teaching narrative nonfiction with bay path university’s mfa program

A beloved colleague of mine from my western Massachusetts newspaper reporting days — Suzanne Strempek Shea, with whom I used to work at the Springfield, Mass. newspaper — designed a wonderful Narrative Medicine area of study for Bay Path University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction program.

It’s a new track in the MFA program (I earned my MFA in creative nonfiction there in 2017) and is also offered as a stand-alone certificate program. Last June, I participated in a Bay Path MFA webinar to discuss my 2020 medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, where Suzanne and I talked virtually about the book as well as narrative medicine.

Fast-forward to early February 2021: I was contacted by MFA Program Director Leanna James Blackwell and asked if I could take over the already-in-progress Intro to Narrative Medicine class because Suzanne had to take a temporary leave due to an injury. (This is such a weird confluence of events, an injury preventing her from teaching narrative medicine.) Luckily, I was already familiar with the Canvas learning management system which they utilize — also used by Northeastern University where I teach journalism classes — and had already read one of the main texts.

Now as I plan to have my second evening Zoom class with a group of seven writers, I finally feel as though I’ve got a handle on the class and its rhythm, and cannot wait for the rest of the semester to unfold as we devour Writing Hard Stories by Melanie Brooks, Bodies of Truth edited by Dinty W. Moore, Erin Murphy, et al., and engage with the students’ creative nonfiction work about issues of illness and trauma.

Meanwhile, we’re sending healing vibes to Suzanne!

join me at bay path university’s writers’ day, oct. 15

writers day bpuCome join authors Patricia Reis, Charles Coe, Ellen Meeropol and me for lively conversations about writing about one’s personal life, reading one’s work aloud, and folding current events into your work at Bay Path University’s Writers’ Day on Sunday, Oct. 15 starting at 1 p.m. at the  D’Amour Hall for Business, Communications and Technology.

The first panel is slated to be led by author, visual artist, filmmaker, and therapist Patricia Reis: “Mining the Personal for your Nonfiction.” According to the itinerary: “Topics will include using personal elements and materials in nonfiction rather than fiction, how resources can be gathered, what it’s like to present a relative’s story–and your own–so candidly, and dealing with family reactions while a project is in progress and after it’s published.”

The second panel is scheduled to be anchored by award-winning poet and singer Charles Coe: “Standing Your Ground: Thoughts on Reading in Public.” Coe plans to “describe tools and techniques that can help in preparing and delivering a reading. He’ll also work with a few volunteers willing to read before the group and be coached on their presentations.”

The third and final panel–from 4:10 – 5:25 p.m.– will feature Ellen Meeropol, Joan Dempsey and me for, “Swimming with the Current.” Panelists will “discuss how current events in their hometowns and in the larger world have inspired their engrossing fiction and nonfiction. Incorporating topics including cults, racial diversity, the Boston marathon bombings, human trafficking, and a community in grief, the trio’s work will get you thinking about how to use current events as your own springboard.”

Sign up for the day’s events here.

Image credit: Bay Path University.

 

 

celebrating bay path university’s mfa program, graduation

bpu_mfa_readings_067I was honored to join fellow 2017 graduates of Bay Path University’s creative nonfiction MFA program this spring in the Hatch Library and to read aloud from my thesis, Uncomfortably Numb.

The rapidly growing MFA program, in which I enrolled in the fall of 2014, is staffed by a number of writers and editors with real-world experience who provided support and encouragement to the graduate students, something for which I remain grateful.

Among the faculty members whose guidance had a powerful, personal impact on me and my writing: Anthony D’Aries, Yankee Magazine’s Mel Allen, Susan Ito, and Adam Braver.

bpu_mfa_readings_063.jpgD’Aries, who will become the coordinator of Western Connecticut State University MFA program this fall, introduced me at the MFA event with generous and gracious remarks. (Photo right.) D’Aries offered valuable feedback as I worked on Mr. Clark’s Big Band — published in May 2017 — and workshopped large swaths of the narrative nonfiction work in his classes.

Meanwhile, Braver, my thesis adviser, was instrumental in helping me sculpt and develop my medical memoir into a richer and more reflective work. I am currently developing the memoir.

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After completing the creative nonfiction program, I was more than happy to share my thoughts about it for the Bay Path MFA program’s website, where a number of my classmates also weighed in on their experiences.

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Image credits: Bay Path University’s MFA in creative nonfiction program.