Yesterday, the North Carolina Writers' Network announced the winner of the 2015 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition on their website, and guess what? It was me! Check out the write-up here with lovely comments by the final judge, William Wright, like this: "There is a sense of loss and danger here, of 'scarred skin [at the] throat'; simultaneously, there is a Stevens-like otherworldliness that delights in the imagination," Wright said. “‘Failure to Obliterate’ is centered, understandable, surprising, and genuinely beautiful.” Yes, I did dance a jig when I read that.
Regular readers will remember the Valentine's Day post about the manta ray and my efforts to write about my experience. The resulting poem is the poem that won! I can't even tell you how honored and thrilled I am. I can, however, tell you how I got to the point where I write and submit my poetry regularly: I took the leap and applied for an MFA.
In honor of #TBT, let me take you back five years to 2010. I had twelve years teaching experience, two (very) small children, and a file folder full of creative writing which I hadn't touched since 2000 and which I hadn't ever, ever submitted. Anywhere. It just sat there, looking at me, yellowing at the edges with age. I decided it was time. Was I a writer or wasn't I?
Some people don't need award-winning poets like Denise Duhamel and Suzanne Cleary as their super-fantastic mentors. Some people don't need a kick in the ass to take their writing seriously. Some people don't need to be immersed in an environment that values creativity. I'm not some people. I applied to the low-residency MFA at Converse College, I got in, and, five years (and 150+ submissions) later, I won a poetry competition.
Can I guarantee that you, too, will win a prize if you apply for an MFA? Of course not. (Remember the 150+ submissions? Only 20 of those were accepted. So far.) But I can guarantee you that you will come out the other side a better writer. You'll have lasting friendships and a killer network. And if you keep working at it, if you submit your work regularly, if you treat your passion for writing with the respect it deserves, then you will call yourself a writer, and that will make all the difference.
Interested in applying for the Converse College Low-Residency MFA? Read the press-release below, and plan to attend the rockin' open house May 31st. I'll be there with my dancing shoes on. Come by and say hi!
S.C.’s Only Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing to Hold Open House May 31
Spartanburg, S.C. -- Discover why Publishers Weekly named the Converse College Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing "a program to watch" in 2015. Join us at our Open House information session on May 31, 2015 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Barnet Room of the Montgomery Student Center on the Converse campus.
Meet current students, published alumni, and faculty, including Robert Olmstead, Denise Duhamel, Marlin Barton, Leslie Pietrzyk, Susan Tekulve, Albert Goldbarth, C. Michael Curtis, Suzanne Cleary, and program director Rick Mulkey. Learn about the program’s new concentrations in Young Adult Fiction and Environmental Writing, plus scholarship and Teaching Assistantship opportunities, along with information on recent alumni successes in fiction, poetry and nonfiction. Then stay to mingle with current students who are on campus for their summer residency, enjoying live music with Nashville-based folk rock band The Hart Strings beginning at 8 p.m.
More information on the Converse College Low-Residency MFA is available at www.converse.edu/mfa.
About the Converse College Low-Residency MFA
As South Carolina's only low residency MFA program in creative writing, the Converse College MFA offers students opportunities to focus in fiction, Y.A. fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and Environmental writing, plus opportunities to pursue internships in publishing and editing through our C. Michael Curtis Publishing Fellowship at Hub City Press. MFA students may also participate in editing opportunities with the program's national online literary magazine, South 85 Journal, and pursue teaching opportunities with our Teaching Assistant program, a unique opportunity for low residency students.
“One of the strengths of a low-residency format is how it introduces students to the real writing life,” said program director Rick Mulkey. “Most writers have family and career obligations in addition to their writing. While students spend part of each academic year on the Converse campus during the residencies, they continue work on their writing and academic projects during the rest of the year without disruption from their family and career. Plus they study in a true mentor/apprentice relationship with a gifted writer. It provides both an intensive learning environment and the flexibility that most of us need.”
Converse MFA faculty members include National Book Critic Circle Award winners, best-selling novelists, award winning short fiction writers and essayists, plus some of the top editors in the country. “In addition to being outstanding writers, our faculty are energetic and dedicated teachers who have been honored for their classroom instruction,” said Mulkey. “In some graduate programs, a student enrolls to discover that the writer she planned to work with only teaches one course a year, or is on leave while the student is in the program. Here you have the opportunity to work with a large number of writers, editors and agents in a very personal mentoring relationship.”
In the last few years, Converse MFA graduates and current students have distinguished themselves with honors and awards including the AWP Intro Award, a Melbourne Independent Film Festival Award, and the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Prize, among many others. In addition, they have published work in a range of literary venues from Colorado Review, Shenandoah, Ploughshares, and Southern Review to such noted publishers as William Morrow/Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Negative Capability Press, Finishing Line Press, and others.