The funds raised by Friends of Writers provide scholarships and grants to graduate MFA students.  Please help Friends continue to offer this much needed support by contributing to our spring fundraising campaign.

Read this important message from Friends of Writers Founder and Board Chair, Ellen Bryant Voigt:  The 2017 Spring Campaign

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Want a Scholarship for the Alumni Conference?

The deadline for conference scholarship requests is May 13.  We have six scholarships of $500 each.
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Friends of Writers Welcomes New Directors to the Board

Dean Bakopoulos is a ten year veteran of the Faculty at the Program, In addition to his writing and academic career, he was founding Director of the Wisconsin Book Festival, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Humanities Council and currently directs Writers @Grinnell, all of which positions involve fund raising. He has had success in cultivating large donors in his past positions, and more recently, to build and support the programs at Iowa State and presently at Grinnell in which he teaches. He has, as well, a long record of service both institutional and public–from Chair of Wisconsin’s Cultural Coalition to member of the Board of the Chamber of Commerce in Mineral Point, WI.

Dean has always been active in support of FOW and its events and is already full of ideas for telling the Program’s story, as he put it, as “something that exists nowhere else in the world.”


Sharon Gelman  In tandem with Sonya Larson, Sharon spearheaded the drive to create and establish initial funding for the EBV scholarship. Sheserved as the Executive Director of the non-profit Artists for a New South Africa, whose mission is to promote social change in the U.S. and South Africa.   In this capacity she was responsible for program development and management, policy analysis, as well as fundraising and fiscal management. The efforts of the non-profit, including raising and granting $9 million to African NGO’s, have been extremely successful.   (1995- 2015).  She also served as Director of the Human Right Programs for the Hollywood Policy Center, an organization which seeks to involve the creative community in meaningful advocacy for social change. Sharon worked in program development, special event production, and coalition building. She was involved in significantly increasing the participation of people of color, the LGTB community, and young people. (1991-1995)  As Project Creator and Manager of Gelman Consulting, she developed and managed special projects for non-profit, political, educational and media clients, including The Association of Newspaper Publishers of America and Oxfam America. (1985-1991)

Sharon received her MFA in Fiction in 2016 and is a deeply committed member of our community who is passionate about the MFA Program and its mission.  She lives in Rockville, MD.


Larissa Vidal  joined Merrill Lynch in 1993.  She served on The Phil Scott Group, Merrill’s nationwide top-ranked brokerage team, which was named to Barron’s “Top 100 Advisors” list for twelve years.  In 2014, Larissa founded Insight Financial Planning, LLC, an independent fee-only service, because she wanted a more flexible schedule to spend time with her son. Larissa speaks publically at professional organizations on personal finance, hosts workshops (How I learned to Relax and Love Finance, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Money (But Were Afraid to Ask) among other topics). She leads an on-going support group for women in the process of divorce and separation, is a lead sponsor for the Seattle Women’s Business Exchange, and served from 2008-2014 as Assistant Editor at Narrative Magazine.  Larissa graduated Stanford in 1992, is a Certified Financial Planner (2002 – present), and received her MFA in Fiction in 2007. She was one of the first alums to sign up when we first (about 5 years ago) circulated Volunteer forms. She is excited and honored at being asked to serve with Friends of Writers. In her email responding to us, she writes: “Studying at Warren Wilson changed my life and exposed me to writing styles and writer styles I had never imagined. The diversity of background and expression deepened my own work as well as the way I read. To help other writers … would give me a means to make the world richer.”

Larissa lives in Seattle, WA, with her son Leo, and plays the cello.

FOW also thanks our outgoing Directors for their exemplary service.  Much appreciation to Catherine Brown, Janet Crossen, Maudelle Driskell and Rolf Yngve for your hard work and dedication to the cause.

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Thanks to Our 2016 Donors

Friends of Writers  would like to thank all of our 2016 donors for their support! Your contributions further our mission to enrich American poetry and fiction by cultivating new and vital literary voices.

Review the list here: 2016 Donor List

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Thomas Lux 1946 – 2017

We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our friend and colleague, poet Thomas Lux, who died of cancer on February 5 in Atlanta.
The author of 18 books of poetry, Tom joined the MFA Program for Writers at Goddard in 1979 and taught in the program at the Warren Wilson campus until 2006. In his 25+ semesters with the Program, he supervised more than 75 students. He also taught for many years at Sarah Lawrence, and, in recent years, at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
His numerous awards included the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and multiple fellowships from the NEA and Guggenheim Foundation. (More details about his accomplishments can be found here: POETRY FOUNDATION: TOM LUX.)   Most recently, Tom was the editor of I am Flying into Myself: Selected Poems of Bill Knott, to be published this month by Copper Canyon Press.
From MFA Program for Writers founder Ellen Bryant Voigt:
“Tom Lux was utterly pure of heart.  In his life, and in his indelible, authentic poems, he was playful, kind, generous, loyal, unpretentious, and capable of great joy.  He was also a truly remarkable teacher, making contagious his own love of poetry, simultaneously faithful to the highest standards for the art and his belief that you, whoever you were, could reach them.”
The appellation for the Program’s legendary “Sweatheart Ball” had its origins in this poem by Tom Lux:


The thing gets made, gets built, and you’re the slave
who rolls the log beneath the block, then another,
then pushes the block, then pulls a log
from the rear back to the front
again and then again it goes beneath the block,
and so on. It’s how a thing gets made – not
because you’re sensitive, or you get genetic-lucky,
or God says: Here’s a nice family,
seven children, let’s see: this one in charge
of the village dunghill, these two die of buboes, this one
Kierkegaard, this one a drooling

nincompoop, this one clerk, this one cooper.
You need to love the thing you do – birdhouse building,
painting tulips exclusively, whatever – and then
you do it
so consciously driven
by your unconscious
that the thing becomes a wedge
that splits a stone and between the halves
the wedge then grows, i.e., the thing
is solid but with a soul,
a life of its own. Inspiration, the donnée,

the gift, the bolt of fire
down the arm that makes the art?
Grow up! Give me, please, a break!
You make the thing because you love the thing
and you love the thing because someone else loved it
enough to make you love it.
And with that your heart like a tent peg pounded
toward the earth’s core.
And with that your heart on a beam burns
through the ionosphere.
And with that you go to work.

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The 2017 Alumni Conference Beckons!


We are happy to announce that the 2017 annual alumni writing conference will be held at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley MA, from Saturday, July 1 through Saturday, July 8. There will be a Short-Stay option of Tuesday, July 4 through Saturday. If you’ve been here before you’ll be familiar with the beautiful campus (Emily slept here), the unobjectionable and often actually good food, the convenience of a number of shops, pubs, and restaurants just across the street (including an excellent indie bookstore), and our full use of campus facilities. Bradley International Airport (BDL) is about a half hour away, and Amtrak runs through Springfield, Holyoke, and Northampton, all nearby.

There will be Wallies, and there will be readings. These are the core of the conferences for most people. Find the camaraderie, support, incredible talent, and craft-smartness of the peers you came to know at residencies – with none of the pressure and no expectations. Meals, activities, late nights on the dorm porch, these are where the unexpected discussions take place, new friendships are made, old renewed. And the readings each evening: the readers will blow your mind; the audience will lift you up (if you choose to read – please do!).

Workshops, MS Reviews, Fiction Roundtables. Have a story or poem(s) you’d like some input on? Or do you have a collection or novel or other manuscript almost to the finish line? Who more can you trust than your fellows? Who in the wide world of writers understands craft better?

Classes, panels, caucuses, bookshops. Attend one, all, or none at all: peer-taught or –led, or –facilitated. Please teach a 50 minute class!

Let’s not forget the dance!

You spoke, and we heard you. Through sheer happenstance, the last two or three conferences we’ve held at this venue have coincided with unseasonably hot weather for this part of New England (well, it used to be unseasonable, but what is anymore?), and many of you will know that the college does not air condition its dorms. While this led to many wonderful post-reading gatherings on the dorm porch, more than one of you has expressed a desire for a cooling environment. While the college has for some reason declined to install central air for us, the conference coordinator has managed to fit us into a dorm which, thanks to a bigger and wealthier conference than ours, will be outfitted with 20 window AC units (at a moderate additional charge for each room with a unit). (Oh, and for those of you new to Mount Holyoke,the classrooms, our dining room, facilities – all these are air conditioned.)

Yes, I said 20 units. Only 20, which means we will be devising a fair system for assignment of said rooms. As of a date-certain, well announced ahead of time, we will open for AC requests. Once we receive notice from the college as to how many units will be available on a women’s floor, and how many on the men’s, rooms will be assigned. As per contract requirement, AC preference will go first to Full-stayers. Only if fewer than 20 apply would any be available for the Short-stay.

The AC was requested at your suggestion, over many Annual Meetings and in the recent informal survey. That there are only 20 available for this conference is a matter out of our hands, and the Conference Committee agreed that 20 was preferable to none, our only other alternative for the 2017 Conference. Please be accepting of a less than perfect arrangement.


Full Stay (Sat. July 1 – Sat. July 8)                                    $794.00

            Full Stay with AC                                                     $854.00

 Short Stay (Tue. July 4 – Sat. July 8)                               $507.00

            Short Stay with AC if available                            $547.00

Commuter (lunch, dinner, all activities                           $470.00

& facilities)

All prices other than Commuter include a single room and linens, all meals, receptions, and events, and college facilities.

 Deadlines, details, and links to registration and payment sites will be announced and available here in February 2017; notification of same will appear on the Alumni Facebook page, the blog, and the listserv, or you can contact Peter Klank to request inclusion on a 2017 Conference mailing list.


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