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Mandy Nguyen

Mandy Nguyen

New Voices '23

Tell us about yourself:

Hi there! I’m an audio journalist currently based out of Brooklyn, but born and raised in the Bay Area. I’ve been working at Vox’s science podcast Unexplainable, for the past few years, but I started my journey at a public radio station in Alaska (shout out KTOO in Juneau). I was also recently a Uniondocs resident, where I helped put together a live audio storytelling event. Outside of work, some of my favorite things to do include gardening, foraging, and hiking.

My favorite topic to explore in my storytelling is relationship to place. In other words, how we think about ourselves in relation to the physical, natural world and our non-human neighbors. This is a question especially close to my heart as the daughter of displaced Vietnamese refugees. How do any of us come home, wherever we end up? 

I’m currently working on a project about the stories of forgotten plants that have shaped human history and our relationships to them.

A piece of yours or project (in any medium) that you'd like to share.

Salamander search party is dear to my heart. It’s a podcast episode about a scientist looking for the Blanco Blind Salamander, which hasn’t been seen in the last 75 years and resides solely in a sprawling underground aquifer in Texas. The story combines some of my favorite things: field reporting, adventure, whimsy, and little creatures. It was so fun to make.

What draws you to storytelling?

I grew up consuming literature, movies, and anime that have had a huge influence on who I am today. The stories we tell ourselves and each other makes us who we are. It's exciting to work in a craft where I get to make stuff that (ideally!) moves and changes people, and where I get to be changed by the stuff other people make. It connects us to each other.

What excites you the most about being a New Voices Scholar?

Being welcomed into the fold of people who are not only talented, but also very kind and generous. The AIR community really keeps people involved over the years, and it's exciting to think about how my relationship with the people I meet might unfold in unexpected ways. Working remotely in audio is also hard, and this network makes it a little less lonely.

As a part of this program, I was also paired with a wonderful mentor who came into my life at the right time. Shout-out to Emily Kwong for being the GOAT.

What’s playing on your radio/audio streaming service right now?

On rotation is Heavyweight, Where Should we Begin, Rough Translation, and Feeling Asian.

I also specifically love hearing Ocean Vuong speak. He’s a poet and novelist, and I've listened to all his interviews and podcast features (like this one). I think he’s such a luminous thinker and beautiful person.

What’s the most underrated tool (technical or not) that you use in your creative process?

Body movement. Things like dance or walking or hiking keep me grounded. They get me out of my head, lower my stress, and allow room for creativity to flow more easily. 

Also saunas. I once went into a sauna with a story structure problem that felt intractable. 15 minutes later I came out sweaty – and with an answer.

What is something you want to see more of in the industry?

More people of color making their own shows. More experiments and collaboration across mediums. More money and resources to make this work sustainable, but also to invest in more resource intensive audio stories. More ease, more play.

Connect with Mandy on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.