Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Celebrations and New Beginnings

Writers to Watch
I used to believe that good writers should be able to describe anything and everything in language. There are words for all experiences: the birth of a child, the loss of a parent, the feeling of flying in a dream. But I know now that some experiences defy description, and the mix of my emotions during our recent MFA graduate reading is one of them. To say I was proud doesn’t come close. I know what it took for these writers to finish their theses and graduate from the program. I know how hard they worked on their writing, how many long nights and early mornings it took to finish the cascade of weekly assignments, how many books and articles and essays they read, to the point of needing new glasses (or maybe that’s just me). Most important of all, I know how much of their lives they dared to reveal in their work.


Listening to our graduates read from their honest and beautiful work, I found myself in the presence of what the writer Mary Karr calls “the sacred creative” – a moment sanctified by art and by truth. And that still doesn’t describe it. Fortunately, you don’t have to wonder; you can experience it for yourself. We video recorded the event, which you can watch here. You can also browse our photo gallery here (scroll to bottom). And please join me in congratulating the MFA class of 2019:  Kate Anderson, Mary-Warren Bartlett, Karen Bellavance-Grace, Freda Brackley, Christine Brooks, Andy Castillo, L’Tanya Durante, Sarah Gallagher, Nicole Hamer, Jim Henry, Naomi Kooker, Jon Nichols, Melina Rudman, and Maria Smith.  Hats off to all!


New MFA faculty member        
We are very pleased to announce new MFA faculty member Jennifer DeLeon, who joined us this May to teach a course she developed for the program: “Reading and Writing about Identity, Race, and Culture.”  Jennifer, the editor of Wise Latinas (University of Nebraska Press), was named the 2015-2016 Writer-in-Residence by the Associates of the Boston Public Library and has published in Ploughshares, Ms., Brevity, Poets & Writers, The Southeast Review, Guernica, Best Women’s Travel Writing, and elsewhere. Her essay, “The White Space,” originally selected as first place recipient of the Michael Steinberg Essay Prize and published in Fourth Genre, was listed as notable in Best American Essays 2013, edited by Cheryl Strayed. She was also named a 2016-2017 Artist-in-Residence by the City of Boston.

Born in the Boston area to Guatemalan parents, Jennifer earned a master’s in teaching from the University of San Francisco’s Center for Teaching Excellence and Social Justice, and an MFA in fiction from the University of Massachusetts–Boston. In addition to teaching in the Bay Path MFA, Jennifer teaches English at Framingham State University and creative writing at GrubStreet Independent Creative Writing Center. She maintains an active freelance writing, editing, and consulting practice, and travels the country speaking on issues of diversity, college access, and the power of story. Jennifer has published author interviews in Granta and Agni, and will be interviewed in our next MFA e-newsletter…stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

New Season, New Writing



Happy spring! The March equinox brings the usual flood of think pieces and articles about the arrival of spring, our biological clocks, and the curious relationship between weather and writing. One theory posits that writers should refrain from celebrating spring. Frigid, dark weather is good for us, maybe even necessary. Without it, we find ourselves lazing in the sunshine when we should be writing, our books and laptops and notebooks gathering dust on our desks. Would Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-volume My Struggle have been written if he lived in Palm Springs? There would be no literature without seasonal misery.

This theory falls apart when you look at literature consistently produced in Los Angeles and Miami, in Mumbai and Mexico City and Nairobi—and in our creative nonfiction MFA this spring. It might be warmer outside, the sun beguiling, but our students, grads, and faculty are hard at work on their writing, creating compelling new essays and book reviews that are being published in magazines, newspapers, and journals like Yankee (“Big Night” by Loree Burns ’20); Brevity (Main Street Revisited by Amy Stonestrom ’18); Cleaver (“Adios to My Parents” by Kim Livingston ’20); The Forge (“How to Stay Silent in Twelve Steps” by Heidi Fettig Parton ’17); and the Daily Hampshire Gazette (“Overworked and Underpaid” by Andy Castillo ’19, who placed first in health reporting in the Better New England Newspaper Competition).

Kate Anderson ’19 picked up a first place award from Mythic March short story contest; Kim MacQueen ’18 was noted as a writer to watch in Noteworthy; and L’Tanya Durante ’20 has joined the editorial team of Linden Avenue Literary Journal. MFA faculty member Sophfronia Scott recently appeared at Harvard Book Store in celebration of a new anthology, On Being 40(ish), in which her essay, “I Don’t Have Time for This,” is featured; and Lisa Romeo, MFA faculty and thesis director, recently published an excellent craft essay, “Yes, You Can Write Memoir” in Open Center. Need any more convincing that spring is good for writers? Read graduate Anne Pinkerton’s celebration of early signs of spring, “All Flowers Keep the Light,” at her blog TrueScrawl.

And in the spirit of celebration, please join us for our MFA graduate reading on Friday, May 17, at 3:00 p.m. in the Hatch Learning Center on our Longmeadow campus. The event is open to all, and includes a post-reading reception. We also hope you’ll join us for these upcoming events:

  •         Sunday, April 14: Bay Path’s 18th Writers’ Day, featuring C. Flanagan Flynn, Shanaz Habib, and Jane Yolen
  •         Thursday, June 6: A reading and book signing at the Booklink bookstore in downtown Northampton with MFA faculty Karol Jackowski and former MFA instructor and Writers’ Day presenter T. Susan Chang
  •         August 3 – 10: Creative Writing Field Seminar in Dingle, Ireland, featuring Andre Dubus III, Mia Gallagher, Ann Hood, Elizabeth Peavy, Suzanne Strempek Shea and Tommy Shea, and yours truly. The seminar is open to all writers.
Finally, there are spring releases to look forward to. On my list are The Honey Bus: a Memoir of Loss, Courage, and a Girl Saved by Bees, by San Francisco Chronicle journalist Meredith May; and Women Talking by Canadian writer Miriam Toews. What’s on your list?