BMI supports free, artful expression that enhances understanding of the pressing issues of our time, bringing literary writers to the heart of global conversations. Situated in Las Vegas, Nevada, a crossroads through which more than 40 million visitors pass each year and where all of the core issues of the modern experience converge, from water distribution to immigration, from the psychology of desire to the relation of city to wilderness. BMI is itself a literary hub, a place in which writers and intellectuals from a community devoted to creative exploration. At BMI, writers and readers distill and disseminate the products of those explorations so they can be experienced around the world.
BMI is inspired by the original Black Mountain College, a legendary educational experiment that ran from the 1930s to the 1950s. It is named for that resonance, with additional reference to the Black Mountain range of southern Nevada.
BMI’s staple activities presently include an ambitious slate of readings and events with internationally recognized writers and intellectuals, with past guests including Toni Morrison, Wole Soyinka, Joyce Carol Oates, E.L. Doctorow, Cheryl Strayed, George Saunders, Maggie Nelson, William T. Vollmann, Jamaica Kincaid, and hundreds more ranging from Nobel Laureates to emerging stars; a program of refuge for writers of conscience from countries in which such freedoms are curtailed or endangered; a generous residential fellowship program for top professional writers in all genres, as well as for Ph.D. students in creative writing at UNLV; and the support and publication of award-winning journals, books, and other literary media. (Including The Believer, a five-time national Magazine Award Finalist, Witness, Interim, and the translations of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle.) BMI’s community is anchored in the students and faculty of a nationally ranked graduate Creative Writing program in the Department of English at UNLV, whose faculty are BMI affiliates, and whose students have gone on to win the Whiting Award, the Cullman Center Fellowship, the O. Henry Award, the Rona Jaffe Foundation Award, and accolades.
Joshua Wolf Shenk
Executive & Artistic Director, BMI
Editor-in-Chief, The Believer
A journalist, essayist, editor, teacher, and literary innovator, Shenk brings to BMI experience in nearly every aspect of the world of letters. He is the author of the national bestseller Powers of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity and the acclaimed Lincoln’s Melancholy. A founding advisor to The Moth storytelling series, Shenk served on the organization’s board of directors, where he played a lead role developing The Moth Radio Hour, now on nearly 400 stations worldwide. Shenk began his career at The New Republic, The Washington Monthly, and The Economist, and has written cover stories for Harper’s, The Atlantic, and Time. He has taught creative nonfiction at The New School, and served as the Director of The Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College in Maryland. He founded the Arts in Mind conversation series and the Erikson Prize in Mental Health Media. After studying literature and history at Harvard College, Josh Shenk went to work at The New Republic, where he worked with writers such as Michael Lewis, Michael Kinsley, and Andrew Sullivan. He spent several years at the helm of The Washington Monthly, where he edited contributors Paul Krugman, James Fallows, and Taylor Branch, among many others. His own essays have been published in Harper’s, The New York Times, and The Atlantic, which featured his 2009 cover story “What Makes Us Happy?” Shenk is the creator of the Erikson Prize for Mental Health Media and the director of Arts in Mind, a conversation series on the intersections of the arts and psychology. He has been a creative advisor to the executive director of Literary Arts in Portland, working to re-launch the Wordstock literary festival, and is the West Coast Representative of the MacDowell Colony’s Fellows Executive Committee.
Managing Director, BMI
Publisher, The Believer
With a lifelong passion for poetry, Kellen Braddock achieves her greatest sense of purpose and fulfillment when pushing the needle forward for literary organizations. Before moving to Las Vegas, she was the business and operations director for Hugo House, Seattle’s literary arts center. In her spare time, she also served as a commissioner for the Seattle Center, an ambassador for On the Boards, and a volunteer arts business clinic consultant.
While pursuing her MFA in Arts Leadership from Seattle University, Kellen was the finance and development director for a small press and independent literature festival called APRIL (or “Authors, Publishers, and Readers of Independent Literature”). Before that, she developed her arts administration chops while working for Shunpike, a nonprofit that supports small to midsized arts groups with all aspects of the “business of art.” As a fiscal sponsorship manager, she extended financial services, reviewed grants, and secured licenses, permits, and insurance for over 200 arts groups annually.
Kellen received her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Michigan, where she was the recipient of the Rapaport Prize, Cowden Fellowship, and the Hopwood Award for her poetry.
Program Manager, BMI & The Believer
Sara Ortiz is the program manager of The Believer magazine and Black Mountain Institute. Daughter to Salvadoran immigrants, Ortiz strives to cultivate cultural and creative programming that offers a platform to amplify underrepresented voices. In New York, she curated events and marketed books for literary institutions, such as McNally Jackson Books, Scholastic Inc., Penguin Random House, and Disney Publishing Worldwide. Ortiz honed her nonprofit and event management know-how working for the Texas Library Association and the Writers' League of Texas. Her writing has appeared in Electric Literature, the Texas Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews.
Managing Editor, The Believer
Daniel Gumbiner is the managing editor of The Believer magazine. In the past he has been a wooden boatbuilder's apprentice, a kale-chip salesman, and a waiter for a Chilean-French-Japanese fusion restaurant in Valparaiso, Chile. He also worked at McSweeney's Publishing in San Francisco for several years, where he helped edit McSweeney's Quarterly and other books, including Alejandro Zambra's award-winning My Documents. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic and The California Sunday Magazine, and he recently completed his first novel, The Boatbuilder. He is currently at work on a collection of short stories.
Art Director and Deputy Publisher, The Believer
Kristen Radtke is the author of the graphic memoir Imagine Wanting Only This (Pantheon, 2017). She previously served as the managing editor and marketing director of Sarabande Books and the film and video editor of Triquarterly magazine. Her work has appeared in Oxford American, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker’s Page Turner, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many other places. She was named a “future leader of the American publishing industry” by Publishers Weekly and a “face to watch” by the Los Angeles Times. She has a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program.
Manager of Development & Strategic Partnerships, BMI
Michael Ursell is a writer, educator, and digital strategist with a background in development. He worked at the Los Angeles Review of Books as a communications director and an editor for the nonprofit magazine's poetry section. He arrived at LARB after winning a competitive fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies "Public Fellows" program. Michael holds a PhD in literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he wrote about French and English Renaissance poetry and taught many classes, from Shakespeare to intro composition. His academic writing has appeared in publications including Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Connotations, and The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.
Program and Communications Coordinator, BMI & The Believer
Lille Allen holds a bachelors degree in Anthropology. She has previously worked as a peer advocate for victims of interpersonal violence at the Jean Nidetch Women’s Center, and has pursued work in different non-profit organizations, from mentoring programs to cultural institutions and museums.
Vera Blossom is a writer and artist born in the Bay Area and raised in Las Vegas. They are proudly Filipinx-American and passionate about fashion, film, food and many other deeply shallow things. Their work has appeared in Bustle, Rewire, TASTE, and more.
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Layla is a program aide at The Believer magazine and Black Mountain Institute. She is currently finishing up her Bachelors degrees in English and Economics at UNLV where she is also the Chapter President of Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society, and Chapter Executive Vice President of the American Marketing Association. After undergrad, her plans are to attend law school and get a dual degree MBA/JD degree. Her passions are poetry and performance art.
Summer Thomad is a writer born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her work has appeared in Desert Companion, The Believer, and the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, where she serves as the Arts, Entertainment and Culture editor. Her areas of interest include sociology, food, and art in all its forms.
Donald Barlow Fellow
Frank Johnson is a poet, essayist, and visual artist born and raised in East Las Vegas. He is primarily interested in making, sharing, and loving dope art. He earned his MFA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2019. His work has been featured in the Believer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Shallow Ends, The Rumpus, and at the Las Vegas Film Festival.
BMI PhD Fellow
Susana Ferreira is a Portuguese-Canadian freelance reporter, producer, and longform writer for magazines and film. As a correspondent and stringer, she has filed from throughout the world for major dailies, wires, television news networks and radio. She speaks five languages — six, if you count "Toronto English"
Samuel Merriman Gilpin
BMI PhD Fellow
Samuel Merriman Gilpin is a poet originally from Portland, OR. He received a BA in English from the University of Utah, and an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in various journals and magazines, most recently in Prism Review, Prime Number, and REAEDR. He is an avid people watcher, jazz aficionado, and a devoted cat dad.
BMI PhD Fellow
Sreshtha Sen is a writer from Delhi, India and one of the founding editors of The Shoreline Review, an online journal for and by South Asian poets. She studied Literatures in English at Delhi University and completed her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has been published in Bitch Media, Breakwater Review, The Margins, MACK, Meridian, and elsewhere. She was the 2017-2018 McCrindle Foundation Fellow for Readings/Workshops at Poets & Writers.
BMI PhD Fellow
Wendy Wimmer’s work has appeared in Barrelhouse, Drunken Boat, Per Contra, Blackbird, Paper Darts, and received nominations for the Pushcart Prize, AWP Intro to Journals, Best New American Voices and more. She is the former director of engaged content for VentureBeat and has edited and written for numerous tech publications. She received her Master of Arts in Creative Writing from UW Milwaukee and is the co-founder and a board officer of UntitledTown Book and Author Festival based in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
EMERITI FOUNDING MEMBERS
Dr. Carol C. Harter
Dr. Carol C. Harter is the founding Executive Director of Black Mountain Institute and President Emerita of UNLV. Prior to becoming UNLV’s first woman and longest-serving president, Harter was president of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo for six years and spent almost nineteen years at Ohio University as a faculty member and administrator. A native of New York City, Harter earned her PhD at SUNY-Binghamton and has co-authored books on John Irving and E.L. Doctorow. She currently serves as Chair of BMI’s Advisory Board.
Richard Wiley is author of the novels Soldiers In Hiding, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for best American fiction, Fools' Gold, Festival for Three Thousand Maidens, Indigo, and Ahmed's Revenge. His most recent novel, The Book of Important Moments, was published by Dzanc Books in 2013. Wiley was a member of the UNLV English Department faculty from 1989 to 2015 and cofounded UNLV’s graduate Creative Writing Program. His website is richardwileyauthor.com.