Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Was a Teacher . . .

This week's guest post is by Chris Cheng, whose self-written bio at the end of the post is altogether too modest.
I was a teacher; well, I should say I was employed as a teacher because as the saying goes—once a teacher always a teacher. I taught primary and infants (elementary) school students in the inner city and in far western New South Wales in Australia and also at Taronga Zoo in Sydney—every teacher wanted that job! My last teaching post was as a kindergarten teacher and that was an absolute thrill, watching right before your eyes the babies become little humans. Loved it. That was the daytime job. During these nights I started writing—lots of non-fiction books and articles (mostly about animals … a result of my zoo time). Back then the writing wasn’t a job. It was something to do for fun, a hobby. In fact I was amazed as each book came out that my hobby was earning me a titbit of money!
Then when I became frustrated with the teaching system (too many rules and regulations and the fun had gone out of real teaching) I left and worked as a book specialist and then at Purdue University creating interactive science-based CDROMS—again lots of fun. Once again my night times were taken up with writing—but writing wasn’t the job—it was a hobby!
Eventually, though, I decided that the writing thing was heaps of fun and my wife was also very supportive of me writing full time so my hobby became a job.
But what a job! Now I have the BEST job in the world and I “work” harder now than I have ever worked in my life.
And it IS the job and I treat it like a job:
  • I have an office filled with books and business materials.
  • I have a creative space (the dining room table) where I write and craft my work, that I am supposed to clear every night. I also use pencil and paper for my shorter works and when plotting and planning.
  • I have a planning wall (can’t fit a white board in so I use the old wardrobe door) .
  • I check in on my email etc. (the business stuff) three times a day only … otherwise I will be on it all day, and don’t usually answer the telephone while I am working.
  • I walk around my house every hour for a few minutes to get off this machine and exercise.
  • I have office hours and stick to them. I start work when I kick my wife off to school in the morning and do business till about 9 a.m. (being on the other side of the world I am answering overnight communications first) and then I start the creative side of work till early afternoon—that can be researching in the libraries, writing or editing a manuscript, or simply brainstorming. This of course is all interspersed with morning and afternoon teas and lunch (one has to drink and eat!). Later in the afternoon I will review some of my work and do more of the “business” stuff, like:
writing this interview for Tracy (it’s part of the business of being a writer);
working on SCBWI-related material,
catching up on my own blog posts about me the author or my blog promoting aussie kids books
With José Ramos-Horta, prime minister of Timor-Leste, at the Singapore Children's Literature Festival

organising international speaking engagements—I travel to about four international conferences a year.
  • But once my wife is home—the office is closed for business that day.
I have to be very particular about this routine otherwise this job could overtake everything I do.

I love this job. It is the BEST job in the world, and I have more fun now than I have ever had before—and this is from one who used to live 24/7 with non-human animals that included bats, kangaroos, wombats, possums and snakes, or hung (nearly literally) around with orangutans and monkeys, swam with seals, and walked with elephants and oh sooooo much more.

Christopher Cheng has been a teacher, zoo educator, a national bookseller, an education advisor at Purdue University, but is now a full-time children’s author of more than 30 fiction, non-fiction, and picture book titles. He was an ambassador for the Australian Government’s Literacy Week initiative and is Ambassador for 2012 The National Year of Reading. He is Co-Regional Advisor for the Australian and New Zealand chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, chair of the Crystal Kite awards, and a board member. His latest book (September 2011) is the picture book Sounds Spooky (Random House Australia). Christopher is represented by The McVeigh Agency. Visit his website and his blog!

1 comment:

  1. So glad I read I (sort of) understand why Chris knows much about science, technology, nonfiction, and lots of other darn stuff. He always has something useful to contribute to the RA/ARA listserv for SCBWI. The folks down under are lucky to have him!