Prison Writing Committee

Our PEN America Prison Writing Committee is a group of dedicated volunteers whose primary task, among other engagements, is mining over 1,200 entries per year to judge the annual Prison Writing Awards. The Committee’s rich history dates back more than 30 years, and for many years was the driving force in the PEN America Prison Writing Program’s advocacy, literary and public program endeavors. Critical to our work, we are proud to share the people behind the monumental effort. We welcome you to meet our esteemed members below.

Rebecca Bengal

Fiction and nonfiction by Rebecca Bengal has been published by Best Nonrequired Reading, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Oxford American, The Guardian, and is forthcoming from Aperture Books. She is a MacDowell Colony fellow and the 2020 Mina Hohenberg Darden Professor of Creative Writing at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

Jillian Bergman

Jillian Bergman makes documentaries that have aired on HBO, Netflix, VICE, Nat Geo and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn with a whole bunch of books and seaglass.

Lee Bernstein

Lee Bernstein is a professor of history at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He writes on the history of prisons.

Brian Birnbaum

Brian Birnbaum’s first novel, Emerald City, came out with Dead Rabbits in September 2019. Brian is a child of Deaf adults (CODA) and works in development for the family sign language interpreting business. He lives in Harlem with the writer M.K, Rainey and their dog.

Jane Bolster

Jane E. Bolster teaches writing at the City College of New York.

Stella Brice

Stella Brice is the author of five collections of poetry including Outgrow (Art Club) and Urged (or, How Sex & Death Lift Up My Granny) (purple flag/VAC). She has served as a mentor and literary advisor for the PEN America Prison Writing Program.

Laura Brown

Laura Catherine Brown is the author of two novels, MADE BY MARY (C&R Press) and QUICKENING (Random House/Ballantine), as well as several short stories which have appeared in various literary journals, and she’s currently writing a third novel.

Gloria J. Browne-Marshall

Gloria J. Browne-Marshall is a writer, professor of constitutional law at John Jay College (CUNY), playwright, legal correspondent and civil rights attorney who is the author of Race, Law, and American Society and The Voting Rights War.

E.Shaskan Bumas

E. Shaskan Bumas writes fiction, nonfiction, hybrid, criticism, translation, and drama and teaches at New Jersey City University.

Matthew Cannelora

Matthew Cannelora is a previously incarcerated individual, currently in Washington State.  During his incarceration, he entered the PEN America Prison Writing Contest, and was afforded a mentorship through that process.  He has twice taken a workshop from Eastern Washington University’s Writers in the Community.  Since release, he has worked to establish a prison literacy project. He has written the manuscripts for three novels, as well as various short stories and poetry.  His first works were published by the online journal, The Broadkill Review. After reaching out to PEN for guidance and assistance with how to best conduct a regional literacy project, the Prison Writing team graciously folded him into their work, extending the offer of contributing to the new PEN America Prison Writing Handbook.  In addition to working on that project, Matthew continues to write fiction.

Carissa Chesanek

Carissa Chesanek is a writer and MFA Creative Writing (fiction) student at The New School. She is a fiction reader for Carve Magazine, a literary events volunteer at the Center for Fiction, and a member of the PEN America Prison Writing Committee.

Bell Chevigny

Bell Gale Chevigny has published widely on social and cultural themes. She is the author of The Woman and the Myth: Margaret Fuller’s Life and Writings and the novel Chloe and Olivia; the editor of Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing (A PEN American Center Prize Anthology) and Twentieth Century Interpretations of Endgame: a collection of critical essays (Prentice-Hall); and co-editor (with Gari Laguardia) of Reinventing the Americas: Comparative Studies of Literature of the United States and Spanish America (Cambridge University Press).

Deborah Clearman

Deborah Clearman is the author of a short fiction collection, Concepción and the Baby Brokers and Other Stories Out of Guatemala; A novel, Todos Santos; And The Goose’s Tale, a children’s book she wrote and illustrated. She is former Program Director of NY Writers Coalition, has been a member of PEN America’s Prison Writing Committee since 2012, and has been leading creative writing workshops on Rikers Island since 2011.

Chelsea Fonden

Chelsea Fonden is a Brooklyn-based poet who runs the Eclipsed Reading Series and has taught creative writing in NYC shelters and after-school programs.

Suzanne Goldenberg

Suzanne Goldenberg is a NYC-based artist, poet, and activist. Her poems have appeared in Anguish Language, Leaf Litter, The Recluse, The Boston Review and her chapbook entitled HELP WANTED. She hosts the CRUSH reading series at the Woodbine collective in Ridgewood, NY. Her work can be found at

Janelle Greco

Janelle Greco is Director of Education at Youth Communication and creative non-fiction writer whose work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The Sun, Hobart Magazine, Maudlin House, I Want You to See This Before I Leave zine, Pretty Owl Poetry, Gambling the Aisle, and Crab Fat Magazine.

Sally-Ann Hard

Sally-Ann is a poet whose chapbook Alphabet of a Nomad was published by Finishing Line Press in 2015. She is a search consultant who has partnered with many criminal and social justice organizations. As well as writing, she is passionate about jazz. She lives in Harlem, NY.

Steven Hobbs

Steven Hobbs teaches writing for the Writer’s Foundry MFA program at St. Joseph’s College. He holds an MFA from The New School and an MA in religion and literature from Yale University.

Helen Hofling

Helen Hofling is a Baltimore-based writer, editor, and teacher. Her work can be found in Berkeley Poetry Review, The Columbia Review, Electric Literature, Hobart, Prelude, and elsewhere. She teaches writing at Loyola University Maryland and with the Goucher Prison Education Partnership.

Ash Holland

Ash Holland is the founder of Sequentials, an academic journal that publishes scholarship drawn in comics form, and a senior editorial manager at Skyword.

Su Hwang

Su Hwang is the author of BODEGA from Milkweed Editions. She is the co-founder of Poetry Asylum with Sun Yung Shin, and is a creative writing instructor with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop.

Michael Juliani

Michael Juliani is a poet, editor, and writer from Pasadena, California. 

Grace Kearney

Grace Kearney is a Baltimore-bred writer currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at the City College of New York. Her prose has appeared in HuffPost, Matador Review, Promethean, Leland Quarterly, and various medical journals.

Lillian Klein

Lillian Klein is a writer and editor of literary fiction based in San Francisco!

Starry Krueger

Starry Krueger is the author of The Whole Works, The Autobiography of a Young American Couple and directs the non-profit Rural Development Leadership Network

Yasmine Lancaster

Yasmine Lancaster is a writer . Her latest work is Substitute Teacher Chronicles. It was published November 2019 by Harlequin Creature a micro press. She is a proud poet, essayist and loves sour gummy bears and justice.

Katie Lasley

Katie Lasley is the author of art & poetry book, Smile From a Different Place. She also volunteers for the Prison Writing Program at PEN America.

Hanan Mahbouba

Hanan Mahbouba is a writer and filmmaker currently based in Helsinki, FL, where she is at work on her first feature film.

Jamie Maleszka

Jamie Maleszka is a writer, editor, facilitator and advocate invested in the transformative power of creativity. Since 2016, Jamie has been the Creative Writing Teacher at The Fortune Society.

Eleanor Mammen

Eleanor Mammen was previously a Prison and Justice Writing Program Intern at PEN America, and is currently finishing her senior year at Scripps College, where she majors in American Studies.

Tim Manley

Tim Manley is a writer, filmmaker, and educator. His work can be found at

Thomas March

Thomas March is a poet, essayist, and performer based in New York City. Aftermath (2018), his first poetry collection, was selected by Joan Larkin for The Word Works Hilary Tham Capital Collection. He is the host and curator of Poetry/Cabaret, a “variety salon” performance series that brings together the city’s top poets, comedians, and cabaret performers in response to a common theme.

Ryan D. Matthews

A Hawthornden Castle Fellow, Ryan D. Matthews earned an MFA from the New School and his work has been recognized with fellowships from the Ucross Foundation, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Blue Mountain Center, the Jentel Foundation, and others. He was recently nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, and was a finalist for the 2019 Emerging Artists Program from the Jerome Foundation. His work has appeared in Joyland and is forthcoming from Lithub and the British journal Litro.

Sarah McEachern

Sarah McEachern is a reader and writer in Brooklyn, NY. Her recent work has been published in Five2One‘s #thesideshow, Potluck Mag, The Menteur, The Automata Review, Entropy, Catapult, and The Spectucle’s The Revue.

Amanda Erin Miller

Amanda Erin Miller is the author of One Breath, Then Another: A Memoir (Lucid River Press, 2013), host/curator of long running NYC reading/performance series Lyrics, Lit & Liquor, and creator of the interactive solo show The Jew in the Ashram (

ill nippashi

ill nippashi lives in Oakland, California and reads more than most.

Sharmaine Ong

Sharmaine Ong is a MFA graduate from the College of New Rochelle. She an advertising assistant at the New York Review of Books. Her works have been published by Lit.Cat, Hippocampus Literary Magazine, Track Four Journal, and elsewhere.

Anthony Pennino

Anthony P. Pennino is a playwright and professor. He is an associate professor of literature at Stevens Institute of Technology. He holds a PhD from the University of London and MFA from Columbia University.

Simon Phillips

Simon Phillips is a writer, musician, and gardener living in San Francisco.

Alyssa Proujansky

Alyssa Proujansky is a writer from Ithaca, New York, currently residing in Brooklyn. Her fiction appears or is forthcoming in Tin House Online, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Passages North, Third Coast, Columbia Journal, Hobart and The Rumpus, among other places.

Jayme Ringleb

Jayme Ringleb is a doctoral candidate at Florida State University, where he teaches creative writing and serves as poetry editor for The Southeast Review. His poems appear in Poetry Magazine, Ploughshares, and AGNI.

Giselle Robledo

Giselle Robledo is program coordinator for the Heckscher Foundation, a Prison and Justice Writing Program intern alumna and a freelance photographer.

Susan Rosenberg

Susan Rosenberg is a human rights and prisoners rights advocate, adjunct lecturer, award-winning writer, speaker and a former prisoner. Her memoir, An American Radical, details her 16+ years in federal prison and her conclusions about her prison experience. She was released from prison in 2001 through executive clemency by then President Bill Clinton. Susan has worked in nonprofit communications on human rights and in defense of prisoners and the abolition of prisons. She is a member of the Family and Friends of Dr. Mutulu Shakur. She is an adjunct lecturer at Hunter College, in Women and Gender studies. She is in the board of directors of Thousand Currents, an international development organization, and on the Board of Ladies of Hope Ministries, a women and girls re-entry organization.

Diane Simmons

Diane Simmons ‘ non- fiction Courtship of Eva Eldridge was published by U of Iowa Press. Her essay ‘Nobody Goes to the Gulag Anymore’ recently appeared in Missouri Review and Lit Hub.

A.W. Strouse

A.W. Strouse is a scholar of medieval poetry and a creator of many projects, most recently a rhyming version of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (punctum, 2019).

Vauhini Vara

Vauhini Vara is a writer and editor in Colorado. She recently edited the Atlantic’s Presence of Justice series focused on criminal justice.

Stella Cabot Wilson

Stella Cabot Wilson is the Writing Programs Coordinator and a Contributing Editor at Catapult. She studied creative writing at NYU and has lived in Colorado, Wyoming, Alabama, and NYC.

Crystal Yeung

Crystal Yeung received an MFA in Poetry from the College of New Rochelle, holds a BA in English literature, and was a part of the CCNY Language & Literacy MA program. Her writing is published or forthcoming in Rabbit Catastrophe Review, Poets & Writers, Perigee, TAYO, and descant. A recipient of Poets & Writers Amy Award and descant Betsy Colquitt Poetry Award, she serves as poetry chairwoman for the PEN America Prison Writing Program and Poetry & Reviews Co-Editor for Apogee Journal.