January Residency is on its way!

The January Residency is nearly here, and we couldn’t be more excited about all we have on offer for our students this time around.  Here’s just a taste of some of the accomplished writers who will be presenting at the upcoming residency:

joshua_bell_photoJosh Bell

Josh Bell (Poetry) is a Senior Lecturer at Harvard University. He’s published the poetry collections, No Planets Strike, and, Alamo Theory, and he is the recent recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Bryn Chancellor (Fiction) is the author of the novel Sycamore (Harper/HarperCollins 2017), which was a Southwest Book of the Year, an Indie Next pick, an Amazon Editors’ Best Book of 2017, and among Bustle‘s Best Debuts of 2017. Her story collection When Are You Coming Home? (University of Nebraska Press 2015) won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Gulf Coast, Blackbird, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, Phoebe, The Common, Publishers Weekly, and elsewhere. She is a grateful recipient of fellowships from the Alabama, Arizona, and North Carolina state arts councils and the Poets and Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award.

catherine_reid_headshotCatherine Reid

Catherine Reid (Nonfiction) has taught at a number of different schools, most recently at Warren Wilson College, in Asheville, North Carolina, where she served as director of the undergraduate creative writing program and specialized in creative nonfiction and environmental writing. In addition to three works of nonfiction, Falling into Place: An Intimate Geography of Home; Coyote: Seeking the Hunter in Our Midst, and the recent The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables, she has edited two anthologies (Every Woman I Ever Loved and His Hands, His Tools, His Sex, His Dress) and published essays in such journals as the Georgia Review, Fourth Genre, Bellevue Literary Review, and Massachusetts Review. She has been a creative writing fellow at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and has received fellowships in creative nonfiction from the North Carolina Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Of course, there will still be craft lectures and readings with our amazing core faculty, as well as invaluable workshop time in the afternoons.  With agent pitch sessions and meetings with faculty mentors, this residency is shaping up to be another jam-packed nine days of all things writing.  If this sounds like just the thing you’ve been looking for, the deadline for the June/Fall residency is February 15, 2019.  We’d love to see you there.

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Interview: Alumna Sonja Condit Talks About Her Latest Book

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Last month, alumna Sonja Condit, graciously shared an excerpt from her book, The Banshee of Machrae with our blog, and it was sufficiently creepy and suspenseful enough to ensure that you all now own a copy.  But if you haven’t yet gotten your copy, and you would like to get it signed, Sonja is having a book launch party on October 22, 2018, at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC, from 6-8 pm.  Bring your book and get it signed, or pick up a copy or two for you and your book-loving friends. You can also order it online here.

Today, Sonja has agreed to share some of her experience and inspiration with regards to her latest release. So sit back and enjoy, and maybe learn something too!

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Converse MFA:  In your first book, Starter House, an actual house that you saw inspired you and informed your idea for the book. Is there some real thing/place/person that inspired this story?

Sonja Condit: I remember reading, years ago, about a couple of  teenage girls who went on an arson spree for reasons related to friendship and love, never entirely made clear. I don’t recall where it happened, although some part of my mind thinks maybe New Jersey. I also don’t remember any other details at all! Somebody once said that a novelist needs the gift of forgetting (I don’t remember who said it, though).

MFA: What’s it like publishing a second book? Did you learn anything with the first that changed/will change how you approach/approached things this time around?

SC: This time, I wasn’t surprised by how collaborative the whole process was, and found it much easier to take criticism and suggestions for change. The first time, I left editorial emails unopened for a couple of days while working up the courage to read them, and I was slightly devastated to learn that some parts of the first book would have to be cut. My general feeling was, well why not just take a chunk of my liver and maybe a lung and a few fingers while you’re at it? (The cuts were good and necessary, but they hurt.) This time, I was a bit more professional and not so whiny.

MFA: Why do you think you’re drawn to the spooky and otherworldly? Is that what you read primarily?

SC: I read all kinds of things, but I’ve always been drawn to the otherworldly, beginning with a childhood taste for folklore and mythology. I would like to write something naturalistic one of these days–but I’m working on a new one, and it’s definitely supernatural, so maybe those patterns are just hardwired into my imagination.

MFA: What are you reading right now?

SC: I’m partway through the Patrick Melrose series by Edward St Aubyn, but I can’t read much of it at a time because it’s too sad. It’s one of those books that makes you want to intervene in some way, just to make it stop.

MFA:  Who’s a writer you really admire and why? Is there a specific writer who really informs your writing?

SC: I rather love Tana French at the moment. I’m slowly re-reading bits of The Likeness.

MFA: How long did it take you to write this book, from idea to completion?

SC: This one came in bits. The first long story, “Flashover,” took a couple of months, and then I sat with it for a long time, trying to figure out which ending was right. The longer it sat, the more I kept imagining scenes coming as a result of all the possible endings. Finally I gave up and decided to write them all, in whichever order they occurred in my imagination, which was very random. All the rest of the book after “Flashover” took about a month. It was intense, three or four thousand words a day. This was during summer, so I had the time. Then I spent about a year rewriting, cutting things, and writing other things, and trying to put it in order.

MFA: What was the process like? (Both your personal editing and your editing with your agent and/or editor/publisher.)

SC: The writing itself was very fast. Then I spent a long time ruminating and thinking about how the stories fit together. I went through the book several times for the purpose of dropping snippets from stories into other stories so it wouldn’t be so chaotic. Occasionally I worried about continuity and consistency, but mostly I just let that go. It’s an unconscious kind of book; it fits together through dream logic, and there’s no real explanation for some of it. As far as publishing, I thought, this is just too strange, so I went to the competition route–I needed just one person who would read it and get it. It went to seven or eight contests, and came in second at SFK, and they decided to publish it even though it didn’t win.

MFA: Who are you writing this book for? Who is your ideal reader? What kind of tastes do they have? I guess I’m asking what some comps might be for your new book?

SC: I wrote this one for myself. My ideal reader is anyone who’s willing to come into this weird inner space and hang out with me for a while.

MFA: Do you work alone or are you part of a writing group?

SC: Alone right now, but groups are great!

MFA: Do you know the ending before you start?

SC: Definitely, but the ending I know at the start isn’t the ending that actually happens. This one doesn’t have an end; it has a sort of loop. There’s a story called “The End,” but it’s in the middle.

MFA: Can you talk a little bit about how you shaped this new book, which isn’t as linear and straightforward as your previous one? How do you think those decisions affect the story/mood/etc.?

SC: I let my inner poet off the chain for this one. My theory was, you can do anything if it’s eight pages or shorter. Also, I was completely done with chronological storytelling. Who lives chronologically, really? Don’t we spend a lot of time in our own heads recreating bits of the past in an order that is emotional but not chronological, and projecting ourselves into all sorts of different futures, and being unreliable narrators of our own lives and false omniscient narrators of the world? Emmy is a first person omniscient narrator. She tells all the stories, even the ones that go deep into other people’s minds or into things she can’t know, because that’s what people do. I can’t explain why I put the sections in the order I did; it just felt right.  Maybe it’s because that’s how I read. If I’m interested in a book, I’ll read the first chapter, and then the last chapter. If I need to know how the author got from the beginning to end, I’ll read the middle, but not necessarily in order.  Of course, I’m going back to chronological storytelling now. There’s a reason most books are written that way. But it felt good to do something else for a change.

Thanks so much to Sonja Condit for her generosity and time.  We love reading about your process and writing/reading life, and we are more than a little proud to have you as an alumna of our program.  Best of luck with your new book!

 

Celebrating Converse MFA Alumna, Sonja Condit’s 2nd Book Release, The Banshee of Machrae, (Excerpt Included)

bansheeofmachrae1: An Old Man in a Quiet Room
“Come and see,” Jessa said. She took my hand and led me into her great-grandfather’s room.

Jessa Machrae was my best friend. She knew things. She ate candy every day. I followed her everywhere. In the first week of October 2006, when we were seven, Jessa’s great-grandfather had been dying for as long as I’d known her, which was three months and felt like my whole life. He was a-hundred-and-one years old. Mrs. Machrae said, “If you two live to be a hundred and one, you’ll live in three centuries,” because we’d been born in 1999. If he wanted to live in three centuries, Jessa’s brother Kalen would have to live to a hundred and four. He only made it to nineteen.

When we first moved in across Fenchurch Road from the Machraes in July, Jessa came over the road—crossing the road alone, which I was not allowed to do—and introduced herself by saying, “This is my house.”

“It’s ours,” I said, but I wasn’t sure; in my life so far, we’d moved eight times, sometimes unexpectedly in the middle of the night, and my father’s car had been repossessed. I had no way of knowing what was mine, and here was Jessa in the sunlight, with purple lights shimmering in her black hair, staking her claim.

The house was over a century old and had been built in stages, new rooms tacked on to old. There was a window in the brick wall between the kitchen and the dining room, and you couldn’t find a truly flat floor in the whole place. Wherever you set a marble down, it would quiver, then tremble, then wobble, then roll toward one wall or another. If you rolled it back, it would stop as if caughtunder someone’s thumb, and then after a while it would roll back to you; if you squinted, you could almost make out a small body crouched in the swirl of day-shining dust waiting for you to take another turn. Infinite patience in a simple game. My mother took the marble away, Emerson, don’t summon what you don’t understand: anything can happen. My parents had let me choose which of the two smaller bedrooms I wanted, and I chose the one on the corner because it had two windows. Jessa had been born in that room, she said.

“My house,” Jessa said. “Only we’re in the new house now. We can throw you out whenever we want.”

“No you can’t.”

“We can get the sheriff to throw you out and dump your stuff on the side of the road, and anybody who drives by can stop and take whatever they want.”

“No, no, no—”

“Nothing here is yours,” Jessa said. “Show me your toys.” She led me into the house and I followed her, hiccupping at the top of every breath and wiping my tears into my hair, as she prowled from room to room until she found mine. “How many Barbies you got?” she asked.

“My mom doesn’t believe in Barbies.”

“That’s stupid.”

My toys lived in a cedar trunk hand-carved by a friend of my mother’s, an amateur carpenter who never quite mastered the square edge. The whole thing tilted to the left and the lid didn’t close. Jessa dumped everything on the floor—the handmade blocks, the unpainted wooden train, the rag dolls made of actual rags—and stirred the mess with a queenly, contemptuous toe. “Pathetic,” she said. But she’d come this far; she couldn’t leave empty-handed. She took one of the rag dolls and said, “You give me this and I’ll let you keep the rest. You can come and look at my toys, but you aren’t allowed to touch them.”

Three months later, half her Barbies had found their way to my house, and once a week my mother repatriated them, muttering all the while about genital mutilation and footbinding. Jessa’s mother fed me Popsicles and Rice Krispies Treats and hot dogs off the grill. Her great-grandfather said call me Granda and told me all the Machrae stories, as if I were a new Machrae sprung fully formed from the earth.

He told me about Lilly who drowned with her baby at the bridge, and whose ghost would eat any traveler who was so foolish as to stop for her. He told me about his half-brother who worked in the dye house at Roberts Mill and accidentally cut off his own thumb with a hatchet while chopping firewood . . . and how his thumb-bones were dyed blue, and his flesh was purple at the bone. He told me about wild animals that weren’t around much anymore, like panthers and lizardmen and the black owl, which was big enough to carry off a middling dog, and called like a woman wailing in the dark. He showed me the scar on his arm from the time a coyote bit him, and the scar on his ankle from when he stepped into the trap he had set for that very same coyote, which had taken the trap in its teeth and moved it on purpose into Granda’s path.

I never knew my real grandparents. Eldred Machrae was the only old person I’d ever met. He smelled strongly of peppermint with an undertone of eucalyptus, a smell so aggressively clean I was always sniffing for something horrible underneath. His hair was thick, black, and coarse, with only a few white strands around his ears. He could stick out his tongue through the gap in his lower teeth, a trick which never failed to make Jessa shriek with laughter, though it scared and revolted me.

“Come and see,” Jessa said in October, three months after we moved to Roberts Mill. “Mommy left me alone with Granda and I think he’s dead.”

His room was still and dim. The body in the bed seemed to have shriveled. I took a step into the room and the hand of vertigo whirled me up and down and backwards all at once. I caught myself on the doorframe. For a moment, I was my own small self and another self, two feet taller, sixty pounds heavier; it was Granda’s room and someone else’s room (whose, I could not say); emotions blew through me, moving me though they were not my own. Shame, sadness, grief. Then I slammed back into my body, electric in every pore. The blanket was drawn over the face, above the eyebrows, and the wild black hair sprayed over the pillow. I smelled mint and eucalyptus. I smelled, very clearly, that scent I had searched for all those months, living flesh already rotten, human waste, bleach, lemon. One breath and it was gone.

“Touch him,” Jessa said.

“I don’t want to.”

“Go on. He won’t bite.”

I took another step toward the bed. “Let’s tell my mom. She’ll call someone.”
Jessa snorted and I flushed. Hadn’t I learned yet that let’s tell my mom was never the answer? I took another step, and now I could see the band of golden skin between the blanket and the black hair. Death had smoothed the deep lines of Granda’s face. I touched a lock of hair. It felt no different than anyone’s hair. I touched the forehead.

I had just time to think this is a dead body I’m touching a dead body he’s dead when it happened. A hand snaked from the blanket, the body flung the covers aside, and Jessa’s brother Kalen grabbed my shoulders and pulled me toward him. He crossed his eyes and shouted, “Got you now!” and he and Jessa burst out laughing.

This time, I didn’t cry. All the blood in my body turned to light and I hummed with power. It sparkled in myfingertips. “I hope you die,” I said. “I hope you die, I hope you die.” Immediately I was sorry, and I gabbled as quickly as I could, before the power faded, “No, don’t all the way die . . .”

Eldred Machrae died two days after Thanksgiving, but it took ten years for my curse to work its way into the world. I did it. I said those things. It’s my fault: everything.

Sonja-Coppenbarger-300x300Sonja Condit is a graduate of the Converse Low-Residency MFA program.  This is her second novel, the first being, Starter Housepublished by Harper Collins.  Her latest book, The Banshee of Machraeis published by SFK Press.

 

 

Be on the lookout for an upcoming blog post interview with Sonja about her new book and how she made it from MFA student to twice published author.

MFA Admission Open House Event

MFA Admission Open House

We are so happy to announce our latest MFA Admissions Open House Event!  Please stop by for more information about our exciting and innovative program.  Alumni are welcome to drop in as well to bring along interested friends or just offer a little perspective to our visitors who want to learn more about what it’s like to be in a low-residency program.  Either way, we can’t wait to see you there!

January/Spring 2019 Semester Application Deadline Approaching

63EDF51A-CCA4-4271-A691-031ABDC2D044The Fall semester has begun here at Converse, and everyone is back to work.  The summer-empty parking lot is now at capacity, phones are ringing, keyboards are clicking, and everyone has that shell-shocked What-happened-to-my-summer look.

EXCEPT in the MFA office.

 

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Inquires, applications, and phone calls are rolling in, and we get excited about each and every one.  We can’t wait to meet our next batch of poets and prose writers, memoirists and YA authors.  So if you want to join us in January 2019, be sure to get your application materials sent in by October 1, 2018. I mean, where else can you have a New Year’s Eve reading that includes party hats and noisemakers?

While we’ve mentioned it in a previous blog, it seems appropriate to remind everyone about our new second genre option.  Here’s what our Director, Rick Mulkey, had to say about our exciting addition:

Up until now, if you were pursuing an MFA through our program, you had to choose one genre for your entire course of study.  While you certainly got to dip your toes into other genres during the craft lectures and readings, a poet who likes to write short stories as well, didn’t have an option to workshop those stories.  So, applicants to our program had to pick a direction and stick with it.

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We are now offering a second option.  For those students wishing to pursue a minor in a second genre (fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction), they can now choose to study an additional semester in a second genre.  Here is how it will work:

The second genre option (minor) reflects the MFA program’s continued mission to develop strong writers and highly prepared higher education faculty.  Many college-level creative writing programs and departments today are seeking writing faculty with backgrounds in writing and teaching in multiple genres. The newly approved second genre option provides enrolled Converse MFA students the opportunity to study a second genre in addition to the major genre of study. Students applying for approval to study in a second genre will enroll in an additional semester in the MFA program and complete an additional 12 semester hours.  For students enrolling in the second genre option, the total number of graduate hours would increase from 48 hours to 60 credit hours. This new option gives our students who are interested and equipped for graduate level work in a genre outside of their primary genre of study an opportunity to develop as a more well-rounded author, and will help our graduates excel in an ever more competitive publishing marketplace and in the academic job market.

Second genre students who are admitted will complete a full residency and mentoring semester in one of the three second genre options (fiction, poetry, or nonfiction). During the second-genre residency/semester which will take place in the student’s 3rd semester, students participate in the residency workshop in their second genre of interest (fiction, poetry, or nonfiction); and during the mentoring semester immediately following that residency, students complete creative and critical craft work in that second genre under the guidance of a mentor with a specialty in that genre. Again, this option adds one residency and one semester (a total of 12 credit hours) to a student’s total program of study and earns the student recognition in a second genre in poetry, fiction, or nonfiction which is documented on the final transcript. The second genre emphasis will lengthen the program for those second genre option students from four full semesters to five full semesters (including residency sessions at the beginning of each semester). The five-day, Graduating Residency requirements will not change, but will continue as usual and will follow the student’s final creative thesis semester.

Since it is highly important for students to first establish themselves and make positive progress in the MFA program and in the study of their primary genre before broadening out, enrolled MFA students are eligible for the second genre study option only during their third residency/mentoring semester (in other words, before the Critical Essay semester; both the Critical Essay and the Creative Thesis must be completed in the student’s primary genre in the final two semesters of the program).

Second Semester Converse MFA students intending to enroll in a second genre may apply for admission in a secondary genre residency/semester by one of the following dates: February 15 for students enrolling in their third semester during the summer residency/fall mentoring semester, or October 1 for students enrolling in their third semester during the January residency/spring mentoring semester. To apply for the second genre option, students submit a writing sample in the genre of interest (10 pages of poetry or 15 pages of nonfiction or fiction) along with a brief cover letter indicating the student’s desire to study a specific second genre. This is sent to the MFA director who then consults with relevant faculty. Director and faculty approval is required for this option. Students are expected to write at an appropriate level for graduate study in that second genre.

The MFA faculty are very excited to offer this new opportunity to our students. While not all of our students will be interested or prepared for second genre studies, and many students will recognize that focusing on a single genre will be their best path, we are pleased that this is now an opportunity for our students who have the ability and desire to pursue graduate studies in two genres.

Like I said, it’s an exciting time to apply to the Converse College Low-Residency Program.  So send us your best writing because we can’t wait to read it.

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Summer 2018 Residency Recap (Photos)

With the new school year and application deadline (October 1st, 2018) quickly approaching, now seems the perfect time to share some photos from this summer’s MFA residency.  After all, if you are considering the Converse MFA program for the January/Spring 2019 Residency/Semester, you want to get an idea of what it looks like to work with your peers and mentors for ten days.  So without further ado, enjoy!

First, the craft lectures:

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Featured lecturers in these photos include visiting writer, Randall Kenan, and faculty members, Sheila O’Connor and Leslie Pietrzyk.

Then the readings:

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Featured here: Faculty members, Marlin Barton, Sheila O’Connor,  and Susan Tekulve.  Visiting Writers: Randall Kenan, Juan Morales, and Tessa Fontaine.  Alumni: Cinelle Barnes and Kathleen Nalley.

And of course, we can’t forget the best night of all….the graduation celebration!

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We are so proud of our graduates, L to R: Susanne Parker, Christopher Menezes, Russell Carr, and Joshua Springs.

And this year we added a new feature to our residency, Facebook Live streamings of our readings, which can still be viewed on our Facebook page.  These Facebook LIve events were made possible with the help of alumna and poet, Clara Jane Hallar, who donated our tripod, and student, Aaron Jenson, who provided logistical support.

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It was a tough job, but somebody had to man the camera.

So that’s it for Summer 2018.  If you’re as excited about the January Residency as we are and want to join us, don’t forget applications for all genres (fiction, poetry, YA, and nonfiction) are due October 1, 2018. We want to see you there.

South 85 Flash Fiction Contest and Jan/Spring Application Deadline reminder…aka Summer is almost over

IMG_5345Residency is over, summer is over halfway gone, and the new semester is just around the corner.  Things are quiet in the MFA office right now, but that’s about to change as we gear up for our next round of applications for the January/Spring 2019 Residency/Semester.  If you want to join us in January, our application deadline is October 1, 2018.

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In addition to our upcoming application deadline, we have a flash fiction contest running over at our online literary journal, South 85.  They have revived the Julia Mood Peterkin Award, and submissions are due by August 15.  So hurry and get your flash fiction sent in for a chance to win the $500 prize.

And lest you think our summer residency is already forgotten, fear not.  Look out soon for a blog post featuring pictures from our 10-day June writing extravaganza.  So many terrific craft lectures and readings, and so much fun seeing all our beloved students (and some alumni as well.)  To quote one of my favorite movies, “If I didn’t work here, I’d pay to get in!”

Until then, keep writing.

P.S. South 85 now has an Instagram account.  Be sure to check it out and click follow for some great writing, pictures, and updates about the Flash Fiction contest!

Summer Residency 2018 – FB LIVE Reading Schedule

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Summer Residency 2018 is here!  Beginning Thursday, May 31, we will all be busy with workshops and craft lectures, readings and fellowship.  The best part is that this time, we’re going to share some of the residency excitement with you.  Over the next week, we will be streaming portions of our evening faculty readings on our Facebook page via Facebook Live.  If you wish to be notified when we go live, make sure you head over to our page and click “Like.”  For those of you who can’t watch live, the videos will remain on our Facebook page for viewing at your convenience.  Below is a schedule of readers with approximate times for their live stream. (It may vary slightly, as we have two readers each night.)

Thursday, May 31, 2018 – Leslie Pietrzyk (fiction) 7:30ish-8:30 pm

 

Friday, June 1, 2018 – Susan Tekulve (fiction, nonfiction) and Denise Duhamel (poetry) 7:30-8:30

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Saturday, June 2, 2018 – Rick Mulkey (poetry) 7:30-8:30

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Sunday, June 3, 2018 – Tessa Fontaine (nonfiction) 7:30-8:30

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Monday, June 4, 2018 – Sheila O’Connor (YA) and Juan Morales (poetry) 7:30-8:30

 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018 – Megan Hansen Shepherd (YA) 7:30-8:30)

 

As you can see, we have a great lineup of faculty and visiting faculty readers, so don’t miss this opportunity to hear them read their own work.  And don’t forget, if you miss the live stream, you can always check back later to see these talented writers that make our residencies so great.

 

Students Speak: Susanne Parker (YA)

This week’s featured student is, soon-to-be Young Adult graduate, Susanne Parker.  Susanne is a local student and has had the opportunity to participate in our Teaching Assistantship.  She is a talented writer, but also just a lovely person to be around.  We’re definitely going to miss her smiling face come January, but we can’t wait to see what’s next for Susanne.  Here’s what she has to say about her time in the Converse College MFA Low-Residency Program.

 

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Tell us about your creative work—do you have a preferred genre or aesthetic? Are there forms you want to try?

I came into the program from a playwriting and dramaturgical background, without much experience in writing prose fiction. I knew I wanted to write for young adults, because they’re raw, dynamic, and hungry. Books make such an impact at that age, before lifelong attitudes solidify. But I was also curious to try my hand at writing for adults. Luckily, my first semester mentor’s advice was not to worry about the age of my audience, but to write the stories that spoke to me. I dabbled in short stories that entire first semester, and it strengthened me as a writer to work in this concise form. At the beginning of my second semester, I began a longer project, a short novel with a young protagonist, which has become my creative thesis.

 Why did you decide to pursue your MFA? What did you find most attractive about our low residency program and the low residency format

 I learned about the Converse program from a banner I saw on the college gates as I drove by on my way to work. I’d always enjoyed writing, and mentors said I had a knack for it. I was at a point in my life and career that allowed flexibility to pursue further studies. I believe we need to be good stewards of our gifts, putting work into them so they can develop fully. So applying for me was an act of stewardship.

In what ways do you hope your writing will be further developed by our Converse core faculty, visiting faculty, and students? Do you have any writing goals you hope to accomplish?

This is my last semester, and I plan to milk it for insight and growth. The Converse faculty have helped with this process by recommending great books, sharing their own experiences, providing constructive criticism, and teaching targeted craft lectures during the residencies. Currently, I have the luxury of concentrating on the revision process, which I’m learning is just as intensive and rewarding (if not more so) than the writing itself. I hope to have a solid second draft of my short novel by the time I graduate in June. And of course, my longer-term goal is to get published!

In addition to your work on writing craft, how has the Converse program helped you in terms of navigating the publishing marketplace?

My faculty advisors recommended I focus on honing my craft before worrying about the publishing market, so I haven’t yet taken advantage of Converse’s offerings in this area. But usually each residency features a visiting agent, who gives a talk on the business aspects of writing and meets individually with students for pitches or just for a friendly chat. I’ve also seen classmates get published after learning about opportunities from fellow students. The networking opportunities are a great strength of this program.

Why would you recommend the Converse College Low Residency Program to an MFA applicant? 

There are a lot of great MFA programs out there, and prospective students need to decide for themselves which are best suited to their goals and needs. Converse was the right choice for me because it was local and affordable, with a flexible schedule and supportive faculty. I haven’t regretted my decision; I’ve grown as a writer in ways I couldn’t have grown on my own. The deadlines kept me on track, and I reached a long-time goal of writing a novel. I also had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate course, and when I graduate in June, I’ll have credentials for employment at the college level.

 

Thanks, Susanne, for such a lovely description of our program.  We are proud you are a part of our MFA family.

Students Speak: Christopher Menezes (Poetry)

Today we feature one of our poetry students who will be completing his Master’s of Fine Arts this June 2018, Christopher Menezes.  We look forward to his craft lecture and final reading and can’t wait to see what he does next.

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Tell us about your creative work—do you have a preferred genre or aesthetic? Are there forms you want to try?

My main genre is poetry. I have written some fiction and am interested in both non-fiction and fiction. Through my time at Converse, I have learned how non-fiction and poetry share a common aesthetic, as does fiction, just one more step removed, which has peaked my interest in all genres really.

Why did you decide to pursue your MFA? What did you find most attractive about our low residency program and the low residency format? 

It was always a goal of mine to pursue an MFA for a few reasons. I really wanted to become a better writer, and I wanted to produce a book of poetry, but I didn’t know how to. I also wanted to teach writing at a university and knew getting an MFA would be the next step towards that. I was working full-time, running my own business, publishing community magazines in Durham, NC, and I couldn’t just step away from that to become a full-time student. The low-residency format allowed me the flexibility to pursue my dreams without checking out of reality. I am a very self-motivated, driven person, and l knew that I would get out of the program exactly what I put into it. I knew I could do the work on my own, and I loved the idea of working one-on-one with a successful writer/professor. I would get all of their attention and not risk getting lost in a classroom. What attracted me to Converse was how reasonably priced it was and how close it was to where I lived. However, I was very ignorant about the literary world and did not know how amazing the faculty actually was. After having gone through the program, as a fourth-semester student, I am very grateful to have been mentored by such fantastic writers and professors. ChrisMeneses

In what ways do you hope your writing will be further developed by our Converse core faculty, visiting faculty, and students? Do you have any writing goals you hope to accomplish?

I hoped my writing would be further developed by being exposed to an eclectic range of styles and theories from an array of authors. I definitely received that. My writing goals are to continue developing my craft through reading and learning from other writers. I also want to continue to write and put together poetry books. I feel like the low-residency program at Converse has equipped me to do that.

In addition to your work on writing craft, how has the Converse program helped you in terms of navigating the publishing marketplace?

The knowledge that the faculty has shared in regards to the publishing market, and their experience with it, was very enlightening. Also, my experience working with South 85 Literary Journal gave me a sneak peak as to what it’s like to be on the other side of the submission process. I feel very confident in how to proceed with the publishing marketplace from here.

Why would you recommend the Converse College Low Residency Program to an MFA applicant?

It empowers you and teaches you how to incorporate a life of writing into your existing life. You don’t have to sacrifice time away from your career or family to pursue your dreams of writing. You can also make valuable connections, not just with the faculty, but with your peers. The most valuable thing I received from the program was the relationships I made with other writers in my class. We can continue supporting each other, critiquing and workshopping our writing long after the program has ended.

 

Thanks to Chris for sharing his experience with the Converse Low-Residency MFA Program.  You will be greatly missed!