Crystal Chan watched with amazement at the exotic zoo outbreak in Zanesville, Ohio in 2011, where scores of animals—hungry lions, panthers, and tigers—ran loose around the county. That incident inspired her most recent novel, All That I Can Fix. Her debut novel, Bird, has been published in 10 countries and is out on audiobook in the US; the narrator is Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in The Hunger Games.
When Crystal isn’t writing, her passion is giving diversity talks to adults and kids alike, hosts justice conversations on social media, and is a regular storyteller on Wisconsin Public Radio. She loves speaking to people of all ages, sharing both intimate and inspiring stories of healing and hope through the act of writing. She facilitates self-care retreats both virtually and in person, and she created and taught a university course called Writing Compassion as Benedictine University’s Artist in Residence.
What is Crystal most excited about? Her healing writing retreat, Finding the Essence, that helps youth and young adults wade through the tumult of Covid and find a place of inner clarity, stability, and strength. She is passionate about it because it has truly been transformational and healing for the people who have attended, cutting across age, geography, and backgrounds.
The best thing would be for you to contact Women and Children’s First, a bookstore in Chicago. I have a number of signed books there, and they can sell and mail you one.
It can be really great sometimes, because I have a lot of experiences that others don’t have. For instance, I was raised on eating Chinese chicken feet and pierogies. And I find that I connect with others more easily because I can identify more with their background, whether it’s that of an immigrant or person of color or someone who’s Caucasian and whose family has been here for generations.
But being mixed can be tough sometimes because it’s hard to feel like I fully belong in any group. For instance, when I am with Chinese people, I’m the “white” person, and when I’m with a bunch of white people, I’m the “Chinese” person. Or the exotic person. Either way, I have one foot in both worlds, but sometimes it would be nice to have 2 feet somewhere. When I am with other mixed race people who understand what this is like, that’s really, really cool.
My dad is from Hong Kong and my mom is from Wisconsin and is of Polish-American descent. So I grew up eating sauerkraut dishes, along with stir fry.
Write from your heart, always. When you write, remember you’re writing from a special space inside, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And practice telling stories – tell stories all the time. When you’re not telling stories, practice listening to stories. Because that’s all that writing really is: Telling a story.
I don’t know. It’s honestly a mystery to me, too.
I like escalators, lukewarm water, hot food, baby plants, mushrooms, lying down on a park bench, kosher pickles, turtles, steaming coffee mugs, stairs, cherry popsicles, deep-fried tofu, gooey pancakes (in the middle), dim sum, arrachara tacos, jalapenos and serranos, playground slides, starry nights, spiders, snakes, bikes, sporks, tire swings, winter air, paper, bright colors, fun socks, wasabi, rocks, white-out correction tape, alligators, origami, cursive*, calligraphy, asparagus, houseplants, water, superglue, duct tape, wind chimes, tobogganing. And laughing.
I dislike cold hands, cold feet, sulfur, cucumbers, dirty water, barren walls, car exhaust, being late, daylight savings time, banana popsicles, non-spicy Indian food, humidity, retching cat sounds, merry go rounds, mosquitoes, sporks, plastic ware.
*If you write me a letter in cursive, I will write you back.
Sure do! It’s a big responsibility to bike on busy streets, so I always bike carefully. This one guy I know gets hit by a car every summer, but I’ve been biking for ten years and haven’t had an accident. A lot of it is about being careful.