September/October 2016

The Sept/Oct 2016 issue features messages for the next president from fifty American poets and writers; a profile of writer and photographer Teju Cole; an interview with award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson; a conversation about memoir between William Giraldi and Sven Birkerts; a special section on MFA programs in creative writing; a Q&A with poetry critic Steph Burt; and more.


Love and Witness: A Profile of Teju Cole

by Kevin Nance
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In a new collection of essays, Known and Strange Things, writer and photographer Teju Cole sharpens the focus and adjusts the frame in personal and probing considerations of life and art.

Pay Attention: A Conversation Between William Giraldi and Sven Birkerts

by William Giraldi
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William Giraldi, whose new memoir, The Hero’s Body, was published in August, talks with Sven Birkerts, the author of the memoir My Sky Blue Trades and The Art of Time in Memoir, about the artful craft and contradictions of a...

Special Section

A Lifetime to Write: Warren Wilson and the Origins of the Low-Residency MFA

by Jeremiah Chamberlin
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This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the country's oldest low-residency MFA program in creative writing, established by poet Ellen Bryant Voigt in 1976 at Goddard College before relocating to Warren Wilson College in 1981. Contributing editor...

Industrious After Wisdom: Thoughts on the MFA as a Student and Teacher

by Jim Minick
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Writer and teacher Jim Minick recalls his unique experiences as a student in one MFA program while teaching in another, and offers ideas about what an ideal full- and low-residency program might include.

Making the Road by Walking: From Brooklyn to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Back

by Naomi Jackson
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A novelist revisits the challenges of attending the Iowa Writers’ Workshop as a person of color, and explores the importance of inclusion, community, and home.

Classroom as Community: Creating Safe Spaces in Creative Nonfiction Workshops

by Erika Anderson and Brian Gresko
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The writing workshop model presents a certain degree of risk—sharing artistic work inherently involves becoming vulnerable to critique and potential emotional fallout. Perhaps none experience this risk more than creative nonfiction writers, whose...

A Harmony of Whims: Toward a Philosophy of Teaching Writing

by James P. Blaylock
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Tasked with developing teaching philosophy, an award-winning author of more than twenty-five books looks back on his years of teaching, and reflects on what makes an effective writing teacher.

The Aha! Moment: Kate Daniels of the MFA Program at Vanderbilt University

by Michael Bourne
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As part of a continuing series, poet Kate Daniels, director of the MFA program at Vanderbilt University, discusses the potential she saw in poetry applicant Tiana Clark’s admissions essay.

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 Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am and Monica Youn’s Blackacre, as the starting point for a closer look at these new and noteworthy titles.

Small Press Points: Torrey House Press

by Staff

Small Press Points highlights the innovation and can-do spirit of independent presses. This issue features the Salt Lake City–based Torrey House Press. Established in 2010 by Kristen Johanna Allen and Mark Bailey, the nonprofit press releases six to eight fiction titles each year that focus on the American West, specifically as it relates to human relationships and the natural world.

Literary MagNet

by Dana Isokawa

Literary MagNet highlights an author alongside the journals that have published that author’s work. This issue’s MagNet features fiction writer Matt Bell, who takes us through five journals that first published pieces appearing in his latest collection, A Tree or a Person or a Wall.

The Practical Writer

Reviewers & Critics: Steph Burt

by Michael Taeckens

Steph Burt, acclaimed critic, poet, and Harvard professor, talks about their path to becoming a poetry critic, working as both a poet and a critic, and how the internet has greatly expanded the conversations surrounding poetry and poetics.

The Savvy Self-Publisher: Jonathan R. Miller

by Debra W. Englander

In a continuing series, Debra W. Englander consults an author and events manager, as well as a CEO of a book-marketing firm, to provide self-published author Jonathan R. Miller valuable book-industry advice on his novel The Two Levels.

The Literary Life

Writing for Strangers: What Speechwriting Taught Me About Writing Fiction

by Hannah Gersen
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Any job has the potential to teach us valuable lessons about writing. Novelist Hannah Gersen shares what she learned about writing fiction from working as a speechwriter for the New York City Parks and Recreation Commissioner.

The Time is Now: Writing Prompts and Exercises

by Staff
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Compose a series of tree poems, explore the supernatural with a ghost story, or examine your personal history with politics through an essay—three prompts to stretch your literary perspective.

Return and Repeat, Culminate and Continue: On Crafting the End in Fiction

by Jennifer De Leon
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Employing models from fiction masters Jhumpa Lahiri, Jane Smiley, ZZ Packer, among others, fiction writer and editor Jennifer De Leon explores various approaches to craft endings in fiction.

Why We Write: A Life Imagined

by Matthew Thorburn
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In a testament to the power of poetry in giving shape to complex emotions, a poet reflects on how writing his poetry collection, Dear Almost, helped him find shelter amidst the grief of a miscarriage.   

A Student Remembers: Saying Good-Bye to Peter Matthiessen

by Elizabeth Kostova
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Novelist Elizabeth Kostova pays tribute to her longtime writing mentor, the late National Book Award–winning author Peter Matthiessen.