The University of Massachusetts Amherst
HFA - College of Humanities & Fine Arts view HFA submenu
Section Menu

2018 Juniper Literary Festival

The 2019 Juniper Literary Festival will be held April 12-13, 2019 on the UMass Amherst campus and will include featured readings from Danez Smith and Horacio Castellanos Moya, as well as a range of sessions and a journal and book fair. See below for sample events from 2018.

Introducing audiences to the vibrant landscape of new American poetry and fiction and exploring issues essential to the future of American literature, the Juniper Literary Festival features readings with internationally known writers and UMass MFA alums as well as programming from current students who have invigorated the event with performative readings, inventively curated displays, and publications of their work. The festival will also include the regional and national literary community through its renowned journal and book fair. Community creative writing workshops will be led by Ocean Vuong and Edie Meidav. All events are free and open to the public.

Schedule of Events

Friday, April 6

8:00 pm - READING: Sally Wen Mao and Sarah Ladipo Manyika - Memorial Hall

9:00 pm - RECEPTION: University Club, 243 Stockbridge Road, Amherst

Saturday, April 7

10:00am-5pm - JOURNAL AND BOOK FAIR, South College Commons E240

10:00am-5pm - AUDIO EXPERIENCE of the NEW UMASS MFA DIGITIZATION & CULTURAL HERITAGE ARCHIVE (Join us for a special presentation of rare audio, a showcase of historic readings and lectures that predate the founding of the MFA, including Sterling Brown, Wallace Stevens, & writers to be disclosed day of the Juniper Fest. As part of a larger project, The Archive bridges history and tradition within the context of our current socio-political moment), Juniper Office, South College W340

10:00am-5pm - VISUALIZING LANGUAGE (A gallery display of current UMass Amherst MFA writers' poetry and short fiction. The exhibit highlights the craft of writing's merits as a visual art in addition to its merits as a verbal art: the poem body as art object, the paragraph as shape. The exhibition allows Juniper Festival visitors to view samples of the high caliber work currently being produced by the UMass Amherst MFA program. Curated by Amanda Dahill-Moore and Emilie Menzel), South College Commons W360

10:30am-12pm - PANEL FOR PROSPECTIVE MFA WRITERS with Shastri Akella, David Feinstein, and current MFA writers TBA, moderated by Allison Ice (followed by coffee with MFA faculty and new admits), South College E470

10:30am-TBD - THE EDITOR IS IN: PITCHING PRACTICE (UMass Press editors Matt Becker and Mary Dougherty will give live feedback on a pitches for manuscripts in progress. Sign up at the UMass Press booth at the bookfair), South College W219

12:00-1:30pm - VOICES: WRITERS OFF THE PAGE (Local actors present versions of MFA writers' poetry and fiction, and poet/emcee Jelal Huyler performs his work. A short conversation on performance poetics with guests to follow), South College W245

1:00-2:30pm - COMMUNITY WORKSHOPS with Edie Meidav and Ocean Vuong (register in advance below).  Edie Meidav workshop will be in South College W365; Ocean Vuong's workshop will be in South College E370.

1:45-2:45 - AWARD-WINNING WESTERN MASS. MAGAZINES: Top editors from renowned local literary magazines The Common, jubilat, Meridians, and The Massachusetts Review discuss what they're looking for, how to submit to literary magazines, and the behind-the-scenes editorial process. Bring questions! Moderated by Jennifer Acker and featuring Leslie Marie Aguilar, John GoodhueJim Hicks, and others.  South College E241

3:00pm - AGENT & BOOK EDITORS PANEL with Victory Matsui (One World), Alexa Stark (Trident Media), and Rebecca Wolff (Fence Books) and moderated by Jane Dykema, South College W245

4:30pm - READING BY UMASS MFA ALUMNI: Gabriel Bump, Stella Corso, Madeline ffitch, and Wendy Xu, Memorial Hall

5:30pm - RECEPTION, Memorial Hall

7:30pm - LIVE LIT READING, Amherst Books, 8 Main St., Amherst

Sunday, April 8

3pm - CHAPBOOK RELEASE READING with Ish Klein ("Every Animal Is Your Mother"), Colleen Louise Barry ("Poultry In Motion"), Kate Lindroos ("The Costume of a Hunter"), and Scott Jacobs ("Green Colorless Ideas Are Sleeping Furiously") hosted by Factory Hollow Press, Amherst Books, 8 Main St., Amherst

Presenters & Exhibitors


Journal & Book Fair Exhibitors

  • Amherst Books
  • Bateau Press
  • Black Ocean
  • Big Big Wednesday
  • Calamari
  • Cosmonauts Avenue
  • Emily Dickinson Museum
  • Factory Hollow Press
  • Fence & Fence Books
  • jubilat
  • Juniper Summer Institute
  • Levellers Press
  • Massachusetts Review
  • Meridians
  • Mount Analogue
  • Noo Journal/Magic Helicopter Press
  • Perugia
  • Post Road Magazine
  • Radius
  • Small Beer Press
  • Siglio Press
  • St. Petersburg Review
  • Straw Dog Writers Guild
  • The Common
  • University of Massachusetts Press
  • Wakefield Press

Community Workshops

Prose: Start (or Deepen) Your Novel with Edie Meidav - Have you always wanted to write a novel? Do you have a beautiful mess of pages forgotten in a top drawer? What have you feared or longed for? In this 90-minute class for writers apprentice to advanced, we will question assumptions, find ways to locate centers of gravity, discuss useful frameworks, and leave with a sense of a scaffolding for your continued work. Bring an unfancy notebook, three good pencils, and your alert hunger for your own aesthetic truth. One hope for this community workshop is that a writing cluster of like-minded people to support your continued work may emerge. Location: South College W365

Poetry: Quiet as Creative Force: Dismantling the Language of Writer's Block and the Materiality of Composition with Ocean Vuong - This lecture and workshop aims to examine the notion of “writer’s block” as a construct stemming from capitalistic anxieties with production—and how arbitrary expectations “to produce” can cause shame, guilt, and self-deficiencies that stunt and shuns the creative mind. We will seek and investigate new and more forgiving modes of composition found in the rich and potent power of elongated listening and meditation on language. Ultimately, we will redefine for ourselves a more idiosyncratic definition of “work” that resists quantification and materiality, a bridge where creativity and daily living become mutually nourishing forces.  WORKSHOP IS CLOSED.

To request a space in the Prose Workshop with Edie Meidav, write with subject heading NOVEL. Enrollment will be on a first-come, first-served basis and is limited to 15 people. You must be 18+. We will notify you of your acceptance into the workshop. 

Pitching Practice

Whether you are talking to agents or editors, you will have to develop a pithy and engaging way to describe your work.  Developing your pitch, short enough to be conveyed in an elevator ride, is critical. It’s also totally nerve wracking. Sign up at the UMass Press booth for brief conversations with the acquisitions staff from Matt Becker and Mary Dougherty.  They will listen to your pitch and offer constructive advice and feedback.  If you’d like, you can even try the pitch a second time.  It is practice, after all.  The editors will also answer questions and offer suggestions on how to find the right publisher for you. Please note, our goal is to give you the opportunity to practice this critical skill and to point you towards resources.  We will not be able to offer feedback on manuscript or written proposals.

About Presenters

Jennifer AckerJennifer Acker is founder and editor-in-chief of The Common. Her short stories, essays, translations and reviews are forthcoming from, or have appeared in, Amazon Original Stories, The Washington Postn+1Harper’s and Ploughshares, among other places. She has an M.F.A. in fiction and literature from the Bennington Writing Seminars and teaches literature and editing at Amherst. Her debut novel, The Limits of the World, will be published in fall 2019.

Leslie Marie AguilarLeslie Marie Aguilar originally hails from the heartland of Texas. She received her MFA from Indiana University, where she served as the Poetry Editor of Indiana Review. Her work has been supported by the National Society of Arts and Letters and the Fine Arts Work Center. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Callaloo, Hobart, Ninth Letter, Rattle, Sonora Review, and Washington Square Review among others. She is the author of Mesquite Manual (New Delta Review, 2015), and currently works as the Editorial Assistant for Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, at Smith College.

Shastri Akella worked at a street theater troupe and at Google for five years and then earned his MFA in fiction at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Guernica, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, The Common,  World Literature Today, LA Review of Books, Danse Macabre, and European Stages, among other places. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature. His novel, written during his MFA years, a queer love story between an Indian street theater actor and an English musician, is currently on the market.

Matt Becker has been Executive Editor at UMass Press since 2015. He was previously senior acquisitions editor at the University of Nevada Press and also worked at Wayne State University Press and the Minnesota Historical Society Press. He holds a PhD in American studies from the University of Minnesota. Matt is interested in acquiring scholarly manuscripts in all areas of American history and society, including those with an interdisciplinary or transnational approach, ranging from popular culture to education reform to critical biography, especially projects that deal with social justice and equity. He also acquires regional trade titles on New England topics. He is the in-house editor for the series Culture, Politics, and the Cold War; Public History in Historical Perspective; and Science/Technology/Culture. With all of his projects, he seeks authors who can write in a style accessible to a wide readership.

Gabriel BumpGabriel Bump is from South Shore, Chicago. His nonfiction and fiction has appeared in SLAM Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue, Big Big Wednesday, Springhouse Journal, and Ren Quarterly. He won Summer Literary Seminar's 2015 Flash Fiction Prize and the 2016 Deborah Slosberg Memorial Award in Fiction. Gabriel received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2017. His first two novels, Everywhere You Don't Belong and The New Naturals, are forthcoming from Algonquin Books.

Stella CorsoStella Corso lives in Brooklyn, NY, and is the author of TANTRUM, chosen by Douglas Kearney as winner of the 2016 Black Box Prize from Rescue Press. She is a founding member of the Connecticut River Valley Poets' Theater (CRVPT) and a graduate of the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at UMass Amherst.

Mary Dougherty, Director of the University of Massachusetts Press, has acquired textbooks, monographs, and books of general interest. She is a voracious reader with eclectic tastes that include contemporary fiction, 19th century fiction, current non-fiction, particularly on politics and history, and poetry. Before coming to Amherst, she lived in Boston and Portland, Maine, and worked for Bedford/St. Martin’s.

David FeinsteinDavid Feinstein is the author of the chapbook Tarantula (Factory Hollow Press). His poems have appeared in The Atlas Review, Jellyfish, jubilat, Tin House, and Best American Poetry 2017. He currently works as an educator at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, and is a member of the Connecticut River Valley Poets Theatre.

Madeline ffitchMadeline ffitch writes and organizes in Appalachian Ohio. She was a founding member of the punk theater company, The Missoula Oblongata, and is the author of the story collection, Valparaiso, Round the Horn. Her writing can be found at Tin House, Guernica, Electric Literature, and . Her first novel, a story about snakes, families, work, fighting, and elves, is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in Spring 2019.

John GoodhueJohn Goodhue is an MFA candidate at University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he teaches English composition and serves as assistant editor for jubilat.

Jim HicksJim Hicks is executive editor of the Massachusetts Review. He has also served as chair and graduate program director of Comparative Literature at UMass, Amherst. His translations include short pieces by Italo Calvino, Ananda Devi, Semezdin Mehmedinović, Juan José Saer, Izet Sarajlić, Antonio Tabucchi, and several longer works by Erri De Luca. His Lessons from Sarajevo: A War Stories Primer was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2013.

Jelal HuylerJelal Huyler (pronounced, “High - Ler”) is an Oakland, CA. born Poet and EMCEE. This means that he is into The Dope. Jelal is into The Dope so much he made it his primary means of expression. He is also into sexual liberation, Freedom (same thing), and baking yams. Sometimes also he is into poems and also sometimes reading poems and/or speaking poems. Sometimes also he is into beating his tired heartHead rhythmically against a microphone. Sometimes Jelal is quiet. These are his favorite times. Jelal has published various chapbooks and one very tiny book of poems called Fractals with TheGorillaPress. Also, he is featured in a small variety of poetry/lit journals/collections. Also, his voice and work are featured in two documentaries, 3 studio albums, innumerable fyrelit-tracks, and on YouTube.

Sarah Ladipo ManyikaSarah Ladipo Manyika was raised in Nigeria and has lived in Kenya, France, and England. She has a doctorate from UC Berkeley. Her second novel, Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun (2016), has been described as “gorgeous and finely crafted…. [It] shows ordinary people at their best.” Noting the paucity of stories about older women who have lived colorful lives, especially African women, Sarah says, “When I cannot find stories that I’d like to read, I try writing them for myself.” Sarah is currently Books Editor at

Sally Wen MaoSally Wen Mao is the author of Mad Honey Symposium (Alice James Books, 2014). Her second book, Oculus, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2019. Her work has won a 2017 Pushcart Prize and is published or forthcoming in A Public Space, Poetry, Black Warrior Review, Guernica, The Missouri Review, Tin House, The Best of the Net 2014 and The Best American Poetry 2013, among others. The recipient of fellowships and scholarships from Kundiman, the New York Public Library Cullman Center, and Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Mao holds an M.F.A. from Cornell University. She is the 2017-2018 Jenny McKean Writer in Washington at the George Washington University.

Victory MatsuiVictory Matsui is an editor at One World, where they publish fiction and literary nonfiction, including works by Thi Bui, Riva Lehrer, Jordy Rosenberg, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin. They began their publishing career at Little, Brown and Company, where they worked with a range of #1 New York Times bestselling and prize-winning writers, including Donna Tartt, Kevin Powers, J.K. Rowling, David Foster Wallace, and James Patterson. Victory co-facilitates the People of Color Sangha and the Accessibility Committee at the Brooklyn Zen Center, and is a founding member of Yellow Brown Power Hour, a radical Asian American performance group/hot pot club. A native New Yorker, they live in Brooklyn.

Edie MeidavEdie Meidav is the author of Kingdom of the Young (2017, Sarabande); Lola, California (Farrar Straus, 2011/12); Crawl Space (Farrar Straus, 2006/7); The Far Field: A Novel of Ceylon (Houghton, Mifflin, 2000/1).  Honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, Howard Foundation, Whiting Foundation, the Kafka Prize for Best Novel by an American Woman, the Bard Fiction Prize for a writer under 40, creative Fulbrights for work in Sri Lanka and Cyprus, and residencies at Yaddo, Macdowell, Fundacion Valparaiso, Vermont Studio Center and elsewhere. Her work has been called an editors’ pick by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and other sites. She has served as a judge for Yaddo, the PEN/Bingham first novel award, the NEA, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and as an editor for Fifth Wednesday Journal as well as a contributing editor at the International Literary Quarterly, while continuing as a senior editor forConjunctions. She has taught or spoken at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley in California, the Home for Cooperation in Cyprus, and elsewhere. Currently, with MFA writers, she is working on creating the UMass MFA Radio Project, working with New England Public Radio and the Holyoke Care Center to create bridges between MFA writers and the voices of underserved communities.

Alexa StarkAlexa Stark is a literary agent at Trident Media Group, where she represents a range of literary and upmarket fiction as well as nonfiction.  In fiction, she is particularly drawn to literary debuts with a unique voice and perspective, character-driven suspense and thrillers, stories about dysfunctional friendships and families, fiction that delves into the surreal, and select YA. In nonfiction, she is drawn to narrative nonfiction, cultural criticism, voice-driven essay collections, popular science, psychology, and women’s issues.  Raised in New York City, Alexa earned her B.A. in Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. 

Ocean Vuong Poet and essayist Ocean Vuong is the author of the best-selling, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, winner of the Whiting Award, finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016. A Ruth Lilly fellow from the Poetry Foundation, his honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, The Elizabeth George Foundation, The Academy of American Poets, and the Pushcart Prize.

Vuong's writings have been featured in The AtlanticThe NationNew RepublicThe New YorkerThe New York TimesThe Village Voice, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. Selected by Foreign Policy magazine as a 2016 100 Leading Global Thinker, alongside Hillary Clinton, Ban Ki-Moon and Warsan Shire, Ocean was also named by BuzzFeed Books as one of “32 Essential Asian American Writers” and has been profiled on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” PBS NewsHour, Teen VogueVICEThe Fantastic Man, and The New Yorker.

Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he immigrated to the US at the age of two as a child refugee. He teaches in the MFA Program at UMass Amherst.


Rebecca WolffRebecca Wolff is the editor of Fence and Fence Books and is a fellow at the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany. She is a graduate of U-Mass Amherst and the Iowa Writers Workshop. She is the author of four books of poems, including One Morning-- from Wave Books, and a novel, The Beginners (Riverhead). She lives in Hudson, NY.

Wendy XuWendy Xu is most recently the author of Phrasis (Fence, 2017), named one of the 10 Best Poetry Books of 2017 by The New York Times Book Review. The recipient of a 2014 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, Boston Review, Poetry, A Public Space, BOMB, and widely elsewhere. Born in Shandong, China, in 1987, she lives in Brooklyn, and serves as poetry editor forHyperallergic. Xu teaches at the New School and in the Creative Writing MFA Program at Columbia University.

Inaugurated in 2001 as the BigSmallPressFest, the Juniper Literary Festival showcases exciting new writing and explores issues vital to the literary arts, helping to ensure their vitality, plurality, and accessibility. The Juniper Festival is a program of the University of Massachusetts Amherst MFA Program for Poets and Writers’ Juniper Initiative and made possible with generous support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the University of Massachusetts Amherst Arts Council, College of Humanities & Fine Arts, Graduate School, and Office of the Provost.


Logo: Mass Cultural Council


Logo: Juniper Writing Program Logo: Mass Review Logo: Radius MFA