Lit Fest Fellows Archive

2018 Fellows

Margrét Ann Thors: Nonfiction Fellow for Emerging Writers

Finalists: Emily Weinstein, Katie Simon, Raksha Vasudevan, Amy Monticello, Ally Kirkpatrick

Selected by: Melissa Febos

Judge's Statement: "This essay succeeds at laying out a lucid and compelling narrative, punctuated by moments of lyricism that are deeply grounded in the subject matter and also manage to transcend it. An elegant piece of writing that will stay with me."

Bio: Margrét Ann Thors will be traveling from cold icy Iceland, where she's finishing up the manuscript of her first novel. Her reading and writing interests lie in the intersection of the mundane and the miraculous, specifically in remote landscapes. Accordingly, her creative work interrogates the divide between fact and lore and imbues real life with glimmers of what Icelanders call húldu—the hidden. She’s got an MFA degree in fiction from Columbia University, where she also earned an MA in higher education and a BA in philosophy. During her tenure at Columbia, she taught a semester-long undergraduate fiction workshop, as well as literature and craft seminars in the university’s high school summer program. She's also taught creative and academic writing summer courses at such campuses as Yale, Haverford, Fairfield University, and Lehigh. In addition to teaching, she's been an Artist-in-Residence at Gullkistan Residency in Laugarvatn, Iceland and CATwalk Residency in Catskill, NY. She's also a certified yoga instructor and cares deeply about meditative and holistic life practices—including laughing at adorable cat videos. 

Samuel Jensen: Fiction Fellow for Emerging Writers

Finalists: Che Yeun, Margrét Ann Thors, Briana Olson, Emma Bogdonoff, Caroline Bodian, Tommy Kim

Selected by: David Wroblewski

Judge's Statement: "From among a truly impressive set of finalists, the excerpt from Samuel Jensen’s 'Fragments Dim of Lovely Forms' stood out for its graceful balance of understated drama, original detail, and double-take prose that somehow doesn't distract—all elements of that impossible to define quality known as 'narrative authority.' Symptoms: I’m deep in the scene by the end of page one, I’m deep in the world by the end of the scene, and I'm sincerely wishing it hadn’t ended when I set the pages aside. I don't mean to sound flip about this. We writers work hard and still feel lucky if we can achieve what has been made to look effortless here. It's superb storytelling on every level."

Bio: Samuel Jensen is a writer from Texas. He holds an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, where he's currently a Zell Fellow. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Masters Review, Cimarron Review, and Strange Horizons, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Paul Tran: Poetry Fellow for Emerging Writers

Finalists: Suzi Q. Smith, Chelsea Bunn, Yaccaira Salvatierra, Lily Kosmicki, Lucas Cardona

Selected by: Khadijah Queen

Judge's Statement: "The precision in Paul Tran’s poems unites language, sound, and image with a tender and unflinching voice, one whose wisdom tells us homes can be taken or harmed but also (re)created. Tran’s work is undeniable. We at Lighthouse are lucky they chose us, trusted us with such searing beauty."

Bio: Paul Tran is Poetry Editor at The Offing and Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow in The Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis. Their work appears in The New Yorker, POETRY, and elsewhere, including the anthology Inheriting the War (WW Norton, 2017), and film Love Beats Rhymes (Lionsgate, 2017). Paul is the first Asian American since 1993 and first transgender poet ever to win the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam, placing top 10 at the Individual World Poetry Slam and top 2 at the National Poetry Slam. 

Rae Binstock: Dramatic Writing Fellow for Emerging Writers

Finalists: Tom DeFreytas, Clea DeCrane, Jessica Austgen, Joe Kelly, Maria Travis

Selected by: Corinne Hayoun

Judge's Statement: "Watch Me Burn is the one I chose for content and writing ability. The main character is a female firefighter, which we never see on stage, and I loved the theatrical way the writer described her entrance in to her apartment in the second scene. The story is also already fairly well set up between what seems to be her struggles at work and the family dynamic at home. I would be curious to see where this play goes and read more from this writer."

Bio: Rae Binstock grew up in Cambridge, MA. She earned her BA from Columbia University, where she was mentored by David Henry Hwang and Ellen McLaughlin. Her plays include land of no mercy (David Ross Fetzer Foundation Theatre Grant, 2017 winner), POSE (O’Neill Conference semifinalist), and We Are The Light of the World (Red Theater’s National Playwriting Competition, 2016 winner). Her plays have been produced and developed at The Lark Development Center, Public Arts Reading Series, Salt Lake Acting Company, West of 10th Theater Company, The Hearth Theater, The Fresh Fruit Festival, The Tribe Theatre, Crashbox Theater Company, Pride Films & Plays, Stella Adler’s Playwrights Division, and New Perspective Theatre Company. Rae is a 2017-18 Fellow in The Lark’s Rita Goldberg Playwrights Workshop and the 2017 recipient of The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists’ Theatre Grant. She has been awarded residencies by the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, and PLAYA Summer Lake; she is also a contributing writer at, the creator of the fiction podcast Tapes From Jane Street, and an O’Neill Conference, SPACE at Ryder Farm, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and ATHE Judith Royer Award of Excellence in Playwriting semifinalist. Rae lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her cat, Black Cat. 

Christopher Notarnicola: Veteran Writers Award*

Runner Up: Nathaniel Blaesing

From our reader: "This piece seems fully realized—and publishable—to me as a lyric essay, and the lyricism peaks in the dead-serious word play at the end. The author employs a provocative narrative strategy that defamiliarizes an all-too-familiar situation, that of human beings stripped of their identity by poverty and homelessness. The submerged presence of the narrator distances the reader (intentionally, I suspect) from the material (which feels, indeed, like 'material'). This is a fresh, compelling, and accomplished essay."

Bio: Christopher Notarnicola served in the US Marine Corps until 2010 and since then has devoted himself to the study and practice of literary writing. He is currently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program for fiction writing at Florida Atlantic University. His work appears or is forthcoming in North American Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Hotel Amerika, and The Best American Essays 2017 anthology. He lives in Pompano Beach, Florida.

*Because veterans have given so much to our country, it makes sense for Lighthouse to offer a fellowship that encourages and nurtures their creativity by leading them through the process of writing—and sharing—their stories. All too often, military service is a traumatic experience; by allowing vets to write their stories, they shape and contain that experience in words, which helps writers gain power over experiences that once controlled, and haunted, them.

2017 Fellows

Leticia Darlina Tanguma: Terry Dodd Memorial Fellow for Dramatic Writing

Finalists: Jessica Austgen, Melissa Lucero McCarl, Tracy Shaffer, and Carolyn Getches

Selected by: Aleshea Harris

Aisha Down: Poetry Fellow for Emerging Writers

Finalists: Elle Echo, Cody Deitz, Kamal Kimball, and Alicia Mountain

Selected by: Bojan Louis

Michael Fischer: Nonfiction Fellow for Emerging Writers

Finalists: Evie Bromiley, Nichole LeFebvre, Krista Valera Posell, Claire Cronin, and Cathy Bell

Selected by: Robin Black

Evie Bromiley: Fiction Fellow for Emerging Writers

Finalists: Alison Alexander, Caroline Bodian, Allison Johnson, Shara Davis, and Kathleen Bohland

Selected by: Joanna Luloff