April Yu is a young writer from New Jersey with an affinity for language, running, and human anatomy. Although she was indeed born in April, her favorite season is winter. Her work has or is slated to appear in The Aurora Journal, Tigers Zine, and Lit. 202, among others. In 2021, she was awarded the annual #1 Flash Fiction Piece on Storybird sitewide. She is a graduate of the Alpha Workshop for Young Writers.
Hey April! I am so excited to interview you! So, how did you start as a writer?
Thank you for having me! My first memories of writing were attempts to duplicate the voices of my favorite authors; The Hunger Games and Percy Jackson, for example, fell victim to my blatant eight-year-old plagiarism. I’ve still got Microsoft Word drafts of poverty-stricken huntresses being thrown into dangerous competitions somewhere. Thankfully, I’ve made the executive decision never to look at those again.
What really got me into the headspace of “Hey, maybe I can be a writer,” were my school teachers. In particular, my third-grade teacher always read my stories carefully and boosted my confidence tremendously. Her support led me to join an after school creative writing club in fourth grade. When that teacher introduced me to Storybird, I began to write every day on the story-sharing website. I joined because of the writing prompts and illustrations, but I stayed because of the millions of other writers writing and reading and commenting on my work. Writing is so often an isolating hobby. I’m so grateful I was able to find a community that I keep in touch with to this day.
Do you have any writing rituals? How do you get the ideas flowing? Is your writing spontaneous, or do you plan writing sessions?
I’d love to have special writing rituals à la Roshani Chokshi’s widow robe and candles, but mostly, it’s my bedroom, pajamas, and ridiculous thoughts. When I’m stuck, I often pull ideas from nature: a look out my window can spur all sorts of ideas, from themes of floriography to a personification of the sunrise. Taylor Swift songs and writing sprints are also an elite combination. My writing tends to be spontaneous, but I find I work best under deadlines, in the ungodly hours of the morning, or while procrastinating other tasks (none of which my parents are too thrilled about)!
What would you say is your style of writing? Are there any specific things you like to include in your writing?
I’d say my writing is surreal, eerie, and vivid. Almost always on a spectrum of slightly cuckoo to completely deranged. Also, too in love with strange similes and metaphors. Recently, I’ve been writing a lot of unhinged mothers, angsty sisters, and toxic romances. Relationships and their nuance fascinate me, and it’s my hope that I’ll be able to flesh out unique ones for every story I write.
What are your aspirations and goals for your future as a writer? Are you focused on being published?
As a pantser, I’m dreadful at sticking to ideas—I’ll write a short passage on the spot, love it, then come back the next day and tear it to shreds and never open the document again. One of my main goals is to faithfully see a long-term project through to the end, to stay as loyal to it as an overbearing significant other.
In that vein, yes, I’d love to publish a novel someday. There’s something so cathartic and magical about the thought of seeing my name on a book cover. Also—I’d love to go to medical school. These two aspirations seem completely unrelated, seeing as medical professions are tremendous time commitments, but I hope that writing will always mean what it does now: a channel of expression that flows amorphously, that changes shape to hold the weight of whatever my life becomes.
Congrats on your Honorable Mention for the Aurora Journal Surrealism Poetry Contest! I adored your piece & it was an honor to be published there along with you! What was your writing process for that piece? Why was it created?
Thank you, it was a joy to read your piece as well! Most of my published works so far have been poetry, but I’ve long been ashamed to admit I don’t understand a bulk of poetry and poetry craft. This contest was the perfect excuse to attend workshops and learn about surrealism.
I’ve always been stringent about my writing, engineering every word to my liking, and surrealism was a freeing way to let all that go. This was one of my rare one-sitting pieces: I plopped myself at my desk, stared outside at my backyard, and didn’t look away until I had finished writing. As a pantser, I often get ideas on a sentence-by-sentence basis. I’ll be trying to describe the night sky by comparing it to a purple bruise and then realize, Wait, does the speaker have actual bruises, and why? I started the piece by imagining an enigmatic, lovelorn girl had been dropped into the grass outside. I ended with an abused, deluded teenager who clung to her beloved so painfully that he became a figment of her imagination. I’m delighted the piece includes so many things that fascinate me: angels, figurative language relating to nature, and twisted romance.
What is your favorite piece that you have ever created? Why?
That’s a difficult one! My pieces are all personal in different ways, but my literary fiction story “Miracle Baby” was particularly revolutionizing to me. It’s about a girl who has to deal with her older sister’s death and mother’s consequent depression while taking care of her newborn sister. It took me a month to finish, but I realized so many things about myself: I had a voice I was excited to bring out; I had story elements I could deliver well and enjoy. Although it isn’t out publicly at the moment, it will always be dear to my heart.
What are you working on right now? I see that you are a part of NaNoWriMo. Does that have anything to do with your latest writing project?
Right now, I’m mostly focusing on short story writing. Some of my recent ones have been reaching novella lengths, though; while I was on hiatus from NaNoWriMo last year, I hope to get back into it again soon! I think I’m holding out until I find a topic I love. There’s something so wonderful about the idea that I could be writing a short story and realize I want to spend more time with these characters, I want to expand on this world. There’s a romance to it, that I could love something enough to commit to it upfront.
I see that you attend the Alpha Workshop Program. How does it feel to be surrounded and in communication with fellow young writers? Has the program benefited you?
I’m convinced I will remember the Alpha Young Writers Workshop for as long as I live. Especially at a young age, it can be difficult to find fellow writer friends. In less than two weeks this summer, I found those people: the people who can scream with me about writer’s block, revisions, industry drama, and everything else I always reserved as too niche for my school friends. I’ve never bonded so quickly or felt so understood. Not only did the program provide outstanding authors, staff, and writing advice, but it also helped me realize that I wasn’t alone in my writing journey. It bolstered my confidence and helped me realize I could write thousands of words a day, I could outline a whole story and deviate from it and re-outline and write into the morning and end up with a story I was proud of. Alpha transformed my perspective on writing craft, which I will forever be grateful for.
In what ways would you recommend teen writers to become more comfortable in the writing world, i.e., workshops, mentorships, writing communities, etc.?
Workshops can help teen writers feel more confident in their knowledge and skill in writing! Writing communities or circles are also great. There are several public discussion hubs for writers worth dipping a toe in. Also, young writers frequent social media all the time, especially Twitter. Developing relationships are daunting but worth it. Hyping other teen writers up can develop camaraderie, and good chances are, you’ll earn a hype buddy and friend back!
I know that a lot of teen writers are nervous about sharing their work. What is some advice you would have wanted to hear when you first began writing?
Your work is yours to claim, no one else’s. If these are the stories you feel you want or need to tell, then don’t be afraid to put them out there. Vulnerability can be scary, but it’s what makes writing beautiful; an exchanging of souls, a chance for others to see you for you. You’ve worked hard to put your thoughts to a page. Your stories are valuable no matter what.
What’s your favorite literary magazine to read right now? Do you have any favorite, teen or adult, authors?
Lately, I have been adoring the pieces in Milk Candy Review. Adult author loves: Leigh Bardugo, Isabel Ibañez, Holly Black, Jenny Han. As for younger writers, Nova Wang, Yasmeen Khan, Laura Ma, and Sunny Vuong are unspeakably talented.
Thank you for your time!
Of course, thank you so much for the interview. I had a wonderful time!