The Virginia G. Piper
Center for Creative Writing

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Piper Writers Studio Instructors

Expert writers with a passion for community

Our instructors are at the heart of what we do. 

To meet current instructors for the Piper Writers Studio, select a name from the list below.

For more information, you can meet past instructors or view upcoming classes and workshops

Meet Our Current Instructors

Photograph of Piper J. Daniels

Piper J. Daniels (she/ her) is a Michigan native and queer intersectional feminist currently living in the American Southwest. She received a BA from Columbia College Chicago and an MFA from University of Washington. Her debut essay collection, Ladies Lazarus, won the Tarpaulin Sky Book Award, was longlisted for the PEN Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award For the Art of the Essay, and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in LGBTQ Nonfiction. Entropy named Ladies Lazarus one of their favorite books of 2018. Daniels’s work appears in Hotel Amerika, The Rumpus, Tarpaulin Sky, Entropy, Longreads, and elsewhere. She works as a full-time writer and manuscript consultant to the curious and the brave.


Photograph of Mary Sojourner

Mary Sojourner's latest short story collection, The Talker, was published by Torrey House Press 2017. She's published three novels: Sisters of the Dream, Going Through Ghosts and 29; the short story collection, Delicate, essay collection, Bonelight: Ruin and Grace in the New Southwest, Bonelight: rituals of loss and desire; two memoirs, She Bets Her Life and Solace. She was chosen as a Distinguished Writer in Residence in 2007 by the Virginia C. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University. She teaches at writing conferences throughout the Southwest, including the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference; and has taken part in residencies throughout America. Find more about Sojourner at http://www.breakthroughwriting.net.


Tucker Leighty-Phillips is an MFA candidate in fiction at Arizona State University, where he is also an associate editor at Hayden's Ferry Review. His work has been featured or forthcoming at Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, West Branch Wired, WhiskeyPaper, and elsewhere.


Photograph of Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis is a journalist and critic whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Humanities Magazine, and numerous other publications. His 2017 book, The New Midwest (Belt Publishing), is a critical study of contemporary fiction set in the region, and he has been a featured speaker on the subject for BBC Radio, the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, and other venues. A member of the board of the National Book Critics Circle, he lives in Chandler.


Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference Fellow 2019 Laura Maher

Laura Maher is the author of the chapbook, Sleep Water (dancing girl press, 2017). Her work has appeared in The Common, Crazyhorse, The Collagist, New Ohio Review, and Third Coast, among others. Maher holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Arizona, a Master of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. She lives, works, and writes in Tucson, Arizona.


Photograph of Saretta Morgan

Saretta Morgan is a writer and artist who uses text and objects to consider relationships between privacy and narrative forms. She is the author of the chapbooks, Feeling Upon Arrival (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2018) and room for a counter interior (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs, 2017) as well as a forthcoming full length collection Plan Upon Arrival (Selva Oscura/Three Count Pour). She was a 2016-2017 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Resident and has created interactive text-based projects for art institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art and Dia Beacon. Her work has received support from the Jerome Foundation, Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, among others. Saretta received a B.A. in writing from Columbia University and an MFA from Pratt Institute. She teaches creative writing at Arizona State University.


Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference Faculty 2019 James Sallis
James Sallis has published seventeen novels, multiple collections of short stories and essays, four collections of poetry, three books of musicology, reams of criticism, a classic biography of Chester Himes, a book on paperback novelists of the fifties, and a translation of Raymond Queneau's novel Saint Glinglin – 36 books, to date. His novels include Drive, from which the award-winning film derived, the six-volume Lew Griffin cycle, Death Will Have Your Eyes, Others of My Kind, and Willnot. Jim has received a lifetime achievement award from Bouchercon, the Hammett Award for literary excellence in crime writing, and the Grand Prix de Littérature policière. This year sees a new novel, Sarah Jane, and a new poetry collection, Ain’t Long ‘Fore Day.

Photograph of Jake Skeets

Jake Skeets is Black Streak Wood, born for Water's Edge. He is Diné from the Navajo Nation. A graduate of the Low-Rez IAIA MFA program, he currently resides in the Navajo Nation and works at Diné College. He is one of the winners of the 2018 "Discovery"/Boston Review Poetry Prize. His debut poetry collection, Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, was selected by Kathy Fagan as a winner for the 2018 National Poetry Series and is forthcoming from Milkweed in September 2019.