Meet Marie Myung-Ok, Journalist and Novelist

MarieMyung-OkLee200We sent out a survey asking the same questions to our speakers to help you get to know them better. Here’s Marie Myung-Ok Lee, who will be participating in the panel Mothers Writing Motherhood, on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Great Hall at Cooper Union.

In a few sentences, who are you?

My essays have appeared in The New York Times, Slate, The Guardian, The NationSalon, and I’m a regular contributor to The Atlantic.  I was the first recipient of a creative writing Fulbright Fellowship to South Korea and has been one of the few journalists granted a visa to North Korea. I’ve held residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, Ucross and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and teaches fiction at Columbia, where was the Our Word Writer-in-Residence. My forthcoming novel is being published by Simon & Schuster.

Describe one moment, event, person, relationship or other thing that put you on the path to becoming a writer, or told you that this was going to be your career.

When I was nine and my brother gave me his old typewriter. I’d been writing stories before that, but with the typewriter, I was struck at how “professional” they looked right off the bat, so I three-hole-punched it and bound it in yarn, and sold it to my parents for I think a dime. It was at that moment I realized that’s ALL I wanted to do, forever.

What’s essential for your work routine, ie. early morning start, some type of music, clean teeth, a looming deadline?

Piping hot, french-pressed coffee, beeswax candles, 4:30 a.m., gluten-free cookies. Also, no chi-moving stuff (e.g., yoga, meditation) until after writing is done.

After casting a glance at our program, who’s another speaker you’re excited to see at Out of the Binders and why?

Leslie Jamison. She’s taken the essay form, exploded it and put it back together in a way that some of its irregularities are the most beautiful parts. Her essays evoke something in the viscera that I once thought–snobbishly, I know–that only novels could do. And that she’s a woman and writes with the “I,” but is obviously a writer to be reckoned with, makes her a perfect fit for BinderCon.

Why do you think this Out of the Binders conference needs to exist?

We need to connect, support, share, inspire as women writers and just as writers. Plus, it’s fun to be in a club as an adult.

What’s one link you’d give to someone who wants to read or find out more about your work?

My forthcoming novel is not autobiographical, but it’s a satire about the “future of medicine,” and I’m realizing how much it’s been influenced by my father, who was quite a “character”–this essay [published in the New York Times, and featuring our favorite Mitt Romney] captures aspects of both my nonfiction and fiction.

Let’s get people connected with you!

Twitter: @MarieMyungOkLee [and Instagram too!]
Facebook: Marie Myung-Ok Lee

Feel free to add anything you’d like included in this post, like a thought, a quote, a cat gif, whatever.

Flannery O’Connor, one of the best writers who ever lived, said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” I feel exactly the same way. Thank you, Flannery!