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Frances Esbee

Manchester, VT
Graduated January 2017

FRANCES ESBEE writes young adult and middle grade fiction with contemporary themes, as well as quiet narratives for younger children. Touching on mental illness, addiction, child abuse/neglect, the focus of her work examines how historical trauma reverberates in the seemingly resilient lives of friends and family long after the initial threat has passed.

Sara Farizan

Graduated January 2012

SARA FARIZAN is a graduate of the Lesley MFA program class of 2012. Her debut novel, If You Could Be Mine, won the Ferro-Grumley Award, the Edmund White Award, and the Lambda Literary Award for Children’s/Young Adult Literature in 2014, and was named to the American Library Association Rainbow List as one of the year’s best LGBT-themed books. Her other novels are Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, which was again named to the Rainbow List for 2015 and received two starred reviews, and Here to Stay, which Entertainment Weekly called “a powerful YA novel about identity and prejudice.” Her short stories have been featured in several anthologies including The Radical Element, Fresh Ink, All Out, Hungry Hearts, and the forthcoming Fools in Love. She lives in Massachusetts, enjoys classic film, kayaks way too much, and thanks you for reading her work.

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Saraciea J. Fennell

Bronx, NY
Graduated January 2020

SARACIEA J. FENNELL is the founder of The Bronx is Reading—Bronx Book Festival. She is also a book publicist who has worked with many award-winning and New York Times best-selling authors like Daniel José Older, Tui T. Sutherland, Peter Sís, Kass Morgan, Chris Colfer, Deborah Wiles, Javaka Steptoe, & many more. She is passionate about books and devours anything sci-fi/fantasy-related in books, TV, and movies. Fennell sits on the steering committee for Latinx in Publishing as well as on the Advisory Board of People of Color in Publishing. You can find her somewhere in NYC boxing or practicing yoga in the next up and coming studio. The Bronx Times listed her as one of 25 Influential Women of 2018, she was listed on the Bitch Media 50 list for 2018, and was included among Remezcla’s 30 Latinxs who made an impact in 2018 . In her time pursuing an MFA at Lesley University she studied under David Elliott, Jason Reynolds, A.J. Verdelle, Tracey Baptiste, and Chris Lynch. She was born in Brooklyn and currently lives in the Bronx, New York. Her forthcoming anthology, Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed, will be published by Flatiron Books in fall 2021. Follow her on social @sj_fennell.

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Kate Fussner

Boston, MA
Graduated June 2021

KATE FUSSNER teaches high school English, writes books for young people, and bakes the perfect chocolate chip cookie. She holds a B.A from Vassar College, an M.Ed. from Umass Boston, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People from Lesley University, and she is represented by Eric Smith at P.S. Literary. Her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, WBUR’s Cognoscenti (x , x), and elsewhere. She and her wonderful wife live with their dramatic dog, Mrs. Weasley, in Boston, MA.

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Beth Raisner Glass

Falmouth, MA
Graduated June 2006

BETH RAISNER GLASS is a children’s book author, newspaper writer and teacher. She has taught in the Massachusetts public school system, and was Associate Professor of Education at Wellesley College. Her first picture book, Noises at Night, was published to wide acclaim and was featured on the Today Show’s “Best Books for Children” segment. Her picture book, Blue Ribbon Dad, was published in 2011, and is now a featured book on Reading Rainbow’s iPad app. Noises at Night was also selected as a Reading Rainbow ebook for their ipad app. She received her Bachelors in Education from Lesley College, and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Lesley University.

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Candice Iloh

Philadelphia, PA
Graduated June 2017

CANDICE ILOH is a first-generation Nigerian-American writer and performer whose writing has appeared in Fjords Review, The Grio, For Harriet, Blavity (x , x), No Dear MagazineGlass Poetry Journal, Puerto Del Sol, and The Black Girl Magic Anthology by Haymarket Books. They are a recipient of fellowships from VONA, Home School via Lambda Literary fellowship, as well as a Rhode Island Writers Colony Writer-in-Residence alum. They hold an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University, where they completed their debut young adult novel in verse, Every Body Looking (Dutton YA/Penguin Random House, Sept 2020). They are a 2018 Hi-ARTS Critical Breaks artist residency recipient where they debuted their first one-woman show, ADA: ON STAGE. When Candice isn’t writing, they dance. You can follow them @becomher on Instagram and Twitter.

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Sara Levine

Guilford, CT 
Graduated January 2006

SARA LEVINE is an educator, veterinarian and award-winning writer of STEM books for kids.  Her picture books which include Bone by Bone, Tooth by Tooth, Flower Talk, and The Animals Would Not Sleep! have received the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize, the Beehive Book Award, the Cook Prize Honor and the Mathical Book Prize. Her writing for adults has appeared in the Massachuestts ReviewBayou, The Gay and Lesbian Review, and The Boston Globe.

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Axie Oh

Las Vegas, NV
Graduated June 2017

AXIE OH is a first generation Korean American, born in NYC and raised in New Jersey. She studied Korean history and creative writing as an undergrad at the University of California – San Diego and holds an MFA from Lesley University in Writing for Young People. Her passions include K-pop, anime, stationery supplies, and milk tea.

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Patty O’Connell Pearson

Fairfax, VA
Graduated June 2015

PATRICIA (PATTY) O’CONNELL PEARSON is a former high school history teacher and curriculum writer with an MEd from George Mason University and an MFA from Lesley University. Her first book, Fly Girls, was named a best of 2018 by A Mighty Girl and a best of 2019 by Bank Street Books. Fighting for the Forest was named one of four finalists for the 2020 NY Historical Society’s Children’s History Book Prize and Conspiracy: Nixon, Watergate, and Democracy’s Defenders will be released in August, 2020—all are nonfiction for ages ten and up from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. When she is not writing, researching, or catching up with her four adult children, Pearson can often be found talking about history as a volunteer with the National Park Service in Washington, DC.

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Jørn Earl Otte

Beckley, WV
Graduated January 2018

JØRN EARL OTTE is a poet, essayist, novelist, and memoirist. Jørn’s work has appeared in the literary magazines Kestrel, Duende, Brittle Star, Brightly Press, and Briller Magazine. He is a contributor to Vocal, and his latest blog can be read here.

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Cynthia Platt

Marblehead, MA
Graduated June 2014

CYNTHIA PLATT is the author of three picture booksand her first chapter book, Parker Bell and the Science of Friendship, was published in May 2019. Postcards from Summer, her first young adult novel, will be published in summer 2021. She also teaches at Montserrat College of Art and writes for the Khan Academy Kids learning app.

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Caitlin T.D. Robinson

Dedham, MA
Graduated June 2018

CAITLIN ROBINSON received her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University in June, 2018 and is currently working toward her MA at The Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College. As an after-school director for children in Grades 3-8, she has taught creative writing at various elementary schools throughout her career as an educator. Raised in a family of artists and musicians, Caitlin enjoys playing and writing music as well. She met her husband while living in the Pacific Northwest and they now live in Dedham, MA with their cat, Gus. She also writes non-fiction essays, and has been published on Kripalu, Solstice Lit Mag and The Dedham Times.

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Valley C. Shaia

Cambridge, MA
Graduated June 2021

VALLEY CAROLINE SHAIA grew up in an overly-loud family and attributes that to her own dramatics. She graduated from JMU with a BA in English and Creative Writing. In 2021, she received her MFA in Writing For Young People from Lesley University, where she was a recipient of the Finnegan Scholarship. Shaia daylights as a Game Design Writer for Monopoly at Hasbro, and spends her free time chugging coffee at bookstores.

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Hengameh (Heny) Taraz

Cambridge, MA
Graduated June 2021

HENY TARAZ is a full-time professional educator who currently serves as the lead teacher and curriculum writer for the Gifted & Talented program at Waltham Public Schools. She holds a Masters degree in education (M.Ed.), Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS), teaching and Superintendent/Assistant Superintendent licensures in the State of Massachusetts, and an MFA in Creative Writing in the Writing for Young People genre. Heny is an artist and her expression of the arts is exhibited through illustration and design, rhythm in words, and flowing movement in dance. As a visual artist she has held recent art exhibitions in 2011 (Lexington) and 2015 (Museum of Fine Arts Boston). With an undergraduate concentration in pre-med, Heny has served as a research scientist. She is currently a PhD candidate in Neuroscience and Education

Rose Viña

Graduated January 2016

ROSE VIÑA is a Cuban-American author originally from California. She received her MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University. Her debut picture book, Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating (Oct 2019), was an SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Finalist. Her next book, Alicia Alonso: Dancing Through Darkness, will be published Fall 2021 by Albert Whitman and Co. She was a professional figure skater with Disney On Ice and Holiday On Ice. Rose is currently the head figure skating coach in Sweden where she resides with her husband, son, and puppy Jack.

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Andrea Wang

Centennial, CO
Graduated June 2011

ANDREA WANG is the award-winning author of picture books The Nian Monster (Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Honor), Magic Ramen (Freeman Book Award Honor), and Watercress (JLG Gold Standard Selection, seven starred reviews). The Many Meanings of Meilan, her debut middle grade novel, publishes in August 2021. Andrea’s work explores culture, creative thinking, and identity. She is also the author of seven non-fiction titles for the library and school market. Andrea holds an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in Centennial, Colorado with her family.

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Photo Credit: Elaine Freitas Photography

Jasmine Warga

Chicago, IL
Graduated June 2013

JASMINE WARGA is the author of the New York Times bestseller Other Words For Home. Other Words For Home earned multiple awards, including a John Newbery Honor, a Walter Honor for Young Readers, and a Charlotte Huck Honor. She is also the author of young adult books, My Heart and Other Black Holes and Here We Are Now, which have been translated into over twenty-five different languages.The Shape of Thunder, her next novel for middle grade readers, will be published in May 2021. Originally from Cincinnati, she now lives in the Chicago-area with her family.

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