31 October 2017

Meet the 2017 Scribe Nonfiction Prize Shortlist – Vivian Wei

In the lead up to announcing the winner of The 2017 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers, we’re introducing you to every name and face on the shortlist. These are some of the brightest nonfiction minds in the country and they’re all aged 30 and under. Read their profiles on the Express Media blog to learn more about their writing journeys, love of nonfiction and their tips and tricks to writing the best real-life stories.

Vivian Wei, 18, New South Wales

‘The Chinese Menu for the Afterlife’


How did you begin writing?

I’ve always written stories throughout my childhood. Funnily enough, I found a USB from YEARS ago which had a whole folder filled with unfinished short stories. I also read a lot of books growing up and they always left me curious, so I think that’s why I started writing too; so that I could make other people curious through my 15-page long word documents of unfinished short stories.  

Why do you write nonfiction?

I write from my own experiences, or from things that seem real to me. I’ve never really found a great interest in fantasy as I was growing up; I think it scared me a little because it didn’t make sense to my 7-year old ‘already-trying-to-make-sense-of-the-world’ brain. During high school, I wanted to feel like I spent my downtime efficiently, ‘kill two birds with one stone’ as they say: read something for leisure while learning something too, so, I write nonfiction to share real experiences from different perspectives in our world.

Tell us a bit about your submission to the Scribe Prize:

My story was inspired by my Ong’s funeral. His death sparked an emotional search for my cultural roots which in turn became a legacy for the relationship I wished I had with my grandfather.

The Chinese Menu for the Afterlife portrays the persona’s cultural journey of understanding her own co-existence between two cultures where she aims to accept the symbiotic nature of co-cultural existence. I delved into the storytelling, using culinary familiarity – several traditional Chinese dishes – as a means to communicate this confusion through something I really understood in order to explain the importance of the culture behind each dish.  

Why did you choose to write on this subject?

The only funeral I have ever attended was my grandfather’s and it was nothing like I had expected. I was thrown into a cultural pool of confusion and I used writing as an outlet to make sense of this bewilderment.

I also wrote this piece in order to promote more acceptance amongst Australian born Asians for exploring our cultural histories and to avoid shying away from embracing our roots due to the stigmas of being ignored in society.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

This is probably the most common piece of advice that is always offered, but my high school tutor – also friend, told me to simply “write from your own experiences”.