Creation & Connection: Scholarships Bring 4 Writers to Asian & Asian American Voices Retreat

Jun 16, 2024 | Asian American Voices, Scholarship Stories

Emily Sun Li, Meredith Seung Mee Buse, Parsa Choudhury, and Patricia Miranda joined us at Asian and Asian American Voices: an In-Community Retreat with scholarship support from Hawthornden Foundation and our General Scholarship Fund. “The experience was truly galvanizing,” said Patricia, and Meredith added: “Everyone took such good care of us during the retreat and the trademark Highlights magic was definitely in the air!” Read on to learn more about these four writers!

Emily’s Story

Photo of Emily Sun LiEmily Sun Li is a Chinese American writer with an MA in Children’s Literature and MFA in Writing for Children at Simmons University. Previously, she spent two years teaching English and studying Mandarin Chinese in Kaohsiung, Taiwan as a Fulbright scholar. Her experience in education started at the Taft School, where she taught English literature as part of the University of Pennsylvania’s Independent School Teaching Residency M.S.Ed. program. She studied creative writing/English literature and environmental science at Emory University, graduating summa cum laude. Her poetry is published by Button Poetry, Uncharted, Molecule, and Rigorous, and her writing has been recognized by the YoungArts Foundation, Voyage YA Journal, and the City of Boston. Her debut picture book, MR. CHOW’S NIGHT MARKET, releases in Spring 2026 with Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House. When she’s not writing, she’s probably procrasti-cleaning, drinking milk tea, or traveling.

Emily found the experience to be truly unique: “It’s been weeks, and I still smile every time I think about my time at Highlights. I feel so grateful and so lucky when I reflect on how meaningful it was for me to meet so many other AAPI creators and artists at the in-community retreat. And this feeling of rejuvenation and belonging couldn’t have come at a better time, as I have just graduated from Simmons University with my MA/MFA in children’s literature and am feeling equally lost and excited about my (lack of!) next steps. As much as I truly and thoroughly enjoyed my program, there were very few students of color, so I really relished being in a space where I didn’t have to explain who I was and where I come from.”

“One of the main lessons I learned was an internal realization: I had no idea how powerful it would be for me to meet older AAPI folks in the children’s literature space. As the daughter of Chinese immigrant parents, whose peers are primarily pursuing more traditional professional paths, it struck me during my time at Highlights how few Asian and Asian American creatives I have to look up to. But thanks to my scholarship, I came away from the weekend with a community of friends and mentors that I know I’ll be able to turn to for support as I navigate the exciting journey of writing for young people. I so appreciated everyone’s generosity and transparency as they shared their triumphs and challenges as professional writers. I truly had no idea I would feel such a sense of profound relief at having now met these people. Before Highlights, I felt like I was fumbling around in the dark on my own. Now, I have a flashlight, and footsteps to follow.”
Instagram @emilysunli
Twitter/X @emilysunli

Meredith’s Story

Photo of Meredith Seung Mee BuseMeredith Seung Mee Buse is an author, educator and Korean American transracial adoptee. A teaching artist with Writegirl and recipient of a 2023 Scholarship from The Highlights Foundation, her writing has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer and on A veteran teacher of 18 years, Meredith has studied race, identity and representation with scholars across the country and hosted a book launch event with award-winning author Andrea Wang. Meredith has been featured in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Magazine for her work as an educator. In addition to reading, writing and teaching, she loves yoga, cuddling with her cats and hanging out with her family.

Meredith has attended 2 Asian & Asian American Voices Retreats: “Both retreats were amazing opportunities to my immerse myself in my creative pursuits. At last year’s retreat I worked on a picture book manuscript that is currently out on submission and this year I worked on a middle grades manuscript I hope to begin submitting soon. The contacts I made at both retreats have been vital to both my personal and professional development as an author.”

About her experience, she said: “It was so meaningful to me because the stories I want to tell are vital, but still are a little bit outside the mainstream for children’s books. As I am struggling to gain traction in traditional publishing, I don’t think I would be able to persist and pursue telling these stories without the support of Highlights Foundation and the fellow storytellers I have met there.”

Watch for several books to emerge from her retreats: “I am now working on a middle grades novel, the characters, concept and storyline for which I created at Highlights Foundation during my last retreat! I hope this character can tell a very important and underrepresented story with humor and heart. [This year] a very special character was born during my retreat and I hope you will see her in print soon!”
Instagram: @meredithseungmeebuse
Twitter/X: @msmbuse

Parsa’s Story

Parsa Choudhury is by profession a literacy educator and a reading specialist.Her experience focuses on children from kindergarten to all age groups, up to learners of college level. Her real passion for children comes from her love of children and love of reading. When she is not teaching or learning, she is often seen cooking Asian and Bengali dishes, with flavory and healthy spices, like turmeric, ginger and others.

About her retreat experience, Parsa said: “It was meaningful to me in creating a space to connect with some creative writer friends who were working in the children’s literature field. Some conversations allowed aspiring writers to connect; sometimes it offered opportunities for sharing strategies and ideas/feedback for writing. There were ample opportunities to work on one’s own writing. The group was a mix of some published authors and many aspiring authors which offered a platform for learning.”

We can look for more from Parsa in the future: “I will be using some of the strategies, ideas, readings, tips for future work in this field. I will continue my professional development in this field by learning about the current and latest publishing trends.”

Patricia’s Story

Patricia Miranda wrote: “I’m a Filipina-American poet and fiction writer based in Columbus, Ohio, and I write primarily for children and young adults. In 2016, I was awarded a We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) Middle Grade Mentorship with WNDB co-founder Ellen Oh. In 2017, my short story “A Roundabout Way” was selected by Cynthia Leitich Smith for the Katherine Paterson Prize in Middle Grade Fiction. In 2019, my debut picture book, LEAF MAN, with husband-illustrator Chris O’Leary, was published by Albert Whitman. My poems and short stories have appeared in apt (Pushcart nomination), Frontier Poetry, Heron Tree, Into the Void, Kitaab, Winter Tangerine, and several other literary journals. I am represented by Peter Knapp of Park & Fine Literary and Media.

Patricia described her experience as “truly galvanizing. Meeting other writers and having long stretches of time to revise my manuscript has made me see myself as a writer again! I’m revising an MG fantasy manuscript that I hope will inspire kids to love stories and to see differences as the building blocks for teamwork.”

One retreat takeaway: “I learned about current issues in children’s book publishing: e.g., that editor Connie Hsu believes that we will soon reach a point in publishing when explicitly putting identity issues at the forefront of one’s stories will not always be necessary, that we can create Asian and Asian-American characters without foregrounding the challenges that can arise from that identity and just write their stories.”

Photo of Patricia Miranda
Book cover: Leaf Man

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