Spring 2013: A Record-Breaking Homecoming

More than 100 Spalding MFA in Writing alums converged in Louisville, Ky., from points as far-flung as British Columbia and Florida for the Spring 2013 MFA homecoming, led by MFA alumni association director Terry Price (F ’06). The homecoming broke all previous attendance records and offered more programming than any before.

Alums began to gather on Thursday evening before Tim O’Brien‘s presentation in the Brown Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom (more on that topic in the article above). The next day featured a full slate of activities, beginning with O’Brien’s Q&A session.

Small-group alumni workshops, organized by Marjetta Geerling (W4CYA ’11), convened with about 30 alumni participants. Screenwriting faculty member Helena Kriel spoke to alums about the inherent rewards of the writing life. And a panel of seven alumni spoke about the ways they have used writing as an avenue to serve their communities-teaching poetry, memoir, and journaling in prisons, substance abuse centers, psychiatric hospitals, and memory care facilities; giving young people a safe space to create art; making a documentary about grief; founding a playwriting organization; and more. Serving on the panel were Sonja de Vries (P ’09), Kathryn Eastburn (CNF ’06), Ann Eskridge (PW ’08), Diana Raab (CNF ’03), Barbara Sabol (P ’10), Bob Sachs (F ’09), and Julie Stewart (F ’10).

Later that afternoon, the Celebration of Recently Published Books by Alumni featured readings by Chris Mattingly (P ’10), from his poetry collection Scuffletown; Dave Harrity (P ’07), from his book of meditations and spiritual exercises, Making Manifest: On Faith, Creativity, and the Kingdom at Hand ; Sandi Hutcheson (CNF ’12), from her nonfiction book Looks Great Naked (published as Grace Adams); Charlotte Rains Dixon (F ’03), from her novel Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior; Loreen Niewenhuis (F ’07), from her nonfiction narrative A 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Walk; and Ann Eskridge, from The Raven, a work of historical fiction.

SPLoveFest book fair took place next, a lively mix-and-mingle event featuring 16 student and alum exhibitors showing and selling their books and literary journals. Carmichael’s Bookstore sold books by the Celebration readers. After a break for dinner, an open-mic alum reading hosted by Teneice Delgado (P ’06) concluded the evening.

Saturday’s events included a breakfast mixer for alumni, new graduates, faculty and staff, followed by the second annual Un-Conference, led by Erin Keane (P ’04) and Teneice Delgado; one-on-one practice sessions for pitching to agents, led by Vickie Weaver (F ’05); regional breakout sessions; alumni workshops; and a reading by PGRAs Marjetta Geerling, Barry George (P ’09), Dan Nowak (P ’07), Katerina Stoykova-Klemer (P ’09); Terry Price, and MFA alumni and staff members Gayle Hanratty (F ’06) and Ellyn Lichvar (P ’07). At the graduation ceremony that followed, 32 new graduates joined the ranks of alumni, and class representative Omar Figueras (F) offered remarks on behalf of his graduating class.

Spring 2013 Homecoming: Tim O’Brien, Story Truth, and Beginnings

Acclaimed Vietnam War author Tim O’Brien visited the Spring 2013 Homecoming as the Diana M. Raab Distinguished Writer in Residence.

On Thursday, May 23, 2013, at the Brown Hotel, he spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of MFAers and members of the community about the power of story, the (often superior) relationship of story-truth to happening-truth, and the tragedies of war.

“A bullet can kill an enemy,” O’Brien said. “But a bullet can also make an enemy.”

O’Brien spoke against war in general, saying his stance was neither liberal nor conservative but instead opposed the hypocrisy of those who advocate war-making yet leave the fighting to others.

The next morning, O’Brien answered questions during a private session for MFA students, faculty, and alumni and offered further revelations about the story-truth and happening-truth of several stories in the Program Book in Common, The Things They Carried.