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Hot Topics in Creative Nonfiction: Writing about Place

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With Mel Allen, editor of Yankee magazine and Bay Path MFA faculty member, and Leanna James Blackwell, director of the MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Bay Path University.

Join veteran editor and writer Mel Allen and professor Leanna James Blackwell for an in-depth conversation about the art and craft of place-based writing. Drawing on nearly 40 years as an editor of the beloved New England-based monthly magazine Yankee, Mel will discuss the elements that make a reported article, a personal essay, or a column come to crackling life on the page. Learn the techniques of describing a place and the people in it, from a farm to a village to a bustling city, from a woodworking shop to a coastal refuge to a downtown gallery. Bring your questions: the last ten minutes of the hour will be spent in an open Q&A.

About the Presenters:

Mel Allen is the fifth editor of Yankee magazine since its beginning in 1935. His career at Yankee spans nearly four decades and includes the titles of senior editor, executive director, and, since 2006, the editor. During that time, has edited and written for every section of the magazine, including home, food, and travel. In his pursuit of stories, he has raced a sled dog team, crawled into the dens of black bears, fished with the legendary Ted Williams, picked potatoes in Aroostook County, and stood beneath a battleship before it was launched. Mel has taught magazine writing at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and is author of A Coach's Letter to His Son. His column, "Here in New England," was 2009 and 2012 National City and Regional Magazine Awards Finalist for the category "Column." He is also one of the feature writing judges for the National Magazine Awards for the American Society of Magazine Editors, where he has the opportunity to weigh in on many of the best nonfiction long form narratives to appear in magazines in the past year.  He lives and writes in New Hampshire.

Learn more about Mel Allen, click here to watch his video.

Leanna James Blackwell is director of the Bay Path University MFA in Creative Nonfiction and assistant professor of creative writing. An award-winning essayist and documentary playwright, she is a member of the Northampton Playwrights Lab, former artistic director and playwright-in-residence of TKO Theatre and the Inner Stage in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the co-founder and director of The Place for Writers at Mills College in Oakland, California.

A frequent contributor to arts and parenting journals, Leanna’s essays have appeared in True Story, a publication of Creative Nonfiction magazine; Full Grown People; Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers; The Best of Brain, Child; Literary Mama; five80split: A Journal of Arts and Letters; Hidden Manna: The Journal of Faith and Story; and Mount Holyoke and Amherst magazines. Her work has also appeared in the best-selling literary anthologies A Ghost at Heart’s Edge: Stories and Poems of Adoption and in Toddler, winner of an Independent Publishers Award (Seal Press). She was a Fiction Fellow at the Vermont Studio Center and a participating writer at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Conference for Writers, and the Bay Area Writers’ Project.

New Soul, her most recent play about race and adoption, was performed as a staged reading during the Play by Play festival in 2018 at the Northampton Arts Trust; Grimm Women, a feminist reimagining of traditional fairy tales, premiered during the 2016 Play by Play Festival at the A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton, Mass. Other plays include Curtain Call, performed at Play by Play 2015 and at the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre; The Wendy Chronicles, on the life and work of Pulitzer Prize-winner Wendy Wasserstein, commissioned by Mount Holyoke College in 2012 as part of its year-long celebration of the playwright; and many others.

Leanna graduated from the MFA program in creative writing at Mills College in California. A 20-year practitioner of meditation and mindfulness, Leanna is known for a teaching style that helps writers tap into their deepest creative potential.