Director, Creative Writing
Johnny Payne is the Director of the MFA in Creative Writing and teaches Novel Writing, Playwriting, and Poetics. His novels include Confessions of a Gentleman Killer and The Hard Side of the River. His collection of essays The Reluctant Assassin, under his nom de plume Étienne D’Abattoir, was published in 2021. He directs theater and is the author the recent plays Los Feliz, Touchstone, and Cannibals. Payne has published two books of poetry. His most recent book of poetry is Funeral Playlist. He's at work on a book of short stories, titled Fish Head. Also in the works is an ethnographic study of dance, ritual, and oral tradition in contemporary Peru.
Every student who enters our program is capable of performing at a professional level by graduation. My classroom is an objective space in which students are free to take risks, using “technique as discovery.” I value both the role of the intellect and that of intuition. As a teacher, I am method-driven, a lover of precision, of passionate, close reading that leads to a mastery of form. My courses are as much about process as product. It is essential to be a voyager in literary history to understand what to write now.