing to Undergraduates” and “AWP Hallmarks of an Effective Program in Creative Writing at a Two-Year College.”
Affiliation: Serendipity Literary Agency
Regina Brooks is the founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC, based in Brooklyn, New York. Serendipity is the largest African American-owned agency in the US, and Brooks is the author of Never Finished, Never Done, Writing Great Books for Young Adults (now in its second edition) and You Should Really Write A Book: How to Write, Sell, and Market Your Memoir. Brooks is the agent behind many notable authors and illustrators whose awards include the National Book Award, the Newbery Medal, the Caldecott Award, the Michael Printz Award, and PEN Literary Award honors, as well as winners of the NAACP Image Award, the Edgar Award, and the Kirkus Prize.
Affiliation: University of Michigan
Sumita Chakraborty is a poet, essayist, and scholar. She is the author of the poetry collection Arrow (Alice James Books [US]/Carcanet Press [UK], 2020), which received coverage in the New York Times, NPR, and the Guardian. Her first scholarly book, Grave Dangers: Poetics and the Ethics of Death in the Anthropocene, is in progress. She is Helen Zell Visiting Professor in Poetry at the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, where she teaches literary studies and creative writing. She holds a PhD in English with a certificate in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies from Emory University and a BA from Wellesley College. She is the recipient of honors from the Poetry Foundation, the Forward Arts Foundation, Kundiman, and elsewhere. Her poetry and prose have appeared widely, and you can find information about her published work on her website at www.sumitachakraborty.com. You can also all-too-frequently find her on Twitter @notsumatra.
Jenny Yang Cropp
Region: Southwest Council Chair
Affiliation: Southeast Missouri State University
Jenny Yang Cropp is the author of the poetry collection String Theory, a 2016 Oklahoma Book Award finalist, and the chapbook Hanging the Moon. Her newest chapbook, Not a Bird or a Flower, was published by Ryga in 2018. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato and a PhD in English from the University of South Dakota. She is an assistant professor of English at Southeast Missouri State University, where she teaches writing and publishing and serves as poetry editor for the literary journal Big Muddy.
James Tate Hill
Affiliation: Author & Editor
James Tate Hill is the author of a memoir, Blind Man’s Bluff (W. W. Norton, 2021). In 2015, his fiction debut, Academy Gothic, won the Nilsen Literary Prize for a First Novel. He serves as fiction editor for Monkeybicycle and contributing editor at Literary Hub, where he writes a monthly audiobooks column. Born in West Virginia, he lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Affiliation: Folio Literary Management
Jeff Kleinman is a founding partner of Folio Literary Management, where he is a literary agent and attorney. A few of the titles he has represented include The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein), The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey), The Secrets We Kept (Lara Prescott), Mockingbird (Charles Shields), and Maid (Stephanie Land). He also represents the estates of Langston Hughes, Ira Levin, T.H. White, and James Herriot, among others.
Affiliation: Chicago High School for the Arts
Kenyatta Rogers is a Cave Canem Fellow and has been awarded scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. He has also been nominated multiple times for both Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes. His work has been previously published in Jubilat, Vinyl, Bat City Review, the Volta, PANK, and MAKE Magazine, among others. Kenyatta is a lead teacher for the Poetry Foundations Teacher Institute and Chautauqua Institution’s Young Writer Institute. He is a cohost of the Sunday Reading Series with Simone Muench and serves on the creative writing faculty at the Chicago High School for the Arts.
Affiliation: Author & Poet
Dan Vera is a poet, presenter, and teacher with extensive board experience on other nonprofit arts/writing organizations, including spending seven years on Split This Rock Poetry Festival’s board, lastly as its chair. Dan has presented at multiple poetry festivals, and his poetry has been anthologized widely. Some of his most recent awards include a CantoMundo fellowship, Oscar Wilde Poetry Award, Macondo Writers Fellowship, DC Artist Fellowship, and Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize.
Region: Midwest Council Chair
Affiliation: Southwest Minnesota State University
Judy Wilson received a PhD from the University of Southern Mississippi, her writing nurtured by the Barthelme brothers at the Center for Writers. A dark realist as well as a humanist, she is intent on mining the reader's humane and compassionate response. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals including Skylark Literary Annual, Mississippi Review, Antietam Review, the Atlantic Monthly’s Atlantic Unbound, Reed Magazine, Oregon Literary Review, Carve Magazine, Front Porch Journal, Texas Review, South Dakota Review, and in her collection Trespass and other stories. She has received a number of awards for her fiction, including the Southern Literary Festival Award for Best Short Fiction, the Joan Johnson Writing Award, the Henfield Foundation’s Transatlantic Review Award, and the Truman Capote Fellowship. She is also the founder and editor of Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art & Thought, now fourteen years in print. She lives and writes in Hendricks, Minnesota, sparing time to serve as the director of creative writing at Southwest Minnesota State University, where she has served the creative writing program since August 2002.
Cheryl Woodruff is president and founder of BookMavericks, a full-service book publishing consulting firm. Over her decades-long career as a pioneering publisher and editor, Cheryl has produced over thirty national bestsellers and literary award-winners. She has served as president and associate publisher of SmileyBooks/Hay House and associate publisher and founder of One World/Ballantine Books (Penguin Random House), the first multicultural imprint at a mainstream publishing house. Woodruff is the recipient of the Black Women in Publishing Achievement Award and the Literary Market Place Award for Excellence in Adult Trade Publishing.