The University of Massachusetts Amherst
Juniper Staff and Teachers

Juniper Staff


The enthusiasm, knowledge, and sensitivity of our staff is part of what makes Juniper great. They make it fun and inclusive, bringing their own curiosity and exploratory nature as writers into the mix. In non-pandemic times, staff develop, lead, and 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. They've collaborated to create the new online program's schedule and operations, and work together to supplement the basic curricula with write-alongs, write-ins and writing challenges. They work year-round to shepherd the Juniper experience into being. Please don't hesitate to reach out to them.

Juniper staff receiving roses in the Old Chapel




Betsy Wheeler author photo

Betsy Wheeler, Director (she/her)

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 Tupelo Quarterly, Windfall Room, The Journal, Bat City Review, Better, MiPoesias, Forklift Ohio and elsewhere. She lives with her wife and daughter in Amherst, MA. 



Franchie Viaud photoFranchesca Viaud, Program Assistant  (she/her)

Franchesca Viaud holds a B.A. in English Literature from Boston University and is currently enrolled in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at UMass Amherst, where she also teaches critical writing.



Riley Jones, Program Assistant (she/her)

Riley Jones is a current poetry candidate in the UMass Amherst MFA for poets and writers. She is from a very small town in Massachusetts and now lives in Northampton, a slightly larger town in Western Massachusetts. She has been working for the Juniper Institute in various capacities for the last five years. She likes rivers, dried flowers, and empty vases. One day she'd like to teach poetry to children in a large grass field.




Porter Lunceford, Program Assistant (he/him and they/them)Porter Lunceford photo

Porter Lunceford is a poet and playwright from Northern Utah. Porter holds a BA in English with a Creative Writing emphasis from Weber State University and is an MFA candidate in poetry at UMass Amherst. Porter has written children’s musicals with their partner, Kyle, and the pair currently live in Northampton, MA with their dog.




Saffron Turner, Administrative Assistant (they/them)Saffron Turner photo

Saffron is an undergraduate junior transfer student majoring in sociology. They received an Associate of Arts degree in Sociology from Santa Fe College, Gainesville, FL. Their research interest is disability studies with a focus on autistic self-advocacy. Saffron is a writer and previously took poetry workshops at Hampshire College. After a prolonged sojourn in their home state of Florida, Saffron now resides in Northampton, MA with their two cats.

Noy Holland, Creative Director and Co-founder (she/her)Noy Holland author photo

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.

Jeff Parker Author Photo

Jeff Parker, Creative Director (he/him)

Jeff Parker is the author of the nonfiction book Where Bears Roam the Streets:  A Russian Journal (Harper Collins), the novel Ovenman (Tin House), and the short story collection The Taste of Penny (Dzanc).  With Pasha Malla, he co-assembled the book of found sports poetry Erratic Fire, Erratic Passion (Featherproof), and with Annie Liontas he edited A Manner of Being: Writers on Their Mentors (UMass Press).  His short fiction and nonfiction have been published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading, Ploughshares, Tin House, The Walrus, and many others. With Mikhail Iossel he co-edited two volumes of contemporary Russian prose in translation, Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia (Tin House) and Amerika:  Russian Writers View the United States (Dalkey Archive).  He also co-translated the novel Sankya by Zakhar Prilepin from the Russian.  He has taught at Eastern Michigan University, the University of Toronto, the Russian State University for the Humanities, and the University of Tampa, and he currently teaches in the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  He is the cofounder and Director of the DISQUIET International Literary Program in Lisbon, Portugal.  Read more about Professor Parker's work at

Jennifer Jacobson author photoJennifer Jacobson, Director of Community Engagement & Alumni Relations (she/her)

Jennifer Jacobson is Director of Community Engagement & Alumni Relations for the MFA for Poets & Writers at UMass Amherst and the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts and Action. 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.

Dara Wier author photoDara Wier, Co-founder (she/her)

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.