Southern New Hampshire University's MFA Low-Residency Program Heightens Focus on Outdoors and Place

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Southern New Hampshire University’s Low-Residency MFA program in fiction and nonfiction has increasingly become the place to study writing about “place,” specifically the natural environment. That focus was once again touted with the program’s newest faculty hire, Mark Sundeen.

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Mark captures perfectly the culture of our program,” said SNHU’s MFA Director, Diane Les Becquets. “He lives and breathes the outdoors.

Southern New Hampshire University’s Low-Residency MFA program in fiction and nonfiction has increasingly become the place to study writing about “place,” specifically the natural environment. That focus was once again touted with the program’s newest faculty hire, Mark Sundeen.

Sundeen's first book landed in the publishing world in 2000 from a dusty trailer in the Utah desert. “A riotous, beautiful, totally original road novel masquerading as a travel book," wrote George Saunders of Car Camping."

His second book The Making of Toro (Simon & Schuster, 2003) garnered comparisons to Hunter S. Thompson and David Sedaris, and introduced readers to the would-be literary hero, Travis LaFrance. In 2010 the book was translated into French. With The Man Who Quit Money (Riverhead 2012) he established himself as one of the day's most innovative writers of creative nonfiction. “This is a beautiful, thoughtful and wonderful book," wrote Elizabeth Gilbert. "I suspect I may find myself thinking about it every day for the rest of my life.” Sundeen's award-winning features and essays appear in the New York Times Magazine, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, McSweeney’s and The Believer.

Sundeen was born in Harbor City, California, in 1970. After graduating from Stanford University, he spent 10 years in Moab, Utah, sometimes homeless, working odd jobs, river guiding, and leading Outward Bound wilderness courses. Sundeen holds a masters degree in writing from the University of Southern California.

“Mark captures perfectly the culture of our program,” said SNHU’s MFA Director, Diane Les Becquets, who discovered Sundeen at the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference where Sundeen was teaching. “He lives and breathes the outdoors, looks for stories like one digging for artifacts. He knows when he’s onto something. And he knows how to teach others to write. I observed him teach, and I was hooked. When I listened to him read, I was hooked even more. His writing is taut and effective, and he’s funny in that western, dry way.”

“I’m thrilled to be joining the program at SNHU, especially with its focus on getting right down to writing your book. That’s what I did when I was in school, and the book was sold to a publisher before I finished my degree,” said Sundeen.

The program’s winter residency is held in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and its summer residency in the Isles of Shoals. “I love beautiful places,” said Sundeen. “What drew me to the program was its strong sense of community in inspiring locations. Even if you’re not writing about the outdoors, I think you write better when you can see something out the window.”

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