“What kind of textbook would you like to write?” the head of my university’s English department asked me. My boss was straightforward, and she didn’t have much time to waste with anything. Our small university produced its own textbooks to cut down on costs.
First, I thought of what our students could use in real life. Then, I explained that our kids could use a class on job interviews, writing résumés and working in the Western world. Without emotion, Big Boss told me, “Great. Write it over winter vacation.”
Teaching at a Korean university means four months of vacation a year. But that winter break I wouldn’t be visiting to Thailand or going home to America. Good news: I’d write a book that was almost certainly guaranteed to get published!
I spent my vacation in a coffee shop writing everything in that damn book: the lessons, quizzes, vocab explanations and activities. At the end, I almost felt excited for classes to start so I could quit writing all day.
“Office Talk” came out, and kids loved its usefulness (and easiness) – or lied about it. My name in print made me feel like a superstar champion. My proud grandma told me that I was the best writer ever.
Before summer vacation, my boss came up to me, “We need a new TOEIC book. Can you write it?” The TOEIC is a standardized test, kind of like the SAT on steroids. With help, I penned “Total TOEIC.” Again, Grandma was so proud. The kids hated reading a book about how to take a test. Understandable.
The next winter, I wanted to see something besides the gray of Korea, but Big Boss asked for another textbook. Three books in three semesters! I needed to pump another textbook out on top of my usual work, girlfriend, friends and the Great American Novel I’d been writing for nine years.
Big Boss said I could write whatever I wanted. As always, I wanted my stuff to be useful. What problems did our students have? My high school Spanish teacher said, “You can’t learn Spanish from memorizing dictionaries. The only way you can learn Spanish is to SPEAK Spanish!” My new book would make students talk to each other and learn how to give a speech in front of a crowd. I’d say, “Maybe you’ll never speak English again, but whether you’re a salesman, a CEO or a crazy alcoholic – you’re going to give a speech in public.”
As an absolutely hilarious, gut-busting jest, I titled my third tome something funny. I figured Big Boss would laugh and then shoot it down, but she liked the title. English isn’t her first language, so she didn’t get the joke.
She sent “Master Debate” to the publishers.
To be continued.