Friday, May 22, 2015

Staying Inspired AFTER the Writing Conference

I wrote a piece for AWP on what to do after the conference to keep your writing energy alive. Though the tips are tailored to AWP, there are ideas you can carry forward after any writing conference:

I copy the most inspiring remarks on pieces of paper that I tuck in odd spots—random books, a summer purse—assuming I’ll find them months later and feel re-inspired….

Read on:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Set Up Your Own Writing Residency

Here’s a wonderful article from poet Liz Ahl’s blog about how to set up your own writing residency with a group of your writing buddies:

A writing retreat is not a writing workshop. It is not a meeting with the Great Visiting Writer Guru. It is not a series of Craft Talks. It’s a retreat. Not only from the job and the errands and the family dynamics and the daily worries and the porch roof that needs fixing and the job and the junk mail and the world . . . . but also from performance anxiety and productivity measures. You look forward to it because this time is yours to use as you see fit: reading, meditating, walking, staring at a bug on the wall, scribbling in your notebooks, revising the same poem twenty zillion times, trying new kinds of writing, preparing manuscripts, taking manuscripts apart, sending stuff out, setting your poems to music, researching obscure details, writing, not writing, changing your mind. And sharing– yes, that, too– but only as much as you want or are ready for when and how YOU decide. The group provides company without breathing down your neck. You are both alone and not alone. What could be better?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How to Publish a Short Story Collection: 12 Steps!

I’m in love with this article about how to publish a collection of short stories in 12 steps. (Obviously, some of the steps are giant steps, as we used to say.) But author Liz Prato breaks down the process in a smart, sensible way.

1.  I decided to learn how to write short stories. Originally, I thought I should write and publish short stories to later help get my novel published. I enrolled in classes in the craft of short fiction, at which point it became clear that I didn’t even read short stories, and that I would need to, if I was going to be any good at this.
Tip: Consume short fiction, even the kind you think you don’t like. Learn how stories work and why they work....

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Why Converse for Your Low-Res MFA?

I am shamelessly cut-and-pasting (with permission) this wonderful blog post by one of the Converse low-res MFA grads from the fiction program. Rhonda Browning White writes her own blog Read. Write. Live! and when I saw this post, I fell victim to Rhonda’s enthusiasm and knew I wouldn’t be able to contain myself to an excerpt.

(For more about Rhonda, head over to this blog post where I brag on a story she got published that was part of her thesis.)

Anyway, here’s what she had to say about her experience studying at Converse, followed by information about an Open House for the program on May 31, that is open to the public. (And if you can’t get yourself to Spartanburg but you’re interested, definitely email or call the program director, Rick Mulkey. He would love to talk to you and see if we’re a good fit for your writing goals. Contact info here:


By Rhonda Browning White

It’s no secret that graduates (like myself) of Converse College’s Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program like to brag about our experience in the program. Truly, it’s nothing short of life-changing.

What makes the Converse MFA program so special? It’s the award-winning, bestselling core faculty. It’s the I-can’t-believe-it’s-her/him visiting authors. It’s the one-on-one time with faculty mentors during the semester, and the ongoing relationships you have with them long after graduation. It’s the priceless opportunities to share your work with agents and editors and receive immediate feedback. It’s the breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and drinks you’ll share with faculty and classmates who quickly become your forever friends. It’s the chill bumps that race across your skin when you finally get that line just right. It’s knowing that, even after you’ve turned in your final thesis, celebrated your graduation, and hung that beautiful diploma on your wall, you still have a community of writers to turn to for advice, for inspiration, for celebration.

Sound like the perfect place for you? Then check it out in person. Below you’ll find an article about The Converse College Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing OPEN HOUSE. Trust me when I tell you it’s worth the trip to meet faculty, students, and alums who can answer your questions and show you just how incredibly special this program really is.

S.C.’s Only Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing to Hold Open House May 31

Spartanburg, S.C. — Discover why Publishers Weekly named the Converse College Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing “a program to watch” in 2015. Join us at our Open House information session on May 31, 2015 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Barnet Room of the Montgomery Student Center on the Converse campus.

Meet current students, published alumni, and faculty, including Robert Olmstead, Denise Duhamel, Marlin Barton, Leslie Pietrzyk, Susan Tekulve, Albert Goldbarth, C. Michael Curtis, Suzanne Cleary, and program director Rick Mulkey. Learn about the program’s new concentrations in Young Adult Fiction and Environmental Writing, plus scholarship and Teaching Assistantship opportunities, along with information on recent alumni successes in fiction, poetry and nonfiction. Then stay to mingle with current students who are on campus for their summer residency, enjoying live music with Nashville-based folk rock band The Hart Strings beginning at 8 p.m.

More information on the Converse College Low-Residency MFA is available at

About the Converse College Low-Residency MFA

As South Carolina’s only low residency MFA program in creative writing, the Converse College MFA offers students opportunities to focus in fiction, Y.A. fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and Environmental writing, plus opportunities to pursue internships in publishing and editing through our C. Michael Curtis Publishing Fellowship at Hub City Press. MFA students may also participate in editing opportunities with the program’s national online literary magazine, South 85 Journal, and pursue teaching opportunities with our Teaching Assistant program, a unique opportunity for low residency students.

“One of the strengths of a low-residency format is how it introduces students to the real writing life,” said program director Rick Mulkey. “Most writers have family and career obligations in addition to their writing. While students spend part of each academic year on the Converse campus during the residencies, they continue work on their writing and academic projects during the rest of the year without disruption from their family and career.  Plus they study in a true mentor/apprentice relationship with a gifted writer. It provides both an intensive learning environment and the flexibility that most of us need.”

Converse MFA faculty members include National Book Critic Circle Award winners, best-selling novelists, award winning short fiction writers and essayists, plus some of the top editors in the country. “In addition to being outstanding writers, our faculty are energetic and dedicated teachers who have been honored for their classroom instruction,” said Mulkey. “In some graduate programs, a student enrolls to discover that the writer she planned to work with only teaches one course a year, or is on leave while the student is in the program. Here you have the opportunity to work with a large number of writers, editors and agents in a very personal mentoring relationship.”

In the last few years, Converse MFA graduates and current students have distinguished themselves with honors and awards including the AWP Intro Award, a Melbourne Independent Film Festival Award, and the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Prize, among many others. In addition, they have published work in a range of literary venues from Colorado Review, Shenandoah, Ploughshares, and Southern Review to such noted publishers as William Morrow/Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Negative Capability Press, Finishing Line Press, and others.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Residency Life

I was thinking about writing up a report today on the goings-on at Dairy Hollow, but then I realized I must dump the 20+ pages I spent the last few days sweating over, and I’m excited at my new re-envisioning of the material so my report is on hold for now—but look what showed up on Facebook! This link to a blog post written by one of my residency-mates that beautifully captures the spirit of this place:

I just returned from my fifth residency at The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, and I feel compelled to give my testimony. Dairy Hollow is the place I write best. Edits are accomplished. Ideas appear. Words flow straight out of my brain and onto my Mac while my fingers move as though I’m playing a song on the piano. (Chopsticks, to be specific, and we writers are all about specific.)  After five visits, I realize there are (at least) five reasons for this productivity. And the reasons work together, a sum-of-the-parts sort of thing, if you know what I mean…

More information about The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow:


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.