There’s a rumor going round…have you heard it? They say that something is happening in Murfreesboro, the little town in the middle of Tennessee. They say there’s a rumbling, a shifting, some sort of growth. A renaissance. No one knows exactly how it started, but somehow the geographic center of the state has started to become a new hub for the arts community. There are art crawls, studio tours, open mics, and poetry readings. People are reading. And writing.
Right in the swirling center of this creative storm sits MTSU Write, doing its thing and garnering a national audience. I first caught wind of the rumor at the Southern Literary Festival in Oxford, MS, in 2014. “We hear all about what’s happening in Murfreesboro,” they said. And when I came back to the MTSU campus and looked around I realized it was true. I kept seeing our faculty and students’ names appear in journals and on websites, in the New Yorker, on Chicago stages, in national interviews. They were publishing nationally, winning prizes, making waves in MFA programs. And MTSU Write was playing a significant role in all that reputation building.
In January of this year, I took over the Directorship of MTSU Write. I was right in the middle of planning the 2016 Southern Literary Festival while teaching my five-course load, so I did my best just to keep things going. We finished a successful Spring trimester, then nearly doubled enrollment for summer. That’s when I started to get excited about the possibilities of the program. Sure, we can have a local impact taking part in all this creative rebirth, but as a low-residency program we can also impact readers and writers all over the world. I spent my summer researching the program’s history, collecting information and lists, learning how to fill out state HR paperwork (ugh!) and how to read a departmental budget statement (still impossible). Most of all, I started brainstorming. And I realized that the potential of a program like this is pretty epic.
So, just as Murfreesboro experiences this surge in artistic productivity, MTSU Write is ready to grow. We have begun sponsoring bimonthly readings, “Poetry in the Boro,” (with thanks to organizer Kory Wells) where we have seen enormous interest; people are packing in to hear and read poetry. We have created new promotional materials, including our own official MT “brandmark” and hired an intern to manage social media. Seriously, we are on Instagram! We have added a screenwriter, Rick Reichman to the mentoring faculty. We are gearing up for a successful Fall Conference September 10, and even dreaming big about a future of expanded public readings, a writing contest, publishing an anthology, and hosting a retreat for writers.
MTSU Write is perfectly positioned to take the lead in Murfreesboro’s newfound creative process. I am very excited about the possibilities and most grateful for the opportunity to stretch my creative and organizational muscles. Thanks to past directors Roy Burkhead, Terry Price, Rami Shapiro, and Karen Alea Ford for creating, growing, and keeping the program going over the last thirteen years. Thanks to all the mentors who are the heart of the program and always will be. Thanks to our students and alumni who make us so very proud. As we head into another year celebrating power of the written word, I hope I can count on you all to join me in dreaming up even bigger and better ways to fulfill the mission of our program. Here. We. Go.
Jennifer Wachtel Kates
Director, MTSU Write