Latest Faculty Publication News

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We are always excited when one of our faculty members has a new publication in the works, but we’re especially happy to announce when their books get the praise they so rightfully deserve.  Fiction faculty member, and author of multiple books, including: Coal Black Horse, Far Bright Star, and The Coldest Night, Robert Olmstead, has an upcoming book, Savage Country, and it has already received a Kirkus starred review, which called Savage Country, “Another gorgeous, brutal masterpiece from a great American writer.”

olmstead_robertRobert Olmstead, fiction faculty

We are excited to read Bob’s latest, and September 26, 2017, seems far too long to wait. And while we’re on the subject of waiting, don’t wait too long to get your application in for the January 2018 residency.  The deadline is October 1, 2017.  You just might get to study with this award-wining writer.

2013-dec-suzanne-photo-225x300Suzanne Cleary, poetry faculty

If poetry is more your thing, check out this wonderful interview with poetry faculty member, Suzanne Cleary.  You can even get a taste of her actual poetry as her piece, “Elm Street” is included at the end of the interview.

As you can see, even though it is summer, it is a busy time in the MFA office keeping up with all our faculty accomplishments.  We look forward to meeting all the new students in January and sharing their achievements when they come.

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We have a guest blogger!

Today, we have the special honor of having a guest blogger, the oh-so-talented/amazing, Leslie Pietrzyk.  She is the author of Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day (novels). Her collection of unconventionally linked short stories, This Angel on My Chest, won the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. A new novel, Silver Girl, is forthcoming from Unnamed Press in 2018, and Reversing the River, a historical novel, is being serialized on the literary app Great Jones Street in summer 2017. Her short fiction and essays have appeared/are forthcoming in Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, The Sun, Shenandoah, Arts & Letters, River Styx, Iowa Review, Washingtonian, The Collagist, and Cincinnati Review. Pietrzyk is a member of the core fiction faculty at the Converse low-residency MFA program and teaches in the MA Program in Writing at Johns Hopkins University. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

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When I put out the call for guest bloggers, she was the first to respond, always eager to promote our program.  And if you apply to our fiction program, you just might get to study with this award-winning writer.

 

Why I Love the Converse Low-Residency MFA Program

October 1, 2017 is the deadline for joining us in the next semester at Converse for the low-residency MFA program.  We would love to have you learn more about our program, and if it feels right to you, to apply and start up with us in January. You can get all the important details on the website, here.

But here’s what the website can’t tell you:

–How personal this program is, how welcoming our students are to everyone, no matter your age, or where you’re from, or what your writing background is, how our students form tight and lasting and forever bonds with one another, how supportive our students are.

–How much the faculty members care, about the art and craft of the written word, about the program, about helping students become better writers.

–How our students succeed—yes, with the expected and exciting book and journal publications and awards—but also in the moments that aren’t listed with a line on a c.v.  I’ve seen major breakthroughs during the course of a semester, and during the course of the program; writing lives have been transformed.  I’ve been inspired by students who have worked harder than I could imagine anyone working to get it right—that ending, the structure of that critical paper—and I have been brought to tears when someone tackles “the” story they know they need to write but have been afraid of, until now, until they find the courage or permission they need.  I’ve read works of precision that started as fast, 15-minute exercises in workshop.  I’ve seen students accomplish amazing things in their work, impossible things, things that have thrilled me as a teacher and a writer and a reader.

–How much we pack into those days of residency, how we forget about the outer world because we’re alive in the world of the word, how each craft talk and lecture and reading and discussion over dinner feels in direct dialogue with the others, how much a head can spin with new ideas and inspiration, how joyful it is to sit with a group of writers past one, two, three in the morning, talking books and beer, telling stories, laughing at jokes where the punchline is “Kafka.”

–How lucky it feels to belong to this vibrant community of writers.

There are lots of writing programs, and I can’t say which one is “best” or even “best for you.”  All I can say is that this program is something special.  Every time I jump in my car to start the drive down south, chills snake my spine, and I push hard on the gas so I get there faster.

Previously posted in Leslie Pietrzyk’s literary blog, Work in Progress:  www.workinprogressinprogress.com For more information: www.lesliepietrzyk.com

 

Summer Residency Round-Up 2017

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Well, we made it through another residency, another ten days of frenzied writing, workshops, readings, and even time to squeeze in a little fun and fellowship.  Everybody went home tired and happy and lugging suitcases full of way too many books signed by the amazing authors who read each night.  We even got a visit from our fearless leader on the final night when we celebrated our graduating students, all of whom gave superb readings and craft lectures.  It really was everything you want a summer residency to be: hard work, beautiful writing, and most importantly….air conditioned rooms.  It would be difficult to capture every moment of our fabulous ten days, but here are some highlights. And don’t forget, the deadline to apply for the next residency is October 1, 2017, so don’t miss out!

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Just a sampling of some of the amazing readers we had each night: L to R, Leslie Pietrzyk, Marlin Barton, Clifford Thompson, Richard Tillinghast, and JJ Johnson.

 

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Did we mention the weather was spectacular?

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Some faculty members: L to R, Robert Olmstead, Jim Minick, Marlin Barton, and Richard Tillinghast.

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See?  Everybody was still smiling and laughing days into the residency.

Of course, what we were all really waiting for was the graduation celebration dinner…

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Our amazing graduates.

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We know how to have a good time.

So if you haven’t yet sent in your application, get to work so you won’t miss out on the fun in January 2018!

The Not-So-New Newbie

The summer residency is almost here.  The MFA office is busy with all the glamorous work that makes a residency possible, packing envelopes, finalizing arrangements for room and board, answering panicked last minute questions, and just generally relying on our own personal wonder woman/admin, Paula.

Of course, this time around, we are officially doing this whole residency thing without our fearless leader, Rick Mulkey, who is on a well-deserved sabbatical.  This leaves the summer to the new Associate Director, me, Sarah Gray, and my new favorite person in the whole world, Denise Duhamel, who is my savior in addition to being a world-class poet.

It has occurred to me, however, that aside from the faculty and some of the alumni attending the MFA Alumni Days, none of our valued students know me from Adam’s house cat. (This is my favorite colloquialism/cliche.  Don’t take it away from me.)  But seriously, I am so excited (and humbled) to join Rick and all of the amazing faculty in the Converse MFA program, and I thought it might be nice to introduce myself.

Converse College is not new to me.  I began attending Converse as an undergrad at the ripe old age of twenty seven.  (Call me a late bloomer.)  I graduated in 2009 with a BFA in Creative and Professional Writing just as the new MFA low-residency program was starting up.  After being accepted into the very first fiction group, I attended my very first residency three weeks after my undergraduate graduation ceremony.

If you’re in the program, you know what that first residency is like: exciting, exhausting, terrifying, and the best nine/ten days ever.  Two years and a baby later, I was in the first graduating class of the program.  So long story short, I love Converse College and the MFA program, and I am highly invested in the success of the program and its participants.

As far as personal stats, I live in Greer with my husband, seven year old writer/first grade graduate, giant dog, and evil cat.  I turn 40 this year, and I expect a parade.  I read compulsively, and my tastes vary widely from literary fiction to graphic novels to historical fiction to memoirs.

So that’s pretty much it.  I can’t wait to see you all on campus.

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I dug this old first residency photo out just for you.  Enjoy. 

What a Residency is Like…in Pictures

So you’re interested in a low residency MFA but don’t know what to expect?  Well, we could tell you about the faculty craft lectures, the workshops, the one-on-one conferences with your faculty mentor, the lifelong friendships that are made, but why not show you what a residency looks like?

8024239734_60834369fe_kFirst there are the craft lectures in our state-of-the-art lecture hall, Dalton Auditorium.

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Then there are the workshops.  Sharing your work with others can be scary at first, but you’ll soon find that everyone just wants you to succeed.

Some of your most important time during the residency will be spent one-on-one with your faculty mentor, planning out your semester’s reading and writing plan and nailing down your goals for growth as a writer.

Graduating MFA students give craft lectures and readings in front of peers and faculty.

But there is still time for fun and fellowship.  The low-residency experience lends itself to building close friendships with colleagues.

 

If you’re still not sure if the Converse College Low Residency MFA is right for you, we now offer a brief immersion residency and a lecture pass option for those who want to give the program a try without the commitment.

No matter what your interest in the program, feel free to contact us at:

 

Rick Mulkey, Director
(864) 596-9685
Rick.mulkey@converse.edu

Sarah Gray, Associate Director
(864) 596-9550
sarah.gray@converse.edu

Paula Cash, Administrative Assistant
(864) 596-9678
Paula.cash@converse.edu

That Time We Joined the 21st Century

IMG_8927Converse College Low Residency MFA officially has its own Instagram account, and we did it all without once saying, “THE Instagram” or “THE Twitter.”  All of us at the Converse College Low Residency MFA office are feeling quite smug and hip and think our account is on fleek.  Too far?  Too far.  Old fogies aside, we’d love to include you, our followers, current students, prospective students, alumni, and just anyone who loves good literature and the people who write it. If you have a new publication coming out, send us a pic of that too, and we’ll #filter the heck out of that thing and share it. Send in your pics to the office at sarah.gray@converse.edu for us to share on the ‘Gram.  (We slipped into old fogey again, didn’t we?)  What are you reading?  What books are on your personal reading plan for the semester?  How tall is your TBR stack(“to be read list” for the uninitiated.)?  Looking forward to some fun pics and a chance to promote our amazing program, students, faculty, and alumni. And filters.  I really want to play with filters.

How to Make the Most Out of Your MFA Experience

Are you considering applying to a low-residency MFA program?  Already working your way through your second or third residency?  Here’s some sound advice from some of our current faculty:8024243383_27296bcaf8_z (1)“Take this time to experiment with your work and to be open to new ways of writing and new ideas.  Also, this is the only time in your life (probably) when you will be part of an intense community of writers, all working towards the same goal of perfecting their art and craft, all carefully reading and evaluating your work—so, especially during the on-site residencies, be sure to spend time interacting with other students and teachers to develop relationships with other writers that will sustain you after you finish the program.  Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually difficult to develop as a writer if you’re a total hermit!” Leslie Pietrzyk

“Have courage.  Be determined.  Write deliberately.” Robert Olmstead

“As I said before, I would suggest using the program to help establish life-long writing routines.  Also, I think that the forming positive relationships with other MFA students and with MFA faculty members is really important.  Finally, I think that it is important to read all the literature that is introduced to you while you are in the program, and to observe how the professional writers who teach in this program conduct themselves.  All the faculty members who are teaching in this program are successful writers, but they have worked hard to earn their reputations.  It is useful to observe the many ways that writers are able to balance their lives with their writing careers successfully.” Susan Tekulve

Getting Ready for June Residency 2017

While it may seem like we just wrapped up the January residency, June is fast approaching, and the program is working on some exciting new offerings for the upcoming residency.  The first of our “firsts” is the addition of this blog.  Over the next few months, you’ll be hearing from our faculty and students, what they’re reading, what they’re writing, and what they think about that pesky Oxford comma.  It’s simply too long between January and June, and we want to keep in touch with all our students, faculty, and alumni throughout the year, as well as giving prospective students a glimpse into our exciting (and friendly) program.

Another addition to this residency is our MFA Alumni Days, Thursday, June 8th, and Friday, June 9th, a time for our valued alumni to come together for fellowship, learning, and a good, old-fashioned workshop.  Alumni, be sure to have your registration and fees in my May 1st to not miss out on the fun.

If you’re intrigued by the prospect of an MFA program, but you’re not ready to commit to two years of life-changing work, we are now pleased to offer two options that allow prospective students to give our program a try.  The first is an Immersion Residency program where students can listen to lectures and participate in workshops, just like a low-residency MFA student.  The difference?  The cost is significantly less than a full semester, and your work ends when the residency does.  Another low-cost option is our Lecture Pass, which allows prospective students to sit in on faculty lectures on everything from fiction to poetry to literary criticism.  So if you’re not ready to commit to an MFA, please consider checking out non-credit options to see if Converse College is right for you.

The last of the firsts is a change in faculty.  Our brave and fearless leader, Rick Mulkey, will be on sabbatical this semester, and so the June residency will be overseen by the new Associate Director, Sarah Gray.  Sarah is a graduate of the program and a huge fan of Converse College in general.  Poetry faculty member and all-around amazing person, Denise Duhamel,  will be lending her a hand throughout the residency, so if anything goes wrong, remember to blame the new person!

We look forward to seeing all of our returning students and alumni in less than two months, and if writing hard and making friendships that last for years after graduation sounds like something you’d like to do, call our office, click our links, or drop us an email. The place for your next book is here.