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The Year 2023

It's been one whole year since I last posted an entry on my blog. What has happened in 2023? A LOT!

I hope everyone has had a lovely Christmas with family and friends. I really enjoyed my first week of winter break and didn't do any work until yesterday. Today, I'm trying to catch up on some author business and thought I'd at least share one blog post before the year ends. I'll try to sum up my year as briefly as possible. I'm doing it mostly for myself to review what I've done and accomplished because sometimes I forget and feel like I've wasted a year when in fact I have actually done more than I thought was possible.

First of all, I started a new full-time job teaching at a school in Guangzhou, China. It was a brand new school when I joined last year as the primary school's Head of English Department. It all happened so suddenly and I felt like I was floating around, not knowing what I was doing half the time. Despite the challenges, I have learned and grown a lot. I'm now in my second year of teaching at this school, and it feels like it's even tougher than the first. I did have a little bit of a breakdown at the beginning of this academic year but have recovered, and trying to take it easy and not be too much of a perfectionist in everything. Thankfully, our English department has grown from five teachers to ten so we can share the workload, and we are able to work well together. I love my colleagues and it's a blessing that we can all get along, in and out of the school setting.

Some of my proudest moments and achievements include planning and organising an English Culture Week full of activities, performances, authors' talks, and competitions; writing up a whole-school English curriculum handbook; doing a storytelling session of Celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival during the Mid-Autumn Festival activity days; and seeing my Grade 6 students produce beautiful posters and activities for an International Fair for the rest of the grade levels. In all my years of teaching experience, I have not done anything like these before, and they have tested and pushed me further than I could imagine.

This year has also been a year where I crushed my reading goal before the end of the year, and I've read way more books than I initially planned (which was 50). I have to thank Jim Kwik for his Super Reading program. I've had to unlearn a lot of the previous reading habits I had developed and learned a more efficient way to read - not reading every single word, and using my finger as a visual pacer. I still haven't completed the whole course, but I've already tripled my reading speed. My Kindle Reading Insights tells me that I have now read 93 days in a row, and 43 weeks in a row.

This record streak is pretty impressive to me because it was only four months ago that I was trying to get to a streak of 30 days - I was always one or two days short. Now, I'm only seven days away from 100, and I don't plan on breaking it yet! I've also read 113 books on my Kindle, and over 15 physical books (mostly from the library). I need to work on reading the physical books from my own bookshelf in 2024, though!

Although my reading habits have improved, it's been a while since I've sat down to write anything with substance, other than worksheets and assessment papers. Most of my weekends are spent catching up on work, marking, napping, or going out. It's hard to maintain a balanced life, so my writing has taken a back seat and slowed down a lot. That being said, I am grateful that a good author friend of mine, Eugenia Chu, invited me to collaborate on a nonfiction book together, which was Celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival. I was able to work on it in short bits and pieces during the last winter break and spring break, and we got it published in July. I'm glad I didn't give up on my writing completely.

Last month, our #Authorforce group collaborated on a cookbook for kids called Once Upon a Plate, inspired by the books we have written. I originally wanted to contribute a recipe based on one of my picture books, but I didn't have time to really think about it or make anything with my limited kitchen supplies. However, a recipe from Celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival was included so I'm grateful to have half contributed to this!

One thing I did not expect to happen was selling more books this year alone than I have in the previous two years combined! The book that changed the game was Creative Ways to Grieve: A Guided Grief Journal. This had been an idea in my mind for two years until I finally decided to push myself to finish and publish it before starting my new job. I'm so glad I did! I stayed up several nights in a row to finish formatting and fixing errors until KDP accepted my final submission and published it. After an amazing launch, with the help and support of my #Authorforce community and a beautiful book trailer, I set up a few ads on Amazon, and just let it go. It pretty much sold itself without any further promotion or marketing. I'm still in awe that it's my most successful book, with over 900 copies sold in 18 months without me lifting a finger. I know there are some indie authors selling thousands of books out there, but for me, this number is a huge achievement.

I also achieved another milestone with My Reading Journal, which sold over 100 copies in a single day in August! I had never seen more than $50 in royalties in a day on my dashboard before, and suddenly seeing three figures there blew my mind! I am so grateful for all the support out there, all the readers who took a chance on me and for checking out my books. You have no idea what it means to me to be able to have my books and journals read and used by people all over the world.

Though the royalties from indie publishing aren't a lot for many of us, I feel like I have gained so much more that money can't buy, and that is a community of authors and book lovers, connections with various societies and organisations, and the experience of everything, from writing and editing, to formatting, marketing and social media. I never would have thought that getting into self-publishing would open up a whole new world like this, and I am excited to keep exploring and venturing into new horizons and new genres.

One thing I feel like I've neglected is my spiritual journey. I don't read the Bible as much as before and my prayers have become very simple and short. I feel like my mind cannot relax to meditate or focus on God. It might be why I feel more stressed. I'm hoping to calm down a little and reset my mind the next few days to realign with God and try to listen more instead. Being back in HK for the holidays has helped me to reflect on this and reconnecting with my church friends encouraged me to focus more on God and practise praying again. I really needed the reminder.

Before I end this long-winded post, I am going to share a few goals for 2024. I am completely making them up as I'm writing this, so here goes:

  1. Read at least 30 books from my physical TBR bookshelf and do not buy anymore new books until I have finished the 30. (I will make a list of these soon.)

  2. Read at least 30 books from my Kindle TBR bookshelf and only buy the 'Free' books or borrow from Kindle Unlimited when I have finished the 30.

  3. Keep a weekly journal and write at least 100 words per entry.

  4. Finish and publish my Writing Prompt book that I started two years ago.

  5. Publish one picture book that I have already written two years ago.

  6. Write at least three chapters of a novel / novella.

  7. Create a study guide for a book I am teaching.

  8. Read the Bible for 10 minutes a day.

  9. Do 30 minutes of exercise at least twice a week (i.e. jogging, swimming, stretching, yoga)

  10. Sell 2,000 units across all books and formats.

That briefly rounds up the year 2023 and my goals for 2024. There is so much more to include but I don't think anyone would be interested in all the details. I will try to post semi-regularly on here so it doesn't look like I've disappeared for an entire year again.

Until then, Happy New Year! May all your wishes come true.

*This post includes affiliate links.

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