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New fellowship for early-career writers strengthens creative writing program

SMU MagazineStudents in poet Samyak Shertok’s creative writing class, The Art of Listening, started the semester standing outside, absorbing the sounds of the sky.

“Poetry is finding music in the everyday sounds,” says Shertok, one of SMU’s first two recipients of the Hughes Fellowship in Creative Writing.

The fellowship was created with resources from the Duwain E. Hughes Endowment to further strengthen the intellectual and creative community on campus by bringing two early-career writers to the English department.

One of only a handful of similar fellowships in the country, SMU’s Hughes Fellowship in Creative Writing is generous in time and financial support, says Richard Hermes, director of the fellowship and English faculty member.

“This is one way for us to build on our reputation as a dynamic department and support the work of some of contemporary literature’s best emerging writers,” Hermes says. “We think the Hughes will come to be recognized as one of the most prestigious fellowships of its kind in the country.”

As creative writing fellows, Shertok and novelist Afsheen Farhadi will spend two years at SMU as teachers and mentors to students and as resources to the Dallas literary community. In addition, the fellowship gives them a key asset for early-career writers – time.

Shertok is working on a booklength poem. Farhadi, who teaches a short story writing class, expects to complete a novel during the fellowship. In the meantime, students from a variety of majors fill their classes and gather to hear works-in-progress at readings.

As the fall semester ended, students who began Shertok’s class as listeners wrapped up the class reading their own poems out loud. Fellow students displayed their support with a quiet form of applause – finger snaps.