Felicia Zamora: English MFA was ‘turning point’

Felicia Zamora Photo 2020
Felicia Zamora

Entering the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing redefined Felicia Zamora’s professional trajectory in a way that continues to support her personal aspirations.

Zamora (MFA ’12, Creative Writing) has accepted a tenure-track position as assistant professor of English at University of Cincinnati, where she begins in fall. But before arriving at what she considers a dream position, Zamora’s circuitous career path led her to advising and administration roles with Colorado State University’s College of Business and CSU Online. It also brought her to the Department of English as a student and, later, an instructor.

“The creative writing MFA program was pinnacle — a turning point in my life,” Zamora said. “As a first-generation Mexican kid, it was hard to admit to my myself and my family that poetry was where my heart was.”

“We live in a society where art isn’t something for poor kids— we aren’t told ‘be an artist’ or ‘support art.’ We aren’t given those motifs in childhood.”

Beginnings

Zamora grew up in Alden, Iowa, a town of fewer than 800 people, where her grandparents owned the Alden motel and she lived with her mother, sister, and brother . After high school, she attended Iowa State University. She majored in communications studies and minored in English.

“I was absolutely enthralled with poetry,” she said.

Still, upon graduation in 2001, she took a job with the admissions office at Iowa State, which took her to events in different U.S. cities. She decided during this time to move to Chicago or somewhere in Colorado.

“Iowa was a place that wasn’t really mine,” she said. “It wasn’t a place where I belonged.”

In 2005, Zamora moved to Fort Collins for a position as an advisor in the College of Business. Once there, she enrolled in master’s-level classes in CSU’s Department of English. She held other positions in the business school, including assistant director of its Beverage Business Institute, while studying poetry.

After taking a few English courses, Zamora applied for the MFA program and was admitted in 2007.

The Creative Writing MFA

“Nothing felt so natural in my life as teaching for the first time in the MFA program,” she said about teaching Beginning Creative Writing as part of her studies. “I was teaching people who wanted to learn about creative writing as a discipline. They wanted to be artists and they wanted to be literary citizens, and that was exciting to me.”

Zamora continued to study poetry, to teach and to write, through 2012, when she completed the MFA program.

“I discovered the tenacity to publish,” she said. “Publication becomes a gateway into a larger conversation on poetics.”

Zamora is author of five published books of poetry, two chapbooks, and two manuscripts in progress.

After the MFA program, Zamora continued to work in the College of Business and in 2016 took a program manager position with CSU Online. There she became proficient with online course creation and delivery. She designed the English department’s online beginning creative writing course in 2017, having been recommended by professors Dan Beachy-Quick and Todd Mitchell. Zamora has taught the course remotely since 2018.

Leaving Fort Collins

In 2017, after a 12-year academic and professional career at CSU, Zamora moved to Arizona to take a new position at Arizona State University’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. She became senior coordinator, then education programs manager.

“It was the first time my creative writing life and higher education work merged,” she said. “I was managing all the educational programming for the Center, including their Piper Writer Studio courses in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, as well as running the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.”

She described the experience as fulfilling and recounted it fondly. But this past semester, her dream opportunity of a tenure-track teaching position opened up in Ohio.

“Being a first-gen woman of color in the arts is not an easy trajectory,” she said. “I am proof of what’s possible— when someone sees a life they desire but can’t yet see themselves in. If it’s possible inside the mind, it’s possible outside of the mind.”

The future

In her new role at University of Cincinati, Zamora will teach undergraduate creative writing while also teaching creative writing for the Ph.D program.

“I am so honored to be joining their faculty,” she said. “Their students are amazing, driven, and creative. I can’t wait to  work with them and be a part of their learning environment. But the English department at CSU is one of my homes, and it always will be.”

Zamora will return virtually in Spring/Summer 2021 to continue to teach the online creative writing course she developed for CSU.

Body of Render book cover
Body of Render releases from Red Hen Press on May 12, 2020. Click the image for a listing of Zamora’s work.

Felicia Zamora

Felicia Zamora is a poet, educator, and editor currently living in AZ. She is the author of five books of poetry including: Quotient forthcoming from Tinderbox Editions in 2021, Body of Render, winner of the 2018 Benjamin Saltman Award from Red Hen Press (2020), and Of Form & Gather, winner of the 2016 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. She’s received fellowships and residencies from CantoMundo, Ragdale Foundation, PLAYA, Moth Magazine, and Martha’s Vineyard, authored two chapbooks, won the 2019 Wabash Prize for Poetry and the 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize, and was the 2017 Poet Laureate of Fort Collins, CO. Her poems are found or forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, American Poetry Review, Boston Review online, Crazyhorse, Georgia Review, Indiana Review, Lana Turner, North American Review, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, Missouri Review Poem-of-the-Week, The Nation, West Branch, and others. She received her MFA from Colorado State University where she teaches creative writing courses online and is the Associate Poetry Editor for the Colorado Review. Find out more at @feliciazamorapoet or feliciazamora.com.