Frances Nicholson On Writing and the MFA

Frances Nicholson graduated from Spalding’s MFA program in the spring of 2004 – a part of the second full class of grads – in the genre of poetry. His wife, Cynthia Allar, also graduated that year (they met at Spalding).

Frances runs a blog, but not in poetry. He is (as you can see below) a theatrical critic in the greater Los Angeles area, and a member of the LADCC, which – among other things – issues awards to the large theatrical community in L.A. every March.

His blog, Stage Struck Review contains his reviews, which are also locally available in print in the papers of the Southern California News Group. Interestingly, and as an amusing corollary to his MFA, one of the two artistic directors of one of the cutting edge smaller theaters in the area, The Theatre at Boston Court, introduced him to one of their playwrights as someone whose reviews were “like reading poetry.” He doesn’t know if that is true, but he says it was fun that the two halves of his writing life seemed to have knit, at least in some people’s eyes.

With regards to how my MFA has affected his career, his “day job” is as a high school teacher in the International Baccalaureate Programme. On a basic level, having a masters degree gave him a major step up on the salary schedule.

Yet, more than that, since he teaches Theory of Knowledge, which examines language as one of the basic ways in which people know what they know in the way of truth, he says, being a poet legitimate in their eyes because his poems (including one specifically about the circumstances of my low-income, urban public school) have been published, as well as being a Shakespeare nut who can quote a number of speeches at random, gives him a way to approach the entire concept of language with them with an air of authority which is often useful.

[Note: He published two volumes of poetry before he joined the Spalding MFA program, with a tiny, specialty publishing imprint which has since disappeared, but have had a number of individual poems published in solidly reputable journals.]

As for awards, he has won a few, but they are mostly related to teaching rather than writing. He hopes, as he approaches retirement, to have more time to both write more often, and to put together new manuscripts for submission. Right now, two jobs have him hopping, and he uses what he has learned in writing beyond what he studied in the MFA program.


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