The 2021 Samuel R. Delany Fellowship from Catstone Books awarded recent University of Nevada, Reno Master of Fine Arts graduate in creative writing Naseem Jamnia with a $10,000 prize to work on their second book project. The prestigious fellowship also will provide a New York Time’s best-selling author as a mentor to Jamnia, along with a new computer and other resources. The fellowship will allow the College of Liberal Arts graduate time to complete their second book project and maybe start on a third.
Jamnia graduated from the University in May 2021. Their debut novella, “The Bruising of Qilwa” will release from Tachyon Publications in August 2022. Jamnia’s second book project, “You Came out of the Forest” was their MFA thesis project. This second book takes place 40 years after their debut novella but is set in the same space, according to Jamnia.
The budding author already did another revision of “You Came Out of the Forest” after their thesis was completed and would like to use this fellowship time to complete some final revisions to be sent out to the publisher soon.
Since Jamnia anticipates the second book will be completed before the end of the fellowship, they plan to also start work on their third project. “Shang on the Path” is a young adult contemporary ghost story about a queer, Muslim high school student whose brother died in an explosion.
All of Jamnia’s fantasy writing is centered around sibling stories, and Jamnia learned to hone this craft during their time in the MFA Creative Writing program. While many creative writing programs do not allow for genre fiction, Jamnia chose to attend the University of Nevada, Reno because the program offered this option.
After having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in biology from DePaul University, Jamnia switched gears to pursue their writing passion and sought out the creative writing program in Reno.
“It was exciting to be able to work on speculative fiction and fantasy that’s not set in our world,” Jamnia said.
Moving from across the country, Jamnia said it was especially exciting to be involved in the small-but-mighty literary community in Reno. Their program mentors, Assistant Professor of English David Durham and Associate Professor of English Christopher Coake were Jamia’s encouraging entourage.
“I really appreciated the incredible enthusiasm for my work,” Jamnia said. “There’s not a push for competition among students, but it’s more about collaboration. This comes from the attitude that Chris and David have that make the program.”
While taking MFA courses, Jamnia also earned a graduate certificate in gender, race and identity.
“I explored topics like post-colonialism and oppression; all of which were really invaluable,” they said. “You can find a lot of this in my work. It made me think critically about issues that are hard to think about.”
Jamnia noted the importance of writers having social responsibility for the work they produce. Some of their novellas address topics such as Islamophobia, genocide, racism and anxiety.
“I would encourage all writers to have a social justice lens,” they said.
After completion of their book projects, Jamnia hopes to team up with an MFA colleague to implement community writing workshops where they can bring to light stories on disability injustice and inclusion.