Duyen Nguyen, PhD graduated from Canisius College in 2008 with a degree in English and Creative Writing. She earned her PhD in English from Northeastern in 2015, defending her dissertation, “Orphans, Immigrants, and Empire: Making and Unmaking Identity in the Victorian Novel.”
She currently works as a Managing Editor of Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ), a writing instructor at Northeastern, and a writing instructor and tutor at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
What media to you rely on for writing? What genres or types of writing do you do at work?
My favorite professor in college always wrote out his lesson plans on legal pads, so when I first started teaching in grad school, I did the same. I’d outline things I wanted to cover in a particular class, write little notes to myself, organize and reorganize my ideas with arrows and asterisks and dashes. Sometimes, the page would be covered in scribbles and I might not even glance at it during class, but the act of writing things out by hand would give me more confidence in what I had to say. I was only twenty-two years old when I taught my first college writing class, so back then, at least for me, the legal pad served as both a script and evidence of my authority. In the last couple years, I began typing up my lesson plans, but this semester I’m back to the legal pads. Most of the writing I do as one of DHQ’s managing editors involves others’ writing: I consolidate reviewer feedback, copyedit and encode articles in DHQ’s TEI-based markup language, and review the journal’s workflow.
I write for my students, usually. I encourage them to be clear and concise in their writing–and I try to achieve the same goals even, or maybe especially, in something like an assignment prompt.
At the risk of sounding cliche, I also write for myself. When I was an undergrad, I minored in creative writing and edited my college’s literary and visual arts magazine. Since completing my dissertation, a lot of the writing I’ve done has been creative and personal–the kind of writing I used to really enjoy and which I haven’t had much time for in the past few years.
Have you had a challenging writing experience at work? What was the outcome?
Learning how to encode articles for DHQ was a bit challenging. I was completely unfamiliar with XML when I began working on the journal, but now encoding articles for publication is one of my favorite ME responsibilities.
Do you ever collaborate on writing projects?
I like to brainstorm and share assignment ideas. Outside of the classroom, a couple of my friends and I have been toying with the idea of starting up a blog!
What is your writing process like?
With longer writing projects, I’ll outline the sections and points I want to cover, do a ton of research, and then write. Actually, even with shorter projects, like a feedback letter for DHQ, I’d still bullet-point what I want to cover first.
Do you seek feedback on your writing?
Absolutely. I joined two different writing groups when I was working on my dissertation. Even on more creative writing, I will ask for a friend’s feedback.
Can you share a memorable writing experience, at work, school, or elsewhere?
Finishing my dissertation is probably the most memorable writing experience I’ll ever have.
I find it much more difficult to revise a piece of writing than to draft it up in the first place, but revision has proven indispensable for every piece of writing I’ve worked on in the last seven years. Coffee shops and the right kind of music will also motivate me to write.
Thanks, Dr. Nguyen!