Dr. Anna Leahy (English) was recently awarded a MacDowell Fellowship after being selected from a pool of nearly 3,000 applicants. Leahy is the director of the MFA in Creative Writing program and the director of Tabula Poetica, the Center for Poetry at Chapman University.
MacDowell fellowships are fully funded writing residencies, lasting between two and six weeks. Located in New Hampshire, MacDowell brings together writers, visual artists, architects, and composers and provides them with a space to share and create their work with one another.
“The balance of focused writing time and creative community has been more powerful than I could have imagined. And the afternoon soup is a bonus,” Leahy said. “MacDowell makes manifest that each of us doing creative work is part of something much larger and ultimately deeply valued.”
Leahy was initially awarded the fellowship in March 2020, after years of applying for it. Given the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the residency was postponed until this year.
“I’m grateful that the MacDowell staff worked to reschedule those of us whose residencies had initially evaporated, and I’m grateful for the support of my dean, department chair, and colleagues who made this opportunity doable this year. I cannot put into words how important this has been,” she said.
Upon applying, Leahy had planned to work on a nonfiction project, but her plans changed. She has since turned her focus toward a poetry
book manuscript, and has been making edits and revisions during her time at MacDowell. In addition to her writing, Leahy also participates in ‘fellows’ shares’ each evening. This is where the fellows come together and share their work, from poetry and play readings to composers’ pieces and architects’ projects. Leahy cites this “immersion in interconnected creative practice” aspect of her residency as “restorative, perhaps especially so after two years of comparative isolation.”
Though she isn’t entirely certain as to where this fellowship will fit into her career long-term, she offers this outlook: “Not that long ago, my sister sent me a word-of-the-day: coddiwomple. It means to travel purposefully toward an unknown destination. That’s how I work as a writer, and that’s how I encourage our MFA in Creative Writing students to think about their goals as writers and about their careers.”
(Photo in header: The studio Leahy stayed in, featuring wooden ‘tombstones’ (plaques) with the previous residents’ names, discipline and dates of residency.)