Director of MFA in Creative Writing Program at City
Professor Linsey Abrams is the director of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at City and is a former alum of the then nascent creative writing MA started in the 1970s. She is proud and pleased to be leading the biggest post graduate writing program within CUNY.
As a child of post-World War II self-styled “modern” parents, Linsey was allowed to bring home any books she wanted from the library, sometimes over the protests of the librarians, who felt adult books were for adults only. But her mother was adamant. She recalls summer days lying around with her mother and her brother reading with just breaks for lunch, an auspicious start for any writer. Linsey’s father added to this potent creative home environment of reading and literature, a self-educated man obsessed with the “anti-hero” in literature.
In Linsey’s family, “fiction was considered the source of mysterious yet indispensable knowledge. This was not intellectual as much as it was a point of view on life: that you should think about it and your place in it. That’s in part why, from the time I was a little girl I wanted to write.”
Linsey continued to read through her childhood and school years (despite various librarians’ best efforts), but it wasn’t until she went to Sarah Lawrence College that she seriously began to write her own fiction. Here she found her greatest mentor in the late Grace Paley, who's casual asides could reveal the largest of human truths.
"Two of her comments, written on 3x5 cards, have been tacked over my desk, wherever it was, since I was 18: Be accurate. Go deeper. Four words that opened the road between myself and the reader. Between myself and myself.”
Linsey enrolled in the writing graduate program at City College, because all the young, would-be writers she knew in New York were either in the program or applying. They all lacked money for private school, but in any event “there was a sense that City was a little enclave uptown of originality and excitement. This was true.” It is regaining that reputation.
Here at City she met another great mentor and life long friend, Frederic Tuten, "whose infectious love of literature, delicate attention to words, and wide knowledge of literature, film and art are rare gifts."
Linsey started her first novel at City, where in the late 1970s the literary excitement and necessity to connect with other writers, “made our lives fun. Writing seemed the most important aspiration on earth.”
Now as the director of the MFA, she sees how the literary world and the publishing industry have changed, but the desire to write has not. The Program seems as original to her now as it did when she was a student. “And we are still a community of writers, who send countless books worth reading out into the world.”
Linsey is the author of the novels Charting by the Stars, Double Vision and Our History in New York. Her stories have been published in such magazines as Bomb, New Directions Annual and Glimmer Train, and anthologized in Editors’ Choice: Best Short Fiction and Tasting Life Twice: Literary Lesbian Fiction, among other collections. Her reviews have appeared in The New York Times and The LA Times Book Reviews, and her essays on contemporary literature in such journals as The Mississippi Review, Quimera (Barcelona), The Review of Contemporary Fiction and Michigan Quarterly.
Most recently, she was a finalist for the Mississippi Review Fiction Prize and a recipient of a Pushcart Prize. Abrams has received grants from New York Foundation for the Arts, Creative Artist Public Service Program, New York State Council on the Arts and the Titus Foundation. In 2009 she co-wrote a new introduction to The Women's Room by Marilyn French.
She is the founding editor of Global City Review and Global City Press, she has edited and overseen the publication of the Review, an eclectic journal of literature and ideas, as well as a dozen collections and anthologies of women’s fiction, poetry and nonfiction, since 1993.
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