I don’t like writing about myself in the third person most of the time, so I’m not going to do it here. Hi. My name is Brandy Liên Worrall, and I am a human being who thinks about writing all the time, would love to write all the time, but only writes about 25% of the time because I have things like a husband, three kids, two cats, and 35 (and counting) snails (we’re the Duggars of gastropods, yes), all of whom I love. I grew up in Amish country Pennsylvania, which isn’t exotic as it sounds, but now I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, Vancouver, British Columbia, as a struggling writer because being a writer isn’t as Hollywood as everyone thinks it is.
So what do I write? Stuff. I’ve written a bunch of poetry, starting my career as a poet trying out limericks when I was 7. My first award-winning work as a short story submission to a Kellogg’s cereal contest back in the 80s, when pro-literacy and anti-drugs campaigns were big (“Here’s your brain on drugs”: a delicious-looking fried egg just begging for a few squirts of Tabasco). Kellogg’s sent me a certificate basically saying, “Way to go! You wrote words!” Somewhere out there is a person who gave me that first award, and that person has no idea that their minimum-wage job would someday propel a budding young writer to quasi literary stardom.
One of the reasons I loved writing was because there was nothing else for me to do. As an epileptic child of an overprotective Vietnamese mother and a substance-loving American father—both of whom were traumatized during the Vietnam War where they met and got married—I wasn’t allowed to go out of the house very much. So I stayed home and paid attention to things everyone was trying to ignore or forget—mostly, what happened during this war no one was supposed to talk about but which brought us together as a family.
I hightailed it out of that small town as soon as I could. I went to Regis College, an all-women’s Catholic college near Boston. I was never Catholic, and I didn’t care either way if the school was all-women or not. I went to Regis because I loved New Kids on the Block, and they were from Boston, and I wanted to be close to them. Lucky for me, Regis turned out to be a terrific college, and I graduated summa cum laude with degrees in English literature and French. This is where I became seriously interested in the literature of my Asian heritage, delving into Asian American and Vietnamese French works. I went to Boston College for my MA in English for one year, but that didn’t work out when I tried writing a post-colonial, people of colour critique of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and didn’t get the grade I was expecting.
But the UCLA Asian American Studies MA Program called my name, and off to sunny southern California I drove. For those of you keeping track, this was during the early years of the Internet when all that existed was the dial-up modem. So I got my Masters (of the Universe) degree and became an editor at Amerasia Journal, the leading journal for Asian American Studies. Loved working there, but the Universe had bigger plans for me that included kids, Canada, and cancer.
Once in Canada with my two babies and their father, I decided to take my writing career seriously, and the world-renowned UBC MFA in Creative Writing Program was so thoroughly impressed by my portfolio that they let me in. Yes! That was awesome.
But then I got diagnosed with stage III multifocal Triple Negative Breast Cancer (BRCA2-positive, for those of you in the know), and that was the opposite of awesome. I did my treatment and got back to life as usual. Except life wasn’t the same anymore. It was a whole new beast. And I was traumatized by it.
More bad things happened, and then a funny (not “funny, haha”) thing happened. I started understanding better what my parents must have felt during my childhood—the isolation of having gone through a horrifying experience that most of one’s young adult peers could not even imagine. And all those things I paid attention to when I was a kid—those things that everyone else tried to ignore or forget—started making more sense. My memoir, What Doesn’t Kill Us, goes through all that pathos with the bravado of a Lifetime Network movie. (Oprah, I’m waiting for your call, girlfriend!) This is the part where I’m supposed to write something like the book is Margaret Cho meets Eat, Pray, Love meets Oliver Stone movies meets Miss Saigon meets Fault in Our Stars, in some last-ditch attempt to sell you on all these personae that made their authors/creators a buttload of fame and fortune, but really, to have all those people in one room (or book) wouldn’t be fun, methinks. But yeah, this book is like all that.
Now I’m working on my second memoir while doing my undercover crime-fighting gig. I’m also owner and editor of Rabbit Fool Press, a teeny tiny family-owned-and-operated publishing company. I also teach writing workshops, and omigod, I love baking bread.
That’s me—Brandy Liên Worrall—in a coconut shell. My kids think I’m funny and interesting, and they have high standards, especially The Tweens (even the emo one). I hope you think the same thing and read my books (I got poetry too—no limericks though) and check out Rabbit Fool Press. Bless you for reading to the end. My hand cramped up, so I hope it was all worth it.
Oh yeah, I'm represented by these amazing people: Anne McDermid & Associates Literary Agency.
Brandy Liên Worrall (www.brandyworrall.com) is author of What Doesn’t Kill Us, a groundbreaking memoir about growing up in the din of her Vietnamese mother and American father’s trauma from the Vietnam War, and how it related to her breast cancer experience as a young adult. She is also the author of eight collections of poetry (the podBrandy series), as well as having served as editor of numerous magazines, journals, and anthologies. She is the owner and editor of Rabbit Fool Press, a small family-owned-and-operated publishing company based in Vancouver. Brandy received her MA in Asian American Studies from UCLA in 2002 and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia in 2012. She is represented by the Anne McDermid & Associates Literary Agency.