Mina Choi ’20, Marymount Alumna, Publishes her First Novel

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Mina Choi '20

Mina Choi ’20, a Marymount High School graduate and newly-published author, currently attends the University of California, Berkeley.

Sophia Scott '21, Editor-in-Chief

While many members of Marymount’s recently graduated Class of 2020 relished a summer free of responsibilities yet fraught with coronavirus-related college concerns, UC Berkeley-bound Mina Choi accomplished a feat that many writers devote their entire lifetime towards. She published her first novel, Little Feelings (a contradictory statement), in June of 2020, right after graduating from high school in May. As a young poet rapidly gaining notoriety and traction for her work, even though she is now a busy college freshman, Choi still manages to find time to pursue her writing career. Choi’s interest in poetry sparked during her childhood, and she fostered this passion during her time at Marymount. In 2019, she was selected to represent Marymount High School at Archer’s Literature &… Conference. She also remained a dedicated member of Sunset literary magazine throughout her time in high school, contributing countless pieces of photography and poetry for each publication. Here, Mina Choi discusses her path to becoming a writer, offers a sneak peek at her new novel, and provides a variety of excellent insights and tips for young writers to demystify the process of creating and publishing poetry.

Choi’s first novel, Little Feelings (a contradictory statement), is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

When did you decide to publish your poetry? How long did it take and how did this process work for you?

Honestly, I never thought that I would publish my poems for strangers to read. In the initial stages of writing poetry, I was a little embarrassed of my own writing and how personal a few simple lines could become. However, I soon got over that fear as I entered more creative writing competitions and the encouragement of my friends and mentors certainly pushed me towards publishing my book. 

What is your advice to other aspiring young writers who would like to publish their work, but struggle to find publishing resources?

For your first book, I wouldn’t be too serious about it. By this I don’t mean to tell you to write something mediocre that you, yourself regret writing; but instead, have fun exploring new styles and forms of writing and don’t be discouraged when something doesn’t work out as planned. I knew right away after reading published poems of young poets like Sylvia Plath, I too wanted to take on the challenge of being a teen with a published book. (This was kind of a self-fulfilling wish but it was one of the only things that kept me going & motivated to finish high school). As a result, after finally finishing my collection of poems, I could not bring myself to wait months to hear back from publishers. Therefore, I decided to self-publish and avoid the long waits. 

How did Marymount influence you to become the writer you are today?

English classes and teachers definitely inspired and encouraged me to start taking creative writing more seriously. Although most of the essays I wrote in school were analytical, I feel as though the essays truly made me wonder and dissect the minds of the authors and poets of whom we would read about. Furthermore, my fervor for analysis of poems, short stories, and novels grew alongside my love for creative writing. 

Do you have any future books in the works, places you publish your work, or poetry readings you participate in?

I do actually have a few books in the works (mostly fictional) but those are still a secret! My books are being sold on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. You can find it online by searching Little Feelings (a contradictory statement). As for poetry readings, I don’t have any but I would love to start attending some. 

Where did you find inspiration for your newest book? 

I found inspiration for my poems through observing the little things we often overlook as we pass by. There are definitely some poems that build off the other and I do love putting small Easter eggs in one poem that can help the reader to better understand another. I really love reading and writing poems that are like puzzles that you must first deconstruct in order to piece back together. Although, many of my poems do stand alone. 

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

In the second grade, I attended a school with little racial diversity which tends to be a bit harsher on those who are not within the majority. Whenever I would speak to my parents in Korean, I would get stares, and when my parents spoke in English, there would be the occasional laughter. Minor things like this really put me down and started to take a toll on my thoughts. I felt angry and frustrated at my parents but ultimately myself for being embarrassed for something I couldn’t change. My dad really tried his best to speak to me in English in front of my friends for my sake, which now looking back hurts. Even though these experiences reside in the past, I feel guilty at times but now I fully embrace my heritage and culture and can’t imagine a world without it. 

What’s your favorite under-appreciated piece of writing and why?

I really enjoyed reading John Donne’s collection of poetry. Donne’s writing may be complex at times; however, the way he writes each line is with purpose and intimate and conversational. “A Burnt Ship” by Donne is one of my favorites, due to the use of antimetabole and how it feels like a beautifully tied ribbon has been wrapped around the poem. 

What does literary success look like to you?

For me, literary success is the moment when someone tells me how a poem changed their perspective of the world. 

 

Below is an excerpt from “Lucky,” a poem featured in Choi’s new book. Visit her website to see more of her writing! 

 

He brushed luck

on the cool summer floor

as I watched him delicately 

tuck her hind legs in. 

 

He brushed luck’s matted fur

with a wooden comb. 

oh, it’s missing a tooth.  

 

Luck looked as if she had licked

the golden rays of the sun. 

 

Her blonde hair caught 

a mere light’s attention;

it flickered for her. 

it looks odd. 

 

The smell of cigarettes and wet luck hung

under the dimly lit patio.