20 June 2015

Spotlight On: Lily Mei


Lily Mei is a writer and editor based in Sydney. She is an Editor of the 2015 UTS Writers’ Anthology, and fiction editor on the Voiceworks Editorial Committee’. Previously she was an editor of Vertigo Magazine and has written for The Lifted Brow, Scum Magazine, Stilts and New Matilda. She tweets sometimes as @LilyMeizing.


How old are you?

What state or territory do you live in?
New South Wales

What kind of writing do you do?
Short fiction and creative nonfiction mostly. I write lots of letters to my friends too. That counts, right?

What are you currently reading?
I’ve been slowly working my way through, and savouring every page of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series. I’ve also been reading a pre-release copy of Eliza Henry-Jones’ debut novel In The Quiet!
Other than that, lots of submissions.

How did you begin writing?
I started writing when I was in primary school after reading Utterly Me, Clarice Bean. I think my mum was writing a children’s book at the time and I wanted to write something too, get published, become famous. My parents really encouraged my writing pursuits and that was enough to keep me going. It felt very special and I liked dedicating what felt like a whole Sunday to writing a short story. It was really probably only an hour or two tops.

How do you remain motivated?
I don’t really. It’s a problem. But I always come back to writing because I like sharing. Finishing a piece of writing generally feels good. I find writing therapeutic too. Sometimes through writing I find new or different ways to understand or represent something I’ve been trying to explain to myself or someone else. Sometimes I’m motivated to write because it’ll make a difference to someone else, someone I care about.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I find inspiration in a lot of memories. If something has upset or affected me I find that useful and I’ll often manipulate that emotion or idea. Sometimes I find inspiration listening to the way someone tells a story. Otherwise walking usually helps generate something. 

Do you think where you live in Australia has influenced your writing?
Unintentionally, probably. I spent the first 10 years of my life in the Hunter Valley and the following 11 years have been Sydney-based. I think living in Sydney means I have access to a lot more arts and culture stuff now. I’m also close to the sea, which I love. Writing near water is nice. If I’m writing about younger characters I often base their stories in a country setting and older characters tend to be situated in city environments just because that’s been my experience.

What is the best and worst piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer?
Bad advice: “avoid clichés”. I have a fear of clichés. In year 8 my English teacher told me a story I wrote was cliché and I took the criticism to its extreme. This fear still affects my writing now. Sometimes my stories are too abstract because I’m trying so desperately to avoid clichés and I can’t ground the stories because whatever is logical I’m convinced is boring – it’s a relentless cycle that hinders my creative output but I’m working through it.

Good advice: Recently Oliver Mol wrote something for Seizure and he said, “Make mistakes. Repeat yourself. Then contradict it. Contradicting yourself is probably the most honest thing you can do because it proves that you have no idea what is going on.” I think that’s useful advice.

More good advice: When I was chatting with Eliza Henry-Jones in preparation for our NYWM interview she said she believes it’s really important writers find and respect their individual creative processes. She is so right.

What piece of published writing are you most proud of? Why?
I recently wrote a piece about Lyme disease to help raise awareness about the illness. I’m proud of the piece because I had to do a lot of research to complete it. I wrote it for someone special who is very sick. I learnt a lot during the process and it was really rewarding engaging with a science related topic.


What is your goal for National Young Writer’s Month?
Stop procrastinating. My goal is to get into a writing routine. I should really make more time for reading too.

Where can we find out more about you?
Twitter – @LilyMeizing

Photo by: Anora Photography