Katie Jacobson Writer in Residence

The Katie Jacobson Writer in Residence program honors beloved Creative Writing MFA alumnx Katie Jacobson (class of 2010) for her notable dedication to public literary engagement in Los Angeles. Thanks to the generous support of Katie’s family, the Creative Writing program is able to celebrate her memory each year by bringing a writer of great influence to campus and to the REDCAT theater in downtown Los Angeles for a lecture, a public reading and two days of intimate workshops with Cal Arts Creative Writing MFA students.

Don Mee Choi

The MFA Program in Creative Writing of the California Institute of the Arts is thrilled to welcome Don Mee Choi, 2024’s Katie Jacobson Writer in Residence. Choi (pronounced ‘Che’) is a markedly influential figure in contemporary experimental poetry combining the visual, the documentary and the lyrical in her highly acclaimed books. Her Kor-Us Trilogy (Hardly WarDMZ Colony and the forthcoming Mirror Nation) intertwines the author’s family history with the troubled and complex modern history of South Korea and its long entanglement with the imperial power and ambitions of the United States of America. For her work Choi has already received some of the highest honors a literary artist can achieve—the National Book Award for 2020’s DMZ Colony and a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of her work in poetry and in the field of translation, where she’s brought so many English readers for the first time to the pages of some of the most innovative poets working in South Korea today, notably the influential feminist poet Kim Heysoon. In addition to the MacArthur, Choi has received fellowships from the Guggenheim, Lannan, and Whiting Foundations, as well as the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program. She has translated several collections of Kim Hyesoon’s poetry, including Autobiography of Death (New Directions, 2018), which received the International Griffin Poetry Prize. Don Mee also holds an MFA and BFA from the School of Art at CalArts. As the MacArthur Foundation wrote in awarding Choi its fellowship in 2021:”Choi’s intertwined practices as poet and translator bear witness to otherwise unspeakable histories and expand the range of expressive possibilities for writers from diasporic and multilingual backgrounds.”  This winter’s residency will expand our community’s understanding of what poetry can do, while challenging us to experience simultaneously and viscerally the many layers of personal and cultural experience we call history. Don Mee will give a lecture on campus at CalArts on January 18th, 2024 and a reading at REDCAT on January 19th. 

Photo credit: Dirk Skiba

Don Mee Choi

Stephen Graham Jones

The 2023 Katie Jacobson Writer in Residence is Stephen Graham Jones. Jones, the critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author of My Heart is a ChainsawThe Only Good Indians, and 30 other books, is widely known and loved for his innovative approach to genre, particularly horror. His CalArts residency and public reading at REDCAT take place in advance of his highly anticipated sequel to My Heart is a Chainsaw. Titled Don't Fear the Reaper (part two of The Indian Lake Trilogy), the book will be released on Feb. 7, 2023, by Simon & Schuster.

An important figure in contemporary Native American literature, Jones—a member of the Blackfeet Nation—adroitly remixes the conventions of literary horror fiction to construct disturbing, funny, and moving depictions of contemporary American life, especially as it is lived at the rural margins of the American West. In his work, the past is always alive and lurking somewhere in the dark just beyond the beams of our headlights.

The Ivena Baldwin Professor of English and a professor of distinction at the University of Colorado Boulder, Jones is the recipient of many literary awards, including the Ray Bradbury Award from the Los Angeles Times, the Bram Stoker Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award.

On Thursday, Jan. 19, Jones will visit the CalArts campus to give two workshops for students, as well as an evening lecture. On Friday, Jan. 20, Jones will take the REDCAT stage for a public reading of new and previous works.

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Hilton Als

The 2022 Katie Jacobson Writer in Residence at CalArts is Hilton Als. He began contributing to The New Yorker in 1989, writing pieces for ‘The Talk of the Town,’ he became a staff writer in 1994, theatre critic in 2002, and lead theater critic in 2012. Week after week, he brings to the magazine a rigorous, sharp, and lyrical perspective on acting, playwriting, and directing. With his deep knowledge of the history of performance—not only in theatre but in dance, music, and visual art—he shows us how to view a production and how to place its director, its author, and its performers in the ongoing continuum of dramatic art. His reviews are not simply reviews; they are provocative contributions to the discourse on theatre, race, class, sexuality, and identity in America. He is currently working on a new book titled I Don’t Remember (Penguin, 2021), a book length essay on his experiences in AIDS era New York.

Before coming to The New Yorker, Als was a staff writer for the Village Voice and an editor-at-large at Vibe. Als edited the catalogue for the 1994-95 Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art.” His first book, The Women, was published in 1996. His book, White Girls, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2014, discusses various narratives of race and gender. White Girls also won the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for Non-fiction. He wrote the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of The Early Stories of Truman Capote, and was guest editor for the 2018 Best American Essays (Mariner Books, October 2, 2018). He wrote Andy Warhol: The Series, a book containing two previously unpublished television scripts for a series on the life of Andy Warhol. His in-progress debut play, Lives of the Performers, has been performed at Carolina Performing Arts and LAXART in Los Angeles. He also wrote Edna Lewis, a work about the legendary chef that was performed by Carolina Performing Arts.

In 1997, the New York Association of Black Journalists awarded Als first prize in both Magazine Critique/Review and Magazine Arts and Entertainment. He was awarded a Guggenheim for creative writing in 2000 and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for 2002-03. In 2016, he received the Lambda Literary’s Trustee Award for Excellence in Literature, as well as the Windham Campbell Prize for Nonfiction. In 2017 Als won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, and in 2018 the Langston Hughes Medal. In 2020 he was named an inaugural Presidential Visiting Scholar at Princeton University for the 2020-21 academic year. In 2021 he was voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 2009, Als worked with the performer Justin Bond on “Cold Water,” an exhibition of paintings, drawings, and videos by performers, at La MaMa Gallery. In 2010, he co-curated “Self-Consciousness,” at the VeneKlasen/Werner gallery, in Berlin, and published “Justin Bond/Jackie Curtis.” In 2015, he collaborated with the artist Celia Paul to create “Desdemona for Celia by Hilton,” an exhibition for the Metropolitan Opera’s Gallery Met. In 2016, his debut art show “One Man Show: Holly, Candy, Bobbie and the Rest” opened at the Artist’s Institute. He has curated "Alice Neel, Uptown" and "God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin" at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York City.  He is also curating three successive solo exhibitions at the Yale Centre for British Art, the first exhibit in 2018 featured Celia Paul, the second, in 2019, features Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, the third will feature Paul Doig. In 2019 Als partnered with WNYC’s Greene Space on a limited podcast series titled The Way We Live Now: Hilton Als and America’s Poets. He recently contributed an essay to Moonlight, a limited edition book about the film of the same name.

Als is an associate professor of writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and has taught at Yale University, Wesleyan, and Smith College. He lives in New York City.

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Joy Harjo

The MFA Creative Writing Program is thrilled to welcome poet, playwright and musican Joy Harjo as the 2021 Katie Jacobson Writer in Residence. Her interdisciplinary, collaborative spirit and commitment to mentorship and empowerment strongly resonates with the kinds of creativity, activism and care our program engages and encourages.

Joy Harjo, the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, is a member of the Mvskoke Nation and belongs to Oce Vpofv (Hickory Ground). She is only the second poet to be appointed a third term as U.S. Poet Laureate. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she left home to attend high school at the innovative Institute of American Indian Arts, which was then a Bureau of Indian Affairs school. Harjo began writing poetry as a member of the University of New Mexico’s Native student organization, the Kiva Club, in response to Native empowerment movements. She went on to earn her MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teach English, Creative Writing, and American Indian Studies at University of California-Los Angeles, University of New Mexico, University of Arizona, Arizona State, University of Illinois, University of Colorado, University of Hawai’i, Institute of American Indian Arts, and University of Tennessee, while performing music and poetry nationally and internationally.

Harjo is the author of nine books of poetry, including her most recent, the highly acclaimed An American Sunrise (2019), which was a 2020 Oklahoma Book Award Winner; Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (2015), which was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize and named a Notable Book of the Year by the American Library Association; and In Mad Love and War (1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. Her first memoir, Crazy Brave, was awarded the PEN USA Literary Award in Creative Non Fiction and the American Book Award, and her second, Poet Warrior: A Call for Love and Justice, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton in Fall 2021.

She has published two award-winning children’s books, The Good Luck Cat and For a Girl Becoming; a collaboration with photographer/astronomer Stephen Strom; an anthology of North American Native women’s writing; several screenplays and collections of prose interviews; and three plays, including Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light, A Play, which she toured as a one-woman show and was recently published by Wesleyan Press. 

She is Executive Editor of the anthology When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through — A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry and the editor of Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry, the companion anthology to her signature Poet Laureate project featuring a sampling of work by 47 Native Nations poets through an interactive ArcGIS Story Map and a newly developed Library of Congress audio collection.

Harjo’s awards for poetry include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, a PEN USA Literary Award, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund Writers’ Award, the Poets & Writers Jackson Poetry Prize, a Rasmuson USArtist Fellowship, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.  Harjo performs with her saxophone and flutes, solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynamics Band, and previously with Joy Harjo and Poetic Justice. She/they have toured across the U.S. and in Europe, South America, India, Africa, and Canada. Harjo has produced six award-winning music albums including Winding Through the Milky Way, for which she was awarded a NAMMY for Best Female Artist of the year, and her newest album, I Pray for My Enemies, with Sunyata Records. In addition to serving as U.S. Poet Laureate, Harjo is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, holds a Tulsa Artist Fellowship, directs For Girls Becoming, an arts mentorship program for young Mvskoke women, and is a founding board member and Chair of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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Photo of Joy Harjo, the 2021 Katie Jacobson Writer in Residence

John Keene

The 2020 Katie Jacobson Writer in Residence was John Keene. He is the author of the novel Annotations (New Directions, 1995); the poetry collection Seismosis (1913 Press, 2006), a collaboration with artist Christopher Stackhouse; and the short fiction collection Counternarratives (New Directions, 2015), which received a 2016 American Book Award, a 2016 Lannan Literary Award and the 2017 Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction, as well as the inaugural 2017 Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses (UK). Keene's other published work includes GRIND (ITI Press, 2016), an art-text collaboration with photographer Nicholas Muellner; and the poetry chapbook Playland (Seven Kitchens Press, 2016). In the fall of 2018, he was awarded a five-year John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, for his work "exploring the impact of historical narratives on contemporary lives and re-imagining the history of the Americas from the perspective of suppressed voices.”

Keene has published his fiction, poetry, essays, and translations in a wide array of journals, and his honors also include a 2005 Whiting Foundation Award in Fiction and Poetry. His translation from the Portuguese of Hilst's novel Letters from a Seducer (Nightboat Books/A Bolha Editora) was published in February 2014. He has translated poetry, fiction and essays from Portuguese, French and Spanish, and published these in literary periodicals as well as on his longstanding blog J's Theater. His essay "Translating Poetry, Translating Blackness" was featured on the Poetry Foundation's website in the spring of 2016, and has served as a galvanizing call for Black translators and translators of color, as well as those translating Black writers and writing, across the US and overseas. He also serves on the organizational committee for the African Poetry Book Series, which includes the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and which is under the auspices of the University of Nebraska's African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner
A graduate of Harvard University and New York University, Keene is long time member of the Dark Room Writers Collective of Cambridge and Boston, and a Graduate Fellow of Cave Canem, Keene has taught at Brown University, Northwestern University and Columbia University. He now chairs the Department of African American and African Studies, and is Professor of English and African American Studies at Rutgers University-Newark. He also teaches in the Rutgers-Newark MFA in Creative Writing Program.


John Keene

Kevin Young

The 2018 / 2019 Katie Jacobson Writer in Residence was Kevin Young. Kevin Young is the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, newly named a National Historic Landmark, and Poetry Editor of the New Yorker. He is the author of thirteen books of poetry and prose, most recently Brown (2018); Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995-2015 (Knopf, 2016), longlisted for the National Book Award; and Book of Hours (Knopf, 2014), a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize for Poetry from the Academy of American Poets. His collection Jelly Roll: a blues (Knopf, 2003) was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Young’s nonfiction book, Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News (Graywolf Press, November 14, 2017), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Nonfiction, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, was longlisted for the National Book Award, and named a New York Times Notable Book, a New York Times Book Review “Editors’ Choice” selection, and a “Best Book of 2017″ by NPR, the Los Angeles TimesDallas Morning NewsAtlanta Journal-ConstitutionSmithsonianVogue, the AtlanticNylonBuzzFeed, and Electric Literature. Young’s previous nonfiction book, The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Graywolf Press, 2012), won the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and the PEN Open Book Award; it was also a New York Times Notable Book for 2012 and a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism.

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Kevin Young

Roxane Gay

The 2017 / 2018 Katie Jacobson Writer in Residence was Roxane Gay. Roxane Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014Best American Short Stories 2012Best Sex Writing 2012A Public SpaceMcSweeney’sTin HouseOxford AmericanAmerican Short FictionVirginia Quarterly Review, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. She is the author of the books AyitiAn Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist, the nationally bestselling Difficult Women and the New York Times bestselling Hunger. She is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel. She has several books forthcoming and is also at work on television and film projects.

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Junot Díaz

The 2017 Katie Jacobson Writer in Residence is world-renowned novelist and short-story writer, Junot Díaz. Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship and PEN/O. Henry Award. A graduate of Rutgers College, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. | Photo: Nina Subin
Junot Díaz

George Saunders

The 2015/2016 Katie Jacobson Writer in Residence was acclaimed fiction writer and essayist, George Saunders. Saunders is the author of four collections of short stories, a novella and a book of essays. His most recent collection is Tenth of December, winner of the 2014 Story Prize and the 2014 Folio Prize. The recipient of a 2006 MacArthur Foundation Genius grant, his work appears regularly in The New Yorker, GQ and Harpers Magazine, and has appeared in the O’Henry, Best American Short Story, Best Non-Required Reading and Best American Travel Writing anthologies. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME Magazine in 2013.

Samuel Delany

The 2014 Writer in Residence was critic and novelist Samuel R. Delany. Samuel Delany has won four Nebula Awards, two Hugo Awards, and the William Whitehead Memorial Award for lifetime achievement. He is an inductee into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and has been honored with the David R. Kessler Award from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies as well as the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award. His stories are available in Aye and Gomorrah and Other Stories and Atlantis: Three Tales. His novels include Nova, Dhalgren, Hogg, The Mad Man and the Stonewall Award-winning Dark Reflections. His nonfiction collections include Silent Interviews, Longer Views, Shorter Views and Times Square Red/Times Square Blue. His award-winning autobiography is The Motion of Light in Water. A judge for the 2010 National Book Awards, he was the subject of a 2007 documentary, The Polymath, and is the author of a popular creative writing textbook, About Writing. His most recent novel is Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders. It and his interview in the Paris Review’s “Art of Fiction” series both appeared in the spring 2012. Delany lives in New York City and teaches creative writing at Temple University.

Lydia Davis

The inaugural 2013 Jacobson Writer in Residence was Lydia Davis. A remarkable writer and true innovator known for her very short fiction, Davis is a MacArthur Fellow and the 2013 winner of the Man Booker International Prize. "Should we simply concur with the official title and dub them stories?" Booker panel chairman Christopher Ricks said in a statement announcing the prize. "Or perhaps miniatures? Anecdotes? Essays? Jokes? Parables? Fables? Texts? Aphorisms, or even apophthegms? Prayers, or perhaps wisdom literature? Or might we settle for observations?" 

Lydia Davis's work includes the novel, The End of the Story (1995), and seven story collections, including Break It Down (1986), Almost No Memory (1997), Samuel Johnson is Indignant (2002) and Varieties of Disturbance (2007). She has also translated a number of works of French philosophy and literature, most notably Swann's Way by Marcel Proust and Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary.