~ By Jefferson Beavers, communication specialist, Department of English
~ Photo: Jeffery Gleaves, Sasha Pimentel and Navdeep Singh Dhillon.
The College of Arts and Humanities wasn’t able to stage a big, glitzy, socially distanced gala this year to honor the silver anniversary of Fresno State’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing.
But not even a global pandemic can keep the Department of English’s highest degree program from celebrating 25 years of alumni accomplishments:
- 36 debut books published, including 19 in the past five years alone;
- More than 1,000 poems, stories, and essays published in literary magazines and journals worldwide;
- More than two-dozen job placements in the publishing industry;
- And countless educators and professionals who tap into the power of writing and storytelling daily to impact the lives of others.
Prof. Steven Church, a professor of English who currently coordinates the program, said he is “profoundly humbled and grateful” to be spending his teaching career with the best creative writing students in the country.
“Anyone who has ever taught at Fresno State understands how special the students are in the San Joaquin Valley — humble, hardworking, and brilliant. Philip Levine knew this. We all do,” Church said.
“But the level of publishing and professional success our students have achieved is, frankly, astonishing. The number of debut books, follow-up books, and jobs in publishing, editing, teaching, and community arts organizing would rival that of any MFA program in the United States. I’m honored to celebrate them as we mark the 25th anniversary of Fresno State’s MFA program in creative writing.”
To commemorate the anniversary, the English Department has compiled a booklet that focuses on its alumni authors and publishing professionals:
Included among the 40-plus alumni highlighted in the booklet:
- Megan Anderson Bohigian — Author of two books and recently named the City of Fresno’s fifth poet laureate.
- Anthony Cody — Winner of a half-dozen national literary honors for his debut book, including finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry.
- Soul Choj Vang — Author of a debut book and the first MFA alumnus to endow a creative writing scholarship at Fresno State.
The MFA program also chose three alumni to spotlight on its YouTube channel, to reflect on their time in the program, their mentors, their publishing work since graduating, and their hopes for the next 25 years of creative writing at Fresno State. They are:
- Sasha Pimentel — Author of two books that have won national literary prizes, a creative writing professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, and recent curator of the popular Poem-a-Day series.
- Jeffery Gleaves — Digital engagement and content director for the Academy of American Poets and the most accomplished of the program’s alumni working in the editing and publishing industry.
- Navdeep Singh Dhillon — Recently featured in Buzzfeed and author of the anticipated young-adult novel “Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions,” to be published in February 2022 by Penguin Random House.
Fresno State’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing was founded in the 1995-96 academic year by the poet C. G. Hanzlicek, who is now a professor emeritus of English. Hanzlicek, with poet professors Philip Levine and Peter Everwine, formed the pillars of the university’s creative writing program beginning in the late 1950s. The program later evolved into offering a full MFA, the terminal degree in the field of creative writing.
The MFA program currently supports 40-50 graduate students receiving advanced training in the writing of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. There is also an optional publishing and editing emphasis. The program’s national publishing projects include The Normal School literary magazine and the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry book contest.