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 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 Polytechnic State University. For more information, see: www.susanncokal.net.
Tom De Haven is the author of the novels, Freaks’ Amour, Jersey Luck, Funny Papers, Derby Dugan’s Depression Funnies, Dugan Under Ground, and It’s Superman! His non-fiction book, Our Hero: Superman on Earth, was published in 2010, as was Richmond Noir, which he co-edited with Brian Castleberry and Andrew Blossom. His previously published works also include various adult novels, two graphic novels, and other innovative fiction projects (his current novel, King Touey, is being serialized at Café Pinfold). earlier works include a collection of three related novellas, Sunburn Lake; and the three-novel Chronicle of the King’s Tramp series: Walker of Worlds, The End-of-Everything Man, and The Last Human. De Haven has a richly varied experience as a writer, having worked as a freelance journalist, an editor, and a film and television scriptwriter. His book reviews appear regularly in Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times Book Review. His awards include a fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and he has twice won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Before joining VCU’s faculty, De Haven taught at Rutgers and Hofstra University. For the latest information, check out his website.
Gregory Donovan is the author of the poetry collections Torn from the Sun (Red Hen Press, 2015) and Calling His Children Home, winner of the Devins Award from the University of Missouri Press, as well as poetry, essays, translations, and fiction published in The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, diode, Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Gulf Coast, Copper Nickel, TriQuarterly, and many other journals, as well as poems collected in a number of anthologies, including The Devins Award Poetry Anthology, Fives: Fifty Poems by Serbian and American Poets, 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, a feature-length documentary on the life and work of the poet Larry Levis with original soundtrack composed by Iron & Wine, premiering in 2016. 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 River Pretty Writers Retreat, the University of Tampa MFA Program Summer Residency, and the Other Words Conference of the Florida Literary Arts Coalition. He also has worked with VCU study abroad programs in Scotland and most recently in Peru. Donovan is Senior Editor of Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts. For additional information, his author website is: http://www.gregoryedonovan.com.
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 and The Guggenheim Foundation. She was the 2007 Hodder Fellow in Poetry at Princeton University and the 2008 Amy Lowell Travelling Scholar. New poems have appeared recently in The American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, and The New Republic.
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, and Sidetracks. 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.
It is with great sadness that we report the loss of colleague Claudia Emerson,who passed away December 4th, 2014 after a courageous battle with cancer.
Claudia Emerson was awarded the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her book Late Wife: Poems(Louisiana State University Press, 2005). She is also the author of the poetry collections Pharaoh, Pharaoh; Pinion: An Elegy; Figure Studies, and Secure the Shadow (Louisiana State University Press, 1997, 2002, 2008, and 2012 respectively), and a forthcoming collection, The Opposite House, also from Louisiana State University Press. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Southern Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, New England Review, and other journals. They have been anthologized, among other places, in Buck and Wing: Southern Poetry at 2000; Strongly Spent: 50 Years of Shenandoah Poetry; and Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets of Virginia. Emerson is the recipient of a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, the Donald Justice Award for Poetry from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Prior to coming to VCU, she was Professor of English and Arrington Distinguished Chair in Poetry at The University of Mary Washington.
Clint McCown, Director of Creative Writing
Thom Didato, Graduate Programs Advisor