When I first thought about writing a book, I hadn’t conceived any idea about the personal journey I would embark on. There was so much I didn’t know about the is new skillset; the style of writing a book, the cover creation, correct formatting, and publishing the final work. In addition, the project would require deep reflection on my teaching experiences, as well as my colleagues’. The idea had developed from my blog. Creating and developing this blog was how I came to realise how much there was to say about being an international teacher.
It was midway through 2020 that I started my blog, which centered on what teachers needed to do to teach internationally, as well as my personal experiences of international teaching. I then considered the best way to share my writing, which I decided would be through my own website featuring this blog. As I was contacted through this website by prospective international teachers, it occurred to me that this information could also support a much wider audience. I, therefore, decided to set up a Facebook page and group, ‘New to international school teachers’. My aim for the group was to specifically support teachers contemplating a move, or those who were new to teaching overseas.
After my Facebook group had been in operation for several months, I wondered if I could write a guide to support these teachers, one that focused on an alternative career path overseas. With this in mind, I began to reflect upon what prospective international teachers needed to know to successfully relocate. The main considerations I believed important for teachers would be to secure a good overseas location and school, and once this was in place, how to thrive when living and teaching abroad. To generate ideas around these concepts, I began researching and posting questions in international teacher forums, as well as holding discussions with my colleagues. I felt this research, combined with my own experiences, could be of great value to others.
With this insightful information, I began to re-work my original blog. This blog became a basic outline of the book, from which I could draw out chapters and sub-sections. I worked through the text not only with my editor, but also with colleagues and ex-colleagues. Through sharing the blog with others, I received alternative perspectives, as well as critiques of views that I held. I considered such critiques carefully and adapted some of my writing accordingly, as they shed light on areas I had overlooked, or, had over-generalised.
After the short ‘breather’ over Christmas, I returned to writing in January. By April, I was nearing the end of the drafting and re-drafting, and came to what I considered could be the penultimate chapter. I explained to my editor that I was done, as I didn’t think I needed to detail the different types of international teachers and their experiences which we had originally discussed. Upon hearing this, my editor paused, then told me that she felt that was one of the most important parts of the book. So, somewhat reluctantly, returned to the text.
What I hadn’t expected was how much I would thoroughly enjoy creating the final chapters. I wondered how best to represent the varied experiences of international teachers. This section, I knew, would need to be approached differently to fully authenticate the thoughts and experiences of others. Thus, I co-constructed the chapters with those individuals it represented, by distributing open-ended questionnaires which provided detail-rich replies. The responses to the questionnaires revealed valuable insights and feedback from a diverse range of individuals: spouses, teachers with children, teaching couples, single teachers, and other expats involved in education.
When I had finished these last chapters, I thought my work was done. However, there were further milestones to reach. The next milestone was to make sure the text was presented to the same level of which it was written. I began by investigating how to create a great cover.
To design the cover, I enlisted a group of designers in training. Although an affordable option, their ideas did not match mine, even when they were provided detailed, written instructions. Therefore, I began to mock up images to guide the design. After a month of many revisions, the cover was completed to the best I felt this company could produce. With the cover complete, I naively thought that completing the design of the interior of the book would be straightforward.
Formatting the interior so that it looked professional was not straightforward. After researching several designers through the freelance group Fiverr, I decided upon a designer who used InDesign formatting software for my Word.doc manuscript. His work looked beautiful, with dropped caps and strong headers. However, I had to check his work carefully and advise, several times, on heading and sub-headings plus spacing and indents. With the interior looking good, there was a further challenge. Whilst my editor was used to looking over a final piece of work fully formatted for a final review, the designer had expected a fully reviewed piece of work.
At the same time as the interior was being designed, I reached how to obtain an ISBN in Taiwan. Through responses on Taipei-based Facebook forums, I discovered that the National Library in Taipei was the website to use to apply for ISBN. Immediately, I became worried about this task as I struggled to understand a website translated through Google. However, with a little support via the helpdesk, the National Library issued ISBNs for both my digital and print copies.
This process of finalising the book occupied my mind and time for more than four weeks, three of which were in my school holidays. I felt guilty for the time I wasn’t reconnecting with my young daughter but instead focusing on finalising my book. Nevertheless, after such a lengthy process, there came the moment that I hit publish. My daughter embraced me and told me she was proud. It was a relief but also a terrifying moment. What if it wasn’t good enough?
No matter how many colleagues had read and applauded my work, as always, there was still a nagging doubt it wouldn’t be well-received by the public. Several days after the publishing date, however, I received positive reviews from strangers, which included a director of an international teacher recruitment company. Receiving these positive reactions was a turning point for me, towards believing my work is valuable and good enough for publication.
To conclude, writing the book was an all-consuming but fascinating experience. Furthermore, the challenges of self-publishing were both frustrating and challenging at times. In the final stages of finishing up the project, the sheer magnitude of the task felt overwhelming. Tasks such as multiple read-throughs and proofreading of the manuscript, creating a cover that would fit the book, and finding a designer who could create something special with the interior, were time-consuming.
However, my expertise in these areas did develop, as did my understanding of the importance of working with others on what I had first considered a solo project. Through collaboration, the narrative was authenticated, expanded upon and developed, providing excellent insider knowledge. I also learned to slow down, to be patient, and wait for feedback, as some of the best insights from others took time.
I feel proud that I have accomplished this huge task, and my knowledge of self-publishing has grown significantly. My little blog has transformed into something which may inspire unhappy teachers at home, or those considering leaving the profession, to follow the advice contained in the guide and to have the confidence to change their lives by teaching abroad.