MFA in Creative Writing Director Jayne Anne Phillips to be Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters

When the American Academy of Arts and Letters holds its annual induction and award ceremony in mid-May, Jayne Anne Phillips, author, professor, and founding director of the MFA in Creative Writing program at Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N), will be among the twelve new members inducted into the 250-person organization.

Lorrie Moore, secretary of the board of directors of the Academy, says, "Jayne Anne Phillips, a writer of Faulknerian boldness and poetic range, began as a young writer of vibrant and original short stories; her collection Black Tickets was groundbreaking narrative art. Now 40 years later she is the author of many works of prose fiction, including the novels Machine Dreams and Lark & Termite that are masterpieces in the genre of the American war novel. She is a brilliant talent."

Phillips developed the MFA in Creative Writing program from the ground up, with a vision to create a “dynamic MFA for the 21st century, a time in which diversity and communication will be paramount.” By the time the first classes began in the fall of 2007, the program was already being hailed by The Atlantic as one of the “five up-and-coming programs in creative writing in the U.S.” As an author, she has received critical acclaim from The New York TimesThe Chicago Tribune, and Publishers Weekly, among others. Her first book of stories, Black Tickets, published in 1979 when she was 26, won the prestigious Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has written five novels, two collections of shorts stories, and numerous essays and articles. Her 2009 novel Lark and Termite was nominated for the National Book Award in fiction.

“Jayne Anne Phillips has been one of my favorite writers since Black Tickets,” said Jan Ellen Lewis, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences –Newark, upon hearing the announcement.  “I can’t believe how lucky I am to have her as a colleague and our students, to have her as a teacher.”

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Early members include William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, Julia Ward Howe, Henry James, Edward MacDowell, Theodore Roosevelt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, and Edith Wharton. The Academy’s 250 members are elected for life and pay no dues.

Cody Upton, the Academy’s executive director,said the process is fiercely competitive, “Each year, the board of directors declares the number of vacancies to be filled in each of the three departments: Art, Literature, and Music. The Academy's members then nominate new potential members, and a ballot is sent first to each respective department, and then to the membership as a whole. On the final ballot, Jayne Anne Phillips and the other new members in the Department of Literature had to receive a majority of votes cast by the other writer members of the Academy.”

In addition to electing new members as vacancies occur, the Academy seeks to foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts by administering over 70 awards and prizes, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater, and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country. An exhibition of art, architecture, books, and manuscripts by new members and recipients of awards will be on view in the Academy galleries in New York City from May 24 to June 17.

For a complete list of new members visit