Doretta Lau, "Every One of My Answers Was a Disappointment"


It’s December 13. Doretta Lau, author of How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?, always talks to her neighbour at dinner parties.

How would you describe your story?

DORETTA LAU: It’s a story about love, loss, grief, and ghosts told in the first person. The ratio of funny to sad is roughly two to one.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

DL: I started it in 2014 when I was on tour for my story collection How Does a Single Blade Thank the Sun? For the longest time, I just could not finish it, even though I could see the ending in my head like a scene in a movie. I set the story aside for a few years—giving a narrative time and space to grow has always worked for me—then I completed it this past March.

What kind of research went into this story?

DL: I looked up biographical details about Bruce Lee, Theodore Wan, Oscar Wilde, David Maysles, and Bette Davis. I went down some serious internet rabbit holes for things that didn’t even make it into the story. I cut a long monologue about Bruce Lee meeting George Lazenby.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?

DL: Short stories are fantastic because they’re like a sleight of hand trick: there’s a bit of chicanery required on the part of the writer to deliver so much to the reader in such a compressed space. A short story can provide the emotional resonance of a poem while conveying an entire narrative world the way a novel does.

Where should people go to learn more about you and your work?

DL: I have a website and I tweet a lot. I also run a humour and culture publication with my friend M. Paramita Lin called The Unpublishables.

What's the best gift you've ever been given?

DL: For my birthday last year I received a tarot reading that resulted in a list of things to do in order to improve my life. I completed every item on that list, and together all the steps allowed me to be by my dad’s side when he died. I don’t know what I would have done had I’d been far from him when it happened.

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Michael Hingston