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Interview with Mi-kyoung Song

A South Korean Fairy Tale Author, Forging Her Own Territory

 

2017.12.01

 

There is one South Korean author of fairy tales who has created her own forte with experimental and uncommon imagination along with her fantasy-infused stories. Mi-kyoung Song debuted as a fairy tale author in 2008 in South Korea and has since received numerous awards since. She is known for writing for children and teens that enjoy her fairy tales and novels.
Of her books Some Kid Lived Here was named as one of this year's final contestants for the In Other Words program by BookTrust, an influential reading group in the U.K. The book had been selected with another seven books after competing among some 400 books. The judges said the story in the book was strange, unrealistic but very fresh. We spoke to her about this book and her literary world.

 

 

KPIPA

We are delighted to feature you on our webzine. Please give our readers an introduction to yourself.

 

Song

It's wonderful to meet you. I was born in Seoul in 1973. When I was young I liked to draw and play house. As I was growing up, I took an interest in movies and television novels. One thing I've liked consistently from when I was young is photography. For a long time, I've been taking photographs of things abandoned on the street and collecting their images. I have much interest in the stories the images create and going forward I plan on going on to create picture books.

 

 

In 2008, I officially became an author after receiving the Woongjin Junior Literature Aware for my book, A School Where Children Do Not Want to Go to School. Some Kid Lived Here received the 54th Korea Books Awards for Children's Fiction while I was given the 5th Changwon Children Literature Award for A Child Who is Chewing Pebbles. This year my book Some Kid Lived Here became an honor title for BookTrust's In Other Words program.
Some other stories I've written include The Home Newsletter Incident, The Can Hagwon, My Pearl Dress, The Sewing Girl, Please Come Play at My House, The Goddess of Vengeance, The Journal that Ate Diaries and Chatting Children. These would be fairy tales for children, where as for teens I wrote The Report of an Operation on a Crazy Person. Currently I teach a class called Images and Narratives at the SangSang Madang Academy and Changbi Hakdang. In 2016 I opened my first exhibit at the Umul gallery and now I am preparing to create a picture book with illustrations.

 

KPIPA

Early this year, we heard you received some good news. Your book from 2013 Some Kid Lived Here became one of the honor titles of In Other Words 2017 by BookTrust. We were wondering what prompted you to write this book and whether you were aware it would receive such good reviews overseas.

 

 

△ Introduction to Some Kid Lived Here on BookTrust's webpage
https://www.booktrust.org.uk

 

Song

In this book were my short stories Father is Coming Out of the Bag and Some Kid Lived Here. I had received requests for short fairy tales from a monthly and another similar publication but at this time, I was an author of longer stories and had no experience writing short fairy tales. I was just so happy someone had asked for a contribution I got to working.
Father in Coming Out of the Bag was the first short fairy tale I had written officially and I was quite happy when I wrote it that it has remained in my mind for a long time. After seeing my stories, I received a call from Sigong Junior and we ended up creating a book together. When the book was first published I was very happy over the publication itself and I never dreamed it would get so much attention outside South Korea. I was quite surprised when the book received the Korea Books Awards for Children's Fiction. I recall I lost quite some sleep from just having been named a candidate for the award.
From 2008 when I first started writing fairy tales, I wanted to meet other children of the world through my books. I wrote down in my journal that maybe one day my stories could be translated into other languages but at that time I couldn't imagine I would receive awards. I just thought, "It would be wonderful if my books were translated and I could meet other children around the world." One of the stories in the book, Adult Younger Sibling was adapted into a musical for families and I was very pleased the performances went well.

 

KPIPA

In addition to literature for children and teens, you also write stories grown-ups like. Where you do find your inspiration?

 

Song

I don't always find my inspiration from one thing. Sometimes I find it while drawing while other times inspiration comes to me while I'm sifting through my photographs of objects found on the street. Sometimes I find it while praying for other people. I actually find it difficult to write when I do research or study for projects early on. This is why I jot down ideas when they come to me. I like writing them down by hand on paper with a fountain pen or pencil. I also doodle a bit when I'm writing and that helps as well.

 

KPIPA

Regardless of where they are from, do you have writers or works that you like?

 

Song

When I was young and competed in an art contest, someone gave me a copy of The Ox Man by Jeong-saeng Kwon. The book was sad but warm at the same time and the lines were witty. I read that book by myself whenever time allowed and at times I would read it to my younger sibling. Also, these are books I read after I became a writer myself, but I like picture books by Jun Okada and William Steig.

 

KPIPA

Which of your books would you like introduced overseas?

 

 

Song

One would be A Child Who is Chewing Pebbles published by Munhakdongne. Through this book I was able to receive the 5th Changwon Children's Literature Award and it was also selected as recommended reading by several cities in South Korea including one location in Pyeongtaek. This helped me to meet with readers. It's one of my best-read books by readers in addition to Some Kid Lived Here. Inside are stories titled I Bought a Tongue, The Cat Couple Who Came For Me, A Child Who is Chewing Pebbles, Paper Mom in Paper House and The World is Round.
Also, my novel for teens The Report of an Operation on a Crazy Person published by Sigongsa Junior is also a book I would like to share with other adolescents around the world. The doodles inside the book were personally drawn by me, which made the book more special for me.

 

KPIPA

Please let us know if you're working on anything new or if there's something you'd like to write about in the future.

 

Song

In spring of 2018, I have a book coming out titled Bear of Spring Days from Munhakdongne. Shortly to follow that will be The Incident Because of the Sofa from Sigong Junior. I'm also preparing a collection of novels for teens and it's nearly complete. One story I would really like to write is about diaspora. I've been keeping this story in my heart for a very long time and one day I would like to see it on paper.

 

 


Organized by Myung-im Nam

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