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2021 Writer’s Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices Faculty & Guests

2021 Workshop Faculty

Samuel Ace

Poetry Faculty

Samuel Ace is a trans and genderqueer poet and sound artist. He’s the author of several books, including Our Weather O­ur Sea (Black Radish Books, 2019) and Meet Me There: Normal Sex & Home in three days. Don’t wash. (Belladonna* Germinal Texts, 2019). A Lambda Literary Award finalist, he’s the recipient of the Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund Award in Poetry and the Firecracker Alternative Book Award. His work has been widely anthologized and appears in Poetry, Aufgabe, Fence, and many other publications. He teaches poetry and creative writing at Mount Holyoke College.

Nicole Dennis-Benn

Fiction Faculty

Nicole Dennis-Benn is the author of the acclaimed novel, Patsy, (Norton/Liveright, June 2019), which Time Magazine called “stunning,” and the debut novel, Here Comes the Sun (Norton/Liveright, July 2016). She is a Lambda Literary Award winner and a recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Artist Grant. Time Out Magazine has described Dennis-Benn as an immigrant putting her stamp on New York City and Vice named her among immigrant authors “who are making American Literature great again.”

Saeed Jones

Nonfiction Faculty

Saeed Jones is the author of the memoir How We Fight for Our Lives, winner of the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, the 2020 Stonewall Book Award/Israel Fishman Non-fiction Award, a 2020 Publishing Triangle Award, and a 2020 Lambda Literary Award. He is also the author of the poetry collection Prelude to Bruise, winner of the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry and the 2015 Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award. The poetry collection was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his dog Caesar.

Monica Palacios

Playwriting Faculty

For over 30 years, Monica Palacios has created performances and plays featuring the LGBTQ Latinx experience. Palacios won the Nancy Dean Lesbian Playwriting Award 2021. She is featured in: STAND UP STAND OUT, winner of Best Documentary Santa Fe Film Festival 2021, about the first gay comedy club in the nation, San Francisco 1980s. Palacios was the Lakes Writer-in-Residence at Smith College Spring 2019. Monica has received numerous awards, including Latinx LGBTQ Trailblazer 2017 from the city of Los Angeles. Monica Palacios Day was declared by LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Oct 12, 2012. Monica received a Postdoctoral Rockefeller Fellowship from UCSB.

Robin Talley

Young Adult Fiction Faculty

Robin Talley is a queer author who grew up in southwest Virginia and now lives in Washington, D.C., with her wife and kids. She did digital communications work for LGBTQ rights, educational equity, and other progressive causes for 15 years before she turned to writing full-time, and is now the New York Times-bestselling author of seven novels for teen readers, including The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre, Music From Another World, Pulp, and As I Descended. Her books have been short-listed for the Lambda Literary Award and the CILIP Carnegie Medal, and have appeared on the Junior Library Guild, Amelia Bloomer Project, Kids’ Indie Next, and ALA Rainbow lists. You can find her at

2021 Visiting Faculty & Guests

Rasha Abdulhadi

Rasha Abdulhadi is a queer Palestinian Southerner who grew up between Damascus and rural Georgia and cut their teeth organizing on the southsides of Chicago and Atlanta. Their recent work features at Shade Journal and Mizna, and is anthologized in Essential Voices: A COVID-19 Anthology (forthcoming), Unfettered Hexes, Queer Space Force, Halal if You Hear Me, Super Stoked, and the Hugo-nominated Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. A fiber artist, poet, and speculative fiction writer and editor, Rasha is also a member of Justice for Muslims Collective and Alternate ROOTS. Their new chapbook is who is owed springtime (Neon Hemlock).

Ryka Aoki

Ryka Aoki ( is a poet, composer, teacher, and novelist. Her novels include Light From Uncommon Stars (Tor Books, Fall 2021) and He Mele a Hilo (Topside Press, 2014). She’s a two-time Lambda Literary Award finalist for her collections Seasonal Velocities and Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul. She was the inaugural performer for the first ever Transgender Stage at San Francisco Pride, and has performed in many venues including the National Queer Arts Festival. Ryka has worked with the American Association of Hiroshima Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors and two of her compositions were adopted as the organization’s official “Songs of Peace.”

Sharon Bridgforth

A Doris Duke Performing Artist, Sharon Bridgforth is a writer that creates ritual/jazz theatre. A 2020-2023 Playwrights’ Center Core Member, Sharon has received support from Creative Capital, MAP Fund, the National Performance Network and is a New Dramatists alumnae. Widely published, Sharon is author of Lambda Award winning, the bull-jean stories (RedBone Press 1998). She has served as dramaturg for the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Initiative’s Choreographic Fellowship program, and has been in residence with Brown University’s MFA Playwriting Program, University of Iowa’s MFA Playwrights Program, The Theatre School at DePaul University, and more.

K-Ming Chang

K-Ming Chang is a Kundiman fellow, a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree. She is the author of the New York Times Editors’ Choice novel Bestiary (One World/Random House, 2020), which was longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Her short story collection, Gods of Want, is forthcoming from One World in June 2022. More of her work can be found at

Kay Gabriel

Kay Gabriel is a poet and essayist. With Andrea Abi-Karam she edited We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics (Nightboat, 2020). She’s the author of two forthcoming collections: Kissing Other People or the House of Fame (Rosa Press, 2021) and A Queen in Bucks County (Nightboat, 2022). She lives in Queens.

Robert Guinsler

Robert is a senior literary agent at Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc. From the geopolitical mosaics of journalists Rania Abouzeid and Mikhail Zygar, to the impassioned memoirs of Alex Marzano-Lesnevich and legendary gay rights activist Cleve Jones, to the comedic collections of Sarah Colonna, Phoebe Robinson and Egypt’s own Bassem Youssef, most every avenue of the nonfiction spectrum can be found on his list. Robert has been a champion of LGBTQ+ voices his entire career. Additionally, he represents the Estate of Anne Sexton.

Kait Heacock

Kait Heacock is a writer and book publicist whose work centers the lives of women and non-binary folk, particularly those in the queer community. Her writing can be read in literary places including The Evergreen Review, Literary Hub, The Millions, and PANK, and in frequent reviews and interviews for the Women’s Review of Books. Her story collection Siblings and Other Disappointments came out in 2016. Kait is currently at work on a novel about fears, superficial and existential, and how people face them, as played out at an immersive horror-themed sleepaway camp for adults. In her spare time, she edits for Joyland.

Faylita Hicks

FAYLITA HICKS (she/they) is a queer Afro-Latinx activist and interdisciplinary storyteller. They are the author of HoodWitch (Acre Books, 2019), a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Poetry, a 2021 Shearing Fellow with Black Mountain Institute, and the 2021 Poet-in-Residence with Civil Rights Corps. They have been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Broadway Advocacy Coalition, The Dots Between, Jack Jones Literary Arts, Lambda Literary, Tin House, and the Right of Return USA. Their work is featured or forthcoming in American Poetry Review, the Cincinnati Review, Ecotone, Longreads, Poetry Magazine, Slate, Texas Observer, Yale Review, and others. 

Luther Hughes

Luther Hughes is the author of the debut poetry collection, A Shiver in the Leaves, forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2022, and the chapbook Touched (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2018). He is the founder of Shade Literary Arts, a literary organization for queer writers of color, and co-hosts The Poet Salon podcast with Gabrielle Bates and Dujie Tahat. He is the recipient of the 2020 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship and the 2020 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize. Luther was born and raised in Seattle where he currently lives.

Miah Jeffra

Miah Jeffra is author of The Fabulous Ekphrastic Fantastic!, The Violence Almanac, The First Church of What’s Happening, and co-editor, with Arisa White and Monique Mero, of the anthology Home is Where You Queer Your Heart. Most recent work can be seen in StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, The North American Review, The Pinch, The Greensboro Review, DIAGRAM and Barrelhouse. Miah is a founding editor of Whiting Award-winning queer literary collaborative, Foglifter Press.

Niq D. Johnson

Born and raised in SE Washington, D.C., Niq D. Johnson is on a lifelong mission to connect the dots between the creative arts, academic & experiential scholarship, community care, and grassroots organizing. In 2017, they stepped away from the scarcity trap of academia to seed and build transformative organizations and projects — moving in abundance as an everyday praxis. Niq is the co-founder and editorial director of Color Bloq, a nonprofit focused on building a community of queer & trans BIPOC through a literary publication alongside cultural & educational events. They currently work as a social impact strategist, consultant, and full-time elder caregiver based in Southwestern PA.

Roya Marsh

A Bronx native, Roya is a nationally recognized poet, performer, educator and activist. She’s the Poet in Residence at Urban Word NYC and works feverishly toward LGBTQIA justice and dismantling white supremacy. The co-founder of the Bronx Poet Laureate position and the awardee of the 2021 Lotus Foundation Prize for poetry, Roya’s work has been featured in Poetry Magazine, Flypaper Magazine, Nylon, The Root, NBC, BET, The BreakBeat Poets Vol 2: Black Girl Magic (Haymarket 2018), and many more. In Spring 2020, MCD × FSG Originals published Roya Marsh’s dayliGht, a debut collection of experimental poetry exploring themes of sexuality, Blackness, and the prematurity of Black femme death.

Alex Marzano-Lesnevich

Alex Marzano-Lesnevich is the author of THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, which received a Lambda Literary Award, the Chautauqua Prize, the Grand Prix des Lectrices ELLE, the Prix des libraires du Quebec, and the Prix France Inter-JDD, an award for one book of any genre in the world. It has been translated into eleven languages and is in development with HBO. The recipient of fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell, Yaddo, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and more, Marzano-Lesnevich has written for The New York Times, Harper’s, and many other publications. Their next book, BOTH AND NEITHER, is a transgender and trans-genre look at life beyond the binary. 

Kiana Nguyen

After dropping out of University of Albany in 2015, Kiana (Kiki) Nguyen had her first publishing internship with Wunderkind PR. There, she discovered a practical industry for her codependent love of fiction. In 2016, Kiki went on to intern with DMLA where she soon joined the team full-time as an assistant literary agent. Kiki is now building her client list within young adult and adult fiction with a focus on queer and BIPOC authors. When not working, she is playing Among Us or shouting about film/tv on Twitter.

Amber Oliver

Amber Oliver is an Editor at the Tiny Reparations Books, Dutton and Plume imprints at Penguin Random House, working on diverse fiction and nonfiction. She previously worked at HarperCollins. Amber was also a 2019 Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree and a 2015 Women’s Media Group Fellow. She was born and raised in the Bronx, is a graduate of the City College of New York and currently resides in Harlem.

Meredith Russo

Meredith Russo’s books have received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, as well as the Stonewall Book Award and honors for the Walter Dean Myers Diversity Award and Lambda Literary Award. She has been featured in the New York Times, Bustle, and Elle. She was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and lived most of her life in Southern Appalachia, though she and her cat Shadow now call Brooklyn home. Her writing focuses on gender identity, class friction, and mental illness in the rural American South, at least for now.

Brandon Taylor

Brandon Taylor is the author of the novel Real Life, which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, as well as The National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize and the 2021 Young Lions Fiction Award.

Jeanne Thornton

JEANNE THORNTON is the author of Summer Fun, The Dream of Doctor Bantam, and The Black Emerald. She is also the copublisher of Instar Books and the coedit, with Tara Madison Avery, of We’re Still Here: An All-Trans Comics Anthology. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in n+1, Electric Literature, WIRED, The Evergreen Review, WSQ, and other places. She lives in Brooklyn.

Nia Witherspoon

NIA O. WITHERSPOON is a black queer writer/director, vocalist/composer, and cultural worker. Witherspoon’s work creates contemporary ritual-space immersed in the meta-physics of blackness, desire, and diaspora. A resident at Brooklyn Arts Exchange and HERE Art Center, Witherspoon is an awardee of Creative Capital, Jerome Fellowship, New York Theatre Workshop’s 2050 Playwriting/Directing Fellowship, and more.

Kent Wolf

Kent D. Wolf is a Founding Partner at Neon Literary, where he represents a celebrated roster of LGTBQIA+ writers, including National Book Award finalist and Lambda Literary Award winner Carmen Maria Machado, New York Times bestselling essayist Samantha Irby, Lambda Literary finalist Torrey Peters, Lambda Literary Fellow Calvin Kasulke, Daniel Zomparelli, and Paul Dalla Rosa. A regular attendee of writers conferences and literary festivals across the country, he is an active member of The Association of Authors’ Representatives and has been profiled and interviewed by Poets & Writers, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and Publishers Weekly, among other publications.

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