Student Spotlight: AJ Wells, English graduate student

Iowa City turned into a summer destination for Andrew (A.J.) Wells when he was accepted into a major writing workshop there. With encouragement and support from Dr. Paula Backscheider, the Philpott-Steven Eminent Scholar in the Department of English, Wells applied to the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop and spent eight weeks in the historical city. Wells is originally from Buena Vista, Georgia, and graduated with a degree in English (Classics) from The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. At Auburn, he is a second year master’s student in the Department of English with concentrations in both literature and creative writing. He is also an instructor of record for two composition classes. 

“AJ came to our graduate program with an unusually strong liberal arts background that he was often able to apply in sophisticated ways. He is also a voracious reader, and, in my seminar, he was willing to take on any challenge. I knew that he would not be intimidated by the atmosphere at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and would take full advantage of the opportunities,” Backscheider said. 

According to its website, the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop was the first creative writing degree program in the United States, and since its founding in 1936, the program has been home to thousands of remarkable writers. The program claims among its graduates winners of virtually every major literary award. 

AJ Wells in front of the history Dey House in Iowa

“I truly enjoyed the opportunity to study at the famous Dey House this summer (pictured above). The program as a whole was an encouraging place to work and develop. I grew so much as a writer and found many new opportunities while I was there, including becoming an official judge for Writer's Digest's Self-Published Book Awards. Until this summer, Iowa City had always been such a famous, distant place to study creative writing. I found it a true thrill to turn this dream into a familiar, realistic setting for growth,” Wells said. 

Wells studied fiction under American author Tom Drury while he was at the Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. There, Wells spent time refining the first 50 pages of his novel with guidance from Drury. 

“Living in Iowa City during the workshop and studying under Tom Drury has been a literal dream come true,” Wells said. “I’m so grateful to Auburn University for supporting me in this endeavor, to the English Department for providing some funding, and to Dr. Backscheider for encouraging me to apply and provide a Philpott-Stevens Graduate Student Fellowship. I’d also like to thank Dr. Backscheider and Professor Rose McClarney for reading over my application materials.” 

For more information about Auburn's English graduate programs, please visit: 

Written by Vicky Santos | Director, News & Media Services | College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University 

Last Updated: August 21, 2019