We had the good fortune of connecting with Kim-Ling Sun and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kim-Ling, why did you pursue a creative career?
The arts have always been an integral part of my life; as a child, I first explored the arts as a pianist, a singer, and as an actress, but as I matured, I discovered I love the timbre of my voice most when ink etches itself upon a page. As more thoughts spilled and tumbled into sheets and sheets, I decided to abandon the limelight of the stage. The pen allowed me to fully express myself without the artifice of performing, without the need to don a persona. I do not believe one ever chooses to be a writer; writers by nature live and breathe in metaphor. It is an innate and intimate part of your being. What you do choose is whether to share your vision of the world with others through publication.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have on occasion jokingly referred to myself as the “pocketbook poet.” You will find lines scrawled on the backs of receipts floating in my wallet, sometimes with seams bursting, the verse dodging teeth pleading to be safely transcribed to a more permanent space. Why? Because I write in the margins of my life – as a wife, a mother, an activist, and an educator, slices of time are a rare commodity. My current snapshot? I am juggling helping plan an AAPI charity event, applying for grants, grading literary analysis essays on Pride and Prejudice from my Dual Credit Seniors, and helping a six-year old run lines for her school production. And so I carve out time – the 20 minutes before a faculty meeting, the hour while my little human is in the ballet studio, the 10 minutes it takes to stand in the check-out line at Costco — and cobble these thoughts together when the stars align for longer periods of writing. The beauty of all these fragmented moments though is that they become the tesserae that help me arrange a poetic mosaic of experience.
The challenge for me as a writer has not been to paint my thoughts with words, but more so my reluctance to share what I pen with another soul. Over the past six years, however, my friendship with fellow writers has emboldened me to attend more writing workshops to hone my craft and to seek out mentors to guide my way. I am blessed to say that over the past year I have had my work published in a chapbook and several literary magazines, I have been asked to be a guest reader at several events, and I have been recently featured by the Houston Poet Laureate. My two upcoming projects that I am excited to share is that I have been invited to film a poetry submission for the Texas Poet Laureate Project, and that my Reading and Writers Workshop entitled “Celebrate and Stop The Hate” was just sponsored by Poets and Writers. This grant will allow me to begin Asian Pacific Heritage Month in providing Houston AAPI writers a venue to showcase their work as well as provide Creative Writing Workshops for young BIPOC writers in Houston.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Although there are a myriad of “must see” places that visitor’s guides tout about in the Greater Houston area, I would prefer to take my friend to experience the delicious underbelly of the city, geocaching the hidden gems our diverse community has to offer. My ideal itinerary would have us exploring the city each day through a unique lens.
One day we might start with an early breakfast at El Papaturro on Long Point where one can savor Salvadorian pupusas and wash it down with an ice-cold Kolachampan, then head out to view the gorgeous architecture of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and the edgy murals and art of the East End. We would then swing by La Michoacana Meat Market’s taqueria and grab tortas and caldo de res for our picnic at Menil Park before spending an hour or two in the Cy Twombly Gallery. Our evening would then culminate in playing Loteria at Social Beer Garden.
Another day might have us grabbing some delicious donut sticks and warm soy milk at Bao Shi Yi in the heart of Houston’s Chinatown before we poke into its iconic stores like Moshi Moshi or visit the local Buddhist temples, popping in and out of cafes for Boba tea and shaved ice desserts when the mood strikes. Breaking for lunch might have us drop in at Dim Sum King before heading out to Lucky Land Cultural Center where we explore the replica of the Terra Cotta Soldiers of Xi’an and dwell in the lush gardens that surround the koi ponds.
Although Houston is replete with celebrated places of interest, I would choose to share these jewels first because it is the everyday places and everyday eateries that are truly the heart of Houston.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am thankful for this bridge on which I stand, for it is forged upon the backs of strong women who mentor and encourage me as both a writer and as an educator. In 2014, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with Houston’s Poet Laureate, the brilliant Dr. Robin Davidson at University of Houston Honors College’s Common Ground Institute. Robin saw my talent as a writer and over the years has encouraged me to overcome my hesitation in sharing my writing with others. In 2018, I was blessed to work with the legendary Dr. Emmy Perez, current Texas Poet Laureate, at the Humanities Texas’ Summer Institute. Emmy was kind enough to take me under her wing, helping me see how writing could both be a meditative practice as well as an avenue for activism in lending voice to the causes I hold dear to my heart.
Kerri Clark Designs, LLC for all headshots. Images of black out poem are taken myself.