Current MFA Students

Jesse Bertron is a first-year MFA student in poetry. He has worked as a carpenter, an actor, and a middle-school teacher. His poetry has appeared inHOOTThe Ilanot Review, and Pocket Guide. He is the co-director of poetry at Round Top, an annual poetry festival in the Texas hill country.

Laura Birdsall is a third-year MFA student in fiction. She grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UCLA.  She volunteers at the Contributor and is the managing editor at Glad Fact Records.  She likes Youtube.

Rita Bullwinkel is a second-year MFA student in fiction. Her writing has appeared in many places including NOON, Spork, The Atlas Review, Deep South Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Joyland, and the book, Gigantic Worlds: An Anthology of Science Flash Fiction. She is a Sewanee Writer’s Conference Tennessee Williams Scholarship Award winner, a Vanderbilt Commons Writer in Residence, and a Helene Wurlitzer Foundation grantee. She was also recently a finalist for The Conium Review‘s Innovative Short Fiction Prize judged by Amelia Gray.  See She is fiction editor for Nashville Review.

Tiana Clark is a first-year MFA student in poetry.  A Pushcart Prize nominee who has been living in Nashville, she serves on the board for the the Porch Writers’ Collective, a non-profit literary center. Her poems have appeared in The Raven Chronicles, Word Riot, Native Magazine, Rattle, and Crab Orchard Review, and are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2015. See

Katie Young Foster is a second-year MFA student in fiction. She grew up on the Niobrara River in the Sandhills of Nebraska and worked on trail crews for Rocky Mountain Nature Association before graduating from Creighton University in Omaha, NE. She is comics editor for Nashville Review.

Simon Han is a third-year MFA student in fiction. He was born in Tianjin, China and grew up in Dallas, Texas. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Guernica, Narrative Magazine, and SmokeLong Quarterly. He has received scholarships and awards from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Sundress Academy for the Arts, and the Union League Civic & Arts Foundation of Chicago.

Mark Haslam is a first-year MFA student in fiction.  He was raised in Southern California and Seattle, and has taught middle and high school English in Oakland, California and New York City.

Evan Hall is a first-year MFA student in fiction.  He grew up in the sleepy backwater of Luck, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  After graduating with a B.A. in Creative Writing and Journalism, he spent a year teaching English at a high school in South Korea.  In his spare time, he enjoys camping, playing piano, ultimate frisbee, and Scrabble.

Dan Haney is a second-year MFA student in poetry. Born in the coal region of Pennsylvania, he graduated from Bucknell University, where he worked for West Branch. He has received the Cadigan Prize for Poetry, the Samuel Ziegler Lewis Prize, and a fellowship to the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. His most recent work is forthcoming from Ninth Letter, Rhino, and Pacifica. He serves as editor-in-chief for Nashville Review.

Derek Pfister is a first-year MFA student in poetry. He grew up in Ohio and attend Ohio State University, where he studied English and received the Citino Poetry Award.  Derek plays Telecaster electric guitar, piano, and soccer.

William Scott Lyon is a second-year MFA student in fiction.  He grew up on the North Carolina coast. His film work has been shown on PBS and numerous screens around the world. After working as a teacher and community leader in Taiwan and Nepal, he moved to Nashville where he founded a creative writing program for prisoners on death row. He is the interviews and music editor for Nashville Review.

Max McDonough is a second-year MFA student in poetry.  He grew up in the suburbs of Atlantic City, New Jersey, but escaped to rural Virginia at the age of sixteen. He has work appearing or forthcoming in such publications as Gulf Coast, Columbia Poetry Review, The Adroit Journal, CutBank. He is the nonfiction editor for Nashville Review.

Kelsey Norris is a first-year MFA student in fiction from northern Alabama. After graduating from Mississippi State University, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Namibia. There, she taught English and Art, managed her school’s library, and facilitated girls’ and youth empowerment initiatives. She loves to travel and is a Vanderbilt Commons Writer in Residence.

Anna Silverstein is a third-year MFA student in fiction. She is the 2015-2016 Creative Writing Fellow at the Curb Center, where, among other responsibilities, she teaches expressive writing workshops to cancer patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers. Originally from Newton, Massachusetts, she completed her undergraduate studies at Oberlin College. Before pursuing her MFA, she lived and volunteered in Peru and worked for three years for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Boston, MA. She is the former editor in chief of Nashville Review and won the 2015 Guy Goffe Means Prize for Fiction.

Mary Flannery Somerville is a second-year MFA student in poetry.  She grew up among the farms of Michigan, mountains of North Carolina, and spring-fed rivers of Florida.  She graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2012 and subsequently worked as a barista, nanny, teacher, and church historian.  She is currently a Vanderbilt Commons Writer in Residence and the poetry editor for Nashville Review.