November/December 2009

Jonathan Lethem returns to New York City for the setting of his new novel; Audrey Niffenegger follows her best-selling debut with a modern ghost story; Sherwin Bitsui offers a panoramic journey through landscape, time, and cultures in his second poetry collection; plus the top fifty MFA programs.


The Heart Is Pleasure in Writing: A Profile of Jonathan Lethem

by Liza Monroy
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Whether they’re set in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Manhattan, or on Mars, all of Jonathan Lethem’s novels, including his latest, Chronic City, start in the same place.

Anything Can Happen: A Profile of Audrey Niffenegger

by Kevin Nance
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Despite a genre-bending quality that made most publishers cringe, Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife was a best-seller. Now she’s back with a literary ghost story that could scare the pants off her skeptics.

Road Trip: A Profile of Sherwin Bitsui

by Rigoberto González

Sherwin Bitsui’s new poetry collection, Flood Song—a sprawling, panoramic journey through landscape, time, and cultures—is well worth the ride.

MFA Programs

The Top Fifty MFA Programs in the United States: A Comprehensive Guide

by Seth Abramson

In this excerpted version of his article from the November/December 2009 issue, contributor Seth Abramson reveals the methodology behind his ranking of the top fifty MFA programs in the United States, plus a ranking of the additional eighty-eight full-residency programs. For the full article and additional data for each program, including size, duration, cost of living, teaching load, and curriculum focus, see the November/December 2009 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Writing Classes Outside of Academia

by Staff
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A listing of eight independent literary organizations that offer workshops and provide support to writers.

Get the Most out of Your MFA Experience: Tips for Success

by Gabriel Packard
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Advice from an MFA program administrator on how best to invest your time and energy as a graduate student in creative writing.

PhD Programs in Creative Writing

by Staff
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A listing of thirteen doctorate programs in creative writing or English with a creative writing concentration.

MFA Programs Plus More

by Staff
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A map of MFA programs that offer opportunities for students who want to pursue interests that fall outside of the traditional writing curriculum.

News and Trends

Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin

by Staff

With so many good books being published every month, some literary titles worth exploring can get lost in the stacks. Page One offers the first lines of a dozen recently released books, including  Jarvis Jay Masters's That Bird Has My Wings: The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row and Laura van den Berg's What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, as the starting point for a closer look at these new and noteworthy titles.

Poets House Takes the Long View

by Adrian Versteegh

On September 25, nearly two years after pulling up stakes in New York City's SoHo neighborhood, Poets House opened the doors to its new location in lower Manhattan, kicking off a long-awaited inaugural season of readings, workshops, exhibitions, and outreach programs.

Reading Books in Black and White

by Carleen Brice

Author Carleen Brice recommends titles in honor of National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give It to Somebody Not Black Month, the book-buying campaign she launched last year to heighten awareness of black authors who aren't as famous as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Colson Whitehead.

A Virtual Forum for Women Writers

by Elrena Evans

She Writes, a Web site established for women writers, has joined the ranks of literary social networking utilities. Launched in June it aims to provide a place "where women writers working in every genre, in every part of the world, and of all ages and backgrounds, can come together in a space of mutual support."

Literary MagNet

by Staff

Literary MagNet chronicles the start-ups and closures, successes and failures, anniversaries and accolades, changes of editorship and special issues—in short, the news and trends—of literary magazines in America. This issue's MagNet features the Melancholy Dane, Isotope, Our StoriesPuerto del Sol, the Collagist, Alimentum, Crab Creek Review, and Forklift, Ohio.

The Written Image: Mark Twain's Book of Animals

by Staff

A look at engravings by Barry Moser that appear in the collection Mark Twain's Book of Animals, published last month by the University of California Press and featuring stories by Twain that have never before appeared in print.


Q&A: Shenoda Fosters CalArts Diversity

by Rochelle Spencer

Matthew Shenoda speaks about his new role as the Assistant Provost for Equity and Diversity at California Institute of the Arts, in Valencia, part of an institute-wide initiative to promote intercultural awareness and develop support mechanisms for students from varying ethnic backgrounds.

The Practical Writer

Confessions of an Author Nomad: Promoting Your Books at All Costs

by Stephanie Elizondo Griest
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An itinerant author talks about giving up the comforts of home in order to promote her writing.

Go the Distance: What Rocky Taught Me About Submission

by Benjamin Percy
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How to apply the persistence, discipline, and heart that fuels the practice of writing to the process of submission.

Learning the Trade: The Indie Bookstore as Incubator

by Jeremiah Chamberlin
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Work at an independent bookstore connects an emerging writer to the literary world.

Bullseye: How to Submit to Ninth Letter

by Staff
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A guide to sending your work to Ninth Letter, a literary journal produced by students and faculty of the creative writing program and the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

The Literary Life

The Agony of Influence: Lessons From the Antimentor

by Samantha Hunt
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The author of The Invention of Everything Else ruminates about what she learned from the life and work of late writer Breece D'J Pancake.

Discarded First Lines From My Novel: The Toughest Part Is Getting Started

by Andy Borowitz
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Writer and comedian Andy Borowitz reveals rejected opening lines from an unwritten novel.

The Mother Memoir: Protecting Our Children From Ourselves

by Debra Gwartney
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A debut memoirist discusses the anxiety that comes with publishing a memoir about parenthood.

Beyond Intention: Poetry and the Art of Recklessness

by Dean Young
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Poet Dean Young discusses an approach to writing poetry that abandons authorial intention.