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Pulp Idol Winner Laura Bui Interview

Writing on the Wall’s Lauren Buxton interviewed Pulp Idol 2018 winner, Laura Bui

Have you always wanted to be a writer? And was there a specific moment you thought, ‘I can do this’?
It was only recently that I considered writing fiction. When I was younger I didn’t think I had this option of ‘being a writer’. Part of this had to do with the idea instilled in me that writing was not a feasible or practical career— sitting around and writing made-up stories? What a farce. The assumption was that being a writer was reserved for people of leisure, and fiction writing was this simple exercise in the insincere: it was believed that anyone could sit around and make up lies if they could afford to. Of course this isn’t true. Later, about six or seven years ago, I developed a kind of obsession with being a good thinker. Being so requires original thought and a lot of creativity. One outlet has been fiction writing. I admire writers, particularly literary fiction writers, for their thoughtfulness and accurate observations about us and life. I want to be like that but it is still a work in progress.

Do you have a writing routine; if so what is a typical writing day for you?
My routine is in the form of phases if that makes sense. I try to treat (fiction) writing like a project with a deadline alongside projects/ tasks related to my profession. So the phase could last for several weeks, end because of another project, then I might return to it months later and work on the writing again for a few weeks or days. Sometimes it can even be alongside another piece of work. A problem, sometimes, is I reason to myself that the fiction writing and reading are a hobby and can be pushed back whenever I feel like it. Then, of course, nothing gets done.

What was your motivation for entering this year’s Pulp Idol competition?
Acknowledgement I guess? I’m surprised I even got as far as I did. I think many who have written a lengthy piece of work will empathise: you spend so much energy and effort in creating this piece. Alone. This can go on for months or years. The end result is completely unknown: will it get to be out there or will it just go in a drawer never to be seen again? I entered just to give my story a chance to be out there, an opportunity for my voice, and the perspective that forms it, to be heard.

Could you tell us about your novel Someone You’d Admire, and what your primary inspiration for the novel was?
Certainly. The story takes place in 2015, forty years after the Fall of Saigon. It focuses on Hien who has to decide whether to return to his homeland, Vietnam, for his father’s funeral after having settled in America since the fall. The bulk of the Vietnamese-American literature comprises stories about what happened to characters during war and shortly after, or about the experiences of the children of these refugees growing up in the US. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizers was an exception because it was the first book I read to have addressed this relatively unknown history about the anti-communist group that developed in the Vietnamese-American community after many had settled in America. It was different and expanded the literature. I wanted to contribute to this expansion by writing about the refugees themselves, four decades after. I wanted to focus on the lingering effects of loss well into the twilight years, and explore resilience and hope despite major adversity.

How do you feel about your overall experience of Pulp Idol?
Very positive. Generally I’m really impressed by the scope of projects that Writing on the Wall (WoW) has and the effort the WoW team invest to include and support anyone who is interested in sharing their voice and story. They sponsor and create events where people, whose voices are likely to be seldom heard in mainstream publishing and literature, can have a platform. They even publish books of these unheard stories and distribute them widely.

Since winning Pulp Idol talk to us about what your experience is like now?
It has provided me with some new and exciting experiences: winning a writing competition for the first time; reading what I wrote in front of audiences; being interviewed about my writing whose first chapter has been published; and gaining some exposure for my writing.

If you could pass on a single piece of advice to writers who would like to enter next year’s Pulp Idol Competition, what would it be?
Do not let the reading part, where you read out loud your story in front of a bunch of strangers, put you off. Yes, it is an atypical competition where you need to be present to participate. This, actually, is a good opportunity-- not just for building confidence but to be there, in-person, with other writers. The competition provides this sense of community and it was wonderful to witness this diverse and thriving world of local and not-so-local writing. I think just to participate in the competition is enough. It makes it real to you that you have expressed your unique perspective through fiction and you are sharing it with others: you are here. 

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