Laetitia Keok is a writer and editor from Singapore. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and published in Wildness Journal, Hobart Pulp, and elsewhere. Find her at laetitia-k.com or support her at ko-fi.com/softstained
Just as there’s no one way to be a writer, there’s no one way to define success — it’s personal and ever-changing. What does it mean to you?
Community. To know joy and to have people to share it with.
Writing is most often a labor of love, where gratification is self-defined and can sometimes be delayed or subdued. What motivates you to keep coming back to the page?
I think my answer to the question of “Why do you write?” is always “How can I not?” I write so much to honour all that I have inherited, witnessed and lived through, the stories that’ve been told to me, my mother’s (and her mother’s) stories, the truths/loves/griefs/lives that have touched me. . . . I return to the page because it has always felt like the most natural thing to do, and because it is most often the only thing I know to do.
Does your writing ever surprise you? In what ways?
It always does. I never fully know where a piece will take me — whether it’ll excavate a memory I didn’t know I had, bring me to a conclusion about something in my life, or if the piece just becomes something entirely different from what I had in mind — it’s really a transformative process, and one that I’ve learnt to trust because it has a serendipitous way of becoming exactly what I need.
If you have a regular writing practice, what do you do to protect your writing time?
I wish I had a writing routine! It’s something I’ve been meaning to be more intentional about, but between university and the editorial work I do, it’s always difficult to have the time or energy to write. Something that works for me is getting all my ideas down in my notes app — even the tiniest, almost insignificant phrases or one liners–so that I can always go back to them. It’s how I carve out small pockets of space for my writing even when I don’t have the capacity to actually write.
Rest is arguably as important as getting the words down, especially when we can give our brains a true break and let them wander as they wish. What do you do to embrace this time and use it as a space for regeneration, imagination, and possibility?
I am notoriously bad at resting, but I’m learning to listen to my heart and body and give it the rest that it needs. I try to soak in as much of the world as possible and do things that nourish me: going on dates with myself, wandering through bookstores, sleeping in, not sleeping to finish a show, journaling, making playlists, spending time with my loved ones. I try to be as present as I can.
Where do you write? Do you have any rituals you follow before turning to the page?
Anywhere I need to! The process can be consuming, and I’ve found myself writing feverishly on buses, in class on a notebook I’m supposed to be taking notes with, on the way home, at someone’s house, on my bed. . . . The writing is the ritual, I feel like.
Imagine your ideal writing retreat: Where would you go? What would you work on? Alone, or with others? And most importantly, what snacks would you bring?
I love this question! I actually think about this a lot. Alone, but with an affectionate pet as a companion, in cosy place that gets a lot of natural light, working on one of the many projects I have since abandoned.
Which writer or book do you find yourself returning to, either to study craft or simply for pleasure?
I’ve been so enthralled by Yanyi’s entire body of work lately. But a few other contemporaries I really admire: Natalie Wee, Mok Zining, Hua Xi, Grace Q. Song, and the entire team at Sine Theta Magazine.
What words of kindness, support, or advice can you offer to writers who are just starting out or seeking their stride?
There is still time. There is always time and it is yours.
Any good news you’d like us to include with this interview?
I’ve recently had new work published in Lumiere Review, and another cool thing I’m in is New Singapore Poetries (Forthcoming Gaudy Boy, November 2022)!!! You can always keep up with me on http://www.laetitia-k.com.