As an author, Virginia Tech English Professor Ed Falco carves fiction with precision, fleshing out evocative details. As director of the university’s creative writing program, his recruitment and selection of candidates has launched the Master of Fine Arts offering into the nation’s elite ranks.
Falco’s most recent book, released May 8, 2012, is a prequel to Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather.” Reviews of “The Family Corleone” focus on Falco’s riveting style as he acquaints (or reacquaints) readers to the younger Vito Corleone and his family and their lives in and around New York during the Depression.
Falco jokes that writing the prequel was "an offer he couldn't refuse." He also couldn't refuse the offer to take the reins of the creative writing program five years ago.
The master’s degree in creative writing in the Department of English is relatively young. The first full class was admitted in fall 2005. Since then, the program has flexed its poetic muscles, swiftly and steadily climbing the national rankings. In 2012, Poets & Writers Magazine listed Virginia Tech 23rd among 640 Master of Fine Arts programs nationally.
“I loved my five years directing the creative writing program,” Falco said. “It was a ton of work, but it was also a great pleasure to help shape a very young program.”
The program has room for 21 students. When Falco started as director, the program received 40 to 50 applications per year. In 2011, Falco received more than 260 applications for six available slots.
There are a number of reasons for the program's rapid rise, including “good advertising of the program and good recruiting,” Falco said. “Chief among them though, certainly, is the quality, diversity, and national recognition of the faculty.”
Another lure could be Falco’s philosophy. “I think you can teach a person to write — and I know for sure that we can all, faculty and students alike, have a good and rewarding time trying,” he said.
Virginia Tech’s roster of writing faculty includes authors and poets such as Nikki Giovanni, Bob Hicok, Lucinda Roy, Fred D’Aguiar, Jeff Mann, Erika Meitner, and Matthew Vollmer. In 2013, Mann will take over the helm of the Master of Fine Arts program and Vollmer will mentor the undergraduate writers. Joe Scallorns will be the assistant director.
“We have a reputation as a small program that pays a lot of individual attention to our students,” Falco said. “We also have a decent funding package, a good website, and our alums are starting to publish books. All of these things have served to enhance the reputation of the program.”
Falco is the winner of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and the Emily Clark Balch Prize in Fiction. He has written four story collections, five novels, and several plays, in addition to poems, essays, and book reviews. But during his tenure as director, Falco has had limited time to devote to his own creativity. “The Family Corleone” was written almost entirely during summer and breaks from classes.
As of spring 2012, Falco is working on an adaptation of “Crime and Punishment” with his graduate playwriting class.
“The Family Corleone,” which appeared in The New York Times top-25 best seller rankings upon its release, will be published internationally in Britain, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, and Vietnam.
Ed Falco talks about his experiences writing "The Family Corleone."
Other spotlights from the college
Look through previous Spotlight stories