Lisa Kwong received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Indiana University in 2014. Since then, she has published a poetry collection titled Becoming AppalAsian, and her writing has been included in Best New Poets 2014, A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia, Anthology of Appalachian Writers, the Minnesota review, Banango Street, Still: The Journal, Naugatuck River Review, Appalachian Heritage, Pluck!, The Sleuth, and other publications. She has also taught courses in Asian American Studies, English, and student success at both Ivy Tech Community College and IU Bloomington.
Q: How would you describe your classroom teaching style?
A: I strive for a student-centered classroom in which students are invited to share their insights and ask questions about course materials. While I do lecture, I also enjoy facilitating class discussions and learning new things from my students. I see the classroom as a collaborative space where everyone can learn from each other. This is a classroom model that I experienced and admired from my own undergraduate education at Appalachian State University.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching? About writing?
A: I teach a few different subjects, but if I had to choose one thing that I see happening across all the disciplines I teach, it’s helping students to value their own voices and experiences, whether that’s through their own writing or seeing themselves represented in the texts and media we discuss.
What do I enjoy most about writing? It is a space where I feel free, and it provides endless possibilities. I’ve been able to preserve family history, explore my own identity as an AppalAsian, work through trauma, and celebrate all that is wonderful and wacky about life.
Q: How does your sense of place affect how you write?
A: I’m a small-town girl at heart. I was raised by my community in Radford, Virginia, especially since my parents owned a Chinese American restaurant, which became a strong community space. So I’d like to think that I bring that sense of community to the page. I’m also used to a slower paced life. Writing forces me to slow down and reflect on my memories, but to also observe and experience what is in my everyday life, whether it’s the toad on a sidewalk or the cell phone conversations that should be private but are now instead broadcast as we’re walking around campus and town.
Q: What can people expect from the upcoming Affrilachian Poets events that you have organized?
A: A crash course in the diversity of Appalachia. Most people I’ve met who are not from Appalachia seem to have either no knowledge of the region or a limited view. Even I grew up with a limited view of who or what is Appalachian, despite being born and raised in southwestern Virginia. It wasn’t until I discovered the Affrilachian Poets in college that I began to think that I could be Appalachian, too.
- Friday, Nov. 4, in Maxwell Hall, we’ll have a 6 p.m. screening and discussion of the documentary “Coal Black Voices” (2001).
- Saturday, Nov. 5 will be a full day: a morning writing workshop (for registrants) with Founder and Professor Frank X Walker, and then in the afternoon, a panel discussion and poetry reading featuring Walker, Amy Alvarez, Mitchell L.H. Douglas, and Kelly Norman Ellis.
I’ll be hosting or moderating all events. I’ll probably also read a few poems in the final event since I’m a member, too! And we’ll have a book signing to close out the event.
Q: Is there a part of the event series that you, personally, are most excited for?
A: As a 2022 inductee, I’m excited to reunite with my poetry family. We all live in different places, so it’s not always easy to gather. I’m also looking forward to everyone, participants and audience, learning from each other.