is a lawyer and a Bread Loaf Scholar. She was awarded the 2008 Nathan
Meyerson Prize for fiction and her work has been nominated for a
Pushcart Prize and Best New American Voices. She is a first -generation
American whose parents are from Wuxi and Mengzi , China. Born and
raised a Pennsylvania Quaker, she now lives with her family in San
with Kathryn Ma
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
I've been writing with intent for about fourteen years. The oldest
story in my book was published ten years before the book won the Iowa
Short Fiction Award. The newest story I finished a few months before I
submitted the collection. Most of the stories were published by
literary journals before they appeared together in the book. I'm very
grateful to the editors and readers of literary magazines, invaluable
publications which are an important source of support, encouragement,
and inspiration to developing writers.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
I did not have a collection in mind for several years as I was writing
and publishing stories. My goal was to do the best work I could and
develop as a writer. Later, after I had a handful of stories that I
felt were strong work, I began to think about organizing them in to a
collection, and writing some additional stories that explored the
themes that I had been writing about, including identity, displacement,
and the legacy of family and culture.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
together a collection is an absorbing and challenging task. I wanted my
best work to appear, but also wanted the stories to be connected
thematically. I wanted to be free to include stories that explored the
Chinese-American experience, but also to include stories that examined
the lives of non-Chinese-Americans. I experimented with several
versions of the book, adding and dropping various stories, and
reordering them many times. My Table of Contents looked like the
information board at a European rail station, with titles flipping
through in varying order. Finally, I settled on ten stories that I felt
were my strongest work, stories that spoke to one another through
theme, character, situation, and language.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
I have no set definition, because there are so many good writers out
there experimenting with form and structure. For me, a story is usually
character-driven, but not always. I am very interested in language.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
No, I try not to think about the reader. I write for my own ear.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
I'm happy that my book is being read, and I'm glad to meet readers and
answer their questions, but I don't have any questions to ask them.
Their experience of my book will be personal to them. I want them to
think of the work on the page.
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
I was glad to see the stories individually published, and think that
having the stories together in one volume intensifies my understanding
of the themes and nature of my work.
What are you working on now?
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
KM: Sunstroke and Other Stories by Tessa Hadley.
I've been looking at a lot of anthologies as well, and re-reading many
favorite stories because I am teaching classes in fiction writing and