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    

Spring 2022 Season

Michael Kleber-Diggs

Michael Kleber-Diggs is the author of Worldly Things, which was awarded the 2020 Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. He was born and raised in Kansas and now lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Lit Hub, the RumpusRain Taxi, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Water~Stone ReviewMidway ReviewNorth Dakota Quarterly and a few anthologies. Michael teaches poetry and creative non-fiction through the Minnesota Prison Writers Workshop.

Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Born and raised in Southern California, Nafissa Thompson-Spires earned a PhD in English from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois. 

Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The White ReviewLos Angeles Review of Books QuarterlyStoryQuarterlyLunch Ticket, and The Feminist Wire, among other publications. She is a 2016 participant of the CallalooWriter’s Workshop, a 2017 Tin House workshopee, and a 2017 Sewanee Writer's Conference Stanley Elkin Scholar.

Her short story collection, Heads of the Colored People, is forthcoming in April with Simon and Schuster’s Atria/ 37 Ink imprints and later in the UK from Penguin Random House’s Chatto and Windus imprint. Her debut novel is under contract with the same publishers.

Marco Wilkinson

Marco Wilkinson is the author of Madder (Coffee House Press, 2021). His essays have appeared in Kenyon Review, Seneca Review, Terrain, Bennington Review, Taproot and elsewhere. He is the nonfiction editor of the Los Angeles Review. He has received several fellowships, including a Hemera Foundation Tending Space fellowship and writing residencies at Craigardan and the Crosshatch Center for Art and Ecology. In addition to teaching in Antioch University’s MFA program, he is also a Visiting Assistant Professor at James Madison University where he teaches creative writing. Marco is also a horticulturist and has taught sustainable agriculture for many years.