Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Holiday Wrap-up

The fall semester is coming to a close, the holidays are here, and 2018 will be a memory in less than two weeks. MFA students have turned in their final essays, thesis chapters, and papers; faculty have turned in their grades. For all these reasons, it’s time to celebrate, but for writers, “celebrate” doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the party circuit or dancing on rooftops (although dancing in the living room to Al Green is a favorite pastime of mine—try it sometime). After sleeping for about three days straight, the first thing that comes to mind for many of us is reading new books. In front of a fire with a mug of spiced tea, stretched out on the sofa, propped up in bed—this is the holiday dream of many a writer. 

With that vision dancing before us, we asked our faculty to tell us which new books top their list of “can’t wait to read”—read on to find out, and while you’re at it, think about your list. What books are you excited to read? Write and tell us! (And if all you can imagine reading after so much hard work this year is Goodnight, Moon, that’s fine, too. It might help you sleep.)

We also asked our MFA grads and students to forget modesty for once and share a boast: publications, new jobs, conferences and presentations. The list is long and impressive, and includes a Pushcart nomination and a tenure-track college teaching job (see below for the full list). Which brings us to the next point, about taking stock. Instead of the typical new year’s resolutions, we recommend an end-of-year congratulations. To yourself.  Life often hurtles by with little chance to stop and reflect about all the ways you’ve created something good in your life, and in the lives of others. All the ways you’ve moved a little closer to your dream. All the ways you’ve gotten smarter, wiser, more compassionate, more confident. Before you find yourself waking up in 2019, take five minutes to remember what you’ve done this year, and to give thanks to the person who made it possible. You. 

We’re excited about what’s ahead next year: a new MFA cohort starting in January (welcome, new students!); a fantastic lineup for our spring Writers’ Day; and a knockout faculty roster for our annual summer seminar in Ireland, which is already filling up. And, above all, more time to spend writing, reading, and talking about books.  Happy New Year, all.

Faculty Book Recommendations

Mel AllenThe Library Book by Susan Orlean and The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery
Adam Braver: The Friend by Sigrid Nuñez (winner of the 2018 National Book Award)
Leanna James BlackwellMilkman by Anna Burns (winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize) and The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Shahnaz HabibThe Wife's Tale by Aida Edemaria
Karol Jackowski: Becoming by Michelle Obama and In Pieces by Sally Field
Anna MantzarisKitchen Yarns by Ann Hood
Lisa RomeoThe Strange Case of Dr. Couney by Dawn Raffel
Sophfronia ScottCrazy Brave by Joy Harjo
Suzanne Strempek SheaGone So Long: A Novel by Andre Dubus III, Kitchen Yarns by Ann Hood, and Becoming by Michelle Obama
Tommy SheaIn Extremis – The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum and The Art Spirit by Robert Henri
Kate WhouleySummer by Karl Ove Knausgaard

MFA student and alum news

New jobs
Andy Castillo was hired as a full-time features writer at the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Jon Nichols was hired as a tenure-track professor of English at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, IL, where he was introduced to a longtime faculty member, Kim Livingston, who happens to be a fellow student in the Bay Path MFA (but whom Jon had never met).
Anne Pinkerton ’16 was hired as digital strategy director and editor at Hampshire College. She beat out the other candidates not only on the strength of her résumé, but on the quality of writing in her literary blog, True Scrawl, which began in Kate Whouley’s publishing course.
Karen Bellavance Grace has been nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize for a personal essay she published in Forge Literary Magazine.

Christine Brooks published and/or has forthcoming a total of 12 new essays and poems in a variety of literary magazines and websites including The Cabinet of Heed (where Irish writer and Ireland seminar instructor Nuala O’Connor recently published as well); Riggwelter Press; Parhelion Magazine, Amethyst Review; and StorgyMagazine.

Sondra Kline published two new essays this year in the literary magazine  Six Hens and in Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction, the publication founded and edited by creative nonfiction “guru” and Ireland seminar instructor Dinty W. Moore.
Suellen Meyers published two new essays this year in The Manifest-Station and in rkvry Quarterly Literary Journal in October.

Kara Noble ’18 was asked to join the editorial committee of The Icelandic Horse Quarterly and to write profiles for each issue (most recently a five-page spread about the nationwide breed evaluation program for Icelandic horses in the U.S.). She has also become a regular profile writer for Massachusetts Horse Magazine and a columnist for Southwoods Magazine, in addition to freelancing for the Springfield Republican and MassLive, where she wrote about Bob Dylan. (She thanks former MFA faculty member Mieke Bomman for her profile writing chops!)

Meredith O’Brien ‘17, following the publication of her book, Mr. Clark’s Big Band, has published in and is a contributing writer for The Mighty and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s MS Connection website, where she writes about health topics. She is also a book reviewer for Forward Reviews and lecturer in journalism at Northeastern University.

Heidi Parton ’17 published a craft essay in Brevity Blog and a personal essay in The Rumpus.

Amy Stonestrom published a personal essay in Superstition Review, a flash nonfiction piece in Montana Mouthful, and another essay in Jenny Magazine for its Rock ‘n Roll Rebellion issue.

Conferences and Residencies

Anne Pinkerton ’16 recently attended HippoCamp 2018, the conference hosted by Hippocampus magazine, with MFA Director Leanna James Blackwell and former classmates and “forever friends” Heidi Parton ’17 and Kim MacQueen ’18, where they enjoyed MFA faculty member Lisa Romeo’s presentation on turning essays into a book. In addition, Anne was recently awarded a January 2019 writing residency by Straw Dog Writers Guild, where she will wrap up the finishing touches on her memoir manuscript, Were You Close?