Get to Know Some New Writing Seminars Faculty
By Craig Morgan Teicher
Ten amazing writers have recently joined the Writing Seminars faculty, and we’re thrilled to introduce them. We asked them to tell us about the last thing they wrote, among other things. Read their answers, as well as some brilliant first sentences from their books and essays.
First Sentence: “From his balcony, Nikhil waited and watched the street as hyacinth braiders tied floral knots, rum sellers hauled bags of ice, and the row of elderly typists, who had seemed elderly to him since he’d been a boy, struck the last notes of their daily work.” —from A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness
The Last Thing I Wrote: “I just finished the first draft of my new novel, and while working on the novel outline this morning, I couldn't help but appreciate the chaotic, intricate mess that awaits revision.”
Teaching Nonfiction and Poetry
Saeed Jones is the author of the memoir How We Fight for Our Lives and the poetry collections Prelude to Bruise and Alive at the End of the World. His poetry and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Oxford American, and GQ, among other publications.
When Not Writing: Jones is one of three hosts, along with Sam Sanders and Zach Stafford, of the weekly news and culture podcast Vibe Check.
The Last Thing I Wrote: "A list of my creative fears inspired by something Mark Wunderlich said during the residency. The last time we have control is right before we begin writing.”
Dana Levin is the author of five books of poetry, including Now Do You Know Where You Are. She co-edited Bert Meyers: On the Life and Work of an American Master. She has received honors from the NEA, PEN, the Library of Congress, as well as from the Whiting and Guggenheim Foundations.
First Sentence: “To be born again, you need/ an incarnation specialist—a team/ from the Bureau of Needles/ to thread you through.” —from Now Do You Know Where You Are
The Last Thing I Wrote: “‘Coffee, on a grocery list, in fading sharpie.”
Rebecca Makkai is the author of five books, including, most recently, I Have Some Questions for You, a New York Times bestseller. Her last novel, The Great Believers, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; it was the winner of the ALA Carnegie Medal, the Stonewall Book Award, the Clark Prize, and the LA Times Book Prize; and it was one of the New York Times' Ten Best Books of 2018.
First Sentence: “I first watched the video in 2016.” —from I Have Some Questions for You
When Not Writing (Books): Makkai maintains a lively Substack, mostly about writing, “but also Zillow, true crime, etymology, food, general inanity.”
Randall Mann is the author of six collections of poetry, including Deal: New and Selected Poems. He is also the author of a book of criticism, The Illusion of Intimacy: On Poetry.
First Sentence: “The palms along/ Dolores street/ do not belong.” —from Deal
The Last Thing I Wrote: “I revised a poem in Palm Springs this morning, rain hitting the pool, looming mountains obscured by the storm.”
Sabrina Orah Mark
Teaching Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry
First Sentence: “As a child growing up in Brooklyn, I had a book of fairy tales I never opened because on the cover it had a salivating crocodile in a brown corduroy vest who I imagined would eat me if given the chance.” —from Happily
The Last Thing I Wrote: “The last thing I wrote was this sentence about the last thing I wrote which leaves me afraid to end this sentence as if this sentence about the last thing I wrote might be my very last sentence ever and so I will add an ellipsis to trick the angels or whoever makes these decisions about last sentences…”
Téa Obreht is the author of the novels The Tiger’s Wife, Inland, and The Morningside, due out this March. She was the recipient of the Rona Jaffe fellowship from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and a 2016 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, among other honors.
First Sentence: “When those men rode down to the fording place last night, I thought us done for.” —from Inland
The Last Thing I Wrote: “My daughter is starting daycare, so the last thing I wrote is her name, in capital letters, on the inside of every jacket, snowsuit, hat, and pair of mittens she owns.”
Shawna Kay Rodenberg
Shawna Kay Rodenberg is the author of the memoir Kin. She has been the recipient of a Jean Ritchie Fellowship and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and her essays have appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, and Elle.
First Sentence: “I used to work with a surly charge nurse who loved to put his hands on his hips and joke, ‘Are you crying? There’s no crying in nursing!,’ in imitation of Tom Hanks’ character in the film A League of Their Own, some of which was filmed in Evansville, Indiana, where I was living and working as a trauma nurse in 2005.” —from “There's No Crying in Nursing”
The Last Thing I Wrote: “I wrote a few paragraphs about my mother (what's new) this morning on my laptop before the sun came up.”
Taymour Soomro is the author of Other Names for Love and co-editor of Letters to a Writer of Color. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and elsewhere. He has degrees from Cambridge University and Stanford Law School and a PhD in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. Photo by Jorge Monedero.
First Sentence: “From his cabin, Fahad could hear his father shouting instructions at someone, his voice so near it was as though he were beside him, and Fahad flinched away. —from Other Names for Love
The Last Thing I Wrote: “I’m trying to get back into a writing routine but it’s a constant battle. I keep telling myself—this sentence may be terrible, but it’s the only way to a better one.”
Toya Wolfe earned an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago. Last Summer on State Street is her debut novel.
First Sentence: “I'd known Precious forever, Stacia a year, and Tonya for just a minute.”
The Last Thing I Wrote: “The last thing I wrote, in my journal, with a pencil, was a declaration about taking a break from writing. I vowed to use the next two seasons (Winter and Spring) to nourish the Person who does the writing.”