by Chair Kathleen Driskell
I can’t tell you how excited we are to convene our Fall 2021 School of Writing residency in person, November 13-20 on Spalding’s campus. Oh, I know people often say they are excited when in reality they are just slightly stirred up, but I’m not kidding. The other day we were discussing our residency plans during a staff meeting, and I actually felt a few butterflies flitter in my stomach when I realized that we’ll be able to welcome to campus the majority of our students whom we’ve never actually met in person before.
Yes, we still need to take precautions to keep ourselves safe from the Covid-19 virus, but for the first time since Fall 2019, we’ll all come together as a fully vaccinated, mask-wearing, socially distanced writing community—and as we know it’s the community that counts!
The cross-genre area for fall is poetry and our distinguished visiting writer is award-winning poet and teacher Kiki Petrosino, who will also be presented with our 2021 Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature when she visits residency. All students and faculty read Kiki’s White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia as our book in common before coming to residency. After our first evening community discussion on White Blood, Kiki will visit later in the week to give a talk about her work. She’ll also be available the next morning for a Q & A with students and faculty, one of my favorite regular sessions of residency. You can learn more about Kiki, White Blood and the Spalding Prize in my earlier post, found here.
Our interrelatedness of the arts event, “Reverse Ekphrasis,” takes place on campus during residency. Spalding painting professor Aaron Lubrick and Associate Programs Director Lynnell Edwards have coordinated an exhibit that will go up in Spalding’s Huff Gallery and features paintings by our undergraduate BFA in Visual Art students based on poems written by our very own MFA poetry students. In addition to visiting the gallery while on campus, School of Writing students attend a presentation that explores that rich collaboration between visual and literary art.
During our cross-genre plenary, I’ll use the lens of poetry to investigate how writers can deploy figurative language across all genres. The cross-genre assignment asks students to go to the Huff Gallery and choose a painting to serve as the subject of an ekphrastic poem—so essentially the “Reverse Ekphrasis” project comes full circle. I’ll also present my lecture “1798: Literature’s Punk Moment,” a literary exploration of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s publication of Lyrical Ballads, which launched Romanticism and still strongly influences our writing today.
As always, workshop is the backbone of residency. This fall, we will seat ten workshops, including the TV Writers Room Workshop facilitated by faculty member Bruce Marshall Romans, who comes to residency after being abroad working on the Apple TV+ series Shantaram. Bruce recently was co-executive producer and writer of Netflix’s Messiah and The Punisher.
Other fall workshop leaders include Rachel M. Harper (fiction), Kenny Cook (fiction), Maggie Smith (poetry), Lynnell Edwards (poetry), Dianne Aprile (creative nonfiction), Ellen Hagan (writing for children and YA), Kira Obolensky (playwriting), and Sam Zalutsky (screenwriting).
In addition, there will be a wide range of faculty readings, lead lectures, and faculty and guest lectures, including a pair of talks by D. Watkins, author of the books The Beastside: Living (and Dying) While Black in America, The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir, and We Speak for Ourselves. He is also Editor at Large for Salon.com. His work has been published in The New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and other publications. Watkins has been featured as a guest and commentator on NBC’s Meet the Press, CNN’s The Erin Burnett Show, Democracy Now, and NPR’s Monday Morning, among other shows. He recently joined the writing team of We Own This City, the new HBO series from David Simon, creator of The Wire.
Spalding CNF alum Graham Shelby, former speechwriter for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and director of the recent documentary City of Ali, available on streaming services including Amazon Prime Video, visits residency to share his experience successfully pitching ideas for feature articles.
Faculty members Leah Henderson (W4CYA) and Elaine Orr (F, CNF) join Associate Director and Spalding MFA alum Katy Yocom in a panel discussion titled “Do I Need a Sensitivity Reader?” This is a topic on the minds of nearly all writers, and we’re delighted to have the chance to learn more from these School of Writing community members with experience as sensitivity readers or experience engaging sensitivity readers.
At the end of the week, we’ll welcome alums and more faculty who are participating in SpaldingCon, our annual mini-conference for Spalding alumni. Workshops led by faculty members Lesléa Newman and Robin Lippincott take place virtually; Silas House’s SpaldingCon workshop will meet on campus.
As you know, this year the Spalding low-residency MFA in Writing, a nationally distinguished program and the flagship of the Spalding School of Writing, is marking our twenty-year anniversary. To help celebrate this milestone, Katy Yocom and I have co-edited Creativity & Compassion: Spalding Writers Celebrate Twenty Years, an anthology that commemorates the twentieth anniversary of program. This anthology collects essays from the MFA faculty blog from 2014 to 2021. These works offer a trove of insights and accumulated wisdom from fifty faculty members, directors, staff, and alumni—each dedicated to the Spalding ethos of creativity and compassion. Here, you’ll find explorations of craft, literary figures, the writing life, the interrelatedness of the arts, publication, production, and more. By turns practical and lyrical, inspiring and consoling, these essays illustrate the extraordinary literary spirit that defines the Spalding family.
Creativity & Compassion will be available for purchase for $20 at the fall residency. All proceeds from sales benefit the Spalding MFA scholarship fund. After residency, the book can be ordered directly from the School of Writing or through online bookstores, including Bookshop.org.
There will be more celebration of our founding during residency, but I’m going to keep that a secret for a little longer. Stay tuned.
Kathleen Driskell is chair of the School of Creative and Professional Writing at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. She’s the author of four collections of poetry including Blue Etiquette, a finalist for the Weatherford Award; Next Door to the Dead, winner of the 2018 Judy Gaines Young Book Award, and Seed Across Snow, a Poetry Foundation national bestseller. Her poems and essays have appeared in many magazines including Shenandoah, Southern Review, and Appalachian Review and have been featured in anthologies and online at Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and American Life in Poetry. She is currently Chair of the Board of Directors of AWP.