More than 50 current students, faculty and alumni of Long Beach State’s Master of Fine Arts creative writing program gathered to celebrate 20 plus years of work Monday evening.
Attendees of the two-hour event met in the Anatol Center to recognize the program’s writers from the past and present. Since creative writing’s launch in 1995, this was the first time that the small, selective program’s members officially gathered to network, celebrate and share their work.
Suzanne Greenberg, an English professor and MFA coordinator, was among the faculty excited to welcome back the familiar faces.
“Some people graduated in , our first class, and I began teaching here in 1995 so I came in here with that first class when I was hired,” Greenberg said.
When the MFA creative writing program received its accreditation over 20 years ago, then Master of Arts English students Grant Hier and Jan Kraft were among those that jumped at the opportunity to be LBSU’s earliest creative writing trailblazers.
After meeting some of the program’s current students, both Hier and Kraft felt the same passion for poetry and fiction that had existed among their peers while they were students.
“It’s all groups of people that are interested in language and observing the world with an artistic eye,” Kraft said. “I think what artists are best at is reflecting on the world in front of them.”
Since completing the MFA creative writing program, Kraft has been teaching at California State University, Los Angeles for the past 21 years.
Hier said he’s most proud of his latest book “California Continuum” and being named Anaheim’s inaugural poet laureate last year.
“[The program is] a community, and writers do well with community,” Hier said.
President Jane Close Conoley was invited as a special guest, and lauded the work of the fiction and poetry writers.
“I have been in awe of people who wrote in fiction and poetry,” Conoley said. “You somehow see the world and pull it together in ways that are inspiring, innovative and really meaningful to your readers.”
Conoley also spoke about the nation’s current state of inaccuracies, divisiveness and lack of creative energy, a void that can be filled with the writers coming out of the MFA Program.
“I know you all [alumni] are involved in your work, I really thank you for bringing in that creative energy,” Conoley said. “The world has always needed it, and I think it especially needs it now.”
Current MFA students asked questions of the well established teachers and professionals of creative writing at the meet and greet.
“It’s definitely inspiring seeing MFA grads come back, talking to them and seeing the work they are doing now,” said Sharlene Huynh, a first year poetry MFA student.
Kelsey Gutierrez, a second year poetry MFA student, said it was nice to put faces to the names she had heard.
“A lot of these people are teaching and publishing, coming up with their own small presses,” said Gutierrez, who graduates next month. “This group of MFA grads really are supportive, and it shows in this small knit group of writers.”