Carrie JerrellCarrie Jerrell: Program Director
Carrie Jerrell is the author of the poetry collection After the Revival, 2008 winner of the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize and published in the United States and Great Britain by Waywiser Press. Her poems have appeared in ImageSubtropicsThe Sewanee Theological Review, and Passages North, among others. Current work can be seen or is forthcoming in UnsplendidBirmingham Poetry ReviewExit 7Zone 3, and Poem Memoir Story. Carrie received her M.A. from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, and her Ph.D. in English from Texas Tech University, where she was honored as a Chancellor's Fellow. In addition to her Murray State activities, she serves as poetry editor for Iron Horse Literary Review and sits on the boards of 32 Poems and Measure.


Nickole Brown, Murray State MFA Program FacultyNickole Brown received her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, studied literature at Oxford University, and was the editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson. Her first collection, Sister, was a novel-in-poems published in 2007 by Red Hen Press; Fanny Says, a biography of her grandmother from Kentucky, came out from BOA Editions in 2015. She was an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for four years until she gave up her beloved time in the classroom in hope of writing full time. Currently, she is the editor for the Marie Alexander Series in Prose Poetry and regularly teaches workshops at many venues, including Poets House, the Sewanee Young Writers Conference, and the Writing Workshops in Greece. She lives in Little Rock with her wife, the poet Jessica Jacobs. More on Nickole Brown's website.


Blas FalconerBlas Falconer is an assistant professor at Austin Peay State University, where he serves as the poetry editor of Zone 3 Magazine/Zone 3 Press. He is the author of The Perfect Hour and A Question of Gravity and Light, and most recently, The Foundling Wheel; listen to a live reading of the title poem "The Foundling Wheel" on the Poets & Writers magazine website. Falconer's awards include the Maureen Egen Literary Award from Poets & Writers, the New Delta Review Eyster Prize for Poetry, the Barthelme Fellowship and a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.


Riley Hanick Murray State Watkins ChairRiley Hanick is an essayist, journalist and translator whose work has appeared in The Sonora Review, Seneca Review, No Depression, eyeshot and Labor World. He has worked as a bookseller, house painter, security guard, bartender, file clerk, dishwasher, van driver, and busker. Until recently he was a tutor at Safe Haven Shelter and Resource Center in Duluth, which followed stints as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and Kirkwood Community College. His collaborative chapbook with Lydia Diemer, Haishi: An Essay (Tilderrata Books 2009) is hard to come by. His work has received support from the Jentel and McKnight foundations and he has served as a writer-in-residence for the University of Iowa Museum of Art. His essay “The Pradelles” was among the notable essays in the 2010 Best American series. In 2015, Sarabande Books published Three Kinds of Motion, an essay on the development of the interstate highway system, the scroll version of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Jackson Pollock’s Mural. Riley is Murray State University's Watkins Chair in Creative Writing.


Tommy HaysTommy Hays is the author, most recently, of a middle-grade novel titled What I Came to Tell You; now in paperback, it is a VOYA Top Shelf Pick for Middle Grade Fiction 2014 and a Fall 2013 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA), and was chosen for the American Booksellers’ Association’s 2014 Best Books for Children Catalog. The book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and was recommended by The Atlanta Constitution as one of 12 books of 2013 for younger readers. His novel, The Pleasure Was Mine, was a finalist for the SIBA Fiction Award and has been chosen for numerous community reads. His other novels are Sam’s Crossing and In the Family Way, a Book of the Month Club selection and winner of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. He is executive director of the Great Smokies Writing Program and is core faculty for the Master of Liberal Arts and Sciences program at UNC Asheville.  He has taught in the Low-Residency MFA Program of Creative Writing at Murray State University since 2009. More on Tommy Hays' website.


Gary JacksonGary Jackson was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, and is the author of the poetry collection Missing You, Metropolis, which received the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Fugue, Callaloo, Tin House, Phoebe and elsewhere. An MFA graduate from the University of New Mexico, Jackson currently teaches full-time at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, and is a contributing editor at Catch Up: A journal of comics and literature. He has been a fierce lover of comics for more than twenty years.

"This first collection of poems is gauged by a sophisticated heart. Pathos breathes slightly underneath the visual comedy, and this quality is the true genius of Missing You, Metropolis." – Yusef Komunyakaa


Karen Salyer McElmurrayKaren Salyer McElmurray is the author of Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey, an AWP Award Winner for Creative Nonfiction. Her novels are The Motel of the Stars, Editor's Pick by Oxford American, and Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven, winner of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing. Other stories and essays have appeared in Iron Horse, Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Riverteeth, and in the anthologies An Angle of Vision; To Tell the Truth; Fearles Confessions; Listen Here; Dirt; Family Trouble; RedHoller; Women and Their Machines. Her writing has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. She has been named Distinguished Alumna at Berea College and her essay, "Strange Tongues," was the recipient of the Annie Dillard Award from The Bellingham Review. Most recently, she was Lewis Rubin Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University. With poet Adrian Blevins, she co-edited a collection of essays titled Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean: Meditations on the Forbidden from Contemporary Appalachia, released by Ohio University Press.


Elena PassarelloElena Passarello is a prolific essayist on pop culture, music, the performing arts, and the natural world, with essays appearing in Oxford American, Slate, Creative Nonfiction, Normal School, Ninth letter, Iowa Review, and the music writing anthology Pop When the World Falls Apart. Her book, Let Me Clear My Throat (Sarabande, 2012) won the gold IPPY medal for nonfiction and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. More essays are in the anthologies After Montaigne and I'll Tell You Mine: 30 Years of Nonfiction from the University of Iowa, as well as in a collection of criticism and literary essays on cat videos, Cat is Art Spelled Wrong. Her next collection of essays, Animals Strike Curious Poses, will be released by Sarabande Books in 2016. A recipient of the 2015 Whiting Award in nonfiction and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Hambridge Center for the Creative Arts, she received her MFA from the University of Iowa.


Dale Ray PhillipsDale Ray Phillips is the author of the book My People's Waltz, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His short stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best Stories from the South, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, GQ, Zoetrope, and literary quarterlies. He earned an MFA from the University of Arkansas and has taught at a variety of universities, most recently at Murray State University, where he held the endowed Watkins Chair in Creative Writing appointment and now serves as an assistant professor. More on Dale Ray Phillips' faculty page.

"Phillips's prose flashes powerful unpredictability with every delicious little shock." - Publishers Weekly


Lynn Pruett is the author of the novel Ruby River. Her stories and essays have appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Border Crossing, scissors and spackle, Louisville Review, Arts and Letters, American Voice, Southern Exposure, and Black Warrior Review. She has earned fellowships from Yaddo, Sewanee, Squaw Valley, and the Kentucky Arts Council, and has led fiction and creative nonfiction workshops at Vanderbilt University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Alabama, and North Carolina State University. She teaches at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, Kentucky, and raises sheep in Salvisa. Her mother's family has lived in Calloway County since the Jackson Purchase.


skinnerJeffrey Skinner is the recipient of a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry. His most recent book of poems, Glaciology, won the 2012 Crab Orchard Open Poetry Award, and was published in 2013 by Southern Indiana University Press. In 2015 Skinner was given one of eight American Academy of Arts & Letters Awards, for exceptional accomplishment in writing. He has published five previous collections of poems: Late Stars, A Guide to Forgetting (National Poetry Series), The Company of Heaven, Gender Studies, and Salt Water Amnesia. His prose “self help/memoir,” The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets, was called by Katy Lederer of the New York Times Sunday Book Review a "winning coming-of-age narrative." In 2006 he was awarded his second Creative Writing Fellowship ($20,000) from the National Endowment for the Arts. He also writes for the theater, and his full length play DOWN RANGE had a successful limited run at Theatre 3 in New York City in the Spring of 2009, and was produced again in Chicago in 2013. Skinner’s poems have appeared in many magazines, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Nation, The American Poetry Review, The Nation, Poetry, FENCE, and The Paris Review. He is President of the Board of Directors, and Editorial Consultant, for Sarabande Books, a literary publishing house he founded with his wife Sarah Gorham.


Julia WattsJulia Watts is a native of Southeastern Kentucky and the author of nine novels, including the Lambda Literary Award-winning VOYA-recommended young-adult novel Finding H.F.. Her 2007 novel The Kind of Girl I Amwas a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and her 2008 novel Kindred Spiritsis the first in a series of middle-grade novels featuring an unlikely trio of friends: a telepathic girl, a tech-savvy boy, and a ghost. Watts has received grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and her essays and fiction have appeared in a variety of publications, including The American Voice, Brain/Child, The Journal of Kentucky Studies, and Now and Then. She holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University and an M.A. in English from the University of Louisville. She teaches at South College in Knoxville, where she lives with her family and numerous pets. She loves to write.


Contact MFA Program Director Carrie Jerrell at 270-809-4723 or msu.mfa@murraystate.edu to learn more about your future professors.