Rose Lu is a writer based in Wellington. She’ll be teaching a workshop at the upcoming Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat which explores varying structure and point of view in the personal essay. She gained her Masters of Creative Writing at the IIML in 2018 and was awarded the Modern Letters Prize for Creative Nonfiction. Her first essay collection All Who Live on Islands was published to critical acclaim in 2019. Her undergraduate degree was in Mechatronics Engineering and she has worked as a software developer since 2012.
What attracted you to writing?
I’ve always used writing as a way of processing my feelings. It feels like a very natural part of my life, and a process that gave me calm and clarity. When I was travelling by myself in China, I was very isolated but was experiencing a lot of big feelings about family and identity, so writing was something that I leaned on heavily to untangle what I was going through. After I came back, I realised that my experience probably wasn’t unique, but it was missing from our cultural narrative, and pursuing publishing was my way of changing that.
Is the personal political?
I don’t think everyone’s personal is political, but as a minority in this country it’s unavoidable. To me, my book is about the quotidian — I mean I spend five pages describing a trip to the supermarket with my grandparents — but people don’t read it as such!
What work must the writer do to turn real life into a good essay?
I think readers often turn to literature to make sense of their own lives, so the writer must offer something to the reader outside of a linear description of the events. To be able to do that, the writer needs to have enough distance from the events to critically evaluate the experience, contextualise it, and form a cohesive narrative that tells the story in a compelling way that belies the narrator’s deeper understanding of the events.
What are you working on now?
I’m percolating some ideas at the moment. I want to write a novel next, as there isn’t really much material left in my life to write nonfiction from! I initially thought about writing a book about the tech industry, as I’ve worked in it for so long, but I realised I felt too angry still about some aspects of it and maybe that wouldn’t make for an interesting or surprising story. So I’m currently thinking about some new ideas!!
Tell us about the workshop, what should people expect?
I think people should come ready to try some new things and experiment a bit, and have a bit of fun. I think at the heart this workshop is about editing and making big structural changes and being able to tell if they work or not. The first-person narrative structure is popular and common for a reason, but when other formats work they’re extremely effective and it’s good to know when and how to deploy that.
Keen to join Rose? Register now for the 2021 Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat