Fairfield MFA Alumni Write Their Own Hollywood Endings
From earning an Emmy nomination and landing a feature film to topping some of the summer’s hottest reading lists, three of Fairfield University’s MFA in Creative Writing alumni couldn’t have written a better ending for their latest projects, even as the authors of their own fate.
Earlier this spring, Deadline Hollywood announced that Shriver, the critically acclaimed 2015 novel written by alumnus Chris Belden MFA ’11, would be adapted into a highly-anticipated indie comedy starring Emmy Award-winning actors Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense) and Thomas Haden Church (Sideways), along with Oscar-winning Actress Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost). Belden’s comedy of mistaken identity tells the story Shriver (played by Church), a man mistaken for a famous and reclusive author of the same name, who attends a writers conference only to find himself caught in a whirlwind of literary pretention, suspected in a criminal investigation, and hopelessly in love with a woman (played by Collette) who thinks he's someone else.
“From the very beginning, we just loved the clever premise,” said Jamie Carmichael, president of Film for Content Media, the international film, television and digital sales company that is introducing the movie to buyers at Cannes this year. But Shriver isn’t Belden’s first foray into film. He has written and co-written several screenplays over the years, including Amnesia, which was made into a 1997 feature film starring Ally Sheedy and John Savage. Belden currently lives in Connecticut and teaches writing at a local continuing education program, in addition to a high-security men's prison.
Another alumna making Hollywood headlines is Kathryn Eber MFA ’14, who recently received an Emmy nomination for her writing on the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN) children’s series, Ethan’s Music Room. An educational interstitial program for children ages 3 to 6, Ethan’s Music Room fosters an understanding and love of the arts by following a 14-year-old musician, composer, and entertainer as he illustrates how music can bridge culture, learning, the arts, and social development.
Eber is an education specialist for outreach at the CPBN Learning Lab, where she helps plan and coordinate educational programs and events that bring local, state, and national public media activities to communities around Connecticut.
Peter Kahn MFA ’17 is another Fairfield alumnus rising to the top of the publishing industry’s most prestigious reading lists with the release of his 2017 book The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks. Kahn is a co-editor of the critically-acclaimed anthology that celebrates the life and work of poet and civil rights icon Gwendolyn Brooks through a dynamic new poetic form, the Golden Shovel, created by National Book Award–winner Terrance Hayes. The last words of each line in a Golden Shovel poem are, in order, words from a line in one of Brooks’ poems, which are written to enable both a horizontal reading of the new poem and vertical reading down the right-hand margin of Brooks’ original. An array of Pulitzer Prize winners, T. S. Eliot Prize winners, National Book Award winners, and National Poet Laureates have written poems for the exciting new anthology that was hailed by New York Times poetry editor Matthew Zapruder as one of seven “timeless collections,” alongside the likes of Pablo Neruda, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, James Tate and W.S. Merwin. The book also tops literary magazine The Kenyon Review’s summer reading list with editor Maggie Smith saying its “poems are as varied and dazzling as the poets who wrote them.”
"It's a joy to see alumni like these three writers achieving such successes,” said Sonya Huber, fellow author and program director for Fairfield University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. “Our students graduate with highly developed writing skills but also with the ability to make the kinds of connections that allow these publications and accolades to come to fruition. We are so proud of them and the whole alumni community."
To date, Fairfield MFA alumni and students have published over 42 books, in addition to hundreds of articles, essays, stories, and poems. For information, visit fairfield.edu/mfa.