Weike Wang Recommends...

“My pre-husband tells me that I am an obsessive person. He is right. When faced with a problem, I will stare at it until it goes away. I will actively try to fix the problem. Planning our wedding, for instance. Not a problem but a growing disaster. Similarly, if I am stuck on a story, a page, a line, I will sit there until I get it right. What helps me most with writing is sheer persistence and also reading writers I admire, wish I could sound like, can’t sound like, fail to mimic, and in that failure I start sounding like myself. Until I die, I will be recommending Sigrid Nunez’s A Feather on the Breath of God (Picador, 2005), Mary Robison’s Why Did I Ever (Counterpoint, 2001), Jo Ann Beard’s The Boys of My Youth (Little, Brown, 1998), and Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted (Turtle Bay Books, 1993). I will be recommending stories by Amy Hempel (“When It’s Human Instead of When It’s Dog” and from her novella, Tumble Home), Rick Moody (“Boys”), Mary Gaitskill (from her story collection Bad Behavior), Jim Shepard (“Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Poland Is Watching,” from his collection Love and Hydrogen, and anything of his really). Writing is a job. Every morning, I read writers I love, then I write. I have a number in my head (of words) that I make myself hit before I go to Zumba. Routine is important, even if what I write that day is utter junk. At night, before bed, I read nonfiction. During my MFA, a very wise teacher told me that nonfiction is food for a writer and it’s true. On the weekend, I study both Chinese and Italian. Chinese because learning more about my mother tongue has only helped my understanding of English. Italian because the growing disaster of a wedding is happening in Italy. My pre-husband says not to worry. He says watch La Dolce Vita and please, please take a nap. This weekend, I took a nap. Naps are also great before writing.”
—Weike Wang, author of Chemistry (Knopf, 2017)