Meet the Writers' Workshop Leaders

Mercy Carbonell, Director
Phillips Exeter Academy

Mercy grew up in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and earned her B.A. in English from Brown University. She holds an M.A. in Education from Stanford University, where she specialized in teaching writing using the Harkness pedagogy developed at Phillips Exeter Academy and studied alternative forms of assessment for student writing workshops and curricular design.

As an educator, writer, and mentor, Mercy values collaborating with and empowering others. She hopes to mobilize unheard voices and uncover buried truths. The workshop methodologies she cultivates are rooted in equity, anti-oppression, deep listening and vulnerable sharing.

During her 26 years at Phillips Exeter Academy, Mercy has been an English teacher, athletics coach and club advisor. She serves on the annual MLK Day planning committee, has co-authored the 25th anniversary of Title IX assembly, directed a student poetry reading addressing gun violence, and commemorated the 50th year of coeducation at Exeter with a student gallery exhibit, "Feminist Bookmaking & Curatorial Activism." Mercy has taught and delivered meditations at Exeter –a written reflection and weekly community gathering in Phillips Church. She has taught the Advanced Senior Creative Writing Workshop as well as workshops for parents of the Academy, alumni and community members. Mercy’s courses have included The Harlem Renaissance, Spring in Love, Queer Literature, and explored Toni Morrison, Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Infinite Jest and Ulysses.

Tim Horvath, Leader
Phillips Exeter Academy

Tim Horvath is the author of Understories, and the novella Circulation.  He is a New Hampshire Literary Award winner and his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Conjunctions, AGNI, Harvard Review, Passages North, and Best Small Fictions 2021. His reviews have appeared in Georgia Review, Brooklyn Rail, and American Book Review. His most recent project is Un-bow, a collaboration with composer, cellist, and instrument inventor Rafaele Andrade. He is currently at work on a novel called The Spinal Descent, which explores the world of contemporary classical composers and musicians, as well as a second short story collection. He teaches English at Phillips Exeter Academy and creative writing in a Stony Brook MFA program. He has also been a Yaddo resident and is a co-founder of a city-wide reading program in Manchester, NH.

Jenifer Hixson, Guest Artist and Workshop Leader
Senior Director, The Moth 

Jenifer Hixson is a senior director and the co-author of How to Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling from The Moth. She is also one of the hosts of the Peabody Award-winning Moth Radio Hour. Each year she asks hundreds of people to identify the significant turning points of their lives – fumbles and triumphs, leaps of faith, darkest hours – and then helps them shape those experiences into story form for the stage. Jenifer says she “falls a little bit in love with each storyteller,” and hopes you will too. In 2000, she launched The Moth StorySLAM, which now has a full-time presence in 26 cities in the U.S., U.K. and Australia and provides more than 6,000 individual storytelling opportunities for storytelling daredevils and loquacious wall flowers alike. Jenifer’s story “Where There's Smoke” has been featured on The Moth Radio Hour, This American Life and was a part of The Moth’s first book: The Moth: 50 True Stories.

Safia Elhillo, Author and Poet

Sudanese by way of Washington, D.C., Safia Elhillo is the author of award-winning work including The January Children (the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets and an Arab American Book Award) and Home Is Not a Country (Coretta Scott King Book Award Author Honor), as well as the national bestseller Girls That Never Die. Elhillo’s work appears in Poetry Magazine, Callaloo, and The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day series, and in anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and The Penguin Book of Migration Literature. Her fellowships include a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, Cave Canem, and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. Elhillo received the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and was listed in Forbes Africa’s 2018 “30 Under 30.”

Paul Harding, Author

Paul Harding's novel Tinkers won the 2010 Pulitzer prize. He is the author of other novels This Other Eden and Enon. Paul is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, was a fiction fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Harvard University, and Grinnell College. He is the director of the MFA program in Creative Writing and Literature at Stony Brook University.

Phillip B. Williams, Author and Poet 

Phillip B. Williams is the author of the debut novel Ours, and the collections Mutiny, winner of the 2022 American Book Award, and Thief in the Interior, which was the winner of the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a 2017 Lambda Literary award. He is also the author of the chapbooks Bruised Gospels and Burn. Williams’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Boston Review, Callaloo, Kenyon Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and others. He is the recipient of a 2020 creative writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a 2017 Whiting Award, and a 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. He serves as a faculty member at Randolph College’s low-res MFA.