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Member Spotlight: William Gee Wong

author William Gee Wong and an image of his book Sons of Chinatown

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing is a great vehicle to convey ideas, thoughts, and feelings. It entertains readers and inspires them to learn, reflect, think, and act. Writing transports readers to another world, another universe even. It is a foundational tool to connect human beings.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? I’ve not experienced serious “writer’s block,” if we define the term as prolonged periods of not being able to write. For my book that’s just been published, I of course went through multiple drafts, changing its “design” — what should I start with, should it be organized chronologically, how much or how little personal detail vs. historical/political/cultural context, etc. I asked family and friends for feedback at various stages and revised drafts based in part on their responses. I tried new approaches, chapter flows, and even subtle “voice” alterations, until I felt “good” about the final version.

What is your favorite time to write? I usually like to write in the mornings right after breakfast and continue until lunch. I stop in mid-afternoon. If a phrase or idea strikes me later in the day or even in the evenings, I sometimes will go to my computer to write whatever my mind tells me to say.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? I can’t recall a specific piece of writing advice. My professional writing career was primarily as a newspaper reporter and later an opinion columnist. My new book is primarily a memoir with lesser degrees of journalistic and historical research woven in. My advice? Writing starts as thoughts, ideas, and images in one’s mind/brain. Pay attention to what your mind/brain is telling you. Find stimulation in what you read, see (around you, on TV, movies, your smartphones), hear (casual conversations, radio, podcasts), and sense. I’m actually at a loss for words to describe my writing process. In all my years as a newspaper writer and now as a memoirist, something magical happens between the time a phrase, thought, idea, etc., pops up and when I start typing on my computer. Listen to your mind/brain. Let it flow. You should read what you just wrote, let it ricochet in your head, feel it, and if it doesn’t feel or sound right, give it another go until it does sound right to you.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? I still like the idea of sharing my thoughts in a prose form. Writing is the best way I know of expressing myself. When young, I dabbled in pencil sketching. I’ve taken still photos and videos. I’ve improved my public speaking, but given my somewhat introverted nature, I find that writing, a lonely exercise, is what I do best.

William Gee Wong’s Sons of Chinatown: A Memoir Rooted in China and America is out now with ‚ÄéTemple University Press.