ISU Emerging Writer’s Series

One Monday a month at 7 PM, writers from ISU’s Creative Writing & Environment MFA program read aloud their work at Dog-Eared books.

This series aims to connect ISU writers with the greater Ames community, and each reading will demonstrate how the written word evokes feeling, ignites memories, and inspires conversations across divides and demographics.

Upcoming Dates

Monday, January 23, at 7 PM
Monday, February 13, at 7 PM
Monday, March 6, at 7 PM
Monday, April 3, at 7 PM


Featured Writers

January Emerging Writers

Hanna Burr is a creative nonfiction and fiction writer. Born in Nashville, TN, she spent the majority of her life in the southeast U.S. before finding her way to Madrid, Spain, where she taught English during the worst of the pandemic. Her nonfiction explores the intricacies of her family and upbringing, struggles with anxiety, and the effects of travel on identity. She is still figuring out who she is as a fiction writer, so stay tuned!

Zoë Fay-Stindt a queer, bicontinental poet with roots in both the French and American south. Their work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, featured in places such as Southern Humanities, Ninth Letter, and Poet Lore. Her chapbook, Bird Body, won the Cordella Press’s inaugural Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize. She lives in Ames, Iowa, where she pursues an MFA at ISU. Learn more at

Christal Campa is a second year MFA student who double-majored in English and Sociology at Boise State University before migrating to Iowa. Fascinated by the way writing can separate people from the natural world around them or inspire and connect them to it, she is excited to spend the next two years learning and writing in the Creative Writing and Environment Program. 

Kelsey Zimmerman is a is a writer and visual artist from Michigan currently living in Iowa. Her work explores themes of loneliness, place, and family, and her writing has been published or is forthcoming in venues such as Longreads, the Cincinatti Review‘s miCRo series, and Michigan Quarterly Review.

February Emerging Writers

Leah VanSyckel is a writer who hasn’t been published much, but SWIM press recently published a photo of her cat, Lucy. An MFA candidate, Leah is currently attempting contemplative fiction and hyperreality nonfiction, but she flirts with poetry. Broadly inquisitive, she draws inspiration from studying anything from liturgy to conversations with friends.

Seemi Choudry was born and raised in Venezuela to Pakistani immigrants, a true “third culture” kid. She identifies as a Latina-Pakistani-Muslim-American. Seemi has worked in community development, immigration rights, and public services. Recently, Seemi finished a year-long sabbatical in Costa Rica. She is now completing her MFA in at ISU.

Shalini Singh is an Indian lawyer who exists to write and tell stories in multi-genre formats. A Fellow and student of the MFA in at ISU, Shalini is currently working on mathematical poems and prose that bleed onto paper and runs through the history of what she calls the latest awakening. Published in many journals and platforms, Shalini wishes to be free from labels.

Benjamin Dubow is a third-year MFA student. Most of Benji’s waking and dreaming hours are occupied by food: reading, writing, talking, growing, foraging, cooking, or serving it–though he would like everyone to know that he likes other, non-food things, too. Benji has published some essays, and is currently working on a novel.

March Emerging Writers

A’Ja Lyons is a multi-genre writer and native Texan. She’s a descendant of East Texas sharecroppers. Her background is in Oral Literature, and she views writing as living, working extensions of the author and the power of “play.” Her work has been published in literary journals and magazines such as Sinister Wisdom, Lucky Jefferson, and South Florida Poetry Journal.

Connor Ferguson is a candidate in the MFA program at ISU. His work on diversity and inclusivity in academic spaces has been published in The Dangling Modifier and presented at the Northeast Writing Centers Association conference. His creative writing focuses on the genres of the contemporary, the fantastic, speculative fiction, and memoir.

Summer Awad is a Palestinian-American writer from Knoxville, TN. She writes across genres, including stage plays, poetry, spoken word, and creative nonfiction. Her work explores themes of diaspora, migration, refugee issues, human rights, race and ethnicity, and identity. Her play, WALLS: A Play for Palestine, was produced at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2016.

Kelli Fitzpatrick is a sci-fi writer, editor, and teacher. Her writing explores the experience of space and time in the Midwest. Published by Simon and Schuster, Flash Fiction Online, Crazy 8 Press, and others, she’s also an editor for the Journal of Popular Culture and the Dunes Review. She’s worked as a gamewriter for Star Trek Adventures, Modiphius Entertainment, and Archvillain Games. Find her at

April Emerging Writers

Eleanore Tisch studied Writing and Literature in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University before earning her M.A. in Education Foundations, Policy, and Practice from CU-Boulder. She works towards reforms for a more equitable, just, and sane public education system. She practices listening to the world with her whole body.

Geneva Evie Toland is a writer, farmer, naturalist and lover of all things wild. Her poems and essays seek to unearth truth through the art of asking really good questions. Her work has been published in the Tiny Seed Literary Journal and the We’Moon 2023 collection, and is forthcoming in the Plant and Poetry Journal and Canary Lit Magazine.

Claire Jussel is from Boise, ID. Primarily a poet, she also explores creative nonfiction and visual arts. Previously she’s enjoyed bookselling at Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, park-rangering in WY, mending library books, and occasional lighthouse keeping. Her work has appeared in West Trade Review, Wizards in Space Literary Magazine, and Split Rock Review.

Matthew Moore writes nonfiction about his upbringing by working class parents in rural MO, the challenges of being a first-generation student, and capitalism’s role in shaping the rural Midwest. He holds a B.A. from Graceland University where he majored in both English and Studio Arts with minors in Creative Writing and Film Studies.