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Jingshu Yao


First Language(s): Mandarin
Second Language(s): English


Jingshu Yao is a creative writing student at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Coming to Canada from China for further education, her experience as an international student inspired her to explore bilingual and multicultural practice in her writing. She is now studying to become a linguist, and the relationship between language, society, and writing is her main area​ of interest.


What was your favorite book as a child?

The Harry Potter series might be my favourite. The concept of magic was what attracted my attention in the first place. Later on, the way in which the stories approach courage, friendship, and growing up is what kept me engaged and I continued to appreciate them as an adult. It’s one of the first few books that triggered me to think about the meaning of love and death, to understand what being powerful and strong stands for.

Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?

Stories and poems fascinated me as a child. They convert the authors’ ideas and beliefs in an indirect way and inspire readers to discover their own thoughts. They break through the boundaries of time and space and give me the opportunity to resonate with the individuals who wrote those words thousands of years ago. Writers are like stars, their own fire and heat may die out, but their light continues to travel and illuminate the path of those who follow their way.

What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?

Coming to Canada on my own in 2018 is probably the most adventurous thing I have ever done. Nowadays, there are lots of international students all around the world. Many started their journey at a very young age. Compared to them, I wasn’t mentally or physically prepared ahead of time. As a student with interests in traditional Chinese literature, I always thought I would remain in my home country and pursue further education in this discipline. I never went to an international school and only learned English for exam purposes. Thus, I initially considered coming to Canada at​ the end of my dream of becoming a writer. In time, I gradually realize that as long as my passion remains, I am able to write well in a second language. The diverse and inclusive environment also provided me with inspiration and motivation. This adventure is just a beginning and I shall write along the journey in a foreign land, in a foreign language.

Do you listen to music while reading or writing?

I sometimes listen to light music without lyrics. I prefer a working environment without disturbance, and the content of the lyrics may make it hard for me to focus. I would listen to a traditional Chinese instrumental solo if I am in the mood, like Guqin or Xun. Song of Chu is my favourite melodies. They remind me of ​ancient history and related literature. The sense of loneliness created by music helps me to stay calm and refreshed. Ancient Chinese poetry tied closely to music, but most melodies were lost in time and the beauty of rhyme declined with the language changes. However, if I am brainstorming or doing free writing, I might listen to rock or independent music. They deliver energy and creativity and thus become great sources of inspiration.


Short Story
The River
Issue Fall '19

Supported by:

Land Steiermark: Kultur, Europa, Außenbeziehungen
U.S. Embassy Vienna
Stadt Graz