Announcing the 2014–2015 Mentor Series

Posted on Fri, Mar 7 2014 9:00 am by Rebecca Schultz


The Loft is excited to announce that the submission period for the 2014–2015 Mentor Series is officially open. Now in its 35th anniversary, the program continues to celebrate the evolution of emerging talents in the company of nationally acclaimed writers of poetry and prose.

The Program:

The Mentor Series offers advanced criticism and professional development opportunities to twelve writers—four each in the genres of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction—who are selected through anonymous competition. Three of the mentors spend an extended period of time working with the entire group and conducting genre-specific workshops and individual conferences with the four writers in their genres, while the other three mentors come in for intensive weekends of craft seminars with the full group and individual manuscript conferences with the writers in their genre. All participants are featured in a public reading—two participants with one mentor—throughout the course of the year.

The 2014–2015 Mentors:

The upcoming series will introduce a new line-up of exceptional mentors, whose combined credentials include penning bestselling memoirs, publishing national award-winning novels and poetry collections, and receiving handfuls of prestigious grants and residencies.


Ru Freeman was born into a family of writers and many boys in Colombo, Sri Lanka. After a year of informal study at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, she arrived in the United States with a Parker ink pen and a box of Staedler pencils to attend Bates College in Maine. She completed her Masters in Labor Relations at the University of Colombo, and worked in the field of American and international humanitarian assistance and workers’ rights. Her political writing has appeared in English and in translation. Her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in VQR, Guernica, World Literature Today and elsewhere. She is a contributing editorial board member of the Asian American Literary Review, and a fellow of the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. She is the author of the novel A Disobedient Girl (Atria/Simon & Schuster, 2009), which was long-listed for the DCS Prize for South Asian Literature, and translated into several languages. Her new novel, On Sal Mal Lane, is published by Graywolf Press in 2013. She calls both Sri Lanka and America home and writes about the people and countries underneath her skin.


Diego Vázquez, a poet, novelist, storyteller. Vázquez comes from indigenous migrants who crossed invisible lines to become immigrants under the same sky. He has never met an illegal human. He is grateful for his ongoing participation in The Women’s Writing Program at the Ramsey County Correctional Facility. This remarkable experience allows him new insights into the strength and joy of the human heart. Vázquez is the recipient of multiple awards and grants and is the author of Growing Through the Ugly. He is completing work on a forthcoming novel, Border Town Sky.


Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs Devotion and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, and has been widely anthologized. She has taught in the writing programs at Columbia, NYU, The New School and Wesleyan University, and she is co-founder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. She is a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure. She lives with her family in Litchfield County, Connecticut. Her new book, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, was published in 2013.


Kao Kalia Yang, author of The Latehomecomer, is the co-founder of a company dedicated to helping immigrants with writing, translating, and business services. Yang is a graduate of Carleton College and Columbia University. She is currently working on her second manuscript, Still, Fluttering Heart: The Second Album. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Kao Kalia Yang is a teacher, public speaker, and writer. 


Matt Rasmussen’s poetry has been published in Gulf Coast, Cimarron Review, H_NGM_N, Water~Stone Review, New York Quarterly, Paper Darts, and at He’s received awards, grants, and residencies from The Bush Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Intermedia Arts, The Anderson Center in Red Wing, MN, and The Corporation of Yaddo. He is a 2014 Pushcart Prize winner, a former Peace Corps Volunteer, and teaches at Gustavus Adolphus College. His first book of poems, Black Aperture, won the 2012 Walt Whitman Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2013.


Called “a testament to the power of words to change lives,” Patricia Smith is a renaissance artist of unmistakable signature, recognized as a force in the fields of poetry, playwriting, fiction, performance and creative collaboration. She is the author of six critically-acknowledged volumes of poetry, including Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy American Poets and finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America; Blood Dazzler (a National Book Award finalist), and Teahouse of the Almighty (a National Poetry Series winner), all from Coffee House Press; Close to Death and Big Towns, Big Talk, both from Zoland Books, and Life According to Motown, just released by Tia Chucha Press in a special 20th anniversary edition. She also edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir. She is a Cave Canem faculty member, a professor of English at CUNY/College of Staten Island, and a faculty member of the Sierra Nevada MFA program.

For more information, complete guidelines, and eligibility:

Applications for the 2014-2015 program are due by 11:59 p.m. on April 28, 2014 via the online submission portal Submittable. If you have questions about eligibility or are interested in speaking with a current participant about the program, please call program manager Vanessa Ramos at 612-215-2586 or email her at

More information, including answers to frequently asked questions, is available here.

Rebecca Schultz, a Minneapolis transplant by way of Chicago, is a reader, writer, eater, and tweeter. She blogs at