A Mission Moment: Katerina Jeng, Writing in Color Fellow

Some people have always known they wanted to be a writer. For others, it’s not until later in life that something clicks and they realize there is a book or collection of poems inside them. For Katerina Jeng, the realization hit in a series of moments. 

In January of 2020, a friend invited Katerina to a Writing in Color open mic night. A former English major, Katerina had always been drawn to literary things but never tried their hand at creative writing. 

“I remember arriving at Lighthouse back on Race Street, walking down the steps into the basement for the open mic, and being surprised at what I saw. A room full of people of color, all there to share their words. It was honestly like a weight had been lifted off me that I didn’t know I was carrying.” 

Katerina sat in the basement and listened to people sharing poetry, the first chapters of books, essays, and more. “‘It was an expansive moment for me when I realized, ‘Oh, this is something I could do.’” 

Katerina’s second moment was going through a hard breakup. To process everything, they’d started writing down their thoughts in a running Word document.

“After a while, I realized I was writing poems,” said Katerina. “And I realized they were good. And that maybe I could rethink everything that I was going through, and it could serve me in this really beautiful way.” 

Katerina started taking Lighthouse classes in June of that year, and with the structure it brought, committed to a regular writing practice. 

“At first, I told myself, just write one poem a week,” said Katerina. “But I gained more and more confidence after each Lighthouse class. I was able to take this tough moment that shaped me as a person and turn it into something healing through my writing. We all go through similar things in life; heartache, loneliness, happiness. Writing brings the universality of the human experience to life.” 

In early 2022, Katerina received an email from Community Engagement Program Manager Marissa Morrow, notifying them of the Writing in Color Fellowship. Offered annually to a person who demonstrates a passion and skill for writing, a commitment to developing their writing skills, and a clear dedication to community service, the Writing In Color Emerging Writers Fellowship is for anyone who would benefit from a year's worth of involvement at Lighthouse but who would not be able to engage as fully without financial support. 

And in January of 2023, Katerina was awarded the Writing in Color Fellowship, entering yet another moment of knowing. 

“Getting that validation in a world that’s often filled with no’s was amazing.” 

Through the fellowship, Katerina was able to take classes all throughout 2023, meet with several mentors on Lighthouse’s faculty to talk through the business side of writing and celebrate their fellowship with a reading at the annual Writing in Color Retreat. 

“I really found community through all these classes,” said Katerina. “One of my favorite classes was with André Hoilette, an 8-week poetry workshop. His brain is like a library, he always has a perfect reference. And I appreciated the changes he made to the traditional workshop style to make it more inclusive. He got rid of the cone of silence during workshopping and introduced so many new poets outside the typical literary canon.”  

On May 23, Lighthouse will host Katerina’s debut book launch for their book of poetry, Gospel of a Whole Sun (out May 7 from Andrews McMeel Publishing). The book has been described as “a poignant look at the relationship of art-making to personal liberation.” 

“The process of writing this book has been surprisingly natural,” shared Katerina. “The only part that felt uncertain was in publishing it. I was just very loud about what I was doing, and that one magic connection came through. An editor at my now-publisher read my book, and she sold it!” 

Katerina described the book as a lyric exploration of their journey back to their voice, their power, and the truest version of themself.

“Creating opportunities for writers like through the Writing in Color Fellowship is essential,” said Katerina. 

With everything Katerina has contributed to our community, all of us at Lighthouse couldn’t agree more. 


Thanks to generous community support, Lighthouse is able to offer writerships and fellowships to talented writers like Katerina. By designating your donation for writerships, you ensure that 100% of your gift goes toward granting more people access to the transformative power of creative writing.

 Join Lighthouse as we celebrate Katerina Jeng, our 2023 Writing in Color Emerging Writers Fellow, and the release of their poetry book, Gospel of a Whole Sun! "Gospel of a Whole Sun is a moving collection of poetry chronicling one woman’s journey of self-discovery over the course of three pivotal years. It documents the aftermath of a traumatic breakup, navigating anti-Asian violence during a global pandemic, coming out, and, ultimately, falling in love with life again".

For this Writing in Color Presents event, Katerina will read from Gospel of a Whole Sun and join in a conversation and audience Q&A led by Marissa Morrow. Copies of Gospel of a Whole Sun will be available for purchase in person at this meetup. This special Writing in Color event—which will be held in-person at Lighthouse and streamed online—is open to all in the Lighthouse community. Register here.