Sze-Leng Tan

an Eastlit Interview by Graham Lawrence

When did you first start writing?

Eastlit December 2015: Sze-Leng TanI started off writing freely in the form of journal when I was a teen as a means to express my feelings.  I started to write poems and short stories purely for self-expression after a tumultuous trial in my adult life.  I was not consistent in my writing practice, though.  In fact, I stopped writing altogether after publishing them in a blog and found that I had no reader.  In 2012, a personal account reignited my passion to express, so I started drafting a long story and editted my old poems and stories for submission to various journals and magazines. 

Please tell us a little about your writing.

I write poems, short stories and travel stories.  A longer piece (you may call it ’novel’, if you will) is a work-in-progress.  I have been experimenting with the contents and styles but, so far, my poems tend to be emotionally honest and in the form of free verse.  My travel stories are reflective and ’poetic’.  I have a strong yearning for adventure.  It may or may not be reflected in my past writing, but my writing is based more and more on the theme recently.

Which piece of your own writing means the most to you and why?

I wrote short poems called ’bonhemian bonfire’ and ’I live, I tell’.  I would choose them over others basically because they are representative of my feelings as a writer and obstacles I have to overcome.  The choice of being a writer may invite some social resistance.  These pieces remind me of who I really am and what contributes to the richness in my life – the freedom to express and being authentic despite the currents I have to work against on a daily basis .

What does being a writer mean to you?

It means the freedom to express and having the opportunity to be heard.

How would you describe your writing process?

All my writing so far, including the ’non-fiction’ genre, has been originated from the free-flowing form.  The topics and, to a certain extent, genres were determined by identifying the emerging themes from the drafts.  I sowed the seeds and let them grow.  It has been an explorative process — tedious at times, but always worthwhile.  In many ways, my writing is therapeutic and soul-searching.  It’s a way for me to get into Me.

What are the Asia-related subjects that have recently engaged your attention?

It’s probably more of an existential subject rather than an Asian one.  Since I live in China, the issue of survival and personal space — in contrast with my eternal quest for personal freedom — is the main subject that have caught my attention.  I appreciate the culture of my host country, but there is a constant internal negotiation between the pleasure of privacy and the yielding to the relentless public space.

How did you find Eastlit and what are your impressions of it?

I think it’s epic.  I think it’s phenomemal.  A great avenue for Asian writers and writers interested in Asian-related subjects to showcase their art.  .

Would you like to leave us with a favorite quote or two, or a passage from your own or others work? And why does it means something to you?

I would like to share ’One life and it’s mine.  Wanna have some spice?’ from ’I Live, I Tell’ and I think the line speaks for itself.


Thanks to Sze-Leng Tan for taking the time to give us an interview. All of us at Eastlit wish her the best in the future.

The following work by Sze-Leng Tan has featured in Eastlit:

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