There was a section for open mic where students could read their works, workshops in fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and drama, and eventually awards for these categories, results of a competition. I had the opportunities of listening to the reading of a few poems and attending the workshops on short fiction (given by Penny Dawn, who served as judge for the category) and creative non-fiction (given by Rocco Versaci, who also served as judge for the category). I was impressed by the quality of the students’ writing, the craft of writing covered at the workshops, and the passion for writing that the students demonstrated.
I was honored to be part of the Writers Festival and delighted to share what compelled me to start my writing career and the few lessons I had learned during the process.
“I’m an accidental writer and an accidental journalist,” I said to the audience, revealing that writing was the last thing in my mind as I was growing up in China in the ’60s and ’70s.
I told them how and why I wrote Mulberry Child, which launched my writing career, and how I began writing regularly for Xinhua News—I learned on the job and are still learning with each new assignment. Writing has helped me grow and mature, and the process and transformation I’ve experienced, in turn, have fueled my passion for it.
I shared four lessons that I’ve learned and still kept reminding myself when it came to writing.
1. give yourself permission to write
2. be disciplined and persistent
3. learn to listen and observe, and
4. enjoy the process and grow with your writing
I was touched by the response to my speech from the students and a few parents who were present. Writing is a labor of love. It’s rewarding, but also very challenging. I was glad to see so many students were embarking on their journey of writing and learning, which also inspired me to move forward with my own writing endeavors.
Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.