A couple years after Katie Hughes-Pucci ’20 (MFA) finished her undergraduate degree in theater and writing at Providence College, her mother passed away. About four years later, her grandmother also passed away, and about three years after that, her father.
“In the span of about seven years, I lost my three people,” Hughes-Pucci said. “And throughout that seven years, I had to shift in my life to be a caretaker for my grandmother and my father, who were both ill and in need. And so I put my creative self away, and I didn’t really think about it.”
But it wasn’t all bad news. During those same seven years, Hughes-Pucci also fell in love and got married. “Through all this struggle and grief, I was still finding a wonderful life,” she said. “But there was something missing. And it was a friend who said, ‘You used to write all the time. Have you looked at that?’”
This friendly prompt pushed her into thinking about an MFA program. Hughes-Pucci, who is from Rhode Island, said that doing the low-residency Newport MFA in creative writing just felt right, as Newport has always been in her backyard. She was also working full time and needed the flexibility. “I think that’s the beauty of a low-residency program in general,” she said. “And it’s where Salve just shines through.”
To earn the two-year MFA, students complete five residencies in Newport and Havana, Cuba. Hughes-Pucci said the residencies were a highlight of the program, along with mentoring opportunities from many different guest faculty. In the Newport MFA, mentors change each semester, which is different from many other MFA programs.
Hughes-Pucci completed the creative nonfiction track and has amassed a collection of essays that she hopes one day will become a memoir. Much of her writing centers around the grief of losing her mother, father and grandmother. She has found that writing around these difficult topics has been extremely rewarding and therapeutic, and the ways she’s grown as a writer of authentic human emotions is important to her.
“I was 24 when my mom died … right at the cusp when you start to connect with a parent on a different level – as an adult instead of as a mom,” Hughes-Pucci said. “And I really missed out on some of that. But now, in going back in my writing, I’m able to make those connections. I’m able to really meet her and spend time with her in a way that I never got to when she was here. So that’s beautiful for me.”