Few writers can distill the yearnings of the human heart quite like novelist and poet sensation Lang Leav. Whether she’s conjuring the intensity of first love or summoning the dull ache of heartbreak, Leav’s work hums with humanity. Lang was born in a Thai refugee camp when her family were fleeing the Khmer Rouge regime. She spent her formative years in Sydney, in the predominantly migrant suburb of Cabramatta. Before devoting herself to the writing life, she’d explored a career in fashion and her line, Akina, won her a Qantas Spirit of Youth Award. She began sharing her poems and illustrations on Tumblr in 2012 as a way to explore another part of her creative self. People connected with her poems instantly and their popularity led to her first published collection Love & Misadventure. Five books of poetry (including the recent hit Sea of Strangers) and a debut novel (Sad Girls) later, she’s amassed a significant cult following—470K on Instagram (over 2 million across social platforms) to be exact. But do not make the mistake of calling her an Insta poet. She prefers pop poet if you have to categorize her at all. In her work, as in her life, Lang rejects limiting what it means to be an artist. Her advice for women and her readers is not to be pressured by society’s idea of what a woman should be. “Figure out what you want for yourself and go for it,” she says. “Never put your life on hold for anyone.” Here, she reveals how her upbringing influenced her feminist values, how she wrestles with her writing, and the moment she realised there was “no going back”.
My writing day looks like: A double shot espresso and then I get straight into it! I especially love mornings when I’m the first one up. Our house is nestled in the forest and overlooks the sea. It’s so peaceful here, and my dream place to write. My process: Dorothy Parker says it best: “I hate writing. I love having written.” The process of writing is hard and sometimes near impossible. But if you do manage to get something good on paper, the struggle is well worth it. What themes are you exploring in your work? I’m working on my second novel, which explores social media, friendship, celebrity and fame. It tells the story of a young girl who dreams of being a poet. But what happens when the dream comes true? I am having an absolute ball writing it and can’t wait to share it with the world. Poets I return to: Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and Sara Teasdale—poets I read in my formative years. The recurring themes of nature, love and time in their work tend to show up in my own. I splurge on pens. Multi-coloured felt tipped pens are my weakness. I’m careful with my words. I think we underestimate the impact words can have. To relax I work on building my Lego city. How does your heritage influence your work? I often say English is not my first language but it is my first love. I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. As a child of migrants, I naturally assumed the role of translator for my parents. I learned very early on to simplify the language and hone it down to the bare essentials. I understood the importance of clear communication from a young age. I believe this had a profound effect on my work, as my trademark is taking complex emotions, expressing them with simplicity and making the words relatable to others.
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