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Juniper Staff and Teachers

The enthusiasm, knowledge, and sensitivity of our staff is part of what makes Juniper great. Our writing community includes our Visiting Poets and Writers, Creative Writing Instructors, and Program Assistants; they make it fun and inclusive, bringing their own curiosity and exploratory nature as writers into the mix. Staff participate in carefully designed semester-long trainings which emphasize creative writing pedagogy, developing an interactive classroom, mentoring in a residence-life environment, and strategies for supporting students away from home. Creative Writing Instructors design curricula especially for the Institute setting. Each workshop group is assigned a Program Assistant (PA)—an advanced UMass undergraduate studying the literary arts.


Juniper Staff

Our staff work year-round to shepherd the Juniper experience into being. We're always here for your questions.

Noy Holland Author Photo

Noy Holland, Co-founder

Noy Holland’s I Was Trying to Describe What It Feels Like: New and Selected Stories was published by Counterpoint in January 2017. Her debut novel, Bird (Counterpoint), appeared in 2015, to great critical acclaim. Holland’s collections of short fiction and novellas include Swim for the Little One First (FC2), What Begins with Bird (FC2), and The Spectacle of the Body (Knopf). She has published work in The Kenyon Review, Antioch, Conjunctions, The Quarterly, Glimmer Train, Electric Literature, Publisher’s Weekly, The Believer, NOON, and New York Tyrant, among others. She was a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council award for artistic merit and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She has taught for many years in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts. Visit her author website, read an interview at The American Reader, and listen to her read from her novel Bird at Bard College.

Dara Wier author photo

Dara Wier, Co-founder

Dara Wier's newest book of poems in the still of the night was released in fall 2017 from Wave Books, which has been her publisher since the book length poem Reverse Rapture. In 2014, The Believer named You Good Thing a reader's choice book of the year. Her poems have been awarded the American Poetry Review’s Jerome Shestack Prize, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Award, and the San Francisco Poetry Center's Book of the Year Award; are included in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies; limited editions include (X IN FIX) and the big broadside The Usual Ratio of Banality To Wonder from RainTaxi’s brainstorm series, A Civilian's Diary of the War Years from The Song Cave, and with James Tate, The Lost Epic of Arthur Davidson Ficke, the Author’s Annotations, Commentary, and Notes of Reference for a Millennium’s Teardrop from Waiting for Godot Books. Recent poems can be found in Boston Review, Conduit, Volt, Plume, Poor Claudia, Bat City Review, Divine Magnet, Epiphany, LITERATURA, Hyperallergic, and elsewhere. She's been a poet-in-residence at the University of Montana, University of Texas, Emory University and the University of Utah; she was the 2005 Louis Rubin chair at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia and is a member of the poetry faculty of the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is a publisher and editor of the small independent press factory hollow press, and the literary magazine jubilat. Along with Noy Holland she co-founded the Juniper Initiative for literary arts and action and the Juniper Summer Writing Institute. Dara Wier was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. She writes the ongoing series about reading and writing INSIDE UNDIVIDED.

Jennifer Jacobson author photoJennifer Jacobson, Director 

Jennifer Jacobson is Director of the Juniper Summer Writing Institute and the Juniper Institute for Young Writers. She is also Associate Director of the MFA for Poets and Writers at UMass Amherst. She founded the nonprofit organization When Children Save the Day to unite language arts and social action. Her work has been honored with a Creative Teaching Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the National Storytelling Network’s Brimstone Award for transformative community projects, along with support from the Solidago Foundation and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. Her short story “Heat” received an honorable mention from Glimmer Train, and “Trouble and Bones” was a Tennessee Williams Festival’s Fiction contest finalist. Jennifer teaches creative writing at Smith College’s Young Women’s Writing Workshop, and with Voices from Inside, created the Family Storybook Project curriculum for incarcerated women and their children.

Betsy Wheeler author photo

Betsy Wheeler, Managing Director

Betsy Wheeler is the author of the poetry collection Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room and the poetry chapbooks Start Here and Mental Detours. She earned her MFA in poetry at The Ohio State University in 2005, and held the Stadler Fellowship at Bucknell University from 2005-2007. Her poems have appeared in publications including Tupelo Quarterly, The Journal, Bat City Review, Better, MiPoesias, Forklift Ohio, and Octopus. She lives with her wife and daughter in Northampton, MA. Read some poems in Tupelo Quarterly and a review of her book Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room from Boston Review.

Lori Shine author photo

Lori Shine, Project Manager

Lori Shine received her MFA from UMass Amherst in 2004. Her poems have appeared in 6x6, APR, Boston Review, New American Writing, Tin House and other magazines, and in the chapbook Coming Down in White, with artwork by Kathranne Knight. For twelve years she worked as a managing editor to independent publishers including Wave Books and Black Balloon. She is co-publisher of Correspondence Publishing and works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant to publishers and literary arts organizations.

Alexandra Itzi author photograph

Alexandra Itzi, JIYW Staff Coordinator & Lead Trainer

Alexandra Itzi never gets any sun, as she spends most of her time writing and playing video games with the shades drawn. She has a Bachelors and Masters Degree in English from ENMU and is a MFA candidate in Fiction at UMass Amherst, where she teaches composition and creative writing. She writes horror/surrealist fiction, nonfiction, and the occasionally poorly penned poem; she’s currently at work on a Grimdark fantasy novel. See her work in Cosmonaut’s Avenue, El Portal, and Volt.

Elizabeth Mikesch author photo

Elizabeth Mikesch, Director’s Assistant

Elizabeth Mikesch is an MFA candidate in fiction at UMass Amherst. Her collection of short stories Niceties: Aural Ardor, Pardon Me was published by Calamari Archive in 2014. In 2015, she wrote and performed a minivan opera, How Could I Speak Except Timidly Like This? in honor of Clarice Lispector. Her work has appeared in BOMB, The Believer, Unsaid, Sleepingfish, and Caketrain.

James Thomson author photograph

James Thomson, Director’s Assistant

Jamie is a poet who grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts. He spent the last few years living in Oregon. He is in his first year in UMass Amherst’s MFA program for poets and writers, and he also teaches in the Writing Program.

McKayla Lovering photograph

McKayla Lovering, Administrative Assistant

McKayla Lovering is an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying English. She is from a lot of places, but most recently Eugene, Oregon, where there are endless adventures to find. Short fiction is where she makes her home as both a reader and a writer. Her favorite phrase is ‘cool beans,’ and she uses it as a substitute in her everyday life for almost everything.