MFA in Narrative Media Writing gears up for fall residency

People read a script at a table while the professor looks on.
The ninth residency of the MFA Narrative Media Writing program takes place July 30 through Aug. 5. Pictured above are students in the screenwriting program reading through a script in spring 2023. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

MFA in Narrative Media Writing gears up for fall residency

July 30, 2023

The ninth year of the MFA Narrative Media Writing fall residency takes place July 30 to Aug. 5 with several anticipated highlights including a public lecture by best-selling author Paul Kix, a film screening of “El Norte” with writer/director Gregory Nava, the relaunch of the Hear-Tell podcast and student readings downtown.

The low-residency MFA Narrative Media Writing program is entering its ninth year educating students in nonfiction writing and screenwriting, enabling graduates to finish their degrees with a publishable nonfiction manuscript or marketable screenplay.

Paul Kix reading — Aug. 3

Paul Kix will read from his most recent book, “You Have to be Prepared to Die Before You Can Begin to Live: Ten Weeks in Birmingham That Changed America,” on Aug. 3 at 5:30 p.m. The event, co-sponsored by The Bitter Southerner, Avid Bookshop and ATHICA, takes place at ATHICA/Athens Institute for Contemporary Arts, 675 Pulaski St, Suite 1200, Athens, and is open at no cost to the general public.

The new book by Kix is the story of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s pivotal 10-week campaign in 1963, ending segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, and shaping the course of the Civil Rights Movement. The narrative examines the lives of the four men who led the campaign—Martin Luther King, Jr., Wyatt Walker, Fred Shuttlesworth and James Bevel.

In addition to the lecture, Kix will also present a lecture, “How to Turn History into Story and Story into Memoir,” for the Narrative Nonfiction students.

Gregory Nava, Academy Award-nominated writer/director, screens film, addresses graduates

Gregory Nava, an Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy nominated writer/director known for movies such as “Mi Familia” and “Frida,” will screen his film, “El Norte,” Friday, Aug. 4 at 2 p.m. in the Fine Arts Building, Room 400. The screening and Q&A with Nava are free and open to the public.

Nava will also be the convocation speaker for graduating students at ceremonies Saturday, Aug. 3 at 2 p.m. in the Fine Arts Auditorium on campus.

Hear-Tell podcast relaunch

The Hear-Tell podcast, an exploration of stories by the students and alumni of the MFA Narrative Nonfiction program, returns this season after a brief hiatus.

Current MFA student Josina Guess (MFA ’23), senior writer of The Bitter Southerner, is the first of rotating hosts this season. Guess was assisted by Amy Pedulla, a current student in the program, who edited the first episode of the new season and Diana Keough (MFA ’21), who produced the episode.

“I am excited to be a part of a team of alumni, students, and faculty that want to keep talking about true stories and how we tell them,” Guess said of Hear-Tell, a podcast that began in 2020 by one of the inaugural graduates of the program, André Gallant (ABJ ’10, MFA ’17). “We hope listeners will enjoy hearing from some of the incredibly talented and interesting people that pass through our narrative nonfiction MFA program.”

The first episode of the new season, “The Art of the Micro-Memoir: Imagine Writing Hummingbirds,” features students reading micro memoirs based on the influence of Beth Ann Fennelly. Fennelly is author of six books including her most recent, “Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs.” Fennelly spoke at the spring 2023 MFA Narrative Nonfiction residency.  In addition to the student readings, Fennelly reads from her latest book and Moni Basu, director of the MFA Nonfiction track, reads  a short piece she wrote about a sentimental treasure and its connection with her best friend, Valerie Boyd.

Hear-Tell can be found on most podcast platforms, or through the Hear-Tell PodBean webpage.

Student readings — Aug. 1 & 2

MFA graduating student readings will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 1 and 4 p.m. Aug. 2 at Hendershots, 237 Prince Ave. in Athens. The event is free and open to the public.

About the Narrative Media Writing Program

The MFA Narrative Nonfiction program is a two-year, low-residency program designed to cultivate writers whose work will be published as a book or in a magazine, or through a screenplay or teleplay. The program offers two education tracks: Narrative Nonfiction Writing or Screenwriting, each giving students the opportunity to develop skills that will prepare them to be accomplished authors, editors, screenwriters or other industry professionals. Students begin each of five semesters by visiting campus for an intensive week-long residency, followed by a four-month online writing period, during which each student works one-on-one with a professional faculty mentor.