First Books

The Creative Writing Program's annual First Books reading spotlights first books by Minnesota writers, including the debut publications of MFA alums.

Readings are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations necessary. First Books is made possible by generous support from the Edelstein-Keller Visiting Writer Series and The Walter Nathan Literary Initiatives.

The First Books reading is held in the spring at Pillsbury Hall.

Previous Writers

Isaac Butler Amanda Coplin Kevin Fenton Sally Franson
Peter Geye Kathleen Glasgow Alan Heathcock Kate Hopper
Arlene Kim Elizabeth Larson Gayla Marty Paul Metsa
Rachel Moritz Josh Ostergaard Karen Rigby Jona C. Sirott
Andy Sturdevant Francine Tolf Andria Williams Jennifer Willoughby
Ryo Yamaguchi Shana Youngdahl Michael Kleber-Diggs Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Marco Wilkinson      

Spring 2023 Season

Erica Berry 

Black and white photo of MFA alum Erica Berry

Erica Berry has an MFA from the University of Minnesota, where she was a College of Liberal Arts Fellow. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times Magazine, The Yale Review, Outside Magazine, Catapult, The Atlantic, Guernica, and elsewhere. Winner of the Steinberg Essay Prize and the Kurt Brown Prize in Nonfiction, she has received fellowships and funding from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Tin House, the Ucross Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources. A former Writer-in-Residence with the National Writers Series in Traverse City, Michigan, she is currently a Writer-in-the-Schools with Literary Arts in Portland. Wolfish is her first book.


Emily Strasser 

Headshot of Emily Strasser

Emily Strasser's first book, Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History, a memoir on the intersection of family and national secrets in the nuclear city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is forthcoming in April 2023 from the University Press of Kentucky. Her essays have been named notable in Best American Essays 2016 and 2017. She was a winner of the 2015 Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest, a 2016 AWP Intro Award, a 2016 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist’s Initiative Grant, and the 2016 W. K. Rose Fellowship from Vassar College. She served as a 2018-19 Olive B. O’Connor Fellow in Creative Writing at Colgate University and a 2019 McKnight Writing Fellow. She received her MFA in nonfiction from the University of Minnesota and lives in Minneapolis.


Nen G. Ramirez

Photo of Nen Ramirez: Medium length black hair, wearing a black, sleeveless shirt

Nen G. Ramirez is a Chicanx writer from Adrian, Michigan. They are an MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota whose work has appeared in Electric Literature, Split Lip Magazine, Poetry Magazine, and elsewhere. Their chapbook All Women Are Born Wailing won the 2022 Acentos Book Prize and will be published through Nomadic Press in April.


Chaun Webster 

Photo of Chaun Webster

Chaun Webster is a poet and graphic designer living in Minneapolis whose work is attempting to put pressure on the spatial and temporal limitations of writing, of the english language, as a way to demonstrate its incapacity for describing blackness outside of a regime of death and dying. Webster’s debut book, Gentry!fication: or the scene of the crime, was published by Noemi Press in 2018, and received the 2019 Minnesota Book Award for poetry. Wail Song: wading in the water at the end of the world is forthcoming from Black Ocean Press April 2023.