Archive | July 2013

Congratulations to the Class of 2013!

Friends of Writers and the MFA Program would like to congratulate students who graduated at the summer 2013 residency this July.

Student Toast July 2013

Students toast the MFA graduates of July 2013.

Lindsay Ahl (poetry)

Ronald Alexander (fiction)

Tommye Blount (poetry)

Alexandra Carter (poetry)

Brandi Gentry (poetry)

Lia Greenwell (poetry)

Elisabeth Hamilton (fiction)

Sean Patrick Hill (poetry)

Patricia Grace King (fiction)

Marit MacArthur (poetry)

Carrie Mar (poetry)

Nathan McClain (poetry)

Adrienne Perry (fiction)

Garrett Simmons (fiction)

Victor Valcik (fiction)

Steve Weed (fiction)

Judith Whelchel (fiction)

Assistant to the Director Position Announcement

Over the past fifteen years, Amy Grimm, as Assistant to the Director, has seen over 450 Warren Wilson MFA students from application request to walking stick.  She’s tended to faculty travel and dorm assignments and graduation buffet menus; she’s kept our budget, sent out reminder emails, and provided an ever-ready wit and a sympathetic shoulder.

At the July residency, Amy announced her decision to leave her position in September.

While Amy will be deeply missed, we’re excited for the opportunities that lie ahead for her. and we’re looking forward to the new energy and perspectives her successor will bring to the important work we do year-round in the MFA Office.

We encourage faculty and alumni to pass along the job announcement below to qualified candidates. Please note that there is no relocation assistance for this position. Review of applications will begin on August 1st.

Assistant to the Director, MFA

The MFA Program for Writers located at Warren Wilson College seeks candidates for the Assistant to the Director position.  The person in this full-time twelve-month position is responsible for organizing and running the MFA Office, anticipating and responding to the needs of graduate students, faculty, prospective students, and alumni, as well as recognizing those needs that require the attention of the Program Director.  The Assistant works in close consultation with the Program Director, the MFA Academic Board Chair, and the Project Manager/Web Manager, and is ultimately responsible for coordinating the work of all office staff.  The complete position description may be seen online at:

The successful candidate will possess at least a B.A. degree, preferably in English;  excellent communication and computer skills; fluency with Microsoft Word and spreadsheet and database software, and social media; office management experience; exemplary organizational skills; maturity and discretion; flexibility, and even temper and a sense of humor; and experience or proven ability in bookkeeping.  Some knowledge of and interest in contemporary writers and writing is strongly preferred.  A driver’s license and good driving record is required.

The MFA Program has two 10-day residencies each year, in January and July.  The successful candidate must be available to work 14- to 18- hour consecutive days throughout the two residencies.  The summer residency typically includes July 4. Winter residency preparation involves working on New Year’s Day.

Warren Wilson College is an equal opportunity employer committed to the diversity of its community.  Please send cover letter, résumé, and contact information for three professional references by email to  Electronic submissions are required. 


Friends of Writers Honors Amy Grimm


Over the past fifteen years, Amy Grimm, as Assistant to the Director, has seen over 450 Warren Wilson MFA students from application request to walking stick.  She’s tended to faculty travel and dorm assignments and buddy pairings and graduation buffet menus; she’s kept our budget, sent out cheerful reminder emails, and has shared in our celebrations and trials with compassion, wit, and a sympathetic shoulder. For a decade and a half, Amy has been, as Debra Allbery said in her final residency introduction of her, our compass and calendar and counselor.

When Amy announced this month that she would be concluding her remarkable tenure as the Warren Wilson MFA Program’s Assistant to the Director in September, the question which loomed as large as “How will we ever replace her?” was “How might we adequately honor her?”

At the banquet following our graduation ceremony, each constituency of our Warren Wilson family presented tokens of their affection and gratitude to Amy for her decade and a half of dedication to this program.  Students offered a donation in Amy’s name to one of her favorite local charities.  Former MFA director Pete Turchi and current director Debra Allbery presented a rhododendron walking stick adorned with scores of messages and mementos from faculty past and present. And Program founder Ellen Bryant Voigt, Board Chair of Friends of Writers, Inc., announced that FOW’s student emergency fund would be renamed the Amy Grimm Student Emergency Fund.

Attaching Amy’s name to a fund which supports students in times of dire necessity provided us with an enduring way to honor the generous care and selfless attention she’s given generations of students: through financial assistance that continues such care.  Alumni and faculty who wish to express their appreciation to Amy may direct donations to this fund by designating it on the memo line on checks mailed to Friends of Writers at PO Box 128, Marshfield, VT 05658, or by appending a note to secure credit card donations made at

We’ll feature a full profile of Amy Grimm on our website in August.


Amy Grimm and Debra Allbery, July 2013

New Story by V.C. Shapira

“Poe,” a new story by V.C. Shapira (fiction, ’98), appears in this month’s TriQuarterly:

The well-heeled couple strolling arm and arm discussing the upcoming presidential race had already agreed that General Zachary Taylor would be elected the new president. All the newspapers were extolling the general’s triumphant exploits during the Mexican War, resulting in the annexation of a great swath of land connecting the territory of Texas with distant California. They agreed it was god’s will.

On one of those humid afternoons familiar to those who live in the South, the gracious lady was cooling herself with a silk fan when she stopped abruptly. In the most prosperous neighborhood in all of Richmond City, Virginia, a derelict was blatantly occupying a park bench reserved for her kind alone.

“Dear,” the gentlewoman whispered, elbowing her husband. “It’s preposterous what license these people take. We cannot allow these laggards to invade our community. Already they roam the city at will. Wave him away, will you dear?”   …

Continue reading online at TriQuarterly.

“Descent With Rope” by Joanne D. Dwyer

A new poem by Joanne D. Dwyer (poetry, ’09) appears in the current issue of New England Review:

Descent by Rope
If a throne is an angel of the seventh-highest order
out of nine possible heights, and you suffer vertigo,
will you be satisfied being a bottom floor angel?
Bargain basement, Everything’s-On-Sale angel?
The South American woman at the gym whose sweatpants
have the word Angel stenciled vertically down the leg
will not look me in the eye and is almost always breaking
the no-cell-phone rule, talking so heatedly, a la Latina,
while on the rowing machine. In the locker room I am a voyeur
watching her blow-dry her hair, even in summer, when the sun
would do the same without injury. Her hair as thin as a queen
ant’s wing which unfastens the instant she mates. I told you last
night that it is ironic that I have seen more women’s breasts than you.
I recently laid my eyes on the prototype adolescent Eve –
the most beauteous body I have ever seen coming out of a public shower.
A body that illuminated more than any library of books or cave of
echolocating microbats or remnants of chandeliers. And understood
for the first time the concupiscence of the old for the young.
And just as it is well past the era of electrocuting communists,
it is well past the era of seeing the snake as penis or messenger-boy
of the devil. The new symbology of the snake is exemplified in the new
creed of the three R’s: The rinds of limes under a pillow, a bottle of Rogaine
and the unharnessed rappelling down the ravine without a reality show
there to film you. The willing, non-oppositional, come-to-me mama dying
and then the ingesting of your own death, as if death was a carton
of dyed ostrich eggs or a fanny-pack full of trail mix that will get you
up and over the mountain pass, even in the snow, with Nazis chasing you.  
And at the fin de siècle, after crossing the border, you are reunited with
your soul mate or your first childhood pet. And for the lucky,
the two are one in the same. You wed soon after your frostbite heals,
but before a background check is run on you. And for
the lucky, your betrothed doesn’t care you were a stripper
and that most of your best work was scribed in that era
when you were saturated of libations and libertine slogans
and sale underwear. And lead in the boots of the messengers
in the form of Revolutionary War musket balls to keep them
closer to the saltgrass, to the humidity of ants and resurfacing crushed
beer cans. Look at the folded latticed wing of a hibernating angel, just
now unhinging its eyes, rising through the air like caustic powdered
sugar in the bakery warm from the bread ovens. And though there are
new forbidden fruits, and new machinery replacing red wheelbarrows –
the truck drivers are still pulling off the road to sleep.

Dwyer’s first book of poems, “Belle Laide,” has recently been published by Sarabande Books (2013).

New Work by Shadab Zeest Hashmi

“Rain Meditation” by Shadab Zeest Hashmi (poetry, ’09) appears online at 3 Quarks Daily:

Heat is eerie: lipsticks left unrefrigerated melt into deformity, ice cream liquefies and renders the scoop useless; fruit and flower stalls carry the smell of that peculiar cusp between ripe and rotten.

Then rain comes, licking the sky green; the veil between the mysteries and the sun-weary, bleached and hardened world dissolves away, becoming thin as a glassy insect wing. A dusty estrangement washes out, newly woven silken webs everywhere; meditation is possible again.

Clarity makes me humble: I’m smaller than a melon seed, slighter than a fishbone. I’m the moisture in the air and the movement in antennae; I’m filament and feelers, the quiver within the quiver, the wet crease in the smallest leaves. I’m also a rusty door hinge, static on television, soaked clothesline, scurrying lizard, the moving minute hand on the timepiece that is suddenly ticking louder; Rain changes the acoustics entirely— each syllable, sob, twitter, footfall, turning of a knob, is distinct. The airwaves have cleared and the cosmic channels open up.

I watch the raindrops make rings on the surface of a mossy cistern: water bangles! I imagine the continuously disappearing rain bangles on my wrists. Leaves float, throats are stirred into singing: a frog’s croaking has a timbre of energy today, as if it is charging the earth in its deep, steady way.

Continue reading at 3 Quarks Daily.

New Work by Patricia Grace King


An excerpt of Patricia Grace King’s novella, “Rooster Hour,” is featured online at Narrative Magazine:

“Val walked out to the milpas, the fields, with the mayor to count the dead bodies. She wrote down the date and the place where they found them. Who they were, or had been, was harder to tell. Their noses were missing, their tongues were gouged out, the skin sometimes peeled from their faces. Together they tried—Val and the mayor—to estimate the hours since death. There were shadings of color: brown into red into purple-green-blue and then black. There were gradations of swelling, and of what happened after the swelling. For the first several months the mayor was better than Val at such details.”

Read more at Narrative Magazine.

Charles Baxter’s Graduation Remarks

Faculty member Charles Baxter’s July 2013 MFA Graduation Address:

To this year’s graduates, and their beloved spouses, and partners, and children, and parents, and to my colleagues, and guests of the college—welcome. It’s my great pleasure and honor to offer a few words today, with emphasis on the word “few,” to the graduates. After all the sacrifices you’ve made—the writing, the revisions, the readings and lectures, the packets, the tuition, the hours alone struggling with words, and the sacrifices your families and loved one also have made—after all this, I know you’re just dreading the valedictory wisdom speech that goes with any graduation. I certainly would be dreading it. Fortunately for you, I have no wisdom. But I do have a story. I’ll give you that.

I’ve been teaching off-and-on in this program for a very long time. I’ve seen students come and go. But two of the most remarkable students stay in my memory. They were friends, two guys from Spain. You could hardly tell where they were from; they spoke without accents. One of them was tall and thin and went around with a sad face and a distracted expression. He had read all the books in all the libraries. He was always quoting from what he had read. The books had made him a little crazy. He said he was from La Mancha, although I have no idea if he was telling the truth about that. He was a poet, of course. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call him “Don.”

His friend was this short fat guy. This guy watched the world carefully, figuring everybody out. He had a crafty shrewd look. At lunch he always went back to the salad bar two or three times, and he spilled food on his clothes, and he belched, and there were always weird stains on his manuscripts. Of course he was a fiction writer. He had the somewhat unusual name of “Sancho.”

I worked with both of them.

I first worked with this Don guy. I remember our conferences in Jensen. I’d be talking about poetry, the semester’s reading list, and suddenly he would say, in a loud voice, “Blue is the color of distance!” And to calm him down, I’d agree: “Yeah, right, distance is blue.” I’d go on advising him about his poems, and suddenly he’d interrupt and say, “Blue is also the color of nobility.” And to placate him, I’d say, “Uh huh, nobility is blue.” It went on like that. After the residency, his packets started to arrive. They were thin, containing a few eloquent, sometimes incomprehensible poems, along with an enthusiastic cover letter, filled with ravings about his girlfriend, Dulcie.

How can I describe his poems? They were visionary and beautiful, but sometimes they made no sense. They also had some sort of moral agenda, but I could never figure it out. Evil, he thought, should be defeated; giants must be subdued. The poems represented the speech of the angels. I was in awe of these poems, I loved them, but what could I say about them? They created some utterly new world on the page, in which trees were giants and the giants were forces of nature and distance was blue and the forces of nature were colorful and rapt and aromatic, and the words he employed somehow seemed free of the things they referred to, and they hypnotized the reader. He used phrases like “the bubbling aquarium of eternity.”

Well, he eventually graduated, and he started his own press, Blue Distance Press. He never seemed to care about how many copies of his books he sold or what reviews he got or whether anybody read his work. I once sent him an order for several of his books, along with a check, and he never deposited the check. It’s still out there somewhere. He was impractical, oblivious, and his head stayed in the clouds. If people laughed at him, he never noticed. He didn’t believe in success and failure. He didn’t believe that the literary world had winners or losers. Literature is not a sack race, he once said to me. If he had never sold a single book, he still would have been a happy man.

I loved him. Everybody loved him.

I also worked with his fat friend, Sancho. The fat friend wrote fat novels, clear-eyed studies of how people actually live. You always knew what was going on in them. They told the truth, and this truth was precious. The sentences were lucid, sometimes witty. His packets were so fat that they occasionally exploded when the letter carrier dropped them on my front stoop. (This was before we had length limits for the exchanges.) Once the fat guy graduated, his first novel turned out to be an Oprah pick, a best-seller, and he sold thousands of copies and became quite rich. He still shows up at the Warren Wilson receptions at the AWP. If you go there, you’ll know him: he’s the fat guy standing near the hors d’oeuvre table, with the barbeque stains on his Brooks Brothers shirt. I never loved him the way I loved his tall impractical friend, but I admired him, and the program still asks him for charitable donations.

My dear friends, beloved graduates: I lied. I never actually taught Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. They were never actually students here. But I contain both of them. So do you, men and women both. When you are looking carefully at something, practicing the religion of attention, trying to remember how people talked and thought and how they acted and what they did, when you are watching and watchful and shrewd, you are Sancho; and when you are having visions, and when only the right words in the right order will do, and when you don’t know or care how successful you are in the world’s eyes, and when you forget to cash the checks because only the work is important, you are Don Quixote. You have to be Don Quixote to have the visions, and you have to be Sancho to pay the bills. But you don’t have to be either one; most of us are both.

What is it like to be both of these people? I promised you no wisdom of my own, but I have some borrowed wisdom, from the great modern Greek poet C. P. Cavafy, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt. Cavafy thought long and hard throughout his life about what it was to acknowledge oneself (as a gay man, as a poet) in public, and he thought endlessly about what we say to ourselves about our own successes and failures. He wrote one of the greatest poems ever about graduating into the life of writing. If there is a better poem about this subject, I don’t know it. The poem is called “The First Step” and Cavafy wrote it in1899. Here it is in a translation by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. The poem contains the word “idyll”, meaning a poem about country life.

The young poet Eumenis

Complained one day to Theocritos:

“I’ve been writing for two years now

and I’ve composed only one idyll.

It’s my single completed work.

I see, sadly, that the ladder

Of Poetry is tall, extremely tall;

And from this first step I’m standing on now

I’ll never climb any higher.”

Theocritos retorted: “Words like that

Are improper, blasphemous.

Just to be on the first step

Should make you happy and proud.

To have reached this point is no small achievement:

What you’ve done already is a wonderful thing.

Even this first step

Is a long way above the ordinary world.

To stand on this step

You must be in your own right

A member of the city of ideas.

And it’s a hard, unusual thing

To be enrolled as a citizen of that city.

Its councils are full of Legislators

No charlatan can fool.

To have reached this point is no small achievement:

What you’ve done already is a wonderful thing.”


Graduates of the summer class of 2013, what you’ve done already is a wonderful thing. To quote Cavafy, it is a hard, unusual thing to be enrolled as a citizen of this city. Well, now you are enrolled in that city, and now you are citizens there. Congratulations and blessings and all good fortune to you all, in your writerly lives as spiritual Spaniards, as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

The Larry Levis Prize 2014

2014 Levis Prize of $10,000 for a First Book of Fiction
The Larry Levis Post-Graduate Stipend is an award given to support a graduate of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers who is completing his/her first book. The Levis Stipend alternates between awards for poetry and for fiction and the 2014 award will be made to a fiction writer in the amount of $10,000. The current judge, a nationally-recognized fiction writer, will be announced at the time the award is made, in January 2014.Eligibility: The Levis Stipend is open only to alumni who have not yet published a full-length collection of fiction in a standard edition. A standard edition is defined as 150 or more pages in a print run of 1500 or more copies. Entrants to the competition must hold the MFA degree from Warren Wilson College prior to July 15, 2012, or from Goddard College prior to June 30, 1981.

Guidelines: An entry fee of $25 is required to process the application and should be made on-line via the donation page at Please note the “receipt ID number” provided after payment.All entries must be submitted electronically, in two pdf attachments:

1) A cover letter specifying

  • Your name, address, telephone number and email;
  • The month and year you received the MFA from Warren Wilson or Goddard College;
  • The titles of the stories or novel excerpt(s) submitted; if submitting an excerpt, give a brief description of the shape and remainder of the manuscript-in-progress;
  • The “receipt ID number” for your entry fee payment;
  • A list of publication credits;
  • A statement explaining how the award will assist the projected completion of your book.

2) A fifty-page manuscript of fiction must be included. The prose should be double-spaced with margins of at least 1inch. Pages submitted above the fifty pages required will not be considered. Please use 12-point readable fonts for the manuscripts. Your name should not appear anywhere in the manuscript submitted. The manuscripts are judged blindly and should your name appear in the manuscript, your application will be disqualified and removed from consideration.The entry should be submitted by electronic mail to  The email should have two attachments as specified above, one labeled “cover letter” and one labeled “manuscript.” Both attachments must be .pdf files.


  • Submissions will be accepted between August 15, 2013 and October 15, 2013.
  • The Stipend will be awarded in January 2014. It is fully-taxable under United Stated tax laws, and Friends of Writers must declare the award to the Internal Revenue Service. Taxes and payments of taxes are solely the responsibility of the award winner.

Larry Levis (1946-1996) was an award-winning poet who wrote six books of poetry during his lifetime. His last collection, Elegy, was published posthumously. A Selected Poems was published in 2000. Levis was a much beloved member of the faculty at the MFA Program for Writers, cherished as much for his incisive mind as for the care and attention he gave to his students.

Any queries or requests for more information should be addressed to:

Nan Cuba
Levis Fellowship Administrator

New Work by Susan Sterling

An essay by Susan Sterling (Fiction, ’92) “The Summer of Uncle Tom,” appears in the Spring 2013 print edition of Witness: 

“A very old edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous novel had been on my bookshelf for more than a decade, since my father sold our family home in Connecticut after my mother’s death. I brought the book back to Maine with me because it was historically important, but it never occurred to me even to glance inside it. I’ve always been annoyed with people who have strong opinions about books they’ve never read, yet here I was unapologetically in their camp, certain I would find the novel preachy and moralistic. What I didn’t anticipate was the way the story, once begun, would stir up half-hidden memories and grab hold of my imagination, leading to a troubling discovery about my own family history. The critic Edmund Wilson could have had me in mind when he warned: “To expose oneself in maturity to Uncle Tom’s Cabin…might well prove a startling experience.”…”