David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series Last Two Visitors for Spring Semester 

Duke English creative writing students have had the pleasure of creative writers visiting their classes to share their experiences, answer students' questions about writing, and provide tips on improving their writing skills.   

Guest authors to Professor Maren's "Intro to Creative Writing" class this spring have included Kendra Allen, Tyree Daye, and Paul Yoon.   Professor JP Gritton’s “Intro to the Writing of Fiction” class enjoyed virtual visits from Cidinha da Silva and Adrienne Perry. 

"Overall, it was cool to read writers' work and then talk to them in class. I've never really had the chance to do this sort of thing, so it helped me think of writing in new ways and feel more confident in my own work. I think this should remain part of the class!"

– Pierce Forte, c/o '22, English 110S “Intro to Creative Writing” class member.   

Fiction and short story author Paul Yoon visited Professor Mesha Maren's English 110S "Intro to Creative Writing" class on March 25th.  Prior to the visit, the class read Yoon's short story, “Vladivostok Station,” which was published in Harper Magazine in 2016.  Yoon opened his visit by letting the students know that he was open to chatting about anything they preferred, including their own work.     

Members of the class asked Yoon questions about what inspired him and what advice he might give to young writers who feel stuck.  Yoon noted that writers themselves are often the harshest critics of their work.  He advised the students not to be hard on themselves, especially when working on a first draft.  He encouraged them to write and get to the end of whatever literary pieces they are working on.   

"Get to the end and then rebuild." - Paul Yoon 

He noted that his approach to writing projects focuses on the core he is fixated on and

Zoom screenshot of Paul Yoon

does not put any of that on the page.  Yoon emphasized the importance of having other people read your drafts and writing.  “Readers are critical,” he noted and advised the class to share their work with readers who can identify things for writers to fine tune.     

Yoon, a self-proclaimed book nerd, said that reading books inspired him to get into writing.  He recommended two novels for the class to read: Anuk Arudpragasam's The Story of a Brief Marriage and Lydia Millet's A Children's Bible.   

"I have always looked up to professional writers as being perfect at their craft and felt like I was missing some natural talent. Hearing from our guests in class taught me that natural talent is not necessary to be a writer – professionals struggle, get stuck and are imperfect too, but I learned a lot from them on how to improve. I'm excited to incorporate this advice into my own writing!" – Pierce Forte, c/o '22, English 110S “Intro to Creative Writing” class member.

Full video of Paul Yoon's visit - https://youtu.be/gED9O59L2rs 

On March 29th, author and professor at Villanova University Adrienne Perry visited Professor JP Gritton’s English 221S "Intro to the Writing of Fiction" class. Prior to the visit, the class read the first chapter of Professor Perry’s forthcoming novel See Through Girls. During her visit she provided the class with another sneak peek by reading the sixth chapter.  Before reading, she told the class this was the first time she had shared this chapter with anyone and asked the class to feel free to provide feedback.   

Perry shared that she has been working on See Through Girls since 2016, and it has changed over time.  Before starting on this book, she had mainly focused on short stories but wanted to try her hand at a novel, even though she knew from many of her peers that writing their first novel had been quite a struggle.   

During her conversation with the class, Perry stated that she finds teaching to be humbling

Zoom screenshot of Adrienne Perry

as you try to be helpful to those you are teaching.  She went on to say that teaching from experience places one on a different level; when one’s teaching touches on personal research and writing, it helps motivate the teacher as well as the student.   She noted that editorial work encourages her and has helped her build confidence as a writer.   

When asked for works that the class should add to their summer reading list, Professor Perry suggested the following: 

  • Bryan Washington's novel Memorial or his short story collection Lot 
  • Olga Tokarczuk's novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dea
  • Michelle Cliff's autobiographical If I Could Write This in Fire 

Following her visit to Professor Gritton's class, Professor Perry was asked about the experience of being part of the David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series: 

"I thoroughly enjoyed this Zoom class discussion and reading. So often, these kinds of events can lack spirit, but what I loved about my time with JP's class was the conversation, the excellent questions, and hearing these new and emerging writers talk about their process, publishing, and their work. I found our exchanges inspiring and galvanizing for sitting down to write the next day." – Adrienne Perry, Villanova University 

Full video of Adrienne Perry's visit - https://youtu.be/0egRbcAg_KI 

Both of these guest lecturers noted the vital role that reading plays in one’s writing, as well as the importance of sharing one's writing with others to develop writing skills. 

The David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series has been a bright spot during this period of virtual and hybrid learning, providing students with the opportunity to interact and to learn first-hand from professional writers. 

"There aren't any ‘rules’ in fiction writing, which is part of what makes fiction so wonderful. Still, I think that writers, no matter what stage we are in our careers, hunger for hints, ‘signposts’ on the journey. This semester's theme for my Intermediate Fiction Workshop was ‘Call and Response.’ That is, those stories that respond to a ‘parent’ narrative, either through pastiche or allusion or outright imitation. The David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series represented a unique opportunity for students to see this theme manifested in conversations with practitioners of the craft. In our Q & As, my students asked brilliant questions and received brilliant answers, ones that will enrich their fiction for years to come." – Professor JP Gritton