The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Creative Writing Instructors

Creative Writing Instructors for the 2019 institute:

Sarah Coates author photo

Sarah Coates

Sarah Coates has an MFA in Metalsmithing, but never really touched metal. Now they're a first-year MFA student at UMass. They make art. They also write. It's often very shiny and about that uncomfortable schism between adulthood and childhood. Sarah wrote poorly as a kid. Their father is a reporter, their mother used to be one too. They would skewer Sarah's long-winded prose with hot pokers and then roast it over a fire. Writing is more fun now.

Ell Davis author photo

Ell Davis

Ell Davis is a writer and musician from Columbus, Ohio. She helps to create a local poetry community newsletter called The Casual Eye. 

Astha author photo

Astha Gupta

Astha Gupta either writes fiction or dreams of traveling the whole world. She is a second-year MFA student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a teacher in The Writing Program.

JR author photo

JR Mahung

JR Mahung (He/They) is a Belizean-American poet from the South Side of Chicago. He loves his grandmother very much. JR helps with coaching Smith College's poetry slam team, organizing the Louder than a Bomb MA youth poetry slam and The Plantain Collection, a poetry reading and conversation series for writers of diaspora. Their second collection of poems "Since When He Have Wings" is available on Pizza Pi Press. JR is pictured with their cat nicknamed The Cat Frank Ocean, or The CFO for short.

Hind MariHind Mari

Hind Mari is the director of the Women of Color Leadership Network at the Center for Women & Community. Her interests and expertise include women’s empowerment and advocacy work, with emphasis on understanding the intersections of our social identities; equity and inclusion; cross-cultural communication; conflict resolution; and leadership training. She has a doctorate in Education from UMass. Hind enjoys reading, creative writing, nature and cooking. 

Yvonne MendezYvonne Mendez

Yvonne Mendez has been teaching Digital Storytelling professionally since 2009. She has taught workshops throughout the U.S to youth and adults. She trained with, and currently works as a consultant for StoryCenter in Berkeley, CA. In September 2015, Yvonne helped organize the Sixth International Digital Storytelling Conference held at Smith College and at UMass Amherst. She is an advocate for individual empowerment, cultural and social equity, personal health and wellbeing.

Emilie author photograph

Emilie Menzel

Emilie Menzel is an Atlantan poet, writer, educator, and creative community builder, and works to be so in ways that uncover both creative and analytical properties of language. She's the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Nevin Prize and the Florence Annette Wing Memorial Prize for Lyric Poetry, a reader for jubilat, co-founder of the oh-so-serious Casual Eye, and currently completing the final year of her MFA in poetry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Things Emilie's been thinking about a lot lately: the language of "childishness" (e.g. fables, fairy tales), the language of haunting, how communities build around creativity, when the new Sabrina season will come out, which ice cream flavor to get at Northampton's Herrell's. Follow her work on instagram @emilieideas.

Raquel author photo

Raquel Perez de Alderete

Raquel loves animals and nature and doesn't believe in genre. When she's not writing in a corner of her extremely haunted house, she's probably hiking, dancing, or teaching people about the environment. 

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Jay Ritchie

Jay Ritchie is the author of the poetry collection Cheer Up, Jay Ritchie (Coach House Books, 2017). He has won the Skolfield/Goeckel Award for Poetry as well as the Deborah Slosberg Memorial Award for Fiction at UMass Amherst. His work has appeared in Powder Keg, The Puritan, Spork, Glittermob, on CBC Radio, and been performed by Milk & Bone for the Phi Centre in Montreal. Follow him online @jaywritchie. 

Ann Ward photograph

Roman Sanchez

Roman Sanchez is a Chicano writer, artist, and researcher-in-training at UMass Amherst. He is interested in studying and making art about climate change and how it affects communities of color in the United States. He is writing a novel about Latina workers in a utopian future. He is also working in digital art and making his first documentary on the cooperative movement in Massachusetts. He lives with his wife and two daughters in


Alex Terrell Alex author photo               

Alex Terrell is a writer and make of worlds. Her interests include Blackness and Black bodies in magical realism, genre fiction and strange/weird fiction. She would like you all to know she is one of the Dora Milaje who protect the king in Black Panther, she's a Gryffindor, though with some Ravenclaw mixed in, and she is House Stark.


lena author photoLena Tsykynovska

Lena Tsykynovska is a poet from Odessa Ukraine and Newton, MA. She is a third-year in the University of Massachusetts MFA program.





 Rebecca ValleyRebecca author photo

Rebecca Valley is a poet, essayist, and second-year MFA candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She grew up in Saint Albans, Vermont but spent the last few years of her life in Olympia, Washington, where she worked as a middle school librarian. Her peoms and nonfiction have been published in Black Warrior Review, Rattle, ELKE: a little journal, and elsewhere. Rebecca currently works as a Collge Writing instructor at UMass, and serves as the editor-in-chief of Drizzle Review, a book review site with a focus on minority authors and books in translation. Lately, she's been spending a lot of time reading and writing about animals.