Write Like Us author-mentors will visit creative writing classrooms at each of the five participating colleges during fall and spring semesters of 2021-2022 and will work individually with eight scholarship mentees from each of the five campuses (forty total) throughout the academic year. Each mentor will interview one of the nationally prominent authors in the public on-stage events.
Merle Geode is a mixed race (Korean and white) disabled genderfluid poet/writer, shamanic practitioner, and multidisciplinary artist based in Minneapolis living with metastatic breast cancer. They have a B.S. degree in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where they were a UW-Madison Writing Fellow. They were a food and features writer for several years for Isthmus and Our Lives Magazine in Madison, but their storytelling is now taking a turn for more experimental and expansive forms. They are currently an MFA candidate in Poetry at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Their poems and essays appear in Love, Always: Partners of Trans People on Intimacy, Challenge and Resilience; MNArtists; and poetry.onl. Currently, they are working on a picture book about anticipatory grief and death as an author/illustrator.
They are a former journalist, fine dining cook, and dog groomer who has discovered, during the pandemic, that they actually like to garden.
Michael Kleber-Diggs (KLEE-burr digs) is a poet, essayist, and literary critic. His debut poetry collection, Worldly Things, won the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. His essay, “On the Complex Flavors of Black Joy,” is included in the anthology There’s a Revolution Outside, My Love: Letters from a Crisis, edited by Tracy K. Smith and John Freeman. Among other places, Michael’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Great River Review, Water~Stone Review, Poem-a-Day, Poetry Daily, Poetry Northwest, Potomac Review, Hunger Mountain, Memorious, and a few anthologies. Michael is a past Fellow with the Givens Foundation for African American Literature, a past-winner of the Loft Mentor Series in Poetry, and the former Poet Laureate of Anoka County libraries. Since 2016, Michael has been an instructor with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. He also teaches Creative Writing in Augsburg University’s low-res MFA program and at Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net and has been supported by the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. Michael is married to Karen Kleber-Diggs, a tropical horticulturist and orchid specialist. Karen and Michael have a daughter who is pursuing a BFA in Dance Performance at SUNY Purchase.
Rosetta Peters is a poet, an author, a public speaker, and an activist. She is of Yankton, Crow Creek, and Oglala descent. A procrastinator to the point of detriment and lover of the natural world. Rosetta has had her poetry published in the Yellow Medicine Review and has recently been awarded the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant 2021 to professionally record and release an album of her Spoken Word/Performance Poetry and the MRAC Next Step Grant 2021/2022 for creative support for the completion of her memoir titled, The Spider and The Rose.
Sagirah Shahid is a Black American Muslim poet, arts educator, and performance artist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Loft Literary Center, the Twin Cities Media Alliance, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art. Sagirah is a teaching-writer with Unrestricted Interest, a writing program and consultancy dedicated to supporting neurodiverse learners through creative writing. Her debut collection of poetry Surveillance of Joy is forthcoming from Half Mystic Press. Sagirah's children's activity book Get Involved In A Book Club is available for pre-order with Capstone Press.
Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay
Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is a Lao writer. CNN’s “United Shades of America” host W. Kamau Bell called her work “revolutionary.” Governor Mark Dayton recognized her with a “Lao Artists Heritage Month” Proclamation. She’s a recipient of a Sally Award for Initiative from the Ordway Center for Performing Arts which “recognizes bold new steps and strategic leadership undertaken by an individual . . . in creating projects or artistic programs never before seen in Minnesota that will have a significant impact on strengthening Minnesota’s artistic/cultural community.” She's the author of the children's book When Everything Was Everything and is best known for her award-winning play Kung Fu Zombies Vs Cannibals. Her plays have been presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (NY), Theater Mu (MN), Lower Depth Theater (LA), Asian Improv Arts (IL), and elsewhere. Other awards include grants/fellowships from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Bush Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation, MAP Fund, Playwrights' Center, Forecast Public Art, MRAC, MSAB, and others. Saymoukda is currently an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at Theater Mu, a McKnight Foundation Fellow in Community-Engaged Practice Art, and a Jerome Hill Artist Fellow in playwriting.