Interview with Myna Chang: Q3 2023 CNF Essay Contest Third Place Winner

Sunday, August 20, 2023
Myna’s Bio:
Myna Chang is the author of The Potential of Radio and Rain. Her writing has been selected for Flash Fiction America (W. W. Norton) and Best Small Fictions. Awards include the Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction, the New Millennium Award in Flash Fiction, the CutBank Books Chapbook Award, and the CRAFT Creative NonFiction Editor’s Choice Award. She hosts the Electric Sheep speculative fiction reading series, reads and edits for several journals, and judges literary and speculative fiction contests. See more at or @MynaChang. 

If you haven't done so already, check out Myna's award-winning essay "We Were the Wild Hunt" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Q3 2023 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Myna: Thank you, Anne, I’m glad you asked this. I’ve discussed the torturous process of creating this essay in other interviews, but here, I’d like to focus on the fantastic class I took through WOW that explored speculative memoir. The class was taught by Naomi Kimbell, and she was wonderful. My essay is about my grandfather’s murder, which happened when I was a teenager. I didn’t want to write about it at all, but the thoughts kept bubbling up. I struggled with it for years. Then I tried some of the techniques I learned in Naomi’s class—specifically, using fantastical settings and language to describe real-world events. I’ve always felt at home with science fiction and fantasy, and shifting my mindset to this approach made it easier for me to get into the story. The resulting piece felt more true to me than any of the previous drafts. I’ve adopted this technique in other nonfiction writing, too. It always seems to help me get started, even if I don’t keep the fantastical language in the finished piece. 

WOW: I’m so glad to hear that WOW’s speculative memoir class with Naomi Kimbell was helpful. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with it and how it helped your writing. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Myna: I kept trying to write about my grandfather’s experience from his point of view, but of course, I can’t do that because I’m not him. I didn’t face the horrific situation he faced. Theoretically, I knew I should be tackling my own lived experience instead, but that felt wrong. He was the one who was murdered, so how dare I try to make this about myself? Working through the process, I finally realized it’s not selfish or disrespectful to approach this event through my own lens. I can tell the story of my own shock and grief, and hopefully my love for him comes through. 

WOW: It sounds like you have put a lot of thought and love into this piece, and we’re so grateful that you shared it with us. I understand that you host a speculative fiction reading series and judge a speculative fiction contest. How do you define this genre and what draws you to it? 

Myna: I like to define speculative fiction as any story that asks the question, “What if?” These stories are often classified as science fiction, fantasy, or horror, but I believe those labels are outdated and too limiting. Within speculative fiction, I am particularly drawn to stories with a sense of wonder. My discussion group, Electric Sheep, explores short speculative stories, and we support authors and the magazines who publish them. We hope to provide a few new avenues for speculative writers to connect with readers, and we hope to have fun in the process. 

WOW: What a great idea for a discussion group, and I love that description of speculative writing as “stories with a sense of wonder.” Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Myna: There are so many ways to approach creative nonfiction. I don’t like the idea that all CNF has to fit into a narrow box. That’s one reason I’m a huge fan of CRAFT magazine. I find the creative nonfiction they publish to be both emotionally and technically on-target, but the most helpful thing is the author’s note that accompanies each piece. I love this window into each writer’s process. 

WOW: If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be? 

Myna: I did not enjoy writing when I was young. I majored in journalism because it was the major with the least amount of math. My writing skills were merely adequate in my early career. When I got high enough on the corporate food chain to make my own hires, the first people I brought in were writers – so I wouldn’t have to do it myself. If I could tell my younger self anything, I’d say, “Don’t worry. Sooner or later, it will all work out.” 

WOW: That’s excellent advice in so many contexts. Anything else you’d like to add? 

Myna: I’d like to thank all the folks at WOW for continuing to offer these contests. I’ve seen some sketchy organizations out in the wild internet, taking advantage of writers and ripping people off. It’s a treat to know WOW is here, running a well-organized, ethically-managed competition. 

WOW: We’re so glad you trust us with your writing. Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing! 

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, founder and editor-in-chief of Sport Stories Press, which publishes sports books by, for, and about sportswomen and amateur athletes and offers developmental editing and ghostwriting services to partially fund the press. Engage on Twitter or Instagram @GreenMachine459.


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