Each year, the Writing University conducts interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the various writing programs on campus. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home. Today we are speaking with Logan Hoffman-Smith, an MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
Hi Logan! Can you tell us a little bit about what brought you to the University of Iowa?
Yes! I was working as a publishing intern in New York after COVID hit; this was in Fall 2020 to Spring 2021, and there was a massive hiring freeze in the publishing industry at the time. I wasn’t sure when the hiring freeze was going to lift and the advice I’d gotten from my undergrad professors at Mount Holyoke College was that recessions were great times to apply for grad programs. I hadn’t been able to write new stories in a while and had only begun writing seriously in my senior year of undergrad but thought an MFA might be a good place to find the community and motivation necessary to get back into it. So, I was overjoyed when I heard I’d gotten into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, especially given the tenuous financial and health status the world had been plunged into.
What is the inspiration for your work right now?
Right now, I’ve been thinking a lot about the environment and how speculative fiction interacts with this. Something wild that happened recently was that all of the snow crabs decided to migrate to Russia! So that has led to a surge in snow crab prices in the United States. I really love crabs and writing about eating or befriending sea creatures, so this has truly been bopping around in my mind recently. Someone told me recently that microplastics—which are a combo environmental and sea creature issue—end up developing their own tiny biomes which is peculiar and reminds me of concepts mentioned in Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom At the End of the World that have to do with certain types of life only being able to exist after environmental destruction (like the Matsutake mushroom which was only able to pop up after deforestation). Not like these are good things at all but it’s interesting to think of the ways organisms are resilient in the face of destruction. I’ve also been moonlighting in the fine dining industry and thinking a lot about the relationship dynamics of front of house and back of house, customer and chef and server, as well as the processes of aging and fermentation. Truly wild! And of course, talking to a lot of workshop friends and my students about writing!
Do you have a daily writing routine?
I’m a consistently inconsistent writer and that has so far made sense for me. A lot of people recommend writing every single day and even go so far as to say that “all real writers write daily” which I find to be a limitingly neurotypical prescription; if this is the case, I’m happy to remain a fake writer!!! I will say that every day I think about writing—about plot trajectories, symbol sets, and relationships between characters—which is part of the work of writing. I will say that I read something daily; whether it’s a short story or a poem someone has shared on Facebook etc.! But my go-to writing spot when I need to get something done is the little chair alcove in Press Coffee, which is very private and cozy. And then I’ll try to write many many pages!!! Oh, and another activity that I consider vital to writing is “soda time,” which occurs during that time of the night when I don’t owe anyone any work or communication, and I can spend time watching TV and drinking soda by myself. It is my favorite time of day and restores me 100%.
What are you reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
Currently, I’m reading the 2015 edition of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, which has been really fun to read so far! I’m also getting through the most recent McSweeney’s Quarterly where I loved a story by a friend and current IWW student, Siqi Liu! Some collections I really enjoyed that I read recently are Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata and Alien Virus Love Disaster by Abbey Mei Otis. As a writer, I feel like I always read with a combination of research interest and pleasure, hehehe. But I’m in a sci-fi kick and have been since I began writing.
Tell us about where you are from - what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?
Due to my dad’s work, I was constantly moving around as a child—I was born in Hong Kong and spent my pre-high school years between Japan, Switzerland, and Singapore. When I think of my childhood, I think of the first apartment my family lived in Tokyo Minato-ku, which was at the bottom of a big hill and close to a playground with an enormous concrete slide and a basketball court that was always full of tan and white BBs. My friends and I would also collect roly-polys (pill bugs) from the park and see how many we could befriend! And I also remember walking in the summer to this park on a humid day and seeing a creature that I thought was either a bug or a hummingbird, which I actually only saw a second time in a flower bush in Iowa City. I found out the creature was indeed a moth, a hummingbird hawk moth! But when I think of “home” I think of these moments and also of the liminal spaces I felt safe in, such as the two-story 7-Eleven next to the bus stop I’d take to school as a kid. In terms of where I’m living currently, I’m living in a bit of a crumbling house with three other fiction workshoppers which has been so lovely. In our house is an L-shaped brown couch that I like to sit in the corner in, which is next to a lot of furniture former workshoppers gave to us. I feel very fortunate to be part of such a gentle and generous community.
Logan Hoffman-Smith is a queer trans Chinese American Adoptee currently based in Iowa City. An MFA candidate at the University of Iowa and a Kundiman Fiction Fellow, they enjoy bouldering, roller skating, and picking up unknown neighborhood cats. /ᐠ｡‸｡ᐟ\