Around the Table: Interview with Lead Editor Michelle Ha

We are thrilled to announce the call for submissions for the upcoming 46.1 “Around the Table” issue of Room Magazine is now open!

Michelle Ha is a second generation Chinese Canadian artist, writer, and editor. As much as she enjoys staring at a blank canvas or page every now and then, she also has other interests that include archery, photography, writing letters to penpals, playing cozy games, and reading translated literature and “own voice” stories by marginalised folks.

Much of her work in the literary and fine arts world, and in her personal life revolves around supporting and uplifting the voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour, along with folks of the LGBTQIA+ community. She is currently an active editorial member for Room Magazine. Michelle graduated from the University of Victoria with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Professional Journalism and Publishing.

This issue will be edited by Michelle Ha, Isabella Wang, Shristi Uprety, and Asna Shaikh. Below is an interview with the issue’s lead editor, Michelle, on her vision of this upcoming issue. Submit your original and unpublished poetry, prose, and art to the “Around the Table” issue before July 31, 2022.

ROOM: How did the theme for issue 46.1 come about? 

Michelle Ha: The theme, “Around the Table,” for issue 46.1 was always part of this desire and hope to create safe spaces for all Asian artists and writers. When issue 46.1 presented itself as an issue in need of a theme, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to curate a platform to spotlight and uplift Asian voices and stories, especially as Anti-Asian hate was, and still is, on the rise. Not only does the idea stem from the desire to create safe spaces, but also a wish to celebrate the work and efforts of all Asians from different enthnic groups and backgrounds.

ROOM: With issue 46.1 being a themed issue and curated to support Asian stories and artworks, what kind of submissions are you hoping to receive, or are looking for? 

MH: I would honestly love to see any and all kinds of stories and artworks. It sounds a bit wishy-washy, but I truly want to see all kinds of submissions. I want our artists and writers to submit in any medium that they feel tells their story and reflects their voice the best, whether it be something deep and personal, fun and fictional, or some sort of statement piece. Or even just simply a piece showcasing wholesome, Asian joy. 

ROOM: What are your hopes for this issue?

MH: I hope issue 46.1 will bring more joy for Asians, and allow us to see ourselves represented properly by our own people. “Around the Table” is a small piece to the bigger picture of celebrating Asians, so I hope Asians of all ethnicities and backgrounds will find safety and comfort in issue 46.1. 

ROOM: What have you read recently that became a new favourite read?

MH: The last story that I read was actually a short story from an anthology titled A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman. I started this novel in celebration of Asian Heritage Month. I would say “Olivia’s Table” by Alyssa Wong has become a new favourite short story of mine because a few scenes and sentiments really hit close to home for me, and it made me incredibly happy to see this kind representation for diasporic Asians. All sixteen short stories in the anthology were written by diasporic Asian authors, and it’s been an enjoyable and refreshing read to see all these different folktales and mythologies being reimagined through diasporic lenses.

ROOM: What has the process of writing been like for you? / What is your creative process like?

MH: To be honest, writing has been–and kinda always was (oop)–a bit of a tricky process for me. I’m working through a creative stump right now, but one thing I do like when it comes to the writing process is that moment when it all clicks and I finally figure out how I would like to piece it all together. The creative process for my art, on the other hand, is entirely at the mercy of my mood and whatever ideas or lyrics that inspire me at the moment–it also doesn’t help that my artistic skills seem to come once in a blue moon.

ROOM: Did you always know you were going to be a writer?

MH: No, not always. For a long while I was very uncertain, but it wasn’t until one summer I was marathoning Studio Ghibli films and was rewatching Whisper of the Heart, that I realised I not only wanted to pursue something that made me happy and that I loved, but also something that gave me purpose. So, thanks to a certain violin-maker and aspiring writer, I am where I am today.

ROOM: Besides ROOM, are you working on anything that you’d like to share?

MH: Yes, there is a very exciting project that I am a part of, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to share much about it as of right now. But I promise, it’s very cool and amazing!

Currently on Newsstands

ROOM 47.2 Seedpod
“Maple keys are built by nature like helicopter blades, which allows them to propel as far as possible from the mother maple… In these pages, we see the brave, touching, true ways we, too, must embrace the fear and the excitement that comes with leaving where we are rooted.”

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