Annie Bien Flash Fiction Winner, LISP 3rd Quarter 2020
Photo credit Nicholas Vreeland
- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life? I was born in Hong Kong and my family came to the United States when I was eighteen months old. English was not the family first language, we spoke Chinese at home. My father was fluent in five languages and my mother studied two other languages and the love of languages rubbed off on me. English seemed like one of the greatest magical gifts and was a way for me to learn about Western culture. I had to take a remedial English class my first year in university called "Subject A." My daily life these pandemic days has slowed down to a comfortable reflective pace, although time flies by anyway. As a practicing Tibetan Buddhist, I have a daily meditation practice, practice Ashtanga yoga, and the afternoon is for writing or translating, preparing for teaching a weekly meditation class, reading, and walking. I have found this a very profound time to observe how I respond to others and to nature which started to come to the fore when all the traffic stopped. I live in New York City where life always involved trying to fit in that one more thing on your schedule, and jump on the subway to get somewhere—until now. Because of the pandemic it's the first time since I moved to NYC that I didn’t take the subway to Manhattan for five months, and only looked at Manhattan from Brooklyn. - When did you start writing? How often do you write? I began writing around eight. I usually write something everyday although it might just be emails or research. Writing in a specific form, like flash fiction, or poetry comes a little less consistently. I’ve written two poetry collections—Under Shadows of Stars (Kelsay Books, 2017) and Plateau Migration (Alabaster Leaves Press, 2012), published flash fiction in print and online, is a Pushcart Nominee, finalist and shortlisted with Strands International Flash Fiction, A3 Press and Review, long-listed on Reflex Fiction and Ad Hoc Fiction. My first playwriting commission came from the Soho Theatre Company, London, UK. Forthcoming is a book I’ve co-written with Dr. Robert Thurman, The Sixth Dalai Lama, a Historical Novel. http://anniebien.com I am an English translator for Tibetan Buddhist sutras and commentaries, and three of my translations are published on 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha, https://84000.co - How does it feel to have your work recognised? It feels so amazing to have my work recognized! I have never won a competition before, so am over the moon. - What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction? The best thing about Flash-Fiction is its brevity, and it’s also the hardest thing about it. - How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it? Sometimes when I want to write something but don’t know what, I write about my father or my mother since they have both passed away. Earthen Sky originally came from a flash fiction workshop I took with Meg Pokrass last year. I learned a lot about my mother after she died because she kept journals, originally writing half in Chinese and half in English, and eventually all in English. It was more She wrote about her secrets in a secretive way. The original version was in first person and 500 words. Then I took a flash fiction workshop last month with Nancy Stohlman, and I drew it out again on a day when we were revisiting already written work, and I cut it to 250 words and changed it to third person for a flash novella I’m working on called Rain at Fragrant Harbour. Workshopping is incredibly helpful and also putting away something you like to let it settle, this story had a seven month marination period. I was totally surprised and delighted to have it fare so well! - Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story? Writing takes patience. Be patient yourself. Be willing to feel stuck and to explore something that seems “against the rules.” For me it’s at the point when I’m ready to give up that things get really interesting. Enjoy whittling down the story. Don’t be precious. Read aloud, read aloud, and read aloud again. - What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions?
The best thing about a writing competition is that I work really well with deadlines. If you get on the longest, shortlist, or acknowledged it builds so much confidence. If you win—prepared to be amazed. The hardest thing about a writing competition is that it can make me feel inadequate and cranky but, but when my mood becomes negative, I know I have to submit. -Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on LISP?
I would definitely recommend writers to give it a go on LISP. The first time I ever submitted, just looking at the website, I wondered why I was drawn to LISP, why it felt hard, I think it’s because of the diversity in background of the judges along with reading the writing of the selected writers.