Jenn Alandy Trahan
March 7, 2020
Jenn Alandy Trahan is a lecturer for the Stanford Creative Writing Program and former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction. Her fictional work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine and she is currently writing her first book.
Q: Who/what inspired you to become a writer?
A: My third grade teacher, Marilyn McElhaney, at St. Basil School in Vallejo, California.
Q: How has writing and being part of this community impacted you?
A: I’d like to quote one of my literary heroes, Adam Johnson, on the Stanford Creative Writing Program: “there’s no better place to write or to be a writer.”
Q: What was the greatest challenge you faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
A: I’m a brown, I’m a woman, and I have tattoos. I can’t help that people immediately pigeonhole me when they see me. I’m not sure if I will ever overcome this challenge even if the Bay Area is supposedly the most liberal, most “woke” and tolerant region of the country. But I coexist with it, with the microaggressions, with all of it.
Q: Who is your favorite writer at the moment and why?
A: I recently read “Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts” by Anthony Veasna and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. It feels like a masterclass on the third-person-omniscient point of view. I love the story so much that I want to reach out to Anthony and ask if he would be down to visit my fiction class next quarter.
Q: What do you hope to bring to the Los Altos community by participating in Writer’s Week?
A: I hope to bring diversity to the table, and I’m not just talking about the shade of my skin tone. I’m a first-generation college student who grew up middle-class in Vallejo, California, a city more known for its rappers than its Faulkners. My net worth is like, zero. By all accounts, I shouldn’t be a writer, but here I am. If there are students out there who have people telling them that they shouldn’t pursue a career because of factors like these, I hope that those students remember we only get one life, and we should chase our dreams regardless of the odds that are working against us.
Q: If you could recommend one book to Los Altos students, what would it be?
A: “A Prayer for Travelers” by the inimitable Ruchika Tomar, a gorgeous desert noir novel that also happens to be a finalist for the 2020 PEN/Hemingway Award.
Q: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?
A: From Elizabeth Tallent, a literary (and life) heroine of mine: “If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.”