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MFA Writers

MFA Writers

Author: Jared McCormack

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MFA Writers is the podcast where host Jared McCormack interviews creative writing MFA students about their program, their process, and a piece they’re working on.
23 Episodes
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With political and social unrest rocking his home country of Venezuela, Alejandro Puyana turned to writing as a way to process. He applied to MFA programs four times before landing an acceptance at the Michener Center for Writers. Now, you can read his work in The Best American Short Stories anthology for 2020. Alejandro and Jared talk rejection, revision, and reimagining the world through fiction. Alejandro Puyana is a second-year fellow at the Michener Center for Writers whose primary focus is fiction and secondary genre is screenwriting. His non-fiction pieces have been published in The Toast, Tin House Online, NPR, The Huffington Post; his fiction in Huizache, The Examined Life, and Idaho Review. His short story, "Hands of Dirty Children" was awarded the Halifax Ranch Prize by American Short Fiction, chosen as the winning story by ZZ Packer. That same story was then chosen by Curtis Sittenfeld to be included in the 2020 Best American Short Stories. Find him on Twitter @Puyana. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
In Singapore, a young nation focused on economic prosperity, the path to the writer’s life can seem uncertain. Against this backdrop, Jemimah Wei of Columbia University tells Jared about her country’s emerging literary canon, how flash fiction taught her restraint, and how open conversations about funding make MFAs more accessible. Jemimah Wei is a writer and host based in Singapore and New York. Her fiction has received nominations for the 2021 Pushcart Prize, support from Singapore's National Arts Council, and the 2020 Francine Ringold Award for New Writers. She was recently named a 2020 Felipe P. De Alba Fellow at Columbia University, where she is pursuing an MFA in Fiction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Nimrod, Smokelong Quarterly, Pidgeonholes, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, and JMWW, amongst others. Presently a columnist for No Contact Magazine, she is at work on a novel and several television projects. This follows an eight-year career in the media, where she's worked both onscreen and behind the scenes as a host, scriptwriter, and producer. Learn more at jemmawei.com and say hi at @jemmawei on socials. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
A joint MA+MFA program allows students to deepen their understanding of literary criticism and theory while crafting creative works. Jeremiah Barker of Northwestern University tells Jared how they balance the workload, how they find self-compassion in the face of pandemic-induced writer’s block, and how writing about trauma is and is not like therapy. Jeremiah Barker is an essayist currently based in Chicago. They are a third-year student in the MFA and MA Litowitz Graduate Program at Northwestern University. Their work has appeared in Ploughshares and StoryQuarterly. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
A low-residency MFA program helped Koyé Oyedeji of Warren Wilson College develop the discipline to work full-time while writing his composite novel. He and Jared discuss the ins and outs of the low-res experience, as well as how being a British person of Nigerian descent living in the US inspires Koyé to write about Black relationships through the lens of identity and class. Koyé Oyedeji’s writing has appeared in Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Believer, Wasafiri (UK), The Good Journal (UK) and elsewhere. He has contributed to a number of anthologies, received scholarships to attend the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and has also previously attended the VONA and Callaloo writing workshops. He is currently a Holden Scholar in the Warren Wilson MFA program, where he just entered his final semester. He lives in Washington, DC and is currently at work on a composite novel. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
An MFA-sponsored trip to the Mariana Islands allowed Danielle P. Williams of George Mason University to reconnect with her ancestral culture. She sits down with Jared to discuss exploring Chamorro history through poetry, learning ancient language through translation, and meeting mentors and allies through her program. Danielle P. Williams is a Pushcart-nominated poet, essayist, and spoken-word artist from Columbia, South Carolina. She strives to give voice to unrepresented cultures, expanding on the narratives and experiences of her Black and Chamorro cultures. She is an Editorial Coordinator for Poetry Daily, the Poetry Editor for So To Speak, and a 2019 Alan Cheuse MFA Travel Fellow. Danielle is a 2020 Writing Workshop Fellow for The Watering Hole and 2021 Langston Hughes Fellow for Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Her poems were selected for the 2020 Literary Award in Poetry from Ninth Letter. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Hobart, Juked Magazine, The Pinch, Barren Magazine, JMWW, The Hellebore, and elsewhere. She is the author of a self-published collection of poetry, The Art in Knowing Me, and two spoken-word EP's, At My Own Risk and We Fall Down. Find her at daniellepwilliams.com, on Twitter @dpwpoetry, or on Instagram @daniellepwilliams. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
What’s it like to work on a research-driven nonfiction book in an MFA while freelancing on the side? Sarah Ruth Bates of the University of Arizona joins Jared to talk about how the nonfiction genre is more than memoir, how science and philosophy inform her work, and how pandemic writing can help us center our shared humanity. Sarah Ruth Bates is a second-year nonfiction MFA candidate at the University of Arizona, where she edits the program's student-run literary magazine, the Sonora Review, and teaches composition. She's also a writing instructor at Grub Street. Her work is published or forthcoming in the New York Times, Guernica, the Boston Globe Magazine, Aeon, Hobart, Essay Daily, Off Assignment, and elsewhere. Find her at sarahruthbates.com and on Twitter at @sarahrbates. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
How is the zombie of Haitian folklore a poetic metaphor for how society treats Blackness? Bryan Byrdlong of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan tells Jared about his project on the traditional and modern conceptualization of zombies, how poetry can transcend fake news, and how his MFA program gave him an inner editorial voice. Bryan Byrdlong is a Black poet from Chicago, Illinois. In high school, he was part of Chicago’s Louder than a Bomb poetry slam competition. He graduated from Vanderbilt University where he received an undergraduate English/Creative Writing degree and was the co-recipient of the Merrill Moore Award for Poetry upon graduation. He has been published in the Nashville Review, Heavy Feather Review, and Pleiades Magazine. Most recently, he received the Gregory Djanaikian Scholarship from The Adroit Journal. He is a graduate of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan and a current Zell Fellow. You can find him on Twitter @BByrdlong. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
Should I go straight into an MFA or take some time between degrees? Emily Holland of American University talks to Jared about how she decided to go back to school, how the structure of a poem influences the reader, and how she’s thinking creatively about the post-MFA job market. Emily Holland is a lesbian writer with poems appearing in publications including Nat. Brut, Homology Lit, bedfellows, and Wussy. She is the author of the chapbook Lineage (dancing girl press 2019). Her work has received support from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and Sundress Academy for the Arts. Currently, she is the editor of Poet Lore and the Editor-in-Chief of FOLIO at American University, where she is a second-year MFA student in poetry. You can learn more at her website emily-holland.com. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
Have you ever wondered how contest winners are selected? Kaj Tanaka of the University of Houston takes us behind the scenes of Gulf Coast’s Barthelme Prize for Short Prose. He and Jared also talk about building tension in a story, careers in prison education, and what he learned from his BFA and MFA that influences his PhD work today. Kaj Tanaka is a PhD candidate in fiction at the University of Houston. His fiction has appeared in New South, The New Ohio Review, Joyland and Tin House. His stories have been selected for Best Small Fictions, Best Microfiction, and Wigleaf's top 50. Kaj teaches creative writing classes at the Harris County Jail in Houston, TX. He is the online reviews and interviews editor for Gulf Coast. Find him at kajtanaka.com or tweet to him @kajtanaka. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
What’s it like to write a poem from the perspective of someone you despise? Michal “MJ” Jones of Mills College joins Jared to discuss their thesis project about the 2018 Hart family murders, writing from a place of anger, and pursuing an MFA as a working parent. Michal "MJ" Jones is a poet and parent in Oakland, CA. Their work is featured or forthcoming at Anomaly, Kissing Dynamite, and Borderlands Texas Poetry Review. They are an Assistant Poetry Editor at Foglifter Press, a journal curating queer and trans voices, and have fellowships from the Hurston/Wright Foundation, VONA/Voices, & Kearny Street Workshop. They are currently an MFA graduate fellow at Mills College. They can be found on Twitter @JustSayMJ and at their website michal-jones.com. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
Should I get an MFA? What should I consider when applying? How can I strengthen my application? In this special episode, Jared is joined by Cady Vishniac, Editor-in-Chief of The Workshop and MFA graduate from The Ohio State University. Together, they address MFA applicants’ most common questions and concerns, like crafting a solid statement of purpose and finding a program that accommodates student parents. Cady Vishniac attended The Ohio State University as the first MFA student to be awarded a Distinguished University Fellowship. Her stories have been published in Joyland, Glimmer Train, and New England Review, winning the contests at Ninth Letter, Greensboro Review, Mid-American Review, New Millennium Writings, Lascaux Review, American Literary Review, New Letters, and Salamander, as well as the anthology prize in New Stories from the Midwest. Her most recent publications are two stories in Tikkun and a Yiddish translation in Los Angeles Review. She has been writing for The Workshop since 2015 and became its Editor-in-Chief in 2020. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
What’s a journalist doing in an MFA program? Dana Liebelson of the University of Wyoming tells Jared how her journalistic habits facilitate and complicate her fiction writing, how her work has become increasingly experimental, and how she wound up with a literary agent. Dana Liebelson is an MFA candidate in creative writing at the University of Wyoming. Her flash fiction was recently published in Cheap Pop, and she attended the 2020 Tin House summer workshop. She is represented by Sarah Manning of the Bent Agency. Her journalism has appeared in The Atlantic, Insider, ELLE.com, Mother Jones and HuffPost. She is also the recipient of a Writers’ Guild Award. She grew up in Bozeman, Montana. You can find her at her website dliebelson.com and on Twitter @dliebelson. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
Can writing be a form of protest? And if so, is there room for hope? Jared sits down with Marcus Jamison of the University of South Carolina to talk about Confederate monuments and economic justice, as well as finding solace in writing and crafting poetry after our literary heroes. Marcus Jamison is a poet and scholar from Hamlet, North Carolina. He is in his final year as an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of South Carolina, where he served as a senior editor for Yemassee Journal. His poems have appeared in Barely South Review and Quarterly West, as the 2017 winner of an AWP Intro Journals Award. He has also been a finalist for the Scotti Merrill Award and for 92Y's Discovery Poetry Contest. A fellow of The Watering Hole, he is also an avid fiction and nonfiction writer. He can be found on Twitter @theRarePoet. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers at MFAwriters.com. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
Do we write because we understand or do we write to reach understanding? Jared and Vanessa Chan of The New School unpack this question. Along the way, they discuss writing about home while living in a foreign country, the long arm of colonialism, and the pros and cons of studying in the literary capital of the world. Vanessa Chan is a Malaysian writer who writes about race, colonization, and women who don't toe the line. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published or are forthcoming in Electric Literature, Conjunctions, The Rumpus, Pidgeonholes, Porter House Review, and more. Vanessa is a Fiction Editor at TriQuarterly Magazine, an Assistant Fiction Editor at Pithead Chapel, and an MFA candidate in fiction at The New School, class of 2021. This follows a 12-year career in public relations, including most recently as director of communications for Facebook in California. Her writing has received support from Tin House, Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference, Aspen Words, and Disquiet International. She can be found at her website vanessajchan.com or on Twitter @vanjchan. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers on social media. Twitter: @MFAwriterspod Instagram: @MFAwriterspodcast Facebook: MFA Writers Email: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
Every word matters when writing flash fiction and poetry. Jared sits down with Hannah Cajandig-Taylor of Northern Michigan University to talk about writing and revising short works, crafting plot twists and unexpected imagery, taking a course that includes an overnight island trip, and fighting for an increase in stipends and better access to healthcare. Hannah Cajandig-Taylor is a poet and flash writer residing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where she is a 3rd year MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University. She also reads for Passages North and Fractured Lit. She likes to write anything that's less than 1000 words. Her work has recently appeared in mutiny!, Hobart Pulp, and Perhappened Mag, with new words coming soon. Her debut chapbook, Romantic Portrait of a Natural Disaster, is now available for preorder at finishinglinepress.com. She can be found at her website www.hannahcajandigtaylor.com or on Twitter @hannahcajandigt. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers on social media. t: @MFAwriterspod ig: @MFAwriterspodcast fb: MFA Writers e: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
Singer-songwriter turned novelist Matthew Dougherty of West Virginia University joins Jared to talk about writing songs versus writing prose, fictionalizing family lore, and winning three literary contests. Matthew Dougherty grew up in Ohio, taught elementary school in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas and is now completing his third and final year in the MFA fiction program at West Virginia University. His short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Sonora Review, Salamander, and Crab Orchard Review—all as contest winners—and have been praised by writers such as Molly Antopol and Lucy Corin. Matthew is a Teach For America alumnus, and he also enjoys writing and performing original songs under the artist name Matt Skerk. He can be found on Twitter @matt_skerk. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers on social media. t: @MFAwriterspod ig: @MFAwriterspodcast fb: MFA Writers e: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
What’s it like to be a YA writer in an MFA program? Jared talks to Marcos Damián León of the University of California, Riverside about crafting young adult fiction, taking courses outside the department, navigating higher ed as a first-generation student, and helping young readers consider big themes like gender roles and educational equity. Marcos Damián León is a teacher and writer from the Salinas Valley. He is a first-year Ph.D. student at Texas Tech University, and a recent graduate of the University of California, Riverside's MFA program. He is currently working on a young adult novel about two boys deciding what kind of men they want to be. His work has appeared in The LA Review of Books, The Acentos Review, under the gum tree, and The Monterey County Weekly. Follow him on Instagram @damleon. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers on social media. t: @MFAwriterspod ig: @MFAwriterspodcast fb: MFA Writers e: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
Clancy Tripp of Ohio State University talks to Jared McCormack about what happens when people believe your satire, how OSU encouraged her to experiment in multiple genres, whether humor is thriving or flailing in 2020, and if art can heal wounds. Tripp is a creative nonfiction, humor/satire, and fiction writer from the Midwest. Most recently, her work has been published in The Rumpus, shortlisted for the SmokeLong Quarterly Flash Fiction Award, and selected as the overall winner of the 2020 Iowa Review Award for Creative Nonfiction by Leslie Jamison. She is a rising second-year MFA student at The Ohio State University where she also serves as Associate Nonfiction Editor at The Journal. Find more of Clancy at her website www.clancytripp.com and on Twitter @TheUnrealTripp. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers on social media. t: @MFAwriterspod ig: @MFAwriterspodcast fb: MFA Writers e: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
Jared McCormack talks with Ali Geren of the University of Arkansas about writing accessible poetry, growing up in small-town America, coming out in a poem, working a second job during the MFA, and drawing inspiration from Quentin Tarantino. Ali Geren is a poet in her second year of the University of Arkansas’ MFA program in Fayetteville. Her work has appeared in Caustic Frolic and in Moon City Review as the winner of their creative writing contest hosted for Missouri State University students. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers on social media. t: @MFAwriterspod ig: @MFAwriterspodcast fb: MFA Writers e: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
On this episode, Jared sits down with Preety Sidhu of Louisiana State University to discuss how to finance an MFA (Hidden fees? Healthcare? Cost of living?), how to outline a novel, and how to write stories that publishers want to read. Preety Sidhu is an intern at Electric Literature. She holds an MFA in fiction from Louisiana State University, where she worked as an editorial assistant at The Southern Review. You can find her on Twitter @_preetysidhu or at her website, preety-sidhu.com. MFA Writers is hosted by Jared McCormack and produced by Jared McCormack and Hanamori Skoblow. New episodes are released every two weeks. You can find more MFA Writers on social media. t: @MFAwriterspod ig: @MFAwriterspodcast fb: MFA Writers e: mfawriterspodcast@gmail.com
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