Monday, April 09, 2012

We Have Moved!

The WestConn MFA Blog has moved to

Blog members: Please post here no more... see instructions for the new blog below.

Other guests: Please join us at the new blog, visit the program web page at, and look out for the upcoming profile of the program in Writer magazine.

Moving to a New Blog Site

Hello All,

We are moving the Blog from the current Blogger site to a Wordpress site. The new site allows more flexibility with users posting, but keeps the same general features as the Blogger site. All of the content from the Blogger site will be available on the new site. The new MFA blog will be located here:

I will send you each an email inviting you to become a user on the new blog. Please respond to the email and create an account. Post to the new blog site only. The current Blogger site will be shut down shortly and you will no longer be able to post to it.

Let me know if you have any questions.


Thursday, April 05, 2012

Uconn looking for a Communications Writer

The University of Connecticut is seeking an experienced Marketing Writer Specialist to provide advanced level writing and editing for a wide range of publications, websites and social media platforms.  The successful candidate will be expected to exercise originality, creativity and to regularly develop his/her own ideas within broad guidelines established by the supervisor.  Work is varied and requires a sound understanding of subject and target audience.  Work will include writing for social media platforms, websites, printed material, radio and video scripts.   

For full position details please go to:

A Note to New Students

Incoming (Fall) Students,

If you are planning to enroll part time for the fall, I need to know which courses you want to register. Please let me know no later than April 16.

Fall Internships/Practica

Folks, if you are scheduled for the Internship/Practicum course in the fall you should have a pretty clear idea soon of what your internship is going to be. If you don't yet know and are having trouble deciding/identifying an internship, I can help. I do not know yet whether the Internship course is going to be a group course or mentorships; I will know when more folks have submitted their course selections for the fall.

Enrichment Presentations

Folks, at this point, I have only heard from Perotta and Lynne regarding enrichment presentations. If anyone else needs to present in August, please let me know immediately.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Hello! I'd like to announce another acceptance! My short story "Rabbit Girl" will be published in FOLIO magazine!

Walking for Grad Commencement?

A little birdy tells me that regalia orders are due tomorrow, April 5...

Mentor Requests for Fall

Hello All,

Please copy and paste the lines below into an email message to me with your mentor requests. Do not submit requests for OMG instructors.

First semester students need not submit requests--I assign mentor for all first semester students.

Please be sure to indicate more than one choice for each course. If you only list one choice and you don't get the first choice, then I will assign a mentor to you.

If you are a thesis student for the fall (I believe there are only two of you), please talk to your thesis advisors of choice BEFORE submitting a request to them to make sure they are available and willing to advise your thesis.

DEADLINE: Beginning of day, April 16. If I don't have your requests by the time I come to the office on the 16th, I will assign your mentors.

Student Name: ________________________ 
Primary/Secondary Genres: _______________________

Course Title:__________________________
1st choice mentor:
2nd choice mentor:
3rd choice mentor:

Course Title:__________________________
1st choice mentor:
2nd choice mentor:
3rd choice mentor:

Course Title:__________________________
1st choice mentor:
2nd choice mentor:
3rd choice mentor:

Monday, April 02, 2012

AWP 2013 in Boston

Folks, I strongly encourage you to attend next year's AWP conference, which will be in nearby (for those of you in CT) Boston.

They are currently accepting proposals for panels. Jane's panel was accepted in 2012, and I understand it went swimmingly. If you'd like to propose a panel (at the 2012 conference there were 1600 presententers), I strongly encourage you to review the proposal handbook at the link below, review the catalogue of events at a past conference or two, and run your proposal by someone who has had proposals accepted before (Jane or me, for example).

An AWP panel is a great item to have on your c.v. for teaching jobs. Deadline is May 1.

Meet Authors and Agents Easily

Last Thursday, Brian Thiem and I attended Jane K. Cleland's book launch "Dolled Up for Murder" at LIM College in Manhattan. Jane was surrounded by her loyal fans while authors and agents worked the room. Brian and I got to meet author Annamaria Alfieri ("City of Silver") who told us about her career; publishing her debut novel at 68 and just recently signing a two book deal at 71. We'll never forget Annamaria's openness, energy, and love of our craft. Want to meet agents and authors? Go to a book launch--it's great fun.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

For the Chuck Fans

Occasionally Chuck Palanhiuk's website will briefly put up some of his writing seminars. I try to copy them because they don't stay up long. - perrota

Number One:
Two years ago, when I wrote the first of these essays it was about my “egg timer method” of writing. You never saw that essay, but here’s the method: When you don’t want to write, set an egg timer for one hour (or half hour) and sit down to write until the timer rings. If you still hate writing, you’re free in an hour. But usually, by the time that alarm rings, you’ll be so involved in your work, enjoying it so much, you’ll keep going. Instead of an egg timer, you can put a load of clothes in the washer or dryer and use them to time your work. Alternating the thoughtful task of writing with the mindless work of laundry or dish washing will give you the breaks you need for new ideas and insights to occur. If you don’t know what comes next in the story… clean your toilet. Change the bed sheets. For Christ sakes, dust the computer. A better idea will come.

Number Two:
Your audience is smarter than you imagine. Don’t be afraid to experiment with story forms and time shifts. My personal theory is that younger readers distain most books – not because those readers are dumber than past readers, but because today’s reader is smarter. Movies have made us very sophisticated about storytelling. And your audience is much harder to shock than you can ever imagine.

Number Three:
Before you sit down to write a scene, mull it over in your mind and know the purpose of that scene. What earlier set-ups will this scene pay off? What will it set up for later scenes? How will this scene further your plot? As you work, drive, exercise, hold only this question in your mind. Take a few notes as you have ideas. And only when you’ve decided on the bones of the scene – then, sit and write it. Don’t go to that boring, dusty computer without something in mind. And don’t make your reader slog through a scene in which little or nothing happens.

Number Four:
Surprise yourself. If you can bring the story – or let it bring you – to a place that amazes you, then you can surprise your reader. The moment you can see any well-planned surprise, chances are, so will your sophisticated reader.

Number Five:
When you get stuck, go back and read your earlier scenes, looking for dropped characters or details that you can resurrect as “buried guns.” At the end of writing Fight Club, I had no idea what to do with the office building. But re-reading the first scene, I found the throw-away comment about mixing nitro with paraffin and how it was an iffy method for making plastic explosives. That silly aside (… paraffin has never worked for me…) made the perfect “buried gun” to resurrect at the end and save my storytelling ass.

Number Six:
Use writing as your excuse to throw a party each week – even if you call that party a “workshop.” Any time you can spend time among other people who value and support writing, that will balance those hours you spend alone, writing. Even if someday you sell your work, no amount of money will compensate you for your time spent alone. So, take your “paycheck” up front, make writing an excuse to be around people. When you reach the end of your life – trust me, you won’t look back and savor the moments you spent alone.

Write the book you want to read.
Number Seven:
Let yourself be with Not Knowing. This bit of advice comes through a hundred famous people, through Tom Spanbauer to me and now, you. The longer you can allow a story to take shape, the better that final shape will be. Don’t rush or force the ending of a story or book. All you have to know is the next scene, or the next few scenes. You don’t have to know every moment up to the end, in fact, if you do it’ll be boring as hell to execute.

Number Eight:
If you need more freedom around the story, draft to draft, change the character names. Characters aren’t real, and they aren’t you. By arbitrarily changing their names, you get the distance you need to really torture a character. Or worse, delete a character, if that’s what the story really needs.

Number Nine:
There are three types of speech – I don’t know if this is TRUE, but I heard it in a seminar and it made sense. The three types are: Descriptive, Instructive, and Expressive. Descriptive: “The sun rose high…” Instructive: “Walk, don’t run…” Expressive: “Ouch!” Most fiction writers will only use one – at most, two – of these forms. So use all three. Mix them up. It’s how people talk.

Number Ten:
Write the book you want to read.

Number Eleven:
Get author book jacket photos taken now, while you’re young. And get the negatives and copyright on those photos.

Number Twelve:
Write about the issues that really upset you. Those are the only things worth writing about. In his course, called “Dangerous Writing,” Tom Spanbauer stresses that life is too precious to spend it writing tame, conventional stories to which you have no personal attachment. There are so many things that Tom talked about but that I only half remember: the art of “manumission,” which I can’t spell, but I understood to mean the care you use in moving a reader through the moments of a story. And “sous conversation,” which I took to mean the hidden, buried message within the obvious story. Because I’m not comfortable describing topics I only half-understand, Tom’s agreed to write a book about his workshop and the ideas he teaches. The working title is “A Hole In The Heart,” and he plans to have a draft ready by June 2006, with a publishing date set in early 2007.

Number Thirteen:
Another Christmas window story. Almost every morning, I eat breakfast in the same diner, and this morning a man was painting the windows with Christmas designs. Snowmen. Snowflakes. Bells. Santa Claus. He stood outside on the sidewalk, painting in the freezing cold, his breath steaming, alternating brushes and rollers with different colors of paint. Inside the diner, the customers and servers watched as he layered red and white and blue paint on the outside of the big windows. Behind him the rain changed to snow, falling sideways in the wind.

The painter’s hair was all different colors of gray, and his face was slack and wrinkled as the empty ass of his jeans. Between colors, he’d stop to drink something out of a paper cup.

Watching him from inside, eating eggs and toast, somebody said it was sad. This customer said the man was probably a failed artist. It was probably whiskey in the cup. He probably had a studio full of failed paintings and now made his living decorating cheesy restaurant and grocery store windows. Just sad, sad, sad.

This painter guy kept putting up the colors. All the white “snow,” first. Then some fields of red and green. Then some black outlines that made the color shapes into Xmas stockings and trees.

A server walked around, pouring coffee for people, and said, “That’s so neat. I wish I could do that…”

And whether we envied or pitied this guy in the cold, he kept painting. Adding details and layers of color. And I’m not sure when it happened, but at some moment he wasn’t there. The pictures themselves were so rich, they filled the windows so well, the colors so bright, that the painter had left. Whether he was a failure or a hero. He’d disappeared, gone off to wherever, and all we were seeing was his work.

For homework, ask your family and friends what you were like as a child. Better yet, ask them what they were like as children. Then, just listen.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

RIP Adrienne Rich, 1929-2012

from “Eastern War Time”
An Atlas of the Difficult World (1991)

Memory says: Want to do right? Don’t count on me.
I’m a canal in Europe where bodies are floating
I’m a mass grave   I’m the life that returns
I’m a table set with room for the Stranger
I’m a field with corners left for the landless
I’m accused of child-death   of drinking blood
I’m a man-child praising God he’s a man
I’m a woman bargaining for a chicken
I’m a woman who sells for a boat ticket
I’m a family dispersed between night and fog
I’m an immigrant tailor who says A coat
Is not a piece of cloth only   I sway
In the learning of the master-mystics
I have dreamed of Zion   I’ve dreamed of world revolution
I have dreamed my children could live at last like others
I have walked the children of others through ranks of hatred
I’m a corpse dredged from a canal in Berlin
a river in Mississippi   I’m a woman standing
with other women dressed in black
on the streets of Hiafa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem
there is spit on my sleeve there are phonecalls in the night
I am a woman standing in line for gasmasks
I stand on a road in Ramallah   with naked face   listening
I am standing here in your poem   unsatisfied
lifting my smoky mirror

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Students: Registration

Dear Incoming Fall Students,

MFA registration is handled separately from all other registrations. You do not need to do anything about registration right now--please ignore any calls to register that you may receive from the university. I will let you know via the blog when we are ready to move on registration.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Hooray for Sundeen

The Man Who Quit Money is #1 on Amazon's "Nature & Ecology Essays" section, and it's in the top 1600 sellers on Amazon. That's huge! Check it out...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Character Development Workshop

Hi All,

Professor Louisa Burns-Bisogna will be offering a workshop on Saturday, March 31 from 10 am to 12 pm in HI206. Let me know if you would like to attend, my email is


Kristin SM

Workshop: Character Development

Whatever your genre...this workshop will help you flesh out your characters. Building on the basic skeleton ( a bit like the forensic detectives in "Bones" or "CSI") you will create the complex physiological, sociological, historical and psychological identity that defines him or her. This will bring authenticity to your character's motivation, movement and "voice", enrich interaction with other characters and increase opportunities for story.

Book Launch party March 29 in NYC

The college where I teach, LIM, is hosting my book launch party in Midtown Manhattan, next Thursday, March 29th. I'd love it if you can come. Details and RSVP info are below. Blue martinis will be served!

You’re Invited to the Celebration!

Author Talk & Book Launch Party for

LIM College Professor Jane K. Cleland’s 7th Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery

Dolled Up for Murder

from St. Martin's Minotaur

"a winner" Publishers Weekly

Jane will discuss “Smuggling Dolls”

How dolls serve as role models and how fashion relates to image and
how bounty from the Civil War leads to murder.

Thursday March 29, 2012 • 6-8 PM

LIM College • FashionOpolis

12 East 53rd Street • New York City

Books will be available for purchase and signing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Best Travel Writing Solas Awards

Hey everyone, an article I wrote on recent travels to Cuba garnered a bronze in the 2012 Best Travel Writing Solas Awards. Not a huge deal, but I thought I'd make it available here in case anyone's interested in Cuba or travel writing. Here's the link:

If you are interested in going to Cuba and want some travel advice, please feel free to contact me. It's an exciting time to go, as things are in the process of opening up.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More Good News

John Roche's novel Eighty Eight has made another cut in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It's now down to the top 250. Keep your fingers crossed or knock on wood or spit or throw some rice or whatever it is that you like to do for good luck...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thesis Proposals

Thesis Students,

I have sent responses from the Thesis Committee to all of you. If you have not read your response yet, check your wcsu email. Let me know if you have any questions.

Hello Everyone! My short story Hard Heavy Crazy is available on Please check it out! Truly, Jenn Powers

Staged Reading of Quarter Year Dilemmas

Hello my fellow MFAers,

I'm thrilled to share that there will be a staged reading of Quarter Year Dilemmas on March 31, 2012 at Bru Cafe, 141 Orange Street, New Haven, Connecticut (downtown, two blocks from the New Haven green) from 4 to 8 p.m. The event includes an hour of networking and a talkback with audience members, where they can provide feedback on the play, which will be incorporated into subsequent readings and the final production.

"Quarter Life Dilemmas" examines the lives of four friends in their mid-twenties who have realized that life's not so much 'Sex in the City' as it is 'Broke, in Debt, and Hate my Job in the City.'

The reading is part of SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day. Despite the many great accomplishments women have made over the years, they continue to face enormous employment discrimination in the arts, entertainment, and media industries. SWAN Day recognizes this fact and challenges women artists, writers, directors and performers to use their creativity to bring awareness to this issue of disparity that women artists face on a daily basis.

The ProduceHERS is a new collaborative effort created by Halima Flynn and Aaliyah Miller aimed at producing new works written and directed by women and building audiences for female theatre artists. Anne Witkavich, a fellow MFA alum, will be participating in the reading. I hope to see you there.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Perfect Writing Place

If anyone is interested in a cottage rental that offers the perfect setting to write and edit - private road, on a pond, quiet - but is a 10 minute ride to beaches and sand dunes, 15-20 minutes to Hyannis, Cape Cod, 20 minutes to Plimoth Plantation and an hour to Boston, let me know.

My cottage is in the Ellisville section of South Plymouth...I have some times this spring and summer still available for rental. It is a perfect writing retreat for a solo venture or for a few writing friends to gather, write, relax and enjoy a getaway.

If interested, e-mail me at

Friday, March 16, 2012

Res Fee

I'm happy to report that I've been informed that the Residency Fee (may show as "Program Fee" on your bills) will NOT go up this year--will remain at $800 per residency.


A snack before the poetry smack.

Would anyone care to join me at Pancho's Taco for a bite to eat before Brian's Poetry Workshop?
I'll be there around 5. Ciao, Andy