13 Questions with Donald Carreira Ching


1. Introduce yourself. Include your full name. *
My name is Donald Carreira Ching (he/him). I was born and raised in Kahaluʻu on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. I currently write fiction, mainly literature based in and engaged with life in contemporary Hawaiʻi, and teach writing at Leeward Community College.

2. When you write, do you start with a plan and move from there, or do you generally go where the writing takes you? *
Often, something I’ve observed, read, heard, or talked with someone about sparks my curiosity. From there, I consider a character in relation to whatever it is and try to explore where I could take it by brainstorming motivation, conflict, and a possible structure/series of events.

3. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? *
It’s not really advice but an experience. When I was an undergrad, I took a course with Prof. Morgan Blair (now retired) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She would make you write and re-write a poem 20-30 times, each time crossing 90% of it out and circling a new starting point. Even after she accepted it, you’d probably get something like a “Z” for your grade and have to write it again. I’m a fiction writer, but her course really taught me about precision of language, experimenting with new approaches, and how to self-edit and separate myself from my work. It also informed my teaching pedagogy. To this day, it’s one of the most impactful writing experiences I’ve ever had. Other than that, probably, “Try write,” which is Pidgin (Hawaiʻi Creole English) for just go for it.

4. What advice can you give about revising and editing work? *
When you hit a block or you aren’t sure where to go next, try something completely unexpected or out there. Also, aim to leverage every detail in the interest of the conflict/character/plot. If it isn’t doing more than two things, cut it or revise.

5. What advice can you give about navigating the world of publishing? *
Know your work, build your platform, research the market, and don’t let the “publish or perish” mindset take away from the reason you write.

6. Who are your influences? *
I’m grateful to have had so many wonderful mentors in my life: Craig Howes and Morgan Blair are two of them. In terms of writing influences, early on, Hemingway and Faulkner as well as Rodney Morales and many of the writers appearing in the Hawaiʻi literary journal Bamboo Ridge. Also, my peers in my MA program, Donovan Kūhiō Colleps, Cheri Nagashima, and Doug Neagoy. Now, I’m really enjoying George Saunders. Although I don’t love everything he writes, he’s always doing something different and interesting and I feel like he’s a very real and sincere person. Iʻd love to get a coffee with him and talk story. Kristiana Kahakauwilaʻs writing is also an amazing study in character development.

7. What was the inspiration for the piece(s) published in Coffin Bell? *
We live so much of our lives online, performing and curating identities and engaging with people we know and don’t know. It’s easy to get lost in that and consumed by it. Also, the pressures and anxieties of living today.

8. Taphophobia is the fear of being buried alive. Tell us about your fears. *
Many of my family members have struggled with mental illness. Growing up, they were stigmatized by other family members and treated as lesser people. Because of this, I think I’ve always been afraid that I might inherit or pass on my family’s mental illness.

9. What draws you to dark literature? *
It can reveal a lot about ourselves and our culture/society.

10. How does the darkness in your piece enhance the work? *
I wanted the audience to spiral with the main character and to feel the anxieties as he is feeling it, and I hope the darkness, because of how it’s rooted, enhances that.

11. How important are your surroundings when you write? Tell us about your workspace. *
We recently moved to a smaller townhouse, so my desk is actually in the same space as our kitchen table, but I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by nature and will often brainstorm on the patio or during my daily walks in the neighbor or around town.

12. If you had to summarize your philosophy of literary creation, what would that be? *
I write to engage with what I care about most and use writing as a way to explore those things and make sense of a world that often doesn’t make any sense at all.

13. Where can we find more of your work? *
donaldcarreiraching.wordpress.com. Though I rarely blog, I keep the list of publications up to date. Twitter @D_CarreiraChing. You can also buy my novel Between Sky and Sea: A Family’s Struggle at bambooridgepress.org