by Katy Yocom
Spalding MFA, Associate Administrative Director
One of the best parts of my job with the Spalding low residency MFA program is talking with people who are thinking of applying to the program. It’s a surprisingly vulnerable moment. Their voices sometimes shake. They’ve always been writers, but now they’re admitting that they need to do something about it, and that “doing something” means changing their lives.
Yet in the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with prospective students, I’ve noticed something: Everyone wants to know what it’s like to be an MFA student, but almost no one asks what it means to be a Spalding MFA alum.
When you’re standing at the beginning of your MFA journey, it’s hard to imagine how quickly those four semesters will pass. But in a very short time, you’ll be asking yourself what happens after the diploma arrives in the mail. Our faculty is generous with advice about finding an agent, maintaining good writing habits—things you need to know when you’re about to graduate. But there’s another question to consider: How will your MFA program itself continue to inspire and support you as an alum?
The Spalding MFA program and its terrific alumni association offer graduates more support and more opportunities than any other low residency program out there. Here are eight opportunities that cost not a penny for Spalding MFA alums, and four that do:
- Lifetime access to the MFA portal page, including our archive of faculty lectures. It’s hard to put a price on the value of listening to Sena talk about subject, structure, style, and significance, or any of our amazing faculty deliver high-level talks on craft, major authors, and literary movements. Fortunately, alums can listen for free. (If you’re an alum and you’re not sure how to log in, contact the MFA Office and we’ll send you the information.)
- Homecoming. Yes, you have to get yourself to Louisville and find a place to lay your head—and you might want to bring along some bourbon money—but every other aspect of Homecoming is free. The alumni workshops. The faculty lectures. The panel discussions about writing, teaching, pitching to agents, and supporting your published work. The reading by newly published alumni. The book expo. The film and play festival. The faculty-alum breakfast mixer. It’s an astonishingly rich offering of inspiration, education, promotional opportunities, feedback, and fun. More than anything, it’s a chance to reconnect with your writing community.
- Online workshops, in which alums meet regularly in online video critique sessions. Whether they’re in Vermont, L.A., or for that matter Singapore, any alum can participate. Alums sometimes form workshop groups by themselves, but they can ask the alumni association to connect them with other MFA alums who’d like to form a new group.
- Post-grad residency assistant positions. In exchange for helping with behind-the-scenes work, a handful of alums get to take part in an entire Louisville residency. They participate in a faculty-led workshop, attend curriculum events, and have a seat at the table (or museum or concert hall) for all residency activities and meals. The MFA Program springs for a shared hotel room at the beautiful Brown Hotel, up to $300 for travel expenses, and a stipend to boot. A similar opportunity is available at our residencies abroad.
- Our social media reach. Alums are encouraged to share their news on the Facebook pages of both the MFA Program and the MFA Alumni Association. Though there’s crossover, the two pages serve different purposes. Anyone can “like” and search the MFA Program’s Facebook page, but the Alumni Association’s page is a closed group, ideal for times when alums want to share news with other alumni only.
- The MFA blog. Sink into a weekly dose of writerly wisdom, rants, ponderings, and advice from your favorite Spalding MFA faculty members (and sometimes staff and alums).
- Free registration for AWP. Spalding sponsors registration waivers for 15 alumni to attend the AWP conference every year. It’s a place to network in the huge world of academia and publishing, as well as reconnect with fellow and sister Spalding MFAers at our official reading/cupcake-and-champagne event.
- Membership in the Spalding MFA Alumni Association. When you graduate, you’re automatically inducted. And thanks to the astonishing dedication of a group of alumni volunteers, there are no membership dues and no fees.
Alums get all these opportunities without spending a penny. They can also invest some money to receive yet more:
- Regional events. The Alumni Association hosts events around the country that offer alums, faculty, students, and prospective students anything from an evening’s socializing to a weekend writing retreat.
- SpaldingCon, our MFA alumni writing conference. SpaldingCon takes place at the fall residency and features faculty-led workshops, master classes, talks from publishing professionals, and more. Think of it as the amped-up, more professionally focused version of Homecoming.
- A post-graduate residency, or even an entire post-grad semester. Spalding alums are welcome back anytime to take part in a residency, and some choose to add the independent study session as well. Alums in the prose genres sometimes come back for the book-length manuscript workshop once their novel or memoir is finished—a sweet way to celebrate the accomplishment while taking the manuscript to the next level.
- International travel. Alums are invited to come with us on our summer residencies abroad. This year, a dozen alums are signed up for our adventure in Greece. Next year, it’s Rome, and in 2017, Barcelona. These alumni trips are part vacation, part reunion. Most of all, they’re a reminder that your membership in the Spalding MFA family will keep taking you unexpected places, no matter how badly your voice was shaking when you made that first, brave phone call to ask how you might begin.
Katy Yocom’s fiction, poetry, essays, and journalism have appeared in The Louisville Review, New Southerner, Open 24 Hrs., the blog StyleSubstanceSoul, Louisville Magazine, LEO Weekly, 2nd & Church, and Food & Dining, among other publications. She holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University. She is a recipient of grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation and the Kentucky Foundation for Women and was writer-in-residence at Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts.