Khanh Ha


Award-winning author Khanh Ha is a ten-time Pushcart nominee, finalist for The Ohio State University Fiction Collection Prize, Mary McCarthy Prize, Many Voices Project, Prairie Schooner Book Prize, The University of New Orleans Press Lab Prize, Prize Americana, and The Santa Fe Writers Project. He is the recipient of The Sand Hills Prize for Best Fiction, The Robert Watson Literary Prize in Fiction, The Orison Anthology Award for Fiction, The James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, The C&R Press Fiction Prize, The EastOver Fiction Prize, The Blackwater Press Fiction Prize, The Gival Press Novel Award, and The Red Hen Press Fiction Award.


Never in my life had I been to a university writing workshop where I would have learned the mechanics of writing. It made me think of auto mechanics. “There are three rules for the writing of a novel,” Somerset Maugham once said. “Unfortunately no one knows what they are.” I paid a day of my weekly salary to attend a literary seminar conducted by editors and authors from venerable publishing houses. “No one can teach you writing,” a host said from the podium. “You have to learn it yourself.” I went home and started my novel that night. I wrote in the wee hours, night after night, like a snail that sleepwalked, if snails ever slept. And dreamed of immortality. Every night I sat down to write, I chanted the Lotus Sutra, Were you with murderous intent, thrust within a fiery furnace. In between I would stroke a statuette of the Laughing Buddha carved out of jackfruit, burnished brown, on my desk.

The night I reached the end of my novel I leaned back in my chair, light-headed. Not empty. Grateful. I rubbed the Laughing Buddha’s shaved head, worn now to a soft sheen. It had been several years. Then in the room’s soft bluish light I heard a tiny voice, as if coming from the Laughing Buddha: Do you wish for immortality? No, I said. Feeling mortal and simple.


Who are you?

  Born in Hue, Vietnam

 Studied at Ohio University


  At work on self-healing


So you’re a writer?

I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist.” Just quoted Vladimir Nabokov. Except that he has an unpronounceable name.

Your own rules for writing fiction?

Rule number one: discipline—find that solitude so you can meet your characters. Then make that rendezvous with ghosts every day or every night with no excuses. Rule number two: write one scene well and that scene would breed the next scene. Rule number three: leave room for readers to participate. Rule number four: stop where you still have something to say. Rule number five: read each day to keep your mind off your own writing. Rule number six—don’t believe in any rules except yours.


Advice for your readers?

Don’t take anything you read seriously. When you do, when it really knocks you out, “you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” Don’t you love a reader like Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye?