Five Questions with Lily Hoang

Kirby Johnson: In the current issue of NANO Fiction, you have three retellings of the Goldilocks fairytale. Beyond the obvious source material, what was your inspiration for the series? What drew you to Goldy?

IMG_2319Lily Hoang: These three retellings are a part of a collection, The End of Something Great, where I asked 140 writers (mostly, but also a few random civilians, such as Brian Awesome) to donate a sentence or stanza to me, which I rewrote into a prose poem. So, the actual source material was not the fairy tale, per se, but the words these original writers gave me. These three writers gave me words that fit with the Old Silver Hair fairy tale, one that has fascinated me for years now. To me, the fairy tale is about alchemy: the transformation of silver to gold. Originally, Goldy was a wicked old crone (Silver Hair) and she was a creeper! She peeped through the Three Bears’ windows and watched them make porridge. She knew their daily patterns—when they nap and when they go on walks. She was, indeed, a criminal. But as stories flip and turn through time, Old Silver Hair un-ages, becomes cute, becomes Goldilocks. She is no longer menacing. She is innocent and just hungry and tired. Poor girl is just looking for a nap!

KJ: Would you consider these pieces collaborations? What was your process working with more than one person on a series like this? How do you feel this process changed your writings, or how you told these stories?

LH: These aren’t really collaborations. These are donations. I was very careful in picking the preposition before the writers’ names. Originally, I had chosen “with,” which implies collaborative conversation, but several writers pointed out the flaw in word choice. For this project, writers donated their sentence/stanza, but they had no other role in either the generative or revision processes.

KJ: Who are the writers (flash fiction or otherwise) that you most admire, and what qualities drew you to their work?

LH: For these pieces in particular, Kate Bernheimer and Alissa Nutting. Kate really introduced me to the fairy tale as a contemporary form, and she’s my fairy godmother. Whereas these pieces are stylistically different from both Kate and Alissa’s writings, we all share and converse in the fairy tale form. I appreciate the brevity with which they create an entire world and the magic that inhabits those worlds with sparkle and violence.

KJ: What are you working on now?

LH: I’m working on a CNF book based on the animals of Chinese zodiac.

KJ: As the Prose Editor for Puerto del Sol at New Mexico State University do you have any tips for young writers out there?

LH: Read like crazy. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Worst case scenario is rejection, and that’s not such a bad thing, so really, there’s no harm in trying!

Lily Hoang is the author of four books, including Changing, recipient of a PEN Open Books Award. With Blake Butler, she edited 30 Under 30, and with Joshua Marie Wilkinson, she is editing the anthology The Force of What's Possible: Writers on the Avant-Garde and Accessibility (Night Boat, forthcoming 2014). She is Associate Department Head at New Mexico State University, where she teaches in the MFA program and serves as Prose Editor for Puerto del Sol.