Sejal Shah’s debut essay collection, This Is One Way to Dance (University of Georgia Press, June 2020), explores identity, culture, race, and place and was named a “most anticipated” book of 2020 by The Rumpus and The Millions. Sejal is the recipient of fellowships from Blue Mountain Center, Kundiman, The Millay Colony, Ragdale, and VCCA. She is also the recipient of a 2018 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in fiction. She teaches creative nonfiction and fiction, with a special interest in hybrid forms. In addition to teaching in the Rainier Writing Workshop, she is on the faculty at Writers & Books, a community-based literary arts center in western New York, and also teaches writing privately. Sejal recently completed a collection of short stories and is at work on a memoir about mental health. Her Kenyon Review essay, “Even If You Can’t See It: Invisible Disability and Neurodiversity,” was named a 2019 Editors’ Pick by Longreads, and she has recently presented keynote addresses on this topic at Princeton University and UNC Charlotte. She holds a BA in English from Wellesley College and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She lives in Rochester, New York.
Mentor. Workshops and classes in nonfiction and fiction.
Statement: My experience of studying creative writing is that of apprenticeship. I hope to impart what I have learned, my particular lineages and influences, understanding you will absorb what resonates, make it your own, and transmit new combinations to others in your own writing. As a teacher, my intention is to be both supportive and challenging, but above all, to protect what is unique about your voice and style. As a young graduate student, I found workshops to be formative, but also a place where I began to doubt my own instincts. I offer forms, but less prescription, more conversation and description. What are you attempting to do? Who do you admire? Who is your audience; whom do you write for? I will suggest writers and texts we read together: imitations, exercises, modeling, a sense of perspective.
I hope to add to your toolbox, to extend possibilities: a chisel, an anvil, a mirror, eraser, thumb tacks, sparkle, glue, watercolors; a screwdriver, rubber bands, lists, names, stickers. Together, we will work to identify what matters most to you in your writing, reading, practice, work, and play. I see my teachers in the books on my shelves and in the voices of the poets and writers with whom I studied, as well as in writers who are my longtime readers. In thinking about mentorship, two craft books I return to are Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town and Ursula K. LeGuin’s Steering the Craft. Hugo: “In the world of imagination, all things belong.” You are here to write, right now, for a reason. Let’s begin. LeGuin: “To make something well is to give yourself to it, to seek wholeness, to follow spirit.” I am honored to be part of your path of making during your time at RWW.