Alumni Profile: Loan Le ’14, MFA’17

Alumni Profile: Loan Le ’14, MFA’17

Loan Le ’14, MFA’17

Loan Le ’14, MFA’17

The Double Life of an Editor-Author

I didn’t see much Vietnamese-American representation in books and films. I saw many American books and films about the Vietnam War — the trauma of it all. But people my age did not go through the war and our history isn’t all sadness

— Meredith Guinness MA’16

Loan Le ’14, MFA’17 is living a double life. After climbing the ranks to full editor at Simon & Schuster, she celebrated the February publication of her debut novel, A Pho Love Story, a sweet-and-savory take on teen romance that recently made Bon Appetit magazine’s list of “7 New Novels for People Who Love Eating.”

Written in 2018, the YA tome was set to hit bookstores in 2020, but the universe had other ideas. No matter, said Le, who spent the year focused on her other passion — shepherding authors along their own journeys to publication.

“They are side by side. My writing was always side by side with my editing career,” said Le, who lives in New York but stayed in Connecticut during the pandemic.

Born in California, Le grew up in Waterbury and Cheshire, where she first tried her hand at her future profession working on the Cheshire High School newspaper. At Fairfield, classmates will remember she put her stamp on The Fairfield Mirror, helping to create the design-heavy features section, “The Vine,” before becoming the weekly newspaper’s editor-in-chief.

Under the tutelage of faculty mentor Tommy Xie, PhD, associate professor of journalism, Le credits The Fairfield Mirror with teaching her about design, time management, and the importance of communicating well with a team.

The lessons have served her well at Simon & Schuster, where she snagged a coveted internship after her sophomore year at Fairfield. After college, she applied for an entry-level spot at one of the publishing house’s many imprints and found herself rushing to the train for a job interview at Rockefeller Center right after dropping off her final creative writing portfolio.

The interview went well and she started a week later. Le, who majored in English with concentrations in journalism and creative writing, is well-matched for her current position, where she specializes in “dark, character-driven, literary fiction.” A self-described introvert, she said she’s learned how to trust her instincts. In the end, picking and working with an author is often a matter of letting others feel her enthusiasm, or “sounding the alarm.”

“I’m not loud, but I can be loud with my passion,” she said.

Editing requires Le to “live inside the lines” of authors’ works. Is a story’s secret revealed too soon? Does the main character do something out of character?

While she loves her job, the former Magis Scholar found herself wanting more a few years after graduation. “I was a little, sort of, lost. I realized I wasn’t writing anymore,” she said.

Enter Fairfield’s MFA in Creative Writing program. The low-residency model allowed her to work on her adult short stories while staying on top of her career.

“I wanted it to get me where I envisioned and, honestly, I think I got more,” Le said. “It was just the right program for me.”

When it came to her first book, she gained inspiration from her own family. Her parents were originally from Vietnam, and growing up, she and her brother and sister were surrounded by a loving extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Family traditions were passed down, and so was her desire to consider the Vietnamese-American experience.

“I didn’t see much Vietnamese-American representation in books and films. I saw many American books and films about the Vietnam War — the trauma of it all,” she said. “But people my age did not go through the war and our history isn’t all sadness.”

As a result, while A Pho Love Story touches on the concept of the inheritance of trauma — a lived experience that can be passed down through generations, and issues of racism and cultural dynamics, there is also plenty of joy and love. Perhaps this is why Le’s novel, set against the backdrop of rival Vietnamese restaurants, was selected an Amazon Editors’ “Best Young Adult” Book Pick.

Le said she loves being able to immerse herself in her stories. She continues the tale of two side characters from A Pho Love Story in Solving for the Unknown, her next novel due out in Summer 2023.

While some authors have a set-in-stone routine for writing as the sun comes up or in a particular chair with a beloved pen, Le said she’s learned to follow her inspiration wherever and whenever it takes her.

“I’m comfortable not having a routine anymore,” she said with a laugh. “I try my best every day.”

Other Articles in the Fall 2021 Issue

Letter from the President

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Aquila’s Nest Vineyards

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Provocative Teapots

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Living Tributes

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Welcome Back, Fr. Mac

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New Name, New Vision

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Alumni Profile: Joe Murtha, BEI ’92

Read the Article

Donor Profile: John Thompson III and Monica Moore Thompson, P’23

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