Massoud Hayoun is a journalist based in Los Angeles. He wrote a decolonial memoir of his grandparents and political theory of Arabness emanating from their lives called When We Were Arabs (The New Press 2019). It won an Arab American Book Award and was an NPR best book of the year. He recently published a tiny psychological thriller chapbook called Signs with Bottlecap Press.

Click here to read Massoud’s story “The Mandarins” from our summer 2021 issue!

What’s the best bit of craft advice you’ve been given? Are there any craft books you’d recommend?

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” —Sylvia Plath

Okay, now what’s the worst?

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” —Sylvia Plath

Any advice for writers who are just starting out?

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” —Sylvia Plath

In your writing, where does truth comingle with imagination?

I start with truth. My fiction begins in nonfiction. My career in writing began/continues to be in journalism, so I begin in nonfiction, as a person.

Do you write from experience? From familial memory? From daydreams or fantasies?

All of the above. I wrote a book that is a mix of familial memory and political theory and history called When We Were Arabs. Nowadays, I write from experience, mostly. To honor experience and people I have met. I have sought out experience and people in so many ways — for journalism and personal interests. I honor what and whom I have encountered.

If you have a regular writing practice, what do you do to protect your writing time?

I don’t have a regular writing practice. I daydream about getting a residency somewhere or a grant that could allow me to devote regular moments in time to creative writing.

Where do you seek inspiration?

People, music, food.

When things have you feeling low, what’s one way you seek joy or build hope?

I wish I knew the answer to this question. Hiking, probably. I tried to learn how to knit, but I left the experience more anxious and upset than before.

Who is one writer you wish more people would read?

Fumiko Enchi, the author of Masks. Masks is one of my all-time favorite books, and it is under-appreciated in a poetically perfect/fitting way.

Picture this: you’ve just finished a long writing session and are between the world of the page and the reality around you. What’s one action you take to root yourself back in your non-writer identity? Maybe it’s making a cup of coffee or tea, perhaps it’s a walk with a loved one or pet, or even some time reading another writer’s work.

Hiking and Richard Ayoade’s Travel Man series.

What are you currently reading? Books, magazines, the back of the cereal box, CVS receipts . . . it all counts!

Murakami’s First Person Singular

Where do you write? Do you have any rituals you follow before turning to the page?

Before the pandemic, I frequently wrote at a coffee shop in an unpopular part of Los Angeles. Now I write at home, close to an AC vent.

Lastly, we’d love to share some good news about your writing!

I hope to announce good news soon! So please follow me @mhayoun, cuz that’ll be where it happens, when it can happen, hopefully.