Renowned Stegner Fellowship program announces 2012-2014 fellows

Five poets and five fiction writers will spend two years developing their writing skills in the company of peers and under the guidance of Stanford faculty.

Known as the “Dean of Western Writers,” acclaimed author Wallace Stegner dedicated his life not only to writing, but also to helping other writers develop their craft.

In an effort to address a dearth of formal creative writing instruction, Stegner founded the Creative Writing Program and the Stegner Writing Fellowships during his tenure at Stanford. Established in 1946, just after World War II, Stegner saw the fellowships as an opportunity not just for published writers but also for the many “gifted writers” he saw among the returning servicemen.

Over the past six decades, hundreds of fiction writers and poets have benefited from Stegner’s philosophy that “minds grow by contact with other minds.” Since it was founded, weekly workshop sessions have been a cornerstone of the fellowship curriculum.

Like the fellows before them, the five poets and five fiction writers who will come to Stanford in the fall will attend a three-hour long workshop every week for the two years they are here.

Eavan Boland, an English professor and director of the Creative Writing Program, said the workshops, which are held separately for the poets and fiction writers, “extend the rationale of bringing writers together in one place.” Boland, an accomplished poet, also said the workshops “allow a community of craft to develop where the process of writing is discussed as well as the product.”

Each quarter a different member of the Creative Writing faculty leads the workshop, giving fellows the opportunity to work with the distinguished poets and writers of the Stanford community.

Fellows also participate in campus reading and lecture events throughout the year and act as writing mentors to Stanford undergrads in Levinthal Tutorials and the Writer’s Studio.

Chosen from a pool of over 1,700 applicants, each 2012 fellow is very near to publishing his or her first book, or has already done so. In the past, writers as young as 22 and as old as 75, including some with no formal training, have been admitted to the program.  As always, the goal is to finish the fellowship with a manuscript ready for publication.

Fellows make a variety of career moves in “life after the Stegner.” As Boland said, “A remarkable number of leading American writers have emerged over the years who finished their early work in the program, from Tillie Olsen to Robert Pinsky, from Tobias Wolff to Thom Gunn, from Larry McMurtry to Raymond Carver.”

The 2012- 2014 Stegner Fellows


Kimberly Grey earned a bachelor’s degree in literature from Richard Stockton College and an MFA in poetry from Adelphi University. Her work is forthcoming in The Southern Review, Boston Review, andColorado Review. She is currently completing her first book of poems, The Opposite of Robot is Light,and plans to start a second collection during her time as a Stegner fellow.

Christopher Kempf is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.  He received his master of fine arts degree in poetry from Cornell University, and his work has appeared in The JournalRATTLESycamore ReviewNew York Quarterly, and DIAGRAM, among other places.  He is currently at work on his second poetry manuscript, Historia calamitatum, about the recent economic collapse.

Hugh Martin is originally from northeastern Ohio and is a graduate of Muskingum University.  He spent six years in the Army National Guard as an M1A1 tanker and 11 months in Iraq in 2004.  He is finishing his MFA at Arizona State University. During his fellowship at Stanford he hopes to continue revising his current manuscript and start a new collection of poems.

Jacques J. Rancourt received his MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he also spent a year as the 2011-12 Halls Emerging Artist Fellow. A founding editor of the literary journal Devil’s Lake, his poems have appeared in New England Review, Beloit Poetry Journal and Colorado Review.While at Stanford, he plans to complete his current manuscript, Hand That Bears No Mercy.

Solmaz Sharif holds degrees from the University of California-Berkeley and New York University. A 2011 winner of the “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, her work has appeared or is forthcoming inGulf Coast, jubilat, DIAGRAM, Boston Review and others. She studied and taught with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People between 2002-2006 and is a recent fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center. She is currently working on a poetic rewrite of the U.S. Department of Defense’s dictionary.


Zimbabwean-born NoViolet Bulawayo earned her MFA at Cornell University where she was a Truman Capote Fellow. Her story “Hitting Budapest” won the 2011 Caine Prize for African writing. She is currently completing a novel entitled We Need New Names.

Nicole Cullen was raised in Salmon, Idaho. She earned a master of fine arts degree from the Michener Center for Writers in 2011. She now holds the Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches creative writing.  While at Stanford, she plans to continue working on a novel set in central Idaho.

Lydia Fitzpatrick received her MFA in 2010 from the University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award for short fiction and a Colby Fellowship. Since graduating, she’s been awarded the 2010-2011 Carl Djerassi Fiction Fellowship at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and a 2012 Elizabeth George Foundation Grant. Her fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and Mid-American Review. She lives in Wadmalaw, South Carolina.

Austin Smith grew up on a family dairy farm in northwestern Illinois. He holds a master’s degree in poetry from the University of California-Davis and an MFA in poetry from the University of Virginia. As a Stegner fellow, he hopes to complete a collection of linked, multigenerational stories about a dairy farming family, Hagiography. He also hopes to work on a memoir about growing up on a farm, The Silo.

Monique Wentzelis a fifth-generation Californian whose short stories focus on the people and landscapes of the state. She received her MFA in 2011 from Portland State University. During her fellowship at Stanford she plans to complete and strengthen a collection of short stories set in California.