MFA News | Master of Fine Arts in Writing

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Books by MFA Faculty & Alum

Alumni News--Highlights​​​​​

  • Debut Poetry Collection -- Michele Bombardier (Poetry, 2017). Bombardier’s debut poetry collection, What We Do, was recently named a finalist for the Washington State Book Awards. Bombardier’s work has appeared in many journals including Atlanta Review, Poetry International Online, and Bellevue Literary Review.
  • New Poetry Collection -- Jan Bottiglieri's (Poetry, 2011) second full-length poetry collection, Everything Seems Significant: The Blade Runner Poems, was released in August 2019 from BlazeVOX Books. The book is a reflective investigation of Ridley Scott's influential 1982 neo-noir film. Her previous poetry collections include Alloy (Mayapple Press 2015) and the chapbook Where Gravity Pools the Sugar (Finishing Line Press 2012).
  • 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 -- Sharon Harrigan’s (Fiction, 2012) forthcoming novel, a coming of age story, Half, will be published by University of Wisconsin Press in June 2020. Harrigan is also the author of Playing with Dynamite: A Memoir. Her new book Half was a finalist for the ACP Novel Prize.
  • New Poetry Collection -- L.I. Henley’s (Poetry, 2011) novella in verse, Whole Night Through, was published in October 2019 from What Books Press. It is set in a stark, economically depressed Mojave Desert town near the largest military base in the country and is loosely based on a compilation of real homicides.
  • Award -- Ellen Michaelson (Fiction, 2010). Michaelson’s novella, From the Love of Strangers (Melville House, November 2020) was chosen as the 2019-2020 Miami Book Fair/de Groot Prize winner, and has also been a finalist/semifinalist for the Brighthorse Prize and the William Faulkner Society Writing Competition. Her work has also appeared in Portland Monthly, Women in Solitude (SUNY Press), and Literature in Medicine.
  • Award -- JoDean Nicolette (Fiction & Nonfiction, 2020). Nicolette was awarded the 2020 Scribes Valley Prize  for her poem, The Ride. Her work has appeared in such publications as The Sun Magazine, Inscape, Printers Row Journal, and the Rappahannock Review. She is a Pushcare nominee and has been awarded the Grand Prize in Prose in The Main Review's Rocky Coast Contest. She is currently working on two books. 
  • Debut Poetry Collection -- Dion O'Reilly (Poetry, 2019). O’Reilly’s debut poetry collection, Ghost Dogs (Terrapin Books, 2020) is now available in bookstores. Her writing has appeared in such journals as The Massachusetts Review, New Letters, Sugar House Review, Rattle, and Bellingham Review. Her work has been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize. An earlier version of Ghost Dogs was a finalist for the Catamaran Poetry Book Prize.
  • Grant -- Sarah Orizaga (Fiction, 2018) was awarded the Elizabeth George Foundation grant in 2020. The grant provides funding for writers to cover living expenses, travel for research, attend artistic residencies, writers’ conferences, necessary enrichment or creative growth classes, or cover tuition in an accredited MFA program.
  • Debut Nonfiction Book -- Victor Pollak (Nonfiction, 2019). Saving the Light at Chartres: How the Great Cathedral and its Stained-Glass Treasures Were Rescued During World War II has just been released by Globe Pequot/Stackpole Books. Pollak’s book explores the rescue of the cathedral’s famous stained-glass windows as the war began and the American Army Colonel who is credited with having saved the cathedral in August 1944 hours before his death.
  • New Book Release -- Deborah Reed (Fiction, 2005). Reed’s book, Pale Morning Light with Violet Swan: A Novel of a Lite in Art is due out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in October 2020. Reed is also the author of The Days When Birds Come Back, Olivay, Things We Set on Fire, and Carry Yourself Back to Me. She has written two thrillers under the pen name Audrey Braun. She lives on the coast of Oregon and is the owner of Cloud and Leaf Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Manzanita.
  • St. Lawrence Book Award -- Leigh Camacho Rourks' (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. 
  • New Poetry Chapbook -- Mary Salisbury (Fiction, 2010). Salisbury’s new poetry chapbook, Scarlet Rain Boots (Finishing Line Press, 2020) is now available in bookstores. Her poetry has appeared in Calyx, and her first chapbook, Come What May, was also published by Finishing Line Press.
  • New Novel -- Katey Schultz's (Nonfiction, 2008) fourth book, Still Come Home, was released this October from Loyola University Maryland's Apprentice House Press. The novel explores the tensions between loyalty to self and loyalty to country. Schultz has also published two short story collections, including Bite (Trachodon Publishing 2012) and Flashes of War (Loyola University Maryland Press 2013).
  • Debut Story Collection -- Traci Skuce (Fiction, 2015). Skuce’s debut story collection, Hunger Moon, was just published by NeWest Press and is available online. Jack Driscoll calls the collection’s thirteen short stories “Poignant, beautifully crafted and deeply imagined." Her short stories and nonfiction have appeared in several publications across North America including Grain, New Ohio Review, The New Quarterly, and Prairie Fire, and have been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and two Journey prizes. 


Faculty News

Dorianne LauxDorianne Laux was recently elected Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. This distinction is shared by just 115 poets since the board’s formation in 1946 and includes fellow faculty members Ellen Bass and Kwame Dawes. Laux will consult with the organization on matters of artistic programming, act as an ambassador of the poetry world at large, and serve as a judge for the organization’s largest legacy prizes for poets. Laux’s most recent collection is Only As The Day Is Long: New and Selected, published by W.W. Norton in 2019. Fellow Academy Chancellor Marie Howe says of Laux, “She has always been brave, writing into shadowed subjects to shine the light there. Her poems are fierce incantations to staying alive; necessary and indelible.”

Frank GasparPacific MFA faculty member Frank Gaspar's new book, The Poems of Renata Ferreira, was recently published by Tagus Press. In a fusion of genres, Gaspar presents the poems of Ferreira, a Portuguese­-American who fought Portugal's fascist regime, and details their surprising rediscovery. Ellen Bass calls it "A fascinating saga weaving desire and memory, war and beauty, lies, truth, and the persistence of art."

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 was 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. 



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 the author of the St. Lawrence Book Award winner Moon Trees and Other Orphans. 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.