Current MFA Students

Jesse Bertron is a second-year MFA student in poetry. He has worked as a carpenter, an actor, and a middle-school teacher. He is co-director of Poetry at Round Top, an annual poetry festival in the Texas hill country.

Tiana Clark is a second-year MFA student in poetry.  Her forthcoming chapbook,  Equilibrium, was selected by Afaa Michael Weaver in the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Winner of the 2016 Academy of American Poets Prize and 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize, Tiana has received scholarships to Sewanee Writers’ Conference, The Frost Place Poetry Seminar, and The New Harmony Project. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from such publications as  Poets.org, Rattle, Best New Poets 2015, Crab Orchard Review, Southern Indiana Review, The Adroit Journal, Muzzle Magazine, Thrush Poetry Journal, and The Offing.  She recently received funding from the Nashville Metropolitan Arts Commission for her community project, Writing as Resistance, which provides creative writing workshops for trans youth.  A graduate of Tennessee State University where she studied Africana and Women’s studies, she is the poetry editor for Nashville Review.

Carla Diaz is a first-year MFA student in fiction who was born and raised in New York City. After graduating from Amherst College in 2013, she worked in foster care, interned in StoryCorps’s production department, and hiked 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail. She writes music as well as fiction.

Katie Young Foster is a third-year MFA student in fiction. She grew up in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Master’s Review Anthology, Arcadia, and Smokelong Quarterly. In 2015, her work received an Honorable Mention from the Zoetrope All-Story Short Fiction contest. She is the 2016-17 Creative Writing Fellow at the Curb Center.

Alina Grabowski is a first-year MFA student in fiction. She grew up on the south shore of Massachusetts and moved to Philadelphia to study English at the University of Pennsylvania. She’s worked as a deli clerk in Grand Teton National Park and a camp counselor in upstate New York, and has held writing residencies in Grinnell, Iowa and Long Beach, Washington. Her stories have appeared in Fifth Wednesday Journal, The Adroit Journal, Cleaver Magazine and ICA Philadelphia’s blog. She is assistant fiction editor for Nashville Review.

Mark Haslam is a second-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.



Derek Pfister is a second-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.


Max McDonough is a third-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 second-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.

Samuel Rutter is a first-year MFA candidate in fiction who hails from Melbourne, Australia. He has received a PhD in Spanish at the University of Melbourne and has also lived in France, Spain, Chile, and Argentina.  In addition to writing fiction, Samuel has published several translations of contemporary Latin American authors; he was the recipient of a PEN Translates award in 2015 (from the English PEN chapter). His work can be found in such journals as Meanjin, Overland and Kill Your Darlings. He is assistant fiction editor for Nashville Review.

Mary Somerville is a third-year MFA student in poetry. She grew up among the farms of Michigan, mountains of North Carolina, and spring-fed rivers of Florida.  After graduating from the University of North Carolina, she worked as a barista, nanny, teacher, and church historian before moving to Nashville to focus on writing.