Friday, August 18, 2017

MFA Intern Finds Creative Community at Summer Residency

By Julia Swanson-Hines, Creative Writing and English major



I spent my freshman year interning for Cassandra Brown, the administrative director of the Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing. As someone double-majoring in English and Creative Writing with an interest in pursuing publishing as a career, I valued my internship greatly. As such, when Cassy asked whether I would be willing to intern during the MFA residency, I of course said yes.

Fast-forward a few months, and the air is thick and moist, the air-conditioning in my dorm room broken, and I begin to wonder whether I made a smart decision. My fellow interns and others quickly learn how incompatible heat/humidity and I are, but luckily, the Ronk lecture hall in Schar is heavily air-conditioned, and while others shiver or turn blue, I finally reach a stable inner temperature that allows me to focus on the words leaving the lips of faculty, students, and visiting writers alike.

God, am I glad I reach that stability, because the creativity, advice, and wisdom are enough to clog my pores. I buy a notebook within the first few days simply to allow all that I’m learning to find a home for good because the file cabinets in my head are simply overwhelmed. I write poetry at the end of each day, so filled with creativity and the demand to create after the craft seminars that give me tools to expand characterization or ponder point of view choice--after being surrounded by people who care about the same thing as me; we all want to create a piece of decent creative work, whether it be nonfiction, poetry, or fiction. This atmosphere is easily the thing I appreciate the most.

Possibly the second best or worst aspect of interning at the residency are the airport runs. I am not the type to enjoy the hectic rush of I-71 or the Cleveland airport. I’m the girl who has her aux cord plugged into her phone purely to have Google maps resonate through the speakers so she has a lesser chance of making the wrong turns. However, the great thing about the drive is that it’s an hour away, which makes for an hour with either a student, faculty member, or visiting writer--the chance to pick at the brains of geniuses or at least gain a greater insight into graduate school for something I’m passionate about. Whether it’s a midnight run that turns out to be the busiest time at the airport or taking a highly-talented author to a nearby Five Guys for dinner, every time, it’s an adventure worth embarking upon.

The MFA residency is a boiling melting pot (in literal heat, but also symbolically) of creativity and knowledge, and for anyone interested in any sort of creative outlet (though, of course, especially writing), interning at the residency is a great opportunity to learn from dozens of talented people and having them at your disposal for about two weeks. It’s an inspiring experience, and I look forward to interning at many more in my future.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Student Finds the "Real Stories" in English Department Internship

By Bethany Meadows, English and Integrated Language Arts Education major, Creative Writing and Public Relations minor

Bethany Meadows (left) confers with fellow intern Emily Wirtz during the MFA residency
From May to August, I have had the privilege to be an intern for Ashland University’s Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing, which is home to a creative nonfiction journal, River Teeth, and the Ashland Poetry Press. Much of my summer was spent behind the scenes working on the logistics of these three departments.

One of the biggest tasks to pull off logistically was preparing and executing the MFA’s summer residency. Since the MFA is a low-residency program, the students spend most of the year online. However, for two weeks in July, they all come to Ashland’s campus to have on-site classes, workshops, and readings.

This residency became the highlight of my summer. There were faculty, students, visiting authors, and visiting editors all in one place; what more could I, as an English major, want! The faculty’s lectures about the craft of writing, the faculty readings of their own published work, and the visiting authors, such as Terry Tempest Williams, Rebecca Makkai, and Dexter Booth, were all fantastic experiences.

However, in these short two weeks, I was not only surrounded by people who wrote stories, but also people who became the stories for me. For example, I drove two of our faculty members from the airports to Ashland. In the time with them, they cared about me and my interests and connected them to their own experiences, both personal and professional. These conversations allowed me to see beyond their published pages and their lectures because they were the person behind the words—the person that cared about their readers.


Not only were my connections with the MFA faculty becoming the real stories, but so were all my experiences with the MFA students and interns. Over the course of two weeks, I am honored to have become friends with many of them through eating meals together, playing games, having long conversations about life, and so much more. This experiences have allowed me to forge lifelong connections with other people that care about both me and writing. Throughout the two weeks, these connections with the MFA community will be forever ingrained in my memory and in my heart.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Recent Graduates Land Teaching Jobs in Ohio and Florida

Please join me in congratulating the following 2016-17 Integrated Language Arts graduates, all of whom have signed teaching contracts for the upcoming school year.

—Allie (Newhouse) Crossen accepted a job at Bartram Trail High School in Saint Johns, Florida, teaching 12th-grade English 4 and grades 9-12 for Theatre 1-4. She will also be the director of the theatre department.

—Danielle (Wright) Stansbery will be teaching 7th-grade Language Arts at Lima West Middle School.

—Alyanna Tuttle will be teaching 10th- and 12th-grade English at Norwalk High School, her alma mater.

—Marissa Willman has accepted a position teaching 8th-grade Intensive Language Arts at Horizon Middle School in Kissimmee, Florida. Willman did her student teaching at this school.

We are so proud of these graduates!

Send your own job and graduate school news to hdonatin@ashland.edu. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Alumna of AU Undergraduate Program and MFA Wins Prestigious Writing Prize

From the Ohioana Library Association Facebook Page:

Congratulations to Ashley Bethard of Dayton, winner of the 28th Ohioana Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant, a competitive prize for Ohio writers age 30 or younger who have not yet published a book. A graduate of the Ashland University’s Master of Fine Arts Program, Ashley’s writing has appeared in PANK Magazine, The Rumpus, Hobart, Fanzine and others. Her essay, “Of Blood” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A digital and new media specialist and winner of a Newspaper Association of America’s “30 Under 30” Award, Ashley is currently working on a book that doubles as a love letter to her late brother. Past winners of the Marvin Grant, named for Ohioana's second director and endowed by his family, include Anthony Doerr, Ellis Avery, and Salvatore Scibona. Ashley will be honored October 6 at the Ohio Statehouse, along with the Ohioana Book Award winners, who will be announced tomorrow. To learn more about Ashley, visit her website: https://ashleybethard.com/

See also articles from Dayton.com and the Norwalk Reflector.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Alumni Spotlight: Sarah (Fugman) Wells

By Sarah M. (Fugman) Wells, class of 2003, Creative Writing major and English minor
Ashland MFA, class of 2015
Director of Content Marketing
Spire Advertising



I started a new position with Spire Advertising in Ashland as Director of Content Marketing in January 2017. In my role, I lead a team of writers, videographers, and social media marketers to tell the stories of small businesses using a variety of media. I set the tone and voicing for each web project and video script. I work closely with our broader team of marketing professionals to plan a content marketing strategy for each of our marketing customers that includes drafting email campaigns, planning social media content calendars, writing series of blog posts, and developing new landing pages.

This isn’t the work I thought I would love as an undergraduate creative writing major, and it isn’t the path I envisioned for myself as a student in the MFA program at Ashland either. And yet here I am - writing all day for over 50 small businesses, leading a team of creative people, and loving every minute of it. People in the everyday world need good writers - just scroll through the comments section of a popular article (if you dare) or your Facebook feed, and you’ll find all of the evidence you need. My current mission in life is evangelizing to MFA graduates and other great writers to convert them to the digital marketing world. Y’all should come hang out over here… it’s so fun!

As both a traditional student in the classroom and an active observer during my time as the administrative director for the MFA program, I deeply value the reading and writing of the human condition taught and practiced in Ashland’s creative writing programs. Besides the essential tools of craft, the program helped me to learn how to see and hear the world. I’ve found this careful listening to be a critical component of leadership and the creative process.

Outside of my day job, I try to make time to write my personal projects. In the early morning hours before I head to work, I’m currently writing a family devotional for Discovery House Publishers. The devotional is under contract and due to the publisher this fall. It will be available for sale fall 2018. I’m only partly kidding when I’ve said I’d like to title the devotional, Not Your Mama’s Family Devotional. These days I spend most of my time working on this project and other faith-based articles for Off the Page, a blog geared toward individuals within or outside of the church who have an interest in matters of faith. I aim to write on my own blog once a month, at sarahmariewells.com.

I keep one toe planted in the English Department at Ashland until someone asks me to get on out of here, as co-editor of Beautiful Things with River Teeth. It’s my regular connection to the literary world - and to Joe Mackall and Dan Lehman - and I’m hanging on to that connection with all of the twitchy muscles my big toe has to offer.

It’s been an unexpected journey since I graduated from Ashland in 2003, from working for a landscape architect as an office assistant to managing public relations for a private Christian school, from serving as the administrative director for Ashland’s MFA program for seven years to working as the senior managing editor at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management, to leaving higher education to be right in the mix of small businesses, where I have the chance to tell a new story every day.

I’ve loved all of it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Alumni Update: Scott Hazen

Scott Hazen was one of the first Alumni Spotlight subjects that I profiled on this blog when I became Department Chair. Below is an update of this original profile:
http://englishatashland.blogspot.com/2013/09/alumni-spotlight-scott-hazen.html
—Hilary Donatini

By Scott Hazen, Class of 1993, Creative Writing major


In June, 2015 I accepted a position with Avita Health System in Galion, Ohio as their IT Applications Manager. I manage all the inpatient systems, business systems, and integration. I have an excellent team of 11 analysts from various disciplines, and we manage over 30 systems, including the top of the line EPIC system, through a collaboration with Ohio State University. I was part of a team of 50 people from vendors and Avita that brought 9 brand new systems live on the first day of operations for the brand new Avita Hospital at Ontario. As the lead IT operations manager for Avita, I was tasked with coordinating support efforts, interfacing, and workflow. I get great satisfaction, knowing I do my part with technology to help the talented care providers at Avita save lives.

Sitting on my desk is the Ashland Eagle. I’m proud of my work and my team, and the root of this success started with Ashland. The collaborative environment, the teaching and coaching mentality of the staff, and the willingness to go above and beyond for student success, imprinted a philosophy that I still use to this day. Leading with integrity and values is an imperative, just like the professors and mentors I had at Ashland.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Terry Tempest Williams to Open 2017 Ashland University MFA in Creative Writing Summer Residency Reading Series

Terry Tempest Williams

from the AU News Center
 


Ashland University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program will welcome a host of talented writers to the AU campus for its Summer Residency Program that will be held July 15-29. Evening readings and afternoon writing classes for the program will be open to the public, thanks to support from the Ohio Arts Council.

The first visiting writer on this year’s schedule is Terry Tempest Williams, author of several books including the environmental literature classic, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place and her most recent publication, The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks. Williams’ reading is scheduled for Sunday, July 16, at 7 p.m. in the Ashland University Richard E. & Sandra J. Dauch College of Business & Economics Ridenour Room. The reading will be followed by a book signing. She also will present a lecture and Q&A session on writing Monday, July 17, from 1:30-3 p.m. in the Dwight Schar College of Education Ronk Lecture Hall.

Visiting writer in fiction Rebecca Makkai is the author of the short story collection Music for Wartime, and the novels The Hundred-Year House and The Borrower. Makkai’s work also has appeared in The Best American Short Stories four years in a row. Makkai reads on Wednesday, July 19, at 7 p.m. and presents her craft talk on Thursday, July 20, from 1:30-3 p.m. Both events will be in the Ronk Lecture Hall.

Dexter L. Booth is this year’s visiting writer in poetry. He is currently a contributing editor for Waxwing, and a Ph.D. candidate and Provost Fellow at the University of Southern California. His poetry collection, Scratching the Ghost, received the Cave Canem award and his poems have been included in The Best American Poetry 2015, Blackbird, The Southeast Review, and many other publications. Booth reads on Monday, July 24, at 7 p.m. and presents his craft talk on Tuesday, July 25, from 1:30-3 p.m.

In addition to these featured visiting writers, the award-winning MFA faculty will present readings and writing courses throughout the two-week residency. MFA faculty members are all respected published authors in their genre, who also enjoy teaching. Topics for the afternoon sessions focus on more specific subjects such as line breaks in contemporary poetry, different approaches and forms for nonfiction writing, and considering point of view for fiction writing, timing of scenes, writing good dialogue, researching for memoir and literary.

The Ashland University MFA program is a two-year low-residency program. Students work toward the completion of a manuscript in their chosen genre by attending the summer residency and working with faculty mentors online during the fall and spring semester. Graduating students will read from their work on Thursday, July 27, from 1:30 – 3 p.m. The program will also welcome several of its published alumni back to present a reading on Sunday, July 23, at 7 p.m.

Additional readings and presentations by MFA faculty and visiting writers are scheduled throughout the two-week event.

For more information on this year’s schedule, visit ashland.edu/summerreadingseries or contact the MFA office at 419-289-5098.