Alumni News

Two alumni received prestigious Project Awards from the Rasmuson Foundation. The awards are worth $7,500 and intended for individual artists “in all disciplines for specific, short-term projects that have a clear benefit to the artist and the development of his/her work.” John Messick (MFA, ’13) received an award to help with the completion and promotion of his debut essay collection Compass Lines. He lives in Soldotna and teaches at Kenai Peninsula College. Sean Enfield (MFA, ’21) received an award to promote professional development and to complete his debut essay collection Who Be Our Teacher – Essays on Race, Education and Identity. He recently began the PhD program in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Compass Lines, the debut essay collection from John Messick (MFA ’13), is forthcoming with the Alaska-based Porphyry Press in Spring 2023. In essays that traverse latitudes and continents, Compass Lines explores the places that shape our journeys toward belonging. From Antarctica to the Arctic, a tattoo parlor in Cambodia to an abandoned Alaska mine and beyond, Compass Lines explores how learning the rhythms of places we inhabit requires both movement and stillness. More information can be found on the Porphyry Press website and John Messick’s website.

The poem “김장,” written by Eddie Kim (MFA ’11), was nominated by Heavy Feather Review for Best of the Net 2021. The Korean letters 김장 translate to “Kimchi.” Eddie Kim’s poetry has also appeared in Poetry Northwest, The Margins, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. He was recently named a fellow at Kundiman, the national nonprofit that promotes the advancement of Asian American literature.

Ken Waldman (MFA ’88) has published eight new books in the past two years: the poetry collection Sports Page (Lamar University Literary Press), the hybrid craft-memoir-poetry book The Writing Party (Mezcalita Press); the poetry collection Leftovers and Gravy ( Press); and five new volumes of his Trump Sonnets series (Ridgeway Press). Waldman, a well-known Alaskan fiddler and touring artist, now has nineteen books and nine CDs to his credit.

“Force, Mass, Acceleration” by Heather Aruffo (MFA ’19) was selected for the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. The story appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Southern Review. The PEN Dau Short Story Prize is awarded for debut stories published in literary magazines. “Force, Mass, Acceleration” will appear in the anthology Best Debut Short Stories: The PEN America Dau Prize. Upon graduating, Aruffo was awarded a 2019 Fulbright Scholarship to Mongolia, where she taught university-level English and assisted the US embassy in Ulaanbaator with outreach and community projects. She now lives in Anchorage.

Patrice Melnick (MFA ’97) will publish her debut poetry collection, City of Hey Baby, with Finishing Line Press in October 2020. The collection draws on Melnick’s experience living in New Orleans in the years following Hurricane Katrina. Of the collection, Julie Kane writes, “Many writers have conveyed the sights or tastes of [New Orleans], but Melnick excels at capturing its smells, sounds, and sweaty skin-feel.” Melnick is also the author of the memoir Po-Boy Contraband: from Diagnosis Back to Life.

dog kissing Jenni MoodyDr. Jenni Moody (MFA ’12) recently accepted a position as Assistant Professor at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee. Jenni received her PhD at the University Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she was awarded a Distinguished Dissertator Fellowship and served as a Junior Writing Program Administrator. Her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming from Arts & LettersMississippi Review, Crab Orchard Review and elsewhere.

Ryan Shek (MFA ’20) was named as winner of the Michigan Writers Cooperative Press 2020 chapbook contest. His manuscript—titled Bluetongue and Other Michigan Stories—will be published by MWCP in June 2020. Shek’s stories “[portray] Michigan in all its natural beauty—and all the loneliness its stretches of wilderness can beget,” wrote contest judge Hadley Moore said. “The three linked pieces in Bluetongue and Other Michigan Stories are unblinking, and in their honesty they are satisfying but also heartbreaking.”

Qaggun “Chelsey” Zibell (MFA/MA ’16) was profiled on the front page of the April 13, 2020, edition of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The 1,300-word feature story describes Zibell’s development as an Inupiaq language teacher. According to the Alaska Native Language Center, Inupiaq has only about 2,000 remaining speakers.

Zibell was born in Kotzebue and raised in Noorvik, where she studied Inupiaq vocabulary in school. As an undergraduate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, she double-majored in English and Inupiaq (with a minor in German). Following that, she received her MFA/MA in English and taught high school. Zibell now teaches Inupiaq at UAF, where she also compiles an evolving website of Inupiaq vocabulary and grammar. “Language-learning is a process,” Zibell says in the News-Miner article. “It takes time, and it’s something that needs to be continually worked on. Think of it kind of as a life-long journey.”

Armor & Ornament, the debut poetry collection from Christopher Miles (MFA ’12), is now available from the University of Alaska Press. The press states that the collection “melds deep-rooted spirituality with contemporary tensions, offering modern psalms for a tumultuous and uncertain age.” Miles also gave a reading on campus in November 2019 as part of the Midnight Sun Visiting Writers Series.

Jill Osier (MFA ’00) received the prestigious Yale Younger Poets Prize for 2019. Osier is the author of the chapbooks Bedful of Nebraskas and Should Our Undoing Come Down Upon Us White. She has also received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and has served as the George Bennett Fellow at Philips Exeter Academy. Osier’s collection The Solace Is Not the Lullaby was published by Yale University Press in 2020.

Notable publications by MFA alumni:


  • David Abrams
    • Fobbit (Grove/Atlantic, 2012; a New York Times Notable Book of 2012)
    • Brave Deeds (Grove/Atlantic, 2017)
  • Amanda Bales
    • Pekolah Stories (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2021)
  • Gerri Brightwell
    • Cold Country (Duckworth, 2003)
    • The Dark Lantern (Crown, 2008)
    • Dead of Winter (Salt U.K., 2016)
    • “Williamsville” in The Best American Mystery Stories, 2017
    • Turnback Ridge (Torrey House, 2022)
  • Hans Burger
    • In Some Sense Innocent (Xi Dragonis Books, 2018)
  • Ashley Cowger
    • Peter Never Came (Autumn House Press, 2011)
  • David Crouse
    • Copy Cats (University of Georgia Press, 2005; winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction)
    • The Man Back There (Sarabande Books, 2008; winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction)
  • J. T. Dutton
    • Freaked (HarperTeen, 2009)
    • Stranded (HarperTeen, 2010)
  • Ian C. Esslemont
    • Night of Knives (Bantam, 2010)
    • Return of the Crimson Guard (Bantam, 2011)
    • Stonewielder (Bantam, 2011)
    • Orb Sceptre Throne (Bantam, 2012)
    • Blood and Bone (Bantam, 2013)
    • Assail (Bantam, 2014)
    • Dancer’s Delight (Bantam, 2016)
    • Deadhouse Landing (Bantam, 2017)
    • Kellanved’s Reach (Tor, 2019)
  • Marie Jaskulka
    • The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl & Random Boy (Sky Pony Press, 2015)
  • Len Kamerling
    • Kassileguremiut: The People of Kasigluk in Pictures and Poems (ed. and photos, Alaska Rural School Project, 1970)
  • Ben Kostival
    •  Elm & North (Radial Books, 2017)
    • The Canyons (Radial Books, 2018)
  • Rosemary McGuire (MFA program attendee)
    • The Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea (University of Alaska Press, 2015)
  • Tricia Yost
    • Youth at Risk (Radial Books, 2019)
    • All That is Behind Us Now (Radial Books 2019)


  • Jennifer Brice
    • The Last Settlers (Duquesne University Press, 1998)
    • Unlearning to Fly (U of Nebraska Press, 2007)
  • Carolyn Kremers
    • Place of the Pretend People (Alaska Northwest Books, 1996)
  • Natalie Kusz
    • Road Song (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990)
  • Patrice Melnick
    • Po-Boy Contraband: from Diagnosis Back to Life (Catalyst Book Press, 2012)
  • Eva Saulitis
    • Leaving Resurrection (Red Hen Press, 2008)
    • Many Ways to Say It (Red Hen Press, 2012)
    • Into Great Silence (Beacon Press, 2014)
    • Prayer in Wind (Boreal, 2015)
  • Sherry Simpson
    • The Way Winter Comes (Sasquatch Books, 1998)
    • The Accidental Explorer (Sasquatch Books, 2008)
    • Dominion of Bears (University of Kansas Press, 2013)
  • Nicole Stellon O’Donnell
    • You Are No Longer in Trouble (White Pine Press, 2019)


  • Iver Arnegard
    • Whip and Spur (Gold Line Press, 2014)
  • Melina Draper
    • Lugar de Origen/Place of Origin (with Elena Lafert, Oyster River Press, 2008)
    • Later the House Stood Empty (Boreal Books, 2014)
  • Carolyn Kremers
    • Upriver (University of Alaska Press, 2013)
  • Patrice Melnick
    • City of Hey Baby (Finishing Line Press, 2020)
  • Jill Osier
    • Bedful of Nebraskas (Sunnyoutside, 2012)
    • Should Our Undoing Come Down Upon Us (winner of the Frost Place Chapbook Prize, Bull City Press, 2013)
    • The Solace Is Not the Lullaby (Yale University Press, 2020)
  • Caitlin Scarano
    • The White Dog Year (chapbook; dancing girl press, 2015)
    • The Salt and Shadow (chapbook; Zoo Cake Press, 2015)
    • Do Not Bring Him Water (Write Bloody Publishing, 2017)
    • The Hatchet and the Hammer (chapbook; Ricochet Editions 2020)
    • The Necessity of Wildfire: Poems (Blair, 2022; winner of the Wren Poetry Prize)
  • Nicole Stellon O’Donnell
    • Steam Laundry (Boreal, 2012)
    • Everything Never Comes Your Way (Boreal Books, 2021)
  • Tricia Yost
    • First Things (March Street Press, 2004)
    • Factory (Radial Books, 2017)
    • Votives: Entries From the Daybooks of Gertrude Tate, 1898-1952 (Radial Books, 2017)


  • Len Kamerling
    • Tununerimiut (1972)
    • Atka an Aleutian Village (with Sarah Elder, 1973)
    • At the Time of Whaling (with Sarah Elder, 1975)
    • On the Spring Ice (with Sarah Elder, 1976)
    • From the First People (with Sarah Elder, 1978)
    • Every Day Choices: Alcohol and an Alaska Town (with Sarah Elder, 1985)
    • Uksuum Cauyai: The Drums of Winter (with Sarah Elder, 1989; named to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2006)
    • Kokoro-o Hagukumu: Heart of the Country (nominated for the Par Lorenze Award at the American Film Institute, 1998)
    • In Our Own Image: Alaska Native Doll Makers and Their Creations (2003)
    • Conversations at the Longido Waterhole (with Peter Biella, 2010)
    • Strange and Sacred Noise (with John Luther Adams, 2011)
    • Maasai Migrants (with Peter Biella, 2013)
    • Ryan Matthews: Basically Me (2014)
    • Changa Revisited (with Peter Biella, 2015)