Anis Gisele and Robert Lashley Casandra Lopez and voice coach Meg McLynn Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum, EJ Koh, and Corinne Manning Goodsteph and Shontina Vernon

Photos by Sherwin Eng (first 3) and Rick Weber

2016 Jack Straw Writers Program

The 2016 Jack Straw Writers, selected by Curator Karen Finneyfrock, are Anis Gisele, Ramon Isao, EJ Koh, Robert Lashley, Casandra Lopez, Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum, Corinne Manning, Ruby Hansen Murray, Shin Yu Pai, Alison Stagner, Shontina Vernon, and Carolyne Wright.

The musicians of the Bushwick Book Club Seattle created original music inspired by the work of the 2016 Jack Straw Writers, which was presented via a live event in December 2016 at Ballard Homestead and a recorded album produced in the studios at Jack Straw. Stream or download the music below:


2016 Writers Program Curator Karen Finneyfrock is the author of the poetry collection Ceremony for the Choking Ghost (Write Bloody press) and one of the editors of the anthology Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls. Finneyfrock is the also the author of two young adult novels: The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door and Starbird Murphy and the World Outside (Viking Children’s Books). She is a former Writer-in-Residence at Richard Hugo House and teaches for Seattle Arts and Lectures’ Writers-in-the-Schools program.

The 2016 Jack Straw Writing Fellows:

Anis Gisele lives in Seattle, by way of Manila, Philippines. She is a queer immigrant writer of color whose work is celebrated as much as it is minimized and/or blindly consumed. Her writing draws together personal narrative, intergenerational pain, and identity politics. She has decided to stop writing her bios like resumes.

Ramon Isao is a recipient of the Tim McGinnis Award for Fiction, and his stories have appeared in The Iowa Review, Ninth Letter, Hobart, and The American Reader. His screenplay credits include Dead Body, Zombies of Mass Destruction, and Junk (in which he co-stars). He has an MFA from Columbia University, and he teaches creative writing at Hugo House.

EJ Koh has appeared in World Literature Today, TriQuarterly, Southeast Review, Pleiades, Columbia Review, and elsewhere. She has been featured in Flavorwire’s “23 People Who Will Make You Care about Poetry” and Culture Trip’s 10 Americans Changing the Face of Poetry. She accepted fellowships at Kundiman, The MacDowell Colony, Napa Valley’s Writers’ Conference, Vermont Studio Center, Hannah J. Caldwell Excellence Award, and the Nadya Aisenberg Grant. She earned her MFA at Columbia University in New York for Creative Writing and Literary Translation in Korean and Japanese. In addition to lecturing at the Richard Hugo House, she has been a visiting scholar at the University of Washington, Seattle University, Portland Community College, and a panelist for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs.

Robert Lashley has had poems published in such journals as Feminete, No Regrets, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, and The Cascadia Review . His work was also featured in Many Trails to the Summit, an anthology of Northwest form and Lyric poetry. His full length book The Homeboy Songs was published by Small Doggies press in April 2014.

Casandra Lopez is a Chicana, Cahuilla, Tongva and Luiseno writer who currently lives in Seattle. She has an MFA from the University of New Mexico and has been selected for residencies with the Santa Fe Art Institute, School of Advanced Research and Hedgebrook. Her poetry chapbook Where Bullet Breaks was published by the Sequoyah National Research Center.  She is a CantoMundo, Jack Straw fellow and a founding editor of As/Us: A Space for Women of the World.

Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum is the author of two collections of short fiction, This Life She’s Chosen and Swimming with Strangers (both published by Chronicle Books). Her stories have been published in One Story, The American Scholar, Willow Springs, and other journals. She has been the recipient of a PEN/O. Henry Prize and fellowships from the Sewanee Writers Conference and the MacDowell Colony. Kirsten teaches at the Attic Learning Community in Woodinville and at the Hugo House.

Corinne Manning is the founding editor of The James Franco Review, an online journal dedicated to the visibility of underrepresented artists. Her short fiction has appeared in Story Quarterly, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Moss, The Bellingham Review, The Southern Humanities Review, and as a chapbook through alice blue review's Shotgun Wedding Series. Corinne has received grants and fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Artist Trust, and The Hub City Writers Project. 

Ruby Hansen Murray is a citizen of the Osage Nation living in the lower Columbia River estuary. She is a writer and photographer, whose prose appears on Oregon Public Radio and in Wild in the Willamette, Oregon Humanities Magazine, Yellow Medicine Review, American Ghost: Poets on Life after Industry, Tribal College Journal, Salal, and North Coast Squid. Her poetry appears in The Lake Rises, Tribal College Journal,and the Black Earth Institute’s About Place. She teaches creative writing in varied rural and tribal settings. A VONA fellow, she’s been awarded residencies at the Sitka Island Institute, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Brush Creek, Jentel, Playa and Hypatia-in-the-Woods. She began study with Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers and is completing an MFA in Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Shin Yu Pai is a poet and essayist. She studied creative writing at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. She is the author of several poetry collections including AUX ARCS (La Alameda), Adamantine (White Pine), Sightings (1913 Press), and Equivalence (La Alameda). Her personal essays have appeared in Tricycle, YES! Magazine, and City Arts. In 2015, she was a Jack Straw artist in residence for her public poetry project HEIRLOOM, which was installed in Piper's Orchard in Carkeek Park. Shin Yu has received grants from the Awesome Foundation, 4Culture, Artist Trust, and the City of Seattle's Office of Arts & Culture for her work. Presently the Poet Laureate of the City of Redmond, she lives in Bitter Lake, Seattle, with her husband and son.

Alison Stagner's poetry appears or is forthcoming in journals such as Mid-American Review, The Southeast Review, and H_NGM_N; she is the recipient of the 2015-2016 James Wright Poetry Award. She holds an M.F.A in Poetry from the University of Washington and works as the Events Coordinator for Seattle Arts & Lectures.

Shontina Vernon is a writer/musician/performer/educator. Her interdisciplinary work fuses live music, poetic narrative, and multi-media to tell the diverse stories of underrepresented communities. She is a Hedgebrook writer, a National Performance Network touring artist, a recipient of 4Culture’s Artist Grant and a nominated playwright on the Kilroy’s List. Her work has been produced by the Hip Hop Theatre Festival NYC, ACT Theatre in collaboration with The Hansberry Project, and WoWiWo in Denmark. She is currently at work on HER BLACK BODY POLITIC, a new piece that will premiere as part of the 2016 On the Boards Northwest New Works Festival. In addition, she is serving her second year as a Mentor Artist for Creative Justice, an arts as an alternative to incarceration program for young people in King County.

Carolyne Wright’s most recent book is the co-edited anthology, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace (Lost Horse Press, 2015).  Her other nine books and chapbooks of poetry include Seasons of Mangoes and Brainfire (Eastern Washington UP / Lynx House Books), which won the Blue Lynx Prize and American Book Award; and A Change of Maps (Lost Horse, finalist for the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the PSA). She also has four volumes of poetry in translation from Spanish and Bengali.  A Seattle native who studied with Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Hugo, and William Stafford, Wright has lived and traveled on fellowship in Chile, Brazil, India, and Bangladesh. She returned to Seattle in 2005, and since then has taught for the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA Program and for Hugo House. A Contributing Editor for the Pushcart Prizes, Wright has received grants and fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the NEA, 4Culture, and Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture, among others.

Jack Straw Cultural Center gratefully acknowledges Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, 4Culture King County Lodging Tax Fund, Washington State Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, ArtsFund, and individual contributors for their support of the Jack Straw Writers Program.

Copyright 2016 Jack Straw CulturalCenter ~ All rights reserved

About the podcasts

Jack Straw Cultural Center produces bi-monthly podcasts featuring excerpts from live readings and interviews highlighting literary artists from the Jack Straw Writers Program.

2016 Podcasts:

Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum
Ruby Hansen Murray
Robert Lashley
Shin Yu Pai
Corinne Manning
Anis Gisele

Casandra Lopez
Alison Stagner
Ramon Isao
EJ Koh
Carolyne Wright

Shontina Vernon

Previous Jack Straw Writers Program

2015 Writers
2014 Writers
2012 Writers
2011 Writers

2009 Writers
2008 Writers
2007 Writers
2006 Writers
2005 Writers
2004 Writers
List of writers to date