Leslie Contreras Schwartz was born in Houston, Texas, with Mexican American and Mexican roots going back several generations in Houston and Texas. She is a graduate of The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and earned a bachelor’s at Rice University. Her fourth book, Black Dove / Paloma Negra (FlowerSong Press, 2020) was named a finalist for the Helen C. Smith Memorial Award for Best Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters in 2020. She is also the author of Fuego (St. Julian Press, 2016); Nightbloom & Cenote (SJP, 2018), a semi-finalist for the 2017 Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, judged by Ilya Kaminsky; and Who Speaks for Us Here (Skull + Wind Press, 2020). A member of the Macondo Writers’ Collective, Contreras Schwartz works in communities teaching writing workshops and creating art-making and storytelling opportunities. She is currently a faculty member at Alma College’s MFA low-residency program in creative writing. She served as Poet Laureate of Houston from 2019 to 2021 and received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship in 2021.
In 2021, Leslie Contreras Schwartz was awarded the Academy of American Poets Poet Laureate Fellowship to create a workbook on mindfulness and writing, with poetry exercises centered around writing for mental wellness and healing. The book’s content will promote the practice of mindfulness skills through self-guided writing exercises, with the goal of helping participants deal with difficult experiences, trauma, or managing emotional and mental health challenges in daily life. The book will serve as a resource for the general public, young people, and students, as well as for teachers and community outreach leaders leading writing workshops. Contreras Schwartz will also commission a public exhibit of communal poems created from lines and fragments of poems collected from the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, documenting the experiences of the city’s residents during the pandemic.