Lan Samantha Chang

I thought, “Okay, you have too many things: baby, marriage, job, writing. You need to eliminate one to write & you can’t eliminate the baby or husband. Apply for a fellowship to take time off, or you’ll never write again.”

(May 13, 2021) Lan Samantha Chang is the author of a collection of short fiction, Hunger, and two novels, Inheritance, and All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost. A new novel, The Family Chao, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton in 2022. Her work has been translated into nine languages and has been chosen twice for The Best American Short Stories. She has received creative writing fellowships from Stanford University, Princeton University, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the Elizabeth M. Stanley Professor in the Arts at the University of Iowa and the Director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.


Lan Samantha Chang
The Family Chao
All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost
University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop
Rip Van Winkle
Everything is Illuminated
Jill Bialosky
Liz Harmer
Guggenheim Fellowship
Vermont Studio Center
Stegner Fellowship
Write On, Door County
Rome Academy
Bread Loaf
The Brothers Karamazov
Lauren Groff
James Alan McPherson

sound bites

“My second novel was just a terrible process of writing. I can count on one hand the number of times that I truly enjoyed working on that novel. So, when I was finished, I sort of raised my head up, and it felt like it was seven years later. I felt like Rip Van Winkle.”

“A lot of my younger students write stories about middle-aged characters who are angsty and bored, and I’m thinking, ‘No, that’s not what it’s been like for me.’ It’s been one crazy thing after another!”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“I didn’t start writing until I was in my mid-20s. I really had always wanted to be a writer since I was 4 years old, but I was trying to be practical, because my parents are immigrants, and they really didn’t want me to do something impractical.”

“I reached a point like many writers where they suddenly understand: If they’re not going to do the one thing they want to do in life, then it’s hard to justify doing anything else. You just have to do write.”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“My mother said to me, ‘There are more important things to do than clean your house.'”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“I stopped knitting for the last two years of writing this novel. Then I finished it, and all of a sudden, the knitting is back. Hopefully, something will make me start writing again and stop knitting.”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“I really loved being pregnant. It felt like my body was doing something. I didn’t have to concentrate on it or focus on it. I was accomplishing stuff without trying at all.”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“I thought, ‘You have a baby, marriage, job, writing. You need to eliminate one to write and you can’t eliminate the baby or husband. Apply for a fellowship to take time off or you’ll never write again.'”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“When Tai started running around, it was a lot harder to focus. I stopped writing for almost four years. Now I think, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I survived that.'”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“The first time I applied to an artist colony, I was rejected because I didn’t have any recent work. The fact is, that’s when you need to go most desperately to a residency.”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“I’ve been basically managing to write from one residency to the next,” taking small breaks from motherhood and a demanding day job.-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“When my mother died, it became clear to me that at a certain point, you have to get your work done, or you will die without having accomplished it. I got the book done.”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

When applying to residencies, it’s okay to admit that you’ve never been to one before. “The admissions committee will think: ‘I can give this person something that will really help their writing.'”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“In the literary world, people love ‘discovering’ people. So, you know, make yourself discoverable.”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“I’ve had really great experiences at new residencies or ones that don’t feed you, but where you can just sit in a house and work and eat snacks. That time alone has been a total saving experience.”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“I think it’s important to show your children–to the entire society, not just to other women. I think it’s important for people to know that children exist in their parents’ lives.”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

Sometimes I feel like the books I’ve written can’t encompass how complicated my personality is. I grew up in a very homogeneous community in the upper-Midwest. We were an immigrant family; one of maybe three Chinese families in our town and maybe four Asian families in the town of 50,000. I’ve developed a lot of different parts of my personality. I just couldn’t find a vehicle to express it all.”

“In my new book, I added a dog that belongs to the family of characters; an actual dog that I know. There’s a real dog in an imaginary book.”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“My life is so busy and stressful, I wanted to write something to entertain myself, something that was fun.”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

“To encourage myself, I broke my work into three-month cycles. Every three months, I would stop and say, ‘Okay, you finished a draft,’ no matter where I was, and then I would reassess and start over again.”-Sam Chang, @IowaWritersWksp

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