How Prof. Shawn Wong Works – UW Graduate School Skip to content

How Prof. Shawn Wong Works

Shawn Wong

Shawn Wong, Professor
Department/program: English and Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media
Research focus: Asian American literature, fiction, screenwriting, creative writing

Professor Shawn Wong has taught around the globe — at Universität Tübingen (Germany), Jean Moulin Université (Lyon, France), University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) and at the University of Washington Rome Center (Italy). He’s been honored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the author of several anthologies and novels; one of his novels, American Knees, was made into a movie in 2013. He is one of the founding teachers of The Red Badge Project, a collaboration with actor Tom Skeritt that uses the power of storytelling to help veterans process trauma. He’s given advice for first-year students at the UW, and now he’s giving us some tips and tricks for getting it all done.


Give us a one-word description of how you work.


How do you manage your to-dos?

I write them down in a notebook, then try and remember where I put the notebook.

What are your essential apps, software or tools?

Word, Google, the New York Times

What is your best time-saving shortcut?

I work in my office rather than at home.

What are some of your productivity strategies you’ve honed over your years in academia?

Though it takes more time, I prefer to meet face-to-face with my students rather than send them an email so that we can have a conversation, debate, come to agreement, etc. I like to “see” that they understand something. I think it’s more effective to comment on their writing in person rather than write notes in the margin that they might not read. Also, I like my students to work collaboratively on almost everything from writing papers, doing research and even taking exams.


What mundane thing are you really exceptional at?


What are you currently reading for pleasure?

Novels written by friends of mine (so I don’t have to lie to them anymore about having read their books).

What’s the last thing that made you laugh?

My son’s concept of the world.

How do you recharge?

I own a 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner muscle car.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

My mentor, the American writer Kay Boyle, told me, “Writing is about belief.”

Who’s your support system?

My family.

What pitfall do you consistently see students falling into?

Choosing a path that they aren’t committed to, or choosing a path that’s chosen by their parents or someone else.

What do your most successful students do?

They find a path that satisfies their heart and their mind.

How UW Works was inspired by LifeHacker’s How I Work.

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