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 Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado is the author of the memoir In the Dream House and the short story collection Her Body and Other Parties. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, the Brooklyn Public Library Literature Prize, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Prize. In 2018, the New York Times listed Her Body and Other Parties as a member of "The New Vanguard," one of "15 remarkable books by women that are shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century."

Her essays, fiction, and criticism have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, GrantaHarper’s Bazaar, Tin House, VQRConjunctions, McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The Believer, Guernica, Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Guggenheim Foundation, Michener-Copernicus Foundation, Elizabeth George Foundation, CINTAS Foundation, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is the Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Philadelphia with her wife.

Michael Stackpole

Michael A. Stackpole is an award-winning novelist, game designer, computer game designer, graphic novelist, screenwriter and podcaster. He's had over fifty novels published, including the New York Times Bestselling I, Jedi and Rogue Squadron.

Beth Staples is an assistant professor of English and editor of the literary magazine Shenandoah at Washington & Lee University. She has worked as an editor and publishing professional in a variety of jobs: as the assistant director of The Publishing Laboratory at UNC Wilmington, as editor of Lookout Books, as senior editor of Ecotone, and as the managing editor of Hayden's Ferry Review. (In her early professional life, she also dipped her toe into medical publishing at Elsevier and the print-on-demand publishing world at Xlibris.) In addition to teaching creative writing classes at W&L, she has taught classes in fiction writing, editing, and publishing at UNCW, Mesa Community College, and Arizona State University, where she earned her MFA in fiction writing.

Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference Fellow 2019 Jabari Jawan Allen

Jabari Jawan Allen, a Chicago, IL native, has received fellowships and scholarships from Tin House, Community of Writers, Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, VONA, among others. Along with Jari Bradley and Willie Kinard III, he is a member of the Black queer gospel trio The Upper Room Collective. A Pushcart nominee, Allen’s poems either appear or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Vinyl, Virginia Quarterly Review, Wildness, the anthology The Impossible Beast: Queer Erotic Poems, and elsewhere. An Arizona Commission on the Arts grant recipient, Allen currently lives in Phoenix. 

Photograph of Hallie Ephron

Hallie Ephron ( is the NY Times bestselling author of 17 books including 6 domestic suspense novels reviewers call “deliciously creepy.” Her recent "Careful What You Wish For" (Wm. Morrow), received a STARRED review, PW called it “outstanding.” In a review in TIME Magazine, Jamie Lee Curtis called it “thrilling and suspenseful.” Her "Never Tell a Lie" was made into a Lifetime movie. A five-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, her "Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel" (Writers Digest Books) was an Edgar Award finalist. Hallie is a popular presenter at events and writing conferences. She can be found daily on the Anthony-award-winning blog, Jungle Red Writers

Photograph of Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher is the author of the Dresden Files, the Codex Alera, and a new steampunk series, the Cinder Spires. His resume includes a laundry list of skills which were useful a couple of centuries ago, and he plays guitar quite badly. An avid gamer, he plays tabletop games in varying systems, a variety of video games on PC and console, and LARPs whenever he can make time for it. Jim currently resides mostly inside his own head, but his head can generally be found in the mountains outside Denver, Colorado.

Jim goes by the moniker Longshot in a number of online locales. He came by this name in the early 1990’s when he decided he would become a published author. Usually only 3 in 1000 who make such an attempt actually manage to become published; of those, only 1 in 10 make enough money to call it a living. The sale of a second series was the breakthrough that let him beat the long odds against attaining a career as a novelist.

All the same, he refuses to change his nickname.

Photograph of Matt Ferraz

Matt Ferraz is a Brazilian author with works published in English, Portuguese and Italian. With a degree in journalism and a master's in biography at the University of Buckingham, in the UK, Matt created the Intro to Memoir course for the Batwa tribe in Uganda. Through these classes, Matt taught the Batwa how to write about their own life experiences with remarkable success, and is now bringing the project to other parts of the world.

Photograph of Leah Newsom

Leah Newsom is a fiction writer born and raised in Arizona. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University and is the Founding Editor of Spilled Milk Magazine. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, JukedPassages North, and more.

Photograph of Tiffany Hawk

Tiffany Hawk is a former flight attendant with an MFA from UC Riverside. Her debut novel, Love Me Anyway, was published by St. Martin’s Press. Her stories have appeared in such places as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, StoryQuarterly, GQ, National Geographic Traveler, and on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” She currently lives in Tucson and works as a freelance editor and private writing coach.

Yi Shun Lai (say "yeeshun" for her first name) lives in Southern California. Her debut novel, Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu was a semi-finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Her memoir Pin Ups will be published in September 2020 by Homebound Publications. She teaches in the MFA programs at Bay Path and Southern New Hampshire Universities.

Photograph of Judith Starkston

Judith Starkston writes historical fantasy set in the Bronze Age world of Hittites and Greeks. She holds degrees in Classics, from University of California, Santa Cruz (BA) and Cornell University (MA). She taught high-school English, Latin and humanities. Her debut novel, Hand of Fire, was a semi-finalist for the prestigious M.M. Bennett’s Award for Historical Fiction. Her second novel, Priestess of Ishana won the San Diego State University Conference Choice Award. She is represented by Richard Curtis.

Photograph of Gionni Ponce

Gionni Ponce is a Macondista prose writer currently based in Tempe, Arizona. She aims to create literary space for traditionally marginalized stories in her writing as well as in her work. She is the former associate director of the IU Writers' Conference. Her work is published in Kenyon Review Online, CRED Philly, The MFA Years, TakePart, and La Vida Magazine. To learn more, follow her on Twitter: @GPisMe