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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

Portrait of Jenny Cook

Jenny Cook


Jenny Blanche Cook enjoys creative nonfiction style story telling. Her pieces can be light hearted and funny, or deep and heavy as her own experiences mash against larger conversations around politics, policy, and social justice. Her goal is not necessarily to change minds, but to soften hearts and minds around those harder stance type of topics.  

Portrait of Chayeng Moua

Chayeng Moua


Chayeng Moua loves potato chips, it is staple in his adventures and writing. He admires all things knights and magic. A favorite pastime of his is to play the card game “Yu-Gi-Oh”. Although he works full time, he builds his dream of one day mainly writing books. One day, his adventures of delicious potato chips, knights and magic will make it from his desktop folders to the pages of books.  

Portrait of Nishanth Bryan Peters

Nishanth Bryan Peters


Nishanth Peters is 28 years old and a person on the Autism Spectrum. He is also an aspiring writer working with Merle Geode, on different writing projects, including a novel. He is dedicated to pursuing his craft as a writer, and is thrilled to be a part of the Write Like Us program and  hopes to get as much out of it as possible. 

Portrait of Maikao Xiong

Maikao Xiong


Maikao Xiong is a Hmong American writer from Maplewood, MN. She enjoys watching documentaries about  story process, animation process, and character analyses. She was inspired to create joyful, comedic, and light hearted stories that include deep meanings. She is starting to write again after a long time of not writing. She is currently studying psychology, is a Write Like Us mentee, and bakes often while writing short stories.  

Portrait of Matthew Yang

Matthew Yang


Matthew Yang was born on February 4th, 1999 in St. Paul Minnesota to Hmong parents. For the first four years of his life, he lived in Frogtown where he was enraptured with stories about being a hero. His earliest memory of a heroic story was a Hmong movie series called Nuj Nplhaib thiab Ntxawm, which was the tale of a man on a quest to rescue the woman he loved from a pack of evil shapeshifting tigers.  

After finishing high school, Matthew spent a year working at a movie theater, then two more working as a wire technician. After spending so much time simply consuming stories, Matthew decided to give himself a chance to actually create them. He enrolled at Century College in the fall of 2020 where he plans to earn his AA Degree and the Creative Writing Certificate. Matthew has written for Century’s news team, The Century Times, and he is currently a Minnesota State Colleges Write Like Us Program Fellow in Creative Writing with a focus on fiction. 

Portrait of Paloma Gomez

Paloma Gomez


Paloma Gonzalez Gomez was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and now resides in Lake Elmo Minnesota. Paloma attended Stillwater Area High School 10th through 11th grade before having to drop out after being diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (“POTS”) . She obtained her GED in 2019 then started attending Century College full time where she is now working toward a Liberal Arts degree and a certificate in Creative Writing. Paloma plans to move to Florida next year to continue her education in Creative writing at Eckerd College and pursue her dream of becoming a published author. Paloma enjoys writing creative nonfiction based on her life experience as a first-generation Mexican American and essays on social issues in the U.S. When she is not busy with school and writing projects, Paloma enjoys spending time hanging out with her family and pets – her husky, Neptune, a black lab named Athena, and Luna the cat. 

Portrait of Reynaldo Pena

Reynaldo Pena


Reynaldo Pena is a poet and screenwriter. He was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota and lives in the Greater East Side. His work centers around the experiences of Afro-Latinos. He is also a part of the 2021-2022 fellow of the "write like us" program. Currently in his second year at Century College finishing his degree in Liberal Arts and Science. Previously he has created his own short film with Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES). 

Portrait of Salina Tekle

Salina Tekle


Salina Tekle was born in Gary, Indiana, grew up in many areas of the Twin Cities, lived in Oregon for ten years, and now makes her home in Maplewood, Minnesota. She is a Sophomore at Century College, pursuing her Associates degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences and will transfer to Metropolitan State University next year to obtain a B.A. in the Technical Communications and Professional Writing Program. Salina is an essayist and poet. Her writing often focuses on her personal experience as a Black woman in America, her relationship with her parents, or her roles as a wife and mother. She is married and the mother of three children. 

Portrait of Chauci Yang

Chauci Yang


Chauci Yang is a student at Century College currently aiming for an AA. She writes novels on online platforms, mainly Webnovel and occasionally Wattpad. Chauci writes novels that are more popular with online readers with themes such as Reincarnation, Transmigration, and historical Chinese-influenced timeline stories. She recently signed with Webnovel to have one of her main novels titled Shīzōng featured exclusively on the site. Chauci Yang lives in Minnesota with her family as a college student and writer for Webnovel on the side. 

Portrait of Michael Yer Vang

Michael Yer Vang


Michael Yer Vang graduated from Woodbury High School in 2010. He took his first College-level creative writing class in 2021. But had been writing fan fiction for seven years prior to that class. His favorite genre to write is fiction, but he would integrate his real-life experiences into his writing to make it seem as real as he could. He was accepted as a mentee from Century College under Rosetta Peters in the Write Like Us program. 

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.