The Department That Challenges My Writing

March 31, 2020
Mia Salas

In my English seminar “The Novel Since 2000,” one of the books that we read was Sheila Heti’s “How Should a Person Be?.” During our discussion of the novel, my professor just casually slipped in that Sheila Heti would be coming to campus. While seemingly a miracle that this author, whose book we were debating, analyzing and writing about in class, would come give a talk and reading on campus, it is actually not that uncommon at Princeton. 

Last year, I was writing my final paper for my writing seminar using Ingrid Fetell Lee’s “Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness,” and Lee just happened to be giving a talk on campus during this time. And in “Reading Literature: Fiction,” an English course I took last spring, we read Helen Oyeyemi’s “Mr. Fox.” Oyeyemi is on the schedule to pay a visit to Princeton as well! 

The Program in Creative Writing brings acclaimed writers to campus and showcases the writing of our talented community through the C.K. Williams Reading Series and the Althea Ward Clark W’21 Reading Series. But events and opportunities to meet authors, poets and screenwriters are just the start of what the department is about.

View of Campus from Creative Writing Classroom

I’ve taken four creative writing courses at Princeton: “Introduction to Fiction,” “Creative Writing (Fiction),” “Advanced Fiction” and currently, “Creative Writing (Poetry).” Clearly, I really love fiction writing, but I decided to give poetry a try this semester. My favorite part about creative writing courses is workshop, where we each present our latest piece of writing for our peers to discuss and suggest revisions. Workshop is definitely scary at first, but it’s really given me the confidence that I need in my writing, and I’ve also had the pleasure of reading the fantastic work of my classmates. 

The creative writing professors are also a huge reason why it’s one of the best departments on campus (I’m only slightly biased). I’ve had Phil Klay, Idra Novey, Kirstin Valdez Quade and Susan Wheeler as my professors, and there’s also Jhumpa Lahiri, Michael Dickman, A.M. Homes, Joyce Carol Oates, Tracy K. Smith and so many other spectacular mentors. It’s not just the talent and accomplishments of these professors that shape the department: it’s their ability to create a welcoming and respectful class environment, their efforts to get to know us and our writing on an individual level and their above and beyond kindness and encouragement. 

I hope to get a Creative Writing certificate and keep taking courses in the department that challenges my writing and pushes it to be the best it can be. I’ve always loved to write since I could pick up a pencil, so it’s sometimes crazy to see how my writing has changed over the years, and the Program in Creative Writing is a big part of those changes (for the better!).  

If you have any questions about creative writing at Princeton or want to hear more about my experience, please feel free to reach out — ­I’d love to chat!