In March, Boise State alumna Meghan Kenny will celebrate a milestone many writers only dream of: the publication of her first book of short stories, Love Is No Small Thing, from LSU Press. As the title might suggest, the book explores love in all its various iterations – romantic, familial, elusive.
“Love is something I’ve always been obsessed with,” Kenny said. “Although I don’t think I was quite aware of how focused my writing was. I remember at some time during my MFA program that people were pointing out, ‘Oh, you always tend to write about these things.’ Writing this book didn’t get it out of my system.”
Fifteen years ago, Kenny celebrated a more modest – yet no less important – milestone here at Boise State. In 2002, she was among the first graduates of the university’s new MFA in Creative Writing program, then headed by Robert Olmstead and Mitch Wieland. Kenny, an east coaster by birth, credits Olmstead for luring her out west.
“I had Olmstead freshman year for a writing class in Pennsylvania,” she said. “I don’t think I would’ve become a writer had I not taken that class. Then, in the late 90s, I was looking into MFA programs and the Boise State program was just starting up. He lured me out. I drove from New Hampshire to Boise sight unseen.”
From there, she quickly fell in love with the program. Kenny drew inspiration from the Northwest; roughly half of the 12 short stories in her debut collection are set in Idaho; half also were workshopped at Boise State. The program’s small size – her cohort graduated four people – combined with the immersive, supportive community helped polish her voice and writing.
“We were all on each other’s side and good friends, but it was a tough love workshop,” Kenny said. “We didn’t have to compete for attention from professors but there was no sugarcoating anything.”
In addition, she said the program offered her a foot into a tight-knit community she values to this day.
“We had access to everything – we went to dinner with visiting poets and fiction writers, and held classes in people’s houses. I’m still friends with many of those people; in fact, I came back this summer and gave a reading at the Modern Hotel.”
After graduation, Kenny returned to the east coast to teach English and writing classes, and work on “Love Is No Small Thing,” as well as her first novel, “The Driest Season,” which is set to be released by W.W.Norton in 2018.
“When I came to Boise State, the MFA program was a dot on the map – it was brand new, not prestigious,” she said. “It’s been wonderful to see the program grow and turn out such great writers. I’m proud that we’ve made a name for ourselves out there.”