This idea of supporting and holding each other up and putting each other ahead is something I learned early on. I do feel strongly that there’s room for all of us to succeed.
—Tamara Jong

In this episode, I talk to Tamara Jong about celebrating writers’ publication wins.

Tamara Jong (she/her) is a Montreal-born mixed-race writer/cartoonist of Chinese and European ancestry. Her work has appeared in Anomaly, Carte Blanche, Room, The New Quarterly, Invisible Publishing, and Body & Soul: Stories for Skeptics and Seekers.

Listen to her take on holding each other up as writers, jealousy, and persevering to publish. Plus she talks about how to get started in narrative comic art.

Links and Resources from this Episode:


This episode is brought to you by my course, Lit Mag Love.

    Sign up for my Writerly Love Letters sent every-other week and filled with support for your writing practice at

    A full transcript will appear here soon.

    #56 Write, Publish, Shine Episode Transcript

    SPEAKERS: Tamara Jong, Rachel Thompson

    Rachel Thompson:  00:01

    Welcome luminous writers to the Write, Publish and Shinepodcast. I’m 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, and welcome back to another season of the Write, Publish and Shine podcast. I’m kicking off this year by talking with Tamara Jong, a wonderful writer, and editor and colleague of mine, someone who helps celebrate writers in the writing community that I host, in the course community that I host. She’s someone who very specifically, meticulously makes sure that we acknowledge everyone who publishes in journals, everyone’s successes, and I’m so grateful for her. I appreciate all her support, and her writerly friendship.



    Tamara Jong is a Montreal born, mixed race writer/cartoonist, and we’re going to talk about that in the episode of ‘Chinese and European Ancestry’. Her work has appeared in Anomaly, carte blanche, [sysco 01:20] Rue Magazine, The New Quarterly, Invisible Publishing, and Body & Soul: Stories for Skeptics and Seekers. I know it’s also forthcoming in the upcoming BIPOC issue for The Fiddlehead. And we’re also going to talk a bit about that in the episode two. So here is my conversation with Tamara Jong:



    Hi, Tamara, thank you for being on the Write, Publish and Shine podcast. I’m so thrilled to have you with me today. I mean, we’ve had so many conversations about writing off pod. So, to have it on pod, I think is very cool. Tamara, you’ve been celebrating writers in the Lit Mag Love Course community and the Writerly Love community. And I’m so grateful for you. Thank you for that. I guess one thing I’ve always kind of wondered, and you’ve been so generous with the time that you spend doing that, with the time that you spend reading individual writers’ work and responding very specifically to it. And I’m just wondering, why do you do this? Why do you celebrate other writers so much Tamara?


    Tamara Jong:  02:22

    Well, I feel like it’s something I always kind of did. Even early on as a like emerging- I feel like a continually emerging writer. So, and I’ve always kind of been part of communities. For me earlier on, it was like a religious community, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but good or bad, it sorts of did shape, kind of like my worldview. And so, I feel like this idea of supporting and holding each other up, or putting other people ahead is something I kind of learned early on, of myself, let’s say, I’ve always kind of felt very connected to wanting to celebrate the successes, even if the success wasn’t really mine.  



    I do feel very strongly that, there’s room kind of for all of us to succeed. And I never really liked that idea that there wasn’t enough resources or places or spots or areas for just- let’s say just me, or just for a select few. And I feel like I’ve benefited also from others, who have kind of paid forward. They’ve also generously donated their time or really given to me advice, when I needed it. For example, like you, and especially your community, these kinds of things are the things that keep me going. At least that’s been my experience. So, I really do believe in paying kind of forward. And even if it doesn’t seem like there’s any benefit for me, like so when I say that I’m in someone’s corner, and then I’m rooting for them like I generally- like I really do.


    Rachel Thompson:  03:46

    I’ve seen it. And I’m wondering, what are some of the things that you’ve gleaned from keeping like a close eye on the success of other writers? I know, there isn’t really that ulterior motive, but I’m sure that you can’t help but notice some patterns when you’re seeing who’s published and how they’ve managed to publish.


    Tamara Jong:  04:05

    Yeah, I think it kind of keeps me in the loop of knowing, kind of like what’s out there in the collective what people are thinking about, and not what I should be thinking about, because sometimes it’s not the things I think about. So sometimes that’s nice, like, it’s a nice surprise. But I feel like I’m a kind of slow and steady writer, that more or less keeps going, even though sometimes it’s not easy, and I’ve had moments when I’ve wanted to stop, and your course was really actually very helpful in regard to that. Because I was feeling kind of down. I think it was about a month or so when I wasn’t actually writing. And so, I think there was like a talk.



    I ended up taking your course. And then I ended up kind of getting back into it. I got a big note. So, from an MFA program that I really wanted so badly to get in there. And I didn’t, even though you know, it was really small. I think it’s 12 people in that cohort. And it’s really tiny. It’s all across Canada, I think even internationally. So- I mean, chances are pretty tough to get in there. I felt like I had good have references and everything. And I worked so hard for it, I think it took me two weeks to apply. And then you know, you have all that weight of that on you. And so yeah, I got discouraged. And then I kind of was like, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this.” But again, your course really helped me.



    So going back to like the patterns, I’m open to writing advice. But I also try to consider the type of writer that I personally am. It gives me that like opportunity, your grace kind of to be open. And to think about things. If, for example, my application, my grant, let’s say, the contest, I entered, the lit-mag I sent it to, didn’t get chosen. So that taste is kind of subjective. And I don’t really send my work to somewhere, or at least I try not to on purpose, send it where I don’t think it’s going to fit. I don’t spend too much time heavily researching it. But I do like usually read the magazine, and like check out the masthead and kind of make it the best shot that I can do with my writing. And I go for the long shot sometimes.



    So, for example, I sent something to Tin House, because I can’t just say that, you know, hey, you should try to go for places that you’re not sure if you could get in or if you can get in or it might be slim. And then not don’t me. So, I think every time I go through any submission process, I still learn something. And so, I feel like it makes me clear on about my goals and projects for whatever I’m working on. And I feel like if I don’t believe in it, then how can a committee believe in it? So,I think it’s a good thing to see what’s out there learning from other writers and that they keep going, and that they’re persistent. And I think that’s part of it. That’s part of the book, the long game is that they keep going. And they’re persistent. Even if it’s not, let’s say 100 rejections a year, but they’re still out there. And I don’t know, it’s just nice to see that. So, it encourages me.


    Rachel Thompson:  06:40

    Yeah, I love that “If I don’t believe in it, then how can a committee believe in it?” I think that’s such a wise approach to take to your submissions. You’ve had a lot of success with your submissions, too. So, I’m wondering if, as your peers succeed, though, do you ever experience creative jealousy? Or fraudy feelings? Like, “Who do I think I am?” My side is, I think we all have these, by the way. And I know I do at times. And if you do, what do you do to work with those feelings when it comes to your writing?


    Tamara Jong:  07:12

    So, like, I think, especially my early writing days. I was a little bit more insecure. So, I did have a little bit more of like some sort of creative jealousy. But I remember hearing a quote, “Comparison is like a creativity killer”. So, I tried to think, “Okay, there’s room for all of us.” And then I think, if Charlotte Brontë never wrote Jane Eyre, and my mother never read it, and she never passed it on to me. And then I never read Mary Karr, who wrote Lit, or Chelene Knight’s Current Occupant, or Jen Wang, Wayson Choy, where would I be without these individuals, these writers, right? Like, there’s some work that like, kind of resonates are similar to mine, I guess I feel like in some ways, and I feel like I need them. And we need each other.



    So, I try to tell myself, like I need someone else sometimes and myself, also to tell my story in whatever shape or form is going to kind of come. And then one day someone will read it and say, “Hey, yes”, and then maybe tell their story. So, I feel like it has this kind of ricochet effect. So, the fraudy feelings more or less come and go. I think those are harder for me to deal with. I feel like then the jealousy maybe, especially when I’m working with something material on my own, that’s very triggering, like about my family, my religious background, the emotional kind of meets the peace. And there are parts of me that say, “Why are you writing these? Leave these secrets alone? No one wants to hear them. What is your family going to think? What is your religious community going to think? Aren’t you embarrassed?” So, it’s not like, I don’t feel the fraudy feelings. I feel like I’m bringing shame sometimes on my former organization, and even to myself, right? It’s like, some things, aren’t the better left buried? Or I may have these imposter things about like, not having an MFA, let’s say a degree in English, things like that. So, what to do with that, right.



    So, from therapy, lots of it, I’ve learned to kind of- I don’t listen, or I try anyway, to talk it out, to not necessarily believe the voices, but at least listen to them. And so, I have to understand, it’s because I’m vulnerable. I’m raw, often these are like, first drafts when I’m feeling those feelings. And parts of me are scared to kind of have that out there. And it can be very scary, nonfiction is really terrifying sometimes. So,drawing has helped me very much in this regard. And reading has helped, reading different things. And so, I try to give it kind of care and space when needed, like those pieces or when I’m having those moments. And, like, again, we’re talking about grace, just giving myself some space and some grace, and care too, just like I would too, a fellow writer that was like, concerned about things that I’m concerned about in writing these stories.


    Rachel Thompson:  09:50

    I love that, practice that you have of kind of remembering your writerly forebearers, I guess, like the people who inspired the people, who inspired the people, who wrote and inspired you. And through- you’re intersecting with that whole chain. That’s the beauty of writing. If we, have it in print, it’s forever. It’s a practice I’ve been trying to use in my own writing practice this year too, to kind of get a little bit more serious, more quickly, and maybe shake off those fraudy feelings, is just to think about all the people who have inspired my writing. So, I just love hearing that you have that already in mind. Can you tell us about a time that you- and I know you have, I’m sure many of these that you persevered until a piece was published? And how often you submitted? How many times to revise the work, how many months, maybe years did it take? And what other ways did you persevere?


    Tamara Jong:  10:46

    One of my stories, creative nonfiction piece lessons will be published in The Fiddlehead’s BIPOC Solidarities Issue coming out. So, this month, actually. And I first wrote it, [sysco 10:57] and I know, it is very nonfiction class, and that was like 2014. So, I’ve been working on and off on it for about eight years now. So, its first name was like Nursery Rhymes, then I changed it to Kindergarten Lessons, then Bible Story Lessons, and finally Lessons. And I workshopped it in those classes with [sysco 11:14] IBL Lit, then later on in 2017, and 18, when I took the Writer Studio, and your workshop, things there. And my mentor was Claudia Cornwall at this time and my cohort.



    Then I also did it with my writing group that originally came out of the nonfiction classes with [inaudible 11:29]. And then I worked on it with Chilly Night in 2020. And the last stop, or actually the last two stops, which was very pivotal, I think, in making a shift and also a lot of space, right- was Inkwell and the editor was Dominik Parisien. And then I took your Lit Mag Love Course, and the importance of first lines and paragraphs, with you. I was continually revising. So, I made some really big revisions, I felt the last two times and I sent it to Green in the past. And then JMWW, Open Minds quarterly, Untethered. And then I finally got accepted by The Fiddlehead.



    JMWW gave me some personal feedback, I recall, which was really nice and kind of validating. And I had always loved this piece. But it was missing something, and I couldn’t put my finger on it myself. So, I was happy to kind of workshop and keep going through it, trying to see what I was missing. I guess, just give your time to respect that process, no matter how long or short, it might be shorter for some other writers. And to respect it, kind of without judgment. And with The Fiddlehead, I’d submitted a couple things to The Fiddlehead before but not this particular story. So, I was really kind of a static when Rowan McCandless accepted it. Yeah, it was quite over the moon. Because Fiddlehead was a place that always wanted to have something in.


    Rachel Thompson:  12:50

    Congratulations. Yeah, that’s a great publication. And you’re going to work with a great editor, or you have worked with a great editor, because it’s already coming out. I love hearing those long stories of pieces that are published, because sometimes it does happen quickly. And I’m sure I know you’ve had those experiences too. But then on the other side, it’s like, those pieces that just keep circling back to you. And you keep working it refining, trying this, trying that and getting maybe closer and closer to what the piece needs to be, I guess in order to be seen in print or seen by readers.


    Tamara Jong:  13:22

    And it’s funny, it doesn’t seem that long now, because I was surprised that it was that old.


    Rachel Thompson:  13:27

    Yeah. Like it feels newer to you. You didn’t realize it was 2014. Is that what you’re saying?


    Tamara Jong:  13:32

    Like it been so long ago.


    Rachel Thompson:  13:35

    It’s funny, because 2014 doesn’t even seem that long ago to me right now. But I guess it is.


    Tamara Jong:  13:41

    It doesn’t. But that was when I just started writing nonfiction. Just trying it out to see if I liked it.


    Rachel Thompson:  13:46

    What a beautiful thing to be able to publish that piece, though it started as just testing the waters. That’s amazing. I can’t wait to read it in The Fiddlehead.



    I’m interrupting my conversation with Tamara Jong, to let you know that if you’ve benefited from what you’ve learned in this or other episodes of this podcast about writing and submitting your work to journals, you might be a good candidate for my course that is all about publishing in journals. The Lit Mag Love Course will help you get a big yes for your writing from a literary journal. The five-week course runs twice per year. And our first session in 2022 starts very soon on February 1st. We will hold it again in May. And so, if you wanted to get those submissions going here at the beginning of the year, this is a good opportunity to join. The course comes with lots of support and feedback. And you can learn all about The Lit Mag Love Course. Find out what writers say about working with me and join the course community at



    I know you’ve been reading a lot of CNFs, but you’ve also moved into comics in a big way, and I love that you taught members in the Writerly Love community, a brilliant and inspiring workshop on comics. I’m wondering what prompted this move. And if you could tell us a bit about what it is about comics that fit for the stories that you want to tell.


    Tamara Jong:  15:13

    I feel like I took a much-needed break from nonfiction since working on it since 2014. And I’ve been writing and revising my collected short stories, like CNF stories for quite a while. And I ended up taking an outlier story course with Nicole Bright. And we were asked to kind of keep a visual journal. So once I started reading and kind of looking at art again, I kind of remembered that I used to take art, and I was like an artist, but I never considered myself again, an artist. And my sister reminded me that I constantly would send out pictures to art instruction schools, which was like a home correspondence school back in the day. And my parents ended up meeting with some of the people or the salespeople from the home correspond school, but I ended up not getting in, probably because it was too expensive back then, that would have been like, the 70s or so.



    Charles Schulz was the instructor there, the one who did Snoopy. So, I had this newfound love. I started drawing along with like, the text I was writing and things like that. And I just kind of kept going. I started taking workshops with the Believer on Friday nights. And then I came across Tom Hart school, called SAW Sequential Art Workshop. And I decided to enroll in a comic certificate program, which was kind of terrifying and scary to do. But I started to learn so much about storytelling, once I was in there, there was so much community, there’s so many forms, and all of a sudden, it was a new way to tell story. And I had no plans to write any autobiographical fiction. But that’s what I kept drifting back into, over and over again, over and over again.



    So I guess it was part of, that’s my calling, but I found the images, like were something that I was wanting to tell, but along with limited dialogue, limited text, you can do more, sometimes with less, but it kind of depends on the story you’re trying to tell, some have lots of lettering, some have tons of panels, I had a project in mind before I came in, and it was fiction. And then when I was in there, I kind of dropped that, which is what happens. And kind of was just like, “Hey, I could probably do some kind of autobiographical comics, short or long.” The long part always scares me.



    So, I’m kind of into- just telling kind of short, little snippets. And I don’t know about the future. But that’s just the space I guess I get to play with. And there’s a lot of sorts of meditation, and you’re drawing, because it does take a long time. Because I physically draw, I don’t like to do it digitally. I don’t know, I find it very freeing, and it’s kind of different. And so now my mind kind of goes to images, as opposed to just like words only. And the subject matter that I’m writing about. It doesn’t feel as heavy when I’m writing it or drawing pictures or comics and telling stories that way.


    Rachel Thompson:  17:55

    The fact that it’s a meditative really appeals to me, I’m wondering what you would say if someone was thinking of making that move from writing, more traditional forms, in literature and then to using comics, they are literary comics, I think is what the subcategories is. Is that right?


    Tamara Jong:  18:14

    There are so many different terms. Like I’ve heard narrative comics, visual arts, visual comics, like there’s so many titles or labels that people put on it, but I think just try it. Sometimes lit mags, they are asking for more comics, if you go and look sometimes at what they’re looking for, that sometimes has its own separate little category. So, I’d say try it. Why not? You don’t have to show your work at first, I think just try it on your own, and just test the waters. I think that’s what I did. Because before I went to the comic workshop, I went to one of their draw jams. And honestly, if I had seen their draw jam, Before I enrolled, I probably might not have gone because they were really good artists, like fantastic, amazing artists that were like eons ahead of me. And I was like, oh my god, am I crazy to do this, right?



    But everyone was so nice and welcoming. It didn’t matter what level they were at, if they were high or low, like, no one was mean, no one said “Don’t try things.” Everyone was really good. So, I feel like you get what you give. When you go in and just have an open heart and mind. I think, you just got to follow kind of where you feel the energy. Tom Hart used to say that all the time, like sort of follow the energy. And that’s what I did. And so, my energy took me to autobiographical comics or narrative nonfiction, that I had to follow that energy because it was calling me there. And I think, we only have so much time sometimes to tell the stories you want to tell. And if these are the forms that they’re asking us to tell them in, then I think you should go for it.



    That line you say, “You get what you give”, when you come into something with an open heart really makes me think of you Tamara. It’s like, you come, go into spaces with such an open heart. And you give so much and then, I’m seeing amazing successes in your writing too. And I’m really happy to see that and I feel like it’s definitely part of your approach to community. which is so caring and nice? So, thank you for that. Thank you for being part of the community with me. I’m always so grateful for that. So, we’re talking about comics, the piece that you wrote a while ago. Are you writing new nonfiction, like essays? Or are you mostly focused on comics? What are you writing right now? Or what do you want to be writing?



    Well, I just received a grant from Ontario Arts Council, a recommender grant. It’s for a brand-new piece. So, I pitched a brand-new piece, and it was going to be about my dad. So, I have to start writing. I thought, because I’ve had a good year or so to kind of not be writing strictly like nonfiction. Besides revising, so I thought it was time to kind of write a new piece, maybe there’ll be some small images there. But it’s going to be about my dad, who recently passed revelations about his own past and history, his other secret family, my relationship with him, past and during, and when he was really sick, I couldn’t really write about it. So, I kind of took notes and did a lot of drawing.



    So, I have this little book, there’s a lot of drawings and like notes and things. And I guess I’m going to take that and do a little bit more research also about some ideas that I have, because I was thinking about my relationship with hands and his hands in my hands, because when I was little, I used to hang on to his fingers. And then kind of held that I didn’t know how to really communicate with him, because he couldn’t really talk towards the end. So, I would just like kind of hold on to his hand. And I didn’t know if he was alert or not. So, it’s just really a seed, I don’t know what it’s going to look like now. And I’m just going to kind of go with it. And then these ideas are popping in my head.



    So, I’m just going to gather all that information and then see what comes out. Once I start writing, I’m going to have to write, so I’m going to have to dig in, because I have that grant, that I’m grateful for that. And I think that’ll be fun to do and see what happens. I feel excited about that project. So again, following that energy, and I also have a couple of children’s books like I’d eventually like to work on, I have those ideas, I’ve tried pitching them, and I’ve tried working on them, they still have a lot more work to do. But there is one, sort of about my dad. So, I feel like all of its coming together, which is nice. But I’m excited about these new projects, I think it’ll be interesting and fun to do.


    Rachel Thompson:  22:07

    It definitely feels like you’re following the energy. And there’s nothing like the external accountability, if someone is paying you to write something that you have to get it done. I guess I also hear in that, too, that it’s following the energy and it’s also kind of letting the peace be what it wants to be. So not deciding right away, how it’s going to shape up.


    Tamara Jong:  22:28

    Which I think is important, right? Because it keeps happening to me, I have this idea of what I’m going to write, and then it actually becomes something different. So, I should know better than make plans for my writerly self. But it’s good to have an idea anyway, to at least have a jumping point and then just kind of let it be what it is.


    Rachel Thompson:  22:43

    Yeah. And I guess obviously, this subject is one that you’re keep returning to. I know that feeling as well too, where it’s like there’s something kind of haunting you and you just keep returning to that particular story.


    Tamara Jong:  22:55

    Yeah, there was a writer JJ Lee, he talks about being haunted, that we’re all haunted by ghosts, sometimes, ghosts of our past, ghosts of our present. That really stuck with me when he said that. And I think it’s true of many writers who kind of write down, especially nonfiction writers, who talked about their history, but also their parents’ history. This need to face these ghosts, even though it is kind of scary at times, and face your own ghosts. I just think that it’s not that you always enjoy doing it. But it’s something there’s this needs to know. And I yell at [inaudible 23:23] to talk about that. Like what is your need to know. There’s another writer, I don’t know if it was Mary Karr. That said, “There’s a secret keeper in the family. There’s someone that holds the secrets.” Sorry, if I’m misquoting and it’s not Mary Karr, but somebody is holding the secret.


    Rachel Thompson:  23:36

    That might be Betsy Warlin. Does that–


    Tamara Jong:  23:38

    Okay, okay.


    Rachel Thompson:  23:39

    I’m just remembering. She always says, “There’s someone who tells the official version of a story”. Is that the same idea? Maybe I’m–


    Tamara Jong:  23:45

    Yeah, I think it is, it feels like the same idea. Like there is somebody, because my other siblings right now, they’d like to hear the information, but they’re not really interested in searching for it, in the same way that I am. So, it’s kind of interesting. But it’s also like, that’s something that I feel like drives me, to kind of want to find out the answers to these questions. Even if the only one reading it is going to be me, even if I don’t write it down, even if I don’t share it with someone else. I feel like it’s important. There’s something about it that I need to know.


    Rachel Thompson:  24:14

    I definitely relate to that. I’m sure a lot of writers relate to that, too, it’s like just writing to understand what happened even if we were there, even if we have all the facts. I mean, in your case is research and you’re uncovering new facts as well. I’m really grateful to you for speaking with the listeners today and telling the listeners about your writing, your approach to writing, your celebration of community, but holding each other up. I really feel like you hold us all up and I’m so happy for any opportunity I can have as well to hold you up.


    Rachel Thompson:  24:48

    I have this quick Lit Round that I’d love to do with you. I’ve been introducing it sporadically lately, but I’d love to bring it back for 2022, and that is to finish these sentences. The first is: Being a writer is:


    Tamara Jong:  25:03

    A gift.


    Rachel Thompson:  25:04

    A gift. Yeah. Literary Magazines are:


    Tamara Jong:  25:08



    Rachel Thompson:  25:10

    Editing requires:


    Tamara Jong:  25:11



    Rachel Thompson:  25:13

    Rejection for a writer means:


    Tamara Jong:  25:15

    Trying, you’re trying.


    Rachel Thompson:  25:17

    And writing community is:


    Tamara Jong:  25:19



    Rachel Thompson:  25:20

    Thank you, Tamara.


    Tamara Jong:  25:22

    You’re welcome.


    Rachel Thompson:  25:24

    The Lit Mag Love Course will help you get a big yes for your writing from a lit mag you love. Get ahead in your plans to publish in 2022 by joining us today. Learn more about the course and sign up at



    So that was my conversation with Tamara Jong. I’m so grateful again, I need to say it. for Tamara being part of my writing community. She is a brilliant literary citizen. I’ll add some links to her comic art, her narrative comics CNF on the episode page, so definitely check those out.



    The Write, Publish and Shine podcast is brought to you by me, Rachel Thompson. You can learn more about the work I do to help writers write, publish and shine at And when you’re there, sign up for my now weekly, at the moment Writerly Love Letters, filled with support for your writing practice. If this episode encouraged you to persevere with publishing, or to celebrate your writerly wins, I would love to hear all about it. At present, you cannot contact me on social media. I’m on a six-month hiatus from social. So, email me at and tell other luminous writers about this episode. You can do this by sending them to the podcast at searching for Write, Publish and Shine, wherever they get their podcasts. Thank you for listening, I encourage you to hold each other up, luminous writers.



    My guest spoke to me from Guelph, Ontario the ancestral homelands of the Anishinaabek Peoples, specifically the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, and I am as always, a guest in the South Sinai Egypt on lands, historically and presently occupied by the Al-Tirabin Bedouin.


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