Michael David Lukas, from College Park to Istanbul

Micheal LukasMichael Lukas began writing his new book, The Oracle of Stamboul,
way back when English inhabited the halls of Susquehanna.  The Oracle, in one of its previous iterations, was actually Michael’s MFA thesis, and it was passed with high honors in 2006. 

Containing over 30 published stories, working understandings of five languages, and editorial gigs ranging from The New American Cooking to The Atlantic Monthly, Michael’s resume is dizzying and inspiring.  Since graduating, Michael has been teaching and writing at places like the Gotham Writers’ Workshop and UC Davis, where he currently works.  And he’s been supported through the active stages of novel-writing by a long list of literary fellowships (check out Martha Woodroof's piece on NPR).  But when asked to describe his work since 2006, Michael kept it short and simple.  “Since getting my MFA, I have taught English to future English teachers in Turkey, I worked at a nonprofit in San Francisco, and I spent a year holed up in the snowy wilds of Madison trying to finish my book. These days, I live in Oakland, CA, less than a mile from where I was born. When I’m not working on the next book, I teach creative writing to third and fourth graders.”  Simple—but wide.

Lukas's breadth is reflected in his novel, which HarperCollins calls a “marvelously evocative, magical historical novel.”  And Latifa Akay of Today’s Zaman pens that “Lukas writes with a lyrical fluidity that merges perfectly with the grandiose setting.”  The novel doesn’t simply portray modern day Istanbul, but reaches back to the late 19th Century, requiring historical as well as aesthetic knowledge.  It makes sense then that, when asked about favorite English classes, Lukas mentioned “John Auchard’s class on 19th Century American Literature and Tita Chico’s course on 18th Century British Literature.” (He also cited “the writing workshops, which are in a class of their own” and “Maud Casey’s Readings course” as courses that greatly influenced his literary life.)  

Oracle Cover

Michael humbly responded to questions of pride, replying “I am very grateful that I am able to spend my days writing, and proud of having my work out there for people to read.”  He is a person who has saturated his life with literature, through his writing, reading, and teaching.  And he recalls this department for both its scholarship and its contribution to his personal sense of a literary community. Michael writes, “I was really impressed by the openness and warmth of all the professors at Maryland, who opened their homes and their lives to us students. House sitting for Michael Collier was especially important to me, in the development of my work as well as my understanding of how to balance writing with the rest of life…Maryland’s MFA program provided me with time and space to write, a community of writers, and a number of important mentors.”  This close community of writers and mentors, coupled with his undeniable talent and tenacity, has helped Michael to build a literary life.  Please support Michael’s recent success!

  Michael keeps his advice to aspiring writers simple and honest: 
"Keep writing."
                                                                                                (Photograph of Michael Lukas courtesy of Jeffery Cross)