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Author shares Small Beauty with Simcoe writers

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

Author  jia qing wilson-yang reads from her novel, Small Beauty, at the Leacock Museum in Orillia during the March meeting of the Writers' Community of Simcoe County.

Author jia qing wilson-yang reads from her novel, Small Beauty, at the Leacock Museum in Orillia during the March meeting of the Writers' Community of Simcoe County.

In 2016, jia qing wilson-yang released her first novel, Small Beauty. On Sunday, she shared some of that beauty with writers in Orillia.

The Writers' Community of Simcoe County welcomed wilson-yang to speak at the group's monthly meeting, held at the Leacock Museum. She spent nearly two hours with the group, reading excerpts from the novel and taking questions from the audience about the writing process.

Small Beauty centres around a mixed-race trans woman named Mei. It begins in a larger city, but soon transitions to a rural setting where Mei is mourning the loss of a beloved family member.

It's not a memoir, wilson-yang said, despite being a mixed-race trans woman who grew up just outside Hamilton and spent a lot of time on the Bruce Peninsula.

“There's not a great deal that's autobiographical in the book, beyond the settings,” she said, agreeing the book was an exercising more in writing about what she know than what she had experienced.

Stories about trans people usually take place in urban settings, so wilson-yang was cognizant of the importance of sharing a story of a trans person in a smaller location. But it's not just the small town trans stories that are lacking.

“There's not enough stories about trans people, period,” wilson-yang said.

Part of what Small Beauty set out to accomplish was to increase the catalogue of literature telling the stories of trans people, fictional or otherwise.

“It's important to know that trans people are everywhere; they are in rural settings. Just because you're trans doesn't mean you have to be in the city,” she said. “I was mostly thinking about writing a good story that was reflective of my life and the lives of other people that I knew. As it was wrapping up, it's nice that is important in another way.”

Following wilson-yang's talk, she hosted a workshop for many of the group's members. The focus would be for the writers to create their prose while situating themselves in the memories of their elders.

It wasn't the first writers' workshop wilson-yang had hosted, but it was the first time she would be working with adults as opposed to children. She seemed apprehensive but excited before the workshop began.

“It will be really interesting to do a workshop for adults,” she said. “I'm hoping the adults will be excited to be here to write.”

In the youth workshops wilson-yang has run, she's found usually at least one or two of the kids are keen to write, and many of the others are just there for something to do and counting down the minutes until snack time.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, said the author who never attended a writing workshop herself as a child.

“I would have been there for the snacks.”

Small Beauty was a Lambda Literary Awards finalist for Best Transgender Fiction and Recipient of an Honour of Distinction from the 2016 Writers’ Trust of Canada Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers.

It is available to order online at


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