Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Alexs Pate

Alexs PateAlexs Pate (Fiction, Poetry) is the author of five novels including the New York Times Bestseller Amistad, commissioned by Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks/SKG and based on the screenplay by David Franzoni. Other novels include Losing Absalom, Finding Makeba, The Multicultiboho Sideshow and West of Rehoboth, which was selected as “Honor Fiction Book” for 2002 by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Alexs’s first book of nonfiction, In The Heart of the Beat: The Poetry of Rap was published by Scarecrow Press January 2010. His memoir, The Past is Perfect: Memoir of a Father/Son Reunion will be published next year by Coffee House Press. An excerpt of the memoir appears in the Fall 2007 edition of Black Renaissance Noire. Alexs’s poetry collection, Innocent, was published in 1998. Alexs is an Assistant Professor in African American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota, where he teaches courses in writing and black literature, including a course on “The Poetry of Rap.” He is currently at work on two novels, The Slide and a story about a black pirate captain, Adventures of the Black Arrow: Search for Libertalia.

Selected Publications:

In The Heart of the Beat: The Poetry of Rap. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2010.

West of Rehoboth. Novel. New York: William Morrow, 2001.

The Multicultiboho Sideshow. Novel. New York: Avon/Bard, 1999.

Amistad: A Novel. New York: Signet, 1997.

Finding Makeba. Novel. New York: G.P. Putnam, 1997.

Losing Absalom. Novel. Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 1994. 3

Short Stories:

“The Rumor.” After Hours: A Collection of Erotic Writing by Black Men. Ed. Robert Fleming. New York: Plume, 2002. 149-158. (invited)

“To Haiti or To Hell.” Gumbo: An Anthology of African American Writing.

Eds. Marita Golden and E. Lynn Harris. New York: Harlem Mood Broadway Books, 2002. 714-724. (invited)

“Death by Coffee.” Merry Christmas, Baby: A Christmas and Kwanzaa Treasury. Eds. Paula L. Woods and Felix H. Liddell. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996. 90-93.

“Losing Absalom.” Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America. Eds. Herb Boyd and Robert L. Allen. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995. 256-264.

"The Butterfly Tree.” The Butterfly Tree: An Anthology of Black Writing from the Upper Midwest. Eds. Conrad Balfour and Seitu Jones. Minneapolis, MN: New Rivers Press, 1986. 62-71.


“On the Midwestern Front.” Drumvoices Revue: A Confluence of Literary, Cultural & Vision Arts 9.1-2 (Summer/Fall 2000): 135. Innocent. Princeton, NJ: Kutanei Press, 1998.

“Great Plains African” and “Tan.” The North Stone Review 12 (1995): 232, 233.

“In the Crow‟s Nest at Night.” Indigene: An Anthology of Future Black Arts. Ed. Black History Museum Committee. Philadelphia, PA: Black History Museum UMUM Publishers, 1978. 78.

Ten Poems in The Butterfly Tree: An Anthology of Black Writing from the Upper Midwest. Eds. Conrad Balfour and Seitu Jones. Minneapolis, MN: New Rivers Press, 1986. 72-84. 4

How I Teach:

I love being engaged in a story.  In many ways, it doesn’t matter whether it is one I’m writing or one I’m reading.  The idea that we can sit down at a desk or a table somewhere and make up a story that opens up new worlds and new ways of understanding life is what makes what we do so exciting.  It’s this excitement that I bring to the work before me, as a mentor and as a writer.  My standard for my interaction with writers both inside and outside the classroom is to give feedback that challenges and encourages at the same time. I encourage students to experiment with language and use innovative and quirky approaches; however, it is the story itself—the unfolding of action, image, and meaning—where my primary interests lie. This means that I generally respond to issues that arise from within the story, what Aristotle called energia or the potential that exists between character and situation.

 In the special relationship that occurs between mentor and writer it is important that the student-writer can come to expect dynamic and engaged interactions that yield an enthusiastic and honest critique.  My goal in every such relationship is to share my knowledge of the details of fiction—particularly the construction of character, story and intellectual engagement (with the reader)—in order to help the writer craft fine, powerful stories that amplify our lives with meaning.

I believe the writer must also be a reader but that the books being read during the process of creating may or may not be related.  Consequently I depend on the student's instincts as well as our overall objectives to identify the material to be read.  The annotations are important in that the student is actually reading material that might directly affect what they are writing.  I enjoy learning how the interaction between reading and writing the books chosen for annotation impacts the course the writer is taking.

 I prefer receiving material through email and then responding to the student first by phone (if it makes sense) within five days.  This is followed up with written feedback also through email.  Specific comments about sentences, paragraphs, etc are made on the story and attached to that email. 

Throughout the semester I am available for mutually scheduled conversations.