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How an MFA Prepared Whitney Collins for Literary Life

Guest Post by Katy Yocom

headshot of Whitney Collins

Whitney Collins graduated from Spalding University’s low-residency MFA program in 2018, won her first Pushcart Prize in 2020, and published her first book to universal acclaim the following year. I asked Whitney, author of prize-winning short story collection Big Bad and the forthcoming Ricky & Other Love Stories, how the MFA program at Spalding prepared her for the literary life. According to Whitney, it all came down to volume, community, and craft.

In her own words:

Volume.

“The sheer volume of work we were asked to generate was remarkable, and, yes, a bit intimidating,” Whitney said. “But it’s doable, and you will AMAZE yourself by being able to do it. The Spalding ‘packets’ prove to you that not only can you write, but that you can also write A LOT. I graduated with a newfound confidence surrounding my generative abilities. I also graduated knowing I had no excuses! Priceless.”

Community.

“The community at Spalding is like no other,” she said. “It’s diverse, both culturally and in genre, and delightfully non-competitive. As Sena (Jeter Naslund, Spalding MFA co-founder) always said: ‘Your competition is in the library, not the classroom.’ Your classmates at Spalding will be your cheerleaders not your critics.” 

cover of Whitney Collins' story collection Big Bad

Craft.

“The short craft essays that you write at Spalding will not just teach you how to think critically about how and why a piece of creative work is working, but you will begin to read creative work differently,” she said. “You will start to dissect successful literature and figure out what is contributing to its success. And if you think critically and read critically, you will begin to write with more awareness. You’ll start hiking with a map instead of relying solely on instinct.”

And then there were the memories…

“My favorite Spalding memory? Just one? Probably just hanging in the Brown Hotel’s lobby bar. Eating, drinking, connecting, and laughing with other exhausted and excited writers.”

Whitney graduated from Spalding’s low-residency MFA program in 2018. Her short story collection Big Bad (Sarabande Books, 2021) won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. Her work has received a 2020 Pushcart Prize, a 2020 Pushcart Special Mention, and a Best American Short Stories 2022 Distinguished listing. Her second collection, Ricky & Other Love Stories, is forthcoming next year.

Spalding University Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing logo
Spalding’s Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing is now accepting applications for an early-decision deadline of February 1. Email [email protected] to request an application fee waiver code and save $30 when you apply.

Students can begin their studies with Spring residency (May 27 – June 3 in Louisville) or Summer residency (June 25 – July 3 in Québec City). Or apply by August 1 for the Fall semester (November-April).

Learn more at Spalding’s website, or email if you have any questions.


BIO: Katy Yocom is a Spalding alum, associate director of the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing, and author of a prize-winning debut novel, Three Ways to Disappear.

June 2021 eLitPak :: Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing

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Low-residency Graduate Programs

Early Placement Application Deadline: August 1 for November entry.
Spalding’s nationally distinguished low-residency MFA is the most affordable of the top-tier programs. Explore across genres, study one-on-one with outstanding faculty, gain editorial experience on Good River Review, and develop a lifelong writing community. Fiction; poetry; creative nonfiction; writing for children and young adults; writing for TV, screen, and stage; and professional writing. Certificate and Master of Arts in Writing also available. Scholarships, assistantships.

Good River Review Issue One

Good River Review Spring 2021 cover

Back in October of 2020, we let you know that Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing was launching online literary magazine Good River Review in 2021. Well, the first issue has officially launched!

The first issue features prose by Rigoberto González, Pico Iyer, Brian Leung, Chris Offutt, and Julie Ann Stewart; lyric by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Alan Chazaro, Molly Peacock, Charlotte Pence, J.D. Schraffenberger, Evie Shockley, Katerina Stoykova, and Claire Wahmanholm; and drama by Ifa Bayeza and Kia Corthron.

They also feature book reviews of Dinty W. Moore’s To Hell with It: Of Sin and Sex, Chicken Wings, and Dante’s Entirely Ridiculous, Needlessly Guilt-Inducing Inferno; Zadie Smith’s Intimations; and Julia Phillips’s Disappearing Earth. Under “The Practice of Writing” heading, they feature an excerpt of Felicia Rose Chavez’s Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom.

You will also find interviews with Keven Willmott, Lydia Millet, and Pico Iyer.

Between their biannual issues, they will regularly feature book reviews, interviews, and essays on the practice of writing, along with other important literary news. Swing by their listing on NewPages to learn more and don’t forget to read their inaugural issue!

Their submissions period is open and ongoing and they do accept work written for children and young adults, too! Since they love work that doesn’t fit neatly into genre categories, that is why they publish work under the headings of prose, drama, and lyric.

January 2021 eLitPak :: Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing: Low-residency Graduate Programs

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Early Placement Application Deadline: February 1 for May entry. Spalding’s nationally distinguished low-residency MFA is the most affordable of the top-tier programs. In the MFA and its sister programs, study one-on-one with outstanding faculty, gain editorial experience on Good River Review, and develop a lifelong writing community. Fiction; poetry; creative nonfiction; writing for children and young adults; writing for TV, screen, and stage; and professional writing. Scholarships and assistantships available.

View the full January 2021 eLitPak Newsletter. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on our weekly newsletter and monthly eLitPaks.

Spalding University’s School of Writing Launches Good River Review

Good River Review website screenshot

Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing, home of the flagship low-residency Spalding MFA in Writing program, is launching a new online literary magazine, Good River Review. The first issue will appear in Winter 2021.

Good River Review resides at Spalding in Louisville, Kentucky, which sits on the Ohio River, providing inspiration for the name: Ohio is a Seneca word for good river. Issues will appear twice a year. Between issues, the website will regularly publish interviews; book reviews; reviews of new plays, television, and films; craft essays; and literary news.

“We intend to publish the best writing in all the genres we teach in our graduate writing programs,” Kathleen Driskell (chair of the School of Writing who will serve as editor-in-chief) said. “We love writing that blurs boundaries, so contributors will find their work published as prose, lyrics, or drama.” The journal will also publish writing for children and young adults, as well as original web, TV, and short film productions.

The journal’s submission period will be ongoing. Good River Review allows for simultaneous submissions and does not charge reading or submission fees. For more information, email [email protected].