By Katy Yocom Spalding MFA Associate Administrative Director
The Spalding low-residency MFA in Writing program is gearing up for its spring residency, May 26-June 4 in Louisville, Kentucky. The residency features dozens of special events and sessions, acclaimed guest speakers, faculty craft lectures, and a special performance by the nationally acclaimed Louisville Leopard Percussionists.
In addition, the MFA program is pleased to welcome a new faculty member in writing for children and young adults, as well as a special guest workshop leader in poetry.
Lamar Giles joins the Spalding MFA faculty in writing for children and young adults. Lamar is the author of the newly released YA novel Overturned, from Scholastic Press; the 2015 Edgar® Award Nominee Fake ID; and YA thriller Endangered. He is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books, a non-profit dedicated to changing the face of publishing. His work has been featured on NPR, CNN, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Flavorwire, Mother Nature Network, and elsewhere. He resides in Virginia with his wife.
Kiki Petrosino joins the Spring residency as guest poetry faculty and will lead a poetry workshop. Kiki is the author of three books of poetry: Witch Wife (forthcoming in 2017), Hymn for the Black Terrific (2013) and Fort Red Border (2009), all from Sarabande Books. She holds graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry, The New York Times, FENCE, Gulf Coast, Jubilat, Tin House and on-line at Ploughshares. She is founder and co-editor of Transom, an independent on-line poetry journal. She is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Louisville, where she directs the Creative Writing Program.
Every Spalding MFA residency is built around faculty-led workshops. Students workshop in their own area of concentration, though they have the option to workshop in a different genre once during their MFA studies. This spring, most workshops are genre-specific—poetry, fiction, etc. Special workshops offered this spring include a book-length manuscript workshop, a teaching workshop, and a film production seminar.
Special focus: Writing for Children & Young Adults
Each residency, we feature a rotating focus on one of our genres. This spring, we turn our lens on writing for children and young adults.
Acclaimed author and educator Kwame Alexander has been named the Spring 2017 Distinguished Writer in Residence, and his book The Crossover serves as Program Book in Common. At the residency’s opening session, Associate Program Director Kathleen Driskell leads a group discussion of the Newbery Medal-winning novel, which is written in both free verse and hip-hop poetry that deals with brotherhood and basketball. Later in the week, Alexander will speak to the group in an open session, followed the next morning by a Q&A session reserved for MFAers only.
Program Director Sena Jeter Naslund delivers a cross-genre lecture focused on the serious study of picture books. Later, faculty members conduct a panel on the influence of picture books on their own writing. By the end of the week, all students will try their hands at writing a picture book.
In keeping with our emphasis on writing for children and young adults, we’ll be treated to a performance by award-winning youth group the Louisville Leopard Percussionists, who’ve earned national recognition and kudos from fans including Coretta Scott King, Jim James, Carlos Santana, and Ozzy Osbourne.
More Sessions for Everyone
Other plenary sessions include an interview with Charles Frazier, author of the National Book Award-winning novel Cold Mountain. Frazier discusses Cold Mountain in all its forms—book, film, and opera—among other topics, with interviewer Roy Hoffman, a member of Spalding’s fiction and creative nonfiction faculty.
In the spirit of cross-genre exploration, Larry Brenner and Beth Bauman co-lead a lecture about the smash hit TV show Stranger Things. They’ll explore the use of multiple points of view, the use of conventions from several genres, and the narrative moves that make this show tick.
Our Editing & Publishing sequence includes a slate of panel discussions by genre. In the panels, faculty members discuss the care and tending of their books or scripts as those projects head into the world. Additional Editing & Publishing sessions are listed below.
As writers, we care not just about words but also about the little marks that show up in between them. In a lecture titled “Bang! –Dash—Monkeyt@ail,” Kathleen Driskell explores punctuation strategies for creative writers and argues that punctuation is integral to style and voice.
Faculty members or guests in each area of concentration discuss the path to publication or production in a faculty book/script in common discussion. This time, fiction students hear Charles Frazier discuss his New York Times bestselling novel Cold Mountain, while screenwriting students read the script adaptation by Anthony Minghella; poetry students read American Purgatory, by Rebecca Gayle Howell, senior editor at the Oxford American; writing for children & YA students read One Shadow on the Wall, by debut novelist and Spalding MFA alum Leah Henderson. Creative nonfiction students read Elaine Orr’s Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, and playwriting students read Gabriel Dean’s Qualities of Starlight.
Our Celebration of Recently Published Books features faculty members Lamar Giles, with his YA novel Overturned, Nancy McCabe, with her novel Following Disasters, and Gabriel Dean, with his play Qualities of Starlight, as well as MFA alum Gayle Hanratty (F ’06) with her novel Gray Hampton (Fleur-de-Lis Press).
Finally, Charlie Schulman prepares us for next fall’s focus on dramatic writing with a lecture titled “The Tension of Opposites: Principles of Playwriting and Screenwriting.”
Genre-specific guest lectures
Each residency features dozens of genre-specific lectures by Spalding MFA faculty and graduating students. Lectures and panels by guest speakers are offered as well. Students may sit in on lectures outside their genre.
Mary Knight, author of award-winning middle-grade novel Saving Wonder, talks about dealing with social issues in children’s fiction without succumbing the pitfalls that come with writing about (in)justice.
Poet Rebecca Gayle Howell explores sentences written by “masters of the ecstatic,” from Melville to Gwendolyn Brooks to James Agee to Joy Williams.
Editing, Publishing, and Producing
Sessions include a talk by David Domine, author of Voodoo Days at La Casa Fabulosa, speaking about strategic ways authors can create a niche for themselves in the publishing world.
Teneice Durrant, owner and managing editor of Argus House Press, Saudade, and Winged City Chapbooks, discusses jobs in editing and publishing and the awesome responsibilities of those who hold such positions in the era of New Media.
Matt Wohl, chair of the School of Entertainment & Design Technology at Miami Dade College, encourages screenwriters to write like an artist but think like a producer. And film and TV industry veteran Danny Davila explores filmmaking from written word to screen, breaking down a scene step by step as it’s done in the film and television industries.
Playwriting students will travel to Actor’s Theatre of Louisville to hear a panel discussion with several leadership members of ATL’s artistic staff: Les Waters, artistic director and Obie Award winner; Meredith McDonough, associate artistic director; and Emily Tarquin, artistic producer.
General interest sessions
Marjetta Geerling leads an interactive session titled “Avoid the Cliché: Acting Exercises to Enliven Description and Deepen Characterization.” The session will be held in the gym; come prepared to move.
A panel of Spalding MFA alumni and friends discuss “Making a Literary Life: Creative Interactions with Your Community.” Panelists Bobbi Buchanan, Ann Eskridge, Lindsay Gargotto, Joe Manning, and Amy Miller discuss their experiences running a community theatre, founding a writing collective for female veterans, teaching writing in the prisons, and running a community storytelling project for underrepresented voices, among many other projects.
Yet more offerings
Residency also features faculty, staff, and alumni readings; our SPLoveFest book expo; and our annual Homecoming, which typically draws more than 100 MFA alumni back to campus and the Brown Hotel lobby for inspiration, learning, and celebration.
And, for those who can spend Sunday, June 4, in Louisville, there’s also Spalding’s annual Day at the Downs, a chance to participate in a Louisville tradition by catching the races at historic Churchill Downs.