Announcing Our MFA-in-Residence Program!

Hello Book Friends!

Here at Old Town Books, we believe one of the core principles of any good indie bookstore is to introduce emerging writers to the buying public. This article from the American Bookseller’s Association’s blog, Bookselling This Week, calls the relationship “markedly symbiotic”; we couldn’t agree more! Of course, we’re doing our part through our author events (not least of which is our Emerging Writers Festival, coming this August 16-18!) and just by carrying books from new writers we love in the store. However, we’ve decided to take it a little further, and to that end, we’re proud to announce that this spring we’re starting a brand-new MFA-in-Residence program! The program is a fellowship: we select a student getting their MFA in creative writing to be our “writer-in-residence” - they get to have their own honorary staff picks in the store, write book reviews for us, and produce a literary event of their choosing. In return, we’ll get to show a young author-to-be the inner workings of an indie bookstore, giving them a behind-the-curtain look at the book world - conversations about how we pick books for the store, etc. - in preparation for their future career (as well as a book credit and a stipend!). We look forward to orienting emerging young writers from around the country (if you know an MFA student from any school’s writing program, local or otherwise, that would have a place to stay in Alexandria while they work with us, do let them know!) to the special relationship between indie bookstores and new authors.

However, we’re not just announcing the program itself, we’re also introducing our inaugural MFA-in-Residence, George Mason University’s Allie Tunstall! Allie is an MFA student in Nonfiction Writing and a Graduate Teaching Assistant in composition, edits So To Speak, one of GMU’s literary magazines with an intersectional feminist focus, and earned her BA in creative writing from Ball State University. Her essay Bottle was published in The Broken Plate, Ball State’s literary magazine. Her writing about her home state of Indiana can also be found at valpolife.com and nwindianalife.com (examples are here, here, here, here, and here!). Allison writes primarily nonfication and essays, focusing on her family and where she’s from, topics which she explores through a variety of lenses - her thesis will be a blend of travel writing and personal exloration that covers road trips with her family in the midwest. She owes her inspiration to become a writer to a lifelong love of reading initially inspired by the Harry Potter series and to the influence of wonderful English teachers in high school who encouraged and develop her talent. Her favorite authors include David Grann (Killers of the Flower Moon), Cheryl Strayed (Heroin/e, Wild), Ryan Van Meter (First), Erik Larson (Devil in the White City), and Elena Passarello (Animals Strike Curious Poses). We’re excited to have Allie on board this spring! We introduced her at our April 4 event for Jane Allison’s Meander, Spiral, Explode; many of you got to meeet her then, but she’ll be at future events as well, come meet her and say hi! Also, don’t forget to keep an eye out for her book recommendations, both on this blog and in the store on the staff picks shelf!

Happy Reading, and hope to see you in the shop soon!

-Team OTB