War: An exclusive Q&A with Tommy Orange, Khadijah Queen, and Kristen Millares Young

Posted Fri, 5/28/2021 - 8:19am by  |  Category: ,

On June 4, the 2021 Hugo Literary Series wraps up with a night of new works from Tommy Orange, Khadijah Queen, and Kristen Millares Young on the theme of the Red Horse of the Apocalypse: War.

We recently reached out to the featured readers via email to learn more about the works they’ll be sharing during the event, their favorite writing advice, and their apocalypse survival strategies.

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

Photo by Elena Seibert

Tommy Orange

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

I’ll be reading from my forthcoming novel, Wandering Stars.

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

I bought my first house and it’s on a well and we have 8 chickens plus a security gate on 7 acres so we can survive okay at home and the pandemic was a real kind of test. Of course if it’s Book of Revelations bad I have no plan I certainly won’t go crawling back to Jesus.

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

I think the first given advice (ignored), then a learned experience of writing some of my best stuff when I feel the worst. I spend a lot of time trying to cultivate states of mind conducive to good writing but some of that ends up unusable and the good stuff comes whenever the hell it wants, unfortunately. 

Khadijah Queen

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

It’s a zuihitsu.

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

I saw a Saidiya Hartman quote from her 2002 essay “The Time of Slavery” posted on Instagram that perfectly captures it: “How might we understand mourning, when the event has yet to end?” The apocalypse has been and is ongoing. I am remembering, acknowledging, and feeling that.

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

Writing is not really ever tough for me. The associated emotions, however, can be, at times. Some good advice is to practice paying attention to what your body and mind require, to include regular rest, and moments of delight.

Kristen Millares Young

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

I’ve debated myself about whether to share my newest essay, entitled “How to Break Even.” Prompted by a professor whose abusive behavior tested a friendship between women writers, “How to Break Even” chronicles how I kept myself together while fending off a mentor’s assault on my student work.

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

Speak your truths at the moment of your choosing. The most enduring war that I have witnessed is the silencing of women. Many atrocities, both subtle or overt, have required it. Millennia of #metoo have unfurled without the somewhat uneasy camaraderie made possible by collective storytelling. Now is our time to be known. The facts behind my essay vexed and transformed me as a writer and literary citizen. I became Prose Writer in Residence at Hugo House to provide the safe and sustained mentorship that I had sought.

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

Keep multiple projects going at the same time. Having finished the tour for my debut novel Subduction, I take breaks from working on my second novel, a hybrid text called Great Mother, to review books for the Washington Post and write essays that I imagine will make their way into a collection. It helps me to stay on the move if one particular project gets too fraught to handle.