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Acclaimed Fiction Writer Joy Williams Joins MFA Program

By: Cienna Madrid   Published 1:51 pm / February 21, 2017

Photo of Joy WilliamsJoy Williams, widely regarded as one of America’s greatest living fiction writers, is the MFA in creative writing program’s 2017 Visiting Distinguished Writer. Williams is teaching a fiction workshop spring semester, as well as serving on MFA thesis committees.

In addition, she will be giving an on-campus reading at 7:30 p.m. March 30 in the Lookout Room of the Student Union Building. This event is free, open to the public and co-sponsored by the Hemingway Literary Center.


“Joy has been my literary pole star since I first read ‘Taking Care’ in 1987,” said Mitch Wieland, director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing. “She’s fierce and brilliant and utterly unique, both on the page and off. We are thrilled and profoundly honored to have her teaching in our program.”

Williams is the author of four novels, five story collections and one essay collection. Her novel “The Quick and the Dead” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and “State of Grace” received a nomination for the National Book Award. “Ill Nature,” a collection of essays, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her most recent book is “The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories,” which includes two stories first published in The Idaho Review.

Williams’s short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper’s, The Paris Review, Granta, Tin House, The Missouri Review and numerous other publications. Her stories have been widely anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Pushcart Prize. In addition, she’s been profiled in the New York Times and interviewed extensively in the Paris Review.

She has received many honors for her fiction, including the Harold and Mildred Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Rea Award for the Short Story. In 2016, she was awarded the PEN/Malamud Short Story Award.

“Joy is a guru,” said Jackie Olson, a second-year MFA student. “Her insight is radical and pristine. Give her a story and she will expose its beating heart.”

First-year student Mary Lowry offered this insight: “It’s beyond-inspiring to be taught by Joy. She’s an exacting teacher who cares deeply about helping her students craft their best possible work.”

Other recent visiting writers in the MFA program include Denis Johnson, winner of the National Book Award, and Anthony Doerr, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. A fully funded, three-year course of study, the MFA program has an application deadline of Jan. 15 each year.