Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward is an acclaimed novelist and professor of English at Tulane University. Notable works of hers include Salvage the Bones, The Fire This Time (ed.), and Sing, Unburied, Sing. Her works center on marginalized Black communities and their struggles surrounding poverty, racism, addiction, and incarceration. She is the first African American woman to be awarded two National Book Awards for Fiction for her works Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) and Salvage the Bones (2011). Her newest book, Let Us Descend, was recently published in October of 2023. On Monday, March 18th, Opening Nights hosted Jesmyn Ward, who taught a masterclass for students in Florida State’s Department of English. This masterclass took place at the historic Heritage Museum at Dodd Hall on FSU’s campus. Over 75 students and professors attended, excited for the opportunity to learn from Ward. Her skills as a writer and speaker were evident to all in attendance.

During the masterclass, Ward favored a more personable setting and prioritized maintaining a conversation with the audience. Skip Horack, author and creative writing professor at Florida State University, facilitated the masterclass. Horack’s professionalism and passion for writing further increased the quality of such an expert masterclass. Christell Victoria Roach, an incoming student attending FSU in the fall, traveled from Miami, Florida. “Hearing about Jesmyn’s process, mindset, and journey felt very assuring and gives me hope for many transformations,” said Roach.

Special thanks to Professor Maxine Montgomery from the FSU English Department for being instrumental in making this opportunity available to the students. “We are quite fortunate to have snagged such an accomplished poet whose academic interests cross the boundaries between Creative Writing and Literary Studies,” said Montgomery. “Christell’s decision to attend FSU and her enthusiastic response to Ward attests to the importance of ON and the wonderful work that you do in attracting a stellar lineup of guests. Many thanks for all that you do!” Delivering high-quality educational programs to the Tallahassee community is the mission of Opening Nights in Class, and such programs provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences at no charge to participants.