Lessons in Creative Writing (and Life) with Hao Jingfang
Posted 04/28/2017 01:21PM

Hao Jingfang

Creativity and critical thinking aren't just skills at the core of the International School of Beijing's (ISB) L21 curriculum; they are at the heart of sci-fi author Hao Jingfang's storytelling formula.

Dr. Hao, who last year won a Hugo Award for her futuristic novella Folding Beijing, shared her reading and writing experiences with middle and high school students on April 26, 2017.

In addition to her literary fame, Dr. Hao holds a PhD in economics from Tsinghua University and works as a macro economy researcher for the government. As ISB's first guest speaker for the Chinese Panda Book Awards, her workshops explored the keys to creative writing including considering the "what" and "how" of a story and developing dilemmas and solutions.

"I loved talking to ISB students and was very impressed by their opinions," said Dr. Hao, whose passion for writing began when she was 12.

"When I was in middle school, one of my teachers encouraged me to pursue creative writing out of class. Every week, I turned in articles ranging from short passages to mini novels."

From an enthusiastic middle school writer to an internationally acclaimed author, Dr. Hao said her creative journey has been nurtured by teamwork.

"As students, we would share our writing with each other. I think collaboration is an excellent way to develop your interests and passions. When you read each other's work, it provides inspiration," she said.

Hao Jingfang

In her acceptance speech at last year's Hugo Awards, Dr. Hao noted that sci-fi writers "love to expect all possibilities" in their work. Parents should encourage their children to read and write, she added, because it promotes a similar spirit of inquiry

"When you write, you have think about your opinions and the feelings you want to express. This habit of reflection helps cultivate a better personality, even if writing isn't a career pursuit," she said.

"Writing also encourages wider learning. To write a good story, you need to have background and descriptive characters. Each time I write a new story, I read about architecture, archaeology, biology, and many other fields. Writing is a great motivator for broader learning."

Dr. Hao hopes to teach creative writing workshops at ISB in 2017-18 for elementary school students. Although preparations are still being made for the 16-week course, collaboration is expected to be a big component.

"I hope that at the end of the semester students will be able to showcase their teamwork, perhaps by acting out their stories. Mostly, I want them to have fun," she said.

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