YOU START OUT CONFUSED & END UP MYSTIFIED: An appreciation of Denis Johnson

by Jason Hill
Spalding MFA Coordinator of Student Services and Marketing
MFA in Writing, Spalding University

The truth is, I agreed to do a blog entry almost without thinking.

Katy Yocom suggested I write something on Denis Johnson, who died shortly before the start of the Spring 2017 residency in Louisville. No doubt she’d heard me and others talking during residency about his recent death, and because I opened my big mouth during the closing faculty and staff meeting to suggest that faculty looking for post subjects could turn to current writing-related events like Hulu’s premier of A Handmaid’s Tale or Johnson’s death. There are a lot of writers I admire, and nearly as many that I’ve stolen from as I try to craft my own style. But there are very few writers whose use of language and approach to their subjects has given me as much motivation for close study as Johnson. Continue reading “YOU START OUT CONFUSED & END UP MYSTIFIED: An appreciation of Denis Johnson”

WHY DO AN MFA IN WRITING, AND WHY AT SPALDING UNIVERSITY?

by Jody Lisberger
Spalding MFA faculty, Fiction

Many people want to know, “What does an MFA in Writing at Spalding get me?” So we asked our alums of all ages and from all over the world to help us out.

Forty-eight graduates, 19 men and 29 women, starting with the first class of 2003 to the present, responded to our open question: How did the Spalding MFA in Writing low-residency program impact you professionally, creatively, and personally? Their responses extol and probe both surprising and not surprising reasons to pursue an MFA in general, and a Spalding MFA in particular. Continue reading “WHY DO AN MFA IN WRITING, AND WHY AT SPALDING UNIVERSITY?”

PATIENCE, PROCESS, PUBLICATION: Lesléa Newman & Leah Henderson

by Lesléa Newman
Spalding MFA faculty, Writing for Children and Young Adults

Leah HendersonLeah Henderson, who graduated from the Spalding MFA program in 2011 with a concentration on Writing for Children and Young Adults, has just launched her first middle grade novel, One Shadow on the Wall, which takes place in Senegal and centers on an eleven-year-old boy named Mor. OSOTW CoverAfter Mor’s parents die, he becomes head of household and must keep his two younger sisters safe. But it is not easy for someone so young to shoulder such a burden. And the world can be very cruel. The book is a gripping read that explores themes of loyalty, faith, and redemption. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Leah about her first (surely of many!) publications. Continue reading “PATIENCE, PROCESS, PUBLICATION: Lesléa Newman & Leah Henderson”

AN INFINITELY RECURSIVE CHILDHOOD

by Larry Brenner
Spalding MFA faculty, Screenwriting & Playwriting

(originally published 2012)

IMG_6846I’ve heard that one of the great parts of being a dad is that you can recapture what it’s like to be a kid again. Relive your childhood.

But I don’t think my childhood ever ended. Not really. Not where it counts. I think it’s more like watching how my childhood got started. Because the processes I developed back then are still the processes I use right now.

Continue reading “AN INFINITELY RECURSIVE CHILDHOOD”

WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT INFLUENCE

by K. L. Cook
Spalding MFA Faculty, Fiction

IMG_5B702B6CCEA7-1As both a writer and teacher, I’ve been obsessed with the question of influence, both nonliterary and literary. It’s informed my scholarly work as well as my fiction and nonfiction, not to mention the kinds of courses I’ve designed, such as Forms of Fiction, Sudden Fiction, Short Story Cycle, Literature of the American Dream, Shakespeare, The American West in Film and Literature, and Family Systems in Film and Literature. A couple of years ago, I taught a special topics course for MFA students at Iowa State University entitled The Ecstasy of Influence, in which the students and I explored what we talk about when we talk about literary influence. It is one of my favorite courses—and one that helped me reshape the kinds of questions I now focus on for most of my other creative writing and literature courses. Continue reading “WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT INFLUENCE”

EMBRACING THE OUTLINE: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Spreadsheet

by John Pipkin
Spalding MFA faculty, Fiction

pipkinblogquoteThe outline is one of the most misunderstood parts of the creative process. For many writers, the very idea of outlining seems antithetical to creativity itself. However, this misperception overlooks the creative liberation that can come from outlining (and re-outlining) your project as it develops. I write novels that involve multiple characters with multiple interwoven storylines unfolding at different times and places because these are the kinds of stories that I like to read. But these narratives can easily fall to chaos, and so I rely heavily on outlining my work before, during, and after each draft. I outline everything that I write, long and short, complex and simple.   Continue reading “EMBRACING THE OUTLINE: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Spreadsheet”

LIVING IN LIMBO: How to Stay Focused & Motivated on Large Projects

By Sam Zalutsky
Spalding MFA faculty, Screenwriting

Right now I’m finishing up Seaside, a microbudget feature which I wrote, directed, and produced. I’m so eager and excited for people to see it. But the filmmaking process is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. Maybe it’s a little like what happens when you are waiting for a book to be published. Postproduction can be particularly challenging. The immediacy and control of pre-production and shooting are replaced with a much slower and less intense schedule. And sometimes it feels like nothing is happening. Argh! Continue reading “LIVING IN LIMBO: How to Stay Focused & Motivated on Large Projects”

NO EXIT: When Endings Disappoint

 

By Dianne Aprile
Spalding MFA faculty, Creative Nonfiction

I’m a big fan of ambiguous endings. I have no problem with being left in the middle of things in the last scene. In fact, I find pleasure in lingering with a range of possibilities after the final page is turned. I have no quarrel with a novel or memoir that closes with its main character teetering on the brink of change—rather than safely ensconced on the other side of it. Continue reading “NO EXIT: When Endings Disappoint”