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Q & A with Leanna James Blackwell

Program Director Leanna James Blackwell, MFA, brings to Bay Path her passion for telling stories on the page and the stage, and for helping students achieve their own writing, publishing, and teaching goals. First trained as a stage actor and theatre director, Blackwell earned her MFA in creative writing from Mills College in Oakland, California, where she co-founded The Place for Writers. She was artistic director and playwright-in-residence of TKO Theatre and the Inner Stage in the San Francisco Bay Area and is now a member of the Northampton (Massachusetts) Playwrights Lab. An award-winning essayist and playwright, Blackwell is published frequently in arts and parenting journals and is anthologized in the best-selling Toddler: Real-Life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love and A Ghost at Heart’s Edge: Stories and Poems of Adoption. Her most recent play, New Soul, premiered at the 2018 Play by Play Festival in Northampton and her longform essay, “Lethe,” published by True Story magazine, was nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize. Outside the classroom, Blackwell has maintained a 20-year meditation practice, which helps her connect deeply with her writing and with her students.

What do you love about Creative Nonfiction Writing?

As hard as writing can be, I can’t imagine a more rewarding life than creating art from human stories.

What’s the value of degree in Creative Nonfiction Writing

Writing can be a lonely profession, so a supportive community is vitally important to keep you going. The community of a good MFA program says, Yes, you can do this, finish this, publish this! And, perhaps more importantly, Yes, you have something to say. Yes, your story matters.

From a career perspective, an ideal MFA program prepares students not only to write exceptionally well but also to teach the craft of writing, navigate the publishing world successfully, and parlay their skills into professions that include journalism, copywriting, editing, public relations, communications, and teaching.

Why choose Bay Path for graduate work in Creative Nonfiction Writing?

  • For our faculty. They are not only acclaimed authors and editors but experienced educators who are passionate about teaching and mentoring and who give students an exceptional amount of attention at every stage of the writing process. They also represent the culturally diverse, pluralistic world we live in, which means that students from a multiplicity of backgrounds feel their experience is reflected and understood.
  • For the strong community among our students, fostered by the intimate online environment that faculty create, and by the core philosophy of the program: respect for each writer’s individual journey. Within the highly interactive online classroom, students learn to give respectful, supportive feedback in a confidential space. Although they live in locations across the country, students form deep connections and friendships that last beyond graduation.
  • For our curriculum’s professional tracks and electives. Our Publishing and Teaching tracks give students practice and connections in those professions, such as online internships with literary magazines or book publishers, and teaching experience in a college classroom or community setting. And our electives allow students to learn about a wide array of creative nonfiction disciplines, including writing about travel and food, spirituality, women’s stories, nature and the environment, health and wellness, and culture and identity.
  • For our summer trip to Dingle, Ireland, an optional week-long immersion in reading, writing, exploring, and culture with fellow writers and acclaimed guest authors. Students describe it as “magical” and some have called it one of the most meaningful experience of their lives; many return multiple times.