Breaking In, Breaking Out

Breaking In, Breaking out
By Myay Hmone Lwin (Myanmar)

Publishing my first book was like turning the first page of my life. Prior to that point, the pages of my life had been filled with nothing but publishing house logos, copyright warnings and commercials. The first page of the book was a taste of the book in the same way my first book is a taste of my life.
I was only 17 at that time. The book was a collection of short stories written by me and various experienced writers, most of whom were well known writers in Myanmar’s literary scene. The book was a success because of them, and people started to recognize my name because of my association with them.
But recognition is not the problem. The problem is transiting from a reader to a writer. Actually, I only have only two goals in life. They are: to drive a fire truck and to write. Now, I’ve achieved my goal of writing. Isn't that great? But as great as it is, it also comes with a huge responsibility.

It used to be that I would read a book, finish it if I liked it, or throw it away if I didn’t. As simple as that. But it’s not like that anymore. Now I have to think critically about why I like a book. I have to study every tiny detail, including how a writer takes a chapter to its climax or how he or she introduces a plot twist. The result is that I just can’t read for the sake of entertainment anymore. And also, I can’t throw away bad books as easily anymore. I have to figure out why a book is bad. What’s its weakness? I at least have to finish a book out of respect for a writer’s effort.

Another problem is how I view people around me. Since recognizing me as a writer, they’ve started to tell me their own stories. Everyone thinks they have a story. Everyone also thinks that I’ll become a star if I write their stories. At first, I would listen to them. But as time went on I began to understand that just because a story is special to someone it doesn’t mean it should be printed in a book. Everyone is like this. They are just annoying and a waste of time.
However, I will keep writing. It’s not like I know how to do anything else. I already let go of my dream of driving a fire truck. Instead, I will just make one of my characters drive a fire truck. Isn't a pen mightier than Harry Potter’s magic wand? Can’t I bad-mouth the government and anything else I don't like? Can’t I make one fight against ten, and have the one win? Can’t I fly? Of course. I can be rich, a sweet talker, a lady killer or anything else I want to be. I can make anything possible with the tip of my pen.
And so I will keep writing. I will keep publishing books. Every book I write is another page of my life. The more pages I flip along the way, the higher will be the peaks I will reach through my writing.





The Iowa City Book Festival ( and the International Writing Program ( October 2014