Write in the Heart of Appalachia!

Write in the Heart of Appalachia!

In my vain attempts to hold onto the summer, I’d like to share some thoughts about West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Low-Res MFA program. I’m incredibly proud of our students, and I’m proud to be a core faculty member.

I’ll keep it brief, but in the first photo, that’s Larry Thacker, a 2018 poetry alum who returned this year as Conference Assistant. He also led a wonderful craft seminar filled with weird antiques. It was all about engaging with the tactile world. Our MFA program has long prided itself on its multigenre approach: you can find his story collection Working It Off in Labor Country (WVU Press) here and one of his poetry collections here. For more info about his other books–and his Netflix show (!)–click here.

Since we’re talking about publications, here’s 2016 alum Lara Lillibridge’s author page at Simon & Schuster. Her two books are Mama, Mama, Only Mama: A Single Mom Shares Her Inspiring and Hilarious Tales of Parenting, Full of Love, Advice, and Humor and Girlish: An honest, unfiltered memoir about a girl with an unconventional family. Girlish was a 2018 finalist for the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards (LGBT Adult Nonfiction category) and an award-winning finalist for the 2018 Best Book Awards sponsored by American Book Fest.

I could keep talking publications and awards, such as my former student Kellie Tatem being a 2021 finalist for the New Letters Literary Award or my former student D.L. Logan’s wonderful essay here. And here.

I also want to mention my former student Abigail Benjamin, a novelist, attorney and business pioneer who co-founded Buckhannon’s first bookstore in ages. Since its grand opening last year, Argo Books has become an important hub for literature and culture in Upshur County.

Lastly, I want to mention my former student Heather Humphries, pictured below during graduation. At 84, she holds the Wesleyan record for the graduate with the most life experience. In this article, she’s quoted thusly: “I thought about an interesting thing, a story to tell about my family. Three generations in China, and I thought well. I’ll just write this book. This whole journey of going through journalism to fiction to creative writing is a tough one.” And it’s been great working with her on that journey.

As you can see, it’s an outstanding creative writing program with an eclectic faculty and scrappy, hardworking students. It’s the kind of program where you can blow off steam after a residency by shooting pool at the local train-themed dive bar–and your program director will bring you cheese fries. Our program also helps students prep for teaching in various ways. That’s my former student Emily giving her graduate seminar in the last photo.

Anyway, if you’d like more info, please don’t hesitate to email me or contact me on Twitter. The program’s official website is here.

A few highlights from the 2022 Summer Residency:

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