Natasha Trethewey, a graduate of Hollins University's master of arts program in English and creative writing, was named Poet Laureate for 2012-13 by the Library of Congress. She was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her collection of poetry, Native Guard.
(Photo by Jon Rou)
Madison Smartt Bell, who earned his master of arts degree in creative writing from Hollins University, has won a prestigious $250,000 Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Kiran Desai, a 1994 graduate of Hollins' master's program in creative writing, was named the winner of the 2006 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, for her novel The Inheritance of Loss.
This two-year master of fine arts program offers an individualized approach in an atmosphere of cooperation and encouragement for the college graduate writer who wants to concentrate on craft in a community of writers and who seeks to expand his or her knowledge of contemporary literature.
The 24 students enrolled in this highly regarded program have a strong interest in and aptitude for writing and literary study. They work successfully in every genre, including poetry, short fiction, novels, and creative nonfiction.
The Hollins program has one of the highest publishing records of any graduate school in the country. Among the many renowned writers who have graduated from the program are Pulitzer Prize winners Annie Dillard, Henry Taylor, and Natasha Trethewey*; novelists and story writers Madison Smartt Bell, Kiran Desai, Tony D'Souza, David Huddle, Adam Ross, and Jill McCorkle; poets and essayists Adrian Blevins, Jenny Boully, Scott Cairns, Wyn Cooper, Kevin Prufer, and Mary Ruefle; novelists and memoirists Richard McCann and Karen Salyer McElmurray; photographer Sally Mann; and filmmaker George Butler.
At Hollins, faculty members take considerable time to work with students, both in and out of the classroom. R.H.W. Dillard, long-time Hollins professor, and a novelist and poet, notes, "We do not really teach creative writing. We do not produce writers who write a certain way. We do provide the guidance of professionals, and we do everything we can to make the program what the students here need." The graduates echo Dillard's words, saying that the criticism and guidance of Hollins professors and visiting writers help shape and discipline their writing without squeezing them into a mold.
In addition to NEA, Guggenheim, and Fulbright awards, graduates of the creative writing program have won prestigious fellowships and residencies, including:
Each academic year, Hollins sponsors a reading series and a literary festival, as well as the semester-long Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Writer-in-Residence, bringing talented writers of many backgrounds to campus for readings, talks, and contact with students. Recent and current visiting writers include: Kelly Cherry, Wyn Cooper, Eduardo Corral, Lydia Davis, Carl Dennis, Mark Doty, Cornelius Eady, Claudia Emerson, Nick Flynn, Alice Fulton, Edward P. Jones, Mat Johnson, Patricia Spears Jones, Jamaica Kincaid, Valerie Martin, Honor Moore, Paul Muldoon, Francine Prose, Ron Rash, Adam Ross, George Saunders, Christine Schutt, David Shields, James Tate, Richard Tillinghast, Natasha Trethewey, and C. D. Wright.
Poetry by Ayako Matsushita, M.F.A. '12, will be included in Best New Poets 2011. Other current students and recent graduates of Hollins' M.F.A. in creative writing are among the 50 poets featured in Best New Poets 2010: 50 Poems from Emerging Writers. Work is selected by nominations from literary magazines and writing programs, as well as by open competition. Hollins writers include Meighan Sharp M.F.A. '11 ("Habitats"), Matthew Williams M.F.A. '12 ("Eulogy for the Method"), and Luke Johnson M.F.A. '09.
*Hollins' earliest Pulitzer Prize winner was Mary Wells Knight Ashworth '24 for a biography of George Washington she wrote with John Alexander Carroll.