Catching Up with 2020 Crazyhorse Fiction Prize Finalist Mi Jin Kim

November 2, 2020 | blog, interviews, news

Mi Jin Kim is a Los Angeles native who currently lives and writes in Seoul, South Korea. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, where she was a recipient of the Henfield Prize and the Frederick
Busch Prize. “The Prince” is her first published story.

CH: How did you first hear about Crazyhorse?

MJK: I wish I had a fun story about that! I was familiar with the magazine long before I ever thought about sharing my work with other people. The contest information was forwarded by a friend from grad school.

CH: Tell us about yourself! Who you are, where you studied, what you do, etc.

MJK: I grew up in a neighborhood in Los Angeles called Eagle Rock. My favorite memories are of going to the Eagle Theatre on Thursdays for their $1 double features and hanging out at the local Fosters Freeze. I’m not sure if I loved my childhood because of how great Eagle Rock is or because it was the 90s in Southern California and everything was a nice dream.

Last summer, at the end of my post-graduate fellowship at the University of Michigan, I moved to Korea to try and make a life here. I hadn’t been in the country since I was five but returning made sense to me. I do still think about L.A. a lot. I’ve been setting my newer stories in Korea but soon I’ll be returning to America–in my fiction.

 CH: In your story, “The Prince”, the protagonist rarely ever speaks and as readers we only get brief glimpses of his interior life and his past. I found it created a very interesting layer of tension for the story. Why did you choose this frame of narrative and did you find it challenging?

MJK: Getting him moving from scene to scene was a bit of a challenge. In public spaces Frank is more a wild horse than he is a man, so of course I felt it was my job to keep spooking him. But there had to be a balance to that too. I’m interested in his silence, his solitude. With those brief glimpses I wanted you to see him clearly. None of the other characters can. Frank is a pathologically inward man, but that’s not what makes him singular. He was his best and truest self in the past; there is no present for him.

CH: I noticed you hold an MFA degree from the University of Michigan. What are your feelings on MFA degrees? Was it a helpful experience in your development as a writer? Do you believe it is becoming a necessity for someone who wants to become a writer? 

MJK: It was absolutely helpful. If I hadn’t studied at Michigan I think I would have dallied another ten, fifteen years without a clear sense of what I could do, what I could allow myself to do. I don’t think the MFA experience is necessary for most writers but what it stands for probably is. It’s a kind of pledge to yourself.

CH: What project (if any) are you working on at the moment?

MJK: A novel.

Submissions for the 2021 Crazyhorse Fiction Prize open on January 1st 2021.

Submit your work here:

Writers may submit stories up to 25 pages. Winners receive $2,000 and publication. All entries will be considered for publication, and more than one essay may be entered. Before you submit, please remove your name and any other identifying information from your manuscript. Simultaneous submissions are okay, as long as you contact us should the work be accepted elsewhere. The $20 entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Crazyhorse.