R264. Avoiding the Sunken Place: On Blackness, Selfhood, and the MFA

Grand Salon B, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm


What is it like to earn your MFA as a Black writer? What are the benefits? What are the pitfalls? Five multigenre writers of the African diaspora discuss what they fought or fear losing about their identity while pursing their MFA and the subtle and not so subtle ways Black narratives are dissolved into the literary mainstream. Panelists will also reflect on how their MFA experience shaped their self-hood and their sense of community on the page and off.



Dianca London Potts earned her MFA in fiction from The New School and is the online editor of Well-Read Black Girl. Her work has been featured in Vice, Lenny Letter, Obsidian, The Village Voice, and elsewhere. She is a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow, VONA Voices alumna, and a Pushcart Prize nominee.

Dennis Norris II is a 2017 MacDowell Colony Fellow, a 2016 Tin House Scholar, and a 2015 Kimbilio Fiction Fellow. His writing appears in SmokeLong Quarterly and Apogee Journal, where he currently serves as fiction editor. He holds degrees from Haverford College and Sarah Lawrence College.

Yahdon Israel is a twenty-six-year-old writer who writes about race, class, gender, and culture in America. He's a contributing editor at LitHub and runs a popular Instagram page which promotes literature and fashion under the hashtag, #literaryswag. Above all else: he keeps it lit.

Tara Betts is the author of Break the Habit and Arc & Hue, as well as the chapbooks Never Been Lois Lane and 7 x 7: kwansabas and the libretto "THE GREATEST!: An Homage to Muhammad Ali." She is a visiting lecturer in the First Year Writing Program at University of Illinois-Chicago.

Jessica Lanay is a poet and short story writer from Key West, Florida. She is pursuing an MFA in poetry at the University of Pittsburgh and is a Callaloo and Cave Canem Fellow. Her work can be found in Salt Hill Journal, Sugar House Review, and other places. She is the founder of Jasper Collective.


February 7–10, 2024
Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Convention Center