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Our Faculty

Brown, James. Take the “A” Train. 1989, carbon pencil on paper. CCNY Art Collection. (Click image for original)

The distinguished faculty of the MFA in Creative Writing program included, Gwendolyn Brooks, Donald Barthelme, Joseph Heller, Grace Paley, Susan Sontag, Marilyn Hacker, and Michelle Wallace, to name a few.

The following former Directors are the writers, William Matthews, Frederic Tuten, and Linsey Abrams, who was instrumental in evolving the program from an MA to MFA.

Our graduates include New York Times Bestsellers and Pulitzer Prize winners, such as Walter Mosley, Oscar Hijuelos, and Ernesto Quiñonez.


Program Director

Michelle Valladares, Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing, is author of the book of poems, Nortada, The North Wind (Global City Press, 2005).  Her writing has appeared in Asterix Journal,  Upstreet Journal, Clockhouse, the Literary Review, North American Review, Fulcrum and  The Women’s Review of Books.  She has been anthologized in Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond, and The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry by Indians.  Her awards include The Poet of the Year” by the Americas Poetry Festival of NY for lifelong literary achievements and a Pushcart Prize Nomination.  She has completed a second manuscript of poems, First Map of the New World and is currently working on a non-fiction book, Searching for Tara.  

Author Website


Salar Abdoh was born in Iran, and splits his time between Tehran and New York City.  He is the author of three novels: The Poet Game (Picador), Opium (Faber), and Tehran at Twilight (Akashic Books), as well as the editor of Tehran Noir (Akashic Books). His essays and short stories have appeared in various publications including the New York Times, BOMB, Callaloo, Guernica, and on the BBC. He is the recipient of the NYFA Prize and the National Endowment for the Arts award.


Amir Arian Ahmadi started his writing career in 2000 as a journalist in Iran. In Farsi, he has published ​ two novels Cogwheels and Disappearance of Daniel, a collection of stories (Fragments of a Crime), and a book of nonfiction on the state of Iranian literature in the new millennium Graffiti on the Paper Wall. He also translated from English to Farsi novels by E.L Doctorow, Paul Auster, P.D. James, and Cormac McCarthy. ​He switched to writing in English in 2012, and has published short stories and essays in The New York Times, The Guardian, London Review of Books, Massachusetts Review, Asymptote, openDemocracy. He earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Queensland in Australia, and an MFA in creative writing from NYU. ​


Mikhal Dekel is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the City College and the CUNY Graduate Center and Director of the Rifkind Center for Humanities and the Arts. She is the recipient of many awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation and the Lady Davis Foundation. She is the author of Tehran Children: A Holocaust Refugee Odyssey (W. W. Norton 2019), Oedipus in Kishinev (Bialik Institute, 2014), and The Universal Jew: Masculinity, Modernity and the Zionist Moment (Northwestern University Press, 2011). Her articles, translations and blogs have appeared in The Journal of Comparative Literature, English Literary History, Jewish Social Studies, Callaloo, Shofar, Guernica, and Cambridge Literary Review, among many others.

Author Website


Lyn Di Iorio is working on a suspense novel, The Sound of Falling Darkness, which was shortlisted for the 2015 Faulkner-Wisdom Novel-in-Progress award. Her short novel Outside the Bones (Arte Público Press) won the 2011 Foreword Review Indie Book of the Year Silver Award, was best debut novel on the Latinidad list, a top-five finalist for the 2012 John Gardner Fiction Award, a finalist for the International Latino Book Award, and on Book Riot’s 2016 list of the top 100 works of noir.  Her recent short stories have appeared in Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas and New Guard.  She has won residencies and fellowships from The Millay Colony for the Arts, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Vermont Studio Center and Ucross, and was a Patricia Harris Fellow at Stanford University’s Creative Writing Program.

Author Website


Keith Gandal is Professor of English at the City College of New York, with a joint appointment in American Literature and Creative Writing. He received his Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of five books: four scholarly monographs and a novel. His research has focused on two areas of American studies: literature and poverty, and literature and war. His scholarly books are The Virtues of the Vicious: Jacob Riis, Stephen Crane and the Spectacle of the Slum (Oxford University Press, 1997), Class Representation in Modern Fiction and Film (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), The Gun and the Pen: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and the Fiction of Mobilization (Oxford, 2008), and War Isn’t the Only Hell: A New Reading of World War I American Literature (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018). The novel, Cleveland Anonymous (North Atlantic Books, 2002), combines a variety of genres, including comedy and mystery. At City College, he has served as MFA director, MA director, deputy chairperson, and chair.


David Groff received his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. He also has an MA in English and Expository Writing from the University of Iowa. His two books are poetry are Clay (Trio House Press, 2013) and Theory of Devolution (University of Illinois Press, 2002). He has co-edited the anthologies Who’s Yer Daddy?: Gay Writers Celebrate Their Mentors and Forerunners (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013) and Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS (Alyson, 2010).

He has taught poetry and nonfiction workshops. An independent book editor with an interest in the ways writers engage with the culture, he has also led MFA courses in publishing and authorship.

Author Website


Laura Hinton is a poet, literary critic, and editor, as well as an educator. Her poetry books include Ubermutter’s Death Dance and Sisyphus My Love (To Record a Dream in a Bathtub), published by BlazeVox. Her critical books include The Perverse Gaze of Sympathy: Sadomasochistic Sentiments from Clarissa to Rescue 911 (SUNY Press), We Who Love to Be Astonished: Experimental Women’s Writing and Performance Poetics (co-editor) and Jayne Cortez, Adrienne Rich, and the Feminist Superhero: Voice, Vision, Politics and Performance in the U.S. Contemporary Women’s Poetics (editor). Her essays, poet interviews, and reviews have appeared in numerous books and journals including Contemporary Literature, Postmodern Culture, Textual Practice, Women’s Studies, Rain Taxi, Jacket2, Poetry Project Newsletter, and The Journal of the Academy of American Poets, among many others. She often works in hybrid media, and her poetry with photography and or/ video have been published in several journals including Yew, Madhatter Review, Feminist Studies, Bird Dog, How2, Poetry Seen and Red Fez. She has performed her poetry in venues from Maine to Tucson to New York City.

She received her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Arizona, and her Ph.D. from Stanford University.  She teaches a range of subjects from feminist and critical literary theory, poetics, film studies, contemporary literature, and women’s literature.

Author Website


Pamela Laskin directs the Poetry Outreach Center at City College. Several of her children’s and poetry books have been published, most recently, RONIT AND JAMIL, a Palestinian/Israeli version of “Romeo and Juliet” in verse published by Harper Collins in 2017.  BEA, a picture book, was a finalist for the Katherine Paterson Prize for Children’s Fiction. She teaches children’s writing in the MFA program.


Mark Jay Mirsky is the author of thirteen books, among them five novels and a book of stories and novellas, Thou Worm Jacob, Proceedings of the Rabble, Blue Hill Avenue, The Secret Table, The Red Adam, and Puddingstone. He has also published three critical studies, The Absent Shakespeare, Dante, Eros and Kabbalah. Blue Hill Avenue was listed by the Boston Globe in 2009 as “One of the Essential Books of New England.” His last book A Mother’s Steps is a search for his mother in dreams and photographic albums. The editor of the Diaries in English translation of Robert Musil (Basic Books) and co-editor of Rabbinic Fantasies (Yale University Press) and Volume 1 and 2 of The Jews of Pinsk, 1506-1941 (Stanford University Press) he has been the editor of Fiction since its founding in 1972. Professor Mirsky has taught at Stanford University and Bar Ilan as well as serving first as director of the City College M.A., and then as chairperson of its English Department. He has published in numerous periodicals, the New York Times Sunday Book Review, the Washington Post, Partisan Review, and received a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship and a New York Foundation for the Arts Award.


Marc Palmieri has taught dramatic writing in the MFA program at CCNY since 2010, and Modern and Postmodern Drama, Shakespeare, Dramatic Writing for the stage, TV and Film, Fiction and other courses for the Undergraduate English Department since 2006. He is a full-time core faculty member in the School of Liberal Arts at Mercy College. Credits include: Miramax Films’ Telling You (screenplay), stage plays include Levittown (NY Times Critic’s Pick), The GroundlingCarl The Second and Poor Fellas (all published by Dramatists Play Service). He has published twice in Fiction, and in numerous anthologies for Applause/Limelight Books and Smith & Kraus Inc. His collection of plays for middle schoolers, S(cool) Days, will be published by Brooklyn Publishers in 2020. Marc is a fully vested member of SAG-AFTRA and Actors Equity. He received his B.A. from Wake Forest University and MA/MFA from the City College of New York.

Author Website


Emily Raboteau is the author of a novel, The Professor’s Daughter (Henry Holt) and a work of creative nonfiction, Searching for Zion (Grove/Atlantic), named a best book of 2013 by The Huffington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle, a finalist for the Hurston Wright Legacy Award, grand prize winner of the New York Book Festival, and winner of a 2014 American Book Award.  Her fiction and essays have been widely published and anthologized in Best American Short Stories, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Tin House, Buzzfeed, Literary Hub, The Guardian, Guernica, VQR, The Believer, Salon, Orion and elsewhere.  Honors include a Pushcart Prize, The Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Lannan Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony. 

Author Website


David Unger is writer and translator, he received Guatemala’s 2014 Miguel Angel Asturias National Literature Prize for lifetime achievement though he writes exclusively in English. His latest novel, The Mastermind, is appearing in seven languages including Spanish, Arabic, Turkish and Italian. Other published novels include The Price of Escape; Para Mi, Eres Divina; Ni chicha, ni limonada; and Life in the Damn Tropics. His short stories and essays have appeared in Guernica Magazine, Review and Playboy Mexico. As translator, he has published 14 titles including The Popol Vuh, Guatemala’s pre-Columbian creation myth and the work of Rigoberta Menchú (Guatemala), Silvia Molina (Mexico), Nicanor Parra (Chile), Teresa Cárdenas (Cuba), Mario Benedetti (Uruguay), among others. He just received a NYSCA grant to retranslate Nobelist Miguel Angel Asturias’s first novel El Señor Presidente and teaches Translation in the MFA Program.

Unger has been a featured writer in book festivals in San Juan, Miami, Los Angeles, Guatemala, Sharjah, Managua, Bogotá, Lima, La Paz, Oaxaca, and Guadalajara. 


Guest Faculty

Justine Calma is a journalist reporting on science and the environment for Vox Media’s The Verge. She previously covered environmental justice and health for Grist.org. Since the adoption of the Paris climate accord in 2015, Justine has covered the effects of climate change across four continents. Her work can be found on NBC News, PBS, PRI’s The World, WNYC, FiveThirtyEight, Quartz, Wired, HuffPost, Mother Jones, Business Insider, and The GroundTruth Project, among others. She is an alumna of Columbia Journalism School’s Toni Stabile investigative program and the Ida B. Wells fellowship at The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Justine was born in the Philippines, immigrated to Los Angeles as a child, and is now based in New York City.

Author Website


Cynthia Cruz is the author of five collections of poems: How the End Begins, Wunderkammer, The Glimmering Room, and Ruin. Her fifth collection of poems, Dregs, was published in September of 2018. The editor of an anthology of contemporary Latina poetry, Other Musics: New Latina Poetry (2019), Disquieting: Essays on Silence is her first collection of essays. Cruz is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and a Hodder fellowship from Princeton University. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University.

Author Website


Yahdon Israel is a writer, college professor and creator of Literaryswag, a cultural movement that intersects literature and fashion to make books cool. He has written for Avidly, The New Inquiry, Brooklyn Magazine, LitHub, and Poets and Writers. He teaches at The New School and City College. He hosts the Literaryswag Book Club, a monthly book club that’s free and open to public and the host of LIT, a weekly web series about books and culture.

Author Website


Nelly A. Rosario is a Dominican-American author and creative writing instructor of Song of the Water Saints, winner of a PEN/Open Book Award. Her fiction and non-fiction works appear in various anthologies and journals. Rosario holds an MFA from Columbia University, where she has taught. She was formerly on faculty at Texas State University and a Visiting Scholar in the MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing Program. Currently, Rosario is the 2017-18 Schumann Visiting Professor in Democratic Studies in the Latina/o Studies Program at Williams College and also serves as Assistant Director of Writing for the MIT Black History Project.


Nicole Sealey is an award-winning Poet and Director of Cave Canem. Born in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. and raised in Apopka, Florida, Nicole is the author of Ordinary Beast and The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named, winner of the 2015 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. Her other honors include an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from The American Poetry Review, a Daniel Varoujan Award and the Poetry International Prize. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming to Best American Poetry 2018, The New Yorker, The New York Times and elsewhere. Nicole holds an MLA in Africana studies from the University of South Florida and an MFA in creative writing from New York University. She is the executive director at Cave Canem Foundation, Inc.

Author Website


Former Guest Faculty

Naima Coster is the author of Halsey Street, a novel of family, loss, and renewal, set in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Halsey Street has been recommended as a must-read by People, Essence, BitchMedia, The Root, Well-Read Black Girl and The Skimm, among others. It was a Finalist for the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Fiction.

Naima’s second novel, Didn’t Never Know, is the story of the integration of a public high school in a small Southern town, which sets off a chain of events that bonds two families together in unexpected and complicated ways over the course of their lives. It is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing.

Naima’s stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Rumpus, Aster(ix), KweliThe Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere. She has taught writing to students in jail, youth programs, and universities. Naima is currently visiting faculty at the MFA program at City College in Harlem and Antioch University in L.A.

Author Website


Nicole Dennis-Benn is the author of the  novel, Here comes the sun.  Dennis-Benn is a Lambda Literary Award winner, named by Time Out Magazine as an immigrant making a stamp on New York City. Her debut novel has received much acclaim including: a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a NPR Best Books of 2016, an Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Entertainment Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016, a BuzzFeed Best Literary Debuts of 2016, among others. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, ELLE Magazine, Electric Literature, Lenny Letter, Catapult, Red Rock Review, Kweli Literary Journal, Mosaic, Ebony, and the Feminist Wire. Her writing has been awarded a Richard and Julie Logsdon Fiction Prize; and two of her stories have been nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize in Fiction. Vice listed Dennis-Benn among immigrant authors “who are making American Literature great again.” She was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, and now lives with her wife in Brooklyn, New York.

Author Website

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