Friends of Writers
Friends of Writers, a not-for profit 501(c)(3) organization, enriches American poetry and fiction by cultivating new and vital literary voices. We do this by raising funds to support students, alumni and faculty of our partner, the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. The MFA Program pioneered a model of low-residency study based on three core values: community, rigor, and diversity. Community provides support for the individual writer; rigor encourages that individual’s finest work; and diversity—in aesthetic, ethnicity, gender, age, occupational, geographic, and economic background—ensures that American writing reflects the entire nation.
Friends of Writers was established in 1991 as an independent non-profit organization. It was begun by faculty and alumni of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for the immediate purpose of raising scholarship funds. In addition to providing scholarships for WWC MFA students, it provides scholarships to the alumni conference, as well as paying other costs associated with the alumni conference. In recent years, anonymous donors have established additional funds for current students, alumni, and faculty.
Also in recent years, the MFA Program faculty have produced seven writing anthologies. The editors and all contributors to those volumes donated 100% of each book’s advance and royalties to Friends of Writers’ scholarship funds; when necessary, they have also paid for reprint permissions, so Friends incurred not a single penny of expense to produce the books.
The only costs for Friends of Writers are essential legal and accounting fees. There is no office, no paid staff. Board members donate their time, the cost of travel to semi-annual meetings, and lodging and meal expenses. All donations flow directly into the scholarships to support our literary community.
A new essay by alumna Natalie Serber (fiction, ’05) appears online at The Rumpus:
“What a wonderful life I’ve had, if only I’d realized it sooner.” ~Colette
I’d been screwing around in community college for two years—signing up for classes, quitting midway—retaking the same classes. It took me three attempts to complete Cultural Anthropology, a class I loved. My best friend and I were renting a tiny clapboard house 5 blocks from the beach. Blue hydrangeas flanked our front door. Tapestry bedspreads billowed from the ceilings. Matisse posters crowded the walls. We’d bought a set of dishes at K-Mart and a cast iron pan at the flea market. I worked as an aerobic instructor and as a hostess at Golden West Pancakes. I made ends meet by collecting food stamps which we once used to throw an extravagant “C” dinner party—crab, cookies, and Chablis—for the rest of that month we survived on top ramen. I had no five-year plan, no dogged ambition. I enjoyed writing, stories mostly. I imagined I’d someday transfer to a university, become an elementary school teacher like my mom. I liked kids, I liked the idea of college, and nothing else tugged at me. But, in order for that low-grade ambition to take root, I would actually have to develop some drive beyond throwing a “D” party—dogs, daiquiris, and ding-dongs.
To further unmoor my already free-floating existence, I fell in love. J was tan, handsome and kind. He was a sailor with his own business and his own boat and a smart golden retriever who balanced milkbones on her nose and could bark her name, Ru-by. He played the tuba(!), which was quirky and adorable. He sold a little pot on the side, which meant there was a party wherever he went. He was also thirteen years older than me. He was calm and stable—things my erratic childhood lacked. You see, by the time I was thirteen, my mother and I had moved ten times. We’d lived in four cities. I went to five elementary schools. With J, I felt rooted and that was intoxicating for nineteen-year-old me. J took me sailing. He took me to nice restaurants. We lingered in bed on Sunday mornings watching cooking shows and then went to the market to buy the ingredients for Shrimp Vera Cruz. He drove me past the sweet house he’d lived in with his ex-wife. It was plum colored with a walnut tree in front and a picket fence. I harbored vague wishes of someday living in a cozy house with J and his wonderful dog.
Read more online at The Rumpus.
An interview with alumnus Matthew Zanoni Muller (fiction, ’10) about his story “Presence” appears online at NANO Fiction:
Will McCarry: Your piece “Presence” appears in our most recent issue of NANOFiction, 7.1. It’s a really great look at a day in the mundane life of an old woman who has lost her husband. I found it easy to relate to because everyone at some point in their life has known a lonely old person. Does this piece draws from someone you’ve known in real life, or if it is completely fictionalized?
Matthew Müller: I do not know the old woman in this story though I have seen her. She lives on a road near where I work during the summers. The description of her trailer and property are all relatively faithful to the actual place where she lives. I noticed her because I became interested in something I began to notice on my drives to and from work or to pick up supplies (I paint houses during the summer). It was that people would sit out in front of their houses to watch the traffic going by just to be close to the action, no matter how limited. There was a couple who set up lawn chairs in their driveway and would park themselves there with a cooler. Other times I’d see people out on their porches or front lawns, just sitting and watching. I know this seems pretty obvious and normal, but what I began to think about was how people in general still want to be connected to the life that’s going on around them outside of their home, some version of the life of their community. I think that television has to some extent taken this away from us. We watch shows about people we do not know, and our community with these people takes place on a much larger national scale. In essence, anyone, anywhere in the country can tune in and see these same people. What is more difficult nowadays, I believe, is to get closer to a sense of connectedness or relationship with the people that actually live near us and in a sense share our lives. This is something that television can’t replace, so people will still come and sit in their driveways, their front lawns, or their porches. Her little place of connection was to my mind one of the saddest ones. She was down a slight incline inside of this glassed-in porch, a mud room really, where she had to look up at the road. But this was still better than being cooped up or hidden somewhere in her kitchen or shadowy living room.
Listen to a recording of “Presence” and finish reading the interview online at NANO Fiction.
A new essay by alumna Peggy Shinner (fiction, ’94) appears online in BOMB Magazine:
The Tantrics said the forces of creation and destruction lay in the binding and unbinding of a woman’s hair. The Syrians said a woman who combed her hair on the Eve of Holy Sunday consorted with werewolves. The Slavs said the vili, or female spirits, hid in the water and made rain by combing their hair. The Scots said women should refrain from combing their hair at night when their brothers were at sea, because that could raise a storm and sink the boats. In Laos, the wife of an elephant hunter was forbidden to cut her hair in order not to sever the ropes restraining the elephant. The Navajo prohibited a woman from washing her hair while her husband was out hunting lest he come home empty-handed. The Punjabi said a woman should not wash her hair on Thursday or Sunday, because “the house would lose money and people would tell us lies.” The Romans said that strands of a woman’s hair made fine strings for bows against the Gauls. Berenice, wife of Egyptian king Ptolemy III, made an offering of her hair to Aphrodite, for her husband’s safe return from war. Upon his homecoming, her hair appeared in the sky as the constellation Coma Berenice, Berenice’s Hair. One of the stars is named Al Dafirah, “the curl.”
Continue reading online at BOMB Magazine.
A new poem by alumna Rose McLarney (poetry, ’10) appears online in Valparaiso Poetry Review:
Gutting the deer, down among the blasts
of fallen leaves, golden and red against
the gray of winter pending, and the red,
of course, of blood, and the more various
shades of insides—the yellows and purples
and pure, resistant whites you don’t think of
until you’re doing the work—is not what
strummed, beat in, certainly not what
set to singing, my senses.
Finish reading online.
New work by faculty member Gabrielle Calvocoressi appears in print and online in the “Poetry at the End of the World” themed podcast from Poetry Magazine:
Captain Lovell ["Dad calls her the Dowager but I call her Aunt G."]
Faculty members Christopher Castellani and Mary Szybist and alumna Meghan O’Rourke (poetry, ’05) are among the 177 scholars, artists, and scientists awarded 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships.
To read more about the Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2014 Fellows, visit the website here.
A new work by alumna Amy Minton (fiction, ’09) appears online in Gravel:
Seated by the window and looking toward the hospital bed, I notice the bag of my stepdad’s urine. It’s at eye level, hard to miss. Yellow liquid travels slowly through a clear tube into a plastic measuring hold, which is recorded every fifteen minutes and dumped into a larger pouch by a nurse with an Aryan demeanor whom we call Herr Dreyer. Herr Dreyer also records numbers on the LCD screen behind my stepdad’s head, which is steep with mountains of bandages.
“It does look like a turban, but why call yourself Osama bin Laden?” I ask. “It’s too obvious. Go for the little teapot, short and stout.”
My stepdad giggles and does the teapot dance the best he can while in the clutches of a fussy hydra of narrow tubes sprouting from the top of his turban. The tubes drain fluid accumulating in the space between his brain and skull. Each tube ends in its own separate pouch with measuring marks. The drained fluid looks like blood, but it could be something else. It’s creamier-looking and not as thick. While sleeping, if he rolls over on the pouches then alarms will go off. He has already burst one pouch under the weight of his shoulder. The accumulated liquid leaked, and had to be discarded. “I had to start over,” he said, flicking a newer pouch with less liquid than the others.
This is what we do while we are waiting for God.
Continue reading online.
We’re happy to announce the faculty for the July 2014 Residency. For more information, see program website:
Laura van den Berg
Alan Shapiro (visiting faculty)
Ellen Bryant Voigt
C. Dale Young