Master of Fine Arts Program Celebrates Fifth Anniversary
The Ashland MFA Program in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction is currently in its fifth year. MFA students are enrolled full-time at Ashland University, each taking 21 credit hours per year — three credits on-campus during the annual MFA Summer Residency and nine credits online in each of the fall and spring semesters.
There were 62 students enrolled in the 2011 Summer Residency, with 19 of them graduating in August 2011. A total of 41 students enrolled in the 9-credit hour 2011 fall semester and 46 students in the 9-credit spring semester. During 2011-2012, MFA students enrolled in classes equaling a total of 969 credit hours.
While the MFA Program hires as faculty only exceptionally well published writers, all of them with multiple book publication, the program has followed the lead of the university as a whole in emphasizing a dedication to teaching.
Including the class expected to graduate in August 2012, by the end of the 2012 Summer Residency, the MFA Program will have graduated 63 students. Eighty-four percent of students beginning the MFA Program have eventually graduated. The strong growth of the MFA Program from 16 students in 2007 to the 2011 summer enrollment of 62 students, and the high retention rate are largely due to the program’s emphasis on hiring as faculty only exceptionally accomplished writers who are committed to teaching and to creating and sustaining a supportive and ambitious arts community.
A series of fifth anniversary events took place in early March at the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Chicago, Ill. AWP is the national association representing more than 500 graduate and undergraduate creative writing programs nationwide. More than 50 Ashland MFA students and alumni and 16 faculty and staff attended the AWP Conference. They attended panel sessions on contemporary literature, readings and a reception co-hosted by Ashland University’s River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative. The Ashland MFA Program sponsored three readings during the AWP Conference—one by Ashland MFA Poetry faculty, one by Ashland MFA Creative Nonfiction faculty, and one by authors who have been published by the Ashland Poetry Press.
Ashland MFA Student Accomplishments
Through their many accomplishments, Ashland MFA alumni and current students have already begun to enhance Ashland University’s reputation as a center for the literary arts. During 2011-2012, MFA alumni and current students published several book reviews in nationally recognized journals. Access to these book reviews are available on the MFA blog at http://ashlandmfa.blogspot.com/2012/04/book-reviews-from-au-students-and.html.
Among other accomplishments by Ashland University MFA alumni and current students are the following: On the basis of his Ashland University MFA, Joey Connelly (MFA Class of 2010) was hired as Assistant Professor of English at Kentucky Wesleyan University. For fall 2012, Marci Vogel (MFA Class of 2011) was awarded the Provost’s Fellowship to enter the Ph.D. Program in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Southern California. The fellowship awards Marci five years full tuition remission with no required teaching. Ashland University MFA alumnae Valerie Due (2009) won the 2008 Writers at Work nonfiction fellowship competition for her essay “The Skinning Board.” Due received $1,500 in prize money, publication in Quarterly West, a featured reading at the Writers at Work Conference, full tuition for the conference, free housing, and a manuscript consultation with a visiting writer or agent while at the conference.
Over the past five years, Ashland MFA students and alumni have published seven chapbooks of poems, two nonfiction books, and over 150 poems and/or works of nonfiction in journals and magazines across the country. For a full list of MFA alumni and current student accomplishments, visit the Student Publications page of the MFA website at http://www.ashland.edu/graduate/mfa/faculty-student-news/student-publications-news.
The MFA Program has drawn students from 27 states, and from one foreign country (Nigeria). As MFA students graduate and become active in their home literary communities, Ashland University’s reputation in literature and art extends throughout many regions of the U.S.
Publications Housed in the Ashland MFA Program
Like many graduate creative writing programs, the Ashland MFA Program houses a literary press and a literary journal—the Ashland Poetry Press and River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative. Stephen Haven directs the Ashland Poetry Press and Deborah Fleming serves as editor. Joe Mackall and Dan Lehman serve as co-editors of River Teeth. Sarah Wells is Managing Editor of both the Ashland Poetry Press and River Teeth.
Ashland Poetry Press Update
Since its inception in 1969, the Ashland Poetry Press has published more than 90 book-length collections of poetry. One Ashland Poetry Press title was one of five national finalists for the 2005 National Book Award. Other titles have won the Colorado Book Award, the Florida Book Award Bronze Medal, the Eric Hoffer Award, the Independent Publishers Bronze Medal in Poetry (IPPY) and have been reviewed in such nationally renowned journals as Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, The Hudson Review, and The Notre Dame Review.
More recently, the poetry press received a record number for its annual book publication competition, the Richard Snyder Memorial Publication Prize. The contest solicits unpublished full-length manuscripts of poetry. Each contestant pays a $25 reading fee. As editor of the press, Deborah Fleming reviews all manuscripts and selects 10 to 20 finalists. Final manuscripts are forwarded to a final judge—a poet of national stature. In 2011, Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey served as judge. The 2011 contest generated 408 entries, the 2010 contest 440 entries. This year, the contest received its highest number of submissions--496 from eight countries and from every U.S. state except Alaska and Idaho.
The most recent title published by the press, Blue Orange by Robert Grunst, was #12 on Small Press Distribution’s Poetry Bestsellers List for the month of April 2012.
The press also recently launched its new website (www.ashlandpoetrypress.com), designed by Spire Advertising.
River Teeth Update
Founded in 1999 by Ashland University faculty Daniel W. Lehman and Joe Mackall, River Teeth has established itself as one of the best journals of nonfiction narrative in the country. Besides print delivery, River Teeth is available on the Kindle device and through institutional subscription services ProjectMUSE and EBSCO. In addition to publishing nonfiction twice a year, the editors select a book prize winner annually to be published by the University of Nebraska Press. The book prize is in its 10th year.
The journal launched its inaugural nonfiction conference May 18-20, 2012, welcoming over a dozen presenters including Robert Atwan, editor for 25 years of the Best American Essays anthologies, and Hope Edelman, author of five nonfiction books, including the bestsellers Motherless Daughters and The Possibility of Everything, which was recently optioned for film.
The journal is in its 14th year of print. Selections from the journal have been reprinted in or listed in the notables section of The Best American Essays, The Best Spiritual Writing, Pushcart, and in other anthologies. Book prize winners have been recognized as Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selections and listed on the National Book Critics Circle Best of the Small Presses List. River Teeth receives over 1,000 unsolicited submissions for publication in the journal each year, and from those submissions publish approximately 24. About two dozen readers volunteer to screen submissions, most of whom are graduates and current students in the MFA program.
River Teeth also recently launched a redesigned website, www.riverteethjournal.com, designed by Spire Advertising.