MFA@FLA Newsletter, Spring 2015

The MFA@FLA Newsletter makes public various enterprises, literary and not, of our graduates and faculty. It seeks to connect our graduates and to inform students considering applying to MFA@FLA of our accomplishments. The headnote is written by Padgett Powell, the balance by graduates, current students, and faculty.

Headnote

Last year at this time we reported winning two lines of hire in the University Top-Ten Initiative. The clincher, we think, was this: “Our graduates have published 161 books with 103 publishers, hold positions at 11 publishing houses or magazines, and teach at 35 universities.” During the competition, before official word was out, I ran into Bernie Machen in the Atlanta airport. He said, “Oh, you, you—you’re about to get some help. Two.” I said, “Good.” He said, “We’re making the good better.”

We hired Ange Mlinko in poetry and Amy Hempel in fiction. Both are aboard and teaching as of spring 2015.

MFA@FLA is at neap tide.

As partly reflected in the testimonials below, this year seven grads of the program are publishing first books. One is two years out, one is eight years out, one twelve, one sixteen, two are twenty-three, and one is twenty-nine years out of the program. We know that this is some kind of record, maybe to be called Program Power Down The Line.

Testimonials

Eve Adamson (MFA, 1992)
This year I officially retired from dog writing. After getting inducted into the Dog Writer’s Association of America Hall of Fame, really, what more can a person do? (And how many articles can one person write about fleas?) I wrote my last grooming column and did my last edit on a dog-health book that is being reprinted under a new brand, and that marked the closing of a long and weird chapter in my writing career. Meanwhile, I had three books come out in April 2013: My first #1 New York Times best seller, The Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomroy (with Eve Adamson), Skinnygirl Solutions , my fifth book with Bethenny Frankel, and a memoir with actress Elisabeth Rohm called Baby Steps. This year, I had The Wahls Protocol come out in March, which was a Publishers Weekly best seller, and a celiac-disease memoir for actress Jennifer Esposito called Jennifer’s Way, which got on the New York Times Science best-seller list for a week. (Please know that I am quite cognizant that the success of these titles is mostly to do with the names of my clients and the mad skills of various savvy publishers and publicists). Currently, I have two books coming out on December 30th, 2014: The Burn by Haylie Pomroy (with Eve Adamson) and The Piper Protocol by Tracy Piper (with Eve Adamson). In April 2015, my sixth book with Bethenny Frankel comes out: I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To. Meanwhile, I have pretty much quit calling myself a freelance writer and admitted that “celebrity ghostwriter” is more to the point. And poet. Still a poet. I have three poems forthcoming in Unsplendid.

Diana Smith Bolton (MFA, 2009)
District Lit (www.DistrictLit.com) is going strong and will be at AWP 2015, so I hope to see some Gators at the Bookfair (booth 1929). I stay busy as a technology proposal writer and frequent the open mics and reading series in the greater DC area. New poems have recently appeared in Lines + Stars, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Punchnel’s.

Wendy Brenner (MFA, 1991)
My essay “Strange Beads” appeared in Best American Essays 2014, and my short humor piece “Prayer for Gluten” appeared in The Sun, provoking large, outraged reader response. I continue to teach in UNCW’s MFA program and serve as a contributing editor for The Oxford American.

Geoffrey Brock (MFA, 1998)
It was the year of second books in our household. My second collection of poems, Voices Bright Flags (Waywiser Press, 2014), was chosen by Heather McHugh for the Anthony Hecht Prize. And my wife, Padma Viswanathan, published her second novel, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao (Random House Canada, 2014), which was (OMG) shortlisted for the Giller Prize. Also, my essay on César Vallejo’s famous sonnet “Piedra negra sobre una piedra blanca” appeared in the November issue of Poetry magazine.

Melissa Garcia Criscuolo (MFA, 2007)
In July of 2013, I had a baby girl—her name is Clare—and I took off a year from teaching to be home and raise her, which was amazing. I had these dreams of getting a ton of writing done while at home, thinking I’d have plenty of time while she napped—silly me. I was practically a zombie for three months (except for the whole eating-people part), so in my downtime, I napped too (and actually dabbled in writing bilingual baby/kiddie books). This year, I am back at work, slaving away at FAU, teaching WAC courses. In January, I had three poems and an interview published with Poets & Artists, but nothing of note since then. I miss Gainesville, and poetry workshops, and the Market Street Pub.

Rebecca Evanhoe (MFA, 2013)
My story “They Were Awake” appeared in the September issue of Harper’s. At the end of July, I attended the Sewanee Writers’ Conference as a scholar. Thirteen days of writer fellowship. It was fantastic. I would recommend it to anyone. Apply!

Mary Beth Ferda (MFA, 2009) and Daniel O’Malley (MFA, 2008)
In July, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of our courthouse elopement with a vow-renewal ceremony and cabin “camping” trip. Many MFAs from FLA came up to eastern Ohio to chaperone our romantic getaway: Ellen Snead ('09), Curtis D’Costa ('08), Chris Shannon ('08), Lee Pinkas ('08), Davey Ramsey ('07), and Eric Smith ('09). This is our third year in Huntington, West Virginia. Our daughter Fredarika was just born, in the bathroom of our new little house. More about that when I see you.

Peter Grimes (MFA, 2003)
Peter Grimes is in his fourth year as Assistant Professor of English at Dickinson State University, up in the cold country. He teaches the multi-genre creative-writing sequence (everything shoehorned into two semesters), along with philosophy, film, and sundry (or maybe it’s various) writing courses. He’s working on a novel about an historian-turned-roughneck-turned-outcast-turned-dubitable hero. His fiction can be dug up in back issues of Narrative, Mississippi Review, Mid-American Review, Harpur Palate , and some others.

Amy Hempel
I have a short-short story in the current issue of Subtropics, and just published a poem in The Harvard Review. The novel I co-wrote with Jill Ciment—The Hand That Feeds You—will come out with Scribner in early summer. And in March, I’ll be receiving the John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence from Centenary College in Louisiana.

Michael Hofmann
I wrote pieces for the LRB on Karen Solie, Martin Amis, and Richard Flanagan, and for the TLS on Stephen Parker’s terrific new life of Bertolt Brecht. The Other Press printed my translation of Peter Stamm’s novel All Days Are Night (my eighth of his?); Dalkey Archive brought out Youth, a memoir by Wolfgang Koeppen on growing up in East Prussia. A second collection of my literary pieces came out in December from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, called Where Have You Been? I wrote an introduction for the Berryman centenary edition of the Dream Songs. I write poems like hens putting forth teeth. I continue to serve as Padgett’s brake-man.

Noelle Kocot (MFA, 1995)
My sixth book of poetry, Soul in Space, was published by Wave Books in fall of 2013. A new book of poems should be out soon. I teach at The New School and Columbia University, and I live in New Jersey.

David Leavitt
For better or worse—better, I think—a quiet year. I went to India for a month. Wrote a few short pieces for magazines (VQR, CN Traveler). Toby turned two.

William Logan
William Logan’s new book of criticism, Guilty Knowledge Guilty Pleasures, was published last spring. He has published poems recently in the Atlantic, Hopkins Review, Journal, New Criterion, New Republic, PN Review, Raritan, and Sewanee Theological Review, as well as in the anthologies Poems of the American South and The Arts of Peace. He had a long essay on Keats’s “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” in Yale Review, and an op-ed piece in the New York Times titled “Poetry: Who Needs It?” He published reviews of Frost’s letters in the New York Times, Dickinson’s envelope poems in the New Criterion, and the usual spring and fall verse chronicles in the latter. He was a faculty member at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference last summer, where he read poems and gave a lecture on Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro.” He also read at the Daytona Poetry Festival and gave the Pound lecture at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. His online contributions include a summer reading list for the Poetry Foundation website and a short essay on whether poetry matters in the Room for Debate feature of the New York Times.

Margaret Mackinnon (MFA, 1991)
My book, The Invented Child , which won the Gerald Cable Book Award and was published last year, has been given the 2014 Poetry Award by the Library of Virginia. Rita Dove and Barbara Kingsolver received awards at the same ceremony, so I was very surprised and very pleased.

Randall Mann (MFA, 1997)
My recent collection of poems, Straight Razor, received some nice notice (LA Times, Buzzfeed, Kansas City Star, Booklist) and was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. I published poems in Boston Review, jubilat, and THERMOS, and in the anthology The New Census: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (Rescue Press); and prose in the Los Angeles Review of Books. I’m a Contributing Editor for the rebooted Copper Nickel. @randallmannpoet

Ange Mlinko
My fourth book of poems, Marvelous Things Overheard, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the fall of 2013, just as I was named Poetry Editor for The Nation. The following spring, I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and offered this wonderful job at UF, after 4 years as Assistant Professor at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. One could die happy at such a juncture, but hopefully I will live to teach many years, and finish raising my two children in and around the north central Florida wilderness.

Alex Pickett (MFA, 2016)
In the past year I’ve had stories published or accepted for publication in Green Mountains Review (online), in Jabberwock Review, the literary journal published out of Mississippi State, and in Midwestern Gothic. A music video I co-wrote and produced was just accepted into the Slamdance film festival. I also adopted a dog and named him Dan.

Padgett Powell
A book of mine lying fallow in a drawer, Cries for Help, Various, has been purchased, out next year with Black Balloon Publishing, who purport to be seeking a name change. I have suggested Black Ball Publishing but they don’t like it. An article about my fifty-year quest to see an indigo snake in the wild is to appear in Garden & Gun in the spring.

Dave Reidy (MFA, 2006)
It was a nice autumn for the arts in the Reidy household. Six months after the birth of our second child (a boy, Dawson), Tiffany returned to the stage in a production of Lillian Hellman’s Watch on the Rhine and won a small role in an episode of NBC’s Chicago PD. My debut novel, entitled The Voiceover Artist, will be published in October 2015.

Gail Shepherd (MA, 1985)
Clearly, I’m a late bloomer. Hey William! Hey Padgett! Has it really been thirty years? I signed a two-book deal with Penguin/Kathy Dawson Books last summer, for two middle-grade novels. The first, South By Southeast, is a coming-of-age story set in Tennessee, post-Vietnam War; it follows Lyndie, who as the daughter of a Vietnamese woman and an American soldier feels she doesn’t really belong, either in her town or in her family. The second is a verse novel set in Kenya, about a girl who takes up with a crowd of elephants and knocks off some poachers. Kathy is a brilliant, old-fashioned editor who has promised to send me daunting revision notes that eliminate major characters and re-wrangle plot lines, so thankfully the first book isn’t due out until 2016. I also have a full time job in the K-12 education field, mostly writing research papers. I’m represented by another talented editorial goddess, Kristin Vincent at D4EO Literary Agency.

John L. Sheppard (MFA, 1994)
My novel No Brass, No Ammo came out in October 2014 with Moonshine Cove Publishing. My next novel, After the Jump, will come out in 2015 with Paragraph Line Books. While riding motorcycles with an old Army buddy in Texas in September, I encountered a deer and subsequently the pavement. I snapped my left clavicle and seven ribs. For two days in the hospital in Texas, I had the opportunity to listen to people screaming out in pain while I was strung out on morphine. When I returned to Illinois, the clavicle was repaired by a surgeon who used a four-inch length of metal, nine screws and a screw gun. The total cost to my insurance company (and me) was over $78,000. My grandfather, a weird old immigrant who worked for the post office for nearly half a century, inculcated into me when I was a child a deep suspicion of doctors and hospitals that was not ameliorated by my recent brush with America’s medical establishment. While I was growing up in Florida, old men used offer me this advice, “Don’t get old.” I will offer you similarly useful advice: “Don’t get hurt.”

Aaron Thier (MFA, 2012) and Sarah Trudgeon (MFA, 2013)
Aaron and Sarah are living on tamarind and jute in Miami, satisfied by their recent acquisition of an allspice tree, now respiring in the bedroom.

Aaron’s second novel, Mr. Eternity, will come out in January 2016. His first novel, The Ghost Apple, received starred reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. He continues to write book reviews for The Nation and begins as a columnist for the Lucky Peach website in January.

In 2014 Sarah had poems published in the Nation, the London Review of Books, the TLS, Blackbird, and Quarter After Eight. Her poem “2006” was named in “Verses of Note: The Best Poetry of 2014” by Michael Robbins in the Chicago Tribune.

The sun sets over Biscayne Bay.

Rachel Carroll Whalley (MFA, 2002)
I’m so pleased to say that my first book, Woman Overboard! Six Ways Women Avoid Conflict and One Way To Set Yourself Free, will be published in December 2014 (ebook version) with the print version to be published in April 2015. The poetry degree has served me well. I became a psychotherapist (yes, another stinking graduate degree!) and my past as an artist has prepared me for both writing lots of copy (blog posts, marketing language) and for attracting other writers and artists and deeply-souled people wanting assistance from someone who gets them.

Publishing one book feels like it’s sounded the starting bell, because I have two or three more books that are now bucking at the gates, waiting to be released. Thanks for giving me such grounded support for my creative leanings, MFA@FLA!

Martin Wilson (MFA, 1998)
I’m still living and working in New York. This fall I was promoted to Senior Publicity Manager at HarperCollins. My second novel is out on submission. And I published a short story this summer in One Teen Story. I’m about to start work on a new novel.

Diane Zinna (MFA, 1998)
It didn’t happen quickly for me, but after many years of work, I sold my first novel to Putnam, an imprint of Penguin RandomHouse, in November. Tentatively titled Midsommar and set mostly in Sweden, the book is scheduled for early 2016. For the past three years I’ve served as the membership director for AWP, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. I was proud to launch AWP’s Writer to Writer mentorship program last fall, which pairs emerging and established writers; while free and open to all members, we particularly encourage applications from writers with no MFA affiliation and those writing from backgrounds, regions, and cultures typically underrepresented in the literary world. This April, the AWP Annual Conference & Bookfair will be held in Minneapolis, and if you are planning to attend, I’d love to connect with you there.

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