Spring 2023 Fiction Open House

Duke English recently hosted its Spring "Fiction Open House," focused on Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs. A panel consisting of members of the department's creative writing sector: Professors Amin Ahmad, JP Gritton, Mesha Maren, Akhil Sharma, and English Ph.D. candidate Anya Lewis-Meeks, provided insight into MFA programs, writing paths without an MFA and fielded questions from the students in attendance. This "Fiction Open House" event offered undergrad writers in the Duke community a chance to ask about postgraduation writing opportunities.

"Many students are interested in writing after college but are anxious about how to sustain themselves in the ‘real world.’ They wanted to hear from faculty how we created space and time to write." – Professor Amin Ahmad

Panelists presented their perspectives on MFA programs and professional development as academics and writers. Each panelist shared how they came to writing and the path that led to their current position. They discussed with the audience the different types of MFA programs, and the importance of an MFA if one wants to pursue a career in teaching. The panel encouraged attendees with a passion for writing to find a way to write, whether it is seeking an MFA, enrolling in workshops, journaling, or simply setting aside time to write while pursuing other endeavors. 

Professor Mesha Maren talking about “Reason to get an MFA"

"It was very interesting to learn how my fellow panelists made their way as writers after we finished our undergraduate educations—through creative writing PhDs, low-residency MFAs, and adult writing—and that many of us had jobs and wrote while we could." – Professor Amin Ahmad

Photo of Spring ’23 Fiction Open House panel
Professor Ahkil Sharma addresses the audience during the Spring ’23 “Fiction Open House”.

The Spring “Fiction Open House” provided tips on ways to continue writing beyond the classroom for those with a passion for writing but still need to figure out where that might fit in their overall professional goals. Professors Ahmad and Sharma shared stories of their career paths, including studying and working in architecture, finance, and law, before their careers in creative writing and academia.

"I liked the wide range of experiences the creative writing faculty have had. Some of these professors did not pursue an MFA, such as Professor Amin Ahmad, who spoke about the writing scene in Boston, and Professor Akhil Sharma, who also pursued other professional studies before deciding to write. Other staff had completed MFA programs, such as Professor Mesha Maren (who I am so lucky to get to work with next semester) and Professor JP Gritton (who I also was lucky enough to work with in creative writing), while Anya Lewis-Meeks is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at Duke after completing her MFA at Columbia." – Ruby Wang, ’24, English and Visual Arts major

The panel encouraged students to share thoughts on creative writing courses they would like to see taught in the future and ways Duke English feeds their desire to become the best writers possible. A few of the suggested course offerings were:

  • Narratives of Health/Medicine
  • Workshop on character building
  • Personal Essay
  • Writing for other mediums: video, essays, or video games

The Spring '23 "Fiction Open House" was the second event hosted by Duke English as the department works to learn more about students' interest in creative writing and provide a chance for faculty and students to share thoughts and ideas on how to enhance and develop the department’s offerings.

"I've been really excited to see some of the students in attendance around campus in the time since the talk. I hope to keep these conversations going, whether at events like this, or via email/in person in the future!" – Anya Lewis-Meeks, English Ph.D. candidate 

Duke English plans to continue hosting events of this nature regularly to continue allowing faculty and students an opportunity to collaborate. We will be host "The Future of Fiction," on Tuesday, April 25th, at 5:30 p.m. at the Frances P. Rollins Overlook in the Sarah B. Duke Gardens.