Faculty Bios

We proudly offer the bios of our accomplished teachers.

Mary Donnelly has published poetry in Boog CityThe Brooklyn Rail, DMQ ReviewHunger MountainIndiana Review, and Iowa Review, among others. She is former co-director of the "Reading Between A and B" poetry series in New York City and is now senior editor of failbetter. She holds a BA from Columbia University and an MFA in Poetry from Bennington College.

Shahnaz Habib has published fiction and nonfiction in the anthologies Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers (Random House) and 21 Under 40 (Zubaan). She is a regular contributor to the New Yorker online, the Guardian, and Of Note magazine. Her work has also appeared in Afar magazine, Brevity, and Laundry, among many others. She has been awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Artists' Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature. She holds a BA from Mahatma Gandhi University, an MA in English Literature from the University of Delhi, and an MA in Media Studies from the New School.

Corie Hengst has written marketing copy for numerous companies, including ShoeFitts Marketing and Designer Greetings. She has served as a copy editor for Penguin Group and Metro newspaper, as well as written articles for Plan Adviser/Plan Sponsor  magazines,  American Salon magazine and thegrindstone.com. She has also ghostwritten white papers and a book about the best business practices for Generation Y. She holds a BA from Missouri State University.

Pete Jensen has developed original TV series for diverse production companies and he wrote the feature screenplay Derwin's Shadow, which won a development grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He wrote and directed the award-winning short film "Charlie Primitive," which screened at over twenty festivals across the U.S. and Europe. His prose has been published in such literary magazines as Swink. He holds an MFA in Screenwriting and Directing from Columbia University.

Jessica Penner is the author of the novel in stories Shaken In The Water (Foxhead Books), and her short fiction has appeared in Lost Writers, in the anthology Tongue Screws and Testimonies (Herald Press). Her nonfiction has been published in the Bellevue Literary ReviewThe FiddlebackLuna Luna, Rhubarb, and The Center for Mennonite Writing Journal. She has taught at James Madison University and the Long Island Business Institute. She holds a BA from Eastern Mennonite University and an MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College. 

Stacy Pershall is the author of the memoir Loud in the House of Myself (W.W. Norton), selected for the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Program, and her work is included in the anthologies Lost and Found (W.W. Norton) and Spent (Seal Press). She has taught at Writopia, Pratt Manhattan, City College of New York, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. She holds a BA from the University of Arkansas and an MFA in Performance Art from the University of Cincinnati.

Hasanthika Sirisena is the author of the short-story collection The Other One (University of Massachusetts Press) and has published fiction in Kenyon Review, Glimmer Train, Epoch, StoryQuarterly, Narrative, among many others. Her work has won the Juniper Prize, been named a notable story by Best American Short Stories in 2011 and 2012, and anthologized in Best New American Voices. She is an associate fiction editor at West Branch literary magazine. She has taught at the City College New York. She holds a BA from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and an MFA in Creative Writing from City College New York.

Steph Spector is Gotham’s director of contests and conferences, and serves as one of Gotham’s Blog Launch experts. She has served as managing editor of the Roanoke Review, and has worked for the O, Miami Poetry Festival and the New York City Poetry Festival. She has taught at Harbor House and Trust House. She holds a BA from Roanoke College.

Arlaina Tibensky is the author of the novel And Then Things Fall Apart (Simon & Schuster). Her short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in One Story, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, the Madison Review, and The Dinner Party Download on NPR. She holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University.