Author: Blake Pate

MCW Fellow Darius Atefat-Peckham is Keene Prize Runner-Up

Michener Center Fellow Darius Atefat-Peckham has been named a runner-up for the 2024 UT Keene Prize for Literature, for an excerpt from his forthcoming book of poetry, Book of Kin.

The Keene Prize, named for E. L. Keene, a 1942 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, is open to all UT students and is meant to support the pursuit of great American writing. The award for this year’s prize was $70,000, with three runners-up receiving $40,000 each.

Laurel Faye, a graduate student in the New Writers Project, was awarded the grand prize for her novel excerpt “Seal, Wife.” In addition to Atefat-Peckham, other runners-up included Ira James Goga and Kyle Okeke.

The poems in Book of Kin follow a boy’s coming of age in the aftermath of a car accident that took the lives of his mother and brother, Susan and Cyrus Atefat-Peckham. Inspired by the Persian epic The Book of Kings, the Sufi mystic poetry of Rumi, and his mother’s poetry, these poems form a path of connection between the author and his Iranian heritage. Book of Kin interrogates what it means to exist between cultures, to be a survivor of tragedy, to practice love and joy toward one’s beloveds, and to hope for greater connection.

Book of Kin is forthcoming from Autumn House Press in October 2024.

Alumn Abe Koogler’s Play Opens to Positive Reviews

Michener Center Playwriting Alumnus Abe Koogler‘s play Staff Meal has opened to rave reviews, with recent coverage from The New York Times, Vulture, Observer, New York Theatre Guide, and New York Stage Review.

“In ‘Staff Meal,'” writes Rachel Sherman for The New York Times, “Koogler creates a world somewhere between front and back of house, where food is a portal and service an art. Meanwhile, patrons navigate apocalyptic events outside the restaurant, where the future appears increasingly fragile.”

Writing for Vulture, Sara Holdren calls Staff Meal “a quietly surreal shapeshifter of a play with a tilted sense of humor and a generous, sorrowful heart.”

Image Credit: Playwrights Horizons

“Staff Meal feels like a portal,” Holdren writes. “We tumble through its funny, eerie evocation of the moment that made—is still making—our present, and we come out the other side feeling, for all its ebb toward emptiness, full.”

Staff Meal is at Playwrights Horizons through May 19.



Congratulations, Michener Center for Writers Class of 2024!

The Michener Center celebrated the Class of 2024 at graduation events this past Friday and Saturday, April 26th & 27th, 2024.

This year’s Fiction graduates include Eileen Sungyoo Chong, Sophia Emmons-Bell, Stephanie Malia Morris, Gracie Newman, Lara Palmqvist, and Frankie Zwick. Poetry graduates include Alfredo Aguilar, Janna Coleman, Gabriel Fine, Gabrielle Rajerison, Paul S. Ukrainets, and Xiao Yumi.

On Friday evening, graduates and their loved ones enjoyed our annual Graduation Dinner, which takes place on the lawn of the historic J. Frank Dobie House, home to the Michener Center.

On Saturday, they read their work to a packed theatre of current MCW students, faculty, alumni, family, & friends at the UT Harry Ransom Center.


Michener Alumn Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig Wins Whiting Award

We’re proud to announce that Michener Center Alumnus and playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig (MCW 2009) is the recipient of a 2024 Whiting Award. The Whiting Awards give $50,000 each to ten exceptional emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama.

The 2024 Whiting Awards Judges praised how Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s “meticulous and politically acute fables bring the histories of nations, of capital, and of censorship to life.”

According to the Whiting Foundation, “The prizes are designed to recognize excellence and promise in a spectrum of emerging talent, giving most winners the chance to devote themselves full time to their own writing, or to take bold new risks in their work.”

“This year’s winners have made liminal space their own — that place of potential that exists between states, whether those are genres, languages, countries, or definitions of self,” said Courtney Hodell, Whiting’s Director of Literary Programs. “The rigor and fluid beauty of their writing make us excited for the work to come.”


Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig‘s trilogy The China Plays was recently published by Methuen Drama. They were produced in the U.K. at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Hampstead Theatre, and the National Theatre, and in the U.S. at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Manhattan Theater Club, Classic Stage, and the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Cowhig was born in Philadelphia and raised in Northern Virginia, Okinawa, Taipei, and Beijing; her father worked for the US State Department. Her work has been honored with the Wasserstein Prize, the Yale Drama Series Award (selected by David Hare), an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, the Keene Prize for Literature, and a United States Artist Fellowship.




Announcing a New Dynamic Space at the Michener Center!

photo by Kieran Reeves

We can’t stop staring at our beautiful new building!

photos by Kieran Reeves

The Dobie House garage has been transformed into a gorgeous, spacious, and ADA-accessible room.

We recently threw a party to celebrate what would have been Mr. Michener’s 117th birthday, and we were thrilled by how many students, staff, and faculty found time to stop by.

We hope to host many more events here in the future, and we’re already looking forward to when we can celebrate the completion of the next phase of this project—the restoration and revitalization of Bertha Dobie’s famous garden! Stay tuned!

Event: Ross Gay Reading & Book Signing, February 29th, 6pm

We’re thrilled to welcome award-winning poet Ross Gay, who will read and sign his latest work, The Book of (More) Delights,  at the Harry Ransom Center on Thursday, February 29th at 6pm. Books will be available for purchase, and a reception will follow.

Please click here to reserve a seat.


About Ross Gay

Ross Gay is interested in joy.

Ross Gay wants to understand joy.

Ross Gay is curious about joy.

Ross Gay studies joy.

Something like that.


Ross Gay is the author of four books of poetry: Against WhichBringing the Shovel DownBe Holding, winner of the PEN American Literary Jean Stein Award; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. In addition to his poetry, Ross has released three collections of essays—The Book of Delights was released in 2019 and was a New York Times bestseller; Inciting Joy was released in 2022, and his newest collection, The Book of (More) Delights was released in September of 2023.

Event: Spring Faculty Reading: Jennifer Foerster & Manuel Muñoz on January 18th, 6pm

The Michener Center’s Spring 2024 Visiting Faculty members Jennifer Foerster and Manuel Muñoz will read their work at the Harry Ransom Center Prothro Theatre at 6pm on Thursday, January 18th, 2024. The reading is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow.

Jennifer Elise Foerster is the author of three books of poetry, most recently The Maybe-Bird, and served as the Associate Editor of When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry. She is the recipient of a NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Writing Residency Fellowship, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford. Jennifer received her PhD in English and Literary Arts from the University of Denver, her MFA from the Vermont College of the Fine Arts, and is an alumna of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). Jennifer teaches for the Rainier Writing Workshop and the Institute of American Indian Arts, and is the Literary Assistant to the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo. Foerster grew up living internationally, is of European (German/Dutch) and Mvskoke descent, and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma. She lives in San Francisco.


Manuel Muñoz is the author of a novel, What You See in the Dark, and the short-story collections Zigzagger and The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue, which was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.  He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He has been recognized with a Whiting Writer’s Award, three O. Henry Awards, and two selections in Best American Short Stories, and was awarded the 2023 Joyce Carol Oates Prize. His most recent collection, The Consequences, was published by Graywolf Press and in the UK by The Indigo Press in October 2022.  It was a finalist for the Aspen Words Literary Prize and longlisted for the Story Prize.  It will be published in Italian by Edizioni Black Coffee and in Turkish by Livera Yayinevi. In October 2023, he was honored with a MacArthur Fellowship for “depicting with empathy and nuance the Mexican-American communities of California’s Central Valley.” His frequently anthologized work has appeared in The New York Times, Epoch, and Glimmer Train.  His most recent work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, American Short Fiction, Electric Literature, ZYZZYVA, and Freeman’s. A native of Dinuba, California, and a first-generation college student, Manuel graduated from Harvard University and received his MFA in creative writing at Cornell University. He currently lives and works in Tucson, Arizona.

Michener Fellow Gavin Yuan Gao Wins Australia’s Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry

Michener Center Fellow Gavin Yuan Gao’s collection of poetry, At the Altar of Touch has won the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry, one of Australia’s Prime Minister’s Literary Awards “celebrating outstanding literary talent in Australia and the valuable contribution Australian writing makes to the nation’s cultural and intellectual life.”

At the Altar of Touch, the judges wrote, “is an intensely lyrical, intimate and expansive collection of poems. Here, in their debut collection, Gavin Yuan Gao deploys striking imagery and layered metaphor to find a path through suffering towards connection and belonging.

The poems range from heartbreaking elegies to the poet’s mother, tenderly erotic queer love poems, unsettling accounts of bullying and endurance, and ecstatic odes to desire and the natural world. Throughout, the language is associative, yet controlled and immersive, sweeping the reader up in the sensations and meanings held in the body.”

Gavin Yuan Gao is a genderqueer poet and translator. Their debut poetry collection, At the Altar of Touch, won the 2020 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and was published by the University of Queensland Press in February 2022. They are currently a second-year candidate in Poetry in the Michener Center for Writers.



Michener Fellow Lara Palmqvist Receives Humanitas Screenwriting Award

Michener Center Fellow Lara Palmqvist has been awarded the 2023 Carol Mendelsohn College Drama Award from Humanitas for her feature screenplay, The Garden. The award is one of the annual Humanitas Prizes honoring film and television, which “seek[s] to recognize work that explores the human condition in a nuanced and meaningful way.”

In addition to nine Humanitas Prizes awarded to leading industry professionals such as Craig Mazin, Tyler Perry, and Guillermo del Toro, who all received awards in 2023, Humanitas reserves two prizes annually for student writers in the genres of comedy and drama. The prize includes a monetary award as well as career resources and mentorship opportunities.

Photo by Shannon Cottrell.

“Our judges praised the strong character work, visuals, and thematic writing on display in The Garden, and view [Lara] as a screenwriter to watch in the coming years,” wrote Daniel Plagens, Humanitas Prizes Program Manager.

“We look forward to seeing how her writing craft and her writing career will grow and develop over time; it will surely include a future writing for the screen.”

Photo by Timothy Norris.



The Humanitas Prizes were celebrated on November 2, 2023, at the historic Avalon Theater in Hollywood. All photos courtesy of Humanitas.


MCW Alum Lauren Green Selected for Forbes 30 Under 30

Author Lauren Green (MCW ’21) has been selected for the Forbes Magazine “30 Under 30” Media Cohort for 2024.

From Forbes Magazine: “Lauren Green is a poet and author whose chapbook, “A GREAT DARK HOUSE,” was published by the Poetry Society of America in 2023. Green’s fiction work has appeared in 20 different journals including “American Short Fiction, Conjunctions, and Threepenny Review,” and 17 of her poems have been published in outlets like the Poetry Society of America. She is a 2022 Eavan Boland Emerging Poet Award recipient and her debut novel, “The World After Alice” will be published by Viking and Penguin Random House in 2024.” – Forbes Magazine

Green’s debut novel, The World After Alice, will be out in Summer 2024.


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