My Way of Home: Stephanie Hsu

Writing Your Origin Story:
Creative Writing Workshop

International Week 2014, U.S. Department of State,
the U.S. Department of Education, 
Old Dominion University,
and Office of Intercultural Relations

Melissa R. Sipin

Tide Pull: Jonathan Reinert

2014 International Education Week Event

The Office of Intercultural Relations promotes campus internationalization at Old Dominion University. All departments, organizations, students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to host & participate in the 2014 International Education Week (IEW), a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education.

As immigrant artists for whom so much has been sacrificed, so many dreams have been deferred, we already doubt so much. Who do we think we are? We think we are people who risked not existing at all. People who might have had a mother and father killed, either by a government or nature, even before we were born. Some of us think we are accidents of literacy. I do.
— Edwidge Danticat

I. Workshop Event

This 3-hour creative writing workshop will emphasize the communicative thread of writing one's origin story and immigrant/international narrative as a source of self-empowerment and building student community. Each writing prompt will guide the student through the creative process in hopes that they will become self-explorers in finding and calling forth their own voice through engaging in challenging, viable, and creative written, verbal, and visual expression.

The curriculum is designed to provide students with access to a diversity of models of prose and poetry, as well as to encourage self-actualization by aiding students in improving their writing and reading comprehension skills while using a variety of literary techniques and genres. Students will read and discuss narrative prose and poems focused on personal narrative and social commentary.

At specific points in their reading, students will conduct research by exploring questions about the author, the stories/poems, and how they can relate the content in the narratives to their own lives. Students will develop a series of poems and pieces of writing focusing on specific facets of their humanity and themes concerned with issues of social justice.

The student work will be published in a Special Issue in TAYO Literary Magazine as a mark of culmination for International Education Week and celebration of intercultural relations.

Dialogue will be facilitated during the workshop around the subject matter at hand in order to create an inclusive community of writers.

II. Workshop Goals

– Participants will gain access to creative literature that is concerned with social justice.
– Participants will develop technical and conceptual skills related to the practice of their writing while engaging both individual and collaborative approaches to the artistic process.
– To understand and develop the potential that writing has as a tool for self-exploration, change, and power.
– To examine critical and theoretical issues of race, culture, history, and socio-economical positionalities.

III. Workshop Outcomes

– Demonstrate verbally and in writing an understanding of the composition of a narrative poem and fiction piece through discussions, written poetry and short fiction, and shared writing.
– Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the social context surrounding poetry and fiction through reading poetry and short fiction, writing poetry and short pieces, and discussing literature.
– Convey a sense of personal conviction, dignity, and knowledge of self through writing poetry and short pieces, reflecting through taking a narrative snapshot of personal life, and discussing content.

IV. Instructor's Biography

MELISSA R. SIPIN: As a writer from Carson, California, my work hinges between the empty spaces of autofiction. My writing was awarded First Place in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open (2013), a Tennessee Williams Scholarship at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference (2013), the Miguel F. Flores Prize (2011), the Amanda Davis MFA Thesis Award (2013), and a VONA/Voices Fellowship with Junot Díaz, M. Evelina Galang, and ZZ Packer (2014, 2012, and 2011, respectively). My work is forthcoming/published in GuernicaGlimmer Train, PANK Magazine, Kweli Journal, Fjords Review, and Hyphen Magazine, among others. My short story, “How To Leave Familia,” was selected by the Hyphen Magazine Reader, a monthly roundup of APIA lit reads as their “Best APIA Fiction Pick for June 2014.” I received my M.F.A in Fiction from Mills College and my undergraduate degree in English and philosophy at the University of Southern California. As the first Community Engagement Fellow (full-ride) at Mills, I taught political writing and multi-genre workshops in the Bay Area, partnering with PAWA Inc., Anakbayan East Bay, and UC Berkeley’s Maganda Magazine. As the editor-in-chief of TAYO Literary Magazine, I blog at, teach at Old Dominion University and Tidewater Community College, and am currently working on a novel.