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Ailun Shi


First Language(s): Mandarin Chinese, Shanghainese
Second Language(s): English, Spanish


Ailun Shi recently withdrew from UC Berkeley in order to go on a gap year for the adventure of her life. Her work has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and published in “Helen: a literary magazine,” “Germ Magazine,” the “Apprentice Writer,” and elsewhere. To find out more about her writing and gap adventures, visit ailunshi.wordpress.com.


What was your favorite book as a child?

My favorite books as a child were the Percy Jackson series. Back in elementary and middle school, I would reread the entire series every year in September in anticipation for the release of the next book. Those books were really the ones to get me writing, and I credit my growth in writing today to the countless fanfictions I wrote for the fandom. I would never have gotten so much writing practice if I hadn't been so invested in the Percy Jackson series.

Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?

I've always been up for whatever challenges other people issued. In sixth grade, my English teacher told me about NaNoWriMo. Writing an entire novel in a single month seemed daunting, but I was excited to try it out. I joined the NaNoWriMo Young Writers program and managed to churn out a little over 10,000 words—which seemed to me like an insurmountable word count at the time. Somehow, during that one month and within those 10,000 words, my interest in creative writing was piqued. I'd always enjoyed reading and riding the highs and lows of the characters in the stories. But I had never imagined that I could wield the same power until NaNoWriMo. I haven't been able to stop writing ever since experiencing the magic of creating my own worlds and histories just from words on a page and making fiction characters seem so real that readers can't help but empathize with them through their journey.

What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?

Withdrawing from college despite knowing that I would have to go through college admissions again and going out of the country on a gap year while a pandemic rages around the world. The most adventurous thing I've experienced is happening right now!

Do you listen to music while reading or writing?

I never listen to music while reading because I like to focus on the images the words themselves create without the story being influenced by the music. While writing though, I sometimes turn on music when I'm working on my novels. I plan out my novels so I know exactly what music to play in order to set an appropriate mood. But for short stories and poetries, the process tends to be more spontaneous, so playing music while writing only distracts me and the flow of the tale.


Flash Nonfiction
Issue Spring '21

Supported by:

Land Steiermark: Kultur, Europa, Außenbeziehungen
U.S. Embassy Vienna
Stadt Graz