LARRY D. THACKER, a Kentucky native who resides in Johnson City, Tennessee, and a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan’s Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program, has just released his second full poetry collection, Grave Robber Confessional, with Main Street Rag. “These fine poems are rooted in the fleeting but sensual stuff of the world: body and bone, ash and clay, mountain and crow,” writes poet Gaylord Brewer about Confessional. “The poet’s hands read the inverted ‘brail’ of the stones, our own names soon enough.” In describing the finished book’s relationship to his WVWC experience, Thacker says, “the collection owes its existence to the program in that the MFA taught me craft and discipline.” Influenced by WVWC MFA faculty Devon McNamara, along with poets Irene McKinney, Charles Wright, and others, Thacker, who also holds an M.ED in counseling/guidance and an Ed.S. in educational leadership, is the author of Mountain Mysteries, Drifting in Awe, and the chapbooks Voice Hunting and Memory Train, along with the collection Feasts of Evasion forthcoming this fall. The cover of Confessional is a detail of one of Thacker’s paintings that will be featured in a month-long show kicked off with a reading from the book on a First Friday event on March 1.
Two WVWC MFA alums—West Virginian ANDREA FEKETE and Rochester native and Cleveland resident LARA LILLIBRIDGE—have co-edited the anthology Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility, forthcoming with Cynren Press in April. These co-editors overlapped for one semester in the MFA program. “She took me under her wing,” Lillibridge says about Fekete, “and sat with me for hours helping me prepare for my first student reading… Through working on this project over the last four years we became close friends and writing partners as well as co-editors.” About their selection process for the project, Fekete, author of the novel Waters Run Wild, says, “If it moved us, if it said something about the lives of women that we all can relate to but in a way that’s new and fresh, we chose it. I’m really proud to say we have Ellen Bass and other renowned women in our anthology but, refreshingly, also women who have short résumés.” The anthology will also feature MFA alums Rachel Hicks, Mary Imo-Stike, Lisa Hayes Minney, and Jessica Spruill.
This May, LARA LILLIBRIDGE, author of the memoir Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home (Skyhorse, 2018), also releases her second memoir with Skyhorse Publishing, Mama, Mama, Only Mama: An Irreverent Guide for the Newly Single Parent—From Divorce and Dating to Cooking and Crafting, All While Raising the Kids and Maintaining Your Own Sanity (Sort Of). “I was a blogger when I started at WVWC,” says Lillibridge about this new book’s relationship to her graduate work. “I had two distinct voices: my blog voice and my essayist voice. [WVWC MFA faculty] Richard Schmitt said that when I merged my blog voice into my essayist voice I would have found my true writing voice. That is what happened with Only Mama…I had to marry the two voices and the end result is the authentic voice I’d been trying to develop all along.”
Additionally, two books by WV Wesleyan MFA guest faculty have just hit the shelves. MESHA MAREN’s debut novel Sugar Run (Algonquin Books) follows Jodi McCarty who is released from prison after serving eighteen years of a life sentence. The novel “explores place, connection and redemption in the face of the justice system and the struggle to avoid destructive choices,” writes Charles Frazier in his New York Times review; it offers a “language that fully owns its power to capture just that ‘heart-wild magic.’” In addition to teaching this year with WVWC MFA, Maren is serving as the 2018-2019 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
And MATTHEW FERRENCE’s Appalachia North (WVU Press), part memoir, part exploration of geology and place, is “the first book-length treatment of the cultural position of northern Appalachia—roughly the portion of the official Appalachian Regional Commission zone that lies above the Mason-Dixon line.” In addition to teaching this year with WVWC MFA, Ferrence teaches creative writing at Allegheny College. “Too often, Appalachian identity gets treated like it’s (a) Southern and (b) the same for everyone,” writes Amanda Hayes, author of The Politics of Appalachian Rhetoric. “Matthew Ferrence’s insightful, thoughtful essays show us a more refreshing complexity than either of these stereotypes allows.”
Thrilled about these new titles from the community, MFA Director Jessie van Eerden says, “It’s exciting to celebrate the publishing successes of this still-young program. Our faculty are not only attentive, committed teachers, but they’re also active practitioners in the field, and our alums are not only tireless in working on their own titles, they’re also creating venues for the voices of others. These books are significant to the literary landscape our region and to the greater literary community.”
WV Wesleyan’s Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing offers an apprenticeship model that enables students to earn a graduate degree without having to uproot their lives. Students are on campus for an intense residency period of ten days each summer and winter, and complete their semester course work through correspondence with a mentor. Launched by Irene McKinney, who served as WV’s Poet Laureate until her death in February 2012, the program continues to honor her vision: the dynamic faculty is committed to fostering the creation of fine literature, particularly literature that explores place and identity. This program is the only one of its kind in the state.
To learn more about these titles, or to place orders, visit the publishers’ websites (also available on Amazon). For more information about WV Wesleyan’s creative writing program, contact MFA Director Jessie van Eerden: email@example.com, 304.473.8329, or visit the MFA website: wvwc.edu/mfa/