I am a mistress of spices.
I can work the others too, mineral, earth, metal and sand and stone. The gems with their cold, clear light, the liquids that burn their hues into your eyes ’till you see nothing else.
I learned them all on the island,
but the spices are my love.
The words are from the novel The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Divakaruni, acclaimed author and professor in the acclaimed Creative Writing Program. Housed in the department of English, the nationally-ranked Creative Writing Program brings blossoming poets and novelists together with scholars and accomplished writers who share their practical and professional experiences about the industry and craft.
“A lot of my writing deals with diversity, particularly in the Indian immigrant community. And my hope certainly is that readers, when they come across these stories, begin to see, oh, these people are really very like us. We share a common and deep humanity. And this is what I tell my students, as well, that literature writing can bring about togetherness in a world that really needs it,” Divakaruni said. She is the author of more than 15 books, including Shadowlands and The Palace of Illusions.
Directed by Professor James Kastely, the Creative Writing Program faculty include many greats of the literary world including poet Tony Hoagland (Donkey Gospels, What Narcissism Means to Me), author Nick Flynn (Another Bullsh*t Night in S*ck City, The Ticking is the Bomb) and graphic novelist Mat Johnson (Incognegro, Dark Rain). Past faculty include Donald Barthelme, Edward Hirsch, Ruben Martinez, Kimiko Hahn and Claudia Rankine.
“Our students have a great advantage because they have decided early on that this is what they want to focus on. This is their path. This is the bliss they’re going to follow,” she said. “They are much more organized about it and just being in a writing program allows them to learn everything in a more organized manner—independent study or master workshop. They’ll get a lot of help along the way. A lot of what I had to learn on my own.”
Students learn about themselves as writers as they work with each other through workshops and seminars.
“I think real success is when they come back years later and say, ‘you know what, these years over here, they really made a difference to me. They made me into the kind of writer I am happy to be today.'”
Creative Writing Program is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
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