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Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

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Interview: A Writer’s Creative Calling Isn’t Found in the Middle of a Crowd

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Award-winning author E. Lily Yu speaks about her faith, her deep love of language, and the perils of “moving with the majority.”

E. Lily Yu is that rare creature: a writer of exceptional skill who is grounded in faith, literary history, and a lifetime of reading. Her short story collection Jewel Box was a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, her novel On Fragile Waves won the Washington State Book Award for fiction, and Yu herself has received the LaSalle Storyteller Award and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her stories have been finalists for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards.

In her new book, Break, Blow, Burn, and Make: A Writer’s Thoughts on Creation, Yu meditates on reading, writing, and creativity while both celebrating and lamenting the current condition of these holy pursuits. Writer and English professor Karen Swallow Prior spoke with Yu about the relationship between Christian faith, the craft of writing, and the fearless pursuit of truth.

(Editor’s note: This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)

A recurring theme throughout your book is that good writing, like all good art, emerges from love rather than anger, anxiety, or contempt. You point out that “God created out of love and delighted in life, and when he looked upon his work, he pronounced it good.” As creators, we create best when we imitate the Creator. What are some cultural conditions that present obstacles to creating from love rather than from aggression or fear?

Setting aside for the moment the fact that love can be angry—that there can be loving anger—I think there’s a great deal of vagueness and confusion around the definition of love, which leads to people pursuing 50 different things, only one of which I recognize as deserving of the word.

In the book, I use a definition of …

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