Inside Look

The Summer Highs of Our Low-Residency MFA

By Dr. Derek Nikitas, Director, Bluegrass Writers Studio

Nothing like winter chill to make you dream of summer. Over at the Bluegrass Writers Studio office, we’re bustling like Santa’s elves getting ready for this year’s Winter Residency. But June, and our Summer Residency in Lisbon, Portugal, is also calling out to us. The international experience has been a hallmark of our program since we started in 2008, especially since last year, when we started an exciting partnership with the Disquiet International program.

Genre-Friendly, Low-Residency MFA

By Dr. Derek Nikitas, Director, Bluegrass Writers Studio

When a writer considers low-residency MFA programs, the question of “fit” is major. We all want to join a nurturing creative writing community that will help us sharpen our tools, but we also hope our writing will be respected for its heart. Like with a healthy romance, we don’t want to be turned into something we’re not.

Most MFA programs embrace traditionalists, experimentalists, formalists, magical realists, realists, and writers who don’t fit any “-ists.” But what about writers of genre fiction? Or writers who like to play with genre conventions? That’s a trickier question.

Beth Ann Fennelly's Open House

By Joseph Nichols, Graduate Assistant, Bluegrass Writers Studio ​On January 3rd, 2014, poet Beth Ann Fennelly and her husband (and author) Tom Franklin will be at the downtown Lexington Hilton, reading from their novel, The Tilted World. The duo will be two of the superstar guests appearing at the Bluegrass Writers Studio MFA Winter Residency, which takes place from Jan. 2nd thru Jan. 12th at the hotel.​ ​As a graduate student focusing on poetry, I read Fennelly's book Open House – Poems. This blog post, then, is my attempt to write an unbiased critique of that collection, though my main predicament in doing so is veering away from the fan boy diction that screams for release. Midway through perhaps the third section of the first poem, I was making enough noise that my Olive Garden waitress had started giving me dirty looks.

Sexual Perversity in Tampa

By Dr. Derek Nikitas, Director, Bluegrass Writers Studio

Alissa Nutting’s Tampa is arguably the most controversial book of 2013.  Surely it takes the number one slot on Santa’s naughty list. It’s NC-17 enough to make Anaïs Nin put her fingers to her pursed lips, but the real threat of Tampa is the voice of its female-predator narrator, Celeste Price. It’s how Celeste bites down on American culture, chews it up, and spits it back in our faces.

How can you resist an experience like that?

Tampa is the story of a middle school teacher in her late twenties whose two obsessions in life are maintaining her youth/beauty and bedding teenage boys. Her story, in her own unflinching words, is equal parts enthralling and disturbing, funny and sick, honest and deceptive.

Grodstein Saves. Perhaps.

By Kristen Thompson, Associate Director, Bluegrass Writers Studio

    Lauren Grodstein is comin' to town. I don’t think she’ll be bringing a bag of toys, but hopefully she’ll give us a peek into her bag of tricks. Writing tricks, that is.

      Her novel A Friend of the Family is intricately crafted. The narrator, Pete Dizinoff, relates a series of events and choices that led to his ruin. I’m not giving anything away here; he’s honest about that from page one. He gives the impression that he is going to tell his side of things accurately, including his harsh judgment of himself. Along the way, he mentions intriguing little pieces of the story that don’t fit with anything told so far. These flashes, after a while, start to seem like misfires in Dizinoff’s overtaxed head. Fifty pages might go by before he catches up with himself and the reader gets more of the picture.

Miner Offenses

By Heather Noland, Bluegrass Writers Studio

Beatty in our Back/Yard

By Jay McCoy, Bluegrass Writers Studio

    A few years ago, when I first got my hands on Jan Beatty’s poetry collection, Red Sugar (2008), I was captivated. Certain poems like “When Foucault Entered the Body” absolutely entranced me. I lost count of the number of times I read it aloud to myself or to any poet that would listen. I was on a mission. I immediately went in search of my next fix and found an earlier collection, Boneshaker (2002). Not only did it not disappoint, it intensified the craving. I grabbed her latest collection, The Switching/Yard (2013), as soon as it was available and devoured it in one sitting. Today, I find myself returning to Beatty’s work often for inspiration, writing instruction, and for pure unadulterated pleasure; I always discover some new insight with each reading.

Unmovable Feast

By Kristen Thompson, Associate Coordinator, Bluegrass Writers Studio

    In the tradition of Dorothy Parker at the Algonquin Hotel and Hemingway at Le Falstaff, Bluegrass Writers Studio has The Village Idiot. During the ten days of winter residency in Lexington, Kentucky, you'll find us there for dinner more often than not. It started innocently enough, when Anne Panning’s (Butter) and Kevin Wilson’s (The Family Fang) visits overlapped. More than a few Bluegrass Writers Studio participants wanted to join them for dinner, so we needed to walk to a place that could feed a crowd.

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