The Power of Writing: Interview with Author Lisa Zhang

Lisa Zhang is the author of Instructions for my 5th Grade Self. Lisa is from Hangzhou, China, and now lives in Irvine, California. 

When Lisa immigrated to the United States in sixth grade, she turned to the fantasy world of books for comfort and companionship. Reading so many different authors’ engrossing and inspiring stories encouraged her to begin her own exploration with writing. She started keeping a journal in eighth grade, writing about whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted to write it. When she entered high school, she started taking writing more seriously. She took online writing classes and began crafting fictional short stories based on aspects of her childhood development.  

 Tell us more about your book. Why did you write it?  

When I returned to Hangzhou, China to visit my elementary school teacher at the end of eighth grade, I was stunned. She was so different from what I remembered. I’ve always thought of her as an austere tigress whose reign of terror in the classroom knew no bounds. But when we sat down to have lunch together, it was as if we were catching up like old friends. She was wearing a BTS sweatshirt, smiling unreservedly, and just behaving so unlike her old self that I was totally bewildered. When I came back to the US, I decided to write about my experience to make sense of what happened.  

Writing has always been a way for me to make sense of the world around me. After a brutal argument with my dad in ninth grade, I sought to understand his perspective by crafting a story that explored the intergenerational differences from an immigrant parent’s point of view. When anti-Asian hate crimes spiked during COVID-19, I conducted a psychological investigation into the motives of the perpetrators to root out the fundamental problem.  

What advice would you give to a writer working on their first story? 

I would say to go into it with a concrete plan. Whether it be a few bullet points, or a full-on detailed outline, have in mind at least a general idea of what you want to say and how you are going to say it. “Winging it” would probably end in disaster for first-time writers. Only a story with the right combination of a variety of critical elements has the potential to be good, so don’t start writing until you feel that you are ready.   

What are the easiest/most difficult parts of the writing process for you? 

The most difficult part of the writing process is revision. I like to be wordy and unnecessarily descriptive, and it can become obvious and tedious to readers after a while. But I hate cutting out entire sentences and paragraphs because they symbolize my investments and efforts, and, by cutting them out, I feel like I am disregarding my hard work. So, I always ask trusted mentors for advice and let them do some cutting and editing first. That helps make me feel better about revising my drafts.  

What prompted you to write for Storyshares? 

I wanted to write for Storyshares for two main reasons. First, my works are catered towards a younger audience. I like writing about coming-of-age stories based on my past experiences that would resonate best with the children and teenagers of this generation. Storyshares can provide the ideal readers for my works. Second, I believe in Storyshares’ mission to spread a love of reading across the globe and support literacy in underprivileged areas. I hope to be a part of this movement by sharing my stories with the world through this nonprofit organization.   

What is your preferred writing environment? 

I like to be as comfortable as possible when I write. This means dressing in XL t-shirts and sweatpants, sprawled across the beige-colored couch in the living room.  

Lisa's instagram handle is @liisa.zhang and her LinkedIn profile is She is the founder of Paws In Hands, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to promote animal welfare through helping struggling shelters in her community, She also runs an Etsy shop @Pawpolista ( that sells pet supplies ranging from braided dog toys to leashes and snuffle mats. 

Read Instructions for my 5th Grade Self today!