Award-winning journalist, Zahir Janmohamed, will lead Salt Writing Track

The program will relaunch in the Fall 2024 semester

The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies at Maine College of Art & Design (MECA&D) is pleased to announce that award-winning journalist, Zahir Janmohamed, will lead the Writing track, relaunching in Fall 2024.

Janmohamed is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Bowdoin College and co-founder of the James Beard Award-nominated podcast, Racist Sandwich. The podcast, which explores the intersection of food, race, gender, and class, was selected as one of the best 100 podcasts by Vulture, and in 2020, Esquire UK named it as one of the best podcasts. He has received fellowships from MacDowell, Tin House, the Arab American National Museum, The Mesa Refuge, the Djerassi Resident Arts Program, the Norman Mailer Center, and the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, and his articles have appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Foreign Policy, Guernica, The Washington Post, CNN, and NPR. 

Drawn to the program because of Salt’s reputation, Janmohamed shares, “I had heard of Salt long before moving to Maine—it has a storied history and there aren't many other places in the country like it.” He goes on to say, “There is a certain bar that is set by the graduates, so you can challenge Salt students to go further which results in work that tends to get so much deeper and more complex.”

Drawing from journalism, personal essays, narrative storytelling, and even fiction techniques, students in the Salt Writing track will produce three submission-ready pieces: a short essay, a profile, and a long narrative. Janmohamed hopes to teach students the value of having a diverse toolkit as a storyteller, sharing, “Regardless of what an artist’s medium is, I think it’s useful to learn alternative ways of storytelling when you hit a wall.”

In the writing track, students will learn how to identify, research, and report compelling stories. They will gain an understanding of narrative structures, master the art of critique and revision, learn how to pitch story ideas, handle documentary ethical issues responsibly, and promote themselves as writers. He says, “I believe that art, writing in particular, requires structure, so one of the values I try to impart is to give artistic practice structure, deadlines, peers and accountability.”

Students can expect the program and the classroom to be different from traditional settings. Janmohamed describes the classroom as, “Like a writer’s room, where we’re hashing out ideas, thinking through them in real-time, and giving each other feedback. It’s much more of a peer environment, and one that I don’t get anywhere else.”

In addition, students will have the opportunity to meet editors and other industry leaders and will work on publishing their stories. At the end of the semester, the final pieces will be publicly presented and included in the Salt Story Archive.

Janmohamed goes on to say, “There is tremendous power in the written word, and specific personal narrative is something that Chat GPT has yet to clone. Throughout history, there have always been ways that artists and writers reinvent themselves, and right now we’re in one of those shifts.”

The priority enrollment deadline for Fall 2024 is April 7, with the general application deadline following on May 5, 2024. Learn how to apply to Salt here.