We had the good fortune of connecting with Lisa Zou and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lisa, what do you think makes you most happy? Why?
Learning more about art, film, and music creates joy for me. This includes visiting museums, playing instruments, and watching documentaries on film history. Although many museums are currently closed in Arizona, the Musical Instrument Museum has reopened. I highly recommend visiting if you have not been. Browsing these spaces inside museums is curated yet exploratory. After delving into Chinese and Korean film history recently, I began to recognize how much cinema outside of the Western canon that we are not exposed to in the US. More and more international movies are now available to stream on Netflix, so now is the time to watch! My current recommendation is the multi-generational drama Tigertail, which is directed by Alan Yang.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
One of the biggest lessons I learned is that specialization is not necessarily beneficial. For a while, I dedicated most of my time towards poetry and creative writing – I wrote lots of short stories as a kid and enjoyed sharing them with others. My interests were rather narrow. I enjoyed writing, but I was also focused on skill sharpening. The first story, the first poem, is never going to be worth publishing. In college, I took writing seminars but also took many courses in public policy, urban studies, and majored in economics. This felt like regression to an extent – how can I improve as a writer if I spent minimal time writing? Yet, exposure to different disciplines actually gave me more material for writing. If you write about what you know, then it makes sense to expand what you know. I would add that you should not let the need to be “good” get in the way of enjoying an artistic activity. Some of the peers I began creative writing with are now enrolled in MFA programs or earning book deals. I did not commit to writing the way they did. However, this pressure to be “good” should not stop me from sharing my work or offering to edit pieces. I would encourage people to pick up a form of art — visual art, dance, writing, anything really. As beginners, we often feel shy about performing in front of others. But it is more than okay to be an amateur and admit that there is much to learn. I approach both my writing and my career with this mindset.
If you’re interested in my writing, here is an essay I wrote that was nominated for The Pushcart Prize.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite museum in Phoenix is the Heard Museum, which is dedicated to the advancement of American Indian Art. When the weather is cool, there are also great spots to hike nearby, like South Mountain and Papago Park. In terms of food, I’m a fan of sushi and pho. Kuka Sushi & Izakaya in Tempe and Pho Chandler come to mind as some standouts. Lots of excellent options here in the valley.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Extremely thankful for my lifelong friends Taylor, Komal, and Celeste for being my weekly go-to’s when I am looking for thought-provoking conversations. Also, shoutout to the National YoungArts Foundation for supporting artists during this time with creative grants. I cannot say enough great things about this organization that continues to support its alumni during this difficult time for the arts.
Other: Follow a food instagram I run with a friend: @make.ends.meat https://www.