Violinist Eileen Chai recently launched her book Teach A Life For Life and we caught up with her to find out a little bit more about the words and the music.
Why did you decide to write a book?
Teach a Life, for Life contains life lessons learnt in my journey through sports and music. It was written because I wanted to tell my story so that people could reflect on my life lessons learnt, which might help people self-explore, discover and find their own paths, and learn from their past to make good for the present and future.
Secondly, I wanted to share with people, family and friends who have helped me in my life journey through sports and music. In a way, to give thanks to my family, teachers, coaches and friends.
Why the book title Teach a Life, for Life?
It’s to encourage people from all walks of life to share their stories and pass forward their life lessons learnt to better the lives of people – to discover, inspire and motivate one another.
Hence, this book aims to:
• Discover people’s strengths and overcome difficulties;
• Inspire the young ones to understand the meaning of resilience, commitment and friendship, in their life journey;
• Motivate people to embrace challenges as there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.
And it applies to a wide range of people:
• Parents who want to nurture their aspiring and talented children;
• Individuals discovering & exploring life’s purpose;
• Teenagers who want to achieve their dreams but are unsure how to;
• School-going children who need to discover important personal values that could form their outlook and decision-making in their life;
• Aspiring sportsman and sportswoman who want to maximise their potential.
Reference – http://www.eileenchai.com/talks.html
What was the creative process like? How did you prepare? Inspirations?
As a former teacher with the Ministry of Education, we understand the importance of providing valuable takeaways for our students. The content of the book needed to provide the platform for readers to reflect on my life lessons learnt and allow them to think back of their own past to make good their present and future.
I wanted this book, then to be the start of Teach a Life, for Life, to create a follow up for people to share their own life stories so that they themselves can pass forward their lessons learnt to better the lives of others.
With this outcome in mind, I first jotted down all the important, significant and life-changing moments of my life through my journey in sports and music. I then reflected on how I could provide the lessons to be learnt to be relevant to the present. With that skeletal structure, I proceeded with the content development.
The story development for each of the 10 chapters of the book was important to create the platform to talk about the life lessons learnt. But I had to be aware of the age groups that were going to read the book, which was going to be pretty wide ranging. Also, I had to keep in mind to create a storyline that was easy to follow, yet dynamic enough for readers to WANT to continue to read it.
I had wanted to write this book three years ago, but without any form of communication background, I had to do my own homework in how to write a book. Hence I’ve been reading self-help and autobiography books just to get an idea of how I can develop a good storyline. There were books that I managed to finish, and there were the ones that I could not. The books that I managed to finish reading contained varying-sounding content, the choice of phrases and words were interestingly disimilar from one another, and the takeaways from each chapters were different from one another.
With the above mentioned pointers in mind, I started on my content development. I would begin with a significant past memory as the highlight of the story. The lessons learnt would then be built to that significant moment: this would help the readers first to have an image in their mind of the situation then; the story would be followed with details that helped form my character, personality and mindset; towards the end of the story, I would give my self-reflection on that chapter of my life; and lastly the lessons that could be learnt, relevant to the present.
What was the production process like? Share your crowdfunding experience.
The production started three years ago, doing my own research on what makes a book compelling to read. When I was ready to start writing, I had to decide whether to publish the book on my own or engage a professional publisher to help with the entire works of publishing a book.
With my background in sports event management, I prepared a timeline for myself. The week that I had to decide whether to be an independent publisher or not, a message came through my Facebook. Ivan Lim from the Typewriter publisher messaged me to congratulate me on my recent marriage then. I then shared with him of my book plan. Within an hour, we met up and he went through the book production process. I knew then I could not do it well on my own. The rest was history.
I then began to work on my budget. I had three choices, to seek for government funding, to borrow from my family or to do a crowdfunding campaign. I decided on the latter. Jamie Reeves, Programme Head of Humanities at the Raffles Institution (Junior College), once said to me when I was a 13 years old Rafflesian training athletics, “You are a risk taker. You love to take up challenges, you will go far.” For those who are familiar with crowdfunding platforms, you will only receive the public funding if you reach your target. Guess, I’ve not changed, and I decided to take my risk to do a crowdfunding campaign for my Book, EP and Teach a Life, for Life project.
The outcome of the book was to start the Teach a Life, for Life. That means, creating awareness of this project. I needed to reach out to my friends first, and hopefully through them, they can help spread about Teach a Life, for Life. Through my 9 years of working life, I understood the importance of networking and valuing friendship. Every person I meet for the first time, I would try to follow up with a message or to meet up again to build a sincere relationship.
Hence, for 1.5 months, I set aside time to go through my contact list of thousands of people, to either personally call or message them. I contacted them to make a connection and share with them about my crowdfunding campaign for the book, music and Teach a Life, for Life project. A number of friends were gratefully reconnected, some could not recall who I was and a few asked me where I got their numbers. I reminded myself that each had their own life priorities and commitments, and that not everyone shared the same sentiments. But, I also knew as long as I continued to sincerely reach out to my friends, they would respond. And, I was indeed glad with the response that I’ve received. My target for the crowdfunding campaign was initially at S$6k. At the end of the campaign, I was 216% of my target! I’m very grateful for the support from my family and friends. THANK YOU!
In the midst of the campaign, I continued to work with my editor to make good the book. I’m glad that he managed to retain the voice of my words. That was important to me as I wanted to share the stories sincerely from my heart. I could have easily engaged a ghost writer to prepare the words and publish it, but the writer would probably not have been able to capture the essence of the situations, and my mood, feelings and thoughts then. And the self-reflections were important to paint a vivid picture of my thoughts, to lead up to the lessons learnt., relevant to the present.
Besides the book production, I was also recording my three original live looping on violin, with vocals songs to produce my EP. I was also doing up my website, preparing and uploading relevant posts on the various social media sites, meeting people to talk about Teach a Life, for Life, looking for venues to perform my EP and promote the book, contacting schools for Teach a Life, for Life speaking engagements, pitching to media about Teach a Life, for Life, giving violin lesson to my current and new students, and exercising everyday to maintain my fitness and flexibility for my upcoming music video for the song, “Spread Your Wings”.
When I finally held the printed book in my hands for the first time, it was a sweet moment to remember. My publisher, Ivan Lim and Cara van Miriah were very happy for me too.
After the campaign, I had to quickly follow up with the launch invites as well. Again, for another month, I personally contacted each of my friends who have reconnected, to invite them to the launch.
A former student of mine who attended the launch wrote to me:
“I overheard your husband mentioning that you were holding onto your phone all day long to text and reply everyone personally prior to your launch yesterday. I guess your utmost sincerity touched people’s heart that you’ve got yourself an awesome crowd last night.”
Being serious about the arts is a challenge in SG – any tips on how you made it work in terms of this book and the music that accompanies the book?
The new psychology of success talks about the growth of the mindset—embrace challenges, belief in effort and resilience in the face of setbacks. It’s not about the immediate perfection that people yearn for, but the learning and developing of one’s skills, with effort over time.
I started to busk in the streets because I wanted to learn how to engage the public. I took it as a challenge for myself. I have been performing for quite a number of years in private functions and people were there to watch me. But in busking, people are certainly not there to watch my performance, so I would have to learn and take the effort to engage the audience.
Secondly, I wanted to share my form of art to the public. Like an outreach, an educational opportunity to the community, so that people are aware of such an art form, of live looping on the violin. Being the first violinist in Singapore, to live loop on the violin, with vocals, performing original songs, I thought that community engagement was ideal.
Thirdly, I wanted to send a message to the public. I’ve encountered so many instances when my friends looked at me in disbelief, “ What? Why are you busking? Why are you putting yourself so down? You are just like a beggar!” It is what we think of ourselves, which translate to how we present ourselves to the public. If we think like a beggar, we will act like one.
I mentioned the reasons of why I street perform because I would like to emphasise on our mindset. If we believe that the challenges are serious enough to prevent us from doing arts in Singapore, they will become a huge obstacle for anyone of us.
So, although I’ve never written a book, nor have I produced my own music, but with a growth mindset of believing what I wanted to do, and having the burning desire to want to help and make people happy, any challenges that came my way, I took it as a learning process. I reflected on them and made sure that I do not repeat the same mistake three times (yes, I give myself some slack as I know I’m not perfect).
Another tip is, to be grateful to the people who have helped us to reach our goals. This gives more meaning to the projects that we embark on. We could not have achieved our dreams without the help from family and friends.
Walk the talk, to Teach a Life, for Life.
What was the most difficult challenge in putting together the book and how did overcome that challenge?
The development of each of the chapters of the book was vital to create the situation, imagery and the platform to give meaning to the life lessons learnt. But it was no easy task. As I became engrossed with the writing, there was a tendency to fall into the trap of self-indulgence. As I dig deep into my memories, floods of emotional journey overcame my sanity. It was difficult to keep a clear mind to write as I tried to fight away the negative, painful and betrayal feelings I had in those past moments. Many times I had to break away from writing just to bring myself back into reality, and to remind myself that I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to have the constant help of my family and friends. That would calm me down and I could then continue to self-reflect on my journey, with moments of great epiphany. And finally, to write with clarity in my words, to provide the life lessons learnt that are relevant to the present.
Get Teach a Life, for Life from http://www.eileenchai.com/