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This blog was featured on 08/13/2018
Justina Chen: A Q&A With Our August Guest Editor
Written by
She Writes
August 2018
Written by
She Writes
August 2018

This month we are celebrating our August guest editor, Justina Chen, author of Lovely, Dark, and Deep. She sat down with She Writes to answer some of our top questions.

SW: Describe your writing routine.

JC: My routine shifts, depending on where I am in my novel writing cycle.

Right now, I’m wooing the muse. This entails vision boarding, staring into space, journaling, getting lost in thought, researching, bushwhacking through thickets of ideas, reading, considering every conversation a story prompt, and dreamwalking.

When I shift into writing, I’ll get up before the early bird can even contemplate song, fix a big pot of coconut black tea (winter) or tall glass of iced coffee (summer), and prayer journal. Then, I’ll write for a few hours, following the sun cat-like around my home. I try to hit 1500 words a day, but I’m very gentle with myself if I miss that target.

When I’m lucky, toward the end of the first discovery draft, everything comes together in a sudden rush of clarity. This rare gift of momentum means one thing: clearing my calendar—and asking my friends and family to forgive me for becoming a temporary recluse.

SW: When was the moment you started to feel like a writer?

JC: Here’s my career as a writer in three moments:

Act I: The moment my writing professor at Stanford announced in front of my seminar that I had no talent and would never be published.

Act II: But then, a decade and a half later, I got The Call from my agent, telling me he wanted to represent me. That’s when I felt like a real writer.

And Act III: And then, two years ago, I was ready to retire as a YA author. After five novels, I felt like I had said everything I had to say to young women. Yet…I got an unexpected call from Scholastic with a one-sentence pitch. The entire story for Lovely, Dark, and Deep unspooled within a fraction of a storyteller’s moment.

I can’t wait to see what the next episode in my writing career brings!

SW: What is the number one piece of advice you'd give to aspiring authors?

Commit to reaching your full potential as a writer. Our world needs the best of our storytelling now—your best insight, your best truthtelling, your best message. So reach beyond what you already know, and be a beginner. All genres of writing can teach you something—from picture books to letters, journaling to speechwriting for the C-suite, which is what I also do. Speechwriting is all about voice and pacing. And what is that if not YA novels? So be humble. Learn as much as you can. Seek critique from trusted reviewers—and listen to them. And write your heart out.

SW: Who inspires you?

JC: Lorie Ann Grover, my bestie and fellow author, is the role model of fierce joy—which is the essence of Lovely, Dark, and Deep. My friend doesn’t just live with lupus, which has caused her to become highly sensitive to the sun. Lorie Ann lives her every moment. She can wedge so much life and laughter into a tiny dot of time.

SW: Why is it important for women to tell their stories?

JC: We women must tell our stories now because that’s how we sister each other—hold each other up, encourage each other on, make the path a tiny bit smoother for the ones who follow us. When we reveal our stories, we are minister to each other.

In other words, as Ursula Le Guin said, “We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.”

So tell your story. Change the maps. Create new mountains!



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