We sat down Proust-style with Lindsay Wong whose darkly funny, intensely readable memoir of family and mental illness
The Woo-Woo (Arsenal Pulp Press) is a finalist for the upcoming Canada Reads debates to chat about five-year fantasy goals (which include pyjamas!), what happens after publication (public speaking!), what she's working on now, and more.
All Lit Up: Do you have a book that you’ve gone back and read several times?
Lindsay Wong: I love Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers. She just understands writers and the terrific agony of the creative process. When I first started writing, I returned to her words over and over again, and I found the book to be immensely helpful and comforting in my own arduous journey to publication. This book is a writer’s literary best friend.
ALU: What are you working on now?
LW: I am currently working on a YA book titled The Summer I Learned Chinese, forthcoming from Simon Pulse in the summer of 2020. The book is a super-fun romp about an imperfect Chinese teenager who gets into all sorts of crazy shenanigans, after she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with her best friend. She fails senior year and ends up not getting into any colleges, so her strict Chinese parents are horrified and send her to stay with long lost relations in Beijing.
ALU: Why do you write?
LW: I write because I am horrible at real life. That’s the honest answer. I have never been terribly good at anything practical like finding employment and managing money. I would write full-time if I could. I’m also cranky and miserable if I’m not writing, and then I’m neurotic and nasty when I am writing. It’s a lifelong curse. Writing is also a compulsion for me. It’s something that I have to do, or else I wouldn’t know what else to do with myself.
ALU: Describe your perfect writing day.
LW: A perfect writing day would include waking up at 5am, having uninterrupted time and space and solitude to work until midnight. I am a huge fan of artist residencies, where everyone is quietly hermitting away. My five-year fantasy goal is to be that eccentric writer who lives in her pyjamas, doesn't leave the house ever, and has all her meals and snacks delivered through a slot in her bedroom door. Wouldn’t that make a great reality television show?
ALU: If you wrote a memoir, what would it be called?
LW: I already wrote a memoir called The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug-Raids, Demons, And My Crazy Family. I think the theme of my life is survival and surviving all the absurd situations that have happened to me with humour, whether they be family-related, health-related, school-related, or otherwise.
ALU: What’s the toughest part about being a writer?
LW: After you write a book, you have to do it all over again, and then you seriously start to doubt whether you know how to write. Each book is very different and requires a new voice and new skills to pull the narrative together. Another scary part that I didn’t realize is the public speaking and the promotion that’s all part of publishing a book. As an introverted writer, you get used to talking to yourself all day, and then it’s a bit of a shock when you realize that strangers actually want to hear what you have to say! Having a public persona has been a learning curve. But everyone I’ve met so far has been so generous with their time and expertise.
Lindsay's tattoo with advice: "I had my own advice tattooed on my upper thigh by the wonderfully talented Jamie Kan. The grass style (running script) originated in the Han Dynasty, symbolizing a frenetic, dynamic, daring, and vivacious persona, which is associated with free-thinkers and personal liberation. Translation: 'Artistic passion and resilience triumphs all.' The plum blossom is a historically known Chinese symbol of perseverance and endurance when facing adversity because it blooms throughout the harshest of winters. Writing, rejection, and publishing require the ability to survive the cruelest conditions."
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Lindsay Wong recently moved to East Vancouver, where she resides in a shared housing collective with two roommates and a dog called Eli. Her evening and night-time job is coaching high school and undergraduate students on their college admissions essays and personal statements. Wong subsists on coffee and dark chocolate, enjoying the occasional Cuban cigar. She is a newbie tattoo collector of fantastical beasts from Asian mythology as well as a water sports enthusiast. She longs to return to the hot, tropical climate of Key West.
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