1. When did you start writing?
"I would say that writing has always been part of my life. Even before I knew how to read and write, I enjoyed telling people around me about the fictional worlds and characters I would create. However, I'm assuming this is talking more about the idea of having this big break in which I started taking writing seriously. In that case, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in the 8th grade. I had the grandiose idea that I would be able to write a novel in a month. Needless to say, I did not quite achieve that goal. Yet the fast pacing and intensive focus on writing made me realize that I enjoyed writing beyond the classroom. But don’t mistake me for ‘an OG teen writer’ — I learned what a lit mag was in 2020! Though I’ve officially ‘started writing’ quite a while ago, I’m still constantly experiencing new beginnings in my writing journey."
2. What is your method of writing? Notebooks, computer?
"Google Docs, Google Docs, Google Docs! Even though I like the aesthetic and idea behind writing in a leather bound notebook or on a vintage typewriter, I shamelessly choose function over form. I find that using Google Docs allows me to copy and paste lines around and enjoy the speed and efficiency that comes with using a keyboard. However, I keep notebooks in my proximity whenever possible since I also like to (very messily) jot down incomplete lines and basic ideas when I’m away from a screen."
3. Where do you draw inspiration?
"When I started writing, I had believed that I needed to write only about the extraordinary and unusual. Now, I think that's far from the truth. My current philosophy is that it's more important to write extraordinary lines rather than write about extraordinary things. Therefore, I'm not afraid to find inspiration in mundane places. (For example, I find great enjoyment putting new spins on everything from kitchen utensils to supermarket trips.) Another inspiration of mine is pop culture, though I aim to use pop culture as a tool rather than the overwhelming message behind the entire piece — my hope is that people who haven’t seen/experienced the media I’m talking about can still access my work about it.."
4. Could you share your process and thoughts on writing?
"My process is very nonlinear and I’d even call it chaotic at times. I don’t have a set schedule for writing, but I often find myself in front of a blank page and creating new lines regardless. I really like being able to see progress between the different renditions between each piece so I often copy-and-paste the same poem many times in a Google Doc while I edit and edit again."
5. How do you know when a poem is done?
"Short Answer: I don’t.
I would say that my poems or more so stopped as opposed to complete. I find that there are always going to be lines I can edit or concepts I can improve. Nevertheless, I accept that I am very human and subsequently imperfect. If I can read through my work and have the small feeling of ‘hey I wrote this?’ or ‘this was clever of me’, I call it a job well done."
6. How did Preparing Dinosaurs for Mass Extinction come about? When did you realize you had material for a poetry book?
"I wrote the titular poem first. And then I wrote two more poems specifically about dinosaurs. At that point, I thought I was on the way to creating some type of narrative. With that, I decided to revisit the medium of a chapbook. I previously attempted to create chapbooks for the sole sake of creating chapbooks which didn't work out well. But with this body of work, the progression from a handful of poems to a poetry collection was much more natural — as if the work itself demanded to become a narrative larger than itself. Most of the poems were actually written in an order similar to that of which they're presented in the final draft. The poems seemingly tied into one another so tightly that I didn’t feel like they would make nearly as much sense as standalones. Eventually, Preparing Dinosaurs for Mass Extinction existed with its own set of recurring characters, distinct images, and narrative structure."
7. What do you hope people take away from your work?
"I think the scary thing about having the chapbook out in the world is the fact that I no longer have full control over how it’s seen. In a sense, I am no longer the subject of focus when my work is being read — my words are. Friends, family, and even editors often read my work with me as a person in mind. However, that’s usually not the case with an audience.
In a sense, I don’t think I get to control the lines or motifs that resonate with people. However, I just hope that people take away something whatever that may be. I hope that even when people are unfamiliar with all the context and backstory involved with Preparing Dinosaurs for Mass Extinction, that they’ll still find some solace and understanding in my exploration of our momentary nature. Likewise, I hope the same for all my previous work and all my work to come."
8. What project(s) do you hope to take on?
"I sometimes code. Earlier this year, I found that it was possible to combine an enjoyment for coding with my writing. I've created a few multimedia and experimental works using a few simple lines of code. I find this idea to be the potential start of many more new poems to come."
9. What writing advice do you find totally useless?
"‘You should write in silence and reflection.’
I think this approach works for a lot of people, but I personally did not resonate with it. I’m naturally an energetic person who finds inspiration in the loudness of life. Additionally, I find that discussion (in the form of workshops and peer editing) has been just as important as reflection for my writing process. I feel that it’s almost a stereotype for poets to be the silently reflective type (and it is a very valid process some genuinely prefer), but I don’t think it should be a rule."
10. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
"I’d say I really enjoy mentoring or just sharing my experience in general. I’m very, very far from reaching the Secrets of the Universe™, but I still find it valuable to give back to the communities I’ve been involved in. Both within the world of writing and outside of it, I find that I have a lot of gratitude towards people who have shared their wisdom without expecting much in return. And I’m pretty sure that the world can always use a few more people like that."
Hear Rena read her poem "To T-Rex, the King."
Rena Su is a writer from Vancouver(ish) and writes a little too frequently about dinosaurs, cyborgs, and offbeat pop culture references. Her work has been recognized by the Pulitzer Centre, The Poetry Society of UK, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, among others. When not writing, Rena enjoys coding impractical things, watching documentaries, and playing the ukulele. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @RenaSuWrites.
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