Spring 2020 Alumni E-News Spotlight: Amy Hsuan Chiu '15 Finds Voice through Poetry and Design
Connie Ma, Alumni and Community Outreach Officer

As a young TAS alumna, Amy Hsuan Chiu ’15 is multi-talented. Graduating from the University of Washington in 2019 with two degrees, one in English (Creative Writing) and one in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts, she recently published her first book of poetry, “REBORN,” through New Degree Press, and has discovered a career path combining her creative writing and design skills in digital media. Though Amy works both as a writer and a designer, she describes herself as a storyteller: “In the end, we are just people with stories.”

Amy started writing at age 12 and began publishing her writing online. “I had many online readers who read my work and messaged me to let me know how much it influenced them. Through my writing, I am trying to say that even with difficulties, you can still be kind to yourself and spread kindness to the world, and that’s what society needs the most.”

Amy attended TAS from Grade 7 to 12 and especially remembers her English teachers fondly. “Since middle school, I knew I wanted to take Mr. [Rick] MacDonald’s Honors Shakespeare English class. He was a great teacher who made every class and every book discussion engaging,” Amy remembers. She identified TAS English faculty like Mr. MacDonald and Ms. Blanca Gamez as being especially supportive of her writing. Amy also found other outlets for her creative work, like becoming the president of Page 2, a writing and literature club at TAS. In 2014 and 2015, Amy won prizes for poetry and short fiction in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, which gave her the confidence and encouragement to keep writing.

At the University of Washington, Amy pursued a creative writing concentration as an English major. “I really loved UW,” Amy recalls. “Seattle is a city that appreciates the humanities as well as technology, and it’s located in a really great place where people go to museums and visit bookstores, and that is something very valuable.” Amy also found her community with TAS alumni at UW. “I felt very close to my fellow UW students who attended TAS, because we had a united love for Taiwan and Seattle.” In addition to Creative Writing, Amy chose to double-major in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts, because she especially enjoyed different hands-on art forms like printmaking and carving. “Studying art and creative writing helps me better understand human nature and connect with people and will help me make a difference in the world one day,” Amy believes.

Amy’s new book is entitled “REBORN: To Heal. To Believe. To Love.” Amy wrote this book for young adults who are going through conflicts between dreams and reality. “I always tell my readers, open to whatever page, and take your time with the poetry. Don’t feel like you have to read everything all at once.” She calls the book “an invitation to accompany her on her healing journey”, where she deals with complex emotions, unresolved relationships, and overlooked human matters. “When people read my poetry,” Amy says, “I hope they can heal and believe that it’s okay, and everything will take time.” Through the process of writing the book, Amy has shared some of her most direct and naked emotions. “I can’t lie when it comes to writing, but at the same time, I was scared because it meant I had to revisit these memories and unwanted emotions.”

Though writing comes naturally to Amy, publishing and printing was a very different experience. “I write by myself, but publishing involves many different teams of people doing editing, design, and marketing. We had so many meetings from one stage to another. I had four different editors with different opinions helping me throughout the process, and when it finally came time to make decisions, I had to figure out how I wanted to take their advice to change the book.” Though Amy already had written some material, she ended up rewriting 90% of her poems and generating new content over the course of a year.`

“As a writer, I wanted to keep everything real. I want my poetry to be naked and honest,” Amy explains. Her efforts paid off in December 2019 when the book was published, and she did two book launches in Seattle. “Those launches were really rewarding for me. I received a really great and positive response, and I was able to meet new readers face to face. It was also a way for me to motivate myself and reevaluate my growth as a writer over the last 10 years.”

While Amy has always had a passion for writing, her path to becoming a published writer wasn’t always smooth. “When I graduated last year, our dean from the English department said, ‘It takes guts to be an English major these days.’ I was often one of the only Asian girls in the creative writing classes. In Asian families, you can get a lot of pressure to be doing technology or business.” Of her family’s expectations, Amy frankly shared, “My family wanted me to go to medical school, but I love writing and the arts too much. I worked on getting my writing published in magazines like Womany (女人迷) and writing for the UW Daily. Through these different outlets, I was proving to them that this was something I loved and something I took seriously, not just a hobby. I think this book has also helped convince people that I’m not wasting my time.”

Amy is currently pairing her writing with work in UX (user experience) design and digital media. “I don’t want writing to be the only job I have, because having that as your daily job and changing your writing for someone else worries me.” In her work, she analyzes a company’s digital media approach and redesigns their websites, using her creative writing and art skills to help figure out how to catch users’ attention. “Digital media is moving so fast, so it’s tiring but fascinating to keep updated. I also think social media is important, like understanding how Twitter and Instagram are different, and using different media and styles of design to communicate to different users.” To augment her skills, Amy is now also pursuing a certificate program in user interaction at UC San Diego.

For other alumni or current TAS students interested in writing, Amy hopes they pursue what they love. “I think you can tell when you meet someone who does what they love, and their eyes get all shiny when they talk about it. Stay true to your writing and stay true to yourself.” For those who are interested in publishing, Amy encourages them to look into different methods of publishing and start submitting work to journals. “You need to put your work out there for people to see so you can find people who are interested. You have to find your own tone and what is special about your own writing.” To follow Amy, visit her website at www.ahcpoetry.com or follow her on Twitter at @amyhsuanchiu. “REBORN” is now available on Amazon.