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Emerging Writer

Justin Howard Rosier (MFA 2018)

by Kaycie Surrell (MFA 2019)

Justin Howard Rosier (MFA 2018). Photo: Kevin Penczak

The beauty of an MFA program is time. Time to work on your writing. Time to work with other writers. Time to develop and strengthen your craft. Justin Howard Rosier (MFA 2018) made the most of his time in SAIC’s MFA Writing program by launching a magazine and expanding a short story into a novel that asks what it means to be Black in America.

One of two $10,000 James Raymond Nelson Fellowship recipients, Rosier has used the award to foster his practice as a writer and a critic. In his final year in the MFA program, Rosier along with SAIC classmates created Critics’ Union, a magazine that aspires to serve as the public editor for critics. “So much of journalism is becoming more opinion-based, so there’s no public apparatus other than letters to the editor to contend with opinion pieces,” says Rosier. “The idea of it is to hold opinion makers accountable, so if we don’t like a critic or if we have an issue with the coverage around a certain topic, we write long-form essays about them.”

Following the launch and debut of Critics’ Union at EXPO CHICAGO last September, Rosier plans to complete his novel, which deals with the death of a young man from Chicago’s south suburbs. “It’s about race and class,” says Rosier. “Is it possible to really know a person, or is it possible to grow and change past a community’s perception of you?”

If there’s a code, Rosier is cracking it. Time spent working diligently in the MFA program led to two fellowships; he also received the Alan Cheuse Emerging Critics Fellowship furthering his opportunities to publish. The James Raymond Nelson Fellowship has allowed Rosier the time to focus on the completion of his novel, and time to work on Critics’ Union—now available at SAIC’s Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection and Quimby’s, a Chicago bookstore.