Our Staff

zein_nZein El-Amine (Poetry Instructor) was born and raised in Lebanon and has lived in the U.S. since 1987. A graduate student in the MFA Program in Creative Writing, his poems have appeared in GYST, Pnumbra, DC Poets Against the War anthology, and Joybringer. He received first prize in the the Tallahassee Writers’ Association Annual Poetry and Haiku Contest. He is a regular contributor of political essays to Left Turn Magazine which he co-founded and his editorials have appeared in the Washington Post and the Washington Spark. Zein leads the Morocco and Ireland Education Abroad programs, and teaches for Terps Young Scholars.



laura-headshotLaura Lauth (Founding Director, 2002-2005) teaches creative writing at the University of Maryland’s Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House, where she served as founding director from 2002-2005. She was recipient of the Orlando Prize in Poetry and The Tupelo Broadside Prize, and her poems have recently appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, The Los Angeles Review, Tikkun, and Painted Bride Quarterly, among others. She lives outside Washington, DC with her husband and two sons.



picture of Dr. Naliyah KayaNaliyah Kaya (TOTUS Instructor) is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Montgomery College. She previously served as the first full-time Coordinator for Multiracial & Native American Indian/Indigenous Student Involvement in the Office of Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy (MICA) at the University of Maryland, College Park (2013 – 2018) where she continues to facilitate the TOTUS Spoken Word Experience Program in partnership with the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House. TOTUS utilizes the medium of performance poetry to promote a greater understanding of social justice by examining self and society in relation to systems of power and inequality.  As a “poetic public sociologist,” Dr. Kaya infuses poetry and photography into her sociological work. Her poetry has been published in Hampton University’s literary magazine The Saracen (2005, 2006), George Mason University’s Volition (2010), Voices of the Future Presented by Etan Thomas (2013) and Spindrift Art & Literary Journal (2002, 2010, 2015). She has hosted and planned numerous poetry events, facilitated courses and workshops in prison, middle schools, high schools, and universities, and presented at conferences such as Split This Rock Poetry Festival.


Jess Hammack (Assistant Director) is a graduate student and Research and Teaching fellow in the MLIS program at the University of Maryland. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Florida and a BA in English from Hiram College. She teaches  first-year poetry workshops and a summer creative writing course through Terps Young Scholars. She also co-organizes the Writers Here & Now reading series.


vivianne-websiteVivianne Salgado (Associate Director) is a native of Chile, and studied fiction for four years with Pia Barros at Ergo Sum, one of the most prolific literary workshops during Pinochet’s dictatorship. Vivianne received an M.A. in Contemporary Latin American Literature from University of Maryland. She is a fiction instructor at The Writers’ House and leads the Chile Education Abroad winter term course. She teaches a Freshman Connection introduction to literature and critical theory as well as a summer creative writing course for the Terp Young Scholars Program.



johnna-schmidtJohnna Schmidt (Director) has been at the Writers’ House since its inception in 2002, and has been Director since 2005. She has over fifteen years experience teaching creative writing. Johnna got her start in writing through an interest in theater, and has performed original work across the U.S., mostly in San Francisco and New York City. She later pursued and received an MFA in Creative Writing: Fiction, at UMD. Her work has been published in Beltway Journal for the Arts, Little Patuxent Review, On the Issues Magazine, and Like Water Burning.  Awards include the American Writer’s Program Intro to Journals Nomination in Fiction. Johnna teaches incoming fiction students, as well as the culminating publication course for all Writers’ House students.