Skip to main content

Writers in the Schools and Reading Series

Director: Connie Voisine

Led by La Sociedad para las Artes, the Writers in the Schools program (WITS) brings graduate student writers from the English Department into classrooms across the Las Cruces area to work with younger students. The goal of the program is to encourage both an appreciation and application of writing that gives students— many Latino or Chicano and living under the poverty line— the opportunity to discuss, interpret, and express themselves through a variety of genres. Graduate students may be able to develop lessons that incorporate the themes already present in the class by working with teachers to adapt lessons to fit the needs of the class. This is an incredible program that provides valuable experiences both for the students and the writers. 

About the Program

WITS participants are paired up with local high school or middle school teachers in order to help get students excited about writing and enhance their chances of success in the future. Participants connect with the teachers they’ve been assigned to and find out where the class is at and what they’re working on and then set up 10 hours of in-class teaching. This is an opportunity to learn from some amazing teachers in our area, and it can give you experience teaching creative writing. If 10 hours seems like more than you can fit in your busy schedule, you can work together with another grad student so each of you does five hours in the class room or you can tackle each class together.

Previous school participants include Vista Middle School, Academia Dolores Huerta, Alma D’Arte, Sierra Middle School, Las Cruces High School, Lynn Middle School, Mayfield High School, Desert Hills Elementary, Crossroads, Oñate High School, and Arrowhead Park Early College High School.

Here are a few reasons to get involved with WITS:

  • WITS is a great way to enhance your skills as a writer and educator.
  • WITS organizations exist in many cities throughout the U.S. and can help you find job opportunities locally and nationally.
  • WITS is considered community service, so your involvement with WITS counts towards extra funding for conferences if you spend more time volunteering.

Reading Series

Nelson/Boswell Distinguished Visiting Writer Reading Series Spring 2023

All readings are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities’s Southwest and Border Studies Institute’s outreach fund.

All readings are on Fridays at 7:30 pm in the Health and Social Services Auditorium (HSS 101a) on the New Mexico State campus unless otherwise noted.



Jan 27 Savannah Johnston and Chad Valdez


This reading will be co-hosted by the American Indian Program at NMSU.


Savannah Johnston is an NMSU graduate from the MFA program in fiction. Her first collection, “Rites” was recently published in 2021. The Washington Post says this about it: “ Centering the Indigenous peoples of rural Oklahoma, “Rites” is a master class on compression. Johnston portrays the aching, farcical nature of existence in just a few pages.”


Savannah Johnston is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Her work has appeared in Gulf Coast, HTMLgiant, and Gravel, among others. She lives in New York City. Rites is her first book.

MFA candidate in fiction, Chad Valdez, will be reading from thesis works.

 Feb 17 Andrew Milward and Isaias Rogel 



Andrew Milward was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and grew up in Lawrence, Kansas. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is the author of the story collections The Agriculture Hall of Fame, which was awarded the Juniper Prize for Fiction by the University of Massachusetts, and I Was a Revolutionary (HarperCollins, 2015), which was awarded the Friends of American Writers Literature Award.


MFA candidate in fiction, Isaias Rogel, will be reading from thesis works.



 March 3  Blake Sanz

Blake Sanz, originally from Louisiana, was chosen by Brandon Taylor as the winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award for 2021. His collection of stories,,
was published in October 2021 by the University of Iowa Press.
His fiction has appeared in Ecotone, Puerto del Sol, Fifth Wednesday Journal,
and elsewhere. He has earned recognition and awards from Zoetrope:
All-Story, the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction,
Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sozopol Fiction Seminars in Bulgaria,
other conferences and residencies. 


March 24 Travis Brown and Jill Stukenburg 


Travis Nathan Brown is a poet and Registered Nurse living in Wausau, Wisconsin. He studied literature and writing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (BA, 2003) and at New Mexico State University (MFA, 2006). Before becoming a nurse, he taught writing at the University of Wisconsin–Marathon County, Portland State University, and within the Illinois Department of Corrections. His first collection of poems In the Village that Is Not Burning Down was published by Atmosphere Press (2021).






Jill Stukenberg’s News of the Air is the winner of Black Lawrence Press’s Big Moose Prize. She is a graduate of the MFA program at New Mexico State University and has received writing grants from the University of Wisconsin Colleges and has been awarded writing residencies at Shake Rag Alley and Write On, Door County. Jill is an Associate Professor of English at University of Wisconsin Stevens Point at Wausau.







April 14  Jay Ponteri  and Shane Inman  

Jay Ponteri directed the creative writing program at Marylhurst University from 2008-2018 and is now  the program head of PNCA’s Low-Residency Creative Writing program. He is a graduate of New Mexico State University (MA) and Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers, and his most recent book of creative nonfiction, Someone Told Me was published by Widow+Orphan House, Summer 2021. He’s also the author of Darkmouth Inside Me (Future Tense Books, 2014) and Wedlocked (Hawthorne Books, 2013), which received an Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction.


MFA candidate in fiction, Shane Inman, will be reading from thesis works.



April 28-  Jacqueline Osherow and Layle Chambers  


Divine Ratios: Poems is the 9th  book by poet Jacqueline Osherow. She has received the Witter Bynner Prize and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She serves as a distinguished professor of English and creative writing at the University of Utah. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

MFA candidate in poetry, Layle Chambers, will be reading from thesis works.