She has a cookbook available that you just may find interesting…
First of all – as the typical question goes – what brought you to China?
It was a dream of mine for a long time to teach in China. I graduated with my master’s degree in English in 2009, right about the time as the economic crash, so full-time teaching jobs in the U.S. just weren’t available. By the time my husband and I started looking for jobs nationwide, we decided “if we’re gonna move, let’s move big!” So we packed up and moved to China.
Have you found the expat scene to be welcoming and positive? What challenges have you overcome?
China is a big place, so the expat communities can vary widely. In the first town we lived in, we were only two of four expats in a little rural town in Hunan Province, so that was hard. We really got along with the others, but it was still isolating. Then we moved to Changsha. While Changsha had a bigger scene, there wasn’t much to do in the town, so it was very boring and hard to find people with similar interests. Moving to Shenzhen was a huge change. There are so many expats here for such a (relatively) small town. They are also very well connected via social media, so they’re easier to find. We have made many great friends here and are members of several hobby groups, so life here is pretty good.
What are your top complaints about living abroad? (This one optional)
I miss having a clothes drier! I have a cat and a dog and their fur gets everywhere so my clothes are constantly covered in pet fur. Shenzhen is also very damp, so sometimes it can take days for clothes to dry.
I also miss having a vehicle. Not a car, but at least a motorbike or something. We had motorbikes in Hunan, but they are banned here in Shenzhen. It can make going places very difficult and makes me feel almost debilitated at times.
What’s your favorite thing about living in China?
I love my job. It’s nice to be working in the writing and editing field and I also have a lot of freedom to work on my own writing projects.
I also just like living abroad. I like the people, the atmosphere, the ability to travel and save money. I don’t know if we will stay in China forever, but I don’t think we will ever move back to the U.S.
How did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve always been a writer. I was on the school newspaper in elementary school and was a reporter and anchor for a weekly televised teen news program when I was in high school. I published quite a few things in college. I’ve taught writing at American universities since 2007. Writing is who I am. But I had never pursued “writing” as a career until after I moved to China – I had always considered myself a writing teacher. Now, I identify as a writer and editor. I think living here has given me much more of a voice, something important say. I also have the time and financial independence to write, which are the two big hindrances for most aspiring writers.
What’s the story on the creation of your cookbook?
The first place we lived in China was a county town in the middle of nowhere. We were two hours by bus from the nearest town with a McDonalds or Walmart and four hours away from the nearest city. So we used to take lots of long bus rides in the countryside. But I can’t read in a moving vehicle – I get nauseous. So I spent those trips just thinking. I came up with lots of book ideas while on those trips. One of which was Crazy Dumplings. I had just spent the week in the countryside with my goddaughter’s family for Chinese New Year surrounded with so much good Chinese food and, of course, lots of dumplings! I had the itch to write a cookbook for a long time, but I thought a Chinese cookbook or an expat cookbook would be too much work for my first foray, so the idea of focusing just on dumplings came to mind. I had a dozen recipes in mind by the end of the day.
How have you found online-promotional platforms such as Kickstarter to be helpful?
Kickstarter is amazing. I am addicted to that site. I have backed dozens of projects over the years, so I was excited to finally try it for myself. The book did very well. I presold over 400 physical books (something very hard to do for a first-time self-published author) and raised over $9,000. But Kickstarter is about more than raising money, it is about creating awareness, buzz. I gained so many supportive fans through the project and even made some real friends. A couple of my backers lived here in Shenzhen and we met through the project and are good friends today. Kickstarter is a great community.
What advice would you give to writers who use the Internet for promotion and distribution?
Keep writing. Don’t get sucked into the marketing and promoting and Facebook and Twitter so much that you aren’t writing your next book. Readers are always looking for an author they can read multiple books by, and many authors don’t start to see success until their third book. So while marketing and the business aspect of being an author are important, don’t get sucked down that rabbit hole. Your first job is to write.
Lastly, any other interesting writing projects you’d like to share?
Oh, so many! I just confirmed with my partners that we would be able to produce Crazy Dumplings II later this year. I am most likely going to be doing a Kickstarter again for that. I am also working on a children’s book. I hope to find a Chinese or Hong Kong publisher for that one because the target is Chinese children. I have a romance novel coming out next year with an American publisher and I am working on a historical novel set in Qing Dynasty China which is almost complete.
Read more from Amanda Roberts at TwoAmericansinChina.com