Wendy Call is co-editor of the craft anthology Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide (Penguin, 2007); author of No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy (Nebraska, 2011), winner of the Grub Street Book Prize and an International Latino Book Award; and translator of two books of poetry by Mexican-Zapotec poet Irma Pineda, In the Belly of Night and Other Poems (Pluralia/Song Bridge, 2022) and Nostalgia Doesn’t Flow Away Like Riverwater (Deep Vellum, 2023). Wendy has received grants and fellowships for her creative nonfiction from 4Culture, Artist Trust, Ragdale Foundation, and the Seattle CityArtist Program, and for her translations of poetry, from the Fulbright Commission, Jack Straw Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts. She has served as Artist in Residence at two dozen institutions, including the American Antiquarian Society, Harborview Medical Center, New College of Florida, Seattle University, and five national parks. Wendy lives in the country’s most linguistically diverse zip code (Southeast Seattle), in an old house that is walking distance to all of life’s essentials: a farmer’s market, independent bookstore, public library, brewpub, community art gallery, old-growth forest, and view of Mount Tahoma.
Mentor: Workshops and classes in nonfiction
Statement: When I was ten years old, a friend’s father told me, “We are changed by every interaction we have in our lives. Every person you meet will change you in some way.” I listened to his words from the back seat of his huge sedan as we drove through the mountains, a nighttime Pacific forest visible through scratched windows. The magnitude of the idea settled over me as we moved past enormous, centuries-old trees. I imagined myself at age 30, 40, 50: my identity composed of what I’d received from other people. A deep sense of liberation and relief washed over me: I was no longer solely responsible for the person I became. And I would never be truly alone, because I would carry those bits of other people within me. I discovered my vocation as a writer in that moment, though it would take me another eighteen years realize it.
I remember that man’s words each time I enter a writing workshop or offer feedback on a writer’s work. Though both of my parents were teachers, I never imagined that I would become one—I understood only too well the wide skill set the profession demanded. I worked for fifteen years as a freelance writer and editor, and before that, ten years as a grassroots organizer. During my decade as a grassroots organizer, I led several intensive training programs for new organizers. I never thought of that work as “teaching.” In the tradition of Paulo Freire, I was simply helping people discover what they already knew. I finally came to understand that’s what teaching creative writing is.
My job as a writing mentor is to bring the toolbox, both literal and metaphorical. It might include kitchen utensils, glue stick and scissors, postcards, advertisements, original works of art, bottled scents, raw vegetables, or items from a recycle bin or thrift shop. It includes world literature, direct engagement with working writers, and concepts borrowed from linguistics, anthropology, sociology, and ecology. I open the box, pass around the tools, and we build things (good, not-so-good, and most of all, instructive) together.