End of Year Campaign Artist Spotlight: Lena Tuffaha

Published: November 13, 2019

Categories: Artists | Fall Campaign | Featured

Persistence has always been a quality among artists. In spite of adversity, opposition, and limited resources, artists have remained persistent in their work, creativity, and innovation. Bravery, patience, stamina, pluck – the act of persistence looks different for every individual but remains essential throughout the journey of any artist.

Persistence: What does persistence mean to an artist? What do they need to be able to persist? What level of support meets those needs? Those are the questions we’re asking Artist Trust artists throughout our fall campaign.

We spoke with Lena Tuffaha, a literary artist, and a 2019 Artist Trust Fellowship Award recipient about her path with Artist Trust, and what persistence looks like for her.


I first heard about Artist Trust from my mentor in the MFA program at the Rainier Writing Workshop. I looked up the organization and was so impressed by the wide range of programs and kinds of support they provide to artists. It felt like there were choices and opportunities for so many kinds of artists at every stage of our careers, and that Artist Trust cares about and is rooted in the community it supports.

It’s impossible to overstate the positive impact of being seen for the work you do. The Artist Trust Fellowship I was granted feels like a vote of support for my work and my dreams. I suspect this is the case with other grant recipients, too. We are able to pursue our ideas and plan with confidence because of the visibility and the funding that Artist Trust provides, and the connection to a community of artists all work together to create an environment in which we can focus more on the work and less on fighting for the space and time to do the work.

To me, persistence means trusting my process, no matter how long it takes or how many challenges come up, investing time and effort in my work, showing up again and again. Artist Trust’s support makes it possible for me to commit time and resources to my work and to take on projects that require time and travel in ways that otherwise would have put a burden on my family.

A measure of the well-being of a society can and should be how it supports its artists. I hope our state continues to reach out to artists to meet them wherever they are in their careers: they are the original innovators, they dare first and boldly, often visualizing or craft language and maps for our future. I hope our state aspires to be a leader in funding and sustaining the work of artists.

Artist Trust’s Fellowship is the reason I can take on my next writing project. They make pursuing my work possible. You can be part of making the next Washington State work of art a dream realized. THANK YOU.


Where can you see Lena’s work next?

“My new chapbook, Letters from the Interior, has just been published by Diode Press, and can be ordered directly from the press www.diodeeditions.com or purchased at local independent bookstores.”

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her first book of poems, Water & Salt (Red Hen Press) won the 2018 Washington State Book Award. Her chapbook, Arab in Newsland, won the 2016 Two Sylvias Press Prize. Her work has won the Robert Watson Literary Prize and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She has been published in journals including Kenyon Review Online, Michigan Quarterly Review, New England Review, and TriQuarterly. Her newest chapbook, Letters from the Interior, is published by Diode Editions. You can learn more at www.lenakhalaftuffaha.com