Spring ’24 Creative Writing Open House

’24 CW Open House Panel

On March 25th, several Duke English faculty and more than 20 undergraduates met to discuss “Sex, Money, Death (and PIZZA): Why you should be a Creative Writing Minor.”

Each semester, the Duke English Department hosts an Open House for students to learn about the craft of creative writing from faculty members whose areas of expertise include poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Faculty share their writing experiences, what attracted them to a particular genre, how they approach writing, what courses they teach, and a sense of their teaching styles.

The theme for the Spring ’24 Creative Writing Open House is a play on the saying that every book has either sex, money, or death as a subject matter.  Pizza was added as an extra incentive and a pre-dinner snack.  To begin this event, each panelist introduced themself and spoke about the creative writing courses they will teach next semester. Then, each one read a work that related to either sex, money, or death.

Panelists asked questions about what students want to learn. Professor Amin Ahmad asked why they take creative writing classes.

"I'm not pursuing a major related to writing, but I've always been amazed by what writing can do, whether creating mental images, producing emotional responses, or conveying ideas profoundly and thoroughly. Put simply, I believe that writing can often be the best way to express what it's like to experience something. So, while I wouldn't consider myself to be a writer, at least not right now, I do try to find ways to be as close to that world as possible and to put myself in situations where I can learn from those who have extensive experience with and deep knowledge of the craft.Zane Harrison, '24, Computer Science and English minor

Professor JP Gritton asked what Creative Writing courses students would like added to ensure that Duke English provides classes that meet their needs and interests. Professor Akhil Sharma encouraged students to visit professors during their office hours, especially if that professor is knowledgeable in an area that they are curious about or if they want to simply chat with them outside the classroom setting. He invited students to stop for a visit even if they are not currently taking a class with that faculty member.

Some of the poets on the panel shared how their love for poetry originated from an interest in another genre, and fiction writers expressed how they often envy those who have perfected the art of poetry. This discussion touched on how a person’s literary genre preference can transcend as one learns more about what they like and finds their niche. As Professor Ahmad noted, a short story may be the warm-up for a forthcoming novel.

Faculty provided a range of writing advice. Professor Joe Donahue suggested that students consider what their writing is saying beyond the words they select for the page. Professor Toby Martinez de las Rivas, Visiting Blackburn Artist in Residence, spoke about opportunities to work on a genre, collection, or a piece beyond the traditional classroom opportunity, whether it is the focus of an Independent Studies course or simply asking for a professor's assistance on a piece that they are passionate about. Professor Donahue added that students can also consider an honors project centered around a piece or collection of writing that they would like to craft into something greater than an assignment.

The panel discussed their experiences with Master in Fine Art (MFA) programs and other professional development they have participated in during their creative writing careers. They encouraged students interested in creative writing to take advantage of Duke English courses, faculty office hours, and opportunities to write and connect with good writing. They hammered home the importance of surrounding oneself with other good writers to continuously improve their craft.

Creative Writing Course for Fall ’24

  • ENGLISH 110S.01 - Intro to Creative Writing - Cathy Shuman
  • ENGLISH 110S.02 - Intro to Creative Writing - JP Gritton
  • ENGLISH 110S.03 - Intro to Creative Writing - Frances Leviston
  • ENGLISH 220S.01 - Intro to The Writing of Poetry - Frances Leviston
  • ENGLISH 220S.02 - Intro to The Writing of Poetry – Toby Martinez de las Rivas
  • ENGLISH 221S.01 - Intro to The Writing of Fiction: Writing Without Fear - Amin Ahmad
  • ENGLISH 221S.02 - Intro to The Writing of Fiction - Mesha Maren
  • ENGLISH 222S.01 - Intro to The Writing of Creative Nonfiction: Creating Reality - Cathy Shuman
  • ENGLISH 290S-4.01 – Special Topics in Creative Writing: From Memoir to Fiction – Akhil Sharma
  • ENGLISH 290S-4.61 – Special Topics in Creative Writing – Poetry and the Archive – Toby Martinez de las Rivas
  • ENGLISH 320S.01 - Intermediate Workshop: Writing of Poetry - Joseph Donahue
  • ENGLISH 322S.01 - Intermediate Workshop: Writing of Creative Nonfiction Art of The Personal Essay - Faulkner Fox
  • ENGLISH 420S.01 - Advanced Workshop in Writing of Poetry - Nathaniel Mackey