Our Staff

Executive Director: Michael Mercurio

As a 2017 graduate of the Lesley University low-residency MFA program, I believe that the writing community born from our shared experience both on- and off-campus at Lesley doesn’t end at graduation. In fact, it should sustain and support our lifelong writing careers through both rejections and acceptances. That’s why I answered the call from Robbie Gamble and Rex Arrasmith to serve as the first Executive Director for Cambridge Common Writers. During my time in the program, I forged deep connections with many of my fellow students, and came to believe that success was not a limited resource — and that any success of my fellow Lesley writers was worth celebrating.

When I’m not writing and submitting my own poetry, I enjoy editing the work of other writers to bring forth their unique voices. I also serve as associate editor of the Naugatuck River Review and as an editorial board member for Anthropoid: The Collective. I am also a member of the steering committee for the Amherst Poetry Festival, an annual event centered at the Emily Dickinson Museum.

Co-Founder: Rex Carey Arrasmith

Hi all! I am an alumni in Fiction, class of 2018 and Poetry, class of 2020. Like you, I love our Lesley MFA program and hated the feeling of abandonment after it was over. I was surprised to find out that there was no active alumni engagement dedicated solely for our Lesley MFA alums and no way for us to contact each other beyond our immediate cohorts. We cooked up Cambridge Common Writers to fill that void. We are working towards having an available contact list connecting our world wide alumni together. I hope you will join us, we traveled this road together and it doesn’t have to end. Please fill free to contact me at, WrecksWrites@gmail.com or our groups email LesleyCambridgeCommon@gmail.com.

Co-Founder: Robbie Gamble

Greetings! When I graduated from Lesley with an MFA in poetry in 2017, I was astounded to realize that I had built such profound connections with my classmates over two-and-a-half years, and a scanty forty-odd days of actual residency time together. I had stumbled into an extraordinary community of talented and engaging writers, both students and faculty, and I didn’t want that experience of community to end. So I came back for another go-round with the curriculum, this time in nonfiction, and I started talking, first with Rex and then Michael, about ways we could build a dynamic and sustainable organization for Lesley MFA alumni. We came up with the idea of Cambridge Common Writers, to bring alumni together and to support the ongoing mission of the MFA program. Then Julia came on board, and brought this fabulous website into being.

I’m working on a memoir, and sending poems and essays out into the world, while serving as associate poetry editor for Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices. When I’m not perspiring over the keyboard, I work as a nurse practitioner caring for homeless people in Boston.

Webmaster & Secretary: Julia Leef

I graduated from Lesley University in June 2018 with an MFA in Fiction and took advantage of my local status in Quincy to continue attending residencies twice a year. I am eternally grateful to the program for the friendships I have made over the years with other people who love the craft of writing as much as I do, and I always look forward to the next residency to see familiar faces and rejuvenate that writing mojo. I am proud to be a part of Cambridge Common Writers as a way to continue in the spirit of those residencies that foster connections between fellow writers and mentors.

When I am not busy running this website I work for Macmillan Learning in Boston and keep on writing while daydreaming about one day owning my own personal library with a secret passageway behind a bookcase. Which, of course, will lead to my writing office, preferably up a tall tower and with even more books inside.

Treasurer: Virginia Ryan Hoeck

The opportunity to finally get my MFA (decades after completing my undergrad!) was an unexpected gift, well worth the wait. I quickly learned after graduating how much of my education came from talking with, reading the work of, and exchanging ideas with other students. I’m so grateful that Rex and Robbie, with encouragement from the faculty, founded CCW so that we can continue to learn from and support each other as we emerge as writers. I recently completed writing my first novel and am eager to start the next one as a creative remedy to the mind-numbing process of getting published. I also tutor in the writing rooms of 826Boston, a marvelous organization that helps underserved students find their voices, tell their stories, and gain communication skills.  I spent my earlier career as a journalist and then in various communications positions with business and nonprofit organizations. Writing fiction is a lot more fun. Feel free to reach out to me at ginryeh@gmail.com or lesleycambridgecommon@gmail.com.

Member at Large: Aqueela C. Britt

Hello fellow writers! Graduating from Lesley University in 2018 with my MFA in Fiction has been one of the most rewarding experiences. The bonds I formed during my time at Lesley with current and former students as well as the bonds formed with faculty and staff surpasses all I could have imagined through such an experience. I have the great fortune of living in the Metro Boston area which allows me to attend post-graduate residencies and social gatherings associated with the Lesley MFA program. I discovered that I was in constant need of the connections formed through this program. Needless to say, I was thrilled when Cambridge Commons Writers stepped onto the scene as a way to foster such relationships. The opportunity to join the CCW Board was kismet as it aligns with my work as an alumni ambassador and my passion toward this program. When I am not working on a variety of novel ideas, I am serving in my roll as Academic Advisor at Simmons University in the SW@Simmons Master of Social Work program. My clinical passion is to incorporate writing and storytelling as a framework for at risk youth, particularly those moving through the child protection system. In addition to my CCW Board role, I also sit on the Board of Trustees at the Charles River School in Dover, MA where I am a current parent. Charles River is a Prek-8 independent school where much of my board work centers on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Member at Large: Mariya Taher

Storytelling is powerful. I truly believe that, and that is just one of the reasons I’m so honored to be on the Board for Cambridge Commons Writers.  I graduated from Lesley University in June 2016 with an MFA in Fiction and had a fabulous time while in the program, working on Craft, connecting with fellow writers, learning from the Lesley Faculty, and working one on one with my MFA mentors. So learning that Cambridge Commons Writers was founded to help alumni continue to foster connections made while at residency, only made me even more excited to join the group. For the last few years I’ve been working on a novel and sending out short stories, but when I’m not engaging in the writerly world, I’m also a social worker and founded a nonprofit, Sahiyo, that utilizes storytelling to break generational gender-based violence. And when I’m not doing either of those things, I’m running along the Charles River or being a potter and throwing clay on a wheel at my pottery studio.

Member at Large: Jasmine Warga

Hi, all! I graduated from Lesley University’s MFA program in the summer of 2013. I look back on my time at Lesley with fondness. It was a place where I felt encouraged and inspired to take creative risks, where I felt energized by the potential power of storytelling, and where I made some dear lifelong friends. I’m delighted to be a part of Cambridge Common Writers to help extend and build that creative space beyond the program. I’m especially proud to help represent the Writing For Young People wing of the Lesley MFA program. All our kids deserve challenging, empowering, engaging, and representative stories.

I currently live in the Chicago area with my family. My days mostly consist of reading aloud to my two small daughters, working on my own stories, and trying to spend as much time outside as possible. 

Faculty Representative, ex officio: Michael Lowenthal

I had just finished giving a reading at the Blacksmith House, in 2003, when an audience member came up and introduced himself. His name was Steven Cramer, he said, and he was starting a low-residency MFA program at Lesley University. Would I like to join the inaugural fiction faculty? In all honesty, I had never heard of Steven Cramer—or of Lesley University. But the gig sounded great, and I signed on. Little did I know that I would still be teaching in the program almost two decades later, and that the Lesley MFA community would become, by a long shot, my most lasting professional association. It has been an incomparable joy to work with so many engaged and engaging writers over these many years, and I am beyond grateful to Cambridge Common Writers for gathering and nurturing our community of alums. I’m honored to serve as a link between CCW and my colleagues on the faculty, who wholeheartedly support the group’s mission.


When I’m not reading Lesley packets, I’m plunking away at my own fiction and nonfiction, news of which can be found on my website. Previously I served on the boards of PEN New England and the Bromfield Street Educational Association (which published Gay Community News and sponsored the OutWrite LGBT writing conferences). I live in the Roslindale neighborhood of Boston.

WSS Member at Large: Vacant, with a search underway

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