Creative Writing at The New School

Joyce Chen is a writer/editor/creator from LA who spent a decade in NYC before relocating back to the West Coast in fall 2017. She has covered entertainment and human interest stories for Rolling Stone, Refinery29, the New York Daily News, and People, among others, and her creative writing credits include LitHub, Narratively, and Barrelhouse, among others. She is interested in topics like time, silence, and liminal spaces as they relate to agency, power, and intercultural understanding. She is one of the cofounders of The Seventh Wave, a bicoastal arts and literary nonprofit, and holds an MFA from The New School and a BA in journalism and psychology from USC. Joyce is currently working on a collection of essays that examine the friction that arises from living with two sets of values that are often at odds with one another — the American ideals of independence and self-fulfillment and the Taiwanese values of family, community, and sacrifice — as experienced through different modes of time perception.

1. Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?

For some reason, seeing the words "villain" and "protagonist" always throws me back to my elementary school days and checking out stacks and stacks of books from the library. My favorite villain is easily the Grand High Witch from Roald Dahl's The Witches, because she represented to me then, and represents to me now, this idea of adults who want to quash the childlike qualities that we all have within us. I was terrified of her as a kid, and she's still one of the first characters I think of in conjunction with the word "villain." In terms of a favorite protagonist, then, I think I've always been a big fan of Matilda, from the Roald Dahl book of the same name, because she had magical powers that she used for good. When I was younger, I was convinced that I could make objects move with supreme concentration, too, and that sort of magical thinking still lingers a bit now into adulthood.

2. When did you know you were a writer?

I've always been a big reader, and wore thick lenses by the time I was seven. Writing my own stories, however, was another thing entirely. I majored in journalism in undergrad, and always enjoyed learning about other people, their stories, their lives, their beliefs -- but never fully felt comfortable turning the lens inward. It actually wasn't until I took a chance and applied to creative writing MFA programs and was accepted that I started to consider myself a writer. Now, in retrospect, I realize that I likely knew that I was a writer all the way back when I was a big reader, because reading taught me different ways to see the world, which has definitely come in handy now as a writer.

3. What are you currently working on?

Presently, I'm working on a collection of essays that revolve around the concepts of time and time perception, as it is understood in both Eastern and Western cultures. As a second-generation Taiwanese American, I've grown up in the liminal space between two different sets of values, and I'm curious to explore the ways in which many second-generation kids-now-adults experience this fusion of cultures, trying to strike the right balance between assimilation and pride in one's ancestral history. I'm especially interested in diving into the idea of loss when it comes to children of immigrants: what is lost with the passage of time (language, knowledge, sense of collective self), and what is ultimately gained from the friction that arises from two different ways of being?

4 How has your writing process changed over the years?

This is a super interesting question. I think over the years, I've learned that discipline and consistency are just as much a part of the creative process as the actual creating itself. Whereas when I was younger, I relied more on moments of inspiration to dictate when I created, I now purposefully set aside time and space in my day to sit still and confront whatever it is that I'm hoping to create. Sometimes this produces pages and pages of work; other times, it produces nothing. But the important thing, I think, is to place value in myself and in my process, and to understand that carving out that time is not only important, but necessary. It's important to show up for yourself every day.

5. Describe your writing style in one sentence.

My writing style is rooted in emotion, driven by rhythm, and set freest when it's given new pastures to explore.

Five Questions, by Nicole L. Drayton. Nicole is a writer, screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from The New School, and currently works for the university in the MFA in Creative Writing Program office.  

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