Free Verse was founded in 2014 by four MFA students at the University of Montana who began teaching summer creative writing classes at the Missoula County Juvenile Detention Center. Free Verse is now sponsored by the Missoula Writing Collaborative, publishes student work with the Beat Within, has teachers in Billings, Missoula, and Miles City, and partners with teachers and organizations across Montana.


Executive Director

Claire Compton graduated from the University of Montana where she studied English with a double focus in Creative Writing and Literature and the Environment.  She has a passion for literature that bridges the divide between nature and culture and has enjoyed bringing that theme into the lives of students from elementary school to pre-college. 

Missoula Program Director

Nathaniel H. Freeman received his BFA from the University of Montana, and his MFA from the School of Art + Design at Alfred University. His creative work, and educational experience, ranges from sculpture to multimedia, and he has been the recipient of several artist grants and awards.


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Teacher, Poplar

Carly Hosford-Israel is currently serving as the VISTA Leader for the Montana Campus Compact at the University of Montana. She holds a BA in Global Studies from LIU Global and an MA in Journalism and Media Studies from the University Currently Known as Rhodes in Grahamstown, South Africa.

Teacher, Missoula

Taylor White received her BA from Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, and is currently pursuing a fiction-focused MFA at the University of Montana.


Teacher, Missoula

Liana Imam is an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Montana. She teaches undergraduate composition, and is a fiction editor for CutBank Literary Magazine.

Teacher, Missoula

Emma Neslund received her BA in French Language and Literature from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA and is now a Poetry MFA student at the University of Montana. 

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Teacher, Missoula

Brian Groh is the author of the novel Summer People (Ecco/HarperCollins). He holds an MFA in fiction from The University of Montana, and his non-fiction has appeared in The New Republic and National Geographic Traveler.

Teacher, Missoula

Zack Rybak was born and brought up in Reno, Nevada. He currently is an MFA candidate at the University of Montana, Missoula, where he also works as a poetry editor at Cutbank.


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Free Verse Intern

Emma McMullen is an undergraduate at University of Montana where she studies creative writing.

Communications Intern

McKenzie Watterson studied at the University of Montana where she received bachelor's degrees in both French and English with a concentration in Creative Writing. She is passionate about engaging young people with diverse literature. Her current project is Ter, a young adult dystopian novel. 



Teacher, Billings

Brittani Hissom received her MA in literature from the University of Montana where she focused on cultural appropriation. At UM she taught undergraduate classes on writing and literature.

Teacher, Billings

Ashley Warren has an MFA in fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She teaches writing at Montana State University Billings, the Big Sky Writing Workshops, and in Billings public schools through the nonprofit organization Arts Without Boundaries.