Professional Profiles

The Writer’s Studio turns dream into celebrated novel


Janie Chang, a 2011 graduate of The Writer's Studio, published Three Souls in 2013.
August 05, 2014
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By Amy Robertson

"The Writer’s Studio changed my life."

It's a common refrain for Janie Chang, who completed a novel manuscript during her studies at The Writer’s Studio, part of SFU Continuing Studies.

Chang decided to study creative writing at SFU when, after years of putting off her dream of writing a novel, a family health issue made her realize that life is short.

She wanted to honour her grandmother, who grew up in China in the 1920s and entered an arranged marriage instead of pursuing the career she wanted. "It's a story that’s haunted me all my life, and I really felt my grandmother and other women like her deserved some recognition."

Chang's novel begins with a ghost sitting in the rafters of a temple, looking down at her own funeral. Her three souls sit beside her.

Workshops with other Studio writers helped Chang revise the souls from red sparks to distinct personalities. Courses taught her how to fold writing into her daily life. One-on-one conversations with her mentor, Shaena Lambert, taught her about structuring a compelling story. Slowly, her book took shape, and the Writer's Studio community helped guide Chang as she sought to publish it. Her classmates came to her readings as she shared the beginnings of her story with the world. At a writing conference, they stood with her as an established author who liked her writing approached an agent on her behalf.

When the agent asked for her manuscript, Chang says, "I was thrilled, but I felt sick! My classmates said 'It's because you know your life is about to change.'"

It did. Within a year of meeting her agent, Chang had contracts with HarperCollins Canada, William Morrow (U.S.), and Fabbri (Italy). Three Souls has been on bookshelves since the fall of 2013, and it was shortlisted for a prestigious B.C. Book Prize in 2014. Chang’s Canadian and U.S. publishers have already bought her second novel-in-progress.

Chang says she "absolutely" would not be where she is without The Writer’s Studio. "It changes you from someone who is hopeful to someone who has delivered," she says. "It's the most worthwhile thing I've ever done for myself."