Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor, Jean Ho. Jean is teaching Fiction: Essential Beginnings (Reg# 373690) on Wednesday evenings (PT) this Summer. She sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and her upcoming course.
What sparks your creativity?
Rather than wait for a “spark” before I can begin, what works better for me as a writer is to establish a routine, and to show up to my writing appointment with myself, no matter what. Even if it’s just a half-hour to an hour of concentrated time without distraction (checking my emails, my phone, etc.), the more I create a continuous, daily habit of writing, the more that creativity arrives naturally for me.
What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
When I’m feeling stuck in my own work, reading always helps. I’m a fiction writer, so sometimes I’ll return to my favorite novels and short stories for a specific aspect of craft, but more often I’ll simply give myself permission to read for pleasure. People who choose to pursue writing, I believe, all fell in love with reading first. It’s important to remember that first love which called you into becoming a writer, when the going gets tough.
I try to read outside my genre, and borrow ideas from nonfiction writers and poets. Recently I read Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong, a collection of essays on race, art/writing, and Asian American identity, which was really funny and smart. The last few months, in general, I’ve been reading more short stories and poetry, because that’s what my quarantine brain seems to crave, rather than novels. Three fantastic debut poetry collections: Hard Damage by Aria Aber, A Nail the Evening Hangs On by Monica Sok, and All Heathens by Marianne Chan. All three of these poets write about war, the memories vs. memorialization of war, and the aftermath of state violence and colonialism on families and children of diaspora. Reading poetry teaches me how to really pay close attention to language. Good poetry inspires me to take risks in my own work.
What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
Too many to list! Sula by Toni Morrison, The Gangster We Are All Looking For by lê thi diem thúy, Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones, We the Animals by Justin Torres, Bone by Fae Ng.
What’s your favorite quote about writing?
“The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.” (Toni Morrison)
What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
I’m excited to meet a group of new writers and to get to know them through their work. A fiction workshop is always a special space, but especially so for beginning writers, who are exploring their creative spirit this way perhaps for the first time. I can’t wait to find out what drew them to the Writers’ Program and this class, and to see what we can build together.
What do you hope your students get from your course(s)?
I want my students to have material (characters, plot, conflict, scenes, pages!) that they’re excited about and can continue to work with, into their next draft, and the craft skills to know how they’ll get to that next draft.
Thank you to Jean for taking time to share with us. Look for more instructor interviews coming soon!