SEVEN QUESTIONS FOR THE WORKING WRITER: MINDY HUNG
Mindy Hung IS the author of Trip. Her essays and articles have appeared in Salon, Bitch, The New York Times, and other publications; her short fiction has been published in Joyland Magazine, PANK, and The Toast. She HAS BEEN A NEW YORK FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS FICTION FELLOW. HUNG also writes romance as Ruby Lang www.rubylangwrites.com. She can be found at www.mindyhung.com or on Twitter @MindyHungSpace.
Mindy Hung! Do you ever publish your work without compensation or for a nominal fee? If so, why, and how do you feel about doing it?
I get paid to write essays and reviews. I usually receive nominal fees for fiction. I like getting paid—yes, I do! But literary work—like dick—is abundant and low-value. Sometimes, I’ll send a few tiny stories out into the world for free, and I’m happy for the opportunity to be read. With certain kinds of work, that’s the best one can do for it.
Does your craft alone provide you with a livelihood?
I work as a freelance health and science editor, so, no, the craft alone doesn’t keep me in kale and yoga pants. The one period in which I was able to work without interruption on my own projects was 2010, when I received a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship. I was able to draft a novel and several short stories, and I will be forever grateful to NYFA for giving me that year.
If you have to hold a day job to supplement your income, or just make a living at all, do you feel you have as much time as you need to write?
There is never enough. Between the day job and life, I don’t feel like I have as much time as I need to work on stories (or to sleep, for that matter). I’m lucky that my spouse shoulders more than his share of child-rearing and that he encourages me to write more and freelance less. But I feel guilty when I don’t contribute to the household coffers, though, so I try to freelance, cook, play with my kid—and write (and sleep). That said, I still manage to find time to goof off on Twitter.
How do you know for sure when something in your work still needs another revision?
If I still retain some sort of misty fondness for something I’ve been writing, then maybe I haven’t worked on it enough. I usually keep at something until I’m heartily sick of it. Like, I really, really loathe a lot of my work at the time of publication. (And then after a few months, I become more sanguine again. So.)
When revising something in your work, how do you know for sure when it’s truly time to stop?
If I start getting confused with earlier versions—if things stop making sense when they once did—then it’s probably time to back away.
Do you feel that being a writer was a choice or a calling for you?
I wish it were a calling. I wish that a deity would blow into a conch and officially decree that my writing was essential to the world. I wish that every time I had doubts, I’d look up and flocks of birds would fly in a formation to make the words, Write, Mindy, write! For me, writing is a choice—every day it’s a choice.
BONUS ROUND FOR PURE PLEASURE: What book did you probably read too young and it therefore haunted you forever after?
I read a (Sydney Sheldon? Judith Krantz?) novel when I was twelve and it had the phrase, “He finally understood what fucking was,” and I think about that at least once a week even though can’t remember the title or author of the book. That’s what haunting is, isn’t it—when the spirit of the past hovers over everyday life? Also, I started reading the short stories of Mavis Gallant when I was sixteen and I knew they were perfect without being able to articulate why. I still can’t quite do it; her prose is like glass and when you try to touch it, it smudges. Certain phrases from her stories float up to my mind all the time. When I’m making breakfast, I’ll think of her description of “eggs fried to a kind of plastic lace.”