Ling Ma

Ling Ma
  • Department of English
  • Program in Creative Writing

I’m primarily a fiction writer who’s interested in the narrative tropes and genres of popular culture. My debut novel Severance (FSG) consists of seemingly disparate parts: apocalyptic thriller, coming-of-age roman à clef, immigration narrative, and office novel. I’m interested in issues of labor and money, of the body, the evolution of cities, and the supernatural and surreal as it speaks to our secret fantasies and projections. My work draws inspiration from a variety of sources: the work of Kafka, the 90s/00s zine scene and blog traditions, contemporary art, and reality TV, to name a few.

Severance received the Kirkus Prize, the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. It was a finalist for the Pen / Hemingway Award, and named a New York Times Notable Book. My writings, both fiction and nonfiction, have appeared in Granta, Playboy, Vice, Chicago Reader, Ninth Letter, Buzzfeed, and more.

The best part about starting out as a writer is the freedom to make anything you want, to experiment and take risks, adhering to or breaking whichever rules you choose. In the end, however, we are only ourselves, and it is the work we produce, even in its roughest drafts, that ultimately informs us what we’re trying to do. I hope to help students mine their distinct, subterranean voices, channel their obsessions, and most importantly, learn to enjoy the process. I advise on both beginning projects and more advanced theses.


  • “Advanced Fiction Workshop: Alternate Storylines,” Spring 2019
  • “Technical Seminar: Structure,” Spring 2019
  • “Thesis Workshop,” Winter 2019
  • “Fundamentals of Creative Writing: Testimony,” Fall 2018
  • “Advanced Fiction Workshop: Surfacing the Unseen,” Spring 2018
  • “Beginning Workshop: The Anxiety of Getting Started,” Spring 2018
  • “Technical Seminar: The First-Person Voice,” Winter 2018

Selected Publications

  • Severance, FSG, 2018
  • “Shark Fin Dinner Party,” Playboy, Summer 2018
  • “Severance,” Vice, Spring 2018
  • “Los Angeles,” Granta online, Fall 2015
  • “Fuzhou Nighttime Feeling,” The Texas Observer, Fall 2014


MFA, Cornell University, 2016. AB, University of Chicago, 2005. Teaching at Chicago since 2017.