Quite often I’ve been lucky enough to make such a great impression on people that they still remember who I am years later. This has not only proved to be handy for making friends and meeting professors but also for really good interviews.
I mention this because last night I was lucky enough to interview the author Wayson Choy. He was at UTSC last night for a lecture series on Leadership and to talk about his new book Not Yet.
The nice thing about Wayson is that in addition to his really great books (go buy them now, really) and his remarkable energy at nearly 70 is how genuinely kind he is to everyone.
I was fortunate enough to meet him two years ago at another appearance at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus for a reading for a Canadian Literature class. Even back then his books had a huge impact on me. While I aspire to work in journalism now and my Asian-Canadian role models are people like Adrienne Clarkson, at the time I aspired simply to be a writer and I didn’t really know of any successful Chinese-Canadian writers. Seeing Wayson having published so many bestsellers and yet so unafraid to be his great gay self made me think wanting to be a Chinese-Canadian writer wasn’t such an impossible dream after all. In fact, I was so enamoured I wrote him a thank-you letter and gave it to him at the reading.
Cut to two years later and just a few minutes before the interview multiple people tell me that Wayson remembers who I am. I think it’s unlikely, as the man has met hundreds of people and done many more readings since then. But sure enough, Wayson remembers, even calling me earnest for the questions I had asked about the Toisanese* in his book The Jade Peony. We had instant rapport, and so even though I had only briefly prepared for the interview I think it went quite well. I think it’s always a good sign when you’re suddenly getting 30 minutes with an interview subject instead of the inital allotment of 10 or 15.
And for a man who speaks so much about life, luck and the importance of love having no boundaries, I sort of discovered yesterday loving his books so much helped me make such a great impression that I was lucky enough not to have to do a lot of research. A lot of the previous background information was already there in his books.
After the lecture was over and I had sent the photos off to the Varsity, I went to get my copy signed. Wayson had been autographing books and folding paper butterflies for an hour, but still wanted to make sure I didn’t leave without one of both. Repeating the words he told me earlier, he signed: “For Karen, take flight! Keep in touch. Love, Wayson.”
The power of a first impression never fails to astonish me.
*Toisanese is a dialect of the Standard Cantonese. The pronunciations of words often vary, but many common phrases sound very similar.
Photos, interview and a recap of the lecture Wayson Choy will be published on this blog later this week.
His latest book, a memoir entitled Not Yet is published by Doubleday Canada and is now available in bookstores for $27.95.