MFA graduates look to the future

The work of Kallie Falandays and Daniel Calhoun, two soon-to-be graduates from the Wichita State Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) program, has recently been recognized.

Falandays’s poetry book, “Dovetail Down the House,” is going to be published in the fall by “Burnside Review,” a small-press publisher located in Portland, Oregon. Calhoun got into the doctoral program for creative writing at the University of Louisiana by using an excerpt from his book, “Strangers in the Dark,” in his application.

He said he enjoyed his time in WSU’s MFA program.

“One of the benefits of WSU’s MFA program is it runs three years instead of two,” Calhoun said. “The extra year allows students extra time to work on their thesis.”

Calhoun said there are fewer than 30 creative writing doctoral programs, and he thinks going through one will give him an edge in the job market, though that wasn’t his only reason for applying to the University of Louisiana’s program.

“A Ph.D. allows me a few more years to concentrate on my writing and remain active in a nurturing literary community,” Calhoun said. “I’ve worked an office job, and it sucks a lot of mental energy out of you.”

Falandays has different plans than Calhoun for after graduation.

“I’m planning on moving to Philly so I can see what their poetry scene has to offer,” Falandays said.

Of the MFA graduating class, Falandays is the only poetry writer and the only one who is going to be published so soon after graduating. She said she felt validated in being recognized for her poetry book, which is about a woman who dreams of a man who then becomes real.

“It feels good to have someone recognize you that isn’t your parents,” she said.

Falandays said she wouldn’t have had time to work on her poetry collection if it weren’t for WSU, and she was also thankful for her time with Albert Goldbarth, professor of humanities.

“Albert Goldbarth was extremely influential, and he supported me with all my publishing questions,” Falandays said. “It’s good to know someone supports you and has your best poetry interests at heart.”

MFA Director Margaret Dawe was Calhoun’s final project director.

“The program [helps them] take content that is radioactive and form it into a story so that the reader will hang with the storyteller,” Dawe said.

Dawe teaches classes in the MFA program and recalled works from both Falandays and Calhoun in a first-year class.  

 “Kallie wrote a wonderful piece called ‘The Box’ about a childhood traumatic memory,” Dawe said. “She was really brave in it, and I really admired it.”

Dawe said Calhoun’s writing also originated from a personal event.

“Dan’s piece was about watching a stupid movie … where someone has HIV,” Dawe said, “then learning that someone in the house actually had it, so he put himself in that person’s shoes.”

Calhoun then showed how he imagined what it would be like to get tested for HIV in his non-fiction writing. Coincidentally, Calhoun’s book is centered on a gay married couple, and he hopes the book shows straight readers that being gay is mundane and uneventful, and everyone loves, feels and lives the same way.

“[They are] both courageous about content they want to write about,” Dawe said.