MFA News | Master of Fine Arts in Writing
- NEA Fellowship -- Jamaica Baldwin (Poetry, 2017). Baldwin is one of 35 writers who received the 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship. Baldwin’s poetry has appeared in the Missouri Review and TriQuarterly, as well as many other magazines and publications. She is also the winner of the 2021 RHINO Poetry Editors Prize for her poem, “Father Weaver.”
- New Poetry Collection -- Adrienne Christian (Poetry, 2011). Christian has released her latest collection, Worn (Santa Fe Writer’s Project 2021). Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Hayden’s Ferry Review, CALYX, phoebe, The Los Angeles Review as The Editor’s Choice, and other journals and magazines. She is the author of two other poetry collections: 12023 Woodmont Avenue (Willow Books 2013) and A Proper Lover (Main Street Rag 2017). She is a fellow of both Cave Canem and Callaloo Writing Residencies. In 2018, she won the James Gaffney/Society of American Poets Outstanding Poetry Award and in 2021 she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
- Tacoma, Washington, Poet Laureate -- Abby Murray (Poetry, 2009). Murray was chosen by the Tacoma Washington Arts Commission as the city’s Poet Laureate for 2019 to 2021. Her first book, Hail and Farewell (Perugia Press 2019), won the 2019 Perugia Press Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. In 2016, Abby launched Collateral, a literary journal published twice a year. Her work can be found in Prairie Schooner, Adroit Journal, Poets Reading the News, and Rattle.
- Mapmakers Alumni Institute -- Catherine-Esther Cowie (Poetry, 2020). A former Pacific University MFA Mapmaker Scholar, Cowie is organizing a series of quarterly panels and other programming as part of the inaugural year of the Mapmakers Alumni Institute. The first, titled "The Long Shout," featured fellow Pacific poet Joshua Boettiger, and guest poets Valzhyna Mort and Celia Sorhaindo. The second, "Beyond Ekphrastic," was part of the June 2021 residency, and featured poets Diana Khoi Nguyen, Allison Moore (Poetry, 2020), and Adrienne Christian (Poetry, 2011). Cowie's work has appeared in The Common, West Branch Journal, SWWIM, Potomac Review, and Southern Humanities Review. Her collage art has been featured in The Indianapolis Review and ctrl+v journal. She is the co-founder of imakeuselessstuff.com, a website featuring digital and analog collage courses.
- Fulbright Scholar Award -- Jo Brachman (Poetry, 2018). Brachman has been selected for a Fulbright Scholar Award to Sweden for the 2021-2022 academic year. Jo will complete a book of her own poetry about the women of Ravensbrück, the largest concentration camp for women in the German Reich. Lund University houses the world's largest collection of Ravensbrück artifacts and personal belongings of the survivors.
- Award -- Ellen Michaelson (Fiction, 2010). Michaelson’s novella The Care of Strangers (Melville House 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.
- New Poetry Collection -- Julia Levine (Poetry, 2019). Levine released her fifth collection of poems, Ordinary Psalms, in which the speaker, struggling to accept her impending blindness, asks everyday life to help her learn how to see beyond appearances into fundamental truths.
- Two New Books -- Tom Griffen (Poetry, 2015). This past year saw the release of two books by Griffen, With a Good Heart: A Walk From LA to Brooklyn and Imagine the Sea: One Hundred Poems From a Long Walk, a companion book of poetry.
- Debut Memoir -- Ronit Plank (Nonfiction, 2017). Plank has published her book When She Comes Back: A Memoir (Motina Books 2021). Her earlier work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The HuffPost and The Rumpus. She is currently working on her weekly podcast, And Then Everything Changed, which highlights those who have survived hardship and have made it their goals to help others. Plank is also the creative nonfiction editor at The Citron Review.
- Independent Press Award -- Dion O'Reilly (Poetry, 2019). O’Reilly’s poetry book Ghost Dogs was selected as the First Place Winner for the 2021 Independent Press Award. The book was also an honorable mention for the 2021 Eric Hoffer award. Her writing appears The Massachusetts Review, New Letters, Sugar House Review, Rattle, Bellingham Review, and elsewhere. Her work has also been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize.
- Will Rogers Humanitarian Award -- Norris Burkes (Nonfiction, 2015). Burkes received the 2019 Will Rogers Humanitarian Award sponsored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He writes a column on spirituality and is syndicated in nearly 40 papers around the country. Burke has released a book, as well: Thriving Beyond Surviving: Stories of Resilience From a Hospital Chaplain (CreateSpace Publishing 2016).
- New Poetry Collection -- Elizabeth Levinson (Poetry, 2011). Levinson’s new collection, Running Around, is out from Finishing Line Press. Her work has appeared in several journals such as Grey Sparrow, Apple Valley Review, and Slipstream. Her first chapbook, As Wild Animals, is currently available from Dancing Girl Press & Studio.
- Debut Novel -- Larry Feign (Fiction, 2012). Feign published his novel, The Flower Boat Girl, based on the true life story of the 19th-century Chinese woman who became the most powerful pirate in history. He also published a series of children's books under the pen name MD Whalen.
- Debut Poetry Collection -- Anna Van Valkenberg (Poetry, 2016). Anna Van Valkenberg has released her debut poetry collection, Queen and Carcass (Anvil Press 2020). Her poetry and reviews have been featured in The Puritan, Prism International, December Magazine, and The Rusty Toque. Her work has also been shortlisted for the Pangolin Poetry Prize and nominated for the AWP Intro Journals Project. She was recently interviewed by Miramichi Reader to explore her thoughts behind the poetry collection.
- 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.
- Debut Story Collection -- Sara Rauch (Poetry, 2014). Rauch’s debut short story collection, What Shines From It (Alternating Current Press 2020), received the 2017 Electric Book Award. Her work has appeared in several literary magazines including Paper Darts, WomenArts Quarterly and Hobart. She is currently working on a novel and collection of lyric essays. Rauch writes a Tiny Letter called The Art of Landing.
- Stubborn Writers Contest -- Cynthia Nooney (Fiction, 2019). Nooney received first prize in nonfiction for her piece “Here is How” in the 2020 Chestnut Review's Stubborn Writers Contest. She’s also published in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, 805 Living, and other publications. She is currently working on her memoir.
- New Poetry Collection -- Linda Neal (Poetry, 2020). Neal’s collection Not About Dinosaurs is out from Lulu. Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including Prairie Schooner, Santa Fe Literary Review, and SLAB. She has won awards from Beyond Baroque Foundation, Pacific Coast Journal, PEN Women Writers, and San Luis Obispo Golden Quill. Her first collection, Dodge & Burn (Bambaz Press), was released in 2014.
- Chapbook Publication -- D.R. James (Poetry, 2013). D.R. James published a new chapbook, Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press 2020). His poems have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies including Galaway Review, Rattle, and Writer's Digest. He has two published books, If god were gentle (Dos Madres Press) and Since Everything Is All I’ve Got (March Street Press), and multiple other chapbooks.
- New Poetry Collection -- Janelle Cordero (Poetry, 2013). Cordero released her second poetry collection, Woke to Birds (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press 2019). Woke to Birds follows her first full length collection, Two Cups of Tomatoes. Her writing has been published in various literary journals including The Louisville Review, Atticus Review, and Harpur Palate.
Ellen Bass was honored in April with a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.
The foundation awards fellowships to artists, writers, scientists, historians and scholars in a variety of disciplines to assist them in furthering their work. The foundation typically sifts through about 3,000 applications a year.
Bass is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Her most recent book, Indigo, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2020. Other poetry collections include Like a Beggar — which was a finalist for The Paterson Poetry Prize, The Publishers Triangle Award, The Milt Kessler Poetry Award, The Lambda Literary Award, and the Northern California Book Award — The Human Line, and Mules of Love, which won The Lambda Literary Award.
For his work as the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner, Kwame Dawes was awarded in April the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing. Dawes was also named a finalist for the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. He also recently assumed the editorship of American Life in Poetry. 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.
Shara McCallum, recently awarded the awarded The Southern Review's Oran Robert Perry Burke Award for Nonfiction, has been named the 2021 Penn State Laureate, a position established in 2008 “to bring greater visibility to the arts and humanities and the honoree’s work.”
Molly Gloss has been awarded the 2021 C.E.S. Wood award from Literary Arts, part of this year’s Oregon Book Awards.
In January, E.J. Koh's The Magical Language of Others was awarded the 2021 Pacific Northwest Book Award for memoir.
Photo by Dan Eccles
What Alumni Are Saying
Jamaica Baldwin (Poetry, 2016)
“I can’t think of any other MFA program that has the caliber of faculty that Pacific has. And not just quality, but quantity. No matter who you end up with as an advisor, you know you are in terrific hands. It is really a community at Pacific, a community that values what every student brings to the table. Their focus is to help you become the best version of the writer you already are, and not the writer they want you to be. That generosity of spirit and care for each writer’s individual voice is priceless.”
Jamaica Baldwin's first book, Bone Language, will be published by YesYes Books in 2023. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Prairie Schooner, World Literature Today, The Adroit Journal, and The Missouri Review, among others. She is a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, winner of the 2021 RHINO Poetry editor's prize, and winner of the 2019 San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference Contest in Poetry. Her writing has been supported by Hedgebrook, Furious Flower, and the Jack Straw Writers program. Jamaica is currently pursuing her PhD in English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with a focus on poetry and Women and Gender Studies.
Pingmei Lan (Fiction, 2017)
"The Pacific MFA program has given me a unique set of memories: faculty advisors who believed in me, challenged me, and supported me. Fellow student writers who not only exchanged writing works but also shared their lives with me.”
Pingmei Lan grew up in Beijing, China. Her writing has appeared in Epiphany, Tahoma Literary Review, and The Florida Review. She is a winner of the 2019 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers.
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.
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.
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 (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 (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 (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 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.