Photo of Alysia Li Ying Sawchyn


Alysia Li Ying Sawchyn is the author of the essay collection A Fish Growing Lungs, and she is features editor for The Rumpus. Her essays, reviews, and short memoir have appeared in the St. Petersburg Review, Gulf Coast, Brevity, Prairie Schooner, Fourth Genre, the Southeast Review, Sweet: A Literary Confection, the Indiana Review, Hobart, Essay Daily, Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, and Brevity Blog, among many others. She has taught at Catapult Online, and the University of Maryland. She holds a BA from the University of Tampa, an MA in English from Ball State University, and an MFA in Creative Writing-Creative Nonfiction from the University of South Florida.

We will be welcoming Alysia Li Ying Sawchyn to this year’s virtual In Print 2021: Festival of First Books. The following is an interview with Sawchyn. 

Describe writing your first book in 5 words. 

“Let’s try again, but better.” 

What is your latest inspiration (book or otherwise)? 

Between writing, teaching, and pleasure reading, I am always in the middle of six to ten books at a time. Here’s an incomplete list of what I’m currently reading, what I’ve recently read and loved, and what’s high on my to-read pile, in no particular order:

  • Problems by Jade Sharma
  • The Other Side by Lacy Johnson
  • They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib
  • Limber by Angela Pelster
  • The White Hotel by D. M. Thomas
  • Girlhood by Melissa Febos
  • The Witch of Eye by Kathryn Nuernberger
  • White Magic by Elissa Washuta
  • In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
  • The Freezer Door by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
  • Milk, Blood, Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz

Do you have an ideal reader? How do you imagine them? 

I don’t know if I have an ideal reader, but there are two specific people who I often think about when in the final stages of editing a draft. Would I be embarrassed if I were reading this aloud to them? Sometimes I forget to do this, and . . . I should do this all the time. 

What made you fall in love with writing and/or reading? 

A combination of boredom and escapism. I was an only child and my TV intake was strictly limited for the first seventeenish years of my life. I feel like I’m about to say something very cliche like, “This was before the internet,” but it wasn’t before the internet, it was just before widespread smartphones and personal computers. So if I wanted to be on social media, I had to do it from the tiny office where my parents also worked, on our shared home computer. And ew, no thank you. So I read a lot of books, and I was an annoying, precocious child with supportive parents who have humanities degrees and that combination eventually turned into what my life is today. 

What song or album best captures the aesthetic of your writing? 

There are many answers that I would like to be true, but the honest answer is probably more like “Indie Night at the Goth Club”‘s eponymous Spotify playlist. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and in its unlikeliness it somehow comes together. 

Advice for a rainy day? 

Listen to The Moon and Antarctica in full while lying sideways on a bed. 

You can register to attend In Print 2021: Festival of First Books to hear Alysia Li Ying Sawchyn at the virtual reading (March 23, 2021 at 7 PM) and hear more about her publishing experience at the virtual publishing panel (March 24, 2021 at 7 PM).