Beni Xiao

Interviewed by Esther Chen

 

BeniX Beni Xiao is a writer and nanny based in Vancouver, BC, whose work has been featured by Room Magazine, Sad Magazine, The Real Vancouver Writers’ Series, and Can’t Lit. They like to nap and snack. They are very into fruit. Their poetry chapbook, Bad Egg, was published just over a year ago by local publisher Rahila’s Ghost Press. I asked Beni about life post-chapbook, process, tips, and what’s coming up next.

It’s been about a year since Bad Egg came out with Rahila’s Ghost Press; how has the past year been for you? How have things changed (professionally, personally, socially, spiritually)?

The last year has had a lot of ups and downs for me. I’ve been working full time as a nanny; it’s a job that I enjoy and find fulfilling, but it’s been difficult to balance working, writing, and my personal life. I’ve also been in pretty shit health which hasn’t helped things. I would like to focus more on writing and my personal life but most of my life has been working (nannying) for the last year.

From a writer and author’s perspective, what was the publishing process like for Bad Egg?

I’m really thankful that my book was published by Rahila’s Ghost Press. From my end, I found the process smooth and transparent. I’ve heard a lot of publishing nightmares, but Rahila’s Ghost was a dream to work with, especially my editor Selina Boan. The editing process was very collaborative, not at all the push and pull/power struggle it turns into sometimes.

As someone who sometimes get this label/comment about my own work, I want to ask: how do you feel about being labelled a “funny poet”?

I didn’t realize I was funny until I started doing readings and people were laughing. I’m never worried about people finding me funny. I didn’t set out to be funny and they thought I was funny then, so I have to trust that they’ll still like and find me funny now. It works to my advantage though because I think people find my work more relatable or memorable because they think it’s funny. I’m cool with it.

Do you think of poetry/writing as a career? What relation is there between writing and the other kinds of work you do to earn a living?

I would like to think of it as a career. When I was in school and writing I saw myself as a writer, but now that I’ve graduated and am working full time, I definitely consider my day job as a career more than writing. That is not how I want it to be, but it’s how I’ve been thinking about myself at this point in my life. I’m currently on something of a writing hiatus. Perhaps when I can find a better balance between things, and am writing more, I’ll start thinking about myself as a writer again.

The difference for me between writing and nannying is that I get paid to be a nanny. Ha. Ha.

Do you have any tips for emerging writers regarding self-promotion and “getting your name out there” as a poet?

Go to events and talk to people, that will help you so much more than you might think. My experience with the writing community here in Vancouver is that a lot of people and organizations really want to help emerging writers, so if you put yourself there and it should (hopefully) come together. That’s what I did anyway.

What’s your writing process like?

I have a thought that I think is amusing, or that I want to think more about later. To not forget it, I write in the notes app on my phone. Usually, these evolve into poems when I do have the time to revisit them.

Describe your ideal writing environment.

I’m a billionaire who doesn’t have a day job because I don’t need one. I wake up at noon, have some tea and a blueberry danish. After breakfast, I sit down at a cute fancy desk in my living room and do some writing with a cat curled up on my lap. It’s sunny and it’s spring.

If you don’t mind sharing, what are you working on now? What do you think is next for you, writing-wise?

I would like to have my first full length book out by the end of 2021, but again, I’ve not been doing as much writing as I’d like to lately, so we’ll see how that goes. I have a feeling that whenever my first book comes out it may be very Greek myth heavy.

Esther Chen writes and draws in Vancouver, BC. More of her work can be found on her website estherchen.tumblr.com.

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