‘Writing doesn’t have to be solitary’: Multi-genre author Vi Khi Nao emphasizes importance of collaboration

For an author like Vi Khi Nao, having a collaborator on a writing project can be a huge creative boost.

“In my Brown Bag lecture, I’ll walk through my different types of collaborative efforts that I’ve done with other people across time,” said Nao, a poet, novelist, former Janus Prize judge and the Week Four prose writer-in-residence, “friends and lovers, strangers, all whom I have collaborated on large book projects with.”

Nao said she’ll talk about her relationships that have led to the creation of several writing projects.

“Writing doesn’t have to be solitary,” she said. “You can cut the workload in half. If you’re writing a manuscript that’s 200 pages and your partner puts in 100, you have a manuscript really fast. So it’s a great way to be prolific.”

At 12:15 p.m. Friday, July 22, on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall, Nao, the multi-genre author of poetry collections like Fish Carcass and A Bell Curve is a Pregnant Straight Line, will give a Chautauqua Literary Arts Brown Bag lecture, titled “Art of Collaboration.”

“(Collaboration) also makes the writing life not as stereotypical,” she said. “With collaboration, you’re not in your own dark, small rooms, typing away until you burn out all the candles. I’m hoping to alter that landscape. The writing life doesn’t have to be solitary.”

Nao’s influences on her poetry are vibrant and far-reaching; her primary influence, she said, wasn’t a writer at all, but actually tennis player Rafael Nadal.

“I like how passionate he is on court,” she said. “Despite suffering from all types of pain and injury, he continued to battle it out on court and win a Grand Slam, even when he was 35 years old. I deal with chronic pain a lot. Oftentimes, you want to give up. You don’t want to enter the battlefield of existence anymore.” 

Nadal, she said, constantly fights against that through his tennis playing.

“To achieve such tremendous goals for himself is incredible,” Nao said. “I get my inspiration outside the literary canon, more toward sports.”

Ever since she started watching tennis and football, Nao said she’s drawn her inspiration from athletes.

“As poets, we tend to be solitary,” she said. “You don’t see us on the court, per se, as much as tennis players and football players.”

As far as advice for her workshop and lecture attendees, Nao recommended what she calls “a literary bank account.”

“Write at least a sentence every day,” she said. “It’s like putting a quarter in a jar. One day, you may need to pull that one sentence out to write a novel.”

Tags : literary arts

The author Chris Clements

Chris Clements is reporting on literary arts during his third summer with The Chautauquan Daily. He has previously written previews for the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services and covered literary arts digitally in 2020. Chris is a second-year grad student at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in creative writing, specializing in fiction. He’s passionate about all things related to literature, music and film, especially author David Foster Wallace, jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant and the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.