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Seattle City of Literature sends two local writers to Korea for residency programs

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by Chamidae Ford


Last month, two writers from Seattle were selected to participate in writers’ residency programs in Korea starting this fall. Jeanine Walker will be Wonju City of Literature inaugural writer in residence for six weeks while Takami Nieda will be in Bucheon for four weeks.

The residencies are offered within the framework of the partnership between the UNESCO Cities of Literature. Seattle was named UNESCO City of Literature in 2017 and the local program is led by Seattle, city of literature, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Seattle’s vibrant literary community and connecting that community with the rest of the world.

Bucheon was also awarded the title of UNESCO City of Literature in 2017. Soyoung Jung, coordinator of the literary city of Bucheon, believes that the history of the city makes it the ideal place to receive this title. Bucheon grew rapidly during the 1970s and 1980s during Korea’s industrialization and developed a community deeply involved in improving lives through knowledge.

“People were gathered and they were anxious and very eager to learn things,” Jung said. “Many movements, such as social and labor movements, were very active in these areas. So we really have that kind of strong legacy on radical thinking and social thinking on how to create an inclusive society. “

These programs, Jung says, create a unique opportunity not only to support writers, but also to provide them with opportunities that benefit their art.

“This is the best program, I think, as a city of literature, to invite artists or writers from different parts of the world to have the opportunity to visit Korea and experience new things and new culture and experience. meet new people, ”Jung said. .

For Nieda, who will be based in Bucheon, she will work on the translation of a Korean novel titled Hundred year old travelers by Lee Hoesung.

“I had never been to Korea before, and thought I might really need some help getting a lot of factual and historical information that I need to translate correctly into this book,” Nieda said. . “There is a lot of Korean in it so I thought it was a great opportunity not only to go to Korea, where I have never been, but also to connect with people who could help me with it. research and part of the language elements of the novel.

Translating is something Nieda enjoys doing and it also provides her with the space to make writing a part of her daily life. Some of his previous works include that of Kazuki Kaneshiro Go and The color of the sky is the shape of the heart by Chesil which will be released in April 2022.

“I’ve always wanted to be a writer and it’s hard to be a creative writer and to publish a short story, to publish a novel – it’s a huge, rigorous and strict challenge that you have to go through to go from a novice writer to a published writer, and it takes ages and ages, “Nieda said.” I’ve been trying to do this for a while, but I’ve also been trying to find ways to do what I love. ie write, but maybe in different ways. And so translation is something that interested me because I could be writing even though it might not be my business. It still requires a lot of those similar skills.

For Jung, supporting translators is essential for sharing cultures and knowledge across the world.

“I think it’s really important for writers to have this experience and also for translators because they don’t [usually] get so much information, ”Jung said. “We try to give more opportunities to translators, because they do a lot of important things to connect people with others by breaking down language barriers. “

Unlike Nieda, Walker will be returning to Korea to work on her next novel, which draws on her time spent in Korea as an English teacher after graduating with her Masters. This opportunity allows her to return to the places she visited and the experiences she had as a young woman and to gain a better understanding of them.

“I came to Korea when I was 23 and it was brand new so I think it made a very strong impression in my memory,” Walker said. “So I was writing a lot of memory and I felt like my memory is so strong and I know these details, and I think I remember what I remember, but it’s really amazing to be here. … I was just in Tunji, where the book is set, and there’s this river in the middle and it’s kind of like snakes around town. And I didn’t remember this detail. Just being able to look at it, smell the smells, see the landscapes and just touch things, I think, is really useful for writing.

As a poetry teacher by day, this program allows Walker to focus on her writing in a way she rarely gets the chance to do.

“I always take time to write, but it just happens to something like this, [writing] has been my job now for two months, ”Walker said. “It’s an incredible gift. I have had a lot of space and have certainly written a lot, a lot of words since I got here.

The program, says Walker, creates a space for artists and writers to come together, be inspired and create.

“I’m here with 14 other writers and there is a painter and there is a person who does sheet music for films, but it’s just great because everyone has a similar sensibility and you even if we don’t communicate not always, you can just smell it, ”Walker said. “I think it’s really great. As a writer it really supports me that everyone is doing their art so that we can all create in the same space. ”

You can keep up to date with other opportunities with UNESCO Cities of Literature by visiting their website.


Ford of Chamidae is a recent graduate in journalism from the University of Washington. Born and raised in West Washington, she is passionate about giving voice to the communities around her. She’s written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/ Twitter: @chamidaeford.

?? Featured image: portraits of Jeanine Walker (left) and Takami Nieda (right). Photos courtesy of the authors.

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