By Katy Yocom, Spalding MFA Associate Director
The Spalding low-residency MFA in Writing program is gearing up for its spring residency, May 25-June 3 in Louisville, Kentucky. The residency features dozens of special events and sessions, acclaimed guest speakers, and faculty craft lectures. For our interrelatedness-of-the-arts event, MFAers will attend an exclusive screening of Seaside, a feature film written and directed by screenwriting faculty member Sam Zalutsky.
In addition, the program is pleased to welcome new poetry faculty member Douglas Manuel.
Welcome, Douglas Manuel!
Douglas Manuel joins the Spalding MFA faculty in poetry and will be leading a poetry workshop at residency. Manuel is author of Testify, a full-length collection of poems, released by Red Hen Press in 2017. Born in Anderson, Indiana, he received a BA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University and a MFA from Butler University, where he was the Managing Editor of Booth: A Journal. He is currently a Middleton and Dornsife Fellow at the University of Southern California, where he is pursuing a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing. He has been the poetry editor of Gold Line Press as well as one of the managing editors of Ricochet Editions. His work is featured on the Poetry Foundation’s website and has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Los Angeles Review, Superstition Review, Rhino, North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, New Orleans Review, Crab Creek Review, and elsewhere.
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. Special offerings this spring include a teaching seminar and a musical-theatre workshop.
Special focus: Fiction
Each residency, we feature a rotating focus on one of our genres. This spring, we turn our lens on fiction.
The Program Book in Common is Rachel Seiffert’s novel The Dark Room. At the residency’s opening session, Program Director Kathleen Driskell leads a group discussion of the novel, which grapples with the legacy of the Holocaust for ordinary German people. The Dark Room was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was adapted into the feature film Lore. Later in the week, Seiffert will speak to the group in an open session about writing historical fiction. The next morning, she speaks with MFA students, alums, and faculty in an exclusive Q&A session.
In an exploration of the craft of fiction, Program Director Kathleen Driskell delivers a cross-genre craft exploration lecture focusing on figurative language and the short fiction form. Following the session, in two hour-long community generative sessions, Kathleen leads students through craft studies and then facilitates the drafting of very short fiction based on those studies. A final follow-up session allows students to share what they have learned.
Later in the residency, Kathleen prepares us for next fall’s focus on poetry with a lecture titled “Four (and More) Ways of Looking at a Poem.”
The MFA program presents a screening of Sam Zalutsky’s female-driven revenge thriller Seaside. All students will read the script before viewing the film at residency. (Popcorn and drinks provided!) Afterward, Sam answers students’ questions during a talkback.
More Sessions for Everyone
In a special return to the MFA Program, founding program director Sena Jeter Naslund delivers a craft lecture, “Le Mot Juste—The Right Word: A Grammar of Vividness.” And Dianne Aprile considers “Writing for Change: The Art (and Craft) of Advocacy” in a two-part lecture.
Editing, Publishing, and Writing as a Profession
Every residency features a series of lectures on a variety of subjects related to editing, publishing, and writing as a profession. This spring’s line-up includes the following sessions:
Graham Shelby (CNF ’10) discusses speechwriting for candidates—and fictional characters—while examining both its professional and artistic aspects.
Lynnell Edwards, Associate Program Director, shares her knowledge and experience of book reviewing in a session that addresses aspects of pitching and procuring reviews, research, formatting, audience, and ethics, including conventions of disclosure and conflict of interest.
Alumni Diana McQuady (F ’14), Catherine Berresheim (CNF ’13), Bonnie Johnson (F ’04), and Kim Crum (CNF ’03) lead a session called “Teaching Where We Find It.”
In a session open to students and alumni, Alice Speilburg of Speilburg Literary Agency will discuss “The Elusive Literary Agent: How to Find and Secure Your Publishing Representative.”
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 Crystal Wilkinson discuss her novel The Birds of Opulence, which won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Poetry students read Kiki Petrosino’s Witch Wife, named by The New York Times as one of 2017’s best books of poetry. Creative nonfiction students read John Knowles’ A Separate Peace: Bookmarked by Kirby Gann. Writing for children & YA students read Jersey Angel, by Beth Bauman. Playwriting students read Goldstein, a new musical by Charlie Schulman and Michael Roberts, which is currently running Off-Broadway. For screenwriting students, the plenary discussion of Seaside, by Sam Zalutsky, serves as the script-in-common discussion.
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. This residency, our guest lecturers include Jane B. Jones (PW ’17) of Actors Theatre of Louisville, speaking about her role as the theatre’s education director and how teaching playwriting to high school students informs her own writing. Jason Howard talks about the necessity of speculation in creative nonfiction. Marjetta Geerling (F ’11) considers the telling detail. And award-winning composer/lyricist Michael Roberts speaks about lyric writing for the stage. As always, students may sit in on lectures outside their genre.
Jane B. Jones. Photo: Justin Philalack
Celebration of Recently Published Books
Our celebratory reading features Lesléa Newman with her latest book of poetry, Lovely (Headmistress Press); Doug Manuel with his debut collection, Testify (Red Hen Press), and Kiki Petrosino with Witch Wife (Sarabande Books).
Yet more offerings
Residency also features faculty, staff, and alumni readings and our annual Homecoming, which draws dozens of MFA alumni back to campus and the Brown Hotel lobby each spring for inspiration, learning, and celebration. And, for those who can spend an extra day in Louisville at the end of residency, 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.
Katy Yocom’s fiction, poetry, essays, and journalism have appeared in Salon, The Louisville Review, New Southerner, 2nd & Church, and elsewhere. Her awards include the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature. She holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University.