Writers’ Retreats

This year’s Generations in Dialogue, a program of The Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, benefits writers.
ByPamela J. Johnson

Housed in USC Dornsife, the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies (IACS) has announced its new class of Generations in Dialogue (GID) scholars.

Six scholars from throughout the nation were selected from a pool of 121 applicants. The GID program brings together accomplished, senior mentors in academia and the arts with early-career scholars, writers and artists.

The current GID program focuses on the vocation of the writer, led by Gregory Wolfe, an established writer, founding director of the MFA program at Seattle Pacific University, and founding editor of Image journal.

“The newest GID cohort meets a need for early career writers by connecting their creative work with a sense of vocation rooted in the Catholic tradition,” said Gary Adler, research director at IACS. “This combination of intellectual rigor and spiritual reflection, with a senior mentor leading the way, is relatively rare in the academy and the world of creative writing.”

Adler said this year’s candidate pool was the largest since the program began in 2010.

“The scholars were chosen because of their proven experience in published writing, their desire to deepen their sense of vocation and the creative potential in their future writing,” he said.

One goal of GID is to inspire the next generation of scholars, artists and writers to work in creative scholarship or art that engages the intellectual and spiritual traditions of Catholicism. Another is to foster a lifelong vocation for public engagement that serves the common good. A third is to create an inter-generational community of scholars, artists and writers steeped in vocation and faith.

The program brings together widely recognized senior scholars or artists and early-career scholars or artists in the same fields. GID seeks to create a multi-generational academic community in which participants advance the efforts of faith informing scholarship and art, and scholarship and art informing faith.  

Supported by Peter and Merle Mullin and the Angell Foundation, the program entails four weekends of dialogue over two years in retreat settings on the West Coast led by a senior mentor. Dialogues include thematic discussions, personal reflection on vocation, shared prayer and presentations from distinguished scholars or artists.

Each chosen receives the title of Mullin Scholar at the IACS and a $4,000 award.

New scholars include:

Lisa Ampleman, Ph.D. candidate at The University of Cincinnati, Ohio. Ampleman earned her bachelor’s at Beloit College in Wisconsin and her MFA at George Mason University in northern Virginia. She now lives in Ohio, but her heart remains in St. Louis, where she grew up, and where she taught for five years at Fontbonne University. She is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Full Cry (NFSPS Press, 2013), and a chapbook, I’ve Been Collecting This to Tell You (Kent State UP, 2012). In her work, she explores the opportunities and challenges of the lyric address (an “I” addressing a “you”), and women’s place in the courtly love tradition, while paying careful attention to diction and images.

David Griffith, Ph.D., assistant professor of English at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. Griffith is the author of A Good War is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America (Soft Skull Press, 2006), a meditation on media violence occasioned by the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. He lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains with his wife, the author Jessica Mesman Griffith, and his two children. He is finishing his second book, Pyramid Scheme: Making Art and Being Broke in America, a hybrid of memoir and critical essay about the connections between poverty and artistry. 

Samuel Martin, Ph.D., assistant professor of English at Northwestern College in Iowa. A Canadian, Martin has roots in northeastern Ontario and strong ties to Newfoundland. He studied with the Canadian Catholic novelist David Adams Richards and considers himself an “informal” student of the late American novelist John Gardner. Gardner died a year before Martin was born, but Gardner’s idea that good fiction writing creates a vivid and continuous dream helped shape Martin’s aspirations as a fiction writer and novelist.

Jenny Shank, M.A., a creative writing teacher and freelance writer in Boulder, Colo. Shank grew up in Denver attending public schools during its era of court-ordered busing for integration, and often writes about this experience and her hometown. Shank feels Denver is unfairly neglected in literature, although fellow Denver Catholic writer John Fante was a chronicler of the city 70 years ago. Shank sets many short stories and her first novel, The Ringer (The Permanent Press, 2011), in Denver. She has worked as a journalist for 15 years, and she currently specializes in covering books through reviews, interviews and articles about the digital transformation of books.

Kathleen Tarr, M.F.A., was born and raised in Pittsburgh. She arrived in Alaska in 1978 and most recently served as the founding program coordinator at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s, Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing, 2007-2011. As a nonfiction writer, she has published in Creative Nonfiction, Cirque, The Sewanee Review, Alaska Airlines Magazine, and in various blogs and anthologies. She is currently at work on her first book — a spiritual memoir involving Catholic writer and mystic Thomas Merton, Alaska and Russia. Tarr teaches creative writing as an adjunct instructor at various universities. She looks forward to moving out of her solitary, self-directed approach to understanding Catholicism, and in particular, its literary and intellectual traditions, and participating in spirited dialogue.

Brian Volck, M.D., M.F.A., assistant professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. A general pediatrician, Volck is a writer of essays, reviews and poetry. He is the co-author of Reclaiming the Body: Christians and the Faithful Use of Modern Medicine (Brazos Press). He has lived and worked as a pediatrician on a Navajo reservation, at an inner-city community health center and in a major teaching hospital. In his nonfiction and poetry, he describes the world from the intersection of reason and faith, grace and nature, transcendence and incarnation.

For more information, visit www.ifacs.com/programs/generations_in_dialogue.html