Welcome Our Incoming Fall 2019 MFA Class

August 13, 2019

Grace Albritton (DG) received her BA in English from VCU in 2011 with a minor in American Studies. After graduating, she stayed in Richmond, trying her hand at a little bit of everything before returning to VCU. Her writing tends towards the horrifying; she is also fascinated by the interplay of Southern culture, modern technology, and current politics. When she isn’t reading or writing, she likes to garden, cook, or take her dogs to the river.

Hayley Graffunder (P) grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota before she made the big move across the river to attend the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. There, she majored in English with a creative writing emphasis and minored in linguistics. She was also president of the Literary Club, co-editor of the Summit Avenue Review, and spent a semester at the University of Edinburgh falling in love with one of the world’s great literary cities. Since she graduated last year, she has spent her time pouring coffee, schlepping files around a law firm, and getting her first poem published. Her summertime pleasures skew toward anything outdoors, from hiking to camping to hanging out by a lake. In the winter, she occasionally treks into the tundra for a poetry reading or a bowl of ramen, but is mostly preoccupied with gathering as many blankets and cups of herbal tea as necessary to avoid a frigid death by hypothermia — she is excited to ditch some of these Minnesota winter hobbies for fresh ones in Richmond.

Neta Harris (F) is a native of Tennessee and a graduate of the Writing program at Middle Tennessee State University. She spent three years in Chicago writing and producing sketch comedy shows at The Second City with her beloved writing group before returning to Nashville. She has been published in Tulip Tree Review and a handful of smaller online publications.

Danielle Kotrla (P) is just completing her undergraduate work, finishing degrees in both English and Philosophy from the University of North Texas. The entirety of her life has been spent in Texas, whether her hometown of Temple or her current home in Denton. Outside of school, she enjoys competing in dog agility with two of her three dogs, and she hopes to get back to working with horses and riding dressage soon. She is also an avid fan of most things Food Network. Her poetry has been featured in Pidgeonholes, The Pinch, and others, and her interests include exploring the places where poetry and philosophy intersect.

Bennett Joan Nieberg (DG) (they/them) is a queer Jewish writer who was raised in the northeast. They love the rain, hot tea, and tattoos. They received their BA in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado Boulder, where they edited for the undergraduate and graduate literary journals, Walkabout and TIMBER. They are a Pushcart Prize nominee and their work has appeared in Entropy, Western Humanities Review, and The Indianapolis Review, among others. They are a co-founding editor of the journal What Are Birds? and would absolutely like to pet your dog.

Ty Phelps (F) is a writer, teacher, and musician from Madison, WI. He earned his B.A. in Literature from Carleton College in 2005, and his Masters in Teaching from Lewis and Clark College in 2012, and has taught high school English in Portland, OR, and Madison, WI, for the past seven years. He won The Gravity of the Thing’s 2016 Six-Word Story contest, and his work has appeared in Writespace, The Clackamas Literary Review, and Scribble, among others. He plays drums, drinks decaf coffee, quotes 30 Rock with an alarming degree of accuracy, and is currently teaching himself to play the banjo.

Laura Chow Reeve (F) lives in Richmond, VA by way of Jacksonville, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Laura has an M.A. in Asian American Studies from UCLA and a B.A. in English from Bryn Mawr College. She is a VONA/Voices alumna, the Southern editor at Joyland Magazine, and winner of the 2017 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. Laura’s fiction has been published in or featured on Catapult, The Rumpus, and LeVar Burton Reads, among others.

Hannah Via (P) received her B.A. in English from James Madison University in 2019. From attempting (futilely) to read Moby Dick in the fourth grade, to falling asleep each night to hours-long books on tape, she has always viewed the written word as a sort of precious treasure / point of connection to the world; and to the self. She‘s written two short plays, which were directed and performed at JMU in the spring of 2018. Her poetry has been published in the literary magazine Gardy-Loo. Her current love is poetry, but she often branches into lyric nonfiction, playwriting and the occasional short story. Sundays are her favorite part of the week, mostly because you can find her somewhere cozy with a glass of Chianti— and a Wes Anderson film on tv.

Justin Wafawanaka (F) was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in Richmond, Virginia. He graduated from Virginia Union University with a BA in English. Ever since his middle school teacher introduced him to an online scholastic reading program, he has been captivated by the beauty in writing and storytelling. Thanks, Ms. Beatty. Justin aspires to create works that speak to the human experience—it’s undeniable beauty, stark horror, and everything in between. His interests include playing basketball, listening to music, and watching movies.

Brandon Young (P) grew up in Indiana and graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with his bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing. While at IU, he spent his last year in the English honors program where he wrote his own creative thesis. His poetry reconciles the relationship between art, nature, humans, queerness, the body, and draws inspirations from the Midwest where he was born and raised. If you engage him, Brandon will most likely spend plenty of time talking about Ginkgo trees, astrology, his favorite color—yellow, and his many plants.