Requiem for a Nest: L.A. Blueswoman Wanda Coleman

by Douglas Manuel, Spalding’s School of Writing Poetry Faculty

When I moved to the L.A. area in 2013, I didn’t know much about Wanda Coleman. I didn’t know she was known as the “L.A. Blueswoman.” I didn’t know she was the low-key, real, unofficial Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. I didn’t know about her Lenore Marshall Prize. I didn’t know about Mercurochrome being a finalist for the National Book Award. I didn’t know about her coming for Maya Angelou (All love and praise due to Maya Angelou though!) and writing that A Song Flung Up to Heavenseem[ed] small and inauthentic, without ideas, wisdom or vision.” Honestly, and this hurts me the most to admit, I hadn’t even read a single poem of Coleman’s before she died on November 22, 2013. And even worse, I didn’t even go to her memorial at the downtown L.A. Central Public Library that January of the following year. What a fool I am, what a fool!

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First Class of Professional Writing Students Completes the First Totally Virtual (and totally real!) Residency in May

I’m still breathless from the whirlwind of our first residency in professional writing.  Our workshop conversations and guest lectures explored the diverse opportunities available to the professional writer: Crisis communication?  We’re on it.   Grant writing? Show me the money.  Technical writing for corporations?  Of course.  Press releases, inclusive language, professional style? Check. Check. Check.

These students have now begun their professional writing independent study, bringing with them a variety of professional interests. During independent study, they will explore opportunities for on-the-job projects as well as freelance opportunities in review writing, travel writing, and table-top gaming.

Listen to them discuss their experiences at the residency and their independent study plans in this short video. 

The School of Creative and Professional Writing offers both a one-semester Certificate in Professional Writing and a 35-hour Master of Arts in Writing that includes a semester in editing and publishing. Current MFA students may also take professional writing as an out-of-genre residency or full semester. Feel free to contact me directly for more information: ledwards02 [at] spalding [dot] edu.


Lynnell Edwards is Professor of English and Associate Programs Director for Spalding’s School of Creative and Professional Writing.  Her fifth collection of poetry, This Great Green Valley, was recently released by Broadstone Books.


Under the Ocelot Sun: The Making of an Illustrated Book

By Jeremy Paden, Spalding School of Writing Poetry Translation Faculty

The Bestia.
[Illustration by Annelissa Hermosilla]
[The Bestia is the name that migrants have given to the train that runs from southern Mexico
to northern Mexico. It’s known as The Bestia because of how dangerous it is.] 

His name is Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez. Propublica tells us Carlos was just sixteen years old when he died of the flu in a cell at a detention center in Weslaco, Texas in May 2019. He was from the Mayan highlands of Guatemala and the fourth minor to have died while in the custody of the Customs and Border Patrol Agency of the United States in 2019. He had followed his brother north, hoping that a new country would give him opportunities his own could not provide. The other children who have died in custody this year are also Guatemalan: the eight-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, the not-yet-three-year-old Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vázquez, and the sixteen-year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez. In 2018, two minors died while in custody, both girls: Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle, a ten-year-old El Salvadoran, and Jakelin Caal Maquín, a seven-year-old Guatemalan.

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Being Alone

By Sam Zalutsky, Screenwriting Faculty, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing

I was recently reading James Baldwin’s short essay, “The Creative Process,” from 1962. And with apologies for the gendered language, it offers wonderful insights about the artist’s role in society. Baldwin writes: “Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone.”

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On Muriel Rukeyser

By Robin Lippincott, Fiction & Creative Nonfiction Faculty, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing

 The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser

Because it’s almost National Poetry Month as I write, and may already be April by the time this post appears, I want to repost a freshened-up version of an earlier blog—a tribute to the late, great poet Muriel Rukeyser.

I was fortunate enough to see Rukeyser and to hear her read, in 1978, less than two years before her death. This was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at Harvard University, in the Woodberry Poetry Room, as I recall, and the place was packed. Stratis Haviaras, director of the Poetry Room and later a teacher of mine, must have introduced her, but I don’t remember that.

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Storytelling Round a Virtual Campfire

By Jessica C. Hume, Ph.D., Spalding MFA Alumni 2007

In the late 1340s, the Black Plague swept through Italy, shutting down entire towns and decimating the population. At the height of the Plague, many people fled highly populated areas to the relative safety of the countryside, hoping to avoid the devastating (and often fatal) illness.

Almost eight hundred years later, Italy is again faced with the ravages of a cruel illness which keeps citizens isolated from one another, but the effects of which have stretched across the planet. Roughly one month ago, my university closed our campus in anticipation of the oncoming wave of the COVID 19 pandemic. As I drove home with my baby son from Louisville to our little homestead in Anderson County, I couldn’t help but think of those fourteenth-century plague refugees. I thought I felt a bit like they must have. I don’t intend here to analogize the 21st century COVID-19 pandemic with the medieval bubonic plague, but I think they must have wondered whether their flight to the country would protect them, what would happen to the friends and loved ones in the midst of the chaos, when they would see them again, what would be left when they returned, and how the world would be irrevocably changed. I felt that way a bit, too.

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Living and Writing and Faith: Dispatch from Self-Isolation, Day 30

By Elaine Neil Orr, Fiction/Creative Nonfiction Faculty

Since I wrote this short essay about Covid-19 and sliding into depression and finding a way out, I’ve felt depressed again, more than once. I’m seeing a pattern and learning how to pull myself up. But I’m also trying to be patient with myself. Today after my graduate seminar, I told my students I love them. It’s true. I do love them. But I would not say that in “normal times.” I’m saying it now that we are all more aware of how fragile life is. My students’ faces registered real joy when I spoke that sentence: “I love you.”

I hope we can make it permissible to find the good that this period of our lives yields up.

Maybe this blog can yield up some grace in your day.

Living and Writing and Faith: Dispatch from Self-Isolation, Day 30


Elaine Neil Orr is the author of five books, including her memoir, Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, and the novel, A Different Sun. Her latest novel, Swimming Between Worlds captures the moral imperatives of integration in the early 1960s and was a finalist for the 2019 Phillip H. McMath Post-Publication Book Award in Fiction. She has been honored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She serves on the faculty of English at N.C. State University as well as the faculty of the Spalding University School of Creative and Professional Writing.