Creative Writing Faculty
Students work closely with outstanding writers to strengthen their craft, develop their literary aesthetics, and enrich their understanding of existing traditions.
Susann Cokal (ON LEAVE) is the author of the novels The Kingdom of Little Wounds (winner of a silver medal in the American Library Association’s Printz Award series), Mirabilis, and Breath and Bones, and of short stories and essays featured in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, The Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Gargoyle. Her articles and reviews about literature, film, and television have appeared in scholarly journals and anthologies including Critique, Style, French Forum, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Scandinavian Studies, Considering Aaron Sorkin, Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, POP-porn, and The Philosophy of Horror, and in The New York Times Book Review. A founder and editor of the nonfiction journal Broad Street, she holds a PhD in creative writing from SUNY Binghamton and a PhD in comparative literature from the University of California, Berkeley. Before coming to VCU, she taught at California.
Gregory Donovan is the author of the poetry collections Torn from the Sun (Red Hen Press, 2015), given a starred review by Library Journal and named to its 2015 list of “Exciting New Works for National Poetry Month and Beyond” as well as being selected as a finalist for the Julie Suk Award from Jacar Press, and Calling His Children Home, winner of the Devins Award from the University of Missouri Press. In addition to poetry, essays, translations, and fiction published in The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, diode, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Copper Nickel, TriQuarterly, and many other journals, his poems have been collected in a number of anthologies, including The Devins Award Poetry Anthology and Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets of Virginia. He has won the Robert Penn Warren prize sponsored by New England Writers and judged by Rosanna Warren, as well as grants and fellowships from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Ucross Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. With the writer/director Michele Poulos, he is a producer of A Late Style of Fire, the feature-length documentary film on the life and work of the poet Larry Levis with original soundtrack composed by Iron & Wine which premiered in 2016 at the Mill Valley Film Festival in California as well as being selected for seven more film festivals and featured in special screenings at poetry festivals and universities across the country. Donovan has often served as a visiting writer and guest faculty member for summer conferences such as the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Chautauqua Writers’ Center, the Chesapeake Writers Conference, the Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers’ Conference, the University of Tampa MFA Program, and the Other Words Conference of the Florida Literary Arts Coalition. He also has been a faculty member with VCU study abroad programs in Scotland and most recently in Peru. Donovan is the director of the Levis Reading Prize as well as the Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Prize, and he is Senior Editor of Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts. For additional information, his author website is: http://www.gregoryedonovan.com.
Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas graduated with both a creative nonfiction writing and a literary translation MFA from the University of Iowa. She is the author of Drown Sever Sing (Anomalous Press, 2015) and Don’t Come Back (Mad River Books, an imprint of the Ohio State University Press, 2017). Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry and translation work has been featured in journals including The Bellingham Review, The Normal School, Fourth Genre, Brevity and The Sunday Rumpus among others. She won the Best of the Net, the Iron Horse Review’s "Discovered Voices Award," has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes and is a Rona Jaffe fellow. She moved from Colombia to China to Columbus to Richmond. She is Colombian.
Kathleen Graber is the author of two collections of poetry, Correspondence (Saturnalia Books, 2006) and The Eternal City (Princeton University Press, 2010), which was finalist for the National Book Award, The National Book Critics Circle Award, and the winner of the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Poetry. She is the recipient of fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has also been suppoprted by a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University and an Amy Lowell Travelling Scholar. Her third collection of poems, The Rive Twice, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press.
Sonja Livingston latest book, Ladies Night at the Dreamland, has been called “a literary search and rescue” that combines imagination and research to conjure the lives of extraordinary and often overlooked historical women. She’s the author of the award-winning memoirs Queen of the Fall and Ghostbread (winner of the AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction) and recent essays in Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, Fourth Genre, Essay Daily, and The Rumpus. Her work is widely anthologized in texts on writing and craft, including in Waveform: Twenty-First Century Essays by Women, Brief Encounters, Short Takes, Poverty & Privilege:A Reader, and others. Sonja’s nonfiction writing has received fellowships from the New York State Foundation for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Deming Fund, as well as awards from Arts & Letters, the Iowa Review, and AWP. Sonja earned an MFA from the University of New Orleans and an M.S. Ed. from SUNY Brockport. Before coming to VCU, she taught at the MFA Program in University of Memphis. She’s also taught for Writing Workshops Abroad in Edinburgh, San Miguel de Allende, and, most recently, in Cork. For more information, visit
Clint McCown is the author of the novels Haints, The Weatherman, War Memorials, and The Member-Guest, as well as the collections of poetry Dead Languages, Wind Over Water, Sidetracks, Total Balance Farm and The Dictionary of Unspellable Noises: New & Selected Poems, 1975-2018 (forthcoming). Several of his plays have been produced, and he has worked as a screenwriter for Warner Bros. and as a creative consultant for HBO television. As a broadcast journalist he received an Associated Press Award for Documentary Excellence for his investigations of organized crime. He has also toured as a principal actor with the National Shakespeare Company. He is the only writer to have twice won the American Fiction Prize; he has also received the Society of Midland Authors Award, the S. Mariella Gable Prize, the Germaine Breé Book Award, the Midwest Book Award, a Distinction in Literature citation from the Wisconsin Library Association, and a Discover Great Writers designation from Barnes & Noble. His stories, essays, and poems have appeared widely. He has been a contributing editor to a dozen national literary magazines and was the founding editor of the Beloit Fiction Journal, which he published for twenty years.
Hanna Pylväinen is the author of We Sinners, a novel, which received the Whiting Writers’ Award and the Balcones Fiction Prize. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and the Wall Street Journal. She graduated summa cum laude from Mount Holyoke College, and received her MFA from the University of Michigan. She is the recipient of residencies at The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, and fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the University of Michigan, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Princeton University. She is working on her second novel, Drum Time.
David Wojahn was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1953, and educated at the University of Minnesota and the University of Arizona. His first collection, Icehouse Lights, was chosen by Richard Hugo as a winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, and published in 1982. The collection was also the winner of the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Book Award. His second collection, Glassworks, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1987, and was awarded the Society of Midland Authors’ Award for best volume of poetry to be published during that year. Pittsburgh is also the publisher of four of his subsequent books, Mystery Train (1990), Late Empire (1994), The Falling Hour (1997) and Spirit Cabinet (2002). Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982–2004, published by Pittsburgh in 2006, was a named finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of the O. B. Hardison Award from the Folger Shakespeare Library. He is also the author of a collection of essays on contemporary poetry, Strange Good Fortune (University of Arkansas Press, 2001), editor (with Jack Myers) of A Profile of 20th Century American Poetry (Southern Illinois University Press, 1991), and editor of two posthumous collections of Lynda Hull’s poetry, The Only World (HarperCollins, 1995) and Collected Poems (Graywolf, 2006). A new volume of his essays on poetry, From the Valley of Making, will appear in 2015 from the University of Michigan Press. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Virginia, Illinois and Indiana Councils for the Arts, and in 1987–88 was the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholar. He has taught at a number of institutions, among them Indiana University, the University of Chicago, the University of Houston, the University of Alabama, and the University of New Orleans. He is presently Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, and is also a member of the program faculty of the MFA in Writing Program of Vermont College of the Fine Arts. His newest collection, World Tree, was published by Pittsburgh in the 2011, and was awarded the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Library of Virginia Book Award in Poetry, and the Poets’ Prize.