Summer 2020 Faculty and Workshops


VONA/Voices is about mentoring emerging writers-of-color by accomplished writers-of-color in a supportive and nurturing environment.  Our Summer 2020 program of multi-genre craft-centered workshops introduce exciting Faculty additions to the already impressive list of our internationally renowned, award-winning master teachers.


Due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, we have postponed our Summer 2020 workshops and will instead offer an online program. We hope to resume our in-person Summer programming in 2021- Stay Tuned for Updates!


Week One: June 21 – June 27

M. Evelina Galang wearing a brown dress and standing in front of microphone looking to the side with right hand extended in front of her
M. Evelina Galang

Fiction with M. Evelina Galang: Whose Story Is This?  

Participants are invited to submit a short story or a novel chapter to be read and responded to in workshop. We’ll focus on craft as we build our own language and understanding of story, character, and the shape of narratives by writers of color. Get ready to work!

About the Faculty:

M. Evelina Galang is the author of the story collection Her Wild American Self (Coffee House Press, 1996), novels One Tribe (New Issues Press, 2006) and Angel De La Luna and the Fifth Glorious Mystery (Coffee House Press, 2013), the nonfiction work Lolas’ House: Filipino Women Living With War (Curbstone Books, 2017), and the editor of Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, 2003). Among her numerous awards are the 2004 Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Prize for the Novel, the 2007 Global Filipino Literary Award for ONE TRIBE, the 2004 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Awards Advancing Human Rights, and a 2002 Senior Research Fellowship from Fulbright. Galang teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Miami and is core faculty and President of the Board of Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA/Voices).

Journalism: Critical Writing and The Art of the Review, with Valerie Boyd

This workshop is for those who want to learn to express themselves more cogently and clearly about the works of art they love—and those they don’t. In addition to honing fundamental opinion-writing skills (using descriptive language, constructing arguments, reporting, selecting and analyzing evidence, developing a personal style), we will read a variety of critics’ pieces to get a sense of the many forms a review can take. Participants will write, peer-edit and revise at least three reviews during the workshop, covering a wide range of topics and genres, including music, books, film and food.

About the Faculty:

Valerie Boyd is author of the critically acclaimed Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. Formerly arts editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Boyd has written articles, essays and reviews for The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Creative Nonfiction, The Oxford American and Atlanta Magazine, among other publications. She is a professor of journalism and the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Georgia, where she founded and directs the low-residency MFA Program in Narrative Nonfiction. Boyd is currently curating and editing a collection of Alice Walker’s journals, which span more than 50 years. Simon & Schuster/37 Ink will publish Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker in 2020.

Memoir: Expanding the Personal Narrative with Jaquira Díaz

This workshop examines how personal narrative can speak to something larger, more expansive; how personal stories are connected to the larger world; how personal narratives can engage with music and history and place and culture and science; how a news story becomes a vehicle for a personal story. We’ll read and examine excerpts of memoirs and essays that incorporate music, history, science, and pop culture, and then as we workshop your own memoirs and personal essays, we’ll discuss ways to expand the personal narrative.

About the Faculty:

Jaquira Díaz is the author of Ordinary Girls: A Memoir, a Summer/Fall 2019 Indies Introduce Selection, a Fall 2019 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, a November 2019 Indie Next Pick, and a Library Reads October pick. Her work has been published in Rolling StoneThe GuardianThe FaderThe New York Times Style Magazine, and The Best American Essays 2016, among other publications. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, an Elizabeth George Foundation grant, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Kenyon Review, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. She has taught at University of South Florida, Miami Dade College, Kenyon College and University of Wisconsin.

Poetry: The Empty Spaces with Willie Perdomo

Who or what is the voice on your shoulders telling you that you can't write about? (fill in the blank).  The approach to fresh language is usually accompanied by distancing yourself from what you think might be correct or "right." Using the "separate language" of poetry, where do we begin filling the empty spaces?  In this workshop, you will be required to read Gwendolyn Brooks' YOUNG POETS PRIMER, remix a poem by Harlem Renaissance poet, document your vernacular, learn to deliver your poems aloud, and interview your fellow workshop poet.  The workshop cycle is as follows: two old poems followed by three new poems, the last poem being what Toi Derrecotte would call the "hard poem." This will be a week-long immersion in the practice of writing, the art of reading, and building a sustainable writing community.

About the Faculty:

Willie Perdomo is the author of Where a Nickel Costs a Dime (1996), a finalist for the Poetry Society of America Norma Farber First Book Award; Smoking Lovely (2004), winner of the PEN/Open Book Award; The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon (2014), a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and The Crazy Bunch (forthcoming 2019). He has received fellowships from Columbia University, Lucas Artists Program, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.  His work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times Magazine, Poetry magazine, the Yale Review, The Common, Bomb, and African Voices. Perdomo currently teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy.

Tananarive Due

Speculative Fiction with Tananarive Due

Join the award-winning author in this workshop exploring the impact of marginalized experiences in creating speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, horror and magical realism.

About the Faculty:

Tananarive Due is an author, screenwriter and educator who is a leading voice in black speculative fiction, or Afrofuturism. Her short fiction has appeared in best-of-the-year anthologies of science fiction and fantasy. She is the former Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Spelman College (2012-2014) and teaches Afrofuturism and Black Horror in the Department of African-American Studies at UCLA. Lifetime Achievement Award in the Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. 2016 British Fantasy Award. She has been named to the Grio 100 and the Ebony Power 100.

Due also co-authored a civil rights memoir with her late mother, Patricia Stephens Due, Freedom in the Family: a Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights, named 2003's Best Civil Rights Memoir by Black Issues Book Review. Due is an executive producer of Shudder’s black horror documentary, Horror Noire.

David Mura

Prose Residency with David Mura

The prose residency consists of two components: two lengthy individual conferences with the instructor and a daily 90-minute lecture/discussion on readings provided by the instructor. The conferences are designed for the instructor to give intense individual attention to the student’s work (this is not a workshop where students critique each other’s work). The topics of the noontime daily classes will include material on the writing process, on race and creative writing, and on narrative structures and other techniques in fiction and memoir. Students will be asked to do readings and some writing before the residency begins. I’ve done this class at VONA for more than fifteen years and it’s been a proven successful structure for its participants.

About the Faculty: 

David Mura is the author of two memoirs, Turning Japanese, which won the Oakland PEN Josephine Miles Book Award and was a New York TimesNotable Book, and Where the Body Meets Memory. His novel, Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire, was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, the John Gardner Fiction Prize, and Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell First Novelist Award. His four books of poetry include the National Poetry Contest winner After We Lost Our Way, The Colors of Desire, which won a Carl Sandburg Literary Award, Angels for the Burning, and The Last Incantations.  His newest book is A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity & Narrative Craft in Writing. He has taught at VONA for fifteen years and at the Stonecoast MFA, U. of Minnesota, U. of Oregon, Macalester College, and Hamline University.

Graphic Novel: Visual Storytelling with Shay Youngblood

The focus of the workshop will be on generating and sharing new work. We will discuss the fundamentals of the craft of visual storytelling, voice, point of view and language, the business of writing graphic novels and developing and maintaining a writing practice.

About the Faculty:

Shay Youngblood is a writer, visual artist, teacher and mentor. Author of several novels (Soul Kiss and Black Girl in Paris), collections of short stories (Big Mama Stories) and numerous essays, her published plays (Shaking the Mess Out of Misery, Talking Bones, Amazing Grace, Widows of America) have been widely produced. Her short stories have been performed at Symphony Space and recorded for NPR’s Selected Shorts. Youngblood received her MFA in Playwriting from Brown University. Her current projects include children’s books, a graphic novel collaboration and multi-media performance, installation work on architecture, memory and the environment inspired by research in Japan, China and the U.S. She is an artist board member of Yaddo Artist Colony.

TV & Screenwriting with Valerie C. Woods:  Tell Me a Story.

Participants explore the craft of visual storytelling to elevate plot and character. We will read each other’s work, giving and receiving feedback.

About the Faculty:

Valerie C. Woods is a writer/producer in television and film and is also a publisher, editor, and author.  Recently, Valerie served as Creative Director for Syd Field - The Art of Visual Storytelling.i she is the Co-Executive Producer/Writer on Season 4 of the critically acclaimed television drama series Queen Sugar, Valerie is one of four Syd Field Screenwriting Method Instructors trained by Mr. Field. She wrote the screen adaptation of the novel Tempest Rising by Diane McKinney-Whetstone, with the production company of actor/director Phylicia Rashad. She has also been Adjunct Faculty at Stephens College for the Master of Fine Arts in TV and Screenwriting program since 2015.

During Valerie’s 20+ years as a member of WGAw, she has written on one-hour drama series for CBS, Lifetime, and Showtime. Credits include Co-Executive Producer/Writer on the drama series, Any Day Now on Lifetime Network. Her episode “Family is Family” was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award, and Consulting Producer/Writer for the drama series, Soul Food on Showtime Network. Her television career began after winning a Fellowship with the Walt Disney Studios.

In 2013, Valerie founded the independent press, BooksEndependent which has published five titles including Valerie’s novel Katrin's Chronicles: The Canon of Jacqueléne Dyanne.  She is also the author of Something for Everyone (50 Original Monologues). In 2016, Valerie produced a series of staged readings of scripts adapted from literary work via Staged/Lit.

Week Two: June 27- July 4

Fiction: Novel Boot Camp with Mat Johnson

Have a novel that needs to go to the next level? Or one you’re just starting? Novel Boot Camp focuses on narrative, pacing, and theme in long fiction, to allow authors to leave with the clarity and plan to take their manuscript where it needs to go.

About the Faculty:

Mat Johnson is the author of the novels Loving Day, Pym, Drop, and Hunting in Harlem, the nonfiction novella The Great Negro Plot, and the comic books Incognegro, Incognegro: Renaissance, Dark Rain and Right State. He is a recipient of the American Book Award, the United States Artist James Baldwin Fellowship, The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature. Mat Johnson is a Professor at the University of Oregon.


LGBTQ Narratives with JP Howard

This workshop explores LGBTQ narratives across generations, with a focus on LGBTQ BIPoC poets. Essays from both contemporary and ancestor LGBTQ writers of color, including James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, will serve as agents of change to agitate, empower and inspire us to make the personal political. Writers exchange work, give feedback and constructive criticism, while new LGBTQ narratives are generated.

About the Faculty:

JP Howard is an author, educator, literary activist, curator and community builder. Her debut poetry collection, SAY/MIRROR (The Operating System), was a 2016 Lambda Literary Award finalist. She is also the author of bury your love poems here (Belladonna*) and co-editor of Sinister Wisdom Journal Black Lesbians--We Are the Revolution!  JP is a 2020 featured author in Lambda Literary’s LGBTQ Writers in Schools program and was a Split this Rock Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism finalist. She is featured in the Lesbian Poet Trading Card Series from Headmistress Press and was the recipient of Lambda Literary’s Judith A. Markowitz Emerging Writer Award. JP has received fellowships and grants from Cave Canem, VONA, Lambda, Astraea and Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC). She curates Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon, a NY based forum offering writers a monthly venue to collaborate.  JP’s poetry and/or essays have appeared in The Academy of American Poets poem-a-day series, Anomaly, Apogee Journal, The Feminist Wire, Split this Rock, Muzzle Magazine, The Best American Poetry Blog, Nepantla: A Journal for Queer Poets of Color, Talking Writing, Connotation Press and others. JP is the Editor-at-Large at Mom Egg Review VOX online and holds a BA from Barnard College, an MFA in Creative Writing from The City College of New York and a JD from Brooklyn Law School.

Young Adult Literature: Crisis Creates Us with Daniel José Older

In this workshop, we will explore narrative structure, from the basic foundational elements and beyond. We’ll look at prose: what makes sentences sing or fall flat? How do we understand the physics of paragraphs, the way gravity can push us along to that final line? We’ll break down character development, the uses and pitfalls of backstory, and the mechanics of a story’s engine. And we’ll explore techniques for creating deeper, truer, and more complex worlds around our stories, whether they be contemporary, historical, fantastical, or non-fiction. We'll approach all these elements through the lens of YA literature and the crisis of becoming an adult.

About the Faculty:

Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the Middle Grade historical fantasy series Dactyl Hill Squad, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, Star Wars: Last ShotThe Book of Lost Saints, and the award winning Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher, which won the International Latino Book Award and was shortlisted for the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature, the Andre Norton Award, the Locus, the Mythopoeic Award, and named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read.

Travel Writing with Faith Adiele

The nation's first and only writing workshop for BIPOC travelers is open to all genres dealing with cultural encounters or physical journeys: roots tales, road trips, moving between language/culture/class, im/migrant narratives, studying, volunteering or working abroad, spiritual quests, leaving home, food, and travel memoir, necessary nomadism, the road to recovery. A hybrid workshop offering manuscript critique, networking with travel professionals, and immersion into BIPOC travel literature and publishing.

About the Faculty

Faith Adiele is the author of The Nigerian-Nordic Girl’s Guide to Lady Problems and Meeting Faith, which won the PEN Beyond Margins Award for Best Memoir; writer/narrator/subject of My Journey Home, a PBS documentary about family, travel, and identity; and co-editor of Coming of Age Around the World: A Multicultural Anthology. A graduate of Harvard University, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program, she teaches nonfiction around the world and has been named as one of Marie Claire Magazine’s “Five Women to Learn From,” Faith is a core faculty member of VONA/Voices, founder of the VONA Publishing Partnerships Initiative and Senior Editor for Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel, which publishes graduates of VONA Travel. When Stateside, she lives in the Bay Area, teaches at California College of the Arts and runs the African Book Club at the Museum of the African Diaspora. Visit her at and @meetingfaith.

Poetry: The Tradition  with Jericho Brown

This workshop has as its foremost feature the writing and critiquing of poems, and focusing on strategies to establish emotional depth. To enhance the profound relationship between reading poetry and writing it, we will read, discuss, and even recite the work of poets, read each other’s work, giving and receiving the kind of feedback that binds the community of VONA poets.

About the Faculty:

Jericho Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Brown’s first book, Please (2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. He is also the author of the collection The Tradition (2019), a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award. His poems have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, and several volumes of The Best American Poetry anthologies. He is an associate professor and the director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University in Atlanta.

Political Content in Fiction, Poetry and Memoir with Staceyann Chin

We'll exchange, read, and evaluate each other’s' work, share strategies for producing emotionally true stories through prose or poetry with a political perspective.

About the Faculty:

Staceyann Chin is a poet, writer, performing artist, and political activist. Known as a co-writer and original performer in Russell Simmons’ Tony Award-winning Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, for which she received a Drama Desk Award, she is also the author of the memoir The Other Side of Paradise and the one-woman shows Hands AfireUnspeakable ThingsBorder/Clash, and MotherStruck, the Off-Broadway performance directed by Cynthia Nixon. Her 2019 book, Crossfire: Litany for Survival is a career-spanning collection of her remarkable poetry.  Staceyann has taught workshop worldwide and is returning to VONA after a five-year hiatus.

Poetry Residency: The Poets' Place with Adrian Castro

This  workshop will be conducted focusing on writing about place. We will examine poems both from workshop participants and other poets that exemplify the use of place. We will also ask where is that place? Where is that physical place, that geographical place, and also where is that mental place? Is that place existent, nostalgic, dreamt, etc.? Participants will bring to the workshop poems with these themes. Feedback will be given based on the Liz Lerhman method, which focuses feedback beginning from the artist place of inspiration and creative space, then from the reader’s/listener’s perspective—i.e. what the reader thought, felt, assimilated while reading the poem. Lastly poets will be encouraged to appropriately render their poems out aloud—from their voice, their perspective, their place.

About the Faculty:

Adrian Castro is a poet, performer, and interdisciplinary artist. Born in Miami from Caribbean heritage which has provided fertile ground for the rhythmic Afro-Caribbean style in which he writes and performs. He is the author of Cantos to Blood & Honey (Coffee House Press), Wise Fish (Coffee House Press, 2005), Handling Destiny (Coffee House Press 2009) and has been published in several literary anthologies including Conjunctions, Paper Dance: 55 Latino Poets, Little Havana Blues, A Century of Cuban Writers in Florida, Step Into A World: A Global Anthology of New Black Literature, Renaming Ecstacy: Latino Writings on the Sacred. He is the recipient of a USA Knight Foundation Fellowship, a Cintas Fellowship, State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship, the NALAC Fund for the Arts Individual Fellowship, the Eric Mathieu King award from the Academy of American Poets. Adrian Castro is also a board certified Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine, and herbalist.

Flash Fiction: A Brief and Wondrous Journey with Nathalie Handal

In this innovative workshop, writers will explore and write flash fiction, flash reportage, flash memoir, flash travel, and hybrid flash. This thought-provoking journey of brevity, depth and precision will allow writers to find different ways to navigate themes of identity, borders, migrations, home, and so forth. Discussions and critiques will revolve around flash pieces submitted as well as those students will produce.

About the Faculty:

Nathalie Handal was raised in Latin America, France and the Middle East, and educated in Asia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Poet, playwright, nonfiction and literary travel writer, her books include Life in a Country Album (2019); the flash reportage collection The Republics—about Haiti and the Dominican Republic—lauded as “one of the most inventive books by one of today’s most diverse writers” and winner of the Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing and the Arab American Book Award; the critically acclaimed Poet in Andalucía; and Love and Strange Horses, winner of the Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award. Her writings have appeared in Vanity Fair, Guernica Magazine, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Nation, The Irish Times, among others. Handal is the recipient of awards from The Lannan Foundation, Centro Andaluz de las Letras, Fondazione di Venezia, and winner of the Alejo Zuloaga Order in Literature, among others. Her work brings her to audiences globally. She is a professor at Columbia University, and writes the literary travel column “The City and the Writer” for Words without Borders magazine.

Memoir: Writing our Lives with Reyna Grande

Memoir begins with memory, but it isn’t a collection of memories.  A memoir is a work of art filled with deep meaning and truths that resonate with and illuminate the lives of your readers. Where to start and where to end, what to put in and what to leave out are crucial elements in the crafting and shaping of your story. In this workshop, we will discuss what memoir is and what it isn’t, the different approaches to structure, and determining what, exactly, your memoir is about. Through concrete exercises, studies in craft, manuscript critiques, and using successful memoirs as models, you will also obtain the knowledge and confidence on how best to tell your story.

About the Faculty:

Reyna Grande is the author of the bestselling memoir, The Distance Between Us, (2012) and the much-anticipated sequel, A Dream Called Home (2018). Her other works include the novels, Across a Hundred Mountains, (2006) and Dancing with Butterflies (2009). Her books have been adopted as the common read selection by schools, colleges and cities across the country. Reyna has received an American Book award, the El Premio Aztlán Literary Award, and the International Latino Book Award. In 2012, she was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards, and in 2015 she was honored with a Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature. Originally from Mexico, Reyna entered the U.S. as an undocumented child immigrant and came of age in California. She has written about immigration, family separation, language trauma, and the American Dream for publications such as The New York Times, CNN, The Dallas Morning News, Buzzfeed, among others. Visit her at

VONA’s Summer 2020 Program is possible thanks to the support from the Poetry Foundation, the English Department at the University of Miami, and our sponsors:

  • MFA Program in Creative Writing
  • Department of History
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Department of Modern Languages and Literature
  • Department of Religious Studies

All have been a vital lifeline for VONA.