Every success story starts somewhere. For Susan Muaddi Darraj, who is an associate professor of English, a writer, and a conference founder and organizer, her roots are firmly entrenched in the classrooms of Rutgers University–Camden, where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English. Drawn to Rutgers University–Camden because it was close to her South Jersey home, she quickly discovered a place where she was constantly encouraged and inspired, particularly by English faculty members Dr. Rafey Habib, Dr. Chris Fitter, Dr. Tim Martin, Ms. Lisa Zeidner, and Dr. Bill Lutz (faculty emeritus). It was this support that served as her springboard into a very successful career, as a writer and college professor.
After she completed her bachelor’s degree, Ms. Muaddi Darraj stayed at Rutgers University–Camden to earn her master’s degree because she wanted to keep working with specific professors, from whom she felt she was learning so much. At Rutgers University–Camden she was also able to get teaching experience as a teaching assistant, an opportunity she calls “vital.” Her time as a teaching assistant convinced her that teaching at the college level was the career she wanted to pursue, and in 2004 she was hired at Harford Community College, located in Bel Air, Maryland. She was awarded tenure at Harford in 2010. Not only has her career choice been rewarding, but she particularly appreciates her place of employment, as well. “I love teaching at Harford Community College because the role of the community college is important to me – the idea that every student has the right and opportunity to learn is a wonderful mission.” Ms. Muaddi Darraj also serves as a lecturer for the Johns Hopkins University Advanced Academic Programs – MA in Writing Program.
In addition to teaching, Ms. Muaddi Darraj is an accomplished writer. Growing up, the self-described “bookworm” began writing her own stories in middle school, and she hasn’t stopped since. She’s the co-editor of Approaches to Teaching the Works of Naguib Mahfouz, the editor of Scheherazade’s Legacy: Arab and Arab-American Women on Writing, and the author of The Inheritance of Exile: Stories from South Philly, which was recognized by the U.S. State Department’s Arabic Book Program, and was a finalist for both the AWP Award Series in Short Fiction and the John Gardener Fiction Prize.
Recently, she submitted her current manuscript, A Curious Land: Stories from Home, for consideration for the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, a contest run by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). Much to her surprise and delight, her manuscript won the award, and with it, a publication contract with the University of Massachusetts Press.
A Curious Land: Stories from Home is a collection of linked stories featuring villagers from Tel al-Hilou, and their descendants, who have, over the course of one hundred years, immigrated to the United States of America. According to contest judge Jaime Manrique, “[Ms. Muaddi Darraj’s] empathy for the large cast of embattled characters is miraculous. In particular, we get to know the quietly heroic Palestinian women in these stories as intimately as we know the people closest to us. Astonishingly, this collection is, above all, about the transformative powers of love.”
Clearly, writing is important to Ms. Muaddi Darraj, and it’s something she’s passionate about sharing with others. After she and a colleague attended a writers’ conference that was, in her words “terrible – just terrible,” she, Dave Housley, an editor at Barrelhouse, and Julie Wakeman-Linn, editor-in-chief at the Potomac Review, decided to organize their own conference. In 2007, the Conversations and Connections Conference: Practical Advice on Getting Published began, and it’s still going strong, seven years later. As Ms. Muaddi Darraj explained during an interview with Ploughshares Literary Magazine, this conference centers around what “would be useful to writers, where they would leave having made contacts with editors and writers, and where they would feel more connected to their local literary scene – knowing the journals and presses right in their region.”
Ms. Muaddi Darraj’s list of accomplishments is already long, and the list is certain to get longer. She credits Rutgers University–Camden with providing her with a strong foundation, saying “I’ll always be grateful for the six years I spent at Rutgers University–Camden.”
About Susan Muaddi Darraj
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Camden College of Arts and Sciences Graduation Date: 1997
Graduate Program: English
Graduate School-Camden Graduation Date: 1999
Written By Julie Roncinske