Our 25th Anniversary benefit, REVEAL, is just two weeks away. Originally, we thought we’d wait for the big day to announce our 25 Writers to Watch—a collaboratively-assembled list of 25 emerging-to-mid career writers whose works are making waves in both Chicago, and around the country. These are some amazing writers, so please join us in congratulating:
Rey Andújar is a Dominican writer and dramaturgist. His books have won various awards including: The International Award from Casa de Teatro, for his book of short stories, El factor carne (IslaNegra, 2005); The Puerto Rican Pen Club Award for his novel Candela (Alfaguara, 2007); The Story Award from the International Book Fair in Santo Domingo for Amoricidio (AgentesCatalíticos, 2007); The Ultramar Letters Award (New York, 2011) for Saturnalia (7Vientos, 2011); and most recently Adújar won The Cuento y Poesía Consenso Award at Northeastern University.
Kristiana Colón is a Chicago poet, playwright, actor, and educator. Her play Octagon is a finalist in Polarity Ensemble Theatre’s 2014 Dionysos Cup Festival of New Work. In 2013, she toured the UK with her collection of poems promised instruments published by Northwestern University Press. OffWestEnd.com nominated her Most Promising New Playwright. Her play one week in spring was a finalist for Victory Gardens’ 2010 Ignition festival, and appeared in Curious Theater’s Rhinoceros Festival in January 2014.
Zayd Dohrn is a playwright and screenwriter whose work includes Outside People (Off-Broadway premiere at The Vineyard Theatre/Naked Angels), Want (Steppenwolf First Look), Sick (Berkshire Theatre Festival/Kitchen Dog), Reborning (The Public/SPF), and Muckrakers (Barrington Stage). His plays are published by Samuel French, and have been produced and developed at The Orchard Project, The Lark, Manhattan Theatre Club, South Coast Rep, Playwrights Horizons, New Rep, Ars Nova, Southern Rep, Theatre for One, New York Theatre Workshop, SF Playhouse, Marin Theatre Company, and the Royal Court Theatre of London. He has written screenplays for the American Film Company, Voltage Pictures, Vox3 Films, and HBO. He earned his MFA from NYU and was a Lila Acheson Wallace Fellow at Juilliard. He currently teaches playwriting and screenwriting at Northwestern University
Keith Ecker is the creator of Guts & Glory and Essay Fiesta, two of Chicago’s most popular monthly live-lit series. Keith is also a faculty member at StoryStudio Chicago. He has performed his own work at shows throughout the city, including Write Club, Story Club, This Much Is True, The Paper Machete, Chicago Writers Conference, and Printers Row Lit Fest. His writing had been published by Huffington Post, The Onion A.V. Club, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and others. He is currently co-producing a serial, fiction-based podcast with WBEZ called PleasureTown.
Bill Hillmann is an author and storyteller from Chicago. His debut novel The Old Neighborhood has received acclaim from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Booklist and such notable authors as Irvine Welsh, Thom Jones, and Rick Kogan. Hillmann is a former Chicago Golden Glove champion, a noted bull runner in Spain, and a union construction laborer. His writing has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Salon and on NPR. He is a current contributor to Playboy online.
Jac Jemc‘s first novel, My Only Wife (Dzanc Books), was named a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award. She is also the author of a collection of stories, A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books), due out in October 2014, and a chapbook of stories, These Strangers She’d Invited In (Greying Ghost Press). She is the web nonfiction editor for Hobart and poetry editor at decomP. Jac received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2012, she was the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Professional Development Grant.
Parneshia Jones is recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, the Margaret Walker Short Story Award, and the Aquarius Press Legacy Award. She is published in several anthologies including She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems, edited by Caroline Kennedy, and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. Her poetry has been commissioned by Art for Humanity in South Africa, Shorefront Legacy, and featured on Chicago Public Radio. Her first collection of poetry, Vessel, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions (April 2015).
Rebecca Kling is a transgender artist and educator who explores gender and identity through solo pieces and educational workshops. Her multidisciplinary performances incorporate conversational storytelling, personal narrative, humor, and more. She regularly tours to colleges, universities, and theatre festivals across the country, and has received praise from publications coast to coast. In 2013, Kling was named as part of the inaugural Trans 100 list, which aims to highlight and celebrate excellence in the trans community.
Jacob S. Knabb is Editor-in-Chief of Curbside Splendor Publishing. His stories and essays have been published at The Collagist, THE2NDHAND, Consequence of Sound, Another Chicago Magazine, and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing and publishing at Lake Forest College and is currently working on a novel set in West Virginia in the ’90s.
Malcolm London, called the Gil-Scott Heron of this generation by Cornel West, is a poet, activist, and educator. He appeared on PBS for the first ever televised TED Talk with John Legend & Bill Gates, and has shared stages with actor Matt Damon & rapper Lupe Fiasco as a part of the The People Speak, Live! cast. In 2010, London was apart of the prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre Young Adult Council and is winner of Louder Than A Bomb Youth Poetry Festival 2011. Malcolm’s work has been featured on national outlets including CBS, NPR, Huffington Post, The Root, and the Chicago Tribune.
Eric May graduated with a BA in Writing/English from Columbia College Chicago in 1975 and the following year joined what was then Columbia’s Writing Department as a part-time instructor. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in such literary anthologies as Criminal Class Review, Briefly Knocked Unconscious By a Low-flying Duck, Fish Stories: Collective I, Sport Literate, Angels in My Oven, and f5 Magazine. His debut novel, Bedrock Faith, was published by Akashic Books.
Gwendolyn A. Mitchell is a poet and editor. Her poetry has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies including American Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry South, Essence Magazine, and Valley Voices. Ms. Mitchell is the author of two poetry collections, Veins and Rivers and House of Women, and is the author of the book-length poem, Ain’t I Black. She is the co-editor of two anthologies, Releasing the Spirit and Describe the Moment. Her forthcoming book, Among the Missing, will be published later this year. Mitchell resides in Illinois, where she serves as Senior Editor for Third World Press.
Sahar Mustafah writes about “the others”—Arabs in the United States and abroad, who are often deemed strange and disparate from the larger racial community. Her work has appeared in anthologies and journals including Great Lakes Review, Word Riot, Flyleaf, Hair Trigger, and Chicago Literati, and she’s performed with 2nd Story Chicago. She’s the recipient of a Pushcart nomination. This spring she looks forward to earning her MFA and graduating from Columbia College. She is a teacher and co-founder of Bird’s Thumb, an online literary journal devoted to new and emerging voices
Nnedi Okorafor is a novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Okorafor’s novels include Who Fears Death (winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax Award). Her young adult novel Akata Witch 2: Breaking Kola is scheduled for release in 2015.
Coya Paz is a poet, Artistic Director of Free Street Theater, and an Assistant Professor in the Theatre School at DePaul University. She is also a founding member of Proyecto Latina, and the co-founder of Teatro Luna, where she served as co-Artistic Director from 2000-2009. Recent projects include Nerds, Sluts, (Commies) and Jocks and DOPE at Free Street Theater, and The Americans, based on interviews. Coya holds a PhD in Performance Studies at Northwestern University and is a regular commentator on race, media, and pop culture for Vocalo.org (FM 90.7).
Cecilia Pinto’s writing has appeared in a variety of publications including Esquire, Fence, Quarter After Eight, Diagram, and TriQuarterly. Her anthologized work appears in Saints of Hysteria, Sonneteering, Mentor and Muse, Billet-Doux, and elsewhere. She has worked with students in the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District, and has taught for the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern, the Graham School at the University of Chicago, and the Poetry Center of Chicago among others. She received degrees in writing from Knox College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Cecilia’s chapbook, A Small Woman, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press.
Awarded a 2014-2015 Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, a 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and 2008 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, Roger Reeves’ poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best American Poetry, Poetry, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, and 2014 Pushcart Prize. King Me, his first book of poems, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2013. He is an assistant professor of poetry at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press and a founding member of Poems While You Wait. The author of seven books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, she is the winner of a Ruth Lilly Award from Poetry magazine and her novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake, 2012) won the Eric Hoffer Award in Poetry. Her debut novel O, Democracy! has just been released by Fifth Star Press. Her latest chapbook with Elisa Gabbert is The Kind of Beauty that has Nowhere to Go (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013), and recent essays and criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in The New York Times Magazine, The Chicago Sun Times, Salon, The Believer, Coldfront and The Rumpus.
Mahmoud Saeed (born 1939) is an Iraqi-born American award-winning novelist. He wrote an award-winning short story in the newspaper Fata Al-Iraq in 1956. He published a collection of short stories, Port Saeed and Other Stories, in 1957. Government censorship prevented his novel Rhythm and Obsession from being published in 1968, and banned his novel Rue Ben Barka in 1970, which was published fifteen years later in Egypt, Jordan, and Beirut. Authorities banned the publication of any book written by the author from 1963 to 2008. Other novels include The Girls of Jacob, The World Through the Angel’s Eyes, I am the One Who Saw (Saddam City), and Trilogy of Chicago.
Jacob Saenz is a CantoMundo Fellow whose poetry has been published in Poetry, TriQuarterly, Pinwheel, The Economy and other journals. He has been recipient of a Letras Latinas Residency and a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. He currently serves as an associate editor for RHINO.
Erika L. Sánchez is a Fulbright Scholar, CantoMundo Fellow, and winner of the “Discovery”/Boston Review Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Pleiades, Witness, Anti-, Hunger Mountain, Crab Orchard Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Copper Nickel, Boston Review, “Latino USA” on NPR, and is forthcoming in diode and Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poems for the Next Generation (Penguin 2015). Her nonfiction appears in The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Rolling Stone, Salon, NBC News, Cosmopolitan, and many others.
Megan Stielstra’s essay collection, Once I Was Cool, is forthcoming in May 2014. Her work is included in The Best American Essays 2013, Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, PANK, and elsewhere, and her story collection, Everyone Remain Calm, was a Chicago Tribune Favorite of 2011. She’s the Literary Director of the 2nd Story storytelling series and teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago.
Natasha Tarpley is the author of several acclaimed books for children and adults including Girl in the Mirror: Three Generations of Black Women in Motion, I Love My Hair!, and Princess Tiana and the Royal Ball, a companion to the Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog. Her first Middle Grade novel is forthcoming from Scholastic in 2015. Natasha is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council, among others. She is a graduate of Harvard University and Northwestern University School of Law, and a former reporter for Fortune Magazine.
Cyn Vargas‘ short story collection is being published by Curbside Splendor Publishing and set to be released in spring 2015. She received a Top 25 Finalist & an Honorable Mention award in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers contests, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing- Fiction from Columbia College Chicago. Her work has appeared in Word Riot, Split Lip Magazine, Hypertext Magazine, and elsewhere. She writes because it’s her way of legally exposing herself in public.
Jamila Woods is a poet, singer, playwright, and teaching artist. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poetry has been published by MUZZLE, Radius, and Third World Press. Jamila was named Best Female Poet (CUPSI) in 2009, two-time champion of the Louder Than A Bomb College Slam (2008 & 2010), and was a finalist at the 2011 National PoetrySlam. She is a founding member of Young Chicago Author’s Teaching Artist Corps, a non-profit organization that teaches poetry to Chicago youth, where she currently serves as Associate Artistic Director.