Creative Writing

MFA Student Profiles

Amanda L. Ake
creative nonfiction

Hometown: Atlanta, GA
BA: English/Comparative Literature, Oglethorpe University 

Amanda is a second-year creative nonfiction candidate and serves as the web and social media graduate fellow for WHQR, Wilmington’s NPR-affiliate station. Much of her writing focusses on her escape from fundamentalist religion and she is currently working on a book about classical music, the historical concept of talent, and the violin she sold before moving to Wilmington. She lives walking distance to Flytrap Brewing and is a fairly decent beer-drinking buddy.

Miriam Cone

Hometown: St. Pete Beach, FL
BA: English, minors in Creative Writing and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Trinity University

Miriam is a first-year MFA candidate in fiction. Born and raised primarily in Florida, she also spent time living and learning in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Her latest writing explores queerness, estrangement, and inheritance. When not writing or working, Miriam enjoys cooking, cross stitching, and spending time with her two cats.

Bryan Jewell

Hometown: Pearland, TX
BS: Radio/Television/Film, English Creative Writing, Northwestern University

Bryan hails from the greater Houston area, but has also lived in and around Chicago, Los Angeles, and Austin, Texas. Before joining UNCW's creative writing program, he was an actor—sometimes he still is. He enjoys yoga, but not the word “yogi.”

Courtney Justus

Hometown: Houston, Texas
BA in English, minor in Creative Writing from Trinity University

Courtney Justus is a fiction candidate in the MFA program. Her experience growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina consistently informs her work in all three genres. After returning to the United States, she first ventured into the nonprofit world working for Gemini Ink, then MAM Literacy Advance and now WHQR Public Media, where she currently serves as the Development Fellow. She is also a member of UNCW’s MFA Reading Crew. Her work appears in SOFTBLOW, Press Pause Press, Tipton Poetry Journal, High Noon and elsewhere.

Abby Logue

Hometown: Birmingham, AL
BA: English, minor in Studio Art, Wofford College

Abby is a first-year MFA poetry candidate and teaching assistant. She has spent the last four years of her undergraduate studies researching and exploring relationships, reality, and resilience. Abby spent time living and learning in New Zealand, Western Europe, and Vietnam. Her travels, familial life, and interest in the alignment of visual and linguistics are the foremost influence in her poetry.

Cassie Mannes Murray
creative nonfiction

Hometown: Raleigh, NC
BA: North Carolina State University

Cassie is a third-year creative nonfiction writer, and designer in the publishing laboratory for Ecotone and Lookout Books. Her writing interest lies in dissecting girlhood, anything slick with disgusting narrators or villainous women, and analyzing the constant balance beam of shame and desire that is southern womanhood. Her essays have appeared in The Rumpus, been awarded honors at Passages North, and nominated for Best American Essays. You can also find her hustling as a literary agent at Howland Literary where she’s most interested in publishing strange, slipstream fiction and nonfiction. Before this transition, she taught high school in rural North Carolina, which is the greatest achievement of her life. 

Katherine O'Hara

Hometown: Waxhaw NC
BFA: Creative Writing, Certificate in Publishing, UNCW
BA: International Studies with a concentration in Art & Literature, UNCW

Katherine O’Hara is a Summer 2020 Tin House Workshop candidate and an MFA candidate at UNCW where she serves as a supporting staff member and digital broadside designer for Beloit Poetry Journal. Previously, she read fiction for Ecotone, a literary magazine that reimagines place, and worked as an editorial intern for Lookout Books. Among others, Katherine’s writing has appeared in the Hobart, Edizioni Black Coffee, Occulum Journal, and forthcoming in Press Pause Press. As far as writing, she is working on a hybrid novel featuring poetic interpretations of grief in rural Louisiana, where her family is from. The excerpt 'More Filling than Berries' from the novel was later chosen by Edizioni Black Coffee as their monthly Hobart selection, whereupon it was published in translation and discussed on their podcast.

Kayleigh Rhatigan

Hometown: Asheville, NC
BA: English, Dickinson College

Kayleigh is a first-year fiction candidate from Asheville, North Carolina. Her writing interests include queerness, gender, sci-fi/fantasy, and imagination as a tool for radical change. She enjoys contra dancing and writing in multiple genres.

E.J. Schwartz

Hometown: Scotch Plains, NJ
BA: Creative Writing, Susquehanna University

E.J. is a second-year fiction writer and teaching assistant. Her debut YA novel, Before We Were Blue, pitched as Netflix's Cheer meets Girl, Interrupted, has sold to Mari Kesselring at Flux. Her micro-memoir was recently selected by The New York Times for its Tiny Love Stories feature and her flash fiction piece, “Melon,” just won UNCW’s FlashLIT contest. 

Sarah J. Stephens

Hometown: Amelia, OH
BA: Communications, College of Mount St. Joseph
MA: English, Northern Kentucky University

Sarah is a second-year MFA candidate in poetry and the teaching assistant and editor of UNCW’s Chautauqua Literary Magazine. Before joining UNCW's program, she spent several years working on her poetry manuscript, and teaching Composition as an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky University. Her chapbook, Where all the Birds are Dancing, released on September 12th, 2020, is published by Finishing Line Press. Sarah is deeply influenced by the natural world and the beautiful landscapes of Cincinnati and Wilmington. It is her desire to write with the honesty, bravery, and humanity of other female poets such as Joy Harjo, Meg Day, Deborah Digges, and Maggie Nelson.

Laura Traister
creative nonfiction

Hometown: Asheville, NC
BA: English, minor in Spanish, East Tennessee State University

Laura is an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction. Her work explores language, culture, place, and identity—themes raised and informed by her experience living in Mumbai through the Fulbright program. Before moving to Wilmington, she spent a few years as a textbook editor, copyediting content about everything from Picasso to Texas’s political culture. Along with her coworkers, she once won a local spelling bee by correctly spelling “taaffeite.” She finds unnecessary quotation marks and hyphens inexplicably hilarious.

Steven Vineis

Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
BFA: Creative Writing, UNC Wilmington

Steven is a second-year fiction writer. His work has appeared in Portals, GSU Review, Between the Lines, and Briarpatch, among others.