Emerging Author of the Month: Jane Bao


Tell us about yourself.

I lived in China and the U.S. before moving to Canada. I was a freelance journalist for a few years, and recently got a 9-5 job. Even so, I have a constant sense of impermanence, of life in transition.

Tell us about the piece you’ve decided to share.

I wrote this feature on commuter students for The Varsity, my campus newspaper at the University of Toronto. Most at U of T are commuters, and this daily grind often carries over to work life as well. It was so different from how I imagined university growing up. I wondered how this experience was shaping our generation.

When and why did you realize you had a passion for writing?

University is when I really started writing. It was a time when I couldn’t study everything anymore; I had to choose. I originally chose engineering, then decided to quit and major in English and French literature.

What pieces of writing/authors have had the greatest impact on you?

I have many answers to this question, depending on when you catch me.

I often recall the books I read in early childhood. Chinese stories by authors unknown (to me) have stuck. I respect that they don’t hold back on loss, death, or the cruelty of circumstance, or maybe I just remember the most tragic ones.

One of the first English stories I read was “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” I was nine. I can’t remember whether I took to it so keenly because it reflected my reality or whether it subsequently shaped the way I live.

The writings of Zhuangzi, so fluid and so dense, are a later discovery.

What kind of writer do you aspire to be?

When I find writing that is apt, open, seeking, I am transformed. That is the kind of writing I aspire to do.

How and when do you find time to write?

Weekend mornings are the best time to sit down and work. I do write in my head all the time, during commutes or when I’m waiting in line. It’s a good way to feel things out without the pressure of a blank screen.