This is the sixth in my series of special episodes of Write, Publish, and Shine as I take you on a deep dive into the creation of Room magazine issue 46.3, where I was lead editor of the issue. In this issue, I spoke with another incredible writer we published in the issue, ViNa Nguyễn.

Our conversation went in many beautiful directions, including their choice to deliberately write about joy as a writer who writes about grief and nostalgia.

We talked about ViNa Nguyễn’s experimental writing and in particular, the brilliant piece, A Nesting of Bracketed Bodies that we published in the issue, which includes as advertised nesting brackets as an element in the work—plus their inspiration on this experiment. And, I’m delighted that they also read from the work for us, so prepare your earbuds for some delightful fiction writing.

You can pick up your copy of Room 46.3, Ghosts (digital or print) at

WRITERLY LOVE LETTERS: Sent each week to your inbox. 

Notes and Links from the Episode

#85 Write, Publish, Shine Episode Transcript


Time codes Description
00:01 Episode Intro
00:57 Rachel’s introducing the guest “ViNa Nguyễn”
01:35 Rachel’s interview with ViNa Nguyễn.
02:09 The trick of knowing what you’re writing.
09:47 Why ViNa submitted her work to Rooms ghost issue?
05:53 How did ViNa picked a particular form for her piece?
13:43 ViNa’s experience of submitting to Room.
16:49 Handling feedback both good and bad.
21:35 Midroll Ad here
27:31 Quick Lit Round by Rachel Thompson
32:52 Interview Outro & Discussion
33:11 ViNa reading from “A Nesting of Bracketed Bodies”
41:06 Episode Outro


  1. Rachel Thompson
  2. ViNa Nguyễn

Rachel Thompson:  00:01

Welcome luminous writers to the Write, Publish and Shine Podcast. I am your host, author and literary magazine editor Rachel Thompson. This podcast explores how to write and share your brilliant writing with the world. In each episode, we delve into specifics on how to polish and prepare your writing for publication, and the journey from emerging writer to published author.


Hi luminous writers, and welcome to the sixth in my series of special episodes of Write, Publish, and Shine as I take you on a deep dive into the creation of Room magazine issue 46.3, where I was lead editor of the issue. In this issue, I spoke with another incredible writer we published in the issue, ViNa Nguyễn.


Our conversation went in many beautiful directions, including their choice to deliberately write about joy as a writer who writes about grief and nostalgia.


We talked about ViNa Nguyễn’s experimental writing and in particular, the brilliant piece, A Nesting of Bracketed Bodies that we published in the issue, which includes as advertised nesting brackets as an element in the work—plus their inspiration on this experiment. And, I’m delighted that they also read from the work for us, so prepare your earbuds for some delightful fiction writing.


But before then, ViNa begins by offering some caring advice for writers looking to define themselves and their work. There are many such helpful insights for emerging writers in the episode that I hope you enjoy.


Here is our conversation…


I just want to start by thanking you for being here and welcoming you to the podcast, ViNa Nguyễn.

ViNa Nguyễn:  01:44

Thank you, Rachel.

Rachel Thompson:  01:45

I found a description of you and your writing that reads that you embody diasporic joy, abundance, nostalgia, melancholy, and grief. It’s so exact, I just love it. That’s why I had to start there. And totally apt description of the work we published in Room 46.3, Ghosts, your fiction piece, A Nesting of Bracketed Bodies.


I want to dig more into that piece, because it’s truly haunting. But first, I was wondering, can you tell our listeners, most of whom are emerging writers probably often struggling to describe their own writing, how did you do that trick of knowing what you’re writing? How are you able to capture it with that description?

ViNa Nguyễn:  02:26

Thank you for asking this question, Rachel. It is such a wonderful and important question. So I wish it was a trick, I wish it was a quick thing to do, to feel out. But it is something that I came to understand about my own writing and my own life through many years of writing. It also helps when an application asks for your artistic statement. You have to sit down, reflect and think about what your writing means to you, and what you are trying to do with your writing. For myself, it was such a gradual thing.


I started writing stories, intuitively, and I still do, but I noticed that consistent themes would show up. So then I would start gathering those threads and finding the patterns between them. I realized a lot of my stories involve grief, unintentionally, but always grief. I’m like, Okay, this is clearly an element, the only element of my life, and instead of trying to push it away, because at that time, I remember there was a lot of discussion about how we talk so much about pain and kind of stop there. So I was starting to feel like, Oh, I shouldn’t write stories like this. It pulls people down. What am I doing with the grief and the pain? But then I know, I was just this seems to be a part of me, and it’s telling me something. So I continued writing, but then I would start to try and shift. I’m like this isn’t the only part of my story or our stories. When I say our, I mean, the diaspora, the queer; lives that are lived in the diaspora, I think specifically is where my writing tends to come from, and how we embody dualities all the time, right? But often, when we write, we will write from the most intense moments, and I forget that there is so much joy in our lives.


So as I started writing and thinking about these dualities, I would say, Hey, there’s melancholy, there’s joy, there’s grief, there’s all of this, and how do all these stories coexist together? I think when you do that, when you try to look at the fuller forms, it just makes everything more whole. It’s a gradual process, lots of reflection and thinking. There is no urgency, no rush in defining what that is for you. I think it will personally evolve for me as I live my life, and I meet other people and do other things. So, yeah.

Rachel Thompson:  05:07

I love that. I love both the awareness that you have, and then the generosity in saying, in your own time, in your own way to the writers who are still trying to define their voice. I particularly appreciate the noticing of grief because as a grief writer by identity as well, too, I think that they recognize that in the tension between wanting to tell stories that aren’t joyful, too. So yeah, I just I love everything about that description.


I’m impressed but also not surprised, because the writing you sent us felt very controlled, starting with how it was organized. The title really hints at this, it’s a literal nest of brackets. What I love is that you chose those curly ones that look like the profile of a person a little bit.


Can you talk about how you picked that particular form for that piece, and even how you laid it out on the page as well?

ViNa Nguyễn:  06:01

Oh, that part of it is super fun, Rachel, like, ah, that gives me so much joy and excitement when I think about that process of writing. I started off by writing fragments, and very much intuitive, and I just had a Word doc. But then I started having this idea, I was starting to really think about bodies. This story comes from a larger one that is trying to be a novel. In that novel, in that world, these people literally shed their bodies, and they will shed several times. Then I started having this very literal vision of like, layers of bodies, within bodies within bodies. Then I started thinking about how each character was so interconnected with the lives of other characters around them. So there was also the layering of different bodies of people within each other’s lives. It was such a powerful visual for me. I was like, How do I put that in a form on paper.


So I was thinking about bodies. Then I was thinking about time as a construct, and how, in our own thoughts, time is always nonlinear. We may be in a certain space time, but our thoughts are always backwards and forwards, right. I wanted to replicate that in the writing. So I was like, Okay, so I would play around with the fragments of writing, shifting them around to the form emerged. Then I would use brackets to kind of show the bracketing of time around each fragment and how they were intermeshed within one another, to create an overall form.


I can’t take full credit for this at all. There’s a writer, I have her book here, I know this is [unclear 07:57] this, but this is for you. I wonder if you’ve heard of her, Bahar Orang. I’m not sure if I’m saying her name correctly. But she has a book where things touch, meditation on beauty, and the way she formatted, inside you can see square brackets. This totally inspired me; her tone, the way she spoke about things, very introspective, to me a very ghostly feeling. I don’t know if she would describe her work that way. But that was what I got. Then I was like, I love this idea of brackets and the brackets holding space and bodies could be within that space. But then I was like, but I want it to be more intermesh like the parts intermingled. So then I started playing around with the curly brackets. I’m so glad you caught like the curve, they’re like a face, or like the curves of a body. Yeah. I just had fun with that.

Rachel Thompson:  08:51

I’m taking from that. There’s more of this with excitement and glee because I’m like, I want to read that book now, this the entire book project that this is part of they’re extracted from, I’ll share where things touch, the link to that book in the show notes as well, too. For people who want to check that out.


It’s so great to hear the kind of bigger picture of what you mean by the brackets and the bodies of them. Like to me there was sort of humor in that too. I guess maybe that’s where the joy comes with the grief because that was sort of like we’re opening, we’re opening, now we’re closing one. Okay. So like they’re bracket tracking as you’re reading it as well too. This one is complete. Then what’s the next one that’s going to complete? Or are we going to open again, and it was really cool.

ViNa Nguyễn:  09:35

Oh, it is fun. At times, it’s like, oh my gosh, why did I do this? Am I closing or opening a bracket here? Yeah.

Rachel Thompson:  09:47

So, knowing now from reading that description that you’re writing, about nostalgia and grief or in part that’s sort of one aspect of it. I want to ask about why you submitted your work to Rooms ghost issue?

ViNa Nguyễn:  10:00

It was such a blur to me. So I was working on aspects of the novel. Then I was starting to come to the idea of like these nesting of brackets. I didn’t know if it would work. But I really wanted to send it somewhere. It wasn’t finished yet. Like I was still gathering pieces of it and playing around a lot. But then this call, right, this call came out, not for this issue yet, but for the short forms contest. It was asking, like this experimental kind of idea of playing with form, and I’m like, Oh, my gosh, this is perfect. It was a short word count, like 500 words, I think. So I’m like, I can do that. I can do 500 words. So I was telling myself, give it a shot, play with the form and see what happens. So in that submission, I didn’t do nesting yet, I was just doing the curly brackets, and open in a closed one to open up a section of each part of the writing. I had so much fun with it. I didn’t think at all that it would go very far in the contest, but it did in Rooms contest, and it gave me such a boost. Like such encouragement that this could work like it touches some people out there, like there are people who appreciate this.


Then I was like, Okay, I went back to the piece, the larger piece and I was doing the nesting brackets, and then there was the call for the issue. It was ghost and I was like no way because the vibes of the keys for me, and for the novel is like ghosts galore, right. Then in that call, it was asking for experimental forms. I was like, so excited.


I love Room, one of my favourite issues by Room is Indigenous Brilliance. I love that issue so much. I just felt like when you get those, like goosebumps, and you’re just like, I feel this is the right place, the right time, and everything’s converging. I was like, I’m going to send it, and then forget about it. Not think about it, because I know this takes time. But I was so excited. I was just like, holding my breath still and hoping that it would get in. So, yeah.

Rachel Thompson:  12:16

That’s so great to hear. It’s funny actually, because your name jumped out at me early on in our process, because we’ve accepted your work. Then we have this process in Room because we have few ground rules just to make sure that more people are seen in the issue or get a chance to be an issues all year.


One of our rules is no back to back publications, when the editor supposed to send me the New, the next editor, the list of people publishing, and I’d accepted your piece, and then got the list maybe like the next day or something like that. Of course, we do actually make an exception for people who, you’ve entered the contest, and you submitted, we didn’t anticipate that you’re going to both win the contest, and like, to do well on the contest, and then also be accepted for publication. So it was just kind of cool. I was like, wow, we’re really vibing with the ViNa work here, in our collective.

ViNa Nguyễn:  13:04

Yeah, because I was thinking about that, too. I was like, oh, like, I don’t know, right? Because I didn’t think about that happening, right, that it would be two back to back issues. So I was so happy to hear.

Rachel Thompson:  13:16

I should clarify you did absolutely nothing wrong. In fact, this just happens very rarely. I think it’s maybe the second time I’ve heard of that happening because it’s so rare to get a yes, from Room in general. You’ve just happened to get those two yeses, but it was definitely, you know, your tingles, the goosebumps and everything were definitely sending you on the right track at that time.

ViNa Nguyễn:  13:36

Ah, so cool, so unexpected. Such a gift. That’s how I see it. Such a gift.

Rachel Thompson:  13:43

So I wanted to ask you just a bit more about that experience. You talked a bit about why you submitted and the contest experience as well. But just the experience, as someone submitting and publishing with Room, didn’t meet your expectations, or what was different about that process than you expected?

ViNa Nguyễn:  14:01

Honestly, it was everything that I expected. It was so smooth. The process, it’s so clearly defined every step for me, what people are looking for. Then the timeline of things like that was so clear, and specific for me that it was smooth sailing. There was like nothing there that jumped out to me. I think it is so important to understand the culture of a literary magazine before you submit your work. I learned that slowly. As a beginning writer, I would read some pieces from some journals. But in reading just a few pieces, you don’t always get quite a good sense of what are the connecting themes or styles for those pieces.

ViNa Nguyễn:  14:49

In the beginning, I would submit pieces to journal that would get rejected and I didn’t understand that, Oh, it’s because maybe this is too speculative or the voice isn’t quite right, or even just the issues with the themes that you’re touching on.


For me, I think it is so important to be patient with your process. Because if you are not excited, super excited to see your piece in the community of work in that literary journal, then maybe you are not in the right spot. So I think there has to be an alignment of time, the topics of your piece, and then whoever’s working on that issue at that time, it’s also what they bring to that issue as well. Like all of that has to align. I feel when that happens, you can see that very clearly in issue, like how its curated, and how well the pieces fit together.


I think as writers, we really just want to get published. So we rush things. And maybe we don’t get as excited once we see some pieces published, because they’re not quite nested in the best homes for those pieces. I think that goes to when we get rejections as well is, it’s probably not the best space for it. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t find the best spaces for our writing later on.

Rachel Thompson:  16:20

Yeah, that’s so important to think about that excitement. It is hard when you’re starting out, because you’re just like, I just want to see my name out there in print, I just want to be published somewhere. But then having just even what it sounds like, you know that experience, I know that experience of being published in a place where it’s like, Oh, that wasn’t exactly where I wanted to place my work, actually. It’s good to feel that excitement upfront. Like you said, when the issue arrives, or when the posts go up with your piece.


I’m wondering how feedback has changed for you now that you’re honing your process more, it seems, like you kind of know where you want to go and you’re also like probably more aware of fit as you’re sending out work. What kind of feedback do you react to, and even do you have systems in place or care techniques that help you to handle different types of feedback as well?

ViNa Nguyễn:  17:11

Ah, such an important question. So I think before you send your piece out to readers, so I have a couple of friends that I asked to read my pieces, when I feel uncertain about them. But before I send it to them, I make it clear in my head.  Chelene Knight uses these words, and I’m borrowing this word from her, “non-negotiables.” So, what are my non-negotiables? Things that I feel very strongly about this piece, maybe the structure, maybe the themes, maybe the voice, maybe even whatever I’m playing with in terms of grammar and syntax? What are the things that are my non-negotiables?


Then, for me, the bigger thing is, what is my vision for this piece. I think that’s very important, because there can be times where you have a vision that asks you to be very bold, and to take risks. But if you don’t clearly define what that is for yourself, and people start giving you opinions, that kind of take away from that vision, I feel you’re less inclined to stand up for what you wanted. That can actually I feel hinder the ghosts of his story. Maybe sometimes severely, like I’ve had that experience because I wasn’t sure what I wanted for a story. Then it was just too many opinions, I started taking things away, changing things. Then you look at it again, you’re like, I don’t even know what this is anymore. So, yeah, vision, non-negotiables.


The other thing is, it’s different, if you’re able to have a conversation with the person giving you feedback, if you’re sitting face-to-face, I think that is very valuable. Because you can have a dialogue where you can discuss ideas. That is a great opportunity for you to voice your vision. The other person is in a position where they can be more flexible and adaptable and be like hey, what if you were to do this and this like, would that help your vision?


Whereas I find like, if it’s through a document and they send you comments, it’s great, but then there’s no conversation. So then it becomes this, oh, the labour back and forth. Then I feel the energy can get lost. Or if it’s just through an email, that energy can get lost and the excitement, and even your own joy for a piece can get lost because you might get burdened down with just reading what’s bad instead of, hey, this is not necessarily what’s bad. This is like what they’re getting. Maybe there could be a shift here, where you can incorporate some of their feedback.


I think that’s also the other thing that grows when you write more is you get a sense of what feedback you will use and what feedback you appreciate, but might not be what you need right now. I think that sense just grows naturally over time, because you will find your voice, you will see what your preferences are, and you will know what you want and what you need more readily.

Rachel Thompson:  20:16

That’s so astute to say that. I was taking notes so that I don’t miss them for the show notes. The Chelene Knights idea of non-negotiables, and here’s about what is my vision for this piece, I think is such a good question to ask because as you’re onboarding feedback, you can kind of get lost in it and wonder, what am I trying to say here? Onboarding, maybe one person had one experience of the piece, but not everyone is going to have that experience as well. So thinking about what is the vital feedback that you can use? But I’m with you, I’m not a fan of just track changes response. I like to have a conversation, too.

ViNa Nguyễn:  20:51

Yeah, definitely. Because sometimes I noticed from experience is something really cool can happen where when you share with the person, your vision, they get excited, too. They’re like, Oh, I actually thought of this. Then all of a sudden, it’s not that your vision gets lost, but it like expands. You get other things, other possibilities in the story that you didn’t see before. Then if it fits with your vision, then all of a sudden, it has this richness that you alone couldn’t have come up with. It’s almost like the sense of community in editing or feedbacking a story.

Rachel Thompson:  21:30

I also like feedbacking as a verb, too. That’s exciting.

ViNa Nguyễn:  21:34


Rachel Thompson:  21:35

I’m pausing this conversation with ViNa Nguyễn to update you on the Writerly Love letters I send out each week filled with motivation and ideas for you, dear writers. Tomorrow, I’ll be sending out a letter with concrete ideas from writers about living in these horrible times. Our community facilitator, Meli Walker, asked writers in our course community: “As we witness multiple genocides in person and/or through our phone screens, how do we find healing, rest, and repair?” I’ll share those answers and Meli and my own answers to that question in this week’s letter, again, out tomorrow. Of course, as one our community members, Jennifer, said ”Nothing can (or should) make the horrors of our current times feel ‘okay,’” so our list is not going to do that; we will give some ideas of what is helping our hearts right now so we can stay resilient as witnesses, our role as writers. You can subscribe to my letters at


So, you mentioned this novel that now I’m just like, thinking, Oh, we’re going to be able to read a lot more of this one day. So, can you tell me maybe more about that, or just what’s currently haunting you in your writing? Maybe you have other projects on the go, too?

ViNa Nguyễn:  22:58

For this novel, what’s currently haunting me is the construct of time, as I said before, bodies, and what it means to wear a body, and how that interplays with identity and agency. Also in this novel, I am definitely not like a scientist in any way. But for some reason, I’m like really loving, like just space stuff, like astrophysics stuff. So that creates much of the world in that novel, where I call them spacetime vortices, really, they’re black holes, just a fancy word. That are swallowing the world, literally, like the earth. So pockets of the earth are swirling with these black holes. But I liked playing with the idea of how space time would not only just be like the physical space, but like the sense of time would change. And so I was like, imagine if I wouldn’t die by standing next to a black hole, like close to that horizon. But let’s just say somehow, I would still exist. But like, imagine my memories getting distorted, like getting pulled and pushed. Then my orientation, my sense of space, and time itself gets completely disoriented. So I started thinking, okay, for me, I’m going to say, when you are close to a black hole, you get this amnesia bit where you also get washed in like nostalgia. You just can’t stop going backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards, looking at all the pretty things that you want to think about all the time and forget all the other things that you know. So like, would you want to stay around a black hole longer instead of going back out of it to so-called reality?


I was playing with that. And then there’s a book by Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein, The Disordered Cosmos, she’s amazing. There was just so much in that book that inspired the novel. Like, honestly, I’m so grateful for her for writing this book. So some of the things I started thinking about is like, what if these black holes are appearing because they’re like manifestations of social issues in the world, and then started playing with that. What does it mean to wear melanin bodies? I was like what if every time you shed something different happens to the body?


So yeah, it’s been fun just imagining these worlds and these consequences, and then how they’re all connected to one another without really knowing how they’re connected to one another. So it’s been a fun project that I am working very hard towards and trying not to get stressed out. But hopefully one day this book will be up there in the world.

Rachel Thompson:  25:59

I love hearing about all the inspiration as well. I interviewed Dr. Chanda Prescod once as a lit mag editor as well. So I just think it’s really cool. Yeah, I don’t know if you need that. There’s a literary connection as well. Yeah.

ViNa Nguyễn:  26:11

Tell me more. Yeah.

Rachel Thompson:  26:13

It’s just silly that I can’t remember the name of the journal because it’s a really well-known cool journal. But I will be sure to mention it in the recap of this episode. I’ll send it to you after.

ViNa Nguyễn:  26:22

Getting goosebumps. That is so cool. Wow, what a coincidence.

Rachel Thompson:  26:27

Also, just like real literate, like someone who’s an incredible scientist, clearly was winning, now, whenever I see anything about her, it’s always awards for science, but definitely is also very literarily inclined, as well, too. So it’s super cool.

ViNa Nguyễn:  26:42

You’re right, yeah.

Rachel Thompson:  26:43

Then here you are, coming from the literary side, and going into the science of those kinds of anomalies and space, time.

ViNa Nguyễn:  26:52

It’s really cool, hey, I don’t know her personally at all. But the way that her work influences my writing and my view of the world like that, that is what I think of with like, literary communities. There’s so many people don’t personally know. But their work is so important to me. Their work has helped me grow as a writer or inspired me to write to see things differently. That is such an important thing. I always think of that when like, let’s say, my writer friends are like, Oh, I don’t want to read this book. Like, it’s not important. What am I trying to say? I am like, you never know, you never know.

Rachel Thompson:  27:31

I want to end with our Quick Lit Round that we talked about before we started recording. So you already know the rules, which are there are really no rules. I call it quick lit, but I let people go long or short as they wish. I’ll start with the sentence,


Being a writer is…

ViNa Nguyễn:  27:47

A writer is a person who strives to see the world in a different way. That is what I think of like for myself as a writer, I think it is where we can have a lot of different ideas about the different ways we can still live together. Those imaginings I feel will always influence society in a positive or negative way. But I think it is one of our important roles and responsibility is what world are you imagining today? Further to that is, what will liberate you today? What would be a liberating world that you can imagine? Because it can become a possibility.

Rachel Thompson:  28:32

That kind of comes back to that idea of joy that you are bringing up saying, Okay, well, there is a lot of grief, but also for these communities, I want to imagine a better world somehow too. The next quick lit is, literally I am going to rename this category, probably. Literary magazines are…

ViNa Nguyễn:  28:54

Literary magazines are communities that have a sense of, they have a sense of the cultural pulse. They understand what are the current issues, what are the things that are going on. It is where I would read stuff to understand what the consciousness of other artists are at the moment and see what everyone’s thinking about imagining. Inevitably, I always find that what I think I’m writing about, maybe unique, but it always echoes what other artists are doing. That’s our like, group consciousness almost. I feel literary mags can be like those sensors that keep their, I don’t know how to say it. A sense of the cultural pulse, just gathering us in that way and reflecting back to us, what we’re thinking.

Rachel Thompson:  29:54

I’ve heard it described as a conversation before too, it’s like because then if you’re finding you’re writing about something that you’ve read elsewhere, then it’s sort of almost like those pieces are in conversation with one another too.

ViNa Nguyễn:  30:06


Rachel Thompson:  30:07

My next three of five is editing requires…

ViNa Nguyễn:  30:11

Patience. 100%. Vision, and humility, I would say. So, I’d spoken earlier about how when you’re unsure of what you want, but then I think there’s also the other side of where I feel you can be too sure of what you want, and then kind of get in a tunnel vision. So I think humility allows you to be open to other voices and other possibilities that can really help your vision in a way that you didn’t expect.

Rachel Thompson:  30:43

Rejection for a writer means…

ViNa Nguyễn:  30:46

A chance for self love. Yeah, I feel, it means that the time for that piece of writing hasn’t come yet. So be it like it’s waiting for a better spot, a better community, not better, but like a better fit. Or it’s still waiting for you to maybe hone the vision or certain elements of it. The timing for it just hasn’t come yet.

Rachel Thompson:  31:14

Then finally, writing community is…

ViNa Nguyễn:  31:17

The spine of a writer. I feel like for myself, it is what allows me to do everything I do every day. Because I know that other people are doing it. I know that we respect each other’s work and we anticipate each other’s work, that we care about each other’s work. It’s not completely, like work in isolation. So, writing communities are very, very, very important.

ViNa Nguyễn:  31:47

I think writers hear this often, but I think it is true, like, you want to connect with other writers, other communities as you’re writing, because they will uplift you, they will also challenge you. But that’s good, right? A kind, generous challenge, not as in like breaking you down, but challenging you to go deeper, go further with the work. I think we all need that to grow because we’re such social beings, right? It allows us to have different worldviews because like even right now, the political climate is very tumultuous. If there was only one chamber, where everyone who has the same ideas can live there, then that just cuts out so much dialogue, so much growth in understanding and truth seeking. So that’s why like, literally communities for me, it’s not just emotional support, but it’s also like ethical checks and balances.

Rachel Thompson:  32:49

Thank you so much.

ViNa Nguyễn:  32:50

Thank you, Rachel.

Rachel Thompson:  32:52

So that was my conversation with ViNa Nguyễn. Here now, is ViNa reading from “A Nesting of Bracketed Bodies”

ViNa Nguyễn:  33:02

Hello, everyone. I’m ViNa Nguyễn and I’m here to read an excerpt from my short story called a nesting of “A Nesting of Bracketed Bodies”


Some content warnings, specifically for the excerpt I’ll be reading are abuse, gang violence, and death.


My cousin was shot six times in his black truck than several times more beyond that. You could swing the driver door open and pure right through it. Six warped circles that were big enough for your index finger to sneak through. He dragged himself out of his truck and onto his driveway as the gangsters kept shooting until he stopped moving. We were 23. While he was fixating in his own blood. I was throwing out books, I was flipping pages, skimming words, deciding which books I can no longer tolerate; their violence against women, their stalking of women, their fetishizing of women, their lines of words that guillotine women from their bodies. I was trying to heal myself two years after graduating university, gathering myself to return to myself as as long as drowned in internal pool of homegrown shadows. Close bracket.


I get home from my finger modelling shifts late in the afternoon, and Sue was at home. Her absence relieves me but I don’t dwell on it. I make myself a rice bowl from yesterday’s leftovers and rewatch episodes of Unohana. During the last episode, I weep from beginning to end than take a hot shower as I wonder whether crying singularly in our homes makes us better people. I grew up surrounded by women who cried unabashedly in front of their siblings, daughters, husbands, sons, friends, who begged to be loved and understood, and no one did. When I’m broken, I no longer want anyone to see it. I would rather heal alone over 100 years than trust that people won’t break and use my pain against me. This is probably why I’m alone in the company of people and lonely in the comfort of solitude.


Open bracket. I cry myself to sleep in the middle of the day and wake hours later when no ink of sun is left. Sue still isn’t home. I hope I didn’t forget that a friend of hers has a show or reception. But fatigue is an uninvited roommate in my body who refuses to depart even after a lengthy meal. It’s disorienting to sleep so much and feel as though no time has passed.


Open bracket. On the day of his funeral, I couldn’t bear to see my cousin lying there in his coffin. So I hid in the washroom until I couldn’t and then I fled, checked 30 minutes to the nearest train station barefooted with my heels in one hand, attracting stairs and honks as I damp in the elbows of my blazer. I wasn’t supposed to live this long. He wasn’t supposed to die like that. I take it back, every punch. I take them all back, that every sin bruise me to a plum.


Open brackets. We were in the basement hiding from the swallow of summer. The afternoon sun penetrated the large dank room to project a crisp rectangle of sepia light on the back wall, where my cousin was beating up his younger brother. Then he made horrible sounds when he was being beaten; shots and whimpers and shrieks and yelps like a wounded dog. His thin body curling up on the carpet like a dry pomelo peel, as dust motes bracketed him. My cousin never stopped unless he was stopped. Neither dads bloods spotting the wall and their blobs dripping from Vinnies nose onto his shirt and hands could stop him. I can never identify the impetus for why Vinnie was being beaten because often it started with nothing and ignored command, a smirk, stubbornness in Vinnies eyes, or my cousin being a little bored, a little irritated, a little sad. These were nothings to me. Something would have been that day when their mom left them for a life reset. Then he fought back that day, in a way that disturbed me more than the beating. He clung to his older brother’s legs and nods through his jeans, and my cousins swung and thrashed wildly, kicking Vinnie in the mouth till it was a pool of red. Even then, then he refuse to let go. Neither of them cried out. All you could hear was sinew, skin and bone contacting in a room that soured was sweat. Then Vinnie small pointy chin face broken to a raising of sobs, and my cousin’s expression changed. He was plainly unsettled, a child again, a child trying to understand how this was love. He was trying to parent his brother, but now there was this, another ghost. His hits became measured and slow till finally they stopped. She fell over onto his side as Vinnie clambered up him. Like he was a tree and clung to his torso. He tried to shove him off, but then he held on to his brother gripping tight as he held. My cousin lifted his face to the ceiling, bringing a hand over his own eyes, the first and only time he stopped on his own.


Open bracket. When the inner bodies of trees grow faster than their outsides, the bark splits into ripples. This is what happens to spruce who don’t shed their bark as often as birch and Aspen do. They grow old fast, you reject those articles on gang psychology that claim your cousin lacks a clear sense of social identity craved a sense of belonging from his surrogate family, and enjoy the protected violence, power and control. You won’t believe the lie that your cousin was created from an abyss that his was an existence of absent missing things raised on a deficit of love. How oversimplified that notion is, as though overabundance isn’t responsible for deficiency, and privilege isn’t the sibling of oppression and the parent of violence. You won’t believe the lie that your cousin is full of lacking, desperate and pitiful. Doesn’t the spirit show love overflowing as it allows itself to turn them into a mess of tough skin? It says, here I am shedding slowly so you can make a home in me. Close bracket, close bracket, close bracket.


Thank you for listening everyone.

Rachel Thompson:  39:47

Wow, right? What a beautiful writer and I hope we do get to read the novel that this piece springs from one day soon.


What I most appreciated in our discussion was ViNa’s advice to find workshop situations and techniques that help you expand on your vision as writers. And I also want to underscore the message that a writer is someone who strives to see the word in a different way. I know there’s so much pressure to see things one way these days and to take our bullet points of positions from influencers and external sources. So, maybe today is a good day to ask yourself how you see things in your journal. What world are you imagining today, as ViNa Nguyễn asks?


You can read the entire piece A Nesting of Bracketed Bodies in Ghosts 46.3, Room, in the magazine, available in the shop up at as either a print or digital copy.


Coming up in this Ghosts series you will hear from more artists and writers about what it is to be haunted in our work and more thoughts on emerging as a creative person and staying true to your vision.


The Write, Publish, and Shine podcast is brought to you by me, Rachel Thompson. Sound Editing by Adam Linder. Transcripts by Diya Jaffery. Always thank you to Meli Walker for assistance in brainstorming these episodes and helping put together some content. Thank you all. You can learn more about how I help writers write, publish and shine at When you’re there, sign up for my writerly love letters sent every week and filled with support for your writing practice and your communing practice, I guess in the case of this week’s letter.


If this episode encouraged you to review a book and dig into how craft works, I would love to hear all about it. You can always email me at You will find me posting occasional updates on Instagram; follow me there @rachelthompsonauthor, but note that’s not where to connect with me as I don’t do DMs. As I have been on there following the news and protests, I couldn’t help but pop into peek at my DMs and saw a pitch for a podcast guest. So, to be clear, I don’t take pitches or any DMs. Heck, I seldom answer pitches to my emails, as they’re often not a great fit for the pod. But email is the best way to reach me if you want to engage. You can do so at


Thank you to all of you who have been sharing the podcast with other writers. I really appreciate you for sending writers to or telling them to search Write, Publish, and Shine wherever they get their podcasts.


Thank you for listening—I encourage you to expand on your vision, dear writers.


ViNa Nguyễn with a land acknowledgement about where they spoke to me from…

ViNa Nguyễn:  43:00

I am reading in Calgary, which is on Treaty 7 territory in Alberta.

Rachel Thompson:  43:29

And I am a guest in the South Sinai on lands of the el Muzzina Bedouin.

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