With a leap in national rankings and students’ works already published or forthcoming, the University of Mississippi Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and its graduates are continuing to make major advances.
Within its 12-year existence, the program has steadily risen in the Poets and Writers Magazine MFA Index for creative writing programs. Ranked 14th in the 2014 national, one-year popularity survey, UM was 38th out of 50 top national programs a year ago. That was 10 spots higher than in the previous year.
“P&W changed their ranking system this year, and we moved up significantly,” said Ivo Kamps, chair and professor of English. “We are truly among the best of the best.”
In addition to the program’s celebratory status, a dozen of its graduates either have been or soon will be published.
“We have a supportive administration; it’s been quick to realize the tremendous energy surging out of the MFA program right now, and it’s provided some important resources that allow us to deepen and expand the range of our work,” said Beth Ann Fennelly, associate professor of English and director of the MFA program. “And of course, the great students we have publish exciting work that gets noticed by other prospective students who then apply to us.
“In 2012, we had more than 300 applications for just eight spots and were very, very selective indeed. It’s thrilling to be a part of this very young, dynamic, news-making program.”
Recent works and their graduate authors include:
- Olga (poems from Word Tech Press) and The Gar Diaries (selected prose from Community Press) by Louis Bourgeois
- Deep Down in the Delta and Gust (poems from TriQuarterly Books) by Greg Brownderville
- The Name of the Nearest River (short stories from Sarabande) by Alex Taylor
- Boondoggle (poems from Main Street Rag) and “The Spooking of Mavens” (poems from Cracked Slab) by Tim Earley
- Bone Key Elegies (poetry from Main Street Rag) by Danielle Sellers
- Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City (prose from Dark Sky Books) by Michael Bible
- The Prospect of Magic (stories from Livingston Press) and My Sunshine Away (a novel from Amy Einhorn) by M. O. Walsh
- The Diary of B.B. Bright, Possible Princess (co-authored novel from Turner) by Caroline Williams
- Monogamy Songs (poems from Future Tense Books), The Oregon Trail is the Oregon Trail (poems from Mud Luscious Press), “Heavy Petting” (poems from YesYes Books) and The Future of Curious People (co-authored novel from Algonquin) by Greg Sherl
- Chase Us (stories from Amazon Imprint) by Sean Ennis
- Grave’s End (a novel from Broken River Books) by Bill Boyle
- John Hodges has an untitled novel coming from Livingston Press, and Jake Rubin has an untitled novel coming from Livingston Press
Kamps credits the faculty and students for the program’s success. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford spent a year on the faculty and continues to teach short-term master classes for fiction students. A recent faculty addition, screenwriter Chris Offutt (of True Blood and Treme fame) has raised the bar in fiction as well as screenwriting.
Associate professor Tom Franklin’s 2010 novel, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, made the New York Times Bestseller list and won the Los Angeles Times Book Award. His new novel, co-authored with Fennelly, is called The Tilted World.
Poet Ann Fisher-Wirth earlier this year published a much-heralded collection of American ecopoetry, and the new writer-in-residence, Dave Smith, formerly chair of the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, is an admired and prolific poet and elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.
“When you add to this strong roster of faculty the new additions of Chiyuma Elliott (a Stegner Fellow) and Derrick Harriell (author of Cotton and Ropes), you have a wealth of talent, energy, and experience on which our students can draw,” Kamps said.
Corinna McClanahan Schroeder, a 2011 MFA graduate, said the program offered her incredible opportunities, including working for The Yalobusha Review and helping organize the Grisham Visiting Writers Series.
“The program is incredibly small and close-knit,” Schroeder said. “Admitted students are supported not only financially but socially – they are immediately welcomed into a community of writers upon their arrival in Oxford, a town with a rich literary history. So, too, the MFA faculty are devoted to their students, and during my three years in Oxford, my teachers were far more than faces that I saw in the classroom once a week. My professors became mentors and friends and advocates of my work.”
Schroeder is working on a doctorate in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California. She is the recipient of a Wallis Annenberg Endowed Fellowship, one of the top fellowships offered by USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
“I have no doubt that my time at Ole Miss, spent writing and studying and publishing, helped me to earn this fellowship,” she said.
It is important for the MFA program to excel, Kamps said.
“Having a superb MFA program lifts the profile and reputation of the English department, but also of the entire university,” he said. “In recent years, the University of Mississippi has begun transforming itself from a predominantly regional school into a national university. The MFA program plays an integral role in this transformation.”
For more information about the MFA program, visit https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/mfa/.