Joel Worford '18, credit: Maggie Graff/Ignited Creative 46
Joel Worford '18, credit: Maggie Graff/Ignited Creative 46

Joel Worford ’18 likens his most recent accomplishment to winning the lottery—though considerably more talent is involved in being accepted to one of the country’s most prestigious creative writing programs than in picking six random numbers.

This fall Worford begins the journey of honing his craft in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which has an acceptance rate of less than 4 percent and boasts an alumni list that includes Rita Dove, Flannery O’Conner, John Irving, Ann Patchett, Jane Smiley, Philip Roth and many other renowned authors. Worford is one of just 25 promising writers in this year’s fiction workshop cohort.

I can’t remember exactly when or how I heard about Iowa, but at some point it solidified in my mind as the MFA program,” he said of Iowa’s two-year workshop. “I applied with the same sort of mentality I’d guess some folks play the lottery with: Long shot, but you never know. The day I received the call saying I’d been accepted was one of the happiest of my life.”

Since graduating from Longwood, Worford has been making a living primarily as a guitarist—his other creative passion—playing with his own band, which showcases his original music, as well as numerous other groups in the Richmond area. He also has been writing and publishing short fiction.

“Last year I got paid for my prose for the first time, which was a milestone,” said Worford, who majored in English with a concentration in creative writing. “This year, the paid opportunities have been more frequent, and writing has become the creative priority. I try to approach each day with the discipline of a working writer.”

Where is he headed after Iowa?

“Finishing and publishing a book is the No. 1 priority. Long-term I would like to teach at the college level,” he said.

As he contemplates the future, Worford is mindful of the support and encouragement he has received from Longwood English faculty, both as a student and as an alumnus. “Professor Mary Carroll-Hackett, Dr. Brett Hursey, Dr. Derek Taylor and Professor Brandon Haffner all wrote recommendations and were great sources of encouragement throughout the Iowa application process,” he said. “The Grainger crew has done so much to support me, in small and large ways. I will always be grateful.”

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