Guest Blogger Julie LeMay | An Unexpected Benefit of My MFA

Julie LeMay presents her book The Echo of Ice Letting Go last week in the 49 Writers Reading & Craft Talk Series.

Writers often ask themselves – should I complete an MFA in writing? What will I get out of it?

In 2011 when I retired from my accounting job of thirty years, I decided to pursue my MFA. I had loved to read and write poetry since I was in elementary school, and I wanted to learn more about the craft so I could be a better poet. I also wanted to build my credentials so I could work with people in underserved populations. Once I decided to do it, my next goal was to find a low residency program on the West Coast. I chose Antioch University Los Angeles because of its location, diversity, and focus on social justice. In December 2013, I graduated with my MFA in poetry.

So was it worth it? Well, I did learn a fair amount about poetics, I read a lot of amazing poetry books, I served on a literary journal, and for two years I got to spend two weeks of each December in sunny Los Angeles (a nice winter break!). I also wrote the manuscript that would become my book, The Echo of Ice Letting Go. But the best gift I took away from the program was an expanded community of writers.

The friends I met at Antioch have gone on to wonderful success. Books have been written, awards have been won, and reading series and literary journals have been founded. Too many people with too many accomplishments for this blogpost! Since it’s National Poetry Month and my post last week was about literary citizenship, I want to share some recent accomplishments of the poets I studied with at Antioch.

Douglas Brown is the author of Zero to Three (The University of Georgia Press), recipient of the 2013 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, and Begotten (Upper Rubber Boot) co-authored with Geffrey Davis. Doug is also a Cave Canem and Kundiman Fellow and co-founder and curator of un::fade::able – The Requiem for Sandra Bland, a quarterly reading series.

Candace Butler published Nothing is So Lovely (Finishing Line Press).

Kolleen Carney is the author of Your Hand Has Fixed the Firmament (forthcoming from Grey Books Press), Editor-in-Chief and Social Media Coordinator of Drunk Monkeys, Social Media Coordinator and Assistant Poetry Editor at Zoetic Press (founding editor, Lise Quintana is another Antiochian!).

Jose Hernandez Diaz is a recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

Sarah Miller Freehauf is the founding editor of Teenage Wasteland Review, Editorial Assistant at Divedapper, and reader at PANK Magazine.

Joe Jimenez authored the poetry collection, The Possibilities of Mud (Korima Press), and the Young Adult novel,  Bloodline (Pinata Books). Joe is also the recipient of the 2016 Letras Latinas/ Red Hen Press Poetry Prize.

Tanya Ko Hong published Mother to Myself (Purunsasang), a collection of poems in Korean, and was host of Bittersweet: The Immigrant Stories, an event of multi-language readers.

Jacqui Morton authored Turning Cozy Dark (Finishing Line Press) and facilitates Writing & Meditation at Brookline Adult & Community Education.

Michael Passifiume published Archipelagos (Blue Hour Press).

So many others (too many to list) are teaching in their communities and publishing in literary journals. What a great group of people! I’m so grateful to be a part of both the Alaska writer community and the Antioch writer community!

Julie Hungiville LeMay is the author of the poetry collection, The Echo of Ice Letting Go (University of Alaska Press, 2017). She holds an MFA from Antioch University, Los Angeles where she served as poetry editor for Lunch Ticket. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Julie has lived in Alaska’s Matanuska Valley since 1978. You can find more information at


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