Narratively speaking, innocent misunderstandings are disappointing. Arbitrary events are also disappointing. The stories that really grab our attention involve not accidents but people doing things on purpose - to get things they desperately want.
I think, in the United States, we talk about race as a black and white issue... We're generally talking about it as if it's a binary equation whereas, in fact, there's more than two races and, in fact, those races blend together. There are a lot of different ways that people identify.
It's incredibly rewarding to have people come up to me at readings and say, 'I'm not Chinese, but this is the relationship I have with my mother.' Or say, 'Your book made me think a lot about my parents, and I've decided to sign up for counseling.' That is mind-boggling.
My mother wrote a teen column for the South China Morning Post in the 1950s when she was growing up in Hong Kong. Her name was Lily Mark, but she sometimes wrote under her confirmation name, Margaret Mark. That was how she met my father.
I am not a contest-enterer by nature. But contests - and their entry fees - are often the main way literary journals raise money to, you know, publish their issues. So entering contests helps support the journal, which also helps support the writers they publish.
In my own work, when I start off writing a scene, I don't know which physical details are going to turn out to be meaningful. But, inevitably, certain images will stand out - you start to decide which ones are important as you go.
It's so easy, as a writer, to get stuck in your own head, to live in the little worlds you create. To forget that there are people out there reading your work, people who may be deeply affected by what you do, that you are writing not just for yourself, but for them.
Writing is like shouting into the world. So when someone shouts back, it's a really big deal. To have people who read hundreds and hundreds of books a year say, 'Hey, we thought this was really great,' that's a huge self-esteem boost.
In the case of 'Everything I Never Told You,' my goal was to make the experiences of a family that had always felt marginalised feel accessible and understandable even to people who'd never been in that situation.
I began using the #smallacts hashtag on Twitter shortly after the 2016 election as a way to resist. To resist the intolerance growing in our nation, to resist an upcoming administration that I believe threatens to pull us backward and strip rights from those already marginalized.
I resisted Twitter for a long time. To me, it was synonymous with networking, which in my mind means unceasing self-promotion and superficial small-talk with strangers. A little like wading into a river with a raging current - and I'm a terrible swimmer.
Every single day, authors read at bookstores and libraries - and coffeeshops and bars - all over the country. And these readings are amazing: you get to hear the book in the author's own voice, ask questions, and meet the writer. For free.
If someone were to call me 'the next Amy Tan,' it would not be because - or not primarily because - we have similar themes or subjects or styles. Let's be honest: it would be because we are both Chinese American.
I was fortunate to have many teachers who encouraged me - one of the first was Dianne Derrick, my 5th grade teacher at Woodbury Elementary. She challenged us to write creatively and praised my work, but most importantly, she treated writing like it was important.
In fiction you're not often writing about the typical; you are interested in outliers, the points of interest. Part of it comes from feeling I was the only Asian or person of colour... another part comes from my personality: I'm an introvert, and my usual survival mode in a large group is to stand by a wall and watch everybody.
Let's stop reflexively comparing Chinese writers to Chinese writers, Indian writers to Indian writers, black writers to black writers. Let's focus on the writing itself: the characters, the language, the narrative style.
What you look for as a reader is somebody who is going to take you and say, 'C'mon. Come into the story. I'm going to show you what there is to see.' The guide who is going to tell you, 'Pay attention over there,' or, 'Do you remember that other thing? Now watch!'