The Instructors


Arshia Simkin, cofounder and instructor

Arshia Simkin is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s MFA, one of the country’s top-ranked graduate writing programs. She won Honorable Mention in the 2017 NC State Fiction Contest for her short story “No More Kissing Talk,” was a finalist for the university’s 2017 Shorter Fiction Prize for her story “Son of an Owl,” and a finalist for the 2018 Shorter Fiction Prize for her story, “Chrysalis.” Her essay, “Faded and Bronzed,” won the Elizabeth Holtze Award for Best Creative Nonfiction Essay in Sigma Tau Delta’s literary journal, The Rectangle. Prior to attending NC State’s MFA program, she was a staff attorney at a legal aid firm in upstate New York, where she represented survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. During her time at NC State, she taught three undergraduate creative writing classes and instructed high schoolers at the Young Writers Workshop in Raleigh.

Of her interests in writing, Arshia says: “I moved from Pakistan to the United States when I was six years old, and I write stories populated by the people I grew up with: taxi cab drivers, convenience store clerks, stay- at-home mothers, people on disability, aunts, uncles, cousins, the women forced into arranged marriages—the whole constellation of poor immigrants that are usually ignored. I also write stories about the Western world I’ve grown up in and whose ideals I’ve simultaneously embraced and rejected: stories about obsessive teenage friendships, about loneliness on a college campus flooded with protest, about women who are subjected to emotional abuse by their husbands. There is overlap between these stories: I am always examining what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated society; what it is means to be a outsider, in whatever capacity; and what it means to yearn desperately for moments of connection.”

 Some recent books that Arshia loved include: Leila Slimani’s  The Perfect Nanny (Chanson douce), Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, Geir Gulliksen’s The Story of a Marriage, Tessa Hadley’s Bad Dreams and Other Stories, Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment, and Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs.

 Some of her all-time favorites are: Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, and anything by Jhumpa Lahiri, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ian McEwan.

Sign up for Arshia’s classes if you are interested in: literary fiction, contemporary realist fiction, immigrant narratives, short stories, female-centric narratives, and psychological thrillers.


Emily Cataneo, cofounder and instructor

Emily Cataneo is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s MFA, one of the country’s top-ranked graduate writing programs. Her short fiction has appeared in magazines such as Nightmare, Lightspeed, cream city review, Smokelong Quarterly, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and was long listed for Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 and mentioned in Best SF&F 2018. Her nonfiction has appeared in venues such as Slate, NPR, and the Boston Globe. Originally from New England, she taught adult writing courses at Boston Center for Adult Education; instructed undergraduates in both fiction and nonfiction at NC State; taught middle and high schoolers at the Young Writers Workshop in Raleigh; and founded the Poor & Literate reading series when she lived in Berlin, Germany.

Some recent books that Emily loved include: Samantha Hunt’s Mr. Splitfoot, Clare Beams’ We Show What We Have Learned and Other Stories, Patricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy, Lauren Groff’s Florida, Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Kathryn Davis’ Versailles, Julia Phillips’ Disappearing Earth, Karen Russell’s Orange World.

Some of her all-time favorites are: anything by Kelly Link, Angela Carter, and Shirley Jackson, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and nineteenth-century Gothic classics by authors such as the Brontë sisters and Oscar Wilde.

Sign up for Emily’s classes if you are interested in: fantasy, science fiction, or horror; historical fiction; short stories; novels; nonfiction; and literary fiction.


Jane Craven, poetry instructor

Jane Craven lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing - Poetry from North Carolina State University. She has worked in corporate systems development and as the director of a contemporary art museum. Her poems have appeared in The Columbia Review, Tar River Poetry, The Texas Review, The Carolina Quarterly, and Atlanta Review, among others. She is the recipient of a 2018 Universities and Colleges Academy of American Poets prize, a finalist for the Rita Dove Prize in Poetry, and winner of the 2019 Cloudbank Poetry Prize.

shervon cassim, fiction instructor

Shervon Cassim is a senior lecturer at North Carolina State University, where he teaches creative writing and works as assistant director for the MFA program. He’s also the president of the North Carolina Writers’ Network board of trustees. Shervon grew up in Dubai and worked as a lawyer before pursuing his career as a writer.