Archive for the 'MPW News' Category

15 March

MPW Goes to AWP Boston


Last week MPW trekked through snow and ice for 2013 AWP Boston in Back Bay. The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference can be a daunting experience with hundreds of panels on every conceivable topic and with over 10,000 attendees from across the country. Fortunately, the MPW contingent braved these wee temperatures and massive hoards with wide-eyed grace and good humor.

Dinah IMG_0224For one, Dinah Lenney (right) led a passionate panel on “Why Genre Matters” with panelists Sven Birkerts, Judith Kitchen, David Biespiel, and Scott Nadelson. Do labels like nonfiction and fiction help or inhibit the writer? The arguments for genre’s persuasions were equally as brilliant as those for its perils. While some in the audience clearly had a horse in the race (at one point an “Amen” was uttered), everyone agreed that it was the vital and intelligent discussion about why genre matters that truly mattered.

We asked MPW students to describe their experience at AWP Boston. Here’s what they wrote:

Caron Tate IMG_0194

All I have to say about the AWP experience is: Everybody in the program you HAVE TO go. Find a way. Whatever you want to do with your writing, there are lectures,workshops, and presentations on it, and the discussions, hanging out, and crazy fun with your classmates is the best EVER!\


Trisha Chambers (right)IMG_0193

Had an amazing time with MPW classmates @ AWP! Here are my favorite quotes.
Richard Russo: “Writing is an exercise in empathy. To write is to become more generous.” Benjamin Percy on writing about werewolves and non-werewolves: “All my characters are hairy on the inside.” Cheryl Strayed: “Your book has a birthday. You just don’t know what it is yet.”


 Sharon Sim-KrauseIMG_0366

I received a delightful snow confetti welcome the moment I strolled out of the Logan airport. I was transported from familiar LA to refreshing Boston, eagerly taking in jolts of inspiration from writers and muses, and basking in the soothing company of fellow MPWers.   My most memorable quote and reminder on why we write came from Richard Russo: “Writing is an exercise in empathy. To write is to become more generous. To be my best self is to write.” Thank you MPW and AWP for this invaluable opportunity!

Lauren NelsonLauren IMG_0190

AWP is the most useful, enjoyable, and grounding experience I’ve had this year. My favorite panel was “How to get your first university teaching job,” and it was great hearing Don DeLillo speak.


Kelsey NolanIMG_0329 (center)

Knowing that there were over six hundred booths at the AWP book fair was, quite honestly intimidating. How could I ever know what to go see, or who to talk to? Walking in was, all at once, overwhelming and compelling. The buzz made me feel welcome–like I was supposed to be there. I wanted to meet everyone there, submit to every literary journal, and buy every book. I could have spent an entire day in there and still not exhausted it. The whole conference felt that way, really, it was incredible.

Susannah LuthiIMG_0183

Highlights were meeting one of the writers we published in SCR (Erika Wurth). She presented on a panel on Native American writing and came by our booth. Thrilled she sent us her work. Dinner with the MPW crew. Hearing about Connu (my start up) second hand. Figuring out the framing/ending of my novel thanks to Don DeLillo’s panel. Watching Matt in action 87 percent of the time. Connecting with the friends from Skidmore and seeing progress they’ve made–one lit journal, Unstuck, in its second year, a novel done, a few stories published, and a new women’s lit journal started. They are incredible. Ron Carlson’s flash lit panel. Seeing Anne Carson.

Matt AckelsIMG_0220

AWP provided all the twist and turns of a good novel. I met quite a few characters, some wacky, some endearing, and most memorable. I learned things about my life in the broader context of our world, about my place in the greater literary community. Through the countless panels, I gleaned insights into writing and the craft. Of course, there were moments of daunting plot twists (running out of journals too soon), intimidating landscape (the thousand member book fair), and unwitting heroism (free cupcakes from Howard). Ultimately, this experience sharpened me as a writer, thinker, and, most directly, as a citizen of the wider literary community.

And here are those cupcakes!IMG_0353

17 June

Cartography, Context, Debuts

I have always loved opening up a book and seeing a map.  The map’s a promise of a world, a landscape.  “Terrain determines tactics,” is one of my favorite quotes– Kenneth Burke said it, and he’s talking about context.  Place is context.

Two books by recent MPW graduates have crossed my desk in the past week, and both have to do with place. The first is a collection of short stories by TONI MARGARITA PLUMMER,  “The Bolero of Andi Rowe”  (Curbstone Books, Northwestern University Press, 2011).

When you open this award-winning first collection, there’s a  hand-drawn map of Los Angeles and its environs– the San Gabriel Mountains looking as mystical as the mountains that the Fellowship of the Ring charts.  Underneath the San Gabriel mountains is a webby network of freeways– the 210, the 10, the 605, the 5, the 110.

“Inez Suarez didn’t have a man…No, what Inez Suarez had was Los Angeles,” notes the narrator in “All the Sex is West,” the third story in the collection. It’s an impressive debut, with a blurb from Sandra Cisneros on the cover  (see below)

The other book is a collection of poems by BRIAN McGACKIN, entitled “Broetry”   (Quirk Books, 2011).  This first collection of poems has some riffs on canonical poems– nods to William Carlos Williams (see cover, below) as well as Frost et al.  But there are homages and contemplations of Los Angeles, as in this poem, “The Clown Outside the Furniture Store” which catalogues a list of neighborhood characters including:

The guy twirling a Little Caesar’s Pizza
sign on the corner of Lankershim and
Vineland. Two of the five homeless dudes who
hang out under the overpass….
My Jiffy Lube guy. Jessica Alba.
All actors. This town is ridiculous.”
So add two MPW graduate takes on Los Angeles qua Los Angeles.

10 March

PENs (and PENcils) in the Classroom

On the USC College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences web page, right next to the astounding news of Dana and David Dornsife’s tremendous gift to the college, there’s an article about Master of Professional Writing students who are teaching creative writing in Los Angeles schools.

MPW has partnered with PEN in the Classroom (PITC), a project of PEN Center USA, to offer internships to MPW students who are interested in serving the community and gaining teaching experience.  PEN Director of Programs and Events Michelle Meyering, a PITC veteran, recently spoke on our Writers Who Teach panel.  An internship class taught by Ebony Cunningham and training from PEN help the MPW students develop classroom skills and effective approaches to teaching.

In the fall, Justin McFarr and Kristen Abbott taught a twelve-week creative nonfiction class at Film and Theater Arts Charter High (FTA), and this spring Krishna Narayanamurti and Amie Longmire are teaching a multi-genre course (including “memoirs, monologues, dialogues and the importance of revision”) at West Adams Preparatory High School.  Each class culminates with the publication of the students’ work in an anthology by PEN.

These anthologies, by the way, are beautiful and moving.  I first saw one when MPW Director Brighde Mullins joined the PEN board last year.

Read the whole article: “Discovering Their Voices,” by staff writer Ambrosia Viramontes-Brody

03 February

Free Palm Readings at AWP!

Here’s what’s going on with MPW at the 2011 AWP Conference in pictures:

Yes, you read the sign correctly. Free Palm Readings at the MPW table today (Friday, Feb. 4) at 11 AM.

Above, poet/palmist Katie Peterson (right) is reading the palm of Brighde Mullins. What is Brighde learning about herself from this ancient art? Come on by and find out!

Dinah Lenney packed them in for a sequel (or remake?) of her Faith and the Writer panel, which premiered at USC last November 1st. It was a hit then, and it was a hit yesterday, attracting a standing-room only crowd. Dinah had all-new panelists, which included one MPWer, M.G. Lord (second from the right below).

Friday at the MPW table includes appearances by Prince Gomolvilas (above left) who will conduct the Free Raffle giveaway at 12:30 pm, and also poet and MPW alum Millicent Borges Accardi, who is slated to sign her books at 3:00 pm.

And once again, the MPW Table is located at G47 in Exhibition Hall A. See you there!