Staff List

Meet the People of Poets & Writers



Elliot Figman – Executive Director

As an earlier admirer of Poets & Writers, Elliot came to the organization as a volunteer in 1977. Four years later he was appointed the organization’s executive director. Elliot graduated Phi Beta Kappa with Honors in English from Oberlin College in 1971 and earned an MA in Teaching from the University of Massachusetts in 1972. He has served on the Board of Directors of Oberlin College and The Corlears School. An accomplished poet, his book, Big Spring, was published by Four Way Books in 2003.

Melissa Ford Gradel, CFRE – Managing Director

Melissa joined the Poets & Writers staff in January 2010, bringing fifteen years of experience as a development director and consultant to a range of arts and cultural organizations. Early in her career, she assisted P&W in writing the initial grant proposals for Melissa holds a BFA from New York University. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), and completed a certificate course in Management & Supervision at the Support Center for Nonprofit Management. She is a beekeeper, gardener, sailor, and an avid reader.

William F. Hayes – Director of Finance and Accounting

Bill has been controller of Poets & Writers since 1999. He has been involved in the media industry for the past twenty-five years. Prior to joining Poets & Writers, Bill served as the controller of the Talman Company, a small press publisher and distributor located in New York City. Bill has also held the position of assistant to the treasurer/controller of Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI), and controller of United Artists Cablesystems, Inc., eastern division. He is a graduate of Rutgers University’s CPA emphasis program.

D. Sulaitis – Administrative Coordinator

D. has worked at Poets & Writers since 1991. Her short stories have appeared in Inkwell, New York Stories, and Painted Bride Quarterly, and one of her essays was included in My Father Married Your Mother (Norton, 2006). In 2006, D. won the Boston Review’s annual fiction contest, and she has been a finalist in both the New Letters and Zoetrope fiction contests, and for the Flannery O’Connor award for a collection of short stories. She is the recipient of two fiction fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and holds a BA in English/Creative Writing from the University of Hartford.

Rachel Schuder – associate Director, Development & Marketing

Rachel joined Poets & Writers in 2011 with significant experience in the nonprofit arts sector. Previously she worked for the Creative Capital Foundation and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, both service organizations for artists. Rachel is a visual artist and illustrator who is inspired by creative people of all types. She holds a BA from Bowdoin College and an MFA from Hunter College, and has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, the Bronx Museum's Artist in the Marketplace program, and Skowhegan. 

Bridget Irvine – Development & Marketing Associate

After interning with Poets & Writers in 2014, Bridget joined the staff in 2016. She received her BA from Harvard University, spending much of her time there cultivating the undergraduate publication Tuesday Magazine. Her nonfiction has appeared in Electric Literature, and her other work has appeared in Tuesday Magazine and various zines. Bridget is from New Jersey, and loves amateur photography and challenging the notion of authenticity/the self.


Mayra has over twelve years accounting experience, and joined Poets & Writers in October 2018. She received a MBA in Accounting from the University of Phoenix, and worked for a not-for-profit trade association for a significant part of her career. She has written how-to articles for FamilyShare, an online magazine. Her articles have also appeared on KTAR, MYFoxNy, NewsOK and Yahoo! Voices.


Kevin Larimer – Editor in Chief 

Kevin has been with Poets & Writers since 1999; he became editor in chief in 2013. He holds a degree in journalism and received his MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was the poetry editor of the Iowa Review. He has given presentations and appeared on a number of panels on publishing at events such as the Library of Congress National Book Festival, the Sozopol Fiction Seminars, the Anguilla Lit Fest, the Slice Literary Writer’s Conference, the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, Poets Forum, the Bronx Book Fair, and the Writer’s Hotel. His poems have appeared in Poetry InternationalFence, Pleiades, Verse, and a dozen other literary magazines. He has written book reviews for American Letters & Commentary, American Book Review, Chelsea, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Melissa Faliveno – Senior Editor

Melissa was Poets & Writers’ 2011 Diana & Simon Raab Editorial Fellow before joining the staff full-time in 2012. She received a BA in English and creative writing from the University of Wisconsin and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She has worked as both an editorial assistant for a major fiction publisher and an editor for a small nonfiction press based in the Midwest. She is also a freelance writer and book reviewer, and has taught creative writing to high school students and incarcerated men in New York City. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in DIAGRAM, Din, Isthmus, and Lumina. She lives in Brooklyn, where she plays in a rock band and is at work on a collection of essays.

Ariel Davis – Production Editor

Ariel joined Poets & Writers in November 2016. She received a BA in Journalism and English from the University of South Alabama, where she received the Stokes Award in creative nonfiction. She has worked at several national publications, most recently at The Knot and Women’s Health magazines. Her essays have appeared in The Oracle and the online literary journal Human Parts. She lives in Manhattan.

Dana Isokawa – associate Editor

Dana joined the Poets & Writers staff in 2013. She is from the California Bay Area, where she previously worked at the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that runs Wikipedia. She graduated cum laude from Princeton University with a BA in philosophy and creative writing and received her MFA in poetry at New York University as the Fromer Fellow.

Jessica Kashiwabara – Senior Web Editor

Jessica joined Poets & Writers in May 2014. She received her BA from the University of California in San Diego, studying Human Development and Literature Writing, and has lived in New York City since 2000. She has worked in online media for Spin, CNET, and most recently the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit for children's mental health. She was selected to participate in the JET Programme in 2007, teaching English in Japan. Jessica has trained in the martial art of Shorinji Kempo for many years and enjoys performing and writing music, photography, and comedy.

Bonnie Chau –  Assistant web editor

Bonnie is from Southern California. She received her BA in art history and English literature from UCLA, and her MFA in fiction and literary translation from Columbia University. She has edited horoscopes, worked as a pastry cook, taught English in France, and run writing programs at the nonprofit, 826LA. A Kundiman fellow, her fiction has been published in Flaunt, Columbia Journal: Catch & Release, and Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is also a bookseller at an independent bookstore.


Tim O'Sullivan – Associate Publisher

Tim joined Poets & Writers in 2008. He has published novel excerpts in A Public Space, one of which was re-published in the 2012 Pushcart Prize Anthology; another excerpt received special mention in the 2008 Pushcart Prize Anthology. He has been a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, an Emerging Writer Fellow at the Center for Fiction, and a Residential Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the MacDowell Colony. He is at work on a novel.

Amy Feltman – Advertising coordinator

Amy Feltman joined Poets & Writers' staff in June 2014. She earned her BA from Vassar College and holds an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University. Her work has been published in The Believer logger, The Millions, The Rumpus, Two Serious Ladies, The Toast, Limestone, ENDPAIN, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Slice Magazine, among others. Her short story, "Speculoos," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016. Her debut novel, Willa & Hesper, is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing in Spring 2019.

RACHEL BRITTON – Advertising Assistant

Rachel joined the staff at Poets & Writers in September 2018. She received a BA in English and creative writing from the State University of New York at Geneseo, where she was the poetry editor for the undergraduate journal Gandy Dancer. Previously, she interned at BOA Editions, Ltd. and is now working on a poetry chapbook.



Bonnie Rose Marcus – Director of Readings & Workshops (East) and the Writers Exchange

Bonnie joined Poets & Writers in July 2000, bringing more than twenty years of experience in the field of arts education. Bonnie has conducted theatre and writing workshops at numerous community-based organizations in New York City and created a model program, Project VIP (Voice, Identity, Power), a theatre writing initiative for adolescent girls, which continues at New Settlement Apartments in the Bronx. A writer and performer, Bonnie has presented her poetry at a variety of venues in New York City including  ABC No Rio, Boricua College, Cornelia Street Cafe,  Playwright's Horizon, Two Moon Art, and Night and Day Cafe. She has also presented her poetry at the Third Midwest Literary Walk, in Michigan, Split This Rock Festival in Washington, D.C, and at the New Mexico Poetry Convention. Her theatre credits include a three and a half year run in the Off Broadway show, Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding. Bonnie's book of poetry, The Luminosity, was released in June 2013 with 3: A Taos Press.

ricardo hernandez – Program Assistant, Readings & Workshops (East)

Ricardo was the 2016-17 McCrindle Foundation Readings & Workshops Fellow, before becoming the Program Assistant in June 2017. A graduate of Baruch College, he is the recipient of fellowships from Poets House and Lambda Literary, with work appearing in Newtown Literary, The Cortland Review, and Assaracus. Originally from Queens, Ricardo now lives in Jersey City and is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers-Newark.



Jamie Asaye FitzGerald – Director, California Office and Readings & Workshops (West)

Jamie has worked for Poets & Writers since 2005. While an undergraduate at the University of Southern California, she received an Academy of American Poets College Prize and the Edward W. Moses Poetry Prize. She has taught creative writing, composition, and literature at San Diego State University where she received an MFA in poetry. She also has extensive experience as a copywriter. Her poetry has appeared in Ariel, Fulcrum, LORE, Poetic Diversity, Speechless, and Snow Monkey, as well as the King County Poetry on the Buses Project. Jamie is originally from Hawaii.



Jason Chapman – Director, Information Technology and Web Development

Jason has worked in the IT industry for over twenty years, and joined Poets & Writers in 1997. His diverse experiences include mainframe operations for the Georgia Institute of Technology, application development for a military contractor, and Web development for a variety of businesses. He is also the author of the novel, The Heretic, an early success in the still-developing arena of electronic publishing.



Sarah Ahmad – Diana & Simon Raab Editorial Fellow

Olga Rukovets – McCrindle Foundation Online Editorial Fellow

Arriel Vinson – McCrindle Foundation R&W Fellow