I’m so glad to be a member of the Women Writer’s Network. We support and promote all kinds of women writers, and it often leads to people contacting me about their books. Jenny Wong got in touch about Mothers Lead, her unuusal memoir written in flash and poetry that muses on her own experience growing up, as well as the wider role women have in society. She wants to start a dialogue about the role of women and immigrants in the USA but also around the world, and uses her powerful story to support that message.
I wanetd to ask her about why she felt compelled to write her book, and her journey to publication. Read on to find out more:
One thing that was really different about your book was how you used poetry to explore autobiography. What drew you to this form and how do you think it fits with the content?
The style of this book was not at all meant to be poetry at its conception. While writing, I felt hindered by having to be overly preoccupied with proper grammar and sentence structure. My thoughts were not allowed to just flow. Removing formal structure removed restrictions. Allowing potent words to stand on their own. Mothers Leads is meant to be a conversation between You and me. We would not speak the way we write. So why should we not write the way we speak?
The book’s form is shaped by my classical theatre training and appreciation of classic literature. Particularly Shakespeare, Ancient Greek epic poems and Philosophy, Chinese literature and poetry. All works that have and will survive the test of time. Shakespeare as performed in his day was on a bare stage with bare costumes. He paints an entire world, intricacy of plot and complexity of characters purely through rich dialogue in iambic pentameter in a play just a few hours long.The Odyssey and Iliad were passed down for centuries purely through oratory storytelling. In order for these tales to be preserved verbatim, their form had to be concise, economical, lyrical, captivating, and evocative. One can easily recite Shakespeare and Homer. I highly doubt anyone can, nor would desire to recite War and Peace.
I could easily write 200,000 words, but why? I have said everything I want to say in 12,000. It’s far more fun to unravel the layers for yourself rather than for me to just tell you. I am also a visual artist. Aesthetics of the words on a beautifully balanced page matter just as much as its function. Precisely because it is written concisely and smoothly, I do not want the reader to skim through too quickly and skip over these conversations too lightly.
Stage directions in this visual presentation guide the reading experience and tone.
Small font slows down quiet tender moments. LARGE TEXT PRONOUNCE LOUD BOLD STATEMENTS.
Tight descriptive lines paint an immersive scene. Sparse text and blank space command you to stop, focus, think.
My book is meant to invoke introspection and empathy on controversial subjects. In order to speak agnostically to a broad audience with fiercely opposing views, I must write in a way that is light, palliative, and digestible. Every person has their unique life experience and preconceived versions of Truth. I strip my writing bare of extraneous details and detracting descriptors to reveal Universal Truth that we are all simply Human. Any person can step into any part of the story that resonates personally regardless of their background.
I have high hopes and good confidence that my work will survive verbatim in its open yet exacting Universal language.
You talk a lot about feminine power. Why are you drawn to this subject in your writing and how do you hope your book influences those who read it?
At the Very Beginning of Life, I Escaped Death Twice.
As a second girl born to a family in China in the 1980’s, my Life was mandated to be terminated, my illegal birth evidence of a crime, and my survival a statistical improbability.
To immigrate to the United States as a young Girl
To have good fortune to pursue an Education
To have opportunity for a Career in Silicon Valley
To have a voice to write my Story now
These too, are great Statistical Improbabilities
What’s wrong with this picture?
Why are basic human rights a statistical improbability simply because I was born female?
I wrote this book to spark purposeful dialogue and ignite action for positive change.
To bring light to Real Stories, to illuminate Real People Who need Us to care.
Help me hold the torch.
Use Our Collective Power to extend our good fortune for All Others.
Let’s beat the statistics.
What was your route to publication?
What writing advice would you give to others?
The foundation of successful writing is TO WRITE.
We often don’t give ourselves time to write because we are so consumed with our “busy lives”, or feel intimidated or anxious about having nothing good to write.
Don’t put pressure on yourself. Write whatever comes to mind, don’t judge it. You will come back to review and refine later. Keep if good, cut if not.
I wrote my book while raising two very active boys of 1 and 3 years old. Literally writing between diaper changes and cleaning up spilt milk.
When an idea comes to mind, I use speech to text in a document on my phone. Even if it’s just one word, one sentence, little bits here and there. When somehow I can keep the boys occupied or I ask my husband to take over, I give myself that chunk of time to review and refine.
Have fun, enjoy it. Go with the flow. You’ll come up with something fabulous. Don’t judge yourself while work is in progress.
Good luck! You’ll do great!
Jenny Athena Wong is first and foremost a Mother
Secondary jobs include:
Author, Artist, Poet
For more information about Jenny Wong you can view her LinkedIn profile here.