Workshop Faculty

Cynthia Beach is a longtime creative writing professor, writer, and coach who studied creativity under Dr. Eric Maisel and is a spiritual director. She authored Creative Juices for Writers and the novel The Surface of Water (Soul Seasons, 2020; IVP, 2024). Her articles, short stories, and contributions appear in newspapers, literary journals, and books like Hope in the Mourning Bible (Zondervan) and Media Ethics (Longman). A frequent reviewer for The Banner, Cynthia has a journalism masters from Wheaton College and a masters of fine arts from the Northwest Institute of the Literary Arts. She cofounded Breathe Christian Writers Conference and was 2021 best fiction judge for Christianity Today. She lives on a quiet seven acres with her husband Dave. For more information, visit

L.S. Klatt is the author of four collections of poems, including Cloud of Ink, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize, and Interloper, winner of the Juniper Prize. His poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies, among them Harvard Review, Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, Poetry Daily, The Believer, Best American Poetry, Image, The Southern Review, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review (KR Online), and The New Yorker, and has inspired several artistic collaborations, including “Andrew Wyeth, Painter, Dies at 91,” which was made into a 90-second animated movie by MotionPoems. His essays on poets appear in The Southern Review and in The Georgia Review. He was Grand Rapids’ poet laureate (2014-2017) and is a professor of English at Calvin University.

Dan Mancilla, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of English at Aquinas College where he teaches Creative Writing and Contemporary Literature courses. Dan is the author of the short story collections All the Proud Fathers (Dock Street Press) and The Deathmask of El Gaucho (Little Presque Books/Passages North). His writing has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The Saturday Evening Post, Barrelhouse, Slice Magazine, River Styx, Midwestern Gothic, Hobart, and The Madison Review among other publications. His writing, referred to as “Rustbelt Magic Realism” by some critics, explores the intersections of faith, immigration, and social justice in the industrial Midwest.

Gary D. Schmidt teaches creative writing, children's literature, and medieval literature at Calvin University. He is the author of some two dozen books for young readers, among them the Newbery-Honor-winning The Wednesday Wars, the Newbery Honor and Printz Honor-winning Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, and the National Book Award finalist Okay for Now.  A complete list of Gary's books can be found here. His university press books include a study of the early American writer Hannah Adams, the image of the mouth of hell in medieval art and literature, and the beginnings of American children's books in the 1930s.  He lives in Alto, Michigan. 

Jason Stevens is a professor of  English at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, MI, where he lives with his wife and daughter. He has over a decade of teaching that includes classes from Shakespeare or World Mythology to Advanced Workshop in Poetry Writing. An Aquinas graduate, he received his Ph.D. in Literature and Political Philosophy in 2017 and now serves as director of Cornerstone University’s Writing Center. He also leads the Ireland/Northern Ireland study abroad program. In 2021, he participated in Faber and Faber’s Academy, and is now pitching his debut YA novel.

Michael Stevens has a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of Dallas, and has taught in the Humanities Division at Cornerstone University since 1997.  He wrote his dissertation on T.S. Eliot, but in recent years he has devoted his scholarly focus to the farmer-novelist-poet Wendell Berry, most notably in the book Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life (Brazos Press), written with colleague Matt Bonzo. His not-so-secret side interest is the history of baseball, especially in the nineteenth century, and was a longtime contributor to Books & Culture on this topic. He and his wife Linda have three adult children and a bevy of cats.

Elizabeth Vander Lei was a professor of English at Calvin University, where she taught writing in various genres, from business to poetry. As a writer and a teacher, Vander Lei is interested in what words do—the meanings they carry, the commitments they make, the effects they produce—and in the genre, the contours of what is expected and the opportunities for surprise. Vander Lei has published a textbook on writing across the curriculum and scholarly articles on how words, particularly the words of people with religious commitments, connect with audiences.