Jie Liu

I wrote “Milk” in 2010, when taking a creative writing class taught by Professor Katherine Karlin, the author of Send Me Work, who is also very interested in women’s struggles. Before writing longer stories, we were asked to write a five-page story to warm up, and I remembered a news report on some jobless middle-aged Chinese women, who without a good education and better means to thrive, went to different parks to sell their aging bodies for only¥10. It was one of the early workshops I took, and as a writer I didn’t know what exactly I was looking for then. Before studying in the States, I wrote mostly for children and teenagers in China, many of my stories set in a world of imagination. “Milk” is one of my first stories that came from reality, and I guess it is fair to call such a story a turning point in my writing life. The news report was shocking, and I couldn’t forget those women who don’t have a voice or lack the power to let their voices be heard. Looking back now, I realize it was the year I unconsciously began to write stories that have not been told and became interested in writing for the silenced. After finding the direction, I did some research, and in order to make it concrete for the Western readers, I chose a bottle of milk¥10 could buy, which also serves as a symbol of the mother’s nurturing role. Then the story flew out. I finished it in one night, and though I still had to imagine certain things, it was a different type of imagination. No longer staying with strange characters in an alien world, this time I used materials I was familiar with and examined the world I used to live in. If I can say I wrote by brain before, it was then that I returned to my heart. Professor Karlin and my classmates responded to the story positively, helping me make some minor changes. And I am always grateful for that. Writing can be a lonely career because you have to do almost everything by yourself, away from people, but when taking a workshop, a writer can get a great support system, and sometimes it feels as if the story was the baby of a community, and it feels good.