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CSL-Biyi Huang- Jason Lee Norman

How Can International Students Improve Their Writing Skills?

        Jason Lee Norman is a writer who live in Edmonton. He wrote a book called Beautiful Girls & Famous Men, which includes about 20 stories that he really wants to share with people. Also, he initiated #yegwords coffee sleeves which aims to have stories on all coffee sleeves in Edmonton. Not only that, he participated in the production of 40 Below: Edmonton’s Winter Anthology. It covers 70 pieces of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction about the winter in Edmonton. I am curious about the writing reasons about the 40 Below and how can ESL students become better in writing English.


Q1: What is your usual inspiration of writing? What do think of the 40 Below?

I’m usually inspired by events from history as well as events from my own surroundings. I like to take true facts and mix them with fiction so that readers cannot tell what is real and what isn’t. 40 Below was a project that aimed to bring writers together under a specific theme. I thought that writing about winter in Edmonton would be a great and unexpected place to find great writing. And I was right!


Q2: How do you organize your articles and enrich your articles?

I think I do what most writers do. I try to get all my ideas down on the page and then slowly start to edit and form the writing so that it is as clear and effective as possible. Whenever I’m stuck on something I always like to watch a great movie or television show or see some great live music. Seeing great art always inspires me to go out and make art myself. Seeing a great movie always inspires me and fills my head with ideas. As for the trade-off of opinions, I believe it is the writer’s job to take difficult subject matter and present it to the reader in a way that is pleasing to read but is also hard to process sometimes. There are great ways to disguise ideas in your writing and be subversive in a way that isn’t too manipulative. At the end of the story you still want the reader to take out of it whatever they want to take out of it. 


Q3: Do you have any writing suggestions for international students or English as second language people?

I do not envy the position of students or anybody that is trying to learn a new language in a new country. I have lived in a foreign country for a short time and I felt myself in the same position many ESL people in Edmonton are feeling. It is a very vulnerable position to be in to try and practice a new language with people. You never want to look stupid but practicing is the best way to get better. Find people who are supportive to practice your conversation skills with. I also think that watching TV or movies or other media in English (with English subtitles on) can also help you. Many of your fellow students would be more than happy to help you practice English over a coffee or something.


Through conversations with Jason, for students who are learning a new language, the easiest way to learn how to write better is communicating with local students. Don’t be shy, be brave enough to face your weaknesses to make yourself improved.


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