#LoveOzYA Author Q&A With Wai Chim
Wai Chim is a children’s and YA author. Her first YA title, Freedom Swimmer, was shortlisted for the 2017 Readings Young Adult Prize and her latest novel, The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, has just hit the shelves!
Welcome to the LoveOzYA blog, we’re so happy to have you here!
Let’s go back to the beginning...have you been telling stories since you were a kid or was writing something you fell in love with as an adult?
I was always a story teller and have always loved writing. As a teen I kept a journal to process all of my thoughts, feelings and observations, trying to make sense of myself as a human being and of the world around me. I’m really lucky to be able to lean on that habit and now turn them into beautiful books as an adult.
Tell us about your new book.
THE SURPRISING POWER OF A GOOD DUMPLING is contemporary young adult novel that explores mental wellbeing and love in a Chinese-Australian family. Anna Chiu is coping with a lot of stuff at home, looking after her siblings and working at her dad’s restaurant because her mum can’t get out of the bed. The book explores the themes of family, culture, stigma and love in all of its forms - oh yeah and it has lots of delicious food.
Did you have a favourite OzYA book when you were growing up?
I grew up in the US so I wasn’t introduced to the fabulousness of Australian YA until I moved here in 2006. And I feel absolutely gutted! I can’t believe I didn’t know about Mellina Marchetta and all these other wonderful and endearing OzYA voices until I was an adult – the Americans are really missing out.
Did you have anyone that encouraged your love of books, reading and writing when you were younger?
My parents don’t speak English but they were huge advocates of reading and books. As a kid, my mum borrowed books with audio cassette tapes so I could listen to them since she couldn’t read aloud to me. I think that is so brilliant, clever and beautiful and I’m very grateful to my parents for everything that they’ve done for me.
What do you think sets Australian YA stories apart from those set internationally?
The quality of the writing and the honesty of the voices. I feel like some of the international imports go so hard and try to be the next big thing – everyone is just trying to be the next JK Rowling. But in Australian YA, you have a lot of beautiful, gentle and relatable nuance especially with contemporary voices. I also have always loved the deep appreciation for the landscape in Australian literature as a whole and also the diversity and representation that Australian authors have really embraced and brought to the forefront of their work.
Do you have a favourite bookshop or library?
Kinokuniya Bookshop in Sydney. I could spend days in there. It’s so wonderful and homey.
What was the last book you read and enjoyed?
In Australian YA, I’m starting Between Us and I can tell it’s going to be absolutely amazing and I’m very to get started with It Sounded Better in My Head. I’ve most recently finished Four Dead Queens and that was lots of fun.
Aside from writing, what else do you like to do to explore your creativity?
I make little stop motion videos with my soft toy penguin (check out Bogsthepenguin on Instagram). And I know it’s not seen as a ‘creative outlet’ but I love my job as a web developer/digital producer; I think it’s also pretty creative because I spend most of my day trying to solve problems!
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
Best advice was ‘if you have writer’s block, you can always research your way out.’ That was from John Scott who taught one of my Creative Writing classes in USyd. And I’ve definitely relied on this a few times to get me out of a jam.
The least useful advice: when I was first starting out, we were told not to include ‘technology’ in our work because it would ‘date’ our work – and for the longest time, books, movies and TV never showed Facebook or social media for that reason. And sure, it does ‘date’ the work in some way (hello MySpace) but can you imagine writing a contemporary YA set today that doesn’t have technology?
What do you love about OzYA?
The community - 1000%. The fact that everyone is so supportive and enthusiastic, the writers, the readers, the bloggers, the booksellers, the advocates – it’s the most beautiful space online and in the real world. I’ve loved everyone I’ve met and I love that the enthusiasm for the genre has kept the passion alive! The fact that we have this AMAZING new kick-ass LoveOzYA committee – it’s just so so incredibly special.