Firmly In Place

New England icon Edie Clark Joins the MFA Writing Faculty at Southern New Hampshire University

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| Source: Southern New Hampshire University MFA and Creative Writing
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MANCHESTER, N.H., Dec. 20, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- There are writers who live in New England, and then there are New England writers. By virtue of her dirt-under-the-fingernails sense of place, Edie Clark would be of the latter sort—and this winter and spring, she'll be bringing that sensibility to the low-residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction program at Southern New Hampshire University.

"Edie will teach with us for a semester as an affiliate faculty member, and we just couldn't be more excited about it," said program director and novelist Diane Les Becquets. "We draw our faculty from all over the nation, but a strong sense of place is a common element to all the books they write. And in this particular place we call New England, Edie is one of our iconic artists, journalists, storytellers, and interpreters of the New England experience."

Yet she is not herself a native New Englander. Clark and her husband were living in Philadelphia, working for the Chilton Book Company, and longing for a place that offered more of the outdoors. "So it was going to be either New England or Santa Fe, New Mexico," Clark laughed. "Wherever one of us found a job first."

Fortunately for New England, Clark's husband landed a job in customer service at the Book Press in Brattleboro, Vermont. "And that was 1973, when the back-to-the-land movement was just gathering steam," Clark said.

They built their own house in tiny Ashuelot, New Hampshire, planted a garden, went off the electric grid, and installed a composting toilet. Meanwhile Clark did some freelance editing and proofreading until she was hired—as a proofreader—at Yankee Magazine in 1978.

By 1981 Clark was senior editor at New England's flagship magazine. "I loved it there," she said. "Yankee was riding the wave of that back-to-the-land ethos, and I found myself writing about the way we lived—how to heat with wood, how to dry vegetables, and so on. In fact my first article for them was about our composting toilet—a profile of the owner of the company that marketed it. That happened to be Abby Rockefeller, ironically enough."

Now Clark is the author of seven books; has been a Fellow both at the MacDowell Colony and the Hedgebrook Writer's Colony; and a Visiting Writer at Northern Michigan University. Her books range from collections of her eloquent columns, profiles, and articles for Yankee, to a wrenching cult-classic memoir—"The Place He Made"—about the death from cancer of her second husband. "A triumph of the human spirit," said the New York Times in its review of that work.

Clark's newest book, "What There Was Not to Tell: A Story of Love and War," was published this summer. It was a project that began 15 years ago, after the death of her mother and the discovery of a long-cherished wallet photo of a man Clark didn't recognize. Then came the discovery of some 2,000 letters, and finally a quest to find the grave of the World War II soldier whom her mother loved before she loved and married Clark's father.

Clark left Yankee in 2001, albeit she remains a contributing editor and the author of the magazine's popular "Mary's Farm" column. Though all her published work has been nonfiction, she particularly relished her eighteen years as Yankee's fiction editor.

"These days fiction in magazines is almost entirely a thing of the past, but we were publishing Stephen King, Howard Frank Mosher, some wonderful writers," she said. "Whenever we found a story that epitomized something about New England without being sentimental or heavy-handed, it was a shoo-in for us." 

We're back to that sense of place again. "I think fiction—or any kind of storytelling—is made particularly rich that way," Clark said. "A story built just around character—well, that's legitimate. But if, at the same time, you can transport your reader to some vividly realized sense of place, you have a narrative that much deeper and more resonant."

Clark looks forward to working with MFA candidates on both sides of the fiction-nonfiction fence at Southern New Hampshire. "But no matter the genre," said Diane Les Becquets, "she'll probably be asking her students, 'So where is this happening?' And she'll be demanding good answers."

A photo accompanying this release is available at: http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=22810

Richard Adams Carey

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