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Lang Leav: ‘There’s this misconception that love is this fluffy, silly thing and it’s relegated to women — it’s a way to put women down.’

“Who you love and who loves you back determines so much in your life.”

Bestselling author and poet Lang Leav believes it’s time we stop looking down on love; and in this extended season of turmoil and prejudice, we’re thinking she’s right. Her latest book, Love Looks Pretty on You, celebrates finding happiness — it relishes in it and communicates how acknowledging happiness, recognizing contentment and being open to possibilities can be the most fundamental form of self-care and growth. In an interview with GIST, Lang gets personal and talks about the new collection of poetry and prose, her relationships, and her thoughts on modern love.

GIST: This book is your most personal collection yet. How did it unfold?

LANG LEAV: Love Looks Pretty on Youhas a lot of things about female empowerment, about love. I think there’s a real uplifting quality to this collection. It’s also about thinking about my life from a very reflective point of view and where I am now, which is always the age that I imagine my mom is and her role as a mother. It culminated into this collection, which I am extremely happy about and proud of. 

Where were you, headspace-wise, while you were writing it?

It’s like coming from a place of contentment and happiness. The last 10 years of my life had been really crazy in one respect, but I also had a lot of grounding, a lot of peace. I started my relationship with Michael about 10 years ago, and I didn’t really know what to expect from someone that I had met who lived on the other side of the ocean. We really didn’t know what we were getting into. His child was 6 at that time, he’s 15 now. But everything just worked out beautifully. We have a wonderful and supportive relationship. His son is fantastic. I think it’s all just come together, and a lot of the energy of that has gone into this book. We were in a long distance relationship for about a year, and then I decided to hop over and move in. 

‘Nothing is wasted — every experience, every conversation you overhear, everything you read, there is treasure in them. Being a writer is like being on a treasure hunt.’

Long-distance relationships are so common now. A lot of readers would be able to relate to that.

Absolutely, I think what the Internet’s done is it has stripped us of borders so it’s not really about geography anymore; it’s just about the person that you connect with. 

What did you mean when you wrote, “I thought I was writing for the lovers, when I’ve been writing for the writers”?

When I first started this, I was writing love poetry but I also wrote prose about writing and I found that was a huge thing. A lot of my fans are aspiring writers. I’m so passionate about literacy especially for women. It’s really a gateway to being a powerful woman, standing on your own two feet and being self-reliant. 

Education and literacy are paramount and they certainly have been that way for me. I was lucky that, coming from a background as a refugee, I was able to immigrate to Australia and I did have an education. That has really been a gateway to being able to fulfill my dreams of being a writer and I feel I’m in a position where I can help other aspiring authors and I try to do that. Because I think now, especially in the time of social media, it’s quite a perilous path to walk. Sometimes there are people that want to bring you down and it’s just good to remember that 99.9% of them have no idea what they’re talking about. They’re not very well read themselves or very intelligent, so I think it’s always important to listen to your inner voice and let that guide you. Listen to a teacher or someone who doesn’t have an agenda. 

I wrote something in university class, “Your words are your power,” and I think that is so true. They not just for building books but building our entire lives. I’ve got a new novel coming out, it’s about a writer. It’s not based off me, but obviously I’m going to draw from some of my experiences. It should come out later this year. 

“What the Internet’s done is it has stripped us of borders so it’s not really about geography anymore; it’s just about the person that you connect with.”

What are your thoughts on meeting people on dating apps?

I think I skipped that. (Laughs) All that stuff wasn’t around when we were in our 20s and a lot of my friends are married with kids. But like with anything, you have to remember that when you’re meeting someone online, you’re meeting a complete stranger and you can’t always believe what you see online. There’s so much disinformation and so many people just making stuff up. I think it’s just one of those things that you have to go into with your head on your shoulders and have the maturity to know that what you’re getting into is completely unknown. 

When I met Michael, it was quite scary in a way but there were a lot of safety things that I put in place and he did as well. It’s something that we went into with both our heads screwed on. We didn’t have any expectations. We just thought, let’s start as friends and see where it goes. When you think that there’s no chance of it failing, that’s the danger — you get caught up in this fairytale. Obviously there’s a dark side to it and there are horror stories and they should save as cautionary tales. In the past, you’d meet someone through friends or someone at school, there’s a sense of knowing that person before you meet them, but now you go into it blind and that’s always a dangerous thing. So I say to all girls, have fun but be very careful. 

Why are we so obsessed with love?

There’s this common misconception that love is this fluffy, unimportant, silly thing and it’s relegated to women. I think it’s a way to put women down. But I think love is absolutely important and that’s why poets and philosophers have been ruminating about it throughout time. It’s one of the cornerstones of our lives. I wrote once, “Who you love and who loves you back determines so much in your life.” And when I go back and look at my life and the life of my friends, the choice in partner has made such a huge impact on almost everything. So I feel that’s why we’re obsessed about it, because it’s so important and I think we should give it the reverence that it deserves. 

What would you tell fans who are interesting in writing poetry?

The thing about poetry is it’s pure emotion, so it’s about having the experiences and being able to be at once a writer and a person experiencing, which are two different things. The more you grown into your role as a writer, the more you get the hang of it and it becomes effortless. Nothing is wasted — every experience, every conversation you overhear, everything you read, there is treasure in them. Being a writer is like being on a treasure hunt. 

* * *

A special-edition Love Looks Pretty on You is available for P755 (paperback) at National Book Store and online on www.nationalbookstore.com. Follow @nationalbookstore on Instagram and @nbsalert on Facebook, Twitter, Viber and YouTube for information. 

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