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Murray State MFA Program in Creative Writing, Faculty

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Faculty



   
Ann Neelon

Ann Neelon
Program Director

Neelon Easter Vigil
A native of Boston and a former Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, Ann Neelon is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the author of the book Easter Vigil, which earned the Anhinga Prize for Poetry and the RPCV Writers and Readers Award. She has been a Wallace Stegner Fellow as well as a Jones Lecturer in Poetry at Stanford University. She is also the winner of an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, and fellowships from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Yaddo Artists Colony. Ann's poems and translations have appeared in many magazines, including The American Poetry Review, Ironwood, The Gettysburg Review, and Manoa.

   

Carrie Jerrell 
Associate Program Director

Jerrell After the RevivalCarrie Jerrell is the author of the poetry collection After the Revival, 2008 winner of the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize and published in the United States and Great Britain by Waywiser Press. Her poems have appeared in Image, Subtropics, The Sewanee Theological Review, and Passages North, among others. Current work can be seen or is forthcoming in Unsplendid, Birmingham Poetry Review, Exit 7, Zone 3, and Poem Memoir Story. Carrie received her M.A. from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, and her Ph.D. in English from Texas Tech University, where she was honored as a Chancellor's Fellow. In addition to her Murray State activities, she serves as poetry editor for Iron Horse Literary Review and sits on the boards of 32 Poems and Measure.

   
 Blas Falconer

Blas Falconer The Foundling WheelBlas Falconer is an assistant professor at Austin Peay State University, where he serves as the poetry editor of Zone 3 Magazine/Zone 3 Press. He is the author of The Perfect Hour and A Question of Gravity and Light, and most recently, The Foundling Wheel; listen to a live reading of the title poem "The Foundling Wheel" on the Poets & Writers magazine website. Falconer's awards include the Maureen Egen Literary Award from Poets & Writers, the New Delta Review Eyster Prize for Poetry, the Barthelme Fellowship and a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

   
Riley Hanick Murray State Watkins Chair  Riley Hanick is an essayist, journalist and translator whose work has appeared in The Sonora Review, Seneca Review, No Depression, eyeshot and Labor World. He has worked as a bookseller, house painter, security guard, bartender, file clerk, dishwasher, van driver, and busker. Until recently he was a tutor at Safe Haven Shelter and Resource Center in Duluth, which followed stints as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and Kirkwood Community College. His collaborative chapbook with Lydia Diemer, Haishi: An Essay (Tilderrata Books 2009) is hard to come by. His work has received support from the Jentel and McKnight foundations and he has served as a writer-in-residence for the University of Iowa Museum of Art. His essay “The Pradelles” was among the notable essays in the 2010 Best American series. In 2015, Sarabande Books will publish Three Kinds of Motion, an essay on the development of the interstate highway system, the scroll version of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Jackson Pollock’s Mural. Riley is Murray State University's Watkins Chair in Creative Writing.
   
Tommy Hays

Hays The Pleasure was MineBefore writing fiction, Tommy Hays wrote anything and everything for tiny sweatshop weekly newspapers with names like the Tugaloo Tribune, the Tri-County News and the Tribune Times. At this last paper he failed (miserably) a lie detector test and was accused of stealing $1,000 in Willie Nelson concert money. But that’s another story. Hays’ latest novel, The Pleasure Was Mine (St. Martin’s Press), was chosen for the One City, One Book community read in Greensboro, North Carolina and for the Amazing Read, Greenville, South Carolina's first community read. His book The Pleasure Was Mine was read on NPR’s Radio Reader and was a Finalist for the SIBA Fiction Award. Hays’ other novels are Sam’s Crossing (Atheneum) and In the Family Way (Random House), winner of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. He is Executive Director of the Great Smokies Writing Program and a Lecturer in the Master of Liberal Arts Program at the UNC-Asheville. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife and two children.

   
Gary Jackson

“This first collection of poems is gauged by a sophisticated heart. Pathos breathes slightly underneath the visual comedy, and this quality is the true genius of Missing You, Metropolis.” – Yusef Komunyakaa

Jackson Missing You MetropolisBorn and raised in Topeka, Kansas, Gary Jackson is the author of the poetry collection Missing You, Metropolis, which received the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Fugue, Callaloo, Tin House, Phoebe and elsewhere. An MFA graduate from the University of New Mexico, Jackson currently teaches full-time at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, and is a contributing editor at Catch Up: A journal of comics and literature. He has been a fierce lover of comics for more than twenty years.

   
Karen Salyer McElmurray

McElmurray Surrendered ChildKaren Salyer McElmurray is the author of Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey, described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as “a moving meditation on loss and memory and the rendering of truth and story.” The book won the AWP Award for Creative Nonfiction and earned the distinction of a National Book Critics Circle Notable Book. McElmurray’s debut novel Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven won the 2001 Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing. She is the author, most recently, of The Motel of the Stars, from Sarabande Books, and is completing a new novel called Wanting Inez. Her work has won support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Women's Foundation, and the North Carolina Arts Foundation. Associate Professor in creative writing at Georgia College and State University, McElmurray serves as creative nonfiction editor for Arts and Letters. She hopes, in the next year, to complete a memoir about her travels in India and Nepal and the end of a love affair.

   
Elena Passarello

Passarello Let Me Clear My ThroatElena Passarello is an actor and writer originally from Charleston, South Carolina. Her collection Let Me Clear My Throat (Sarabande 2012) explores the human voice in popular performance, and she co-wrote a series of devised nonfiction monologues for the 2012 music writing anthology Pop When the World Falls Apart (Duke University Press). A recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts, and the University of Iowa Museum of Art, she received an MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa and BAs in English and writing from the University of Pittsburgh. The first woman to win the Stella! Shout Out competition in New Orleans, she currently serves as an assistant professor of English and creative writing for Oregon State University.

   
Dale Ray Phillips

Phillips My People's Waltz"Phillips's prose flashes powerful unpredictability with every delicious little shock." - Publishers Weekly

Dale Ray Phillips is the author of the book My People's Waltz, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His short stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best Stories from the South, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, GQ, Zoetrope, and literary quarterlies. He earned an MFA from the University of Arkansas and has taught at a variety of universities, most recently at Murray State University, where he held the endowed Watkins Chair in Creative Writing appointment and now serves as an assistant professor.  

   

Pruett Ruby RiverLynn Pruett is the author of the novel Ruby River, and recently contributed to the anthologies When the Bough Breaks and An Angle of Vision. Her work has also appeared in Louisville Review, Arts & Letters, American Voice, Southern Exposure, and Black Warrior Review. She has earned fellowships from Yaddo, Sewanee, Squaw Valley, and the Kentucky Arts Council, and has led fiction workshops at the University of Kentucky, the University of Alabama, and North Carolina State University. Her mother's family has lived in Calloway County since the Purchase, and her uncles still farm the original land. She currently teaches fiction writing at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

   

Skinner The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful PoetsJeffrey Skinner is the author of The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets, which Katy Lederer of the New York Times Sunday Book Review called a "winning coming-of-age narrative." Skinner's fifth book of poetry, Salt Water Amnesia, appeared in 2005 from Ausable Press. His works also include Late Stars (Wesleyan University Press), A Guide to Forgetting (Graywolf Press, and a winner in the 1987 National Poetry series chosen by Tess Gallagher), The Company of Heaven (Pitt Poetry Series), and Gender Studies (Miami University Press). He's served as editor for two anthologies of poems, Last Call: Poems of Alcoholism, Addiction, and Deliverance and Passing the Word: Poets and Their Mentors. Skinner's poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic,The Nation, The American Poetry Review, Poetry, Bomb, DoubleTake, and the Georgia, Iowa, and Paris reviews. Also an accomplished playwright, his recent play Down Range will receive a full production in New York City in 2009. Skinner holds an MFA from Columbia University and teaches at the University of Louisville. He's the board president and editorial consultant for Sarabande Books, a literary publishing house he founded with his wife Sarah Gorham.

   
Julia Watts

Watts The Kind of Girl I AmA native of Southeastern Kentucky, Julia Watts is the author of nine novels, including the Lambda Literary Award-winning VOYA-recommended young-adult novel Finding H.F. Her 2007 novel The Kind of Girl I Am was a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and her 2008 novel Kindred Spirits is the first in a series of middle-grade novels featuring an unlikely trio of friends: a telepathic girl, a tech-savvy boy, and a ghost. Watts has received grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and her essays and fiction have appeared in a variety of publications, including The American Voice, Brain/Child, The Journal of Kentucky Studies, and Now and Then. She holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University and an M.A. in English from the University of Louisville. She teaches at South College in Knoxville, where she lives with her family and numerous pets. She loves to write.

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