Our program alumni have gone on to a range of successes in as wide an array of interests and professions. We've created this space to highlight their achievements and to show you what they have to say about Murray State's MFA program in creative writing. While we gather the stories, we've decided to feature four for starters.
Chris Collins received his BA in English from Thomas More College and his M.Ed. in Secondary English from Xavier University. A 2013 MFA (poetry) graduate of Murray State, he lives in Independence, Kentucky with his wife and two children. Currently, he is a Ph.D. student at the University of Cincinnati in rhetoric and composition. He has published one chapbook, Gathering Leaves for War (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and he has published numerous poems in several anthologies and journals. He is currently at work on a full-length poetry collection titled My American Night.
"In Poetry as Survival, Gregory Orr states, Lyric poetry tells us that it is precisely by letting in disorder that we will gain access to poetry's ability to help us survive. As a three-time combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, I can attest that Murray State's MFA program supported me to 'order the disorder' I experienced in war by helping me to let the disorder of war and violence depart onto the page. I am indebted to the mentors and the program."
Jacqueline Kohl Hamilton teaches in the English and Theatre Department at Eastern Kentucky University (all the freshman essay winners from the last two years have come from her classes). She also travels the state of Kentucky portraying Appalachian educator Alice Lloyd for the Humanities Council, and she is currently writing a book about the life lessons Alice Lloyd taught to students at Caney Junior College (later renamed Alice Lloyd College). Her true story “The Christmas Chair” appeared in Kentucky’s 12 Days of Christmas, published by Kentucky Monthly in 2012. She received her BA in English/journalism from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in 1977, and she now lives with her husband in Winchester, Kentucky.
"At the age when many people start the countdown to retirement, I decided to return to school. Murray State's MFA program gave me the tools to strengthen my nonfiction and led me to fall in love with writing at a new level. Furthermore, my MFA degree opened the doors to a full-time lectureship position in the English Department at Eastern Kentucky University. Since graduation, I have also been chosen by the Kentucky Humanities Council to write and perform a 45-minute monologue in the historical character of Alice Lloyd for its Chautauqua program. I have felt empowered to start a summer writing camp for students, now in its third year, called Inkspire! Each year we gain more corporate sponsors. If I had to choose Murray all over again, I would!"
Whittney Jones received her B.A. in English from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. A 2014 MFA (poetry) graduate of Murray State, she now lives with her husband in southern Illinois, where she works as the Project Next Generation mentor at the Harrisburg Public Library. She has poems published or forthcoming in Zone 3, the minnesota review, Revolution House, The Hartskill Review, Jet Fuel Review, Split Lip Magazine, and Parable Press. Whittney is the first-place winner of the 2014 Illinois Emerging Writers Competition Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award.
"I feel confidence in my writing now, enough confidence to submit to magazines and journals without that feeling of fear I used to experience, and it has paid off in the form of several different publications. I can't describe what it was like the first time I saw my poems in a printed book. It was surreal, and the amount of gratification I feel toward the mentors that helped me reach this point is impossible to express."
Richard Thomas is the author of five books—Disintegration (Random House Alibi),Transubstantiate, Herniated Roots, Staring Into the Abyss and The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). His more than 100 stories in print have appeared in such venues as Cemetery Dance, PANK,Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Arcadia, Pear Noir, Chiral Mad 2, and Shivers VI. Thomas is also the editor of three anthologies out in 2014: The New Black (Dark House Press),The Lineup: 25 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press), co-edited with Chuck Palahniuk. Dark House Press, a Curbside Splendor imprint—where he is editor-in-chief—was recently named Chicago Magazine’s “Best Indie Book Publisher” for 2014.
"While at Murray State, I was able to I seek out transgressive authors such as William Burroughs and Chuck Palahniuk, the black sheep of the literary world, and at the same time expose myself to the brilliant minds and lyrical voices of authors like Denis Johnson, Flannery O'Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Mary Gaitskill, William Gay, and Haruki Murakami, to name just a few. If you can relax and open your mind wide enough to allow for the fact that you don't know everything, then this MFA program can improve your writing significantly."