The MFA Program at AWP ’16!

The MFA Program at AWP ’16!


WARREN WILSON MFA at AWP Los Angeles 2016



9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.


R108. Crashing Through: Confronting Writing Barriers and Rebooting Your Work. 

(Robin Black [fiction, ‘05], Natalie Baszile [fiction, ‘04], Dylan Landis, Steven Schwartz)

Gold Salon 4, JW Marriott LA, 1st floor

We have all faced obstacles in writing. Interference has many sources, both psychological and external: taboo subjects, craft challenges, despair, rejection, constraints in our nonwriting lives, fear of angering others. A diverse group of fiction and essay writers talks about their equally diverse and highly specific techniques for becoming unstuck, from using timers to meditation to writing with partners—and for turning obstacles to opportunity for taking major leaps forward in craft.


10:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.


R134. Creating Opportunities for Writers of Color: A Continued Urgency.

(Reginald Flood,  Diem Jones,  Elmaz Abinader,  Angie Chuang,  Angela Narciso Torres [poetry, ‘09])

Room 513, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Willow Books, an award-winning publisher of writers of color, and VONA/Voices, a foundation for writers of color, discuss why their missions have a renewed relevancy. Key writers, editors, and administrators discuss the current climate in publishing, in social media, and in the political world that makes creating these opportunities more vital than ever. They discuss their inspiration, their challenges, and how their work has contributed to the inclusivity of writers of color.


12:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.

R191. People Are Afraid to Merge in Los Angeles. 

(Bridget Hoida, Jenn Rossmann,  Reina Prado,  Sharon Gelman [fiction, current],  Liz Gonzalez)

Room 505, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Literary Los Angeles is often the subject of surface-deep satire, but the focus on zip codes in the Hollywood glare leaves other stories undertold. A panel of Californian authors discuss the other LA (and California) stories, which are diverse, complex, and deserving of literary attention. Panelists discuss authors who have told these undertold Golden State stories, and strategies for bringing the other LA to light in their own fiction and poetry.

R197. Ellen Bryant Voigt as Poet, Mentor, and Community Builder. 

(Charles Baxter, Marianne Boruch, Heather McHugh, Catherine Barnett [poetry, ‘01])

Room 515A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Author of ten books, recipient of numerous awards, and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Ellen Bryant Voigt has been a central force in American letters for four decades. She also was the founder, in 1976, of the nation’s first low-residency MFA program at Warren Wilson College. In conjunction with the program’s 40th anniversary, this panel will explicate and pay homage to Voigt’s gifts and achievements as poet, teacher, and visionary.

1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

R216. Extinction, Erasure, and the Living Practices of W. S. Merwin.

(Stanley Plumly,  David Baker,  Rosanna Warren,  Meghan O’Rourke [poetry, ‘04])

Room 408 B, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

  1. S. Merwin may be our greatest living poet—a poet of absence and erasure, whose 65-year poetic vocation traces words on a journey, he says, not the inscriptions of a settled people. Four poet-critics look at Merwin’s life and art to discuss this fruitful paradox—how grappling with the conditions of both linguistic erasure and natural extinction have led him to unparalleled works of presence and preservation in his poetry, his bountiful translations, and his devoted nature-conservancy.


4:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.

R269. “Joy Is So Exhausting”: The Contemporary Poetics of Motherhood. 

(Callista Buchen,  Molly Sutton Kiefer,  Jennifer Givhan [poetry, ’14],  Martha Silano,  Rachel Richardson)

Gold Salon 2, JW Marriott LA, 1st Floor

As Rachel Blau DuPlessis points out, “motherhood leads to, demands, provokes, and excites innovations in poetry.” This panel explores these innovations, studying contemporary poetry that takes motherhood as its subject. From the motherhood in poetry as myth-making and myth-destroying to poets conceptualizing their writing as mothers to the inherent tensions at work, including how the lens of motherhood reshapes external landscapes, this panel finds a poetics full of possibility and insight.


R275From In-Progress to the Printed Page: A Poetry Reading by Alice Fay di Castagnola Award Winners

(Laura Kasischke ,  Rebecca Morgan Frank,  Timothy Donnelly,  Mary Jo Bang,  Martha Collins)

Room 403 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Join us for a reading by five poets who represent fifteen years of the Poetry Society of America’s annual Alice Fay di Castagnola Award for a poetry manuscript in progress. Both notable and emerging poets demonstrate the life and process of a poetry collection, and the value of support for books in process, with readings from their in-progress and completed works.


R280B. Tendrils and Roots: Place-ing the Personal in the Contemporary Eco-elegy.

(Sandra Meek,  Brenda Hillman,  Sherwin Bitsui,  Laura-Gray Street [poetry, ‘97],  Marcella Durand)

Room 408 B, L.A. Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Writing in a “late age”—postmodern, postconfessional, post-postmodern—contemporary ecopoetry is often elegiac, acutely aware not only of perennial transience, but of potentially irrevocable environmental devastation. How, in a poetry that does not view the human as nature’s center, can the poet include “self” to weave a complex ecology without reducing “Nature” to an echo chamber speaking back “I”? Panelists, all eco-elegists, discuss the mode’s challenges and generative possibilities.


R281. The Natural Writer: Unschooling the Creative Writing Classroom. 

(Heidi Staples,  Jonathan Skinner,  Michael Martone,  Deb Unferth,  Jessica Smith)

Room 409 AB, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Can writing be untaught? Sometimes, the institutional setting of the creative writing classroom can foster a lack of risk-taking by positioning participants as dutiful students rather than daring artists, failing to ignite creative agency. Panelists committed to a variety of unschooling approaches that take writing outdoors discuss their pedagogies and practices for students, including the Walking Classroom, the Poetry Boat, and Four Roaming Elemental Excursions (F.R.E.E.).


R285. Creative Writing and Resistance in the Classroom: Helping Students Write Social Justice.

(Nan Cuba [fiction, ‘89],  Ellen Meeropol,  Hayan Charara,  Achy Obejas,  Fred Arroyo [fiction, ‘97])

Room 502 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Creative writing students compelled to write about social justice may be intimated by the challenges of shaping art, craft, and social forces in their writing. How do teachers encourage students to explore political inequality and injustice, while crafting narrative art? Panelists discuss specific pedagogical approaches and techniques that both respect students’ backgrounds and beliefs and encourage their exploration, examination, and literary engagement with our complex world.


R287. Build It and They Will Come: Creating a School and Community Outside Academia.

(Edan Lepucki,  Julia Fierro,  Sonya Larson [fiction, current],  Michelle Wildgen,  Jason Koo)

Room 503, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

On this panel, the founders and directors of five successful writing schools offer practical advice on how to develop a strong community of writers, expanding the subject of a 2014 Poets & Writers article, “Academic Alternatives: The DIY MFA,” in which some of the panelists were featured. Panelists also examine the role these workshops play in the shifting MFA landscape and discuss how they provide another path to writers looking for instruction and community outside academia.



10:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

F136. Literary Landscapes: Writing Ourselves Home. 

(Cathy Arellano,  Andrea Serrano,  Jenn Givhan [poetry, ‘14],  Reyna Grande,  Tanaya Winder)

Diamond Salon 6&7, JW Marriott LA, 3rd Floor

This panel of writers from diverse Southwest regions discusses and reads work that reflects intricate histories and landscapes and grounds their writing. The panelists from Northern and Southern California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Mexico address how their writing speaks to and from specific places and influences/is influenced locally and globally. They share how the development of themselves, their writing, and their histories are necessary and connected.

F153. Paying It Forward: Literary Mentorship. 

(Dana Levin,  Tomas Morin,  C. Dale Young,  Aimee Nezhukumatathil,  Vievee Francis)

Room 502 B, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Steering students through a tangle of soul, style, culture, digital, and market forces? It’s called mentorship, and it’s an art. In an academic environment driven more and more by assessment and cost, how does this crucial, unquantifiable teaching experience develop and survive? Five poet-teachers from diverse backgrounds discuss the art of mentoring today’s students as well as what their mentors (Donald Justice, Ai, Louise Glück, and more) taught them about teaching, writing, and living.

12:00 – 1:15

F175. From Poems Online to Poets in Person: A Reading by Four Cortland Review Poets

(Gregory Orr,  Laure-Anne Bosselaar [poetry, ‘94],  Yusef Komunyakaa,  Jeremy Bass [poetry,’10], Ginger Murchison [poetry, ‘10]

Room 403 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Pursuing a wider community for poetry and to bring poets closer to their readers, the Cortland Review makes the work of established and emerging authors and poets available worldwide—free and without ever going out of print. Through its professional quality video series, streaming audio, and, now, poets performing original music, the Cortland Review has become one of the most important archives of recent poetry, fiction, and criticism. Editor Ginger Murchison presents four Cortland Review dynamic voices.

F193. In Their Own Words: Muslim Women Poets—a Reading and Discussion.

(Deema Shehabi,  Shadab Zeest Hashmi [poetry,’09],  Lena Khalaf Tuffaha)

Room 511, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Three Muslim American women read from their works and discuss the representation of Muslim women in the West. This panel focuses on how these women, through their own work and in collaboration with others, preserve an identity that not only serves to counter common stereotypes but also creates a complex, personal yet universal narrative that defies narrow constructs.

1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

F216. Sneak Peek: A Late Style of Fire—the Larry Levis Documentary.

(Gregory Donovan,  David St. John,  Carolyn Forché,  Carol Muske-Dukes,  Michele Poulos)

Room 411, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

This panel provides a “sneak peek” screening and discussion by the filmmaker and participants ofA Late Style of Fire, the revealing, unconventional feature-length documentary film about Larry Levis. The film explores his life and work through narration unveiled in words from his own poems as well as photos, videos, and artful visual explorations, and featuring interviews with Philip Levine, Charles Wright, Carolyn Forché, David St. John, Carol Muske-Dukes, Norman Dubie, family members, lovers, friends, and more. Music by Iron & Wine.


3:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.

F242. Nature’s Nature: Ecopoetry at Kenyon Review. 

(David BakerKimiko Hahn,  Solmaz Sharif,  Joanna Klink)

Room 403 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

What do poets mean when they make a natural gesture? The poets in Kenyon Review’s 2015 and 2016 special issues on ecopoetics share an anxiety about ecological crisis, a devotion to the natural in its many forms, and an awareness of the inevitable relationship between nature and human destiny. Speaking from an array of cultural backgrounds and through a great diversity of poetic forms, they demonstrate how contemporary poetry may speak about, speak for, and speak from a natural place.

F254. A 40th Anniversary Reading from the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

(Debra Allbery,  Gabrielle Calvocoressi,  Charles Baxter,  A. Van Jordan, and many more!)

Room 502 B, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Founded in 1976 by Ellen Bryant Voigt as the nation’s first low-residency program, the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College has counted some of the country’s finest poets and fiction writers among its faculty and graduates. Continuing a tradition started by the program at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC—The Fastest Reading in the World—our readers will be joined by other Warren Wilson MFA faculty and alumni in attendance to celebrate four decades of literary achievement.

F258. A Reading to Celebrate MacDowell’s 110 years. 

(Tracy Winn [fiction, ‘02],  Zinzi Clemmons,  Adrianne Harun [fiction, ‘96],  Alice Sola Kim)

Room 506, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

This reading celebrates the MacDowell Colony’s 110th year of support for writers of diverse cultural, aesthetic, and geographical backgrounds, providing the freedom to create in all stages of their careers. Four award-winning fiction fellows read, showcasing the caliber of work encouraged by MacDowell. The panelists also briefly share how residency at the Colony influenced their development as writers.

4:30 p.m. — 5:45 p.m.

F275. Full-Residency, Low-Residency, Online: The MFA Student and Faculty Experience.

(Christine Sneed,  Philip Graham,  Brian Fierro, Scott Blackwood,  Patricia Grace King [fiction,’13] )

Room 403 B, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Current and former MFA faculty and students from Pacific University, Vermont College, University of Illinois-Urbana, Northwestern University, Warren Wilson College, University of New Orleans, Southern Illinois University, and Regis University discuss the different aspects of the full-residency, low-residency, and online MFA programs that they have been a part of. How these various models are organized, and how coursework and thesis advising are conducted, among other topics, are addressed in detail.

F277. Diversifying MFA Programs: A Case Study. 

(Jennifer Givhan [poetry, ‘14],  Debra Allbery,  A. Van Jordan,  Caroline Mar [poetry,‘13],  Adrienne Perry [fiction, ‘13])

Room 405, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Can an MFA program diversify and become truly inclusive? A panel of Warren Wilson MFA Program administrators, faculty, and alumni review their ongoing efforts to address diversity within the student body and the faculty. We will discuss both institutional approaches (e.g., financial aid and hiring) and student advocacy efforts (e.g., student-led organizations and teach-ins), underscoring how, in the best situations, these efforts and approaches can come together to create real change.

g Join us!



   of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College

Los Angeles Athletic Club

431 West 7th Street

Los Angeles, CA 90014


Light refreshments       h Cash bar


10:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

S142. A Reading by Kingsley & Kate Tufts Poetry Award Winners.

(Beth Bachmann, Yona Harvey,  Michael Ryan,  Afaa Michael Weaver)

Room 403 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

The Tufts poetry awards—based at Claremont Graduate University—are two of the most prestigious prizes a contemporary poet can receive. The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award was created to both honor a poet and provide the resources that allow artists to continue working towards the pinnacle of their craft. The Kate Tufts Discovery Award is presented to a first book by a poet of genuine promise. These past recipients showcase the geographic and aesthetic diversity of Tufts award winners.

S148. The Odd Couple: Literature and Commerce. 

(Manjula Martin, Kima Jones [fiction, current],  Ayesha Pande,  Karolina Waclawiak)

Room 408 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Is literature an art, or is it a business? Every working writer is in a constant state of negotiation between creativity and commerce, life and work, love and money. This panel explores how literary authors navigate such seemingly opposing aspects of their work. Join writers and publishing industry professionals as we share strategies for balancing the “writing life” with real life—and creating a sustainable career in the process.

S154. What’s the Big Idea? Intention vs. Intuition in the Writing Process.

(Mark Doty [poetry, ‘80],  Linda Bierds,  Kevin Young,  Victoria Chang [poetry, ‘05],  Melissa Stein)

Room 502 B, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

When writers are alone with the blank page, how much is premeditated and how much is actually discovered later on? Project, narrative arc, theme, voice: At what points in the creative process do we steer our work consciously? When are forms and structures limiting, and when are they liberating? How can we weave diligent research and poetic imagination, and how does all this translate into putting together a book manuscript? Five award-winning writers explore the deliberate and the ineffable in their work.


12:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.

S185. From the Fishouse: A Twelve-Year Anniversary Reading and Celebration.

(Nickole Brown,  Tarfia Faizullah,  Layli Long Soldier,  Ross Gay,  Jamaal May [poetry, ‘11])

Room 501, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Since 2004, From the Fishouse has provided the public greater access to the poems and voices of emerging US poets by using online audio archives, simulcast readings, and other media to bring poetry into the home and classroom. After a major overhaul, the new and improved website has expanded to include emerging international poets while continuing to showcase the finest poets writing in the US. Five award-winning poets, both emerging and emerged, will read their work and work of other poets on the site.


S187. No More Dead Bodies on the Page.

(Lucy Jane Bledsoe,  Jane Smiley,  Kirstin Valdez Quade,  Lori Ostlund,  Griselda Suarez)

Room 502 B, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Social entropy, the ways in which people and families and entire communities self-destruct, is well represented in American fiction. Dysfunction and violence seem to sell. And yet, much more interesting, and much harder to write well, are narratives about how people connect—what makes community. This panel addresses the challenge of writing stories—without sentimentality—about compassion, love, and the ways in which families of all stripes succeed.

1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

S198. Linked and Unlinked: Reimagining Story Writing. 

(Donna Miscolta, Alma Garcia,  Fred Arroyo [fiction, ‘97],  Ito Romo)

Gold Salon 1, JW Marriott LA, 1st Floor

The creative spectrum between linked versus unlinked, novel-in-stories versus novel, has become rich, complex, and daunting. Too often the conversation narrowly focuses on genre, place, marketability, and identity—and thus marginalizes the imaginative possibilities of writing between linked and unlinked stories, between novel-in-stories and novel. Four fiction writers focus on the intention, process, difficulties, and craft issues that arise in reimagining this spectrum of story writing.

S205. Four Way Books Reads: Part 2 with Gregory Pardlo and Others.

(J.Mae Barizo,  Reginald Dwayne Betts [poetry, ‘10],  Catherine Bowman,  Jonathan Wells,  Gregory Pardlo)

Scott James Bookfair Stage, LA Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Level One

Hear Pulitzer Prize winner Gregory Pardlo (Digest) read along with some of Four Way Books’ Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 authors. All titles will be available for purchase at the Four Way Books’ booths (610 & 612).

S209. Remembering Claudia Emerson. 

(Emilia Phillips,  Jill McCorkle,  Alan Shapiro,  Kathleen Graber)

Room 403 B, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Claudia Emerson’s death in late 2014 grieved her friends and her readers. This event features panelists remembering her spirit and her work and inviting audience members to participate by also reading her poems so that her single voice resonates through a chorus of witnesses. The panelists focus on her posthumous books, The Opposite House and The Impossible Bottle.

S215. Why We Innovate: The Case for Hybrid Genres.

(Jacqueline Kolosov,  Jenny Boully,  Tung-Hui Hu, Kathleen Rooney, Mary Szybist)

Room 409 AB, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Editors of and contributors to Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of Eight Hybrid Literary Genres discuss writing and teaching hybrid literature as innovative acts of artistic, social, and cultural criticism, and as radical self-creation. Panelists discuss why writers mix forms and provide ideas and examples for crafting and teaching hybrid genres, focusing on blendings of visual, performative, lyrical, and narrative techniques.

S230. Graywolf Press Reading. 

(Percival Everett,  Dana Gioia,  Jennifer Grotz,  Paul Lisicky,  Diane Seuss)

Room 515 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

These terrific writers of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction highlight the breadth and scope of the Graywolf Press publishing list—from American satire to the lyrical poem to the personal memoir and beyond. Introduced by Graywolf director and publisher Fiona McCrae, each writer will read from recently published books.


3:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.

S237.  Ada Limón, Heather McHugh, and Ellen Bryant Voigt: A Reading.

 (Heather McHughEllen Bryant Voigt, Ada Limón)

Concourse Hall, LA Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Level One

Join us for a reading with three of America’s most respected and influential poets. Norman Dubie is the author of many collections of poetry, including The VolcanoThe Insomniac Liar of Topo, andQuotations of Bone. Heather McHugh’s most recent work includes Upgraded to Serious and Eyeshot. She has received many awards including a MacArthur Fellowship. Ellen Bryant Voigt is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently Headwaters, and two collections of essays. She established the nation’s first low-residency writing program in 1976. Among her many honors includes a MacArthur Fellowship.

S264. (Still) Got the Juice: Fierce Writing by Women Poets of a Certain Age.

(Wendy Barker,  Toi Derricotte,  Lorna Dee Cervantes,  Natalia Trevino,  Rebecca Foust [poetry, ‘10])

Room 515 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Modern American society marginalizes women after age 30, and then disappears and mutes them after age 40. How can women “of a certain age” make their voices heard? These five poets refuse to sit down, shut up, or go gently into that good night. Panel members frame the issues in the larger societal context, show how to keep work relevant by reading exemplar poems, and offer strategies for ensuring through publication, social media, readings and conferences that their words are—emphatically—heard.



4:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.

S279. Easy A’s and Epic Fails: Grading the Creative Writer. 

(Siân Griffiths,  Katherine Coles,  Michael Martone,  Melanie Thon,  Josh Robbins)

Room 410, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

What does it mean to fail a poem? Will students dare to experiment if a conventional story earns a 98%? This panel examines the ramifications of attaching grades to creative work, debating the value of this assessment on student writing improvement. Agreeing to disagree, the members of this panel reflect on our varied assessment practices and wrestle with the question of how to grade while simultaneously encouraging students to take the risks necessary for artistic growth.


4:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.

S283. The Darkening Trapeze: Last Poems of Larry Levis.

(David St. John, Carolyn Forche,  Linda Gregerson,  Terrance Hayes)

Room 502 B, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

This panel considers the lasting legacy of California poet Larry Levis (1946–1995) viewed through the lens of the forthcoming (January 2016) posthumous collection, The Darkening Trapeze. The panelists discuss Levis’ enormous stylistic and philosophical influence upon an entire younger generation of poets, along with the poets of his own, as well as the longtime friendship between Levis and his mentor Philip Levine.

S293. Bad Influences: Writers and the Writers Who Corrupted Them. 

(Katie Peterson,  Sandra Lim,  Leslie Shipman [poetry, ‘07],  Garth Greenwell,  Thomas Page McBee)

Room 515 B, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Who did you read so much that their influence actually got you into trouble? On this cross-genre panel, a novelist, a memoirist, and three poets speculate with wit and candor on whether you can know when you’ve been influenced too much, and whether there’s a difference between good influence and bad influence. Can reading poetry be bad for prose? Can pop culture be good for anything? Panelists will also consider which “bad influences” are “corrupting” genres today.





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