The Universal Asian got to know Woo Ae Yi in her own words. Woo Ae Yi is a published author, poet, and screenwriter. Her latest book, “Profiles of KAD Relations with the Black Community,” is available for purchase in paperback and Kindle. To learn more about her and her work, visit her site here.
Tell us about yourself! What was growing up like?
I grew up as a Korean adoptee in the D.C. area. Even though the county I grew up in is 20% Korean now, last time I checked, I was one of maybe three Asians in my high school. One was mute (probably due to the trauma of being a minority and being bullied), and the other one was part of a mysterious Asian gang outside of school. I’m sure that being a minority had something to do with the fact that I had a minimum of 10 bullies at any given time. The building itself hadn’t been updated since the ‘60s, and I was there in the late ‘90s.
When did you start writing? What made you keep writing?
I’ve always been a reader and a writer for as long as I can remember. However, I started publishing in 2008. I see it as my life’s purpose and don’t think I’ll ever stop.
How did you know you wanted to write "Profiles of KAD Relations with the Black Community"?
I write about this within the book itself, but I had basically always known that I would return to it, which I started in 2007 as part of my original Master’s thesis. My Bachelor’s thesis was about African American poetry.
We’ve seen an exponential rise of hate crimes against the Asian-American community, and unfortunately, the perpetrator of a particularly viral incident happened to be a Black individual. How can Asians and Asian-Americans fight anti-Black sentiment within their own communities?
I think some of the first steps include awareness and education—particularly of history and how we got where we are today.
It’s ironic, but a person can consider themselves anti-racist and still have a blind spot for Asian-American issues dealing with race; it’s quite common. I think it’s important that one understands that combatting racism is not as simple as just focusing on learning about the issues for one race (which could take a lifetime in itself) but for all races and all issues surrounding privilege and the kyriarchy (a system built around who has power). General compassion and hospitality can go a long way no matter who you are interacting with, as long as it’s not “white saviorism,” which can do more harm than good at times.
What are some takeaways you would like readers to have from "Profiles of KAD..."?
I would like them to learn more about Asian-Black dynamics, Korean adoptee issues, and trauma-related issues that they did not know previously. I would also like the book to be either a beginning stepping stone or along an already existing path toward anti-racism and general compassion and hospitality toward all humans no matter their intersectionality (where their privilege or lack thereof intersects).
I also advocate that race-based and adoptee-based trauma should be included in the most current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Some people don’t even know that’s a thing, and some don’t know that it’s still not in the DSM.
What does the process of writing a book look like for you, from start to finish?
It really depends on the type of book. Nonfiction books require a lot of structure, and this nonfiction book in particular required me to go out there and ask people for interviews, set up a time with them, decide what I was going to ask them, and edit/structure the book in a way that did justice for everyone’s interviews. I also gave them a chance to look at the book before I published to make sure they were happy with how I captured their interview.
On the other hand, fiction books, for me, require a lot of spreadsheets to keep track of all the characters and lots of ideas in case I get writer’s block, but there are generally fewer “rules” because you’re not necessarily dealing with reality. Each genre requires a different strategy.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
The advice I have for aspiring authors is to do their due diligence on publishing companies. More than any other industry, there are so many scams and so many vanity publishing houses that care only about money. It’s a tricky field to be in. The best places to learn about scams are Writer Beware and Absolute Write.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
In addition to writing books, I also write screenplays. There’s an entire series that I found about getting over writer’s block, and it uses the analogy of improv. If anyone has ever watched improv, they’ll know that actors are able to create a comedy out of something as simple as a word or a couple of words. Comedy is a genre where anything goes. The trick is fitting it into something more realistic, but getting over writer’s block is more like the process of brainstorming than it is of researching feasibility.
You’re also a poet! Where does your inspiration come from?
I once met a psychic who told me that all artists are channelers and that they get their ideas from the aether. Whether you choose to believe in that is up to you. I’m the type of writer that will not write if I don’t feel inspired (when it comes to poetry, “inspired” means “emotional”). However, if I were to write full-time, I’d probably have to give up that ideal.
Alisa Valdes said, “There’s no better teacher for writing than reading.” Do you agree?Why or why not?
Yes, there’s also no better teacher for editing than reading as well. I’m balancing three different book clubs because I know the importance of keeping up with reading and keeping up-to-date on the times and trends. I enjoy book clubs because they give me a chance to read something I never would have picked up on my own.
What is a piece of advice you would’ve liked to have given to your younger self, and why?
Going back to what advice I would have for aspiring authors, I would have told myself not to have trusted every publisher I find so easily. There are only about two legit major publishing houses in America that don’t have a vanity publishing branch underneath as a cash cow, but the money they’re making is from authors, not readers. It’s a tough world out there, but I still believe it’s worth it.