Skip to Main Content

Leanna James Blackwell, MFA

Adjunct Faculty

BA, University of California Irvine; MFA, Mills College

Leanna James Blackwell writes both fiction and nonfiction. She directed the MFA in Creative Nonfiction for 12 years and co-founded and edited Multiplicity, the literary magazine of the MFA.

A frequent contributor to literary and feminist journals and a Pushcart Prize nominee, Leanna’s essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction’s True Story, Full Grown People, Literary Mama, five80split: A Journal of Arts and Letters, Hidden Manna: The Journal of Faith and Story, and in The Best of Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers. Leanna has also written for Mount Holyoke and Amherst magazines. Her work has appeared in the best-selling literary anthologies, A Ghost at Heart’s Edge: Stories and Poems of Adoption, and in Toddler, winner of an Independent Publishers Award (Seal Press). 

She was a Fiction Fellow at the Vermont Studio Center and a participating writer at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Conference for Writers, and the Bay Area Writers’ Project. Currently, Leanna is currently at work on an autobiographical novel, The Sinners of Santa Ava, about a working-class Catholic family and their evolution through the decades.

Leanna is also an active playwright and a member of the Northampton Playwrights Lab. Her most recent play, New Soul, premiered during the Play by Play Festival in Northampton, funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. A revised version was presented in 2023 at the Silverthorne Theatre in a staged reading directed by Michael Ofori.  Other plays include Grimm Women, a feminist reimagining of traditional fairy tales; Curtain Call, performed at Play by Play 2015 and at the Berkshire Theatre Group; and The Wendy Chronicles, on the life and work of Pulitzer Prize-winner Wendy Wasserstein, commissioned by Mount Holyoke College.

Leanna graduated from the MFA program in creative writing at Mills College in California. She is the former artistic director and playwright-in-residence of TKO Theatre and the Inner Stage in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the co-founder and past director of The Place for Writers at Mills. A 25-year practitioner of meditation and mindfulness and a social justice advocate, Leanna is known for a teaching style that helps writers tap into their deepest creative potential. 


Please visit the MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing program page to learn about the curriculum, faculty, program options, and more.