Wen's Blog - Notes on "My First Impression of China"

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 The number game, the fun interviews, the bike graphics, the i-publishing... {Posted 09/12/2014}

A year and three months after I started this project in June 2013, the book is out!

MY FIRST IMPRESSION OF CHINA--Washingtonians' First Trips to the Middle Kingdom: 35 first trip to China stories for the 35th anniversary of U.S.-China, Washington state-China relations!

My First Impression of China

But I wasn't sure I would get here. When I first started, I had enthusiasm, but not confidence. As I said in the Preface, I really liked the idea of "My First Trip to China" stories put together by Hong Kong journalist Kin-ming Liu. I was excited about getting Washingtonians to tell me their first trip to China stories. But I had no idea how many people would respond to my request, how many stories I would need, and how long I would go on getting them.

--The number game: 80 Invitations

I would send out invitations and wait, send out reminders and wait. For a time I had three stories, one submission, two interviews, and felt a little panicky, not sure if I would ever get enough stories. Then I had six, seven. Sometime in there, it hit me that 2014 would be the 35th anniversary of U.S.-China relations. Suddenly, I knew I needed 35 stories and I needed the book out sometime in 2014. I had clarity and a goal. In the end, I had sent out about 80 invitations and to an expanded pool of candidates, not just those in the China business circle or China field. Out of those, I got my 35 stories, but not, of course, without a lot of begging and bugging! :-)

--Fun interviews, long transcripts

More than half of the 35 stories came from interviews, and the rest submissions. I enjoyed very much those interviews, interviews of Washingtonians I had great respect for. Each took me back to an earlier China I knew, yet through American eyes, eyes of a governor, an attorney, a reporter, a business executive. But then it was hours upon hours, even days, working on those long transcripts. The sweetest was when I worked a 2,000-word story out of them.

--Bicycles in cover graphics

Many of the participants remember the bikes, bikes, bikes, everywhere, in the China they saw. So for a book cover, I had to have bikes. Out of many old photos of Beijing's bike traffic in the 1980s widely circulated on the Internet, I picked one for the cover. My nephew, a Beijing designer, artfully merged my imagination and his skills into the graphics: filling the word CHINA with bikes! The gray background, of course, reflects the China then as well as the Northwest, with Washingtonians in the subtitle green!

--Be practical, be iUniverse

I enjoyed very much the developing, the interviewing and the editing of the book. Publishing, however, was another matter. For a book of Washington stories, just as with my first book "Connecting Washington and China--The Story of the Washington State China Relations Council," I couldn't find an established Washington publisher willing to take it. I was glad that contextChina Media Group, which I wrote for over two years, offered to publish this one as an ebook. But I wanted both print and ebook. So in the end, my practical solution was iUniverse, the self-publishing service under Author Solutions, now a Penguin Random House company. Interesting, confusing, frustrating, the world of publishing.

But whichever way it was published,"My First Impression of China" was a labor of love for me.