Richa Gupta, our editor-in-chief, recently had the opportunity to interview Rona Wang, who was a contributor to the first issue of Moledro Magazine. Read the conversation below!
Richa: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your literary background?
Rona: Hi! I'm currently a seventeen-year-old living in Portland, Oregon. I just graduated high school and will be heading to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the fall. I really like eating desserts and getting lost downtown.
I've been writing for as long as I can remember; when I was four I made a book with stapled printed paper and marker drawings. It was about a mermaid princess named Ellen Allen. When I was in middle school, I discovered online fanfiction and sneaked onto the computer at 3 a.m. to post chapters I wrote. My parents were not happy about me subsequently falling asleep during school. In 2014, when I was fifteen, I submitted a few pieces to the national Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, just to see what would happen, and ended up winning a national medal and getting published in The Best Teen Writing anthology. I was incredibly surprised, since I never thought I was any good. I started getting more into the teen writing community after that, and discovering more publishing opportunities, finding writing buddies, and entering more contests.
Richa: Your poetry has been published in numerous literary magazines, such as Textploit, Germ Magazine, and Canvas. What do you believe makes a good poem?
Rona: I'm still learning so much about poetry myself! There isn't much rigidity with the form, which makes it more difficult to pin down and define. I do prefer movement, though: crackling lightning, meandering streams, nosebleeds and elbow scrapes. Sometimes, the Portland suburbs are so beautiful, with hazy petrichor infused in the sky and all the foliage dewy, glimmering like sterling silver. But that's not poetry. That's a pretty picture. It needs emotion to propel it forward.
Richa: In addition to poetry, you’re wonderful at writing creative non-fiction, having recently been recognized by Sierra Nevada College and The Adroit Journal. Where do you get your inspiration from? What motivates you?
Rona: When I was fifteen, I attended the Iowa Young Writers' Studio. While there, we were given a writing exercise: write a letter to someone you have an unresolved issue with.
I wrote mine to a faculty member at my high school who was homophobic. It was like spitting out this mouthful of rage that had mangled my tongue for so long. It was cathartic.
Stripped down, all my creative non-fiction pieces are letters I wrote to people I had unresolved issues with.
For example, "Magnitude" (can be read here) is about math, but it's also about being young and having no control over so many circumstances and struggling with vulnerability. I wrote it to a girl I used to be close friends with, because I was hurt that she chose to shut herself off instead of confronting her anguish. Creative non-fiction has allowed me to understand this spinning, chaotic world and my place in it a little better.
Richa: What has been your best experience so far as a young writer? What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your journey?
Rona: There are so many wonderful things I've had the privilege to experience! Participating in my school's slam poetry contest my junior year changed my life and how I approached writing. Before, it had always been simply a way for me to express myself, but through spoken word, I realized that writing can also be an opportunity to discuss important issues like institutionalized racism or gender inequality. While there are many Chinese-American teenagers who write, often I find myself the only one on stage, and I want to use this platform to provide a narrative to a group the media usually marginalizes.
The biggest challenge I've faced can be summed up by one word: fear. When I was fourteen, I was afraid of writing badly. When I was fifteen, I was afraid of writing honestly. Fear is crippling and endless. I don't think it ever truly dissipates. The trick is learning how to swallow that broken glass in order to create something true.
Richa: What’s your ideal writing environment? Why?
Rona: I've adored Iowa City for the last two years: the streets yawning wide-open, bookstores trembling with words, and such a wonderful library: glass and clean angles and enough quiet to focus, but not so much it's stifling. There's even a shop that mixes pies into milkshakes.
It's unlikely I'll be able to go back anytime soon, so more realistically: a cozy armchair, a mug of hot chocolate, and my laptop. Also, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to bribe myself with every four hundred words.
Richa: You’ll be attending MIT in the fall (congratulations!); so do you intend to take up creative writing in college, or are you going to keep it a hobby? What are your future plans for your writing career?
Rona: Thank you! I am so excited. MIT does offer creative writing as a subset of its Humanities major, and while I do hope to take some classes on it (MIT also offers cross-registration with Harvard College, which offers many writing courses), I haven't decided on a major yet. I want to continue writing no matter what. This summer, I'm directing at the free creative writing workshop I founded, and in the future I hope to continue to write while improving others' lives, even if it is only the smallest impact.
Richa: So do you have any advice for young, aspiring writers?
Rona: Don't give up on yourself! Growing up, so many people told me I couldn't write. It's discouraging to hear, especially as an impressionable kid. Just keep doing what you love and don't stop. If you face literary rejection, that's totally normal and means you're on the right path. And cherish every single success, no matter how small.