The impressive award news just keeps coming for SWLF alumni this spring! Kerry Hill (MFA ’15) was awarded the 2015 Reynolds Price Prize in Fiction for her short story “Monuments” in mid-May.

Contest judge Kris Saknussemm called the story “poignantly vivid” and noted Kerry’s “deft and deeply human touch” in the story. The central character, Saknussemm notes, is so fully realized that readers “take on her pain, memories, embarrassments, and longings, without any chance of resistance.”

Kerry feels “pretty amazing” about the award, especially because “it’s the first time I’ve won anything–ever.” It’s a strong way to finish her time at OSU, and she notes that the prize makes her feel “motivated and optimistic” as she approaches graduation.

The prize comes with a $1,000 award, and is part of the Center for Women Writers’ International Literary Awards at Salem College.

Michael Chin (MFA ’16) has just been awarded the 2015 James Knudsen Prize in Fiction for his short story “Practical Men.” The prize was selected by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.

“This piece was such a pleasure to read,” Ms. Ward wrote of her selection. “The characters are sharply drawn and sympathetic. The insular, homophobic world that they live in is all too familiar, but is made strange and singularly unique through the power of the detail and the rendering of that world.”

The news of his selection, Mike says, was a “wonderful validation” of his efforts. He credits his MFA cohort for encouraging him along the way: “[I] honestly don’t know if I would have submitted the story to contests were it not for the engaging and encouraging community of writers I’ve been able to work with at here OSU.”

The prize comes with a $1,000 award, and publication of the winning story in the spring issue (Issue 63) of the University of New Orleans’ literary journal Bayou. 

When asked where his fiction will go next, Mike says that he’s working on a larger collection:  “I have an ongoing project of linked stories about circus performers and how they came to the circus.”  He’s also drafting a new story about identity and community theater.

Seven years after graduating from Oregon State, Jessica Bartlett (MFA, ’06) is the Department Chair at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics (MSSM), one of the best high schools in the country. Her work has helped to transform and expand the humanities program, which included just one full-time English teacher when Jessica began in 2007.

She hadn’t planned on working with high schoolers, but it has turned out to be a rewarding experience.

“Leaving OSU, I was really uncertain about taking a position at a high school, even a high school for the gifted where I knew the students would be prepared for a challenging curriculum in the humanities,” says Jessica. “However, it was the best decision I could have made, and it is one that I’d strongly encourage other graduates to consider.”

Jessica is currently teaching English at MSSM, which was named the 13th best high school in the United States by US News and World Report this year. She arrived there in 2007 after completing her MFA and a year as a bridge instructor at OSU, and was originally hired by MSSM to design a comprehensive composition program for gifted and talented high school students.

Six years later, her department has gone from one full time English teacher to three, which has freed up a bit more of her time for curriculum development and course design. Jessica became the Humanities Department Chair three years ago, and last year served as the Academic Support Coordinator, overseeing the academic well being of MSSM’s student body and ensuring that students’ needs were met both in and outside of the classroom by our faculty and residential staff.

In addition to her administrative duties, Jessica teaches a mixture of composition and American literature courses, some of which receive credit from the University of Maine through an agreement brokered two years ago.

“Working at MSSM has given me the opportunity to utilize the education, experience, and mentorship that I received at OSU to make a difference in the daily lives of young people, while continuing to challenge myself as an educator and writer,” Jessica concludes. “I couldn’t ask for a better job with more academic freedom or sense of community involvement.”

Jessica Bartlett

Above: Jessica Bartlett, MFA ’06

Friends, family, teachers, and colleagues will gather at Central Park in Corvallis on Tuesday to honor the memory of Alexis White (MFA in Poetry, ’12), who passed away one year ago.

All are welcome. Feel free to bring a memory, poem, or song to share.

Central Park Gazebo, 650 NW Monroe

Tuesday, June 11, 4-5 pm


by Alexis White
So if extrapolation from our own case is involved in the idea
of what it is like to be a bat, the extrapolation must be incompatible.
We cannot form more than a schematic conception of what it is like.
        -Thomas Nagel, What is it Like to Be a Bat?
Every poem must begin like this: an objection
to the impossibility of being a bat.
It is true that I am writing night-
blind, sounding
you out. Singing
in the dark, I am casting my lot
with impossibility, hoping my voice
might strike a form, resonate, and echo
back to me, so I might know your
speed, position, and trajectory. I am hunting,
hungry for the flying morsel
of what it is like to be you.

An update to the developing third year program: poet Sally Parrish (MFA ’14) has been selected as the 2013-14 Third-Year Graduate Teaching Assistant at Fishtrap in eastern Oregon! In addition to continuing work on her thesis, this third year will allow Sally to build her real-world experience as she teaches composition and creative writing to Wallowa County students.

The third-year GTA position is supported by the School of Writing, Literature, and Film, the Graduate School, and Fishtrap. Congratulations to Sally and third-year GRA Jon Ross – we’ll look forward to hearing more about your adventures out east!