September/October 2011

A special section on MFA programs, including our rankings of the top programs, plus alternatives to the degree; profiles of novelists Julie Otsuka and Sam Savage; the state of book reviewing; and more.

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The Literature of 9/11

by Kevin Nance
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A decade after the attacks, American poets and fiction writers still grapple with their unique role in understanding and responding to what happened, even as the real-life narrative of 9/11 continues to unfold.

Living Room: A Profile of Sam Savage

by Kevin Larimer
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Sam Savage wrote for decades and eventually gave up completely before his debut novel was published when he was sixty-five. Now he's an international best-selling author with a third novel, Glass, published by Coffee House Press, and one...

Living Room: A Profile of Sam Savage

by Kevin Larimer

Sam Savage wrote for decades and eventually gave up completely before his debut novel was published when he was sixty-five. Now he’s an international best-selling author with a third novel, Glass, published by Coffee House Press, and one simple message for all of us: Art can save you.


MFA Nation

Alternate Outposts of a Creative Writing Education

by Staff
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For writers looking to hone their craft outside of university walls, there are a wealth of workshops and learning opportunities offered by literary centers and collectives across the United States. We've rounded up eleven nonaccredited programs...

The Social Value of MFA Programs

by Michael Bourne
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As taxpayer dollars for individual artists and the patronage of the wealthy become the stuff of literary legend, putting stock in MFA programs—as a student or tuition-paying parent—may be a modern means of investing in American literature.

Life After the MFA

by Dawn Haines
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Leaving the protected writing culture of an MFA program can be a shock to the creative system, but with a little perseverance, there are ways to sustain a writing life after you graduate.

MFA? No Way

by Staff
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Success in writing is by no means determined by a degree, as exemplified by authors such as Dave Eggers, Jonathan Lethem, Amanda Stern, and Elizabeth Strout—none of whom received an MFA.

The MFA Alternative

by Jonathan Blunk
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Concluding that the degree-based program is a flawed model for learning to write, poet Fran Quinn has developed a series of popular weekend workshops, held in New York City, Indianapolis, and Chicago, that offer a space where writers learn to...

2012 MFA Rankings: The Top Fifty

by Staff

The nation’s top fifty MFA programs based on popularity, funding, selectivity, fellowship-placement statistics, job-placement statistics, and student-faculty ratios, plus a look at other important program features, such as size, duration, cost of living, and foreign-language requirements.

News and Trends


Twain’s Bike Lessons

by Fletcher Moore

A writer peddles his bike two thousand miles, from the headwaters of the Mississippi River down to New Orleans, following a trail cut by Mark Twain on the riverboat he piloted more than a hundred fifty years ago.

Norton Revives Liveright Imprint

by Kevin Canfield

This summer W. W. Norton announced plans to resurrect Liveright & Company, the storied imprint that introduced American readers to early works by luminaries such as Hart Crane, E. E. Cummings, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway.

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 Terese Svoboda’s Bohemian Girl and Sven Birkerts's The Other Walk, as the starting point for a closer look at these new and noteworthy titles.

3 for Free

by Staff

In this regular feature, we offer a few suggestions for podcasts, smartphone apps, Web tools, newsletters, museum shows, and gallery openings: a medley of literary curiosities that you might enjoy. This issue’s 3 for Free features the Poetry Foundation’s new app, Google’s online Art Project, and Project Gutenberg.

Small Press Points

by Staff

Small Press Points highlights the happenings of the small press players. This issue features Arktoi Books, the five-year-old imprint of California-based Red Hen Press that was established in order to open a conversation among lesbian writers.


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 Lucky Peach, Hippocampus Magazine, Shenandoah, Granta, Calyx, and Passager.


The Written Image: Floating Worlds

by Staff

In this issue we offer a look at a note written in 1969 from Edward Gorey to Peter F. Neumeyer, included in the book Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer, published by Pomegranate this month.

The Practical Writer

First: Mary Johnson's An Unquenchable Thirst

by Eryn Loeb
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For Mary Johnson, a former nun in Mother Teresa's order, the Missionaries of Charity, writing paved the path toward understanding her complex and sometimes embattled spiritual journey.

The Literary Life

The Unreliable Narrator: Finding a Voice That Truly Speaks

by J. T. Bushnell
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The key to creating a compelling voice in fiction may be found in honoring the imperfections of your narrator—his limitations, delusions, and flaws.

Why We Write: The Space That Separates Us

by Laurie Rachkus Uttich
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Contributor Laurie Rachkus Uttich recalls an episode from childhood that marked her beginnings as a writer and explores the truth and lies and the space where words fall in between.

Writing Groups: Pure, Honest, Serious Feedback

by Ann Napolitano
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Novelist Ann Napolitano shares her experience with her first readers—those colleagues-cum-kindred spirits who can simultaneously break down and shore up her writing—and offers guidance for locating and cultivating your own.