MFA Faculty and Student Honors and Publications

MFA Professor A. Van Jordan wins 2015 Lannen Literary Award for Poetry!


MFA Director Jayne Anne Phillips named Board of Governors Professor!


MFA Professor Akhil Sharma Making Waves With Latest Novel



MFA Students featured in New York Times Article: Exploring Cafes and Culture in Downtown Newark  May 2014




Let’s Read About Sex

"I’ve outgrown Duras and Woolf, in terms of literary eros. Now when I read sex, I want not just what I used to want. Give me connection, truth-telling and what is. I want glory and attendant articulation of it. I want something new to discover in these old urges."

Brenda Shaughnessy
on the best writing on sex



If You Are Normal, You Search for Mushrooms
Published: October 3, 2013

In Russian literature, mushroom hunting often represents the interior landscape, love of family, freedom from tyranny, a connection to the sacred. 

 by Akhil Sharma


Jayne Anne Phillips

new novel reviewed at Philadelphia Review of Books!

Philadelphia Review of Books

Trembling the Ropes that Dangle in the Wings

In Reviews 


by Erin McKnight

In a novel of compelling impressions it is an indelible image: Young siblings Annabel, Grethe, and Hart, with dog Duty at their heels, follow their grandmother through the park single file, each gripping the cord knotted expressly for their clutching right hands. And though the silken braid, once used for sofa pillows and parlor drapes but now reserved for children’s walking games, comes to represent a tragic loss of life, a resolute Jayne Anne Phillips ensures that the cord will also bind hope to the desperate territory Quiet Dell occupies.... read on



Jayne Anne Phillips

new novel from Scribner this Fall!

Jayne Anne Phillips grew up in West Virginia hearing about the infamous Quiet Dell murders of the 1930s. Her mother told her of walking past “the murder garage” when she was six years old: “a dirt road in the hot sun, lined with cars on both sides as far as I could see, and people taking the place apart piece-by-piece for souvenirs.” The story of Quiet Dell and the killings that took place there have haunted Jayne Anne Phillips ever since. QUIET DELL is the result of a lifelong desire “to write a novel whose beauty and depth might transcend the darkness of the story.” For years of research and writing, Phillips thought of this novel as her “hidden book.” Now, it gives all of us at Scribner great pleasure to announce the publication of QUIET DELL, on October 15, 2013.




Advance praise for QUIET DELL:


"In a brilliant fusion of fact and fiction, Jayne Anne Phillips has written the novel of the year. It's the story of a serial killer's crimes and capture, yes, but it's also a compulsively readable story of how one brave woman faces up to acts of terrible violence in order to create something good and strong in the aftermath. Quiet Dell will be compared to In Cold Blood, but Phillips offers something Capote could not: a heroine who lights up the dark places and gives us hope in our humanity."

—Stephen King


Quiet Dell has all the elements of a murder mystery, but its emotional scope is larger and more complex. It combines a strange, hypnotic and poetic power with the sharp tones of documentary evidence. It offers a portrait of rural America in a time of crisis and dramatizes the lives of a number of characters who are fascinating and memorable.”

Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn and The Testament of Mary


Phillips’ prose is as haunting as the questions she raises about the natures of sin, evil and grace.”.—(starred) Kirkus Review



The Heart of the Matter: Why I Left the High School Classroom

Somewhere on my bookshelf lined with books about writing is Mary Oliver’s Poetry Handbook, in which she mentions her early decision not to teach for fear that she would find the work “too interesting,” to the detriment of her work as a poet. Consider also that when Robert Frost was 38 years old, he sold the farm, quit his job teaching high school English and moved his wife and four kids to England in a courageous literary career move... 





First Fiction: The 25 best debuts of the 2000s

As the writers of the 2013 debuts we’ve been highlighting this month know, launching a first novel is an uncertain thing. Which signal the beginnings of a successful career? Which are flashes in the pan? It’s often hard to tell.

With these 25 debuts, however, there was no doubt. These authors astonished right out of the gate with strong storytelling prowess and memorable voices. Read on for our list of the best debuts from the century’s first decade: 2000-2009.

Leaving Atlanta August, 2002


Tayari Jones' new novel, Leaving Atlanta, takes place in 1979, around the time of the infamous murders of African-American children in Atlanta, but this powerful new novel isn't what you might think. To her credit, Jones doesn't present us with the point of view of the murderer; the bloodiest thing that happens is a busted lip from a playground fall. Instead, ingeniously, Jones sees the events through the eyes of three schoolchildren, whose utterly ordinary lives are skewed by the fact that a shadowy killer is out there.

The children, who attend the same elementary school, are Tasha, whose parents' divorce is interrupted by the killing spree; Rodney, the class nerd whose bad relationship with his boorish father leads to tragedy; and Octavia, an intelligent child shunned for being both too poor and too black for her schoolmates. Yes, Jones does go unflinchingly into the color thing among African Americans. What's more remarkable is that she presents the voices of these children with rare precision. In the midst of the horror, the three kids, all on the cusp of puberty, must still deal with their school's Darwinian social structure, including precarious contact with the opposite sex, adults who mean well and adults who don't and parents whose love for them is, to paraphrase Tillie Olsen, more anxious than proud. Jones grasps both the pain of having to sit by yourself in the cafeteria and the humiliation of poverty, the pleasure of a brand new pink coat lined with bunny fur and the dismaying cliquishness of young girls. The children are so vivid and alive that one's stomach knots up with increasing apprehension from nearly the first page. "Please don't let any of these children be snatched," you pray, but, like Octavia, you find that not all prayers are answered.

The book's ending is one of the most quietly devastating this reviewer has ever read. Leaving Atlanta, which deals with the effects of serial murder, is simply brilliant a gentle and beautiful book on a horrific subject.

Arlene McKanic writes from Jamaica, New York.

Rutgers-Newark MFA's own Brenda Shaughnessy has been nominated for the PEN Open Book Award for hercollection of poetry, Our Andromeda.

PEN Open Book Award ($5,000)

                 For an exceptional book-length work of literature
                 by an author of color published in 2012.

                 JUDGES: Cyrus CassellsPorochista Khakpour
                                      & Tiphanie Yanique

         Gun Dealers' Daughter (W.W. Norton & Co.), Gina Apostol
            When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press), Natalie Diaz
            Allegiance (Wayne State University Press), Francine J. Harris
            Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press), Brenda Shaughnessy
            The Grey Album (Graywolf Press)Kevin Young