Write Like Us

Write Like Us is an equity-based creative writing program at five Twin Cities metro-area community colleges: Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Century College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Normandale Community College, and North Hennepin Community College. Write Like Us centers and celebrates the work of BIPOC writers and writing students, fostering literary mentorship and leadership as it builds a platform for shared stories, voices, and lived experiences.

Write Like will host ten writers in residence during the 2021-2022 academic year, its inaugural year. Five of the residencies will feature nationally prominent BIPOC authors, one each at five participating campuses. The other five residencies will feature local BIPOC author-mentors who will work throughout the year with BIPOC mentees—students at each of our campuses. Write Like Us hopes to increase BIPOC recruitment, retention, and representation in our Associate of Fine Arts (AFA) and creative writing certificate programs—programs with high rates of persistence, graduation, and transfer.

Write Like Us National Authors

Nationally prominent BIPOC authors will appear for public readings and on-stage interviews in March and April 2022, as well as at non-public events for current students, prospective students from area high schools, and Write Like Us mentees. National authors for the Write Like Us inaugural season are Hanif Abdurraqib, Brit Bennett, Kiese Laymon, Tommy Orange, and Tracy K. Smith.

Portrait of Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib

Abdurraqib will appear for a public event at Minneapolis College on Tuesday, April 12.

Bio

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was released in June 2016 from Button Poetry. It was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.  His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in winter 2017 by Two Dollar Radio and was named a book of the year by Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. He released Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest with University of Texas press in February 2019. The book became a New York Times Bestseller, was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. His second collection of poems, A Fortune For Your Disaster, was released in 2019 by Tin House, and won the 2020 Lenore Marshall Prize. His newest release, A Little Devil In America, was published with Random House in 2021. He is a graduate of Beechcroft High School.

Portrait of Kiese Laymon

Kiese Laymon

Laymon will appear for a public event at North Hennepin Community College on Tuesday, April 28.

Bio

Kiese Laymon is a Black southern writer from Jackson, Mississippi. He is the author of the award-winning memoir Heavy, the groundbreaking essay collection How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, and the genre-defying novel Long Division. Heavy: An American Memoir, was named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by The New York Times and a best book of 2018 by the Publishers Weekly, NPR, Broadly, Buzzfeed, The Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly. Long Division was honored with the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing in 2014, and was shortlisted for a number of other awards, including The Believer Book Award, the Morning News Tournament of Books, and the Ernest J. Gaines Fiction Award. Laymon is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, ESPN The Magazine, NPR, Colorlines, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Ebony, Guernica, The Oxford American, Lit Hub, and many others in addition to Gawker. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and holds an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University.

Portrait of Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith

Smith will appear for a public event at Century College on Tuesday, March 29.

Bio

Tracy K. Smith is the author of The Body's Question, selected by Kevin Young as winner of the Cave Canem Prize for the best first book by an African American poet. Her second book, Duende, received the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. Smith received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her third book of poems, Life on Mars. In her memoir, Ordinary Light, Smith explores her own experience of race, religion, and the death of her mother shortly after Smith graduated from Harvard. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award, and named a Notable Book by both the New York Times and Washington Post. In 2021 she edited, with John Freeman, the prose anthology There's A Revolution Outside, My Love: Letters from a Crisis. Smith’s fourth book of poems, Wade in the Water, won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for its examination of the grave contradictions tied up in America’s history. Her most recent book is Such Color: New and Selected Poems. Smith served two terms as Poet Laureate of the United States, during which time she traveled across America, hosting poetry readings and conversations in rural communities. She edited the anthology American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time during her laureateship. Smith is Professor of English and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.

Portrait of Brit Bennett

Brit Bennett

Bennett will appear for a public event at Anoka-Ramsey Community College on Thursday, April 21.

Bio

When Brit Bennett's debut novel The Mothers was published in the fall of 2016, she was named a 5 Under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation and the book was longlisted for the NBCC John Leonard First Novel Prize and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Her second novel, The Vanishing Half, was a New York Times #1 bestseller and Good Morning America June Book Club pick. The Vanishing Half was longlisted for both the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. Before publishing her novels, Bennett had already built an impressive platform as a social commentator. Her essay in Jezebel, following the Ferguson riots, was shared over a million times. Since then she has been invited to write several Op-Eds in the New York Times, and appeared on NPR's The Brian Lehrer show. Her work has also been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and The Paris Review. While an undergraduate at Stanford, she won the Bocock/ Guerard and Robert M. Golden Thesis prizes for her fiction. Earning her MFA at University of Michigan, she won a Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction as well as the 2014 Hurston/ Wright Award in College Writing.

Portrait of Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange

Orange will appear for a public event at Normandale Community College on Tuesday, April 5.

Bio

Tommy Orange is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel There There, a multi-generational, relentlessly paced story about a side of America few of us have ever seen: the lives of urban Native Americans. There There was one of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the Year, and won the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and the Pen/Hemingway Award. There There was also longlisted for the National Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Orange graduated from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, and was a 2014 MacDowell Fellow and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He was born and raised in Oakland, California.

Write Like Us Local Author-Mentors

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.

Portrait of Merle Geode

Merle Geode

Geode will appear for a public event, interviewing Tommy Orange at Normandale Community College, on Tuesday, April 5.

Bio

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.

Portrait of Rosetta Peters

Rosetta Peters

Peters will appear for a public event, interviewing Tracy K. Smith at Century Community College, on Tuesday, March 29.

Bio

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.

Portrait of Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay

Vongsay will appear for a public event, interviewing Brit Bennett at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, on Thursday, April 21.

Bio

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. 

Portrait of Michael Kleber-Diggs

Michael Kleber-Diggs

Kleber-Diggs will appear for a public event, interviewing Kiese Laymon at North Hennepin Community College, on Tuesday, April 28.

Bio

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.

Portrait of Sagirah Shahid

Sagirah Shahid

Shahid will appear for a public event, interviewing Hanif Abdurraqib at Minneapolis College, on Tuesday, April 12.
 

Bio

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

Write Like Us Scholarship Mentees

Write Like Us mentees, working with the mentors who’ve selected them, immerse themselves in the local literary community, networking with other writers, getting candid academic and career advice, receiving feedback on their creative work, showcasing that creative work, and attending special non-public events with the visiting national authors.

Minnesota State Equity 2030

The inaugural year of Write Like Us is funded by a $150,000 Minnesota State Multi-Campus Collaboration grant in support of Minnesota State's Equity 2030 goals. Minnesota State is a consortium of thirty state colleges and seven universities in Minnesota. Equity 2030 aims to close the educational equity gaps across race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location by the end of the decade at every Minnesota State college and university.

All Write Like Us activities follow Minnesota State guidance and mandates regarding COVID-19 protocol.