Meet Jammie Huynh, Woodfin Fellow in Poetry

Amanda Tigar was able to interview Jammie Huynh, our new Woodfin Fellow in Poetry, and to learn more about her passions and writing inspirations. Besides reading and writing, Jammie enjoys skateboarding and playing volleyball on the weekends.

Where are you from, and where did you go for undergraduate?

I mostly grew up in Hartsville and Florence, South Carolina, but moved to Columbia for high school. I went to Winthrop University in Rock Hill for undergrad and graduated with a double major in Spanish and English and minors in sociology and political science.

How did you find poetry, and when did you know you wanted to pursue your own poetry?

I found poetry in a high school sophomore lit class with a professor everyone hated. It was one little assignment where we had to write a poem in 30 min and after you finished, you could volunteer to read it out to the class. I felt brave and read mine. I didn’t think anything of it and thought it wasn’t terrible, but my teacher who never spares a compliment unless he means it, told me it was good. Ever since then, I was drawn to poetry. Before that, I had always wanted to write but I didn’t think I was good enough. I was going to become a doctor or biologist, but those few words from that one teacher gave me the confidence I needed to write and pursue what I loved.

What do you notice yourself constantly writing towards?

Poetry has become a really good outlet for me to explore and navigate my identity and my past. My work tends to revolve around my family and my Latine and Vietnamese identities. I think I write towards understanding; understanding my culture, understanding my parents and understanding me.

Can you describe the piece you are currently working on?

I am currently working on a poem that encapsulates the feelings I had during the rise in Asian hate crimes. I am specifically trying to write about how I felt after 6 Asian women were murdered in Atlanta. I grew up in a small town where we were the only Asian/Latine family around. I was always aware of how different we were, people never seemed to tire of pointing it out. In this work I try to write about how even though I was raised in South Carolina almost my entire life, my existence here will always be questioned. Even if I tell people I grew up here, they always need to know exactly where my family comes from.

Who are your biggest inspirations?

My biggest inspiration is my mom. We grew up in a tough environment and I know without my mom, I would not be where I am today. It is because of her sacrifices that I was able to succeed and pursue my dreams. My mother loved writing poetry but she couldn’t afford to go to school and no one ever encouraged her to continue writing. I get to have the opportunities she didn’t and I refuse to let those sacrifices go to waste.

Who is your favorite poet? Why?

Hieu Minh Nguyen is my favorite right now because he’s one of the first Vietnamese-American poets I’ve ever read. I finally saw someone who looked like me doing what I’ve always wanted to do and it was after stumbling on a video of him on Youtube performing one of his poems that I seriously felt like I could do this. I can also relate to a lot of his writings about culture and family and I just think he has such a fantastic voice and imaginative poems.


Meet Amanda Tigar, Woodfin Fellow in Fiction

Jammie Huynh was able to interview Amanda Tigar, our new Woodfin Fellow in Fiction, and to learn more about her passions and writing inspirations. Besides writing and reading, Amanda enjoys brunch, reality television, and listening to true crime podcasts while driving home in the dark.

Where are you from and where did you do your undergraduate?

I was born and lived in Chattanooga, TN until I moved to Nashville where I attended Belmont University. During my time as an undergraduate, the English department introduced their new creative writing track, and I became one of its first students.

What is your favorite part of Charleston so far?

I love the trees here! Is that a dumb answer? But I can’t stop staring at the old oaks with twisting limbs and true green leaves. I’m currently working on a piece inspired by the Southern Gothic so these ancient trees and historic buildings provide a lot of inspiration and atmosphere while writing.

What kind of fiction do you enjoy writing?

I tend to write things that are a little strange. Whether it be a magical world or people who are a little odd and unusual, I write the weird. Also, I write women’s stories. I like to say that I write terrible women, and what I mean is, the women in my stories are often messy and rough. They hurt people around them and themselves. They aren’t always likable. These are the stories I like to tell.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your stories?

Inspiration is such a tricky thing and even harder to nail down, but I will do my best. I would say I often get inspiration from jealousy. Whenever I read something and I come across a sentence or phrase that makes me slam the cover shut because I wish I had written something so good, I feel inspired to try.

What is your writing process like?

Usually I will hear a voice first. A sentence will come to me and I get an immediate sense of the character and the beginning of the story they want me to tell. The first sentence becomes the jumping off point, and while I typically cut it completely, it helps me to hear a voice and the rest follows.

What book have you read that you absolutely loved?

Before moving to Charleston, I read the novel The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires because it was set in the city. I reasoned that reading Grady Hendrix’s book was the same as doing research or packing boxes. This book was truly terrifying and creepy but also empowering. I believe I was well prepared for life in Charleston and I have my eyes peeled for any blood suckers that may try to invite themselves through my door.

Prof. Gary Jackson publishes new poetry collection

Congratulations to Gary Jackson, Associate Professor, whose new poetry collection origin story was published this Fall!

origin story outlines a family history of distant sisters, grieving mothers and daughters, and alcoholic fathers. These poems take us from Kansas to Korea and back again in an attempt to reconnect with estranged family and familial ghosts divided by years of diaspora. An interrogation of cultural and personal myths, origin story wrestles with the questions: Who will remember us? How do we deal with the failures of memory? Whose stories are told?

Prof. Jackson will read from his new book on Thursday, October 7 at 7:00 pm in Alumni Memorial Auditorium, Randolph Hall (College of Charleston).

Welcome to T Kira Māhealani Madden!

The MFA Creative Writing program is delighted to welcome T Kira Māhealani Madden–our new Assistant Professor in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction–to the College of Charleston.

T Kira Māhealani Madden is a Chinese, Kānaka Maoli writer, photographer, and amateur magician. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an BA in design and literature from Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College. She is the founding Editor-in-chief of No Tokens, a magazine of literature and art, and is a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in nonfiction literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She has received fellowships from MacDowell, Hedgebrook, Tin House, DISQUIET, Summer Literary Seminars, and Yaddo, where she was selected for the 2017 Linda Collins Endowed Residency Award. She facilitates writing workshops for homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals. Her debut memoir, LONG LIVE THE TRIBE OF FATHERLESS GIRLS, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, a finalist for the LAMBDA Literary Award for lesbian memoir, and is now in development as a feature film. Winner of the 2021 Judith A. Markowitz Award, there is no period in her name.

Poet Joshua Garcia Awarded Bucknell University’s 2021-22 Stadler Fellowship

Congratulations to Joshua Garcia (MFA / ARCM ’21) who was awarded the competitive Stadler Fellowship for 2021-22. Joshua will join the staff of the Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts in August 2021 serving as the Stadler Fellow in Literary Arts Administration. He will help advise the Center’s leadership on new and existing initiatives on Bucknell’s campus and in the surrounding community. Joshua also will serve as a staff poet for Bucknell’s summer Seminar for Undergraduate Poets.


Meet Abigail Fitzpatrick, our new Woodfin Fellow in Poetry

Drew Welborn was able to virtually (and safely) interview Abigail Fitzpatrick, our new Woodfin Fellow in Poetry, and get to know more about her writing journey and experience. When Abigail isn’t writing or studying, she enjoys hiking, camping, painting, crafting and drinking (chewing?) bubble tea.


Where are you from, and where did you earn your undergraduate degree?

I am from a small town in Pennsylvania! I went to West Virginia University, where I earned my BA in philosophy with minors in sociology, political science and creative writing.

What made you want to pursue an MFA? What drew you to Charleston?

Pursuing an MFA was a last-minute decision for me, actually. I took the LSAT and began to start my applications to law schools when I thought an MFA program might be fun. So on a whim, I took my GRE and applied to a few programs. The College of Charleston was my dream graduate school location and I was lucky enough to get in (and get this scholarship)! I’m extremely grateful and thankful to have ended up here.

When did you get your start in poetry, and how did that come about?

I started loving poetry when I was very young, maybe six or seven, and I began to write poetry around the age of fourteen. I thoroughly enjoyed how it seemed to be the only way in formal-ish writing you could indulge in wordplay, manipulation of sounds and visuals. Additionally, I was always a bit of a creature growing up and never quite fit in, so exploration of writing and art helped me find the positives of my eccentricity and embrace that a little more. I think it takes character to write, and then writing continues to build that character and exploit parts of it you didn’t know were there. Some huge inspirations that drove me to write poetry were Charles Bukowski’s “a smile to remember,” Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter” and, don’t laugh, Dr. Seuss’s ability to incorporate valuable life and world lessons in playful rhythm and rhyme. I wanted to speak for the trees as a child (even still as an adult) much like the Lorax.

What do you find yourself writing about?

I like to write about the ugly in the world, and in myself, and try to flesh it out, maybe even turn it around. It’s not entirely impossible considering how wonderfully fun and positive language can be. I write about bugs, my mother (hi mom) and nature as well. You know, all the clichés. I also try to make some things humorous, but as it turns out I tend to be the only one laughing at my own jokes. Such is life.

If you could meet one author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

David Sedaris, hands down. Not poetry, I know, but his ability to write encapsulating, funny and attention-keeping creative nonfiction essays is astounding. It takes talent to turn everyday life into published humor. If he couldn’t spare the time, I wish I could speak to David Foster Wallace, specifically to thank him for his posthumously published commencement speech, “This is Water” that I continue to read and love and cherish.

Any plans for after the program?

I’ll resume my initial plans to go to law school. Maybe pursue a career in politics. I’m sure I’ll continue to write in my spare time, whenever that may be, and certainly continue to read and study poetry—I’m sure it’ll be a necessary step away from US fiscal policy studies and searches for contract loopholes—or whatever you do in law school.