Thought you might be interested in this... We're the only writing program in the country putting out a book of this kind. First edition was just released a couple weeks ago and we've already seen some contact between agents and writers as a result of the project. A bit of good news in these troubled times!
Jennifer Rice Epstein
Press Release: For Immediate Release
UA Creative Writing MFA Program Introduces Look Book
Best work of graduating class collected in showcase aimed at literary agents.
TUCSON, Ariz. – December 8, 2008 – Ask any writer: it’s tough to find an agent, sell a project to an editor, and get published. And it’s only getting tougher. Random House just announced restructuring plans. Booksellers Border’s and Barnes and Noble both reported rough sales quarters. There isn’t a shortage of great work being written, but in a changing industry and a tough economy, it’s increasingly difficult for emerging writers to get their work noticed.
This month, The University of Arizona (UA) Creative Writing MFA program launched a project aimed at giving its new graduates an edge as they start out: a Look Book featuring works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
“It’s like a literary journal featuring the best of the best of our program,” says Jennifer Rice Epstein (MFA ’09), who conceived the project earlier this year and coordinated production of the piece. Rice Epstein compiled a list of agents and contacted them to gauge their interest in receiving the book. “We didn’t want to send the books unsolicited,” she explains. “There was a lot of interest in the Look Book; we mailed them to 80 agents last week.”
“I’m thrilled that we were able to turn this idea into a reality for our students,” says Aurelie Sheehan, director of the UA Creative Writing MFA. “The Look Book is something agents can flip through to get a sense of what’s happening in fiction. This is where trends begin – so it’s a preview of where literary work is headed in the years to come.”
Sheehan says the Look Book is also a way for UA MFA graduates to connect to the publishing industry and gain visibility. “Perhaps an agent will read a story that resonates with them, and ask the writer to submit a longer work down the road,” she says. “It’s not the type of thing we think will result in instant publishing contracts; the benefits will come out over the long term.”
The Look Book was funded by UA alumna Peggy Schumaker (MFA ‘79). "Most of these writers are just beginning to find their readers, so we get a chance to read their work early and then to follow their writing,” she says. “Collectors and scholars will look back to this book to chart beginnings. Readers will simply savor it."
The Look Book features work by 26 graduates of the program, including Andrew Mortazavi, whose story “A Lesson in Violence” was a runner-up in the 2008 Playboy College Fiction Contest.
The University of Arizona Creative Writing MFA program (http://english.arizona.edu) was founded in 1974 and is ranked among the top ten in the nation. The two-year residency program offers workshops, craft seminars, and interdisciplinary opportunities in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Among the program’s alumni are David Foster Wallace (’87), Antonya Nelson (’86), Richard Russo (’80), Padma Viswanathan (’06), and Alberto Álvaro Rios (’79). Graduate students in creative writing also produce The Sonora Review, a nationally-distributed biannual literary journal publishing prose and poetry from established and emerging writers.
Aurelie Sheehan, MFA Program Director
The University of Arizona Creative Writing Program
College of Humanities, Department of English