Behind-the-Scenes of Red Hen Press: A Conversation with Yoshi Wainwright
By Lizzy Young
We are continuing our Behind-the-Scenes of Red Hen Press blog series with our new Writing in the Schools Coordinator, Yoshi Wainwright!
Yoshi Wainwright graduated from Occidental College cum laude with a B.A. in both Media Arts and Culture and Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture. He studied the theater and language of Archaic Greece in addition to media production. Yoshi has worked as a filmmaker under the Arts and Urban Experience Andrew Mellon Grant and continues to explore storytelling through both film and the written word. As a follower of the arts, Yoshi enjoys perusing both high and low; literature, reality television, theater, and youtube all have much to offer.
At Red Hen, Yoshi oversees the Writing in the Schools (WITS) program connecting published authors that conduct poetry writing workshops to Title I schools of the greater Los Angeles area. He also supports the development team.
Lizzy Young: As a relatively new Red Hen Staff Member, how did you become connected with Red Hen and the Writing in the Schools Coordinator position?
Yoshi Wainwright: The way I became connected with Red Hen was fairly unexpected. I was searching for a job that was focused on a field that I actually had a passion and connection to, ideally something I even had a background in academically. In college, I studied writing/literature/poetry and I also studied filmmaking and I always believed filmmaking would lead me to more employment than my background in literature. In fact, the majority of my job search was focused on entry-level film editing jobs, things like that, and while I was searching one of those job posting websites, I just happened to come upon this opportunity at Red Hen Press. It was exciting to me to be able to work with books and publishing, however, what really drew me to apply was the role of coordinating the Writing in the Schools (WITS) program. Getting to spread the gospel of poetry and introduce incredible poets to enthusiastic students is a great deal of meaningful fun. It’s very rewarding to watch the kids present their work, to be nervous and proud about what they’ve created, and to tap into the power of creativity through poetry.
LY: What does a typical workday look like for you?
YW: A typical work day for me depends heavily on what is going on with the WITS program. When the program is just getting started or finishing up, I’ll be attending classes and sitting in and observing how the students and instructors are doing. It is very rewarding to see the program in action. Right now, as it is the end of the school year, I am busy planning the culminating events we throw to celebrate the work achieved by our students and instructors. A few weeks ago, immediately after the final classes for this spring, most of my time was completely dedicated to compiling the students' poems for our WITS Anthology we publish at the end of the school year. This includes reading through the poems for appropriate content, grammatical/spelling errors, and formatting. Alternatively, a lot of days I spend many hours writing grants to make sure WITS has the funding to stay strong.
LY: How would you describe WITS?
YW: I would describe WITS as an opportunity to introduce and strengthen the presence of arts education to students of all ages.
LY: What has surprised you the most about your position so far?
YW: What has surprised me most about my position so far is reading through the students' poems. It never fails to strike me how deep some of these students can go with their writings. There truly is no age limit to having internal struggles or emotional depth.
LY: What media are you currently consuming?
YW: Media I am currently consuming is a TV show called 90 Day Fiancé; The Other Way. It is a spin-off of the popular reality show 90 Day Fiancé where Americans have a foreign partner who moves to America and have 90 days on their visa to get married. I like 90 Day Fiancé The Other Way because it features Americans moving to foreign countries in the hopes of getting married to their partner there. It is really interesting to see how these Americans struggle to adapt to these different cultures in places like India or Morocco.
LY: What are you currently reading?
YW: I just finished a really quick read of Eddie Huangs’ Double Cup Love. I remember watching his food travel show years ago and I got curious about what he had to offer in book form. It was a fun casual read, detailing him traveling to China to see what it felt like to connect with his culture as a Chinese man born and raised in Orlando. He lives in China for a few months, eating the cuisine of his homeland that he himself has helped bring to America, and chewing on questions like ‘what does it mean to be from a place’, ‘am I Chinese enough’, and ‘how am I viewed in my country of origin’. It was fun to read a more informal book.