Literary daydreaming, and other such bookishness 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — Like a lot of other writers, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a book. So far, that’s as far as I’ve gotten with the notion, though, so don’t hold your breath waiting for the first Wheat-dogg bestseller. It’s still in the preconceptual stage.

Certainly, there is fodder for a book from my experiences as a foreigner teaching English in China. Many ex-pats end up writing books or ebooks about their lives abroad. Having read a few as market research, these books (and for that matter, blogs) fall into a few main categories:

  • My life abroad was wonderful, life-changing! You should give it a try.
  • My life abroad has made me an expert in all things abroad. Read my book!
  • My life abroad was a crappy experience, but I am going to write a funny book about it anyway.
  • My life abroad showed me that America is the bestest place evah in the whole world.
  • My life abroad showed me that America is traveling down the road to ruin, but my chosen living place is a virtual paradise. (By the way, I’ve got some land to sell you if you wanna come here.)

I want to write something different, of course. I need a catchy hook to get started, but as yet, the muse has not provided me any imaginative hook, despite a boxful of bait.

The bait, of course, includes three years of posts about living and teaching in China, as well as some unpublished items sitting on my hard drive for later development and use. Believe it or not, most of the posts exist only on WordPress database backups, since I usually compose directly on the admin panel of WordPress (as I am now). Until recently, I had no compilation of China-related posts for facilitate my bookish yearnings.

There must be a plugin for that, I thought, and lo and behold there is. The one I used is called BlogBooker, a free, online service. It takes your WordPress blog and turns the posts into a Adobe Reader PDF file. You can publish your entire blog, or just posts with the same tags. Two downsides of this particular plugin: editing PDFs is not so convenient — a MS Word or text file would be better, and the website apparently generates spam WP trackback comments from your archived posts and inserts them contextually in other blogs. This last side-effect bugs me a little, since spam comments are royal pain in the ass, but at least I have a readable archive of my efforts for the last five years.

One short-term project is to compile my China posts into a downloadable book format, for anyone interested in my experiences here to date. A longer term project is to search those posts for a suitable hook for a real book. I’ve started reading those earlier posts, and it’s amusing to see what seemed so fresh and new to me way back in 2008. After three years, I’m still far from being an expert, but at least I’m wiser in some ways.

I also discovered how really easy it is to self-publish nowadays. In the old days, “vanity publishing” cost an arm and a leg. Now, websites like Amazon and SmashWords offer cheap and relatively painless ways to get your pearls of prose (or poetry) turned into ebooks for distribution and/or sale online. While I was aware of this technological assist to would-be authors, I never looked into the details until just last month. Basically, if you’ve got something to write, you shouldn’t limit yourself to the traditional paper book publishing world.

At the moment, I teach 22 classes a week, so any dedicated literary efforts will need to wait until the new foreign teacher arrives sometime in November. But I’ve got the bug, so perhaps 2012 will witness my first ebook.

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3 thoughts on “Literary daydreaming, and other such bookishness

  1. Reply eljefe Nov 2,2011 4:59 pm

    Manual copy/pastes from Facebook Notes

    Janice

    and don’t forget you have a card that works in the cafeteria – a little thought… A friend of my dgtr wrote a book, “you don’t need to know that!” by Leslie Crucil. Leslie writes of about her autistic dgtr and the struggles of raising Sammy before autism was a diagnosis. Easy read and enlightening. Another interesting book is about a study of children’s literature in Central America by Ann Gonzolas, UNC Charlotte, showing how children of the conquered learn to deal with their situation and their conquerers.

    Sunday at 8:50pm

    Kerry

    Cool, John! Some of those DIY tools even handle photos and creative layouts beautifully. You could have a lot of fun with this, and you have an eager readership in place.

    Sunday at 10:21pm

    Darcy

    It would be awesome Daddio!!!

    Monday at 5:28am

    James

    Sounds cool. I’d be interested in reading any book you write

    Monday at 9:29am

  2. Reply eljefe Nov 2,2011 5:02 pm

    Well, I hope my own kids at least would read my book. haha!

  3. Reply PK Jan 24,2014 8:49 am

    Two years later: WHERE’S THE BOOK??
    🙂

    For my own blog, I am way too cautious (read: fearful) by nature to compose in the WordPress admin window. I compose all my posts offline, storing them in Google Docs until I’m ready to publish them. Then it’s just a matter of formatting and cleanup of links etc.

    Two travel books I’d recommend as examples. OK, one category and one specific book. Bill Bryson’s books on both America and Europe are excruciatingly funny and also very wise/trenchant. Secondly, check out Vikram Seth’s book. From Heaven Lake http://www.amazon.com/From-Heaven-Lake-Travels-Sinkiang/dp/039475218X. Obviously, your case is quite different, but still.

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