An Interview with Jacqueline Xiong
Jacqueline Xiong is a Chinese-American writer from Houston, USA. Her work is Pushcart-nominated and has been nationally recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, YoungArts, One Teen Story, and more. She serves as an editor-in-chief for the Paper Crane Journal and the Ice Lolly Review. Jacqueline is currently working on a contemporary young adult time-travel novel.
Hey Jacq! You don’t even know how excited I am to interview you! I know that you are only 16, and I find it so amazing that you have accomplished so much! What made you get into writing?
Ever since I was pretty little, I’ve been super interested in writing! Whether it was personal narratives in elementary school, ripoffs of my favorite series in middle school, or way too-long novels during remote learning, I absolutely loved writing anything at all. I think what I adore the most about writing is simply the sheer amount of wonderful stories that you can tell!
I know that you are an EIC of the Paper Crane Journal & the Ice Lolly Review. First off, congratulations on these positions! I am so happy for you! How does it feel to be a leader in the Teen Writing Community?
Thank you so much! It’s an immense privilege and honor to be an EIC for both of these incredible journals. Rather than being a leader, the way I think about it is how lucky I am to be able to support my fellow writers and to give support to all of the wonderful stories out there! I know that sometimes sharing your voice is hard, and as EICs, we just want to help provide a platform for what you want to say. It has always been an honor.
As a fellow young writer, I find that one of my favorite parts about writing is the community. Writing seems like such a solitary pursuit, but I’ve met so many good people through my passion. What about you? What do you enjoy being part of the writing community?
I would say that the writing community has always been my number-one. It’s always been what I’m the most grateful for— being in the writing community truly inspires you so much and allows you to come across so much wonderful writing. I’ve met so many incredible people in the writing community, and everyday I feel so lucky that I’m surrounded by all of these amazing people who love writing as much as I do. However, the writing community can be stressful at times, so another part of it is taking appropriate breaks and finding your right people!
Do you have any writing rituals? How do you get the ideas flowing? What do you do in a writer’s block?
I’m a full-time student, so I have a pretty short ritual. Usually, I shut myself in my room, put on headphones and blast music, and write as much as I can. If I get stuck during one session, I put my laptop away and do something else for a while, then return and try to get the ideas going again. If I get long-term writer’s block (which happens quite frequently during the school year!), I let myself take breaks, and the moment I get a moment of inspiration, I head to my room. Overall, I think my routine is pretty tolerant because that’s what works best for my mental health! (The music is also extremely important.)
I hear that you have some upcoming pieces! Can you tell me about the focus of these pieces and your writing right now?
I have a micro coming out in May of 2023, which is super exciting! I’ve always been more of a longer-prose person, but this micro really struck me while I was writing it. To summarize, it’s about desire in the aftermath of abandonment, the intersection of desire and hunger, and the necessity of hunger in times of desperation.
As for my writing now, I’m working on a contemporary time-travel young adult novel! In fact, I finished the first draft pretty recently, and I’m super excited to take further steps with it.
What are your aspirations and goals for your future as a writer? Are you focused on being published?
Right now, my biggest goal for 2023 is to see how far I can go with my novel. Publishing is a very fickle and luck-based industry, so I’m not too focused on getting anything traditionally published! As long as I have faith in my writing, I think that I’m happy with however far it’ll go.
What is your favorite piece that you have ever created? Why? Also, could you tell me about the inspirations behind it?
I’m so sorry that I’m spending literally half of this interview talking about this mysterious novel. But. Like I said, I finished drafting a day ago, so I’m still on some adrenaline here. People talk about writing the story of their heart, and this novel takes home the prize. It’s at once the most difficult and personal thing I’ve ever written, and it was just birthed from a really tender place in my heart. It’s mainly inspired by all the ways we love and lose family, pursuit of happiness, coming-of-age, and the wonder of first love.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently revising said novel! (No more novel talk. I promise.)
Personally, I find it so hard to balance my writing life with my school life. Is it hard for you to balance your time writing with your school time? How do you manage to stay writing?
Like I mentioned earlier, I give myself A LOT of tolerance. Sometimes I’m probably too tolerant with myself, but what works best for me is to just write when I feel like it. School is hard and life is hard, and writing is my break from life, so I don’t demand too much from myself when I’m writing. I know that often, it feels like you’re not a “true” writer if you take long breaks, but I think that as long as you keep writing, you’re a writer! You don’t have to open a Google Doc to be a writer, nor do you have to write 1K words a day to be a proper writer. I think I’ve gone an entire month not writing and just thinking about what to write, which is fine. As long as some part of you still ache to tell a story or write a poem or read a book, you’re a writer.
Do you have any recommendations for teen writers to become more comfortable in the writing world, i.e., workshops, mentorships, writing communities, etc.?
Definitely writing communities! Join Twitter. Join Tumblr. Join Writegram and Writetok (if they exist?). If you’re a young writer, check out the Incandescent Summer Studio. I’m a 2-time mentee for Incandescent and the community is truly incredible. Adroit, Kenyon, and Iowa are also some other workshops a lot of people have gone to, but I can’t speak personally for them since I haven’t attended any of them. Still, just find your community! You’ll make a lot of friends and gain so much insight.
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?
There is always space for you. Your voice will always be heard. You don’t have to be published in the New Yorker to be a “legit” writer— every one of us have a personal, distinctive voice, and I think that I just really wished that someone told me that my story mattered. If you write something that you really love, it will mean the world to you, and others will see it too!
Thank you for your time!
Thank YOU for your time, Carina! These questions are so wonderful and I hope my responses were pretty alright :)))