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Grad students share their stories at ‘Works-in-Progress’ reading series


The University of New Mexico’s creative writing program hosted its first “Works-in-Progress” reading of 2023 on Friday, Feb. 24 at Tortuga Gallery from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Approximately 50 students, faculty and community members attended the reading that featured three master of fine arts students and one English faculty member: professor Dan Mueller.

As the name implies, the reading series offers writers a chance to share their works in the process of being developed and revised, according to Mueller.

“The purpose of the series is really to create community. It’s the most popular reading series that is associated with UNM’s MFA program, and it always has been. Graduate students, undergraduate students and faculty members all really come together to share their work. I think it is one of the great things our program has going for it,” Mueller said.

Echo Jardini started the evening with a series of six short poems inspired by writer Lydia Davis’ short stories.

“When Leo sent out the invitation for people to read, I said ‘I want to try these out in front of an audience because that would give me more of a sense of how they would land.' This is a great place for me to test out the work that I’m doing,” Jardini said.

Emmy Alameda read second with her short fiction piece entitled “Elena After.” It was a piece that she began for a class last semester but only selected and edited the morning of the reading.

“I was just editing it, and I was like, ‘Ok, I think I can read this.’ I drafted it last semester and then I did a couple of edits for that class and then didn’t look at it for all of winter break and then looked at it again this morning,” Alameda said.

Kyndall Benning shared her short fiction piece entitled “Tree Number 3.”

“I really wanted to do a new creative nonfiction, but I didn’t get it done in time. So this was my backup from the onset. I really enjoy this one. It’s really fun, light, easy to read — that’s why I picked it,” Benning said.

Mueller also read a piece that straddled the line between creative nonfiction and short fiction titled “The Palisades.” The piece will be published in an upcoming collection of short fiction called “Anything You Recognize.”

“I’ll tell you, it’s both (creative nonfiction and short fiction). I published it in ‘The Chicago Quarterly Review’ as creative nonfiction, and it’s going to appear in this book that’s coming out in September, a collection of short fiction, as fiction. I’m trying to straddle both genres,” Mueller said.

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Virtually every seat in the gallery was occupied. For those reading, being in front of an audience plays a key role for their development as writers and for their work.

“It was a really enjoyable read. I really loved the audience. I love listening to Dan laugh, too. It was really great,” Benning said.

For Alameda, this was her second time reading at a “Works-in-Progress” event.

“My first experience was over Zoom, so it was way different. This was cool. I was a little nervous at the very beginning, but as the story was wrapping up, I was like, ‘Ok, I get to get off stage soon,’” Alameda said.

While there was no theme for the reading, all the readers incorporated humor to varying degrees in their works, including Jardini.

“There is definitely a history of funny poetry. I can think of someone who can read really funny poetry, Craig Santos Perez. I saw him read once, and he has these poems about food that are so funny. And there are other poets who do the same thing. Billy Collins, his poems tend to be really funny as well. It is definitely not something that is unknown from the genre,” Jardini said.

The Works-in-Progress series occurs monthly at the Tortuga Gallery, which is located at 901 Edith Blvd Southeast in Albuquerque. The readings are free to attend. For more information on future events from the creative writing program, including the “Works-in-Progress” series, follow the program on Instagram @unm_cwmfa.

Gabriel Garcia is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on Twitter @GLGwrites 

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