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Published: August 25, 2016 | Categories: Alumni

Alumni Speakers: Graduates of MFA Program in Creative Writing Read From Their Works

Sable Johnson

Award-winning Novelists Bruce Machart and Daphne Kalotay recently spent a week on the Western New England University campus teaching students who attended the University’s MFA in Creative Writing program’s summer residency. The visiting writers also read from their works in evening events that were open to the public.

Kalotay and Machart weren’t the only writers who read their fiction aloud: in other evening gatherings, the program’s first group of graduates also read from their own manuscripts and their graduate thesis papers. They were Mike Oberly G’15/G'16, Andrew Mondry ’14/G'16, Brian Fitzgerald G’16, Ryan Crowell '13/G’16, Sable Johnson G’11/G’16, and Alan Sincic G’16.

Each residency, held twice a year, is followed by an extended period of mentorship with the visiting writers. During these semesters, the mentors provide detailed feedback on the students writing through long-distance communication via emails and Skype calls. In just two years the program has included an impressive collection of renowned visiting writers/mentors, including Richard McCann, Hanna Pylvainen, Emer Martin, Justin Taylor, Porter Shreve, Mia Gallagher, and Michael O’Loughlin.

The residencies in the two-year MFA program, which offer a complete immersion in an inspiring writers’ community, are held on campus in the summer and in alternating winter locations: Dublin, Ireland and the Berkshires. It is called a “low-residency” program because students can work full-time and write and learn in a more convenient way than a traditional MFA program allows. At the same time, the six-day-long residencies offer the hands-on, in-depth study that one can’t find in an exclusively online program.

"Where else can you come to a beautiful campus and join like-minded people to write, talk about writing, read, learn from great teachers, workshop, and socialize over good meals?” says student Amy Ma. “That’s the MFA residency. Its high intensity and high-yield work, with a warm and supportive community feel."

For student Baylea Jones, the summer residency was “rigorous, but rewarding. Everyone had a unique perspective and voice. I enjoyed meeting new people and reading their work.”

During the residencies, according to Program Director Pearl Abraham, an associate professor of Creative Writing, “We do what writers do best: read, write, teach, talk, debate, and always and above all, experiment and play.”

Several students in the program have already been published. One of Mondry’s short pieces, Fire, appeared in the August 2015 issue of Apocrypha and Abstractions, an online literary journal. A poem by Tyler McQuillan ’13, Wednesday, in a Fogged Mirror, was included in Garbanzo  #5 by Seraphemera Books. Alan Sincic’s short story Sand was published last October in The Greensboro Review. Meg Granger published two poems, “These Grounds” and “Loose Ties in High Tides,” in The Merrimack Review in April, and Baylea Jones’ short story “Spar” was published in the anthology Marked by Scorn (Solarwyrm Press) in July.

For more information on the program, visit