Note: Ralph Lam ’22 responded to Questions 5 and 7 in an email to The Phillipian.
Ralph Lam ’22 is a four-year Senior from Hong Kong. As an avid writer, he recently published a book titled “grandma said; A delectable collection of prose and poetry straight out of the steamer basket.” Lam is Founder and Editor in Chief of the literary magazine “The Qualia Review” and Genre Managing Editor of “Polyphony Lit.” His writing received a Regional Silver Key in the 2020 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and has appeared in journals such as “The Heritage Review” and “The Hunger.” Outside of writing, Lam is Co-Captain of Andover Boys Swimming & Diving and enjoys listening to a wide variety of music genres.
Editor’s Note: Ralph Lam ’22 is a Video Editor for The Phillipian.
The book itself is a writing collection that serves as an archive for my reactions to my upbringing. If someone were to ask me the question, “tell me a little bit about yourself,” I would probably just hand them a copy of this book. It has everything from short memoirs to experimental prose. It’s kind of a little bit all over the place, honestly, but I think that that’s just like me sometimes. The inspiration, needless to say, is my grandmother, who loved to read me bedtime stories. The way that she confected stories so effortlessly was pretty magical, and in my writing, I always strive to have that same awe-inducing effect or at least that sense of warmth.
There are a lot of talented writers around the world—young writers—but some don’t necessarily have the resources or access to platforms to actually have their stories to be shared or featured. “The Qualia Review” seeks to act as that accessible and educational platform. Literature, to me, is about celebrating diverse narratives, and the magazine’s objective is to live that sentiment to the fullest. So it’s all about sharing different people’s perspectives and stories.
I think, honestly, it’s by being present in the world. I know that sounds very vague and handwavy, but there’s no one place I can say my inspiration comes from. Just observe the world around you, and whatever catches your eye, whatever thing you notice when you’re walking around, or going to classes, notice what catches your eye, and then begin to wonder why you noticed that specific thing. One time I was inspired by a bunch of apples falling out of a box. And that led to a story about a fruit market vendor. So, trying to actively hunt for inspiration doesn’t necessarily work very well, but just sort of living in the world around you and noticing it.
I’m a Senior in high school, and I’m still definitely figuring out this whole writing thing, which is an endeavor that will probably never end. The best advice that I could give to someone is to appreciate your own writing first before worrying about others liking it. Creative writing is a deeply personal activity even if you aren’t telling your own story, even if you aren’t narrating from the “I” perspective. If you stress about others’ opinions on your work, your writing becomes a reflection of them, and not you. It loses that personal touch.
What a difficult question… I mean, I could rattle off books and authors that have had influence over the way I write but, I have to say “The Leavers” by Lisa Ko. Most of my friends have heard me sing this book’s praises. Even though I was born and raised in Hong Kong, I had scarce encounters with literature that confronted Chinese culture so openly like Ko does in her novel. The piece served as both a spark and a wake-up call for me.
The generic answer I give to nosy relatives is something in the field of law. In all honesty, however, I don’t know. Sure, being a lawyer seems both fun and challenging, but I am open to change; I’m taking some eggs out of the law basket.
We have a bunch of traditions, but I think the one I appreciate the most is, when a practice or a meet is over, we all gather around and chant, “Blue on two, one two blue!” It’s a very simple tradition, but it lets us all know that regardless of the storms we have endured, we’re still a team and a group of close friends. That’s what binds us together.
My favorite TV show is an animated series called “BoJack Horseman.” My favorite movie, I mean, I really love “Baby Driver” directed by Edgar Wright. Anything Edgar Wright does is a stroke of creative genius, in my opinion, so I think that I would have to say “Baby Driver.”
This might seem a little strange but Graves Field, specifically the part that is closest to Draper Cottage. It’s my favorite spot because at night, well, I’m thinking about many good memories that have been made there with some of my closest friends.
All my friends have asked me that question time and time again; they all know that I can’t give you a solid answer. I think they would agree that my music taste is kind of like a Jackson Pollock painting—it’s all over the place, but it somehow still has a small semblance of sense and coherence. It spans so many genres that you don’t really see where the lines match up, but it still somehow makes sense. So, I can’t tell you specifically what genre of music I like to listen to.