Fall ’23 Creative Writing Open House

Fall 2023 Duke English Creative Writing Open House

A group of students recently joined the Duke English Creative Writing faculty for an Open House. The Open House allowed students to chat with faculty informally about creative writing from all facets, ranging from course offerings to advice on how creative writing can continue beyond the classroom. Among the students in attendance was a local high school senior who has applied to Duke and is interested in majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing.

“I thought it was a super great opportunity to meet creative writing professors and learn about their classes and their experiences. I found the advice they gave was inspiring and helpful, such as how learning poetry can help with prose writing and to find groups of students who are also interested in English to bounce ideas off of and to push you in your writing.”Annette Lu, ’25, Chemistry and Math and English minor

Each of the creative writing faculty members on the panel shared information about the courses they often teach, their writing background, and what classes they will teach during the Spring 2024 semester.

Professor Mesha Maren spoke about being a novelist and pairing her love for writing with her passion for teaching the art of writing. Professor Maren is currently teaching in the Duke in New York program and participated in the Open House virtually through Zoom. She will return to campus in Spring 2024 to teach English 110S.01 - Intro to Creative Writing, an introductory-level multi-genre creative writing course, and English 421S.01 - Advanced Workshop in Writing of Fiction, designed to build upon the skills students have already developed from other creative writing courses.

Professor Faulkner Fox encouraged students in attendance to study various genres and pointed out how studying different genres can help you develop the one you are most passionate about. For example, she noted how poetry can help train one's ear for other genres. This Spring, Fox will teach English 110S.02 - Intro to Creative Writing, which will allow students to explore four genres of creative writing: creative nonfiction, fiction, drama, and poetry. She will also teach English 218S.01 - Plays that Change the World, a creative writing course for aspiring playwrights.

Blackburn Distinguished Artist in Residence, Toby Martinez de las Rivas, shared his insight as a poet and how he incorporates his interest in multi-media into his poetry. Martinez, a visiting professor with the Duke English Department for the 2023-24 academic year, will teach two writing courses during the Spring 2024 semester. He will teach English 220S.01 - Intro to the Writing of Poetry, which Martinez describes as a course that will allow one to create a short portfolio of poems in a supportive setting. He will also teach English 290S-4.04 - Poetry Beyond the Page, which will invite students to "challenge the image of the solitary poet and explore approaches to writing that de-centre the author and question the primacy of text."

Professor JP Gritton led the Open House and shared that as a novelist and short-story writer, he is interested in the psychology of what makes characters in literary works tick. This Spring, he will teach English 221S.02 - Intro to the Writing of Fiction, which will have students reading the works by writers who have mastered the short form. Students will compose short fiction pieces while exploring the narrative craft's building blocks. He will also teach English 290S-4.02 - Anti-Villains, or How to Write a Good Bad Character, a course that seeks to understand what makes a good "bad" character.

While discussing paths to continue writing beyond the class, Professor Cathy Shuman shared that she doesn't have an MFA degree like some of the other members of the panel but instead a Ph.D. in Literature and noted how vital reading is to one honing their writing skills. In the Spring of 2024, Professor Shuman will teach English 217.S.01 - Writing Flash Nonfiction, in which her students will experiment with the creative nonfiction style, tone, and structure while exploring the flash nonfiction genre. She will also teach English 222S.01 - Intro to the Writing of Creative NonFiction: Writing the Self, focusing on autobiographical writing.

Key pieces of advice that Professor Joe Donahue shared with the students were to consider doing an Independent Study in a creative writing area not taught as a course and the opportunity to complete an Honors project. Donahue will teach English 320S.01 - Intermediate Workshop Writing of Poetry that is designed to "deepen students' engagement with the history and practice of poetic art in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”  

The Open House concluded with a Q&A session in which the students asked about developing one's craft, careers, getting published, how to keep the passion for writing going, and how to complement their love for writing with a career that allows them to incorporate writing or at least supports them while they write. 

"Interest in writing has a value that goes beyond dollars and cents..." - Professor Faulkner Fox

Other Creative Writing courses being offered in the Spring 2024 semester include:

English 110S.03 Intro to Creative Writing, taught by Akhil Sharma, intends to introduce students to the intense pleasure of working with language.

English 221S.01 Intro to the Writing of Fiction, taught by Akhil Sharma, plans to introduce students to the building blocks of fiction: point of view, tenses, and plotting.

English 321S.01 Intermediate Workshop Writing of Fiction: "Detectives, Robots and Talking Frogs: Writing Altered/Alternate Realities," taught by Professor Amin Ahmad – "Reading like writers, we will analyze each genre to understand how it creates a new but authentic world..."