Conference Administration and Staff


Conference Director

David J. Rothman
David J. Rothman serves as the Director of Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing, along with also directing the Poetry Concentration. He is the editor of Western's national journal of poetry and criticism, THINK. His most recent volumes of poetry, both of which appeared in 2013, are The Book of Catapults (White Violet Press) and Part of the Darkness (Entasis Press). A book of creative nonfiction, Living the Life: Tales from America's Mountains & Ski Towns (Conundrum Press), also appeared in 2013. His poems, essays and scholarly work have appeared widely, in journals including Appalachia, Atlantic Monthly, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, Kenyon Review, Poetry, Sewanee Review, Threepenny Review and scores of other newspapers, journals and periodicals. He co-founded and served as first Executive Director of the Crested Butte Music Festival, was the founding Publisher and Editor of Conundrum Press (now owned by the Samizdat Group of Denver), and currently serves as Poet-in-Residence of Colorado Public Radio. He has served as Executive Director, President, and a Board Member of the Robinson Jeffers Association, and currently represents the southwest states on the board of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and serves on the advisory board of the West Chester University Poetry Center. He lives in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Conference Coordinator

Mark Todd
Dr. Mark Todd, founder of Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing, has been a Professor of English at Western since 1988. He currently serves as Director of the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program, and as Editor-in-Chief for Western Press Books. He has 25 years of professional journalism experience, having published hundreds of news stories, features, columns, and editorials in local through international markets. He also served as editor and publisher of both a newspaper and a regional magazine and, at one point, digested online news for the Lycos daily news service. Mark has performed his poetry and given fiction readings across the country and in Europe. His books include two collections of poetry, Wire Song (Conundrum, 2001) and Tamped, But Loose Enough to Breathe (Ghost Road, 2008). He is author of the science fiction novel Strange Attractors (Write in the Thick, 2012) and co-author with wife Kym O’Connell-Todd of the paranormal comedy/fantasy trilogy The Silverville Saga: The Silverville Swindle (Ghost Road, 2006), which was reissued as Little Greed Men (Raspberry Creek, 2011), All Plucked Up (Raspberry Creek, 2012), and The Magicke Outhouse (Raspberry Creek, 2013). All were nominated for Colorado Book Awards and Little Greed Men was also nominated for the Colorado Blue Spruce Award. Currently, he and Kym are at work on a creative nonfiction book about hauntings in frontier mining towns of the Rocky Mountains.

Associate Conference Coordinators

Erica Boucher
Erica Boucher, Director of Extended Studies, is a Western alumna. She returned to Gunnison in 2008 after working as an English teacher and development officer at Carrabassett Valley Academy, a private ski/snowboard academy in northern Maine. Erica enjoys running during her free-time and is thrilled to be a part of this year’s Writing the Rockies conference.

Toni Todd
Toni Todd is a Lecturer in the Communication Arts, Languages and Literature Department at Western, and serves as Vice President of the Gunnison Arts Council Board of Directors. She has worked as a radio and print journalist in the Gunnison Valley, and as a ski instructor, boot-fitter, wine-tasting pourer, bank teller, census enumerator and berry picker. Toni holds an MFA from the University of Alaska at Anchorage, her short fiction has been published in several literary journals, and her freelance stories are often featured in local publications. Her current passion is the ukulele, an endeavor that draws more on enthusiasm than talent as a final measure of success. Toni is also a volunteer DJ at KBUT Community Radio in Crested Butte, host of “The Aloha Connection,” a Hawaiian Music show that airs on Saturday afternoons.


Heather Messner
Heather Messner is the Administrative Assistant for Western's Graduate Program in Creative Writing, along with serving in the same role for the Department of Communication Arts, Language and Literature(CALL) and the Honors Program. She did her undergraduate work in English at Ball State University, and is an alumna of Western's Certificate in Publishing, which is one track of the Graduate Program in Creative Writing. Her great passion is the riding and training of horses.

Jeffrey Sabatka
Jeffrey Sabatka, Office Support Coordinator for Extended Studies and Graduate Studies, is originally from northern Illinois. He came to Gunnison in 2010 to attend Western State College, where he graduated in 2014 with a B.A. in Exercise and Sport Science. He ran cross country and track for Western all four years he was here, and will be attending Saint Augustine University beginning in January of 2016 to pursue a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.


Lead Intern

Frederick Slyter
Frederick Slyter is an English Major with an emphasis in Creative Writing at Western. As a three-year student, he expects to graduate as Class of 2016. He is currently the President of the Alpha Xi Pi chapter of Sigma Tau Delta and has served as the Vice President of Wordhorde (Western’s spoken-word performance troupe) and the Vice President of Spectrum (Western’s LGBTA organization). Frederick intends to go to graduate school to get his MLIS after he finishes at Western.


Sarah Benson
Sarah Benson is an art, English and philosophy student at Western State Colorado University, and considers herself an enthusiast about most of the universe. She is a member of Sigma Tau Delta honor society, and the president of Wordhorde, Western State's spoken-word poetry group. Sarah lives in Gunnison with an improbably large, fuzzy dog and an ever-increasing collection of paperback novels.




Donielle Carr
Donielle Carr is a Creative Writing major at Western and will be acting as managing editor of Pathfinder, Western's undergraduate literary magazine, for the 2015-'16 academic year. She enjoys writing poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, and finds inspiration on the trails of her mountain home.




Sarah Fisher
Sarah Fisher is a junior at Western State Colorado University majoring in Communication Arts with an emphasis in Film Studies and a minor in English. Born and raised in Ohio, Sarah moved to Gunnison four years ago and has been a member of the WordHorde spoken-word performance troupe for three years.





Melonie Frank
Melonie Frank is an English Major with an emphasis in Creative Writing at Western, where she is a member of the Alpha Xi Pi chapter of Sigma Tau Delta. She divides her time between wrangling her two children and wandering the trails of the Gunnison Valley finding inspiration for her idiosyncratic writing.



Kara Girk
Kara Girk is a Western State alumna. She is a slam and Neo-Formalist poet and is working on her first novel (or several). At Western, she was president of Western’s slam troupe and open mic group Wordhorde. She was also the first president of Sigma Tau Delta. Currently, she resides in Grand Junction Colorado where she works as a nutrition specialist while going to school to become a midwife.


Kayla Justice
Kayla Justice began at Western as an English and Creative Writing student, but has, through a series of existential crises, ended up in Communication Arts and Philosophy with a passion for everything else besides. Her extra-curricular involvement in the Gunnison valley includes close work with the Gunnison Arts Center as actor, writer, and volunteer for several performances over the course of the last three years. She once fantasized (and still quietly does) about screenwriting for the Disney or Pixar animation studios, but is currently juggling her ambitions to serve with the Peace Corps, sail around the world, and eventually become a university professor.

Dante Velez
Dante Velez is a Senior Communication Arts student with an emphasis in Theatre and Performance Studies and a double major in Politics and Government. Dante has attended the National Model United Nations conference in New York City with the Western-NMUN team, helping it earn honors and awards the past two years. During his tenure at Western, Dante has participated in drama productions including Becky Shaw, Arabian Nights and The Government Inspector, as well as a series of student-directed pieces. One great moment came this past year when he was given the opportunity to direct a full-scale campus production, The Exit Interview by William Missouri Downs. Through this experience Dante discovered his love for directing and is committed to this work as his career.

Jay Ytell
Jay Ytell is a sophomore at Western State Colorado University, where he intends to study English. Jay is the newest member of Western's spoken word performance troupe, Wordhorde, and will be taking over the position of Vice President in the Fall. He enjoys rock climbing and mountaineering throughout the Rocky Mountains during his free time.