The University of Arizona

UA's Creative Writing Program Turns 40

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications | March 1, 2012

In its first 40 years, the UA master's of fine arts program in creative writing has grown to become one of the most preeminent MFA programs in the nation.

The UA's nationally ranked MFA in creative writing program connects talented beginning writers with a community of peers. Students receive instruction from exceptional practitioners in the field and concentrated time to perfect their craft.
The UA's nationally ranked MFA in creative writing program connects talented beginning writers with a community of peers. Students receive instruction from exceptional practitioners in the field and concentrated time to perfect their craft.

In its 40-year history, the University of Arizona master's in fine arts creative writing program has grown to national prominence, attracting award-winning faculty and high achieving students. 

In honor of that history, the program's staff, students and alumni are hosting daylong lectures that end with a reading on March 7. 

UA alumni Richard Russo, Thomas Cobb and Peggy Shumaker, along with other MFA graduates, will lead a reading at the UA Poetry Center, located at the Helen S. Schaefer Building, 1508 E. Helen St. The 7 p.m. reading will be held in the Rubel Room, preceded by a reception at 6 p.m.

"This is going to be an awesome day," said Aurelie Sheehan, who directs the UA's MFA creative writing program.

"It's so exciting to have alums coming back from across the country to celebrate the occasion," Sheehan also said.

In addition to the public reading, alumni and faculty will lead panels on creative writing topics during the day for current MFA students and the UA community.

The topics will include "Media to Media: Perspectives on Cross-Pollination," "Post MFA Writers Communities: How, When, Where," and "Getting Published: Stories from the Front." The discussions will be held 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Room 451 of the UA Modern Languages Building, 1423 E. University Blvd. 

Since 1972, the UA has offered the preeminent MFA program in creative writing, which is within the UA Department of English

The two-year residency program offers instruction in nonfiction, fiction and poetry and also workshops, craft seminars and interdisciplinary opportunities in different genres.  

The program graduates about 20 students each year, and graduates of the program have gone on to receive nationally and internationally competitive awards and honors, including the Pulitzer Prize, the MacArthur Fellowship, the Iowa Award and the Kenyon Review Short Fiction Award.

Others have been included in Best New American Voices in 2008 and 2010 and have earned Wallace Stegner Fellowships, the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize and the John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Natural History Writing. 

Among the program's alumni are: Alberto Álvaro Rios, who earned UA degrees in 1974, 1975 and 1979; 1987 graduate David Foster Wallace; Antonya Nelson, who graduated in 1986; Richard Russo, a 1980 graduate; and Padma Viswanathan, a 2006 graduate.

Students have and do take assistantships at the UA Poetry Center and Biosphere 2, and also with community-based organizations such as Kore Press, Chax Press, the POG Collective and The Tucson Weekly.

"MFA students are highly engaged in their own education," Sheehan said.

Students run Writing in Progress, a reading series held at Casa Libre en la Solana in downtown Tucson. Also, graduate students in creative writing also produce The Sonora Review, a nationally distributed literary journal publishing prose and poetry from established and emerging writers. 

The program also produces a "Look Book" of graduating students' writing every year, and sends it to agents and editors across the country. "This has resulted in many MFA graduates finding representation in the publishing world," Sheehan said.  

"The MFA program has made a difference to so many young writers," she added. "And in fact, those young writers are the real authors of the MFA program itself – they've made it what it is today."

Contacts

Aurelie Sheehan

UA Creative Writing MFA Program

520-621-3250

asheehan@email.arizona.edu