GKE-facilitated International Learning and Empowered Student
Global Learning Project Linking a Professional Poet and
University of Beijing Professor
with Writing Students in the United States
YAN, PROFESSIONAL CHINESE POET AND UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR:
EXCERPTS FROM INTERVIEW PUBLISHED IN ELECTRIC SOUP
this unusual project utilizing concepts of the GKE
Learning System, American writing students
are linked with Ke Yan, one of China's foremost, female,
Asian writers. Ke Yan, also a University of Beijing
professor, interacts so powerfully and intensely with
the students of Electric Soup that she releases the
copyright on pieces of her professional work to the
students to permit them to translate and to publish
on-line in their literary magazine.
Concepts of the GKE Learning System are employed
to create a distance learning version of the traditional
writing workshop. As concepts of curricular writing
and literature are covered, additional skills of
cultural insight, electronic publishing, interviewing,
management, leadership, and innovation are developed.
On-line, you may read the entire interview as well
as listen to excerpts in Chinese and English.
Electric Soup is a an award-winning, student-written,
on-line literary magazine developed as a pilot project
by Florence McGinn, Vice President of Research for
GKE, with support from AT&T, AT&T Learning
Network, GKE, ComWeb Technology Group, the Hunterdon
Foundation, and Lucent. Electric Soup has
won a NJ Best Educational Practices award and a
NJ Association of School Curriculum Award. It was
identified by Learning in Motion as one of the Ten
Best Educational Sites on the Internet.
With facilitation from GKE President, James Chang,
on April 27, 1999, HCRHS student editors had the
opportunity to interview the renowned Chinese poet,
author, and playwright, Ke Yan.
Yan is a member of the Chinese Writer's Association
and widely recognized for her children's literature
and textbook writing. Ke Yan has also written and
published lyrics, plays, novels, and even a script
for a television series. As a prominent writer, she
has had the opportunity to hold such esteemed positions
such as vice- chief editor of Poetry
editor of People's Literature, vice president
of the Children's Educational Society of Beijing,
and national committee member of the Chinese Federation
of the Art and Literature Circles.
The interview was conducted by Directing Editor
Meghan Lembo. However, a HCRHS student translator,
Pauline Chiang, from the high school's Chinese
Language class interpreted the entire interview.
It is understood that you are in the
United States writing and conducting interviews
for your own work. Can you please explain
the project you are currently working on?
I am working on a long novel titled, Cancer
Club. I had cancer in 1981 and met a lot of
other patients who wanted me to tell their story
of cancer. So, I am writing a report giving
the message, "cancer doesn't mean death."
I published this in Beijing, but the people
didn't like it there. By coming to America,
I learned even more stories of cancer to add
to my novel. I know that in America there are
one hundred thousand cases of cancer, and the
number is still growing, so there are a lot
of people affected by it. Because of this, I
decided to make the plot and setting of my novel
in China and America. In my novel, I have life,
death, and relationships that have dealt with
cancer, in order to promote friendship between
China and America. My main reason for coming
to America is to obtain more research to finish
You have had a wide collection of works published,
ranging from textbooks to lyrics. What do
you find the most enjoyable to write?
like to write everything. Basically, everything
I write is the same; however, I let the content
decide which form it takes. There is so much
ancient history to choose from in China, and
many genres to choose from. Life is so varied
and different; it makes me want to laugh,
cry, etc. That is why I use all these different
media to express my feelings. Regarding textbooks,
the committee of art education (in China)
picks whatever goes into their textbooks,
and I am very honored to have them choose
my writing to include. The entire country
of China has the same textbooks, which is
very different from America. Middle schools
and elementary schools in China have the same
texts; they are chosen by the Committee of
Art Education, but colleges have more freedom
to choose their texts.
When did you decide writing was going to be
was very little; my father was a writer and
translator, and this influenced me. In high
school, I had very good teachers, who also
helped influence me. By the time I was 19,
I formally decided to pursue writing, even
though it caused me pain. This pain was the
fear of not knowing if critics would accept
it. Also, sometimes I write about things people
don't want to hear. To be an honest writer,
you must write about the truth; this is not
always what everyone wants to hear.
Have you found any differences between the
poetry written in China and the poetry written
in the US?
are a lot of similarities and differences.
The life of the people in each country is
different, so the poetry is different because
it reflects different lifestyles. Poetry plays
a big part in China's education, a lot more
than in America.
When writing poetry, what types of messages
do you try to get across to your readers?
would like to convey my passions to people.
People who read my work, can love life more.
I write about children and peace and love.
I would like people to realize that we are
Who has been an influential role model in
middle school, one of my teachers said that
society is evil, but you don't have to be
afraid; as long as you are upright, you can
overcome these things. Another teacher told
me to love people and life. I was taught to
love life and to warm people with love.
do you feel being looked upon as a role
feel like I am common, but when my books
are translated into other media, I can affect
more people's lives. (Editor's note: Ke
Yan has had a video made reflecting her
writings. This video is about violence,
and the setting takes place in a rehab center
for people, who have committed violent crimes.)
words of wisdom could you impart to our
readers who are interested in writing?
never think that old people used to be
young. When I was young, I had energy
and wanted to change the world. I would
write all my thoughts down in my notebook
about how I wanted to change the world.
One of my teachers wrote in the back of
my notebook, "In order to write well,
you have to learn to be a good person
first." This is good advice. My advice
to anyone is, "Read a thousand books
and go a thousand miles."
With the further facilitation of GKE,
Chinese poet and professor, Ke Yan, granted
permission for her professional poetry
to be published in Electric Soup.
Electric Soup student editors were
facilitated through the assistance of
initial translations done by Ke Yan's
grandson in California.