Hope everyone’s doing great. Thanks for all these fantastic stories and poems; I get the feeling this may be a supersized issue. Keep on keeping on, kids.
I’ve decided to bring back our interview series with the authors for each issue since I missed talking to the awesome folks that let me publish their work. I hope you all find them as interesting as I do.
Our first one for Issue 15 is with Alison Liu, whose “Freighthopping” won the fiction contest and was described by NewPages.com’s Katy Haas as evoking “both the airiness of dreams and the dreaminess of being with someone you love.”
Describe your work in 25 words or less.
This is a story that I hope will be meaningful in different ways to different people reading it.
Is this your first contest win? How did it feel when you found out?
In high school, I was one of the winners of Scholastic’s Art and Writing Awards, which was really cool. However, Bop Dead City’s contest was the first writing contest I’ve won that hasn’t limited entry by age. It was pretty big for me because it was sort of self-validation that I could maybe be competitive among all writers, and this felt great.
What inspired you to write “Freighthopping”?
During the time that I wrote Freighthopping, a very close friend of mine who lives very far away was going through a really hard time and I wanted so desperately to be there with him; it was also around the time that I had started volunteering at a suicide hotline. Although I do not think I am the narrator, the story is inspired by that feeling of helplessness when trying to be there for someone who you can’t connect with, either emotionally or physically — it’s about that desperation of grasping at anything to say so the person on the other end won’t hang up, and maybe a little about the way in which this feeling numbs you.
What influences you as an author?
In the summer when I was little, my neighbor and I used to sit by the creek behind our houses writing this really long, badly-outlined story about a circus. This was right after we’d read all of Ray Bradbury’s short stories and were enamored with this idea of being far away in time or space or reality, and I guess the circus was as far away from school as we could imagine. I just remember this afternoon when we had torn out pages from the story, and folded them into paper boats to send down the creek. So I’m not sure if this quite answers your question, but the thing that influences me as an author is how a combination of sounds or scribbles originating in someone else’s mind can make me feel like I am in a different place, like Mars or the future, and how it can make me want to move other people in this way too.
What drew you to neuroscience as a minor?
I’m majoring in English because it is the study of how we communicate with each other, but I’m minoring in neuroscience because it is the study of how we communicate with ourselves. Our neurons, with this really intricate and elegant electrical/chemical language, can tell each other when we’re in pain, or how to interpret an image in front of us, and sometimes can even bypass our conscious thinking (for example, tapping right below your knee can cause a jerk of your leg — that reflex is the action of your neurons protecting the muscle from tear). I love that neuroscience is a subject that explains me to myself, and reminds me that — chemically — we’re all so very similar.
Where can we read you next?
Recently, the Adroit Journal has published my short story “From the Glovebox” on their 2016 Adroit Prizes Editors’ List. In the past, Gone Lawn has published one of my short stories and Scholastic’s The Best Teen Writing of 2013 has one of my poems in it.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for giving my story such an awesome home, and I’m super honored to be included in an issue with so many amazing writers!