The Mark Blog

Bookmark This: Laurie Dea Owyang On Why It’s Never Too Late

 
Laurie Dea Owyang, 2006 Emerging Voices alum, recalls how her passion for writing lay buried for a long time as she married, raised kids, and built a successful career in human resources. But when the right push came along, that passion reignited, proving that there is never a set timetable for chasing after your dreams. 
 
“A voracious reader, I knew when I was ten years old that I wanted to be a writer, but life happened. I toiled every day at my parents’ hardware store in San Francisco’s Chinatown after school, on weekends, and during summers. Later, I graduated from University of California, Berkeley, got married, moved to Los Angeles, built a human resources career, and raised children. Finally, 34 years later, I found the time and space to enroll in a writing class at UCLA. 
 
From day one, I devoured advice on craft, determined to improve my writing and tell compelling stories. I kept taking classes until my favorite writing instructor, the one who scribbled thoughtful line edits and encouragement all over my pages, said to me, 'Stop taking classes. You’re a writer. Just write and send your stories out into the universe.' I got the message.
 
In 2006, I was selected as an Emerging Voices Fellow. Over the next eight months, I was given generous access to Los Angeles’s writing community. Our cohort of ten fellows bonded instantaneously over meals, carpools, confessed insecurities, ridiculous amounts of laughter, and, most especially, our pages. Diana Wagman, our superlative master class instructor in fiction, made us hone our words and sharpen our prose. During author evenings, we met with Janet Fitch, John Rechy, and David Ulin, all generous and supportive. We learned from editors and agents and publishers. My EV Fellowship was intense, demanding, and wonderful.
 
Our final reading took place at the Central Library in the Mark Taper Auditorium. Under bright lights, I stood on stage behind the podium and read my story to a large crowd (which included my husband, my teenage daughters, and even some of their friends), thrilled to read my words in public. I got the message again. I am a writer.”
 
Laurie Dea Owyang retired in 2009 after a thirty-year career in human resources. She volunteers at the library and also at Dress for Success as a career coach and mentor to women seeking employment. She is working on a collection of short stories inspired by the circumstances under which her parents fled China to escape poverty and war, and their ongoing quest to improve their lives and their children’s lives. 
 
Please join PEN Center USA at Skylight Books this Sunday, July 20, at 5pm for the Emerging Voices Meet and Greet. We’ll be answering all your questions about the 2015 Emerging Voices Fellowship application process. Find more details here.