Guest Biographies

Photo of Scott BealScott Beal

Scott Beal is the author of Wait ‘Til You Have Real Problems (Dzanc Books, 2014). Alice Fulton wrote that the poems are “ablaze with insight and riveting language” and “gorgeously wrought: rich with music and an architectural sinew that thrills.” His chapbook, The Octopus, won the 2015 Gertrude Press Poetry Chapbook contest and is forthcoming in 2016.  Beal’s poems have appeared  in many journals and were awarded a Pushcart Prize in 2013. He teaches writing courses for the University of Michigan’s English Department, Lloyd Hall Scholars Program and Sweetland Writing Center.

Photo of Emlyn ChandEmlyn Chand

Emlyn Chand  was born with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). She is the author of Honey the Hero, the first in her Bird Brain Book series for children featuring the exploits of a variety of characters who all happen to be birds. Chand now writes most of her fiction under her real name, Melissa Storm.  Her first novel, Farsighted, won the prestigious Writer’s Digest Self-Published Novel of the Year award in 2012 for the YA category.

Photo of Deedra ClimerDeedra Climer

Deedra Climer is a Southern writer who would rather write about race and poverty than sweet tea and magnolias. Her book, Wailing Wall: A Mother’s Memoir was released in December 2015 and details one woman’s struggle to make sense of her shattered life in the year following her son’s death. Born and raised in Memphis, she splits her time between Tennessee and southeast Michigan, where she runs a small organic farm and apiary with her daughter, Claudia, and husband, Bill.

Photo of Shutta Crum

Shutta Crum

Shutta Crum. A former teacher and librarian, local author Shutta Crum was awarded the  Michigan Library Association’s Award of Merit as youth Librarian of the year. Crum has written several picture books including Mine!, Dozens of Cousins and the award-winning Thunder Boomer! and has authored two novels, Spitting Image and Thomas and the Dragon Queen which was short-listed for the Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award.

Photo of R.J. FoxR.J. Fox

R.J. Fox is the award-winning writer of several short stories, plays, poems, and fifteen feature-length screenplays. He is also the writer and director of several award-winning short films. In addition to his writing and filmmaking exploits Fox teaches English and Video Production at Ann Arbor Huron High School where he uses his own dream of making movies to inspire his students to follow their own dreams. Love & Vodka: My Surreal Adventures in Ukraine is Fox’s first novel.

Photo of Robin GainesRobin Gaines

Robin Gaines is an award winning journalist and fiction writer. Her work has appeared in literary journals, newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. Invincible Summers is her first novel. Award winning author Laura Kasischke writes that Invincible Summers is “a gorgeous meditation on history and family, innocence and experience. Gaines has created an unforgettable character in Claudia, but by following her through eleven years of her life, she shows us how each one of us is many characters throughout a single lifetime. …This is the kind of reading experience for which literature was invented.”  .

Photo of Joy Gaines-FriedlerJoy Gaines- Friedler

Joy Gaines-Friedler teaches creative writing for non-profits where she works with “at-risk” communities, including workshops at Children’s Village, Common Ground, Haven, and The University of Michigan’s PCAP (Prison Creative Arts Project) where she teaches poetry to male inmates of The Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer Michigan. A Pushcart nominee, Joy’s poetry can be found in over 50 literary journals and anthologies, including poetry in Michigan in Poetry, The New York Quarterly, and The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry. Joy is the author of two full-length poetry collections.

Photo of Zilka JosephZilka Joseph

Zilka Joseph is a poet, editor, and educator, manuscript coach, performer and speaker. She has a BA in English and a B.ED from Calcutta University, an MA in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, and an MFA from the University of Michigan. Joseph was nominated twice for a Pushcart prize and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Mantis, Kenyon Review Online, Quiddity, Review Americana, Gastronomica, and Cheers To Muses: An Anthology of Contemporary Works by Asian American Women. Her first chapbook, Lands I Live In (Mayapple Press), was nominated for a PEN America Beyond Margins award and her second chapbook, What Dread (Finishing Line Press), was nominated for a Pushcart. Her latest book of poems, Sharp Blue Search of Flame was recently published by Wayne State University Press.

Photo of Jeff KassJeff Kass

Jeff Kass teaches Creative Writing and English Literature at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor and is the Literary Arts Director at Ann Arbor’s Teen Center The Neutral Zone. He is the author of the award-winning poetry chapbook Invisible Staircase; the essay chapbook From the Front of the Room; the one-man performance poetry show Wrestle the Great Fear; co-author of the teaching guidebook Underneath: The Archaeological Approach to Teaching Creative Writing; and author of the short story collection Knuckleheads, which was awarded Independent Publisher’s Gold Medal as Best Short Fiction Collection of 2011. His most recent book, My Beautiful Hook-Nosed Beauty Queen Strut Wave, is his debut full-length poetry collection.

Photo of Georgia KreigerGeorgia Kreiger

Georgia Kreiger lives in Ypsilanti and teaches literature and creative writing at Concordia University–Ann Arbor.  Her poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in many publications, including PMS, Earth’s Daughters, Front Porch Journal, and Hippocampus Magazine.  Her first poetry chapbook, Falling: A Memoir in Verse, was recently published by Finishing Line Press.  She is currently completing a book-length memoir titled What They Don’t Know Can’t Hurt Us.  

Photo of Benjamin LandryBenjamin Landry

Benjamin Landry is a poet currently residing in Ohio with his wife, the fiction writer Sara Schaff. A graduate of the University of Michigan (MFA, 2013), Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English (MA, 2006) and Brown University (BA with teaching certification, 2000), he has taught English and creative writing for over a decade, at secondary and college levels, in the United States, Colombia and China. He is the author of An Ocean Away, Particle and Wave, and Burn Lyrics.

Photo of Ken MageeKen Magee

Ken Magee was born and raised in Ann Arbor and has been a lifelong fan of University of Michigan football as well as a collector and football historian of Michigan Wolverine memorabilia. Ken combined his interest in sports history and passion for Wolverine football and wrote the book The Little Brown Jug: The Michigan-Minnesota Rivalry (Arcadia Press 2014) which was followed up in 2015 by The Game: The Michigan-Ohio State Football Rivalry.  

Photo of Airea D. MatthewsAirea D. Matthews

Airea D. Matthews, a resident of Detroit, is the winner of the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets for her manuscript collection, simulacra, which Yale University Press will publish in 2017. Her poems and prose have appeared in a number of periodicals and anthologies, such as Best American Poetry 2015, Missouri Review, Muzzle, Indiana Review, Four Way Review, American Poets, Michigan Quarterly Review, Vinyl, Callaloo and elsewhere. She is the Assistant Director of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she earlier received her MFA in creative writing.

Photo of Chris McCormickChris McCormick

Chris McCormick is the author of Desert Boys, a work of fiction described as a “stunningly good debut” by Kirkus Reviews. Raised in the Antelope Valley, he earned his BA at the University of California, Berkeley, and his MFA at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, where he was the recipient of two Hopwood awards. His work and essays have been featured in The Offing, LithubThe AtlanticTin HousePoets & WritersPloughshares, and Beatrice. He currently lives in Ann Arbor.

Photo of H. MeltH. Melt

H. Melt is a poet and artist who was born in Chicago. Their work proudly documents Chicago’s queer and trans communities and has been published many places including The Feminist Wire, In These Times, Lambda Literary, and Them, the first trans literary journal in the United States. H. Melt is the author of the chapbook SIRvival in the Second City, editor of the zine Second to None: Queer and Trans Chicago Voices, and released their first full-length book The Plural, The Blurring in the fall of 2015 with Ann Arbor based Red Beard Press.

Photo of Tiya MilesTiya Miles

Tiya Miles is a writer and professor at the University of Michigan. Her works include Ties That Bind, Tales from the Haunted South, and The Cherokee Rose. Her research and creative interests include African American and Native American interrelated and comparative histories and literatures; African American women’s history; and the histories, feminist theories, and life experiences of women of color in the United States. Outside of work, she is an avid reader of feminist mysteries, a passionate fan of old houses, and a loyal patron of Graeter’s in Cincinnati as well as Dairy Queen just about anywhere.

Photo of Heather NeffHeather Neff

Heather Neff is a Professor of English Literature at Eastern Michigan University. Dr. Neff is also the author of seven novels, including Wisdomdesignated an Honor Book by the American Library Association Accident of Birth, Haarlem and the human trafficking stories, Leila: The Weighted Silence of Memory and Leila: The Moods of the Sea. Among her many teaching awards, Dr. Neff has received the Eastern Michigan University Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, the EMU Alumni Association Teaching Excellence Award and Holman Success Center’s Outstanding Faculty in the Classroom Award.  

Photo of Tj O'ConnorTj O’Connor

Tj O’Connor  is the 2015 Gold Medal Winner of the Independent Publishers Book Awards for Mysteries and the author of Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell. O’Connor is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels.  He is currently at work on a sequel in his series of murder mysteries that begins with Dying to Know.  Raised in New York’s Hudson Valley, O’Connor and his wife reside in Virginia where they raised five children.

Photo of Jim OttavianiJim Ottaviani

Jim Ottaviani is the author of many graphic novels about scientists, ranging from physicists to paleontologists to behaviorists. His most recent are the New York Times bestsellers The Imitation Game: Alan Turing DecodedPrimates, about Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas and Feynman, a book about the Nobel-prize winning physicist, bongo-playing artist, and safe-cracking storyteller Richard Feynman.
He lives in Michigan and comes to comics via careers in nuclear engineering and librarianship. Find out more via his site at, on Twitter at @gtlabsrat, and on Facebook at

Photo of David PrattDavid Pratt

David Pratt has published two novels, Bob the Book (2011 Lambda Literary Award) and Looking After Joey, and a book of short fiction, including stories originally published in Christopher Street, The James White Review, Velvet Mafia and other periodicals. He has recently finished the manuscript of a novel for young people and is collaborating with director Joseph Graham on a film based on some of his short stories.

Photo of Dawn RichbergDawn Richberg

Dawn Richberg is a writer and teacher who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her very own muse Erato, otherwise known as her partner Vanessa. Dawn’s poetry will be featured in the upcoming special edition of Sinister Wisdom journal honoring the 40 year phenomenon of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. She is currently working on a new chapbook of poems about teaching and transformation.

Photo of Monica RicoMonica Rico

Monica Rico grew up in Saginaw, Michigan alongside General Motors and the legend of Theodore Roethke. She has a BA in Women’s Studies and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and a MA in Creative Writing from The City College of New York. She is an avid fan of space exploration, home cooking, and beautifully tall glasses of champagne. She currently lives in Michigan and works for the Bear River Writers’ Conference.

Photo of Jazmin TruesdaleJazmin Truesdale

Jazmin Truesdale is an entrepreneur and creator of Aza Comics which aims to develop a new generation of heroes for TV, Film, Comics, and Games that will be inclusive of everyone no matter the age, gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.  Despite her young age she is fast becoming known as the ‘superwoman of superwomen’. She is a nerd at heart and loves science fiction, comic books, action movies, and the like.  It was her passion for female superheroes that lead her to create Aza, Superheroes for everyone.