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Death: An Exclusive Q&A with Layli Long Soldier and Lucy Tan

Posted Mon, 3/29/2021 - 11:00am by  |  Category: ,

On April 2, the 2021 Hugo Literary Series continues with an evening of cataclysmic new works from Rebecca Makkai, Layli Long Soldier, and Lucy Tan on the theme of the pale rider: Death.

We recently caught up with Layli and Lucy via email to learn more about the projects they’ll be unveiling, their favorite writing advice, and their apocalypse survival strategies.

Find out more about the upcoming literary series and buy tickets »

Layli Long Soldier

What, if anything, can you tell us about your Lit Series piece? 

I’ll be sharing new poems on the subject of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Although this work was written for another panel that I’m participating in this week (a panel shared with community advocates working with this issue), it has been my primary focus this winter/spring. So this feels most relevant to share at Hugo House.

This year’s Lit Series events are themed on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Tell us: What’s your apocalypse survival strategy? 

As a Lakota person, the idea of an “apocalypse” is nothing new, to be honest. That is, to be under threat and the stress from tumultuous changes in our ways of life. Our parents, grandparents, and community members share many accounts about this. But our philosophies around relationship and connection have carried us through—it is not just the means to survival but a way to thrive. So this remains the best strategy for me, even now.

What’s one piece of advice that keeps you going when the writing gets tough? 

One piece of writing advice that has helped me is…  NourbeSe Philip writes in the “Notanda” to Zong!: “I confront the tension between the poem that I want to write and the poem that must write itself.” I have found this to be true in my own process. There are often poems that I WANT to write. So I try that; I write what I want. But most often, after I get past my own cravings, desires and plans for a poem… I often find there’s another poem that says, “You didn’t necessarily want me to be here, but I’m the one that needs to be heard.” So I have to put down my guard and let the other poem come, the one that already exists.

Lucy Tan

What, if anything, can you tell us about your Lit Series piece? 

It’s the first piece of speculative fiction I’ve ever finished or planned to share! I love that writing for this series has pushed me out of my creative comfort zone.

This year’s Lit Series events are themed on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Tell us: What’s your apocalypse survival strategy? 

A bunker made of books. It’s about the only kind of bunker I can afford.

What’s one piece of advice that keeps you going when the writing gets tough? 

The practice of art is a victory in itself. The first thing I like to remind myself is that as long as I’m working, I’m winning. The second thing I like to remind myself is that allowing time away from the page is an essential part of working, too.