Writing a novel is something I never thought I would do. Or, to be more specific, attempt to do. Then I moved to Hanoi and suddenly it was all I wanted to do. There was this urge to create a story, imagine my characters, and delve into research. I would be Hemingway a la Hanoi — only with marginally less alcohol.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing myself to Hemingway — he wrote some of the English language’s great literary pieces, whereas I’ll be thrilled with a $1 paperback. But there is romanticism in being a writer, especially in a non-native situation, that I wanted to try out.
So, booting up my laptop, I became a regular at a small library and joined a writers’ club. During this process I found that I not only love writing, but I love writing in Hanoi. The city has a gritty charm that I find intriguing and inspiring. There are stories all around me and I love imagining the lives of people I see daily — the lady selling pho, the men playing checkers in the park. I integrate them into my novel and let the city lead my writing.
I was curious to see if my fellow writers felt the same. So I asked them, why write in Hanoi? Then, as I typically do nowadays, I wrote an article about it. Although each responded in his or her own voice, they all have in common a fascination with Hanoi’s charm. It’s been said a million times, but it doesn’t make it any less true — Hanoi is, as Alex writes, “preposterously charming”. But charm does not make a writer.
I don’t usually post the articles I write for Word on my blog but I so enjoyed reading what my friends had written that I wanted to share it with you. Not only are they wonderful writers, but they give a taste of what it is like to live and write in this city. To read what they have written, checkout the online edition on Word website by clicking here.