It was a trying fall semester for MSUM’s MFA program, with budget cuts leading to the dissolution of the program as well as the English department’s tutoring center. However, there was a good time to be had at the MFA reading in the Spirit Room on Wednesday, December 18, a night of compelling storytelling, personal divulgence, and even some theatrics.
After an introduction by faculty member Al Davis, the readings opened with two creative nonfiction writers. The first was Karl Bakkum, who—after crediting Professor Kevin Carollo for inspiring him to enroll in the program—read a moving chronicle of the loss of his friend to a brain aneurysm. This was followed by a more upbeat reading by Megan Bartholomay, who had a combination of poetry and funny anecdotes about a colorful cast of freshman students she taught.
Breaking the nonfiction trend was Dave Binkard, who introduced himself as a “writerholic” and read what he described as a pseudohistorical fantasy-romance that “takes place in post-Black Death Europe… only not in Europe.”
Following the speculative fiction vein was Andy Gustafson, who described her novel excerpt as “this really weird hodgepodge story” taking place in an alternate universe where people are not divided into categories like race, religion, or gender, but rather as dominant and submissive.
Selena Bjorlie—who also happens to be an optometry student—injected some realism to the sequence with an excerpt from her novel about a fragmented Chinese-American family, made up of a mother and a teenage daughter.
The evening came to resemble a night at the theater when the scriptwriters took the stage, beginning with Ian Cole, who enlisted the help of his fiancé to read a two-character scene from his film script. Anastasia Gustafson, who wrote a multi-genre thesis consisting of poetry, fiction, and three plays, read stage directions as two actors performed her intriguing psychological thriller. Lastly, Meghan Strand introduced her light fantasy film script, which takes place in “mostly our world but a little different” and features a tribal elder’s struggle to banish his grandson for treason.
Over the years, the MFA program has provided some talented, creative individuals with opportunity to explore different genres and find newfangled ways to express their ideas and channel their passions. Though it may be on its way out, this program has left its mark and will live on in its proud alumni.