MFA News | Master of Fine Arts in Writing

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Books by MFA Faculty & Alum

Alumni News

  • St. Lawrence Book Award -- Leigh Camacho's (Fiction, 2012) forthcoming debut collection from Black Lawrence Press, Moon Trees and Other Orphans, has won the St. Lawrence Book Award. Her fiction, poems, and essays have appeared in Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, December Magazine and elsewhere. 
  • Fulbright Award -- Anita Gill (Nonfiction, 2018) received a Fulbright award to conduct research in Spain for the completion of a novel of historical fiction centered around playwright Lope de Vega. Gill will spend her nine-month fellowship primarily in Barcelona. She will also travel to Madrid, Toledo, and Seville, some of the places where de Vega once lived. For more information, see this recent article by Pacific University.
  • Debut Novel -- Jason Allen's (Fiction, 2012) debut novel, The East End, is out this month from Park Row Books/Harper Collins Publishers. His work has also been published in Passages North, Paterson Literary Review, Contemporary American Voices, Cream City Review, Ragazine, The Molotov Cocktail, and others. 
  • Perugia Press Prize -- Abby Murray (Poetry, 2009) is the 2019 Perugia Press Prize winner for her poetry collection, Hail and FarewellHail and Farewell is a bold and unflinching examination of the intimate relationship between a soldier and a pacifist, bound together by choice. Murray has published two previous poetry collections, How to Be Married after Iraq (2018) and Quick Draw: Poems from a Soldier’s Wife (2012), both from Finishing Line Press.
  • Interview with Thomas Chatterton Williams -- Otis Houston's (Nonfiction, 2017) interview with Meghan Daum, author of The Problem With Everything (forthcoming in October), was published in The Los Angeles Review of Books. He also interviewed Thomas Chatterton Williams, a recent MFA guest writer about Williams’ upcoming book, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race. Houston’s work has also appeared in Kitchen Work and Defenestration.
  • Novel Now Out in Paperback -- Deborah Reed's (Fiction, 2012) fourth novel, The Days When Birds Come Back, is now out in paperback. Reed is also the author of Olivay, Things We Set on Fire, and Carry Yourself Back to Me. Her forthcoming novel, Violet Swan, will be published in June 2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • New Poetry Collection -- Jennifer Saunders' (Poetry, 2017)  Self-Portrait with Housewife was recently published by Tebot Bach Press. Her work has appeared in Dunes Review, The Georgia Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, San Pedro River Review, Spillway, The Shallow Ends, and elsewhere.
  • New Poetry Collection -- D.R. James' (Poetry, 2013) eighth poetry collection, Surreal Expulsion, was released in 2019 from The Poetry Box. James’ seven previous poetry collections include If god were gentle (Dos Madres Press 2017), Since Everything Is All I’ve Got (March Street Press 2011), and the chapbooks Split-Level and Why War (both Finishing Line Press 2017 and 2014).

Faculty News

Kwame DawesKwame Dawes won a Windham-Campbell Poetry Prize in 2019. Each recipient of the award receives a $165,000 USD prize to support their writing. The author of twenty books of poetry and numerous other works of fiction and nonfiction, Dawes is profoundly influenced by the aesthetic, intellectual, and political traditions of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. His awards also include the Forward Poetry Prize, The Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, The Musgrave Silver Medal, several Pushcart Prizes, the Barnes and Nobles Writers for Writers Award, and an Emmy.


Debra GwartneyDebra Gwartney published a new memoir, I Am A Stranger Here Myself. The book won the River Teeth Nonfiction Prize, judged by Gretel Ehrlich, and was released in March by the University of New Mexico Press as part of its Prize Series. Arranged in four sections as a series of interlocking explorations and ruminations, Gwartney spins a tightly woven narrative about identity, the power of womanhood, and coming to peace with one's most cherished place.


Pete FrommFive-time winner of the Pacific Northwest Bookseller Award Pete Fromm returns with a new novel, A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do. The novel is a love story about family, resiliency, and second chances. It will be published by Counterpoint in May, 2019.




Willy VlautinFrom Willy Vlautin comes a new novel, Don’t Skip Out on Me, an exploration of identity and loneliness pulled from deep within America’s soul. A beautiful, wrenching portrait of a downtrodden man, Don’t Skip Out on Me narrates the struggle to find one's place in a vast and lonely world with profound tenderness. Vlautin is also a 2019 PEN/Faulkner Fiction Prize finalist for Don’t Skip Out on Me.

Photo by Dan Eccles


Molly GlossAward-winning and critically acclaimed author Molly Gloss’s career retrospective collection, Unforeseen, includes sixteen celebrated short stories that have never be published together before and three new stories. 




Dorianne LauxDorianne Laux published a new poetry collection, Only as the Day is Long. The collection represents a brilliant, daring body of work from one of our boldest contemporary poets, known to bear compassionate and ruthless witness to the quotidian. Drawn from Dorianne Laux’s five expansive volumes, including her confident debut Awake, National Book Critics Circle Finalist What We Carry, and Paterson Prize–winning The Book of Men, the poems in this collection have been "brought to the hard edge of meaning" (B. H. Fairchild) and praised for their "enormous precision and beauty" (Philip Levine). Twenty new odes pay homage to Laux’s mother, an ordinary and extraordinary woman of the Depression era. Exploring experiences of survival and healing, of sexual love and celebration, Only as the Day Is Long shows Laux at the height of her powers.

Mahtem ShiferrawMahtem Shiferraw's new poetry collection, Your Body Is War, contemplates the psychology of the female human body, looking at the ways it exists and moves in the world, refusing to be contained in the face of grief and trauma. Bold and raw, Shiferraw’s poems explore what the woman’s body has to do to survive and persevere in the world, especially in the aftermath of abuse. A groundbreaking collection, the poems in Your Body Is War embody elements of conflict, making them simultaneously a place of destruction and of freedom.


What Alumni Are Saying

Rourkes Portrait

Leigh Camacho Rourks (Fiction, 2012)

"Applying to Pacific was one of the best decisions of my life. The gift of the program is the way the saturation of residency builds permanent bonds, not just with the amazing community of writers Pacific attracts, but with the writing life itself. At the center of residency are the craft talks the faculty prepare. Incredible and diverse, these talks set the discussion so that everywhere you go--at workshop, at breakfast, lunch, dinner, out for a stroll, at readings--people are in lively discussion (sometimes even friendly argument) about the elements of craft, about writing. Anywhere else I have studied, lectures are simple moments in time, but at Pacific, they are ongoing things with lives of their own outside the classroom. When you leave residency, those discussions go with you. Even when you graduate and leave the program, they are there for you. They live in the life-long friendships you build with your cohort and professors, they live in your work. I can sit down to write, come across a problem, a puzzle to solve in my project and pull up a memory of one of those lectures to help. Then I can email or call one of my partners from the program--we talk nearly daily--and sort out solutions. I am never alone, no matter how lonely the writing life can seem. That is unique. That is special. That is the gift of Pacific. "

Leigh Camacho Rourks is a Fellow at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she teaches Creative Writing and American Literature. She is a recipient of both the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award and the Robert Watson Literary Review Prize, and her work has been shortlisted for several other awards, including the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction and the Mysterious Press Award. Her writing has appeared in a number of journals, such as Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Pank, TriQuarterly, December Magazine, Greensboro Review, and others.

Bitting Portrait

Michelle Bitting (Poetry, 2009)

"My longing to return to Pacific never goes away. This program’s faculty of exceptional mentors embodies a fierce loyalty to the art of writing as well as an authentic, living connection to the world of published expression today. Yet, it is their passionate love of craft and creation itself, coupled with intense dedication to each student’s growth that succeeds in forging a lasting bond between the Master of Fine Arts experience and developing writer. I will never forget my time there."

Michelle Bitting’s latest collection, Broken Kingdom (C & R Press, 2018), won the first annual Catamaran Poetry prize in Spring 2018. Her second collection, The Couple Who Fell to Earth (C & R Press, 2016), was named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2016. She has poems published in The American Poetry Review, AJP, Prairie Schooner, Narrative, Diode, The New York Times, Vinyl, Plume, the Paris-American, Fjords, Tupelo Quarterly and others. Her book, Good Friday Kiss (C & R Press, 2008), won the DeNovo First Book Award and Notes to the Beloved (C & R Press, 2017) won the Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award and also earned a starred Kirkus Review. She has won awards from Glimmer Train and the Beyond Baroque Foundation and been a finalist for the Poet's & Writer's Magazine California Exchange, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Julia Peterkin, and Rita Dove poetry awards. Her poems have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes, and most recently, The Pablo Neruda, American Literary Review and Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Awards. Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher.

Ase Edel

Anastasia Edel (Fiction, 2014)

"The best part of Pacific MFA program is its intense focus on teaching the craft of writing. You don’t have to belong to a specific school or philosophy to benefit from the program’s fantastic, dedicated faculty. You set the pace and make it as hard as you want (I made it very hard). Pacific pushed me out of my comfort zone, helped me break out of old patterns and habits, and opened opportunities of working in different forms and genres. It stretched my mind and my imagination. I came to the program a zealous amateur and emerged a professional without losing one bit of my passion for writing."

Anastasia Edel is a Russian-American writer living in California. She is the author of “Russia: Putin’s Playground” (Lightning Guides 2016), a historical and cultural guide to modern-day Russia. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Quartz, World Literature Today, and cream city review. The New York Times recently published three Op-Ed pieces by Edel, one by which was the most emailed piece of the day. She also published several essays in The New York Review of Books. 

Heather Sappenfield

Heather Sappenfield (Fiction, 2011)

"The craft talks, the workshops, the semesters with one-on-one attention from some of the country’s best writers, the camaraderie with fellow students, the sense of community among everyone present—all of this feels like a gift while you’re there. Yet it’s a gift that resonates beyond graduation. Because those things are with you every day, in each word you write. I think the residencies at Seaside are what I miss the most. It all feels mystical and moody and perfect for inspiring writing. I’m a tremendous Lord of the Rings fan, and the Pacific MFA program, especially there at Seaside, is like Minas Tirith, the white city of Gondor, home of learning and noble things that we all aspire and hearken back to."

Heather (H. E.) Sappenfield’s fiction has won numerous awards and finalist positions, most notably the Danahy Fiction Prize, the Writer’s Digest Contest, and the Flannery O’Connor Award. It has also received Pushcart Nominations and appeared in the publications Meridian, Tampa Review, Shenandoah, So To Speak, and Joyland, among many others. Her first novel, The View from Who I Was (Flux, 2015), was nominated for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and her second novel, Life at the Speed of Us (Flux, 2016), was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Her interviews with Bonnie Jo Campbell and George Saunders have appeared in The Writer’s Chronicle. She lives in Vail, Colorado, with her husband and daughter.

Lisa Allen Ortiz

Lisa Allen Ortiz (Poetry, 2014)

"Pacific MFA is run by writers and attended by writers—people who look and listen and read and make, and then gather to testify about the craft and art of writing. It’s not a careerist program. It’s not a competitive program. Pacific MFA is a supportive and lively program, run with intelligence, compassion and vision. Applying to the program is one of my life’s best decisions, and I will always be grateful for the teachers and community I found in Seaside and Forest Grove."

Lisa Allen Ortiz is author of Guide to the Exhibit (Perugia Press, 2016), winner of the 2016 Perugia Press Prize. She is also the author of two chapbooks: Turns Out (Main Street Rag Press, 2011) and Self Portrait as a Clock (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her poems and translations have appeared in Best New Poets 2013, Verse Daily, Narrative, The Literary Review and Beloit Poetry Journal. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and awarded two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg prizes.

Tim O'Leary

Tim O'Leary (Fiction, 2015)

"My Pacific University MFA gave me a new life!  After a long career in advertising, I was creatively and mentally burned-out, and had lost my passion and enthusiasm. The incredible Pacific faculty creatively reinvigorated me, honed my writing skills, and gave me the tools to begin a new life as a writer."

Timothy O'Leary won the 2015 Aestas Short Story Award, was a finalist for the Mississippi Review Prize, the Washington Square Review Prize in fiction, and the Mark Twain Prize for humor writing. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee, and his work has been published in many magazines and anthologies, including Talking River, Fredericksburg Literary Review, and Pooled Ink. His collection of short stories, Dick Cheney Shot Me in the Face, and Other Tales of Men in Pain, was published by Unsolicited Press in 2017. Born in Billings, Montana, he received his MFA from Pacific University, and resides in the Columbia Gorge, near Portland, Oregon.

Alexandra Lytton

Alexandra Lytton Regalado (Poetry and Fiction, 2014)

"After a decade dedicated to motherhood and publishing other people’s work—my own poetry manuscript gathering dust at the back of a drawer—I came to Pacific’s MFA program ready to reconnect with my writing self. I traveled across the continent and, although I consider myself a shy and reserved person, I felt immediately welcomed into the Pacific community. In my classmates I found lifelong writing partners and dear friends. My faculty advisors took their roles seriously. They were honest and careful readers and their detailed response letters full of keen observations, provocative questions, and specific recommendations provided the right balance of encouragement and critique. The residency presentations focused on unique topics that addressed important craft elements—when I wasn’t laughing or oohing or ahhing, I was frantically trying to write it all down. Most importantly, Pacific taught me to establish routines and become a productive writer. I learned to trust myself as an editor. I left Pacific with a ready-to-publish poetry manuscript, a collection of short stories, and a clearly established personal commitment to reading and writing every day."

Alexandra Lytton Regalado's poetry collection, Matria (Black Lawrence Press, 2017), won the 2015 St. Lawrence Book Award. She is also the winner of the 2015 Coniston Poetry Prize and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in cream city review, Gulf Coast, MiPOesias, Narrative, The Notre Dame Review, OCHO, Phoebe, Puerto del Sol, Radar Poetry and elsewhere. Co-founder of Kalina publishing, Alexandra is author, editor, and/or translator of ten Central American-themed books, most recently the bilingual Salvadoran poetry anthology Theatre Under My Skin (Kalina, 2014). Her ongoing photo-essay project about El Salvador, through_the_bulletproof_glass, is on Instagram. Alexandra has a black belt in Kenpo Karate and currently lives in San Salvador with her husband and three children.

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