Students and Faculty Exchange Ideas

Image of open book with words floating out of the pages

Duke English recently hosted its first "Fiction Open House," and more than two dozen students attended. Creative writing faculty members met with students to discuss courses offered by the department and future offerings. This event served as an opportunity for students to learn about writing fiction and the courses Professors Mesha Maren, JP Gritton, and Amin Ahmad will teach next semester.

The idea for the "Fiction Open House" came from an experience Professor Maren had during her residency at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, during which Professor Matt Randal O'Wain, a member of their English department, hosted a nonfiction information session. Maren felt this was an excellent opportunity for professors and students to share thoughts and ideas on creative writing classes and their development.

Each faculty member talked about their teaching and writing styles and shared information about the courses they will teach during the Spring of 2023. Professors Maren and Gritton led the students in a short writing assignment before the Q&A session. The "Fiction Open House" allowed audience members to gain insight into courses they might want to consider for next semester.

Image of “I am a writer” being written on a page

One of Professor Gritton's current creative writing students, JM Stroh, a junior majoring in Computer Science and Statistical Science and minoring in Creative Writing, shared his takeaway from attending the "Fiction Open House":

The Fiction Open House was cool; it was neat to hear about different themes the professors intended to pursue with their classes next semester. Barring an unforeseen change of events, I will take Prof Gritton's anti-romance advanced fiction class… One of the professors indicated he is interested in teaching a cinematic fiction class – super cool.

Dylan Munson, an Environmental Policy Ph.D. candidate who has an interest in creative writing, was in attendance:

I found hearing from practicing writers in the department extremely helpful. It was interesting to hear what other writers who are beginning their careers are thinking about and want to learn. It made me excited to learn more about the creative writing offerings at Duke.

The "Fiction Open House" allowed students to suggest content for future courses. They expressed interest in classes ranging from "Contemporary Poetry" to "Writing a Novel."  Faculty members appreciated student's suggestions and noted the overwhelming interest in the possibility of a course offering in "narratology."

I think what it may be reaffirms is that, when it comes to the texts we read for class, students are a great resource about who and what we should be reading. 
Professor Gritton

Duke English plans to host more events that allow faculty and students opportunities for craft discussion, writing workshopping, course development, etc., outside the classroom.

I think I can say with confidence that we'll make it a regular thing, in some form or other: an evening of discussions of craft, free-writes, and so on. – Professor Maren