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Hoang: Constraints make writing easier

Megan Loney | Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lily Hoang, assistant professor of English at Saint Mary’s College, is no typical writer. She boasts of putting more of an emphasis on form rather than plot and calls writers’ block a “myth.”

Hoang, who teaches in the English and Women’s Studies Departments, shared excerpts from her work Monday in Stapleton Lounge to Saint Mary’s students and faculty. She read from two of her published works, “Parabola” and “Changing.”

She also gave a sneak preview into her newest book, “Evolutionary Revolution,” a science fiction novel that will be released in 2010.

The reading was the second event in the Women’s History Month series co-sponsored by the English and Women’s Studies Departments. Professor Jennifer Zachman, introduced Hoang at the start of the event, described her colleague as a “ceaseless writer” who has two published works, an e-book and two more books that are currently in the publishing phase.

Hoang began her readings with an excerpt called “A Father, A Daughter” from “Parabola.” The book’s unique title references the parabolic constraints of the story. The book begins with chapter ten and ends with chapter ten.

Hoang prefers to write under constraints. She said that it eliminates the infinite possibilities of other creative writing that cause writers’ block.

Before reading, Hoang gave a disclaimer to her work.

“I’d like to start with something kind of normal and then progressively get weirder,” said Hoang. “And when I said that it [the writing] is kind of weird,” said Hoang. “I meant that it is weird.”

True to her word, Hoang’s “A Father, A Daughter” was not traditional. Instead of being centered on a plot, it was a description of the relationship between a father and a daughter.

Hoang continued the reading with two short pieces from her book “Changing.”

After reading from her published works, Hoang continued with the first ten pages of her unpublished science fiction novel. The novel is also under a constraint, although it is the most unconstrained of all of her works, Hoang said.

“Evolutionary Revolution” is based on Neutral Milk Hotel’s album “Aeroplane Over the Sea,” Hoang said.

The novel takes place in two times. One is prehistoric time with two species of man and the earth is only water. One species of man is the mermen who live under the water, the other, women called men who fly over the water and live on the moon.

The other, more recent time setting, features a girl named Chloe who wakes up with wings on her thighs and a two-headed boy.

During the set of readings, Hoang received several bursts of laughter from the attentively listening audience.

The event ended with a question and answer session between Hoang and her students and fellow faculty members.