Passing the Torch: Introducing Our New Writing Life Editor, Kristen Paulson-Nguyen

by Rae Pagliarulo

There’s a saying about not burning the candle at both ends. As a Type A/Capricorn/oldest child, I like to think it doesn’t apply to me – but the truth is, each of us can only do our best at so many tasks. And sometimes, that means letting go of wonderful things.

Two years ago, I wrote Donna Talarico a long and flowery email about how much I wanted to be the Articles Editor for the Writing Life column. I had been cutting my teeth on editing for a few years already and loved the process, the back-and-forth, and the excitement of ushering a new piece of writing into its best iteration, along with a talented writer who couldn’t wait to share their thoughts with the world.

I was so nervous to take on this new role, though. Who the hell was I to decide what kinds of stories were worth sharing? What gave me the right to make those calls?

The answer is both simple and not. I simply raised my hand and said out loud, to someone else – I can do this. (Or, at the very least, I can learn how.)

The scariest thing in the world can be raising our hands and saying, Hey – let me do this cool thing! I’ll figure it out, I promise! We open ourselves up to judgment, to failure, and in the case of working with other writers, we run the risk of giving shitty or uninformed advice and gaining a crap reputation. I mean, it’s not life or death, but the stakes are undoubtedly high.

The only thing that helped me push past that gnawing fear was humility. I’m not talking about refusing to give ourselves any credit for our own smarts or talents or instincts. I’m talking about reminding ourselves that everyone is just doing their best, and in this chaotic world, there are far fewer right answers than most of us are comfortable admitting. Most importantly – of the right answers that do exist, we have very few of them.

Editing is not about someone who is smarter or better giving someone else advice. It’s about communicating, and making recommendations, and working with someone to make their intentions and their final product as similar as humanly possible. It’s not easy, and it’s not fast, but it is unbelievably rewarding.

I’ve had the honor and pleasure of engaging in that process for the last 25 months, with a group of writers who had something important to share and wanted to do it with Hippocampus. I’m lucky. But – and I’m getting back to the point here – I’m also overloaded. Between taking on responsibility for the selection and editing of all of this magazine’s flash essays, and transitioning into a new (super rewarding, super challenging) career as a consultant, plus the everyday challenges of being a human being with a family, a partner, friends, and the need for alone time, I had to re-prioritize.

To that end – I am THRILLED beyond comprehension to pass the torch to Kristen Paulson-Nguyen, a past Writing Life contributor, HippoCamp attendee, and all around kick-ass literary citizen. As a writer, reader, and facilitator, Kristen just gets it, and her vision for this column is far beyond what I could make happen in my current capacity. She comes to this position with a clear vision, a thoughtful strategy, and the two most important things of all – the guts to raise her hand and say I can do this, and the humility to do the thing well.

Want to work with me? You can still reach me at or submit a piece of flash to the magazine.

Want to work with Kristen? Just email

All the X’s and all the O’s,



About Kristen:

Kristen Paulson-Nguyen imageKristen Paulson-Nguyen got hooked on the raw honesty and lyrical beauty of nonfiction after working as a Boston Globe columnist and correspondent, copywriter and magazine editor.

She found her people at GrubStreet in Boston, where she completed year-long memoir and essay intensives with kind, generous and brilliant authors Alex Marzano-Lesnevich (The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir, 2017) and Grace Talusan (The Body Papers, 2019). Kristen’s memoir-in-progress is her current major project. BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog, Headspace, Hippocampus and Creative Nonfiction have published her essays.

Follow her on Twitter @kpnwriter. Send pitches to:


Editors note: Kristen Paulson-Nguyen joins our editing team which also includes craft articles editor Carina Sitkus, reviews editor Angela Eckhart, and, the torch-passer herself, our flash editor Rae Pagliarulo.

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