Creative Writing Blog

Women’s Anthology Encourages Cross-Gender Understanding

Coming out from El León Literary Arts, Ms. Aligned 2: Women Writing About Men is an anthology of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in which women writers explore male thinking, behavior, and identity. Funded in part by the SEED IDEAS office of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, the anthology is edited by West Virginia University graduates Connie Pan and Rebecca Thomas along with Pat Matsueda. The cover features an illustration by Guatemalan artist Súa Agapé. Contributors to Ms. Aligned 2 include editors Pan, Matsueda, and Thomas as well as Mary Archer, Emily A. Benton, Sion Dayson, Gerda Govine Ituarte, Amy Holwerda, Lillian Howan, Cassandra Lane, Adele Ne Jame, Angela Nishimoto, and Shelly Rodrigue.

The volume’s foreword is by Dr. Jill McCabe Johnson, an award-winning poet and the series editor of the University of Nebraska Gender Programs anthologies. In her foreword, Dr. Johnson says that the Ms. Aligned authors have “portrayed more nuanced representations of the masculine experience that begins with the archetypal and mythological, but troubles it, complicates it, causes us to challenge our own fundamental beliefs against a more complex and realistic array of expression. The challenge is not in being able to portray what is especially or particularly male. The challenge lies in portraying fully realized males, including those aspects of personality somehow deemed ‘feminine.’”

The introduction is by Kristiana Kahakauwila, a hapa writer of kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiian), German, and Norwegian extraction. Her first book, This is Paradise: Stories (Hogarth, 2013), takes as its heart the people and landscapes of contemporary Hawai‘i. In her introduction, she writes, “This second anthology from Ms. Aligned 2 gives its readers fresh material—as much as these women writers are writing men, they are also women writing women and the female experience. In this act, they make a segmentation—of gender, experience, place, age—whole again....To read Ms. Aligned 2 is to witness women writers writing forward—out of old tropes, expected ways of being, and into something fresh, memorable, filled with discovery.”

Connie Pan earned her MFA in fiction from West Virginia University and her BA in creative writing from Grand Valley State University. A Pushcart Prize–nominated writer, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Fiddlehead, Carve, PRISM international, Bamboo Ridge, among others. Pat Matsueda is the managing editor of Mānoa and the author of Bedeviled, a novella, and Stray, a collection of poetry. Rebecca Thomas is an instructor of English at West Virginia University, where she earned her MFA in fiction. Her writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Prairie Schooner, and The Massachusetts Review, among other places.

Published by El León Literary Arts of Berkeley, Ms. Aligned 2 is available as a paperback for $15 from CreateSpace/Amazon.com. In spring 2017, SEED IDEAS awarded the project $1,000 to cover production and editorial expenses. For more information, please visit Ms. Aligneds website.

Maggie Anderson Reading October 30th

Author Maggie Anderson will be visiting Morgantown on October 30th to do a reading at 7:30 p.m. in the Milano Reading Room in the downtown WVU library. 

MFA Bowling Night

On Friday, October 6th, Faculty members and graduate students took to the lanes at the Mountainlair bowling alley. There were hurdles: shoe issues, bowling balls lost to the gutters and the pit behind the pins, and pins getting stuck or lost, but despite the 1968 technology being a little faulty it was an enjoyable night and likely will be repeated again very soon. There’s talk of a trip to the local bar-cade next. Stay tuned.

Annie Barrows Reading October 17

Author Annie Barrows will be visiting Morgantown on October 17 to do a reading at 7:30 p.m. in the Milano Reading Room in the downtown WVU library. 

Gabe Fried Reading

On September 4th, Gabe Fried, the author or two poetry collections, Making the New Lamb Take and The Children Are Reading, visited WVU and read at the downtown library. Fried is an Assistant Professor in the creative writing program at University of Missouri, Columbia, and before his reading he was nice enough to give a Q&A to current MFA candidates about what PhD creative writing programs might offer them. At dinner with faculty and students, Fried mentioned that before his arrival he read online that the Hotel Morgan, where he was staying while in town, was haunted. Another student mentioned that they didn’t even realize Hotel Morgan was an operating hotel. And as it turns out, on the day of Fried’s reading there was a funeral in the hotel lobby. Later, and in keeping, it seems, with the theme introduced by the hotel, Fried read and spoke about the creepiness of children’s stories, Beatrix Potter books, baskets woven from cat tails, branches wrapping children like owl’s wings, and how his editorial work at Persea Books has been the most thrilling part of his writing career thus far. It was truly a pleasure to have Gabe Fried visit WVU! We thank him for sharing his words!

MFA Meet-and-Greet 2017

The beginning of the fall semester in the MFA program here at WVU brings with it a series of traditions. There are ice-breakers, first-day nerves, long lines and paper jams in the copy room. There’s the awe that that room, with a dark wooden table and books stacked into the wall and a huge window overlooking campus, is where we workshop. And there is the MFA meet-and-greet at program director Mary Ann Samyn’s home. Held after the first week of classes every August, the meet-and-greet brings together first-year students, current MFAs, and creative writing faculty. It is one of the first chances for the program to come together—poets, novelists, and essayists; students and their future mentors.

WVU Alum, Brandon Davis Jennings, Publishes Essay Collection

The WVU Department of English would like to congratulate Brandon Davis Jennings on the recent publication of his new collection of essays, The Red Book or Operation Iraqi Freedom is My Fault. This project took seven years to complete and the essays have appeared in Crazyhorse, Black Warrior Review, Passages North, The literary Review, TriQuarterly, and NINTH LETTER.  Jennings has a BA in Journalism from West Virginia University, an MFA in Creative Writing (fiction) from Bowling Green State, and a PhD in English from Western Michigan University.

Alumni Achievements

We’d like to congratulate the following alumni on their literary achievements!

Recent Student Achievements (Summer 2017)

We’d like to congratulate our current MFA students on their recent achievements!

MFA Class of 2017

On April 27th, the MFA class of 2017 gave a reading of their thesis work in the Gold Ballroom of the Mountainlair. This group of seven graduates—Whit Arnold (nonfiction), Kelsey Englert (Fiction), Megan Fahey (Fiction), Elizabeth Leo (Poetry), Kelsey Liebenson-Morse (Nonfiction), Sarah Munroe (Poetry), and Andrea Ruggirello (Fiction)—were described as having a “seriousness of purpose.” They entered the program with other graduate degrees. Some left families or jobs. But they all came to WVU because they wanted an MFA community and three years to dedicate to the craft of writing. They, like all incoming graduate students, asked questions, “Are chickens allowed in the city limits of Morgantown?” All of them naturally wondered, “Will I be happy?” As Mary Ann Samyn, Director of the Creative Writing program said, “Time answered what we could not.” We look forward to hearing from them in the coming years.