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Write On! Interviews: Author Hongwei Bao

Write On! interviews author Hongwei Bao

Hongwei Bao (he/they) grew up in Inner Mongolia, China, and lives in Nottingham, UK. He teaches at the University of Nottingham. His creative work has appeared in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Poetry Catalog, Shanghai Literary Review, The Hooghly Review, The Other Side Of Hope, The Ponder Review, The Rialto, The Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine and Write On!. His work has also been featured in anthologies such as Allegheny Nonfiction Anthology, Maria Lazar: Poetry From Exile, Queer Reparative Poetry Anthology and The Plaza Prizes Anthology One. His flash fiction A Postcard From Berlin’ was a runner-up for the Plaza Prize for Microfiction in 2023.

 WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?

HB: First of all, I’m a writer of the ‘short form’, such as poetry, flash fiction and short story. Secondly, my writing mostly uses the first-person narrative voice ‘I’ – it’s not strictly autobiographical but is largely informed by my experience. Thirdly, my writing deals primarily with the issue of identity, especially queer and East Asian identities – how they have been historically and socially marginalised and how people live within and without their limits. Lastly, I write in English as a second language, a language I wasn’t born into and only learned in later life. In many ways, my writing also navigates the in-between spaces between linguistic, cultural and literary traditions.

WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest book The Passion Of The Rabbit God?

HB: The Passion Of The Rabbit God is my debut poetry collection, published by Valley Press this year. It’s a story of queer Asian migration experience intertwined with a contemporary retelling of the Rabbit God story. The Rabbit God is known in East Asia as the patron of LGBTQIA+ people. In my book, the ancient myth becomes a source of strength for a queer person moving from the Chinese-Mongolian border to the heart of England and a symbol for queer East Asian identity and culture. The book contains 40 poems I’ve written over the last four years and is divided into four sections, dealing respectively with contemporary rewriting of ancient myths and folk tales, personal reflections on identity and belonging, explorations of queer love and intimacy and thoughts about contemporary social issues such as racism, homophobia and the pandemic experience.

WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?

HB: The COVID-19 pandemic was an important context for my creative work. The pandemic has affected all of us in different ways. People from racial, ethnic, gender and sexual minorities were particularly vulnerable at that time. For example, there has been a rising Sinophobia and anti-Asian racism in the UK and globally. Many LGBTQIA+ people couldn’t stay at home and keep socially distanced because ‘home’ meant different things for them. The book was written from a queer Asian perspective, reflecting on the impact of the pandemic on marginalised individuals and communities.

I began writing essays, poems and short stories from the start of the pandemic, partly as a form of self-therapy to cope with the feelings of isolation, anxiety and frustration. I shared some of my writings with friends and they encouraged me to keep writing. With their encouragement, I started to take my creative writing seriously. I took creative writing classes at City Lit and Pen to Print, where I met wonderful teachers and friends. I started to publish my writing on websites and literary journals such as Write On!.

Write On! has played an important role in my journey as a creative writer. Since the publication of my first short story Blue in November 2022, Write On! has published more than 20 of my poems and short stories, the latest one being Lost In Prague. In fact, seven poems from The Rabbit God collection first appeared in Write On!. Publishing here helps me build my collection over time and provides me with valuable feedback from editors and readers. This also boost my confidence as a creative writer.

WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of ‘Beginnings And Endings’. With that in mind, what do you find easier to write – the beginning or the end? And do you always write the beginning first and the ending last?

HB: The beginning is definitely easier to write for me. I usually know where to begin when I have an idea, but it often takes some time, and several rounds of editing, to find how to end a story, and where is the best place to do so. But the beginning and the end are also subject to editing. Sometimes I have to cut the original beginning and the end to make the piece more compact and impactful. For short genres such as poetry and short stories, ‘arriving late and leaving early’ is usually a good editing tip. Peer feedback can help.  

WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?

HB: Your voice matters. Especially for minority writers, there has always been a feeling of frustration that you can’t see yourself in the books you read, and that no one cares about you. This is a good incentive to start writing. As Toni Morrison says: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

 After you’ve decided to start, take your writing seriously. Read other writers’ works, learn from other writers’ experiences, surround yourself with aspiring writers, and workshop your writing with others. Your voice matters and it needs to be heard. But you also need a lot of practice to get your voice out in the most effective way so it matters to other people and the wider world.

WO: Question from Instagram user: @madeleinefwhite What was the most challenging part of your publishing journey?

HB: The most challenging part of the journey was to find journals, editors and publishers who liked my work and who were willing to publish it. People have different literary tastes and preoccupations. Also, despite its best intentions, the publishing industry is still not diverse enough. Many publishers still assume a white and middle-class readership who want to read stories about their own lives. My suggestion for other writers is to build a writing portfolio by publishing your writing on friendly and encouraging platforms such as Write On!. In the process, you learn how to improve your writing craft; you also learn how to submit your writing and interact with editors and readers. People are more likely to pay attention to you if you have a history of publication, and if you have made demonstrable efforts of reaching out to the readers.

WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?

HB: I’m working on my short story collection at the moment: a collection of linked short stories about queer East Asian migration experience. Some of these have been published, including in Write On!, and I’m bringing together some loose threads so they tell a more coherent story as a collection.

My poetry pamphlet Dream Of The Orchid Pavilion is forthcoming with Big White Shed Press in the next few months. I also have an academic book Queering The Asian Diaspora forthcoming with Sage Publications later this year.

WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?

HB: 2024 is the Year of the Dragon in lunar Chinese calendar. Unlike its English counterpart depicted in Beowulf, the dragon is usually seen as a lovable and auspicious creature in Chinese mythology. Think of the little dragon Mushu in the Disney film Mulan. Who doesn’t want to have a cute little dragon like Mushu as a companion?

You can find connect with Hongwei Bao on X: @PatrickBao1. The Passion Of The Rabbit God is available to buy from the Valley Press website:


You can read issue 20 online here and find it in libraries and other outlets. Read previous editions of our magazines here.

You can hear great new ideas, creative work and writing tips on Write On! Audio. Find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify. Type Pen to Print into your browser and look for our logo, or find us on


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Your voice matters. Especially for minority writers, there has always been a feeling of frustration that you can’t see yourself in the books you read, and that no one cares about you. This is a good incentive to start writing.