• Staff Spotlight: Kirstin Chen

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments 1 comment

    Over the past few weeks we’ve been introducing you all to the wonderful consultants and coaches who help keep WriteByNight running like the smooth, well-oiled writers’ services machine it is.

    Recently we welcomed to WBN Kirstin Chen, a talented and lively member of Frisco’s literary scene. Below is a Q&A with Kirstin, followed by a brief bio.


    Where are you from?

    Born and raised in Singapore, but I currently live in San Francisco, where I hope to remain for a good long while.


    Where did you study?

    I got my BA from Stanford, and I got my MFA from Emerson College.

    Who are some of your influences?

    I think I learn from every single thing I read. Most recently: I’m in the middle of Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove, a collection that is making me question why everything I’ve ever written has been so grounded in realism. I just finished Matt Salesses’s I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying, which has got me reconsidering that old writing adage about being brave enough to let your characters do terrible things to each other.


    What is the hardest part of writing for you?

    Working without hard deadlines. In preparing for the publication of my first novel, I’ve discovered what a gift it is to work with an editor. It’s so easy to stay motivated when there’s someone there to guide and assure and encourage you—and when there’s a bunch of people in New York waiting for you to turn in a draft. As I shift my focus to my second novel, much of my energy goes toward convincing myself that this writing needs to get done. right. now.


    What is your strangest writing experience?

    It’s always strange when the writing feels effortless. Typically I write slowly; there’s no wealth of ideas bubbling out of me, waiting to make it on the page. But every once in a while, something clicks. It happened the other day when I was writing an essay about yoga. I wrote the whole thing in one short burst, and when I went back to revise, I found, miraculously, that the structure was pretty sound. I’m not sure what to take away from that experience. Maybe just to be grateful when it happens?


    What is your favorite word and why?

    My favorite word is “banal.” Isn’t it such a pretentious-sounding word?


    What’s the last book you read and what did you think of it?

    As I mentioned earlier, I’m currently reading Karen Russell’s brilliant Vampires in the Lemon Grove. First, that’s one of the best titles I’ve ever seen; second, it really is brilliant.


    Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

    Here’s something my grad school mentor, Pam Painter, used to say: “You absolutely can torture a piece of writing into publication.” In other words, revision, revision, revision.


    Kirstin Chen, consultant, coach and instructorKirstin Chen (San Francisco, California) is a former Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing, and the author of Soy Sauce for Beginners, forthcoming in November 2013. She has won scholarships to the Sewanee and Napa Valley writers conferences, and her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Zyzzyva, Hobart, Pank, and others. She holds a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from Emerson College, where she taught writing for four years. Born and raised in Singapore, she currently resides in San Francisco.



    More Staff Spotlights:

    Andrew Tilin

    Cecily Sailer

    Giuseppe Taurino

    Steve Adams

    Daniel Kalder

    Nick Courtright


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    […] damned people, one would hope so. Among them are WBN friend Dagoberto Gilb, WBN coach/consultant Kirstin Chen, and so many others that you may as well just go to this page and scan them for […]

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