Best of the Best

The work of our faculty is among the best creative work being published today. But don’t take our word for it. Each year, prestigious anthologies such as the The Best American series, The Pushcart Prize collection, and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories compile the finest fiction, non-fiction, and poetry published from the previous year. Rare is the year when the Writing Seminars faculty isn’t represented in their pages. How rare, you ask? Take a tally in the following slideshow.

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A Bennington Legacy

Seven Pulitzer Prize winners, three U.S. poet laureates, the youngest Man Booker Prize winner, a MacArthur “Genius,” countless New York Times bestsellers, and one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people—this is Bennington’s literary legacy.

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Top of the List

In its 2007 fiction issue, The Atlantic published a guide to the nation's best graduate programs in creative writing: The Bennington Writing Seminars was distinguished as one of the top five low-residency MFA programs.

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June 27, 28, and 29, 2014

Where to Stay | Directions to Campus | Campus Map (PDF)

Contact: Catherine Parnell, June ’00 (802-440-4452 or mfareunion@bennington.edu)

Preliminary Schedule of Events

Friday, June 27

  • 1:00–4:00 pm | Registration, Commons Lounge (If you will be arriving after the designated registration period, your packet will be held at Campus Safety.)
  • 4:00–5:20 pm | Graduate Readings, Tishman
    • 4:00 pm | Ani Kazarian
    • 4:20 pm | Tara Kelly
    • 4:40 pm | Jennifer Leija
    • 5:00 pm | Erin Kate Ryan
  • 5:00 pm | Pre-dinner cash bar, Commons Lounge
  • 5:30 pm | Alumni Reception and Dinner, Yellow Dining Room
  • 7:00 pm | Faculty Readings: Susan Cheever and Brian Morton, Deane Carriage Barn
  • 8:30–9:00 pm | Labyrinth Lighting Ceremony, Commons Lawn (The Labyrinth will remain lit until shortly after midnight.)
  • 9:30 pm | Concert, Student Center/DownCafé, with Eli Burrell and Jen Hinst-White, Dog House Band
  • 11:00 pm | Sky Lantern Lighting at Labyrinth, Commons Lawn

Saturday, June 28

  • 7:00–9:00 am | Breakfast
  • 8:20–10:15 am | Graduate Lectures, Tishman
    • 8:20 am | Katie Slezas: “A Dissection of Nonlinear Memoir. “ This is an exploration of how memoirists Joan Wickersham, Maureen Howard, and Abigail Thomas have structured narratives using thematic connections rather than chronology to organize the unraveling of events on the page. I will also discuss the risks and benefits of employing a nonlinear strategy.
    • 9:00 am | Jennifer Urbanek: “Salvador Dali the Polymathic Polymorphous Genius.” Much of Dali's poetry and philosophic writing are long out of print. His poetry and novel were extolled by Lorca we will examine verse that survived through their correspondence. Attention will be given to his use of science and symbolism and the paranoid critical method he developed.
    • 9:40 am | Corina Zappia: “Inserting Humor into Grave Narratives: The Ultimate Balancing Act.” Comedy and tragedy, so intertwined in life, should be easy enough to combine in literature. The writer who attempts to do so, however, can encounter a number of pitfalls: awkward transitions, adding insult to injury. A look at works by Lorrie Moore and John Jeremiah Sullivan that strike a judicious balance.
  • 10:30 am–noon | Life of Letters conversation: Jill Schoolman, Tishman
  • noon–1:00 pm | Lunch
  • 1:00–2:30 pm | North Bennington “Lottery” Tour and Tour of CAPA—Meet Susan Merrell (January 2009) at the Flagpole
    Take a tour of Shirley Jackson's “Lottery”—see the house she was living in when she wrote it, walk down to Powers Market where the inspiration began, and relive the story (no stones, please) on the village square. We can also walk to the house Jackson and Hyman lived in for most of their adult lives, over by the train station—where she wrote The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle—and then return to campus.
  • 3:00–4:00 pm | Ice Cream Social/Book Celebration/Literary Magazine Extravaganza, Crossett Library, hosted by Post Road magazine with thanks to alums Jaime Clarke (January 1997) and David Ryan (January 1999).
    Inside the library you’ll find a display of books authored by Writing Seminars alum (and some current students). Lee Hancock (January 2014) compiled a list of these books; please email Lee if you have any questions or additions.
    You'll find literary magazines on a table outside the library. If you work with a literary magazine (editor, guest editor, reader) and would like to donate a copy, please contact Jenn Scheck-Kahn (January 2008). We'd love to showcase as many magazines (print and online) as possible.
  • 5:00 pm | Commencement Ceremony, Usdan Gallery
    Commencement Speaker: Sonia Sanchez
  • 6:15 pm | Graduation Reception, Greenwall (Pre-registration and ticket required.)
  • 6:45 pm | Graduation Dinner, Greenwall (Pre-registration and ticket required.)
  • 9:00 pm | Graduation Dance, Student Center
  • 9:00–11:00 pm | Alumni Readings and Gathering, Commons Lounge
    Hosted by V. Hansmann (June 2011)

Sunday, June 29

  • 7:00–9:00 am | Breakfast
  • 10:00 am–noon | Craft Sessions (Pre-registration required.)
    —fiction: Bob Shacochis, Cricket Hill Barn
    —nonfiction: Phillip Lopate, CAPA Symposium
    —poetry: Sonia Sanchez, CAPA Faculty Lounge
  • 10:00 am–noon | Alumni Readings and Gathering, Commons Lounge
    Hosted by V. Hansmann (June 2011)
  • 12:30–1:30 pm | Alumni Luncheon, Deane Carriage Barn/Fireplace Room (Pre-registration and ticket required.)
  • 1:30–2:30 pm | Reunion Faculty Readings, Deane Carriage Barn—Phillip Lopate, Sonia Sanchez, Bob Shacochis
  • 5:00 pm | Pre-dinner cash bar, Commons Lounge
  • 5:30 pm | Dinner

Monday, June 30

  • 7:00–9:00 am | Breakfast
  • by 11:00 am | Checkout

Participants

  • Susan Cheever’s most recent biography, e.e. Cummings: A Poet's Life, was published in February 2014. Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography, was published in the fall of 2010 by Simon & Schuster. A previous book on the American transcendentalists, American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work was published by Simon & Schuster in 2006, and was on the Boston Globe bestseller list for three months. Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction was published by Simon & Schuster in 2009 and is in its third printing. My Name is Bill: Bill Wilson, His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous was published by Simon & Schuster in 2004. Cheever is also the author of As Good As I Could Be: A Memoir of Raising Wonderful Children in Difficult Times (Simon & Schuster, 2001), Note Found in a Bottle: My Life as a Drinker (Simon & Schuster, 1999), A Woman's Life: A Story of an Ordinary Woman and Her Extraordinary Generation (Morrow), Treetops: A Family Memoir (Bantam, 1991), and Home Before Dark: A Biographical Memoir of John Cheever by His Daughter (Houghton Mifflin, 1984). She has also published five novels, including Looking for Work, A Handsome Man, and Doctors and Women. She is working on a history of drinking in America. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times, and as a weekly column in Newsday, and she has contributed to many other magazines and anthologies. Her work has been nominated for a National Book Circle Award and won the Boston Globe Winship medal. She is a Guggenheim Fellow, a member of the Authors Guild Council, and a director of the Yaddo Corporation. Cheever took a BA from Brown and has taught at Yale, Hunter College, and elsewhere. She lives in New York City. Faculty. She will give a reading.
  • Phillip Lopate recently published two books, Portrait Inside My Head (essays) and To Show and to Tell: the Craft of Literary Nonfiction. His other recent books include Two Marriages, a pair of novellas from Other Press, Notes on Sontag, the first in Princeton University Press's series Writers on Writers, and At the End of the Day: Selected Poems, from Marsh Hawk Press. Books of nonfiction include Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan (Crown Publishers, 2004), Getting Personal: Selected Writings (Basic Books, 2003), Totally, Tenderly, Tragically (Doubleday, 1998), Portrait of My Body (Doubleday, 1997), Against Joie de Vivre (Simon & Schuster, 1989), Bachelorhood: Tales of the Metropolis (Little, Brown, 1981), and Being with Children (Doubleday, 1986). Lopate edited American Movie Critics: From the Silents Until Now (Library of America 2006). His novels are The Rug Merchant and Confessions of Summer, and his books of poems are The Daily Round and The Eyes Don't Always Want to Stay Open. He edited The Art of the Personal Essay (Doubleday, 1995) and Writing New York (Library of America, 1998). Lopate has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is a full professor at Columbia University, where he directs the nonfiction MFA concentration. He was recently a fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Lopate took a BA from Columbia College and a PhD in English from the Union Institute. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. He will teach a craft session and give a reading.
  • Brian Morton is the author of the novels Breakable You (Harcourt, 2006); A Window Across the River (Harcourt, 2003), which was a Today Show Book Club selection; Starting Out in the Evening (Crown, 1998), which received the Koret Jewish Book Award for Fiction, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and was made into a motion picture; and The Dylanist (HarperCollins, 1991). His new novel, Florence Gordon, will be out in September. Morton has received the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Guggenheim Foundation Award. He teaches at New York University and at Sarah Lawrence College, where he also directs the writing program. Faculty. He will give a reading
  • Sonia Sanchez is the author of more than 16 books including Homecoming, We a BaddDDD People, Love Poems, I’ve Been a Woman, A Sound Investment and Other Stories, Homegirls and Handgrenades, Under a Soprano Sky, Wounded in the House of a Friend (Beacon Press, 1995), Does Your House Have Lions? (Beacon Press, 1997), Like the Singing Coming off the Drums (Beacon Press, 1998), Shake Loose My Skin (Beacon Press, 1999), and most recently, Morning Haiku (Beacon Press, 2010). In addition to being a contributing editor to Black Scholar and The Journal of African Studies, she has edited an anthology, We Be Word Sorcerers: 25 Stories by Black Americans. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts, the Lucretia Mott Award for 1984, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, Sanchez is also a winner of the 1985 American Book Award for Homegirls and Handgrenades, a recipient of a PEW Fellowship in the Arts for 1992-1993 and the recipient of Langston Hughes Poetry Award for 1999, among many other awards. Currently, Sanchez is one of 20 African American women featured in “Freedom Sisters,” an interactive exhibition created by the Cincinnati Museum Center and Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition. She will deliver the Commencement Address and give a reading
  • Bob Shacochis is a novelist, essayist, journalist, and educator. His work has received a National Book Award for First Fiction, the Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He graduated from the University of Missouri Journalism School in 1973, and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1982. A former Peace Corps volunteer in the Eastern Caribbean, Shacochis currently teaches in the graduate writing programs at Bennington College and Florida State. The author of two short story collections (Easy In The Islands, The Next New World), a novel (Swimming in the Volcano, a finalist for the National Book Award), and a collection of essays about food and love Domesticity), his book, The Immaculate Invasion, about the 1994 military intervention in Haiti, was a finalist for the New Yorker Magazine Literary Awards for best nonfiction book of the year, and named a Notable Book of 1999 by The New York Times. A former contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine and Outside Magazine, Shacochis’s op-ed commentaries on the U.S. military, Haiti, and Florida politics have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. His travel memoir of his journeys in the Himalaya, Between Heaven and Hell, was published by Byliner in 2012. His most recent work, the novel, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, was a 2014 Pulitzer Finalist. He lives in Florida and New Mexico. He will teach a craft session and give a reading.
  • Jill Schoolman founded Archipelago Books in 2003 after working with Seven Stories Press for several years in the editorial department. She received her BA in literature from Yale University in 1992 and studied at Oxford University 1990–91. She participated in editors’ exchange programs in France, Germany, Sweden, Argentina, and Norway. She is fluent in French and has a working knowledge of Spanish and Italian. Archipelago now has nearly 100 books in print from more than 25 languages. A life of letters conversation.