Up & Coming New Writers – Lillian Li

Lillian Li won first place in the Glimmer Train Spring 2015 Short-Story Contest for New Writers. Her short story, “Parts of Summer,” will be published in the upcoming Glimmer Train literary magazine.

I haven’t read her story but I read her essay “I Want You Bad: Can Nice People Make for Good Characters?” I’m impressed by her take on characters, how important it is to catch the characters at right moment of their lives to drive the story. She echoes author Denis Foley’s mantra: “Don’t Bore Your Reader.” In her essay she writes

“I disbelieve the urban myth that if you put a frog in a pot of water and slowly turn up the heat, it will stay, placidly swimming, until it is boiled to death. No creature remains passive under all circumstances; at some point, it must attempt to jump free. And it is in capturing the precise temperature of the water when a character jumps out that captivates me.”

How brilliant. I look forward to reading her winning short story. Her story’s opening lines are

“He was going to be a doctor, but no one at medical school told him about fan death. Sometimes, the Chinese are wiser. We’ve been around longer. He should have listened to his mother.”

A nice hook – “fan death?” I have no idea what that is, but those words touch my memories of my mother, a Japanese, telling me when I was a kid that if I slept with an electric fan blowing on me all night, I’d die. After I married Sharon, one night not far into our life together, I told her, “Shut that fan off before coming to bed. We could die.” She laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

Glimmer Train is a great short-story journal. One of its mission is to discover new voices, new great storytellers, and introduce them to the reading world. Closest I ever came being recognized by Glimmer Train was being one of the finalists in the 2007 Short-Story Competition for New Writers. I keep sending stories but none has ever made the cut. But writing is all about passion. There’re thousands of us writers out there writing, never giving up, hoping for one day writing something worthwhile. So when I’m introduced to a new writer like Lillian Li, my heart warms with joy for her time of recognition.

Keep Lillian Li in your mind. And if you have the time, please read her work.

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