Marisa earned her MFA in Fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She received a 2010 Fulbright grant to India in Creative Writing, and a 2014 Elizabeth George Foundation grant for $25K to fund the completion of her novel. She has also received residency fellowships from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Santa Fe Art Institute, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Mesa Refuge, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and the Valparaiso Foundation. Marisa teaches fiction and nonfiction at the graduate and undergraduate levels at Mills College in Oakland. She also teaches at Stanford (The Writers’ Studio) and leads workshops at Esalen and the California Institute for Integral Studies.
A performing and recording singer-songwriter, Marisa sings at benefits, festivals, and sound healings, as well as atop dumpsters, outside jails, and in major (occupied) thoroughfares. Specifically and arguably more traditionally, she has rocked the house at San Francisco’s Herbst Memorial Theater, La Paz’s Thelonious Jazz Bar, Jerusalem’s Mike’s Place, Cape Town’s Dizzy Jazz Café, some divey club in Havana whose name she’s forgotten, and Oakland’s Ecstatic Dance.
An ardent traveler, Marisa has hopscotched her way through South Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East, meanwhile writing on a wide range of issues including free trade agreements, Hindu-Muslim tensions in India, the joys and trials of change in Cuba, indigenous resistance to oil exploitation in the Amazon, and the sprawling tentacles of U.S. consumer culture. An activist and a firm believer in the power of principled nonviolence, Marisa has organized in the global justice movement, the anti-war movement, and for a just peace in Israel-Palestine. She has spoken and sung about transformative social change all over the country as well as on numerous radio shows.
A serious practitioner of insight meditation for fifteen years, Marisa often integrates mindfulness and its principles into her teaching and coaching. She is also a practitioner of The Work, an inquiry method developed by Byron Katie, and Authentic Movement. Marisa has taught writing as a tool for healing chronic and mental illness, and is very interested in the intersections between creative process and personal and collective transformation. What else? Dance, bien sur! Any time, any place (well, almost). And nature—ditto. Hiking, backpacking, simply being in and of it.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Marisa now makes her home in Berkeley, California. She is currently at work on a novel and her next album.