Zilka Joseph


“Zilka's finely tuned editing and timely advice took my story collection from possibility to published. I highly recommend her.”
--Michael Andreoni, author of The Window is a Mirror, a collection of short stories, forthcoming from BHC Press

"I first met Zilka Joseph at a writer’s conference in Ann Arbor where she was leading a writers’ workshop. I was really impressed by her approach. Later I found that many of my writer colleagues in the Ann Arbor area are familier with her as an excellent poet, writer, coach and content critic.

I have used Zilka’s services for two memoirs. The first book, “The Scent of Jasmine: Coming of Age in Jerusalem and Damascus,“ was published in spring 2017 and was very well received. Currently, she is helping me with my new manuscript, (The Wandering Palestinian) which, I hope to publish in the near future. Zilka’s comments, thoughtful critique, sound advice, and clarity were extremely helpful in making my books stronger. While her evaluation of a manuscript is honest, and direct, she remains very respectful of a writer’s voice and perspective. I am truly happy to have met her and worked with her."

--Anan Ameri
Founding Director of the Arab American Museum and author of several books including The Scent of Jasmine

Upcoming book, The Wandering Palestinian:

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Casandra Caverhill: Currently pursuing an MFA at Bowling Green University

Zilka’s instruction has been absolutely foundational for me and I’m certain I would not be half the writer I am without her guidance. My craft has improved immensely since I began studying with her four years ago—I’ve been published several times and was recently accepted into an MFA creative writing program at Bowling Green State University.

My poetry was too academic and inscrutable when I was first starting out. The tone of my work was stiff and I used formal language as a way to hide my ideas. Zilka helped me see the benefits of using more natural word choices and incorporating specific detail; understand the importance of listening to pacing and sound; and appreciate the surprise of capturing dialogue, asking questions, or making a “leap” in a poem. The fellow students I have worked with in Zilka’s courses are just as supportive and discerning as she is, too; I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to try out creative work in.

I’ve taken many different courses with Zilka, from bringing new work to critique groups, to writing-prompt workshops, to studying and attempting specific poetry forms. I have also worked one-on-one with her when I needed advice about my writing portfolio. I can unequivocally attest that Zilka is the most insightful and encouraging mentor I’ve ever had. I am so thankful for Zilka’s classes, as they push me out of my comfort zone and allow me to take greater risks with my work. I am so grateful for Zilka because she has given me the gift of finding—and nurturing—my authentic voice as a writer.

—Cassandra Caverhill
Freelance editor and poet

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Kimberly Huebner, currently pursuing an MFA at Brooklyn College, NYC

When I began taking classes with Zilka –new to the workshop environment and to sharing my work with others –I was thrilled to find a warm and supportive group of writers. Zilka's classes helped to give me grounding as a writer and provided a place where I could learn, take risks, and grow. It was always clear that Zilka, as well as my fellow students, wanted the best for my work. They were willing to challenge and question it in ways genuinely meant to make it better. In following Zilka's example, I grew in my own ability to critique others' work in an inquisitive and empathetic way. 

When I applied to MFA programs, I consulted with Zilka on my application materials. She encouraged me to push my work further and provided valuable guidance on how to do so. After working with her, I was very excited to receive an offer to study in Brooklyn College's fiction program. 

I highly recommend studying with Zilka. Her guidance is always deeply thoughtful, and I've found the atmosphere in her workshops to be nothing but supportive and constructive. I've grown into a stronger writer and reader through working with her. 

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Tanya Muzumdar: Graduated from the MFA program at Pacific Northwest University

I attended a few of Zilka’s workshops when I was new to poetry and found her to be a gifted teacher. Workshop can be an anxious time, but Zilka fostered a very welcoming, supportive, and rigorous environment. Each meeting she shared a well-curated selection of poems of varying aesthetics for us to read. She facilitated thoughtful discussions and made perceptive observations; her comments on my work were generous in quantity and quality. Her guidance was invaluable for creating a portfolio of work to submit for publication and to gain admission to MFA programs.

Years later, I continue to delightedly recommended Zilka’s classes and workshops to anyone living in or near the Ann Arbor and Detroit areas.
Tanya Muzumdar
English instructor, North Central Michigan College
Senior Editor & Poetry Editor, Dunes Review


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Nicole Barney: Graduated from the MFA program at Pacific Northwest University
"Zilka Joseph is the rare kind of mentor who cares just as deeply about your success as she does her own. She is a thoughtful critic and compassionate cheerleader who focuses on using the strength of a work to scaffold the development of its weaker parts. Zilka's care with the manuscript I submitted for graduate school applications, along with her letter of recommendation in my behalf, was a crucial piece in my acceptance to several top tier creative writing programs. She is generous with her time and spirit, and is a pillar of the Ann Arbor writing community."
--Nicole Barney
MFA Pacific University

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Sally Weston Ziph: Currently pursuing an MFA from Miami University in Ohio
Over the past two years I have taken many of Zilka's wonderful group Workshops (critique-oriented as well as generative) and they are a restorative and artistically nourishing highlight in my normally hectic schedule.  The thoughtful, caring input I receive from Zilka is essential to my continuing growth and development as a poet/writer--I recently published a poem I drafted in one of Zilka's Workshops in the online magazine Rat's Ass Review.

Zilka is an excellent writing coach and keeps everyone in her Workshops on track with her gentle and encouraging manner.  She has an encyclopedic knowledge of literature and is very attuned to pattern, structure, persona and/or character and the music of language in both poetry and fiction. Her insightful and incisive comments and instruction have helped me to hone my writing skills and to cultivate my writing "voice." Her editorial suggestions help me to remove or adjust any unnecessary or awkward wording, line breaks, etc. to reveal better and more coherent and surprising poems. I have learned a lot in my one-on-one coaching with her as she is teaching me to "push" my own sensibility in order to make my poems more original and "true" to my own inner artistic vision. As an added bonus, I also appreciate the support of her talented community of writing students.

--Sally Weston Ziph
Librarian, University of Michigan


"First, I have known Zilka Joseph for upwards of seven years, enrolling in her poetry classes whenever they fit into my schedule.  The more I take them, the more they inspire me. For one, she clearly loves poetry and is well versed in several centuries of western poets, whose examples she shares with the class. She is equally cognizant of contemporary poets, using them also to inspire us.

Second, she sees beauty and possibility in all her students’ poetry and prose so that I leave her classes feeling encouraged to go on trying to make my own lines as good as she think they are. After some of her classes, I have literally felt as if she’s given me a massage, kneading and manipulating my guts until my soul is straighter, removed of its kinks and unseemly knobs, and my words ready to be memorialized in verse.

Perhaps, more concretely, she makes it her mission to have her students’ poetry accepted into journals, constantly emailing us announcements of “calls for submissions” from publications around the country. And her editorial advice on poems is always sound. After she edited two of my poems, they were accepted into Forage Poetry Journal and Pink Panther magazine."

--Ellen Halter

Writer and Poet