MacArthur “Genius” Comes to UT’s MFA Program as Guest Writer

George Saunders will present public reading in January.

Published: Sep 2, 2011

George Saunders, considered one of the most relevant – and funny – fiction writers and essayists of our time, will join The University of Tampa faculty as a guest writer for the January 2012 residency of the University’s new low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program.

Saunders is a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius” award, and he has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Colbert Report and The Charlie Rose Show. His satirical stories and nonfiction critiques of consumer culture appear regularly in The New Yorker, GQ and Harpers Magazine, and have appeared in the O’Henry, Best American Short Stories, Best Non-Required Reading and Best American Travel Writing anthologies.

Other guest writers in the program include Michael Connelly, Connie May Fowler, Amy Hill Hearth, Francine Prose and Enid Shomer. MFA teaching faculty will include: John Capouya, Erica Dawson, Peter Meinke, Donald Morrill, Croatian Josip Novakovich, Jeff Parker and Michael Winter.

Saunders will give a public reading on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 7:30 p.m. The location is TBD, and more information will be forthcoming.

In 2001, Saunders was selected by Entertainment Weekly as one of the 100 top most creative people in entertainment and by The New Yorker in 2002 as one of the best writers 40 and under.

He is the author of three collections of short stories: the bestselling Pastoralia, set against a warped, hilarious and terrifyingly recognizable American landscape; CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and In Persuasion Nation, one of three finalists for the 2006 STORY Prize for best short story collection of the year. Saunders is also the author of the novella-length illustrated fable The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, and the New York Times bestselling children's book The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip.

His most recent book, The Braindead Megaphone, is a collection of essays that Vanity Fair described as bitingly clever and compassionate that are a “Mark Twain-style shot in the arm for Americans, an antidote to the dumbing down virus plaguing our country.”

In addition to working as an author, Saunders has worked as a technical writer and geophysical engineer. He also has worked in Sumatra on an oil exploration geophysics crew, as a doorman in Beverly Hills, a roofer in Chicago, a convenience store clerk, a guitarist in a country-and-western band and a knuckle-puller in a West Texas slaughterhouse.

The new MFA in Creative Writing program, which was established last spring, works by bringing students for 10-day residencies in January and June and then facilitating individual mentorship between students and writing faculty from a distance. It aims to:

  • Cultivate mentor relationships between our students and faculty by selecting the most interesting contemporary writers who also have reputations as great teachers.
  • To be a flexible but extremely personal, face-to-face program, harnessing the strengths of intense in-person workshopping with a maximum 1:5 ratio of instructor to individual mentoring from a distance.
  • To bring in writers not only from the region, not only from the U.S. but from around the world. In the future, the program will hold optional residencies abroad and facilitate engagement with the literary and cultural scenes around the world.
  • To become a cultural and literary center for the region.