Two recent MFA grads are Finishing Line Press authors

A poetry chapbook by Melissa Cundieff-Pexa, MFA 2013, is to be published by Finishing Line Press this spring.  The chapbook, entitled Futures with Your Ghost, will be available in May 2014.

Pexa joins 2011 MFA grad, Lisa Dordal, also a Finishing Line Press author, whose chapbook, Commemoration, was published last year.  

Critical response to Dordal’s book:

Commemoration moves from elegiac poems that respond to a mother’s alcoholism, death, and the heartbreaking ‘process of separating’ to those that chronicle ‘falling out of hiding’ into sexual awareness and fulfillment. Every poem in this collection is finely made, with quartz-like clarity and complexity; in sequence, they gain the undeniable urgency and inevitability of ‘atoms, quarks, and auras / and all the love that lies between.’ This is a wise and powerful collection.” Claudia Emerson,  winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Late Wife

Three recent MFA grads in Best American series

Three recent graduates–Matt Baker (MFA 2012), Claire Burgess (MFA 2011), Jill Schepmann (MFA 2012)–have received notable citations in the 2013 Best American series published by Harcourt Brace: Matt Baker in Best American Short Stories, Claire Burgess in Best American Nonrequired Reading, and Jill Schepmann in Best American Essays.  These collections in the Best American series are the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction.

Matt Baker’s stories have appeared in American Short Fiction, New England Review, The Missouri Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Best Of The Net, among others. He has held fellowships through the Fulbright Commission, the MacDowell Colony, the Ragdale Foundation, the Sante Fe Art Institute, the Blue Mountain Center, and Prairie Center for the Arts. A founding editor of Nashville Review, he has a novel forthcoming from Little, Brown.

Claire Burgess’s short stories have appeared in journals such as Hunger Mountain, Third Coast, Redivider, PANK, and Annalemma, and have been recognized as notable in Best American Short Stories 2012 and Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012 and 2013. She was a founding editor of Nashville Review. Originally from Alabama, Claire now lives in Pittsburgh, PA, where she is finishing her first short story collection.

Jill Schepmann’s work has appeared in Parcel, Midwestern Gothic, Afro-Hispanic Review, and has been read on NPR’s All Things Considered. A native Kansan, Schepmann received her MFA in 2012 and now lives and writes in San Francisco

Student prizes & third year fellowships in Creative Writing announced

Graduate student prizes in creative writing

First year MFA student, Edgar Kunz has won first prize in the 2013 Academy of American Poets contest.  Miriam Mimms in the MLAS program received Honorable Mention.  Poet Thomas Lux judged.

Second year MFA student Chris Adamson received the 2013 Sedberry Prize for Poetry and first year MFA student Lee Conell received the 2013 Guy Goffe Means Prize for Fiction.

The Writing Studio MFA Graduate Consultant Prize went to first year MFA student in poetry Anne Charlton.

Undergraduate student prizes in creative writing

Graduating senior Elizabeth Furlow received the 2013 Merrill Moore Prize for Fiction and graduating senior Cathy Zhang received the  2013 Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry.

Third year graduate fellowships

Second year MFA student in fiction Claire Jimenez has been appointed Curb Creative Writing Fellow for 2013-14.   Second year MFA student in poetry Cara Dees and and second year MFA student in fiction Marysa LaRowe have received third year fellowships in Creative Writing for the 2013-14 academic year.  And graduating MFA student in fiction, Janet Thielke, received a post-MFA Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Creative Writing.

Recent MFA grad Carrie Causey’s poetry chapbook published

Ear to the Wall, by Carrie CauseyRecent MFA graduate Carrie Causey’s chapbook, Ear to the Wall, has just been published by Ampersand Press.  Causey is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she now teaches Literature, Composition, and Humanities at Baton Rouge Community College.   Praise for the collection:

“Carrie Causey’s Ear to the Wall introduces us to a refreshingly genuine lyrical intelligence that is sure-footed, sprinter-quick, and ready to bewitch. We are led through the dreamscapes of Causey’s childhood—the bayous and waterways of the Atchafalaya Swamp—and there encounter its many restless spirits, including women ‘spell-locked in walls, still trying to get out.’ The collection’s cumulative power is due in no small part to Causey’s formidable empathic gifts. Even when one speaker becomes ‘bright with the terror of too many gods,’ Causey still manages to take us to a place ‘that makes everything sacred’ where we, her fortunate readers, become ‘the bemused witness[es] to grace/working its cold sacrament.’ This is a stunning collection, immensely powerful, dream-haunted and river-wise.” – Rick Hilles, author of Brother Salvage and Map of the Lost World.

“Open that door just a crack, peek inside: trouble and enchantment await. You will find, I believe, Ms. Causey’s work is at once precise and expansive, meticulous and loose in the best possible way. The plain-spoken surrealism of her images strikes the balance one hopes for and so rarely finds. She’s one to be reckoned with.” — Daniel Lawless, editor of Plume Poetry.

Lorrie Moore’s short story collection, “Bark,” published

Lorrie Moore, photo by Zane Williams

Vanderbilt Creative Writing Program faculty member Lorrie Moore has published a much-anticipated collection of short stories.  The book, called Bark, published in February 2014 by Knopf, is her first such collection in more than a decade.

About Bark, New York Times editor Parul Sehgal writes in Book Forum:

“We still need Lorrie Moore to work hard at making us laugh, to remind us that we’re frauds, we’re all just acting. To unzip words for us and let their sounds and meanings and pun potentialities jingle out like coins. To point out the silver linings even if they are, as in the case of one story in Bark, just the “early die-off of the alewives” ringing the lake, their scales glinting in the sun. She never lies to us. She never tells us the water’s fine. She says, Dive in anyway, “swim among the dying while you can. Learn how to suffer in style.”

David Gates writes in his review on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Book Review (February 20, 2014):

“The uncrowded format of Bark allows each story the chance it deserves for leisurely examination and appreciation, like the kind of museum retrospective you never get to see anymore. It’s just enough: No admirer of Moore’s will go away either overloaded or unsatisfied, and it lets us contemplate and savor just what makes her work unique.”

Moore talks about the new collection and about her recent move to Vanderbilt in a number of recent interviews; for example in New York Magazine (February 24, 2013) she says, “We’ll see if Nashville changes my writing.  A change is always good for a writer.”

Announcement of Moore’s appointment

Lorrie Moore, whose much praised short-story collections include Birds of America and Like Life, has joined Vanderbilt’s Creative Writing Program faculty as the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English.  She started teaching at Vanderbilt in the spring 2014 semester.

“Lorrie is the essence of original expression and commentary. Her unique voice illuminates her poignant and brilliant writing, and she represents a terrific addition to our world-class English faculty,” said Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos. “She is the latest example of the university’s strong commitment to investing in exceptional faculty who provide transformative learning opportunities for our students.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Lorrie to Vanderbilt, with its storied history in creative writing, where she will have the opportunity to work with some of the nation’s most promising young writers,” said Carolyn Dever, dean of the College of Arts and Science and professor of English.

Moore’s most recent novel, A Gate at the Stairs (Random House), was described in a New York Times book review as “…her most powerful book yet, a book that gives us an indelible portrait of a young woman coming of age in the Midwest in the year after 9/11 and her initiation into the adult world of loss and grief.” Honors for the book include finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Orange Prize: Shortlist, and Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for Fiction. Her books also include Anagrams and Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

“Lorrie is an extraordinary writer,” said Kate Daniels, professor of English and director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Vanderbilt. “Not only one of the most celebrated and widely respected of contemporary American authors, she is esteemed as well for her teaching and mentoring of young writers. Her presence among us will be a great addition to the Nashville literary community and a boon for our growing master of fine arts program in creative writing. We look forward with great happiness to having her join us.”

In 1985 Moore’s career took off with the publication of Self-Help, a collection of short stories that was also her master’s thesis at Cornell University. Earlier, she had graduated summa cum laude from St. Lawrence University.

“Lorrie’s the most influential short story writer working in America, and has been been for the last 20 years,” said Tony Earley, the Samuel Milton Fleming Professor of English at Vanderbilt. “Ordinarily I would say that our MFA students have no idea how lucky they are, but they know exactly how lucky they are. They actually shouted with joy when they heard. I did, too, but first I made sure nobody could hear me.”

Moore is currently the Delmore Schwartz Professor in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her many honors have included fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Lannan Foundation.

Moore has written for The New York Review of BooksThe New York TimesThe New Yorker,The Atlantic Monthly and elsewhere. Other previous honors include the Rea Award for the Short Story, the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the art of the short story, and The Irish Times International Fiction Prize. Moore, who is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, spoke at Vanderbilt in January 2012 as part of the Chancellor’s Lecture Series. Her talk was titled “Creative Writing and the Customer Survey.”