BIW Member Interview
Betty Wong is an ordinary person who writes because she thinks people actually want to read what she’s got to say. When she’s not writing, she’s usually singing, because she thinks people actually want to hear her when she sings. Fortunately for the people around her, she also enjoys reading, and so they provide her with all the books she wants, in exchange for some peace and quiet.
Moe: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Betty Wong: I started reading when I was very young, but although I already loved books, I never really wanted to be a writer until I read Christopher Pike when I was eleven years old. His books were the first I read that impressed me so much with their depth and intelligence, although they were listed as Young Adult books, and I knew then that I wanted to do what he did.
Moe: Describe three lessons you have learned about writing?
Betty Wong: I think one of the most important lessons I learned is that you have to switch off your internal editor when you’re writing creatively. I tend to edit myself every few pages, and of course I never get far when I do that, but BIW has helped me to shove the editor aside and just allow myself to write.
Another lesson I’ve learn is that it’s important to write. Write anything, write everyday, just write. Writing is something you have to practice at, just like with any other craft. An artist starts by learning how to mix paint and put the brush onto the canvas, he doesn’t miraculously paints masterpieces the first time he paints on canvas. He’ll create a lot of crap, but the more he practices his art, the sooner he creates his masterpieces. It’s the same for a writer. I used to unrealistically think that I’d produce a masterpiece the first time I sat down to write, but now I know I’ve got to practice.
I’ve also learn that not everybody writes the same way. I read a lot of books about writing and how some writers write. I’ve found that they’ve all got their own techniques and ways of writing and they don’t necessarily apply to me. I started out trying to follow exactly what they did, but I’ve found that their ways don’t always work for me. I learned that I had to find my own techniques and do what works for me.
Moe: What are you working on now?
Betty Wong: A couple of books actually. One is a fantasy-type story, a light-hearted fairy-tale with a happy-ever-after ending.
The other is a biography about my grandfather who passed away a couple of years ago. He left me his diaries, written in Chinese, which tells about his life when he was a young man; how he came to migrate from China, how he made his fortune in the rubber estates, and his many initial encounters with gangsters who eventually became his friends.
It’s slow going, because I don’t read Chinese and have to rely on my husband to translate for me, but it’s an amazing story.
Moe: Do you have a favourite writing related book?
Betty Wong: It has to be Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. It is one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read about writing, and the best because I haven’t finished it yet! Every time I pick up this book and read a couple of chapters, it gives me such a strong urge to write that I put it down again and go write! Every other book I’ve read about writing makes me want to read more, instead of write more!
Moe: What is your favourite writing website?
Betty Wong: WritersDigest.com. I can spend hours there, reading their articles, browsing their books, and of course, checking out the 101 best sites for writing.
Moe: Do you have an important BIW tip you’d like to pass along?
Betty Wong: The best BIW tip, I think, is already the catch phrase. BIC HOK TAM: Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard, Typing Away Madly. Do that, and BIW will be a breeze for you. What I do is I make sure I’ve got everything I need near me, water, or something to snack on if I get hungry. I close the door and turn on some new age music, sit at the computer, remind myself why I want to write, then I write.