Associate Professor of English John Dalton (right) and alumnus Ryan Krull, MFA 2014, taught a five-week creative writing seminar over the summer at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Students at Fudan University in Shanghai got a taste of the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ MFA in Creative Writing program this past summer. John Dalton, associate professor of English, and alumnus Ryan Krull, MFA 2014, taught a five-week seminar in creative writing at the prestigious Chinese university.

Two general creative writing courses were taught to Fudan sophomores and one graduate fiction craft course to graduate students. For both Dalton and Krull, the classes offered them some insight into a different cultural approach to creative writing.

“My Fudan students were more concerned with the practical uses of learning to write fiction in English,” Dalton says. “In fact I think it’s quite practical to write stories or novel chapters as a way of deepening your understanding of English.”

Krull had the same experience in the classes he taught.

Dalton is pictured with his Fudan undergraduate students. (Click image to enlarge.)

“The bar was raised high for our students,” he says. “On top of grammar and usage and everything else you have to worry about when learning a new language, we were also asking them to be entertaining, to tell a story, to write with beauty.”

When Dalton and Krull weren’t busy teaching, they spent time exploring Shanghai.

“I liked the vastness of the city, the constant whir of activity, the mix of old China and new international Shanghai,” Dalton says. “You could do something as innocent as go out to buy some peanut butter at Chinese Wal-Mart and wind up having an adventure.”

And the adventures were abundant. A bike ride around Shanghai at night with the Shanghai Bicycle Club was a special activity arranged by Krull.

“There is no better way to experience a city than by bicycle,” Krull says. “Car traffic is crazy there. The stoplights and stop signs are just suggestions – as are the lines painted in the road. So that lends an added element of excitement when biking.”

Dalton described him as a “fearless explorer.”

Home now and back for the semester, the teaching abroad experience has not yet faded. Dalton is presently working on his third novel, which he says will likely have an extended section that takes place in Shanghai. The trip has influenced Krull’s writing as well.

“I’m focused on short stories at the moment,” he says. “And, well, before last May none of the characters in them had been to Shanghai. That is no longer true. Funny how that works.”

Currently, Krull is a student support specialist and teaches writing courses at UMSL.

This fall, Dalton is leading the St. Louis Writers Guild and Saturday Writers‘ fiction workshop Oct. 21 at Main Street Books in St. Charles, Mo.

This story was written by Marisol Ramirez, a UMSL student pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing.

The UMSL Experience

Marisol Ramirez

Marisol Ramirez