On tap: three MFA candidates from the program's three genres: Scott Carter (fiction), a recent finalist in Narrative Magazine's "30 Below" competition; Devon Taylor (creative nonfiction), this semester's senior creative nonfiction editor for The Pinch, the U of M's semiannual literary journal; and Tara Mae Mulroy (poetry), managing editor and marketing director for the spring 2012 issue of The Pinch. Student Tom Useted will act as emcee for the evening.
The good turnout at Burke's for the "Working Title Reading Series" in March was impressive, according to Erin Pounders, a U of M MFA candidate who is serving this semester as a research assistant under faculty member Sonja Livingston and as organizer of the readings — readings that the MFA program would like to turn into a tradition.
"Most MFA programs require that their students read in public before they graduate, so the 'Working Title' series is for students about to leave the program," Pounders said. "We want to get the word out."
The program also wants its students to gain from the experience of reading before an audience.
"I'm married to Memphis musician Brad Pounders," Erin Pounders said. "I can't understand 'performance,' wanting to perform, because it's the hardest thing about being a writer. It's such a one-man game to share what you've written and gauge audience reaction. We're all shy, but reading aloud is paramount to the work.
"A public reading can help you spot words you've repeated. It can kickstart the editing process. You can see where your writing needs to flow better. You can tell where you're boring even yourself."
Pounders, who is working on a collection of linked stories set in Memphis, isn't from Memphis, but she's come to love the city. She arrived from New Orleans right before Hurricane Katrina hit, and she's originally from East Tennessee. Was there a period of adjustment, going east to west?
"Anything is an adjustment from East Tennessee," Pounders said. "And now I call Memphis home. I've had the best luck here: the greatest husband in the world, a son old enough to be in school, and the friendly people of Memphis."
Pounders, who is finishing her first year in the U of M's MFA program, can't say enough great things about that program as well.
"I was in the Moss community writing workshop led by Richard Bausch, who's a great cheerleader, a great believer in getting people motivated. He wants people to be excited about writing."
Erin Pounders said that an MFA in creative writing is something she's wanted to do for years. But she's going to wait — wait to read from her work before a general audience "until this is someone else's ball game."
She's serious, though, about the 10 minutes each writer will have this Friday night. As Pounders admitted, "It's hard for me to sit still for anything."
For more information on the "Working Title Reading Series" or the event at Burke's on April 20th, contact Erin Pounders at email@example.com or go to facebook.com/mfainmemphis.