Local writer wins national fellowship

Nancy Chen Long was in the middle of a phone call when another call from the Washington, D.C. area kept beeping in. She didn’t pick up.

Then, the northern Brown County poet received an email from the National Endowment for Arts. The group was trying to reach her to tell her she was one of 37 writers selected to receive an individual creative writing fellowship of $25,000.

“I was just in shock. I was kind of silent, and then I think I might have babbled something,” she said of the call they eventually shared.

Long is the only recipient in Indiana to receive a creative writing fellowship this year. More than 1,800 people applied.

The money will allow her to travel and take time off to work on her second manuscript, she said.

Long works at Indiana University, helping researchers apply computer technology to their work.

She began writing poetry as a child and into her teen years but stopped to pursue a career in technology and engineering.

“You became an adult and do adult things,” she said. “I can’t tell you why I decided to write as a child, except that it felt natural.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology and a master’s degree in business administration from IPFW.

She began writing poetry again about 10 years ago when she participated in a women’s writing circle as an extension of her journal writing and for “self development.”

“When you look at stars at night, have you ever heard that if you don’t look at some stars directly, you see it with your side vision? Poetry is that way,” she said.

“Instead of writing about something directly, I found it’s better for me to approach it metaphorically or obliquely, using a metaphor or juxtaposition for certain images. It just started coming out.”

Her first manuscript, “Light Into Bodies,” won the 2016 Tampa Review Prize in Poetry and will be published in 2017 by Tampa University Press. It focuses on identities, including names and their social/cultural significance.

With the fellowship, Long will be able to travel to universities to do readings and lectures.

She expects her second manuscript to involve science, art and religion, and she plans to travel and do research related to that, she said.

“To do some serious writing, you just need to sometimes unplug and get away. I will take some time to do that,” she said.

“With science, art and religion, it takes a lot of research and a lot of writing. I have to process a lot.”

Long will have up to three years to finish her manuscript related to the fellowship, but she expects to be finished into the second year.

Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in “Prairie Schooner,” “Crab Orchard Review,” “Alaska Quarterly Review,” “Bat City Review,” and “Not Like the Rest of Us: An Anthology of Contemporary Indiana Writers.”

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.