Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the ongoing guest post series, today I’m pleased to welcome debut novelist Stephanie Suga Chen. This talented writer shares her journey towards writing Travails of a Trailing Spouse, just released by Straits Times Press. She also offers five questions for those embarking on the writing journey, to determine if they can call themselves, “Writers-with-a-capital-W.”
Take it away, Stephanie!
“Wow, less than a year? That was fast!” is the response I usually get from people when they find out how long it took to write, find a publisher for, and release my debut novel, Travails of a Trailing Spouse.
Actually, though, it was a project 25 years in the making.
I can still distinctly recall a conversation back in middle school with my guidance counselor.
“What do you think you’d like to be when you grow up?” he asked.
“A writer,” I recall answering, confidently.
“OK, what kind of job do you think you’ll get? Like, to earn money?” he asked.
“A writer?” I answered again, this time not so confidently.
I had not yet figured out that “writing” and “making money from writing” were two very different activities.
And so, fast forward a decade, I ended up studying finance in college and embarking on what would end up being a 15-year (and counting) career in banking and investing, leaving my writing aspirations dormant.
The turn onto my writing path was abrupt and almost without warning. In early 2017, I started writing, and on that first day, I wrote a 2,000-word essay. A week later, I started writing a memoir of my move to Singapore, which evolved into the novel Travails of a Trailing Spouse. I wrote feverishly, staying up past midnight on most nights, completing a chapter of the book each day. Not quite a year later, in January 2018, the book was released. It’s been a crazy year.
But can I call myself a “Writer”? One of my more cynical friends answers, “You can call yourself a writer when you can financially support yourself on it.” (Clearly, my sixth-grade guidance counselor wasn’t the only practical one out there.)
I’m a bit more optimistic. I’ve been using the W-word more and more when I’m asked what kind of work I do.
Are you similarly wondering if you can call yourself a Writer-with-a-Capital-W?
Here are five questions that might help you decide:
1. Do you find yourself stealing any bit of time you can, in order to write?
I’m often asked, “Do you set aside a couple of hours every day when you force yourself to write?” For me, this mandate isn’t necessary. I write all the time, anywhere and everywhere – at my desk at home, on the MRT heading downtown, in the waiting room at my doctor’s office, hunched over an airplane tray table, in the school auditorium. You get the picture.
2. Do you have trouble falling asleep because your head is full of writing ideas?
I’d always thought of myself as someone who needed a lot of sleep. After I started writing, I discovered I just needed a good reason to stay awake. When I was in the midst of writing Travails, I would often shut my laptop, eyes tired and strained from staring at the screen for too long, only to lie awake in bed for hours, outlining the next chapter in my mind.
3. Does time move quicker while you’re writing?
As the saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” and it certainly rings true for me. Some mornings I send the kids off to school and write straight through until pick-up time, nearly seven hours later.
4. Does every person you talk to, place you visit, and experience you undergo, inspire you to write?
Ideas for Travails came from many sources – old Facebook posts, conversations with friends, visiting familiar places, even the smell of certain foods. And as I finished that first novel, the ideas kept coming. My list of writing ideas is pages long, and continues to grow every day.
5. Have you sent something you’ve written to another person for commentary?
This was a huge step for me. Writing for oneself is one thing, but asking someone for feedback is quite another. The first piece of negative feedback I received was crushing. I then realized, of course, that constructive criticism is necessary in order to improve my writing (although, I’ll admit, it still hurts!).
Did you answer “Yes!” to any of these questions? If so, congratulations! Go on, call yourself a Writer!
About Travails of a Trailing Spouse:
The novel begins with Sarah, a successful but unhappy lawyer in the US, quitting her job and moving to Singapore with her husband and children. They become part of a close-knit group of expatriates and enjoy evenings filled with Trivia Nights and drinks. When cracks appear in this seemingly perfect world, Sarah and her friends discover how complicated and varied life can be.
Available at Straits Times Press, Amazon, and all leading bookstores in Singapore.
About the author:
Stephanie Suga Chen is a former investment banker and partner of a New York City-based private investment fund. She moved to Singapore in 2012 with her husband, two children and elderly cocker spaniel. Travails of a Trailing Spouse is her first novel.
Saturday, 20th January 2018, 2:00 pm at Kinokuniya Singapore Main Store.
When did you first start calling yourself a writer? As a reader, do you wonder about a writer’s journey? Do you have questions for Stephanie? Share your thoughts and if you have questions on writing or publication, ask them in the comments!