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Winter 2006 | Volume 29, Number 1 | Books & Film

Inspired by Santa Fe: SPU's First M.F.A Students Guided by Great Writers and Artists

IN AUGUST 2005, UNDER New Mexico skies that looked like they were painted by Georgia O’Keeffe, students in Seattle Pacific University’s new Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program gathered from across the nation for the first of two annual weeklong residency periods. These students, who will spend most of their M.F.A. experience reading and crafting manuscripts in their own homes, benefited from the personal expertise of renowned writers and visual artists.

Robert Clark, a Guggenheim Fellow and winner of the Edgar Award for his novel Mr. White’s Confessions, guided the fiction writers. Nonfiction writers worked with Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Surviving the Island of Grace, Out on the Deep Blue, and The Entangling Net: Alaska’s Commercial Fishing Women Tell Their Lives. Poetry students learned from Paul Mariani, one of America’s leading literary biographers and poets. Mariani’s biography of William Carlos Williams was nominated for a National Book Award; his latest collection of poems is titled Deaths and Transfigurations.

Student Matt Gallant, a fiction writer from Sammamish, Washington, says he was attracted to the M.F.A. program’s “unique approach to blending the art of creative writing with faith.” In Santa Fe, he was particularly moved by a session Mariani led: “Mariani spoke from the heart. He shared some personal background [about] how he got into the business of writing poems. It was a magnificent, uplifting, emotional encounter. I would not have had that somewhere else.”

Later in the week, the M.F.A. students joined other artists in attendance at the Glen Workshop, a national conference for artists and writers hosted by Image, a journal of the arts and religion housed at SPU. There they were further inspired by the work of accomplished artists including Over the Rhine, an internationally acclaimed musical duo from Ohio, whose recent release Drunkard’s Prayer is receiving rave reviews; and Barry Moser, whose illustrations can be found in museums such as the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the British Museum in London.

A native of Pennsylvania, Rebecca Kasparek applied for the Seattle Pacific M.F.A. program in its first year because she wanted to be “part of something groundbreaking … a pioneer.” Mary van Denend of Corvallis, Oregon, actually left another M.F.A. program in order to join SPU’s. “The real crux of it was the spiritual underpinnings,” she explains. “Those were not there in the program I was in before.”

By the close of the Santa Fe event, Greg Wolfe, publisher and editor of Image and director of both the M.F.A. program and the Glen Workshop, was encouraged by the effect of the experience upon the “pioneering” M.F.A. students. “On the last evening when they all gathered around the piano and were singing show tunes,” he says, “that was the sign I needed that this was a group that had bonded together and had a real esprit de corps.”

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2014: A Blueprint for Excellence shows "Seattle Pacific will be a place that knows and understands what's going on in the world, and it will be a place that embraces the Christian story," says President Philip Eaton. [President]

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Allowing Scripture to Transform Our Lives
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Courted by Division I soccer teams while in high school, stand-out Falcon forward, Sarah Martinez, hits goals on and off the field. [Athletics]

My Response
John Perkins writes a letter to Seattle Pacific about God's grace during and after Hurricane Katrina.

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