On Sunday, August 8th at 7:30 PM, seven alumni from the Chatham University MFA in Creative Writing program read in the Mellon Living Room. I was honored to be among those reading. Here are the bios of all who read:

Maryam Abdul-Qawiyy, a recent graduate of the MFA program at Chatham University, is an American-Belizean writer.  When not writing, she sings at local events around Pittsburgh.

Sarah E. Adkins earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing/Poetry from Chatham University in 2008. She has published poems in Babel Fruit, Plainspoke, The Pittsburgh Quarterly Online, and Istanbul Literature Review. Sarah currently runs her own consulting business, and also works for the content delivery team of a cyber curriculum company and develops online courses. Sarah is also an active volunteer with The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, Pittsburgh Food Bank, and the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council. In her free time, she skateboards and plays with her three cats.

Cate Stevens-Davis received her BA from Duquesne University and her MFA in Fiction from Chatham in 2009. Her stories have been published or are forthcoming in :lexicon, Cerebral Catalyst, Six Sentences and the Six Sentences Volume One anthology, FreightTrain, Wanderlust Review, Shady Side Review, greatest lakes review and The Linnet’s Wings. She still lives in Pittsburgh.

Courtney Lora Lang is both a writer and a printmaker. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University in 2008. Her writing has appeared in journals such as Opium Magazine and The Muse Apprentice Guild.  Her chapbook Season was released from Sleeping Pie Press in 2008. She is a member of the Most Wanted Fine Art Collective, and was awarded a residency over the next two summers at Evil Prints in St. Louis, MO. Ms. Lang currently lives near Erie where she teaches English for Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

Amanda Leskovac is the 2009 nonfiction prize recipient from the Bellevue Literary Review. Her work has also appeared in Calyx, The Sylvan Echo, and The Chimeara.  She lives in Pittsburgh, where she teaches composition, literature and creative writing. She is currently finishing her memoir, Cock-Eyed View, and celebrates her 14th year in a chair this year.

Sara Ries was born in Buffalo, New York, where her parents have owned a diner since she was two-years-old.  She holds an MFA in Poetry from Chatham University and is the 2009 winner of the Stevens Poetry Manuscript Competition for her first book, “Come In, We’re Open.”  Ries currently lives in Buffalo and hosts Dinner and Poetry Nights at the Woodlawn Diner.

Carolyne Whelan received her MFA in Poetry and Nonfiction at Chatham University where she was a finalist for Best Thesis, and her BA in Writing from the College of Santa Fe, where she won awards for Best Collection of Poetry and Best Poem. Her work has appeared in Eclectica, Shadyside Review, and decomP, among others, as well as in a collaborative chapbook, Are You Free? (Glass Key Press, 2009).  She lives in Pittsburgh, PA as a freelance writer and performer.

Sarah and her adoring fans (ha! my friends Mindy and Roger)

I was very honored to be among those reading, as I greatly enjoyed each presentation. Two people read nonfiction, one read fiction, and the rest read poetry.  I read a total of 8 poems, only 3 of which I originally wrote while at Chatham. The other 5 poems, I had written since graduating from Chatham, and not many people had even seen them, let alone heard them. So I wasn’t sure how they would be received. We went in alphabetic order by last name, and I was second. When I was up there, I got in the zone like when I used to do theatre and tried to use the techniques I had learned in my interpretive reading class back at Mount Union. I used gestures, pauses, and volume, some of which I had practiced in the mirror beforehand. I had a lot of fun while I was up there, but once I put my hand on my chest as part of a gesture as I read a poem and I felt how fast my heart was beating! After the reading I was pretty exhausted, but very happy. I so much appreciated all the nice comments people had for me, even people I didn’t even know! I was told the poems were good and that my performance was good. One of my former professors said I had turned into an excellent reader and that I was very “vibrant.” I think I blushed at that, but was very pleased. I definitely want to do it again soon. I also very much appreciated my friends coming out to support me. You guys are the best! Thank you!

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