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Renowned Literary Professionals to Lead Drew University Creative Writing Workshops

Emily Nemens and Denne Michele Norris present unique learning experiences for students

November 2021 – Next semester, Drew University will welcome two major literary professionals to lead creative writing workshops: Emily Nemens, novelist and recent editor of The Paris Review, and Denne Michele Norris, the newly-appointed editor-in-chief of Electric Literature.

“Their presence is a huge opportunity for students, and a big deal for Drew,” said Courtney Zoffness, assistant professor of English and director of Drew’s creative writing program.

Zoffness noted students will be able to learn from two accomplished authors who bring the added experience and perspective as respected editors.

“Creative writing workshops focus not only on the generation of new work, but on the essentiality of revision, and Emily and Denne are uniquely positioned to advise on both parts of this process,” she said.

Nemens, whose debut novel The Cactus League was named a 2020 Best Book by NPR and Lit Hub, a Los Angeles Times bestseller, and New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, is excited to help students start at the beginning.

“I think it will be exciting to spend time with the start of the fiction writing process by exploring the elements of fiction, studying and discussing examples of different styles and forms, and, ultimately, helping students craft their own short fiction,” she said.

Norris, whose role at Electric Literature recently made her the first Black trans woman to lead a major literary outlet, hopes to encourage students to keep writing, and expose them to works they might not otherwise encounter.

“My feeling is that it is my job to keep younger writers writing, moving forward—particularly writers  coming from backgrounds or contexts that are rarely rendered on the page, or who haven’t felt their experiences, perspectives, and stories merit being written with authenticity, or even at all. As a Black woman of trans experience, I take this to heart,” she said.

What do these two literary pros hope comes from the workshops?

“A few stories, for starters!” offered Nemens. “Or at least strong drafts of stories—the hard truth of it is some stories get written in a week, and some might take a year or more to get just right. But I hope students come away with not only some confidence in their writing and some strong pieces, but also a toolkit to help them keep working on creative writing outside and beyond the classroom.”

“The goal is to empower students to feel like they have a well-developed toolbox for telling their own stories in ways that will be memorable and meaningful to readers,” added Denne.

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