Staff Interview: A Conversation With Helen Qian, Clare Zhang, and Lydia Wei

What has been your favorite part of working for Farside Review?

CZ: Ironically, my favorite part has definitely been the Zoom meetings. They’ve provided a really grounding and comforting space in a time where I usually feel like I’m steadily drifting in the wrong direction. Nothing like struggling with a Canva template for three hours to immerse yourself in the present moment.

HQ: Yes! Our team has been lovely, and it’s been so much fun working with them and meeting everyone, whether that’s been over Zoom, through their writing, or through their decision rationales!

LW: Really, my favorite part of working with Farside Review has just been seeing the entire magazine come together. For me, this was all nothing more than a few text messages from Helen almost a year back. In the meantime, it’s been insane to actually watch Farside Review become something real—from a random text to an entire magazine with submissions, staff, feature writers, and more. I mean, we even have a mailing list. If that’s not real I don’t know what is. But seriously: reading through each submission, knowing writers believe in our vision enough to share their work with us— that means everything to me.


Where do you see Farside Review in a year from now? In five years?

HQ: I hope we’ll have put out a number of issues a year from now! Our first issue has been coming along somewhat slowly, so I’m grateful for the patience on our submitters’ end as we’ve tried to figure out how we want to streamline our editing and reading process. I’d love to host a contest of some sorts, perhaps within the next year, or maybe further down the line. Five years is such a leap to think about! I’d be happy with meeting five years worth of contributors through live readings. I also hope we’ll have a better wrangle on our website code by then in order to make our issue layouts more visually experimental and dynamic to read.


What separates Farside Review from other magazines?

CZ: I think it would be presumptuous to say that there’s something that separates us from all the other amazing magazines out there! But I love our mission statement and I’m glad to hear from many of our staff members and submitters that it resonates with them. I think it really lends itself to what I most hope to achieve with Farside, which is elevating the voices of new writers and artists and providing resources to help them persevere through rejection and creative blocks.


What advice would you have for emerging writers trying to orient themselves within the publishing world?

HQ: Don’t feel pressured to write about any particular subject matter or force yourself into a box because you feel that’s what publications “want” to see. There are so many unique literary magazines on the scene, each with their own mission and audience, so trust that there is a home out there for writing that is wholly you. Don’t be afraid to pour your heart into those ideas that refuse to stop bouncing around your brain until you put them to paper; the strength of your genuine voice will follow. Don’t give up on old works, don’t be afraid to submit simultaneously to journals that permit it, let yourself revise over time, and write what you love! 

HQ: Also, there will be trial and error and rejection, but that’s something every writer and artist experiences. Finding a community of writers can also help so much with creating a network of both opportunities and support, so definitely reach out, either in person or online (writing/lit Twitter is a big world!). 


The best writers are often the best readers. If you could make any one piece of writing “required reading” for every writer, what would it be and why?

LW: Easy: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I know it’s one of those old classics (ish) so this answer might feel a bit stiff and tired, but I just happen to think everything you’d ever need is in that book. I’m not even much of a prose writer myself, but the care and attention paid to Francie’s surroundings, to each character, to the changing world, and to Francie’s coming-of-age is beautiful. I mean, writing is just a form of paying attention and this book pays attention. I might have a bit of nostalgic attachment to it but honestly, Smith observes the world to the nth degree and that’s what we should all be doing too.


What images or concepts do you constantly find yourself veering back to as a writer?

LW: For someone that still doesn’t have a learner’s permit (I’ve been prevented from obtaining a permit by forces much larger than myself…), cars show up quite frequently in my work. Stolen cars, rusted cars, car trunks, car crashes, rubberneck accidents… generally anything unsavory about a car is fair game. Open roads, highways, drive-thrus, Top 40 radio pop hits, Lightning McQueen too. Cars just have that mystique about them. 

HQ: It’s very cliche, but I’ve always loved centering my works around familial relationships and friendships. There’s so much to explore with the intimacy and love of those bonds, and it makes my heart full to write about! Image-wise, the evening sky has been making an appearance quite often recently.

LW: Oh also! Beyond cars, I have that perennial poet obsession with the body, the body, the BODY, the body. Conceptually, the body is worth thinking about in terms of identity, ownership, and isolation, but on a more basic level I’m simply interested in its sheer physicality. A solid description of the body always provokes a visceral response. I mean, you can’t tell me that if you were somehow given the opportunity, you’d refuse the chance to walk around inside someone’s digestive tract. And I’m generally of the camp that the physical, the surrender to the senses, is much more important in writing than its conceptual or intellectual operations.

CZ: My writing is mostly self-indulgent, which I think is part of why I struggle so much with poetry and fiction. I have a tough time writing creative pieces without throwing in a little incoherent ramble about my identity, whether it’s about being a woman, being Asian, being a child of immigrants, et cetera et cetera. Less egocentrically, I like to write about tables—who first made them, who brought them to wherever they stand now, what we do around them and who we do that with.


Without spoiling too much, what excites you the most about the upcoming issue?

HQ: I’ve mostly been working with prose submissions for the upcoming issue, but I’m thrilled about the variety of “experimental” works we’ve seen in terms of form, story structure, and figurative imagery! That and the fact that we’ve been building a collection of stories that speak from so many different perspectives. We also have some really breathtaking art and photography pieces in this issue, and I can’t wait to share them!

LW: Honestly? I’m most excited to publish our fiction pieces. Part of me feels blasphemous for saying this, what with my sworn allegiance to poetry — but alas, what can I do. The fiction’s just that wonderful. There is one piece I’m particularly taken with — it’s a brilliant experimental fiction work, like think e e cummings meets prose meets dark Gothic narrative. Even then, this description doesn’t do it justice — you’ll just have to wait and see.

CZ: I’m excited to have something to show for all of our staff’s hard work over the past couple of months, and to finally get to showcase our submitters’ work. For me, this issue is symbolic of all our growing pains, and while I’m glad to have a better sense of who we are at Farside and what we need to do to succeed, there’s something precious about being completely lost and overwhelmed, and slowly, brick by brick, building something—anything—out of the madness.


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