Brad Kessler, MFA
Affiliate Faculty, MFA in Creative Writing Program
Brad Kessler (fiction) is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Birds in Fall (Scribner 2006) which won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He is the recipient of the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Whiting Writer’s Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and the Lange-Taylor Prize from Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. His other work includes the novel, Lick Creek (Scribner 2001) and the literary nonfiction Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese (Scribner 2009), Kessler’s work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Bomb, Kenyon Review, and the New Yorker.
MFA, New School, N.Y.
Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese
Birds in Fall
The Woodcutter’s Christmas
As writers, we all want the ideal reader of our works-in-progress. Someone who is part editor, part counselor, objective and fiercely critical toward the text. This is the type of first reader I cherish, and the kind of mentor I strive to be when working with students. I mark up pages, ask a lot of questions, find the weaknesses and transgressions in the text– as well as the potential openings. Aside from a line by line reading, I want to see if the mechanics of the story or chapter are working and all the movable parts–character, dialogue, plot, pacing, voice, point of view—are doing what they should be: seamlessly urging the narrative along. As a reader (and writer) I care more about language than plot, character than story. I’m interested in the music of the text, in rhythm, tone, voice. And, of course, what the thing is saying, or trying to say.
My ideal student is one who takes his or her work extremely seriously by wanting to know what’s wrong with it, and how it can be made better—not someone seeking only easy encouragement. What we are both looking for is the thrilling moment when the work stands up and sings.
I am equally happy working with students who are just stumbling into a new novel or story or essay, and those who are applying final polish. Students working on novels must be willing to start from ground zero, with the first chapter, to see if the whole thing is working first. I’m comfortable working in cross-genres, fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and with experimental forms.
As to requirements:
–Students are required to submit 5 to 20 pages (max) per packet. Manuscripts must be hard copy (double spaced, 12 pt. etc..), sent by regular USPS mail, UPS, or FEDEX with an SASE. Electronic submissions will not be accepted. Revisions are acceptable—and necessary—if significant reworking has actually taken place.
–Students are expected to read at least 10 books a semester, half picked by the group, the other half chosen from a list of books. The group will discuss the group books together in an on-line conference with a designated leader. Some students will be asked to read specific works, based on the need that arises from their individual work.