Housatonic Book Awards / Finalists and Winners

The MFA Alumni Writers’ Cooperative is pleased to announce the finalists and the winners of the Housatonic Book Awards. A special thanks to the alumni and readers who helped work on the selections of this distinguished award. We look forward to having these winners be part of the MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University. It is the hard work of the volunteer readers and chairs that help make this project a success. Special thanks to Dr. Brian Clements for his guidance and logistics in making this happen.

Alumni interested in participating on the review committees for next year should contact Ron, Holly, Andy, or Becca and we will be sure that you’re involved.

Finalists & Winners Announced – 2014

The MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University and its alumni organization, the MFA Alumni Writers Collaborative, are delighted to announce the winners of the inaugural Housatonic Book Awards. The winner in each category will receive a $1000 honorarium and a $500 travel stipend and will appear at a residency of the MFA program to give a public reading and present a Master Class to MFA students. Guidelines for next year’s awards will appear on this website in early 2015. Congratulations to the authors and presses!



The Fifty-First State, by Lisa Borders (Engine Books)
The Mourning Hours, by Paula Treck DeBoard (Harlequin MIRA)
My Notorious Life, by Kate Manning (Scribner)
River of Dust, by Virginia Pye (Unbridled Books)

Cartwheel, by Jennifer DuBois (Random House)



Beauty Mark, Suzanne Cleary (BkMkPress)
Large White House Speaking, Mark Irwin (New Issues Poetry & Prose)
American Amnesiac, Diane Raptosh (Etruscan Press)
Vestigial, Page Hill Starzinger (Barrow Street Press)

Begin Empty-Handed, Gail Martin (Perugia Press)



Scattered: The Forced Relocation of Poland’s Ukranians after WWII, Diana Howansky Reilly (University of Wisconsin Press)
The Blind Masseuse, Alden Jones (Terrace Books)
The Next Scott Nadelson, Scott Nadelson (Hawthorne Books)
Becoming Tom Thumb, Eric Lehman (Wesleyan University Press)

Bootstrapper, Mardi Jo Link (Knopf)

Writing for Middle Grades and YA


Rules for Ghosting, by AJ Paquette (Bloomsbury)
Lone Wolves, by John Smelcer (Leapfrog Press)
After Isaac, by Avra Wing (Olinville Press)
Over the Line, by David Lloyd (Syracuse University Press)

Brotherhood, by A.B. Westrick (Viking)


Webinar for MFA

from Brian Clements

Dear Alumni,

Folio Literary Management offers a two-part webinar for MFA grads on publishing the first book. It is by application, merit-based, and free. If you’re interested in finding out more about it, go here: http://www.foliolit.com/first-book-webinar

Takes place in November, and application deadline is Oct. 8

August 2014 – Post Residency


Alumni panel at the summer residency 2014

After spending time at the residency this summer, I was inspired by the work of the current students. Enrichment projects like graphic novels, short films, and music inspired me. I realized that so much of what we do is creative. We are creative educators, creative artists, and creative collaborators and I think we should also be promoting the creative power that alumni and mentors bring to this community. Please send us announcements about your projects, collaborations, readings or anything you are doing. If you would like to write an article or profile, we would love to post it here as well. All submissions are welcome from alumni and mentors. I see this website as a place for connection, but also a place of ideas and sharing. Please feel free to contact me at samulr@wcsu.edu for submissions, updates, ideas, and connections. I would love to hear about your work and your creative ideas.

As we develop membership, please keep us updated with your information, your area of expertise, or any life changes. We want to keep writers connected. We will have a place here for you to update information, connect with people on social media, and other elements of this important post-program experience.

Alumni Events for the Summer 2014 Residency

The MFA Writer’s Cooperative invites you to join us at the August Residency. We have events
through the week meant to connect with the MFA program, alumni, new students, friends, and
mentors. Look over the events below. We would love to see you there.

Saturday, August 2, 2014 – Meet the New Students Night.

Alumni will be at the dinner / evening event to meet with the new students, give them
some ideas about their coming experience and share some of their expertise. We want to
connect with the incoming students to make them feel welcome and know that the former
students are a resource during their time in the residency and as a network of writers once
they have completed the program.

Sunday, August 3, 2014 – The Alumni Meeting / Bi-annual Meeting 1-2

This will include the board and any other alumni who wants to join. On the slate will be
the book awards, membership, and other official business based elements to the

Sunday, August 3, 2014 – Dinner with Alumni 4:30-7:00

Sign-up sheets will be available to students who want to go to dinner with particular
alumni based on genre and experience. If you are working on a police thriller, you might
join Brian Theim for dinner. This will be a fun way to talk shop with alumni and share
their experience with other writers thinking about the same topics or ideas.

Tuesday, August 6, 2014- Alumni Panel 2-3

Selected alumni will present to students their experience in the program and what is
happening since they left.

Thursday, August 8, 2014 – Poker Tournament – After Dinner

This fun event is a good way to unwind and enjoy one more fun event before heading
back to the real world. Even if you are not on the pro-poker circuit, come and have fun.
Money raised will go to the scholarship fund. If you can’t be there and want to donate a
prize or stake someone to play, check out the sign-up sheet and instructions.

We hope to see you at the residency. We want to continue the tradition of a professional writing
community. We hope that you will come, participate in alumni events, see your mentors, connect
with former students, and even sit in on a workshop or reading. We are asking alumni who
participate in the residency schedule to make a donation to the scholarship fund. The suggested
donation is $25-75 dollars. More is always appreciated.

We are also proud to be working with Brian and the MFA program on the Housatonic Book
Award. This is our first year in offering prizes in a variety of genres. If you would like to be part
of the process, please speak with Brian or an alumni member. The Award affords us to bring the
published winners to campus as mentors to share their experience and ideas with the students and
the alumni.

If you are attending the residency, please just send an email to Holly at azevedoh@wcsu.edu with
your name, address, email, and times you will be attending residency. We could always us the
help in some of the events, so if you want to volunteer your time to one of the events or even
take the lead, please add that to your email. Prizes for the poker tournament will also be

Any questions or suggestions are welcome. Join us, connect, and continue your writing path. We
can’t wait to see you.

Alumni During the Summer Residency

The hope is to have this conversation here rather than via email. Thinking about the presence of the alumni organization at the summer residency, I would like to propose a one or two day presence in order to keep it focused. I know there are a lot of ideas out there and we can discuss them further. Right now, it seems like the Alumni Dinner Hour style event, where alumni spend a dinner time moving from table to table, or presenting during dinner is a nice idea. We also discussed an off campus event where alumni and students/mentors get to meet.

I know there is some good discussion about an alumni writer’s conference/workshop around the time of the residency, but I think that would be a stand alone event.

Other ideas are an alumni only workshop, on or off campus, alumni reading of selected readings, and other events.

  • What do we think about a one or two day event on the weekend?
  • What elements should be the most significant?
  • Alumni & new student arrival dinner – social?

I know there are some good ideas, but we have no money right now and while we have good resources and connections, I don’t want to over extend for the first residency. If we take one or two days, it will give us a start and we can build. Use the comment section below for feedback and ideas. As we get some of these events in place, we should write descriptions so we can share them with alumni and the program.

* Remember, if you want to stay connected to this conversation, just sign up for email updates and you will receive notification. Might free up the mailbox. Be well. Ron

We have an official name!

Thank you to everyone who voted, and thanks to Ron for organizing the voting. The official name of our alumni group is the MFA Alumni Writers’ Cooperative.

Now that we have finalized on a name, let’s get the word out to more of our graduates. 🙂







Welcome to the WCSU MFA Alumni Association web space. We had a formation meeting at the winter residency and we have some very talented and dedicated people helping to shape the alumni experience.

Our mission is to represent and promote alumni membership by creating and fostering relationships between alumni members and the current program. Our vision is to advance the goals and the mission of the program, provide alumni an opportunity to work on alumni initiatives, create social and learning opportunities for the membership, and generate scholarship and other funding streams to continue the success of the program.

As we speak, we are working on a membership structure, communication avenues (this blog being one of them), book awards that will sponsor scholarships for incoming students, and alumni events during the summer residency. Even if you are not working on a committee, we would love to hear about your ideas and your vision for the alumni association.

We are moving right along, so keep up with us by following us through email updates. Eventually, we will have a presences on Facebook and other social media sites.

If you would like to connect with us, click here and fill out a form. We will add you into our list and keep you posted. You can also add some information about what you have been doing. We would love to hear about life changes, jobs, writing projects, publishing deals, and other things going on in your life. Join us in bringing great writers together.

Please feel free to share our blog with other alumni who may not know about us. Everyone who graduated from the program is welcomed to be a part of this group.

Be well – Ron Samul

Executive Committee:

Ron Samul

Andy Alexander

Holly Azevedo

Rebecca Simas