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Q&A with Joyce Chen, 2022-2024 Writer in Residence

With August waning, fall quarter is just on the horizon—which means the start of our next academic year! To kick things off, we chatted with Writer in Residence Joyce Chen about her return for a second year in the residency, her experience connecting with the Hugo Fellows, and her upcoming class, Writing Grief: Time, Form, & Memory, that she’ll be teaching with us this fall!

Joyce ChenInterview with Writer in Residence, Joyce Chen

We’re excited to have you back for another year of residency. How do you envision this second-year building upon the first; how will this second term distinguish itself from the first?

I’m really excited to be back for a second year, and to work with a new cohort of writers, poets, and artists. I envision this second year as a space for expansion — helping the fellows to deepen their relationships to their art and to each other; meeting with more writers from the community and learning about their questions and desires; and finding ways to connect disparate members and organizations from the Seattle area to create the strong bonds that will bolster our writing community. The first year was a lot of finding my footing and seeing how I might best serve in this role; the second year is all about taking action to empower more writers, to build community for everyone who believes in the power of story.


Tell us about the project/manuscript you’ve been working on during your residency. How has this residency shaped your work, your process, your relationship with writing?

This past year, I’ve been digging deep into my manuscript, a memoir-in-essays that examines the lived experience of second-generation immigrants through the lens of time perception. I’ve spent many afternoons typing away at Hugo House, and being in constant conversation with other writers has helped buoy me through some tougher writing days — hearing what issues other writers are tussling with or what concerns they have about their own work always serves as an important reminder: we’re all in this together. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, but we don’t have to go it alone.


Tell us about your work with the Fellows cohort. What have you learned from mentoring and coaching throughout your first year, and what are your goals for working with the Fellows during this second year?

I’ve really loved working with this year’s cohort of Fellows. They are all so brilliant and tender — it’s been a privilege to witness their growth both on the page and off. I’ve been reminded of the importance of collaboration in the creative process, and it’s been exciting to see how different genres and forms can help inform one another. For the incoming cohort, my main goal is to listen deeply to each of the Fellows and see how I can begin to build bridges for them to the people and the resources they might need to level up, wherever they are in their creative journeys.


How has this experience in the residency surprised or changed you?

This first year of the residency has really whipped by! I think my biggest takeaway so far has been that transparency is perhaps one of the most valuable resources you can give a writer or an artist, whether it’s talking about how books get published or what to think about when querying agents. As writers, we’re up against so many obstacles just to get our art out there in the world, so it’s of utmost importance that we help each other whenever and however we can. Transparency is a sign of respect and gives all parties agency to make the decisions they need to make, and it’s rarer to come by than one might think.


What are you currently reading?

I just finished Jane Wong’s Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City, which I loved, and I just started digging into Letters to a Writer of Color, an anthology edited by Deepa Anappara and Taymour Soomro.


You’re also teaching a class with us this fall! Tell us about the class and what excites you about the topic.

I’m really looking forward to teaching this course, Writing Grief: Time, Form, & Memory, as this is a topic I think about a lot—not just how do we write about deeply emotional experiences, but why. What do we hope to attain or learn by writing into uncomfortable or dark situations, and can we lead with that north star as a way to guide us through our art-making? I’m really looking forward to sharing some great pieces I’ve been collecting over the years surrounding different topics of grief, and to having really fruitful discussions about the how’s and why’s of how we all try to navigate the stickiness of life through writing.


Learn more about Joyce’s work at Hugo House:

Learn more about Joyce’s residency and schedule a consultation with her »
Register now for her upcoming class starting on Sep. 28, Writing Grief: Time, Form, & Memory »

Learn more about Joyce Chen:

Twitter: @joycechenchen