Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Writing University conducts a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the various University of Iowa writing programs. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.

siqi lui smiling

Today we are speaking with Siqi Lui. Siqi Liu is currently pursuing an MFA in Fiction at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she is a Rona Jaffe fellow. Her work has won a Pushcart Prize and can be found in McSweeney's, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. 


1. Can you tell us a little bit about what brought you to the University of Iowa?
Before coming to Iowa, I was living in New York City, desperately wanting to write but spending most of my waking hours in an office job. Though I managed to sneak in little bits of writing time here and there before work and on weekends, I knew I needed to make more time and emotional space for my projects. That's when I began looking into MFA programs. Taking two years to prioritize my craft sounded like a total dream. I knew I wanted to come to Iowa when I got accepted because in some ways, it felt like coming home. I grew up in a suburb in Illinois three hours away by car and had attended the Iowa Young Writers' Studio in Iowa City as a high school student. Returning to the place where so much of my writing journey began felt like a full circle moment.

2. What is the inspiration for your work right now?
So many things inspire me: stories my parents tell me about their childhoods in China, funny anecdotes from friends, people-watching, traveling, and of course, consuming art in various forms (books, film, music, etc.). It's pretty much a constant barrage of inspiration. I write down ideas in the back of my notebooks. Sometimes, however, I'm not exactly sure what inspires a project - a voice will come out of nowhere in my head, I write it down, and it becomes the beginning of the story. That's how I started working on this short story I'm writing currently, which features an android in an unnamed Asian city!

3. Do you have a daily writing routine?
Yes! I am a huge believer in daily writing routines - writing, like anything else, requires consistency and practice. I write for a few hours every morning right after breakfast, before I do or even think about any other tasks. I usually try to not check my phone or email or social media before sitting down to write. Occasionally, I read a few random poems from the Norton Anthology as I eat breakfast to get some creative juices flowing. Then, once those morning hours are over, I don't write or think about writing at all for the rest of the day.

4. What are you reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
I'm going through a phase of reading classics that I have always wanted to read but never gotten around to in school. Right now, it's Beloved by Toni Morrison. I almost always read for either pleasure or for class. For research, I typically rely on things like visiting a place and interviews.

5. Tell us about where you are from - what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?
I consider myself to be "from" both Changsha, China and Naperville, Illinois since I split my childhood pretty evenly between these two places. Changsha is known for its extreme heat and humidity in the summers and its spicy and flavorful cuisine. There are a lot of gingko trees under which elderly people like to sit and talk on summer evenings. Naperville is a town that has changed tremendously in the eight years since I've left. Every time I visit my family on the holidays, I get to see all these new stores. One of my favorite new stores - a blessing for many Asian immigrants in town - is an enormous Hong Kong grocery store called Park to Shop which I'm obsessed with!



Thank you for talking with us today, !