Arts & Culture

Author aims to evoke ‘wonder and magic’

Staff Writer
Friday, November 16, 2012

“If you are here to find your fate you will be sorely disappointed.” So began fiction writer Lily Hoang as she read from her novel, “Changing,” yesterday for the Writers on Writing Reading Series at the McCormack Family Auditorium.

The semi-autobiographical novel is a re-interpretation of the Chinese book of prophecy the “I Ching.” At the reading, audience members rolled a pair of dice that determined which page Hoang would read from next.  

“See how good this is? Divination works,” Hoang said after an audience member rolled 40, which was his age.

Hoang is a prolific author. She has penned the books “Unfinished,” “Changing,” – winner of the PEN Beyond Margins Award – “The Evolutionary Revolution” and “Parabola” – winner of the 2006 Chiasmus Press Un-Doing the Novel Contest. She also serves as prose editor at Puerto del Sol, associate editor at Starcherone Books and editor at Tarpaulin Sky. She also teaches creative writing in the MFA program at New Mexico State University and writes online for the literary blog HTML Giant.

Her first two books, “Parabola” and “Changing,” are compilations of her experiences told in an extremely fictionalized way. “As a writer, when I walk through life, everything becomes a potential story,” Hoang said.

“I wrote (“Changing”) thinking that no one would ever read it,” she said, adding that if the novel were really a memoir, her life wold be pretty chaotic.

Hoang also read from one of her works in progress, a chapbook about webcam sex from many different perspectives, and from her fourth book, “Unfinished.”

For “Unfinished,” Hoang contacted many authors she admired for stories that they could not finish, and she finished them, she said. At the event, she played a recording of one of the authors reading her unfinished story about an animal rights activist. After that, Hoang read the rest of the finished story. 

“I tried to stay as close to the authors’ intention as possible,” Hoang said.

Hoang wants her books to “evoke both wonder and magic” for readers, she said.

“I hope that readers leave my books feeling that different things are possible than when they started reading,” she said. “I want people to get lost in the narrative and then taken out of it.”

One of her more memorable readings, Hoang said, was when she read a story about an obese female serial killer.

“People came up to me after and told me how funny and wondrous it was even though it was very dark subject matter,” she said.

LITR 1200: “Writers on Writing” is a course that focuses on contemporary writers and gives students the opportunity to see writers in practice and ask them questions, said Renee Gladman, professor of literary arts.

“(Hoang) is the youngest author we’ve had. She’s making a name for herself, and we wanted to see if that would be interesting and inspiring for the students,” Gladman said.

“Hopefully (the students) will access those feelings of excitement and wonder they had as children,” Hoang said. “What I hope to get across is that the expectations we have in the real world are not as constraining as we might think.”


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