An Interview with Kayla Bush

Kayla Bush is a 2013 graduate of Southern Oregon University with degrees in English and Theatre Arts. She taught in China from 2015 – 2016.

Ed Battistella: Tell us about the program you taught in?  How did you find it?  What was the application and training process like?

Kayla Bush: The program I taught in is called EF for English First. It’s an international company with schools in several countries. They have their own teaching books, lesson plans and style already laid out. They are an after school, weekend and summer/winter break type of English school that is an extra addition to a child’s primary schooling. The student range in age as young as 3, up to 18, though the older students are more rare. A family friend had mentioned it to my boyfriend who was looking at working abroad, so he looked into it and found an application online. The application process was simple enough, they required a 4 year degree, but it didn’t have to be in English. They asked for pretty basic information with an attached resume and then it mostly came down to the interview, which was interesting. They send you an excerpt from one of their teaching lessons and ask you to prepare a type of lesson for the interview, which ends up being you pretending your interviewer is a child student, complete roleplay situation. It was a bit awkward and the lesson was out of context, but they give feedback and have you try again adjusting to what advice they gave you. 

EB: How did you get interested in teaching abroad?

KB: I’ve always loved traveling, so when the opportunity for this job presented itself I saw it as not only a way to travel and see a part of the world I might not normally, but also a good opportunity to see if teaching was something I was actually interested in.  

EB: Did you experience any sort of culture shock?   

KB: There was definitely a level of culture shock involved. I’d traveled before, but never to China. I knew ahead of time what type of things to look out for, but I was exposed to quite a bit on my first day. My visa was delayed so I arrived the week after the rest of my group and was thrown in to house hunting and training almost immediately, whereas the others got a bit of sightseeing and cultural introduction. I settled in pretty quickly overall, but did experience some homesickness. 

EB: What was the experience of managing a class like?

KB: This was probably the most difficult part for me. I realized it was super important to establish ground rules on day one and not to start out too soft, because if I did the kids would just walk all over me and it could be a real challenge to control. Especially because the classes I taught were after school and weekends, so to the students it’s more like a fun extra curricular than mandatory schooling. 

EB: Did you have much experience communicating with English language learners prior to going abroad?

KB: Not specifically. I have some friends that were exchange students, but we didn’t ever talk much about their English learning process. The program I taught with though had everyone take a week long TEFL course before we started at our schools, so we got some training on what to expect and it was tailored specifically to Chinese students and their tendencies. 

EB: What was your most surprising experience?

KB: Hmmm… most surprising? Probably the fact that I bought a scooter to ride to work when I didn’t take the subway. I loved it, and it was a lot faster, but like the locals I didn’t wear a helmet and in reflection I’m grateful to have not seriously injured myself. It was a great experience though because scooters are a big part of living in Beijing and I feel like I really got a true Chinese city experience by doing it. 

EB: Is there anything you wish you had known or known more about before you started?

KB: I wish I knew more about the structure of the program I was teaching in and what is was actually like. The videos they sent out weren’t really an accurate representation of the environment. I also wish I knew more about the Chinese business model, their way of achieving success and the expectations in the workplace. Though where I worked had a lot of Western business influence, there was still a very particular way they wanted you to teach your class, the energy you bring to the room and the way you manage a classroom. There were Open Door class at the end of each course where the parents would watch you teach and see their kids speak English. It’s a fun idea for them to see progress, but they also fill out feedback forms for the teacher. In order to move up and be promoted you have peers watch you teach and give you feedback which they give to the Director of Studies who ultimately decides your score, which affects your pay. It was a really interesting system that I had no idea about going in. 

EB: How did the experience of teaching abroad influenced your career plans?

KB: So far it hasn’t influenced my career plans much, but it has definitely given me something on my resume that every employer wants to talk about. It doesn’t matter what field the job is in, employers want to know about the experience and what you’ve taken from the experience in terms of cultural awareness, adaptation, diversity and understanding. It’s been a really great tool for me in that regard. 

EB: Were you able to learn much Chinese?  Had you studied Chinese before?

KB: I had a friend who lived in Beijing previously and she taught me some key phrases. Otherwise, I didn’t know any Chinese. I’d studied Japanese in school, so I could read a few choice words, but it didn’t help me at all in speaking or listening. Ultimately I didn’t learn as much of the language as I could have, being in an English teaching environment, most of the Chinese local teachers wanted to practice English, my expat friends spoke English and we were told to only speak English in the classroom to create a fully immersive environment. So if you really want to learn the language you have to hire a Chinese tutor and spend the time and money really learning it. Some of the local teachers will agree to be a language partner, but that can be difficult to arrange. I learned enough to travel, eat, get directions and haggle, which was pretty good. I didn’t end up hiring a tutor, but I had friends who did and they learned a lot. 

EB: Any suggestions for others considering teaching abroad?

KB: Do it if you can. Don’t believe the stereotypes about how the children of that culture are going to act, because it’s probably not accurate. And really do your research about where you want to go. Make sure it’s a country you will enjoy being in, and a program that makes the process easy for you to get there and live there. 

Posted in Teaching internationally | Leave a comment

An Interview with Kayla Rapet

Kayla Rapet, 2012 graduate in English, received her Master’s degree in education in 2015. She is the Minority Outreach Programs Navigator for the SOU School of Education.

Ed Battistella: Tell us about the program you taught in? How did you find it? What was the application and training process like?

Kayla Rapet: My husband and I taught at Avalon Academy in South Korea. We went through Adventure Teaching–a group we would highly recommend. They guided us through each step of the process so that we knew exactly what we were doing from the first day we applied to the day we landed at Busan National Airport.

EB: How did you get interested in teaching abroad?

KR: Well, I learned that I could travel, gain invaluable teaching experience, and earn a salary generous enough to put a dent in my college debt; it’s just such an enticing opportunity. I can see why it’s becoming so popular.

EB: Did you experience any sort of culture shock?

KR: I did. It was subtle, to be honest, but it was present. In fact, I didn’t actually realize that I’d experienced it until I returned home to Oregon. Once I got back into my groove, I remembered what vitality felt like. The thing about culture shock is that it can be really sneaky. For me, everything about my life abroad required effort. I spent so much time processing information that I was constantly worn out. The little everyday things that I took for granted in the U.S. became magnified in a foreign environment. From processing language on street signs and menus to adapting to a new food culture (and thinking about how to communicate clearly and respectfully to strangers, interpreting social experiences with my boss and colleagues, setting up and managing bank accounts, finding clothes in my size, paying bills, grocery shopping, and so much more), you name it–it all required double the energy.

EB: What was the experience of managing a class like?

KR: Being in a hagwon, an academy, is a bit different from mainstream public education. My class sizes were small; sometimes I had classes with only one student. Most of my students came from affluent backgrounds, had parents with high expectations for academic achievement, and had ten to twelve hour days between school, music lessons, English academy, and any other extracurricular activities they were involved in. I found that my students had a lot in common, including their skill levels (as students were placed in courses based on their language needs rather than their ages), which made scaffolding a nearly seamless process.

Overall, my classes were wonderful. My students were curious, silly, witty, endearing, and sometimes even a bit mischievous. I felt pretty lucky to work at Avalon with my particular group of kids and colleagues.

EB: Did you have much experience communicating with English language learners prior to going abroad?

KR: I really didn’t. I had volunteered in an ESL classroom for a few weeks as part of my practicum, but that was about it. My husband and I started an online TEFL program before leaving for Korea. We were able to complete the 300-hour training over a couple of months. The program was really pretty affordable and I felt that I was able to use a lot of what I learned. That’s something else I’d highly recommend.

EB: What was your most surprising experience?

KR: That would probably the day three business men approached me in the street and asked for a hug. I obliged until they asked me to kiss them. It was really quite strange. That being said, it was such an isolated experience (you asked for the most surprising!).

Most favorably, I remember my trip home from our vacation in Seoul. We decided that we wanted to head home on one of the earlier trains, so we asked to switch out our tickets. When the teller said he had a “standing” ticket, I naively thought it meant someone else had cancelled and left the tickets available for next departing train (in retrospect, my interpretation didn’t make a whole lot of sense). I was rudely surprised. We found ourselves literally seatless on the train, standing for five and a half hours. Needless to say, I was extremely put off by the discomfort of it all. So there I sat, grumpy and unappreciative. Eventually I decided to sit on the floor. A few stops later, a team of elderly folks flooded the standing section, squishing me, unapologetically, into a corner. And just as the steam started flowing from my ears, a woman sat down on the floor beside me, smiled kindly, and offered me half of her persimmon. In that tiny moment I was brought back into myself, realizing I had missed the adventure of our adventure. My sense of humor arrived shortly after (and, not surprisingly, I survived).

EB: Is there anything you wish you had known or known more about before you started?

KR: No, I wouldn’t say so. I’m really glad we went when we did. My husband and I (engaged at the time) were only twenty-three when we left for Korea. I think reaching outside of our comfort zones was one of the greatest gifts we could have given ourselves at that age.

EB: How did the experience of teaching abroad influence your career plans?

KR: Early on, my time in Korea solidified my desire to become a teacher. Then, once I started my graduate studies, those experiences became a reference point that ultimately helped me discover where my strengths and areas of need were. While I did end up changing career paths, I know that, if and when I go back into teaching, my time abroad will provide a solid foundation for further growth.

EB: Were you able to learn much Korean? Had you studied it before?

KR: I am the worst at learning foreign languages. I’m excited by the dynamics of language, the linguistics and the grammar of it all, but my command of any second language I’ve ever studied is pitiful, quite frankly. With the help of a tutor, I was able to learn just enough survival Korean to make everyday life a bit easier. I highly recommend that anyone living abroad learn the primary language of the country in which they live. If you happen to struggle with foreign languages like I do, my best advice is to stumble through it with the best sense of humor that you can muster.

EB: Any suggestions for others considering teaching abroad?

KR: If you do decide to teach abroad, ask lots of questions before you go, while you’re there, and when you return home. Let your curiosity be your guide– and you will never cease to be surprised.

Posted in Teaching internationally | Leave a comment

An Interview with Amy Anne Layton

Amy Anne Layton is a Library Circulation Assistant at Simmons University Beatley Library. A 2016 graduate of Southern Oregon University, she taught in France from in 2016 to 2017.

Ed Battistella: Tell us about the program you taught in? How did you find it? What was the application and training process like?

Amy Anne Layton: I taught through TAPIF—the Teaching Assistant Program in France. It employs and salaries over 1,000 French majors to help teach English abroad in France for seven months. I found out about this program through the French program at Southern Oregon University. Normally, at the end of our time there, we’re required to either work at an internship abroad for 10 weeks minimum, or something equivalent to that.

TAPIF required letters of recommendation on the topic of your French education, a written sample of our French, and our University transcripts, among other information such as passport information.

Training took place twice, in which every assistant in a district met at a centralized location to learn about French bureaucracy, documentation, school rules, and government, among other societal things we might not have learned about in school. The second training focused on creating lesson plans for younger and older students.

EB: How did you get interested in teaching abroad?

AL: In all honesty, my interest in teaching abroad paralleled my interest in graduating with a degree in French culture. It was essentially required for me, so I had no choice but to get excited!

EB: Did you experience any sort of culture shock?

AL: I think I would be lying if I said yes. The biggest shocks that came to me were more based on the fact that I lived near a city than anything else. I’d never taken public transportation before, nor commuter trains, and there were a lot of other big firsts that I hadn’t experience prior to living in France. After my initial Oh God What Did I Just Do reaction during my first night abroad, it felt like I was on vacation, and then I felt like I was at home. French folks typically have some understanding of English, and everyone there showed me such great kindness, so it was easy to just fall into step!

EB: You had studied French before going. What has the experience like of living in France?

AL: Absolutely incredible. There is still not a day that goes by that I don’t think about or wish that I was living in France still. In all honesty, and in retrospect, I think that French Amy is the best Amy to have so far existed. Being so far removed for seven months from all you’ve ever known is a frightful experience, but it’s one that helped me center myself and realize just how proud of myself I should be.

In terms of the language—I lucked out. I had fantastic professors to teach me French, and it certainly helped that my roommates in France knew English and were able to help me process my thoughts when I was trying to speak French. Not only that, but I was happy to visit some French exchange students from the prior year at their towns, where their families introduced me to classic French films (without subtitles!), their families, and ways of going about life.

EB: What were people’s attitudes about English and learning English?

AL: My students’ attitudes were about the same as those learning a foreign language in high school here in the United States. The ones who were more proficient and fluent were typically in other advanced classes and had more opportunities to visit England than those who were only interested in learning the bare minimum to pass. In France, I think it’s safe to say that those who know and had an affinity for learning English were viewed as more privileged than those who had a harder time.

EB: Did you have much experience communicating with English language learners prior to going abroad?

AL: None at all! I had the wonderful opportunity, however, to work with Professor Margaret Perrow for an independent studies class in which I analyzed various struggles and eases English language learners had in regards to learning English.

EB: Is there anything you wish you had known or known more about before you started?

AL: Yes. If you’re a woman going abroad by yourself, people are going to love the fact that you’re foreign. Especially men. Watch out for them. I thought men were terrible when we spoke the same language, but they go above and beyond when there’s a language barrier and you’re on their playing field. I was in a generally safe area and spent much of my time alone, but men will take advantage of the fact that you don’t perfectly speak their language. They will take advantage of the fact that you’re alone and newer to the area. Use your best judgement, use your instincts.

That isn’t to say that every single French man is terrible, however. Two drove me to my Airbnb when they saw me struggling with my suitcase. Another showed me around Montmartre. One cashier engaged me in conversation every time I went to the grocery store. There are kind people out there. But there are also scammers, creeps, and your every-day dudes who think it’s okay to harass you. Their behavior is never okay, but if you’re empathetic and sensitive and a little shut-in like me, it’s necessary to grow a thick skin, and fast.

EB: Any suggestions for others considering teaching abroad, especially in Europe?

AL: Money is sadly still a necessity in this world. TAPIF encouraged us to have at least $2000 prior to taking off for our assistantship—it’s enough to hold you over until your first paycheck.

Airbnb is your friend! It takes a while to find a place to live, especially if you get placed in a smaller town like me. Airbnb can help take a lot of stress off of you when scouting out apartments and rooms.

Take advantage of cheap travel tickets! Visit your friends, go to different countries!

Do touristy things. Have no shame. Buy the best champagne when you go out, get the best seat available for the opera. This is your time, and you should use it however you want to.

And ultimately? Have a blast.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

AL: Of course! Thanks for listening.

Posted in Teaching internationally | Leave a comment

An Interview with Madison Huson

Madison Huson is a 2017 English graduate from Southern Oregon University. She is in the JET program in in Miyoshi, Japan.

Ed Battistella: Tell us about the JET program you teach in? How did you find it? What was the application and training process like?

Madison Huson: I found this program while I was attending my local community college in California. I was always interested in other cultures and a majority of my free time was devoted to researching the best and easiest way I could go abroad after community college. I stumbled upon the website of the Japan and Exchange Program (JET). JET program participants are appointed an assistant teaching position in any of the 47 prefectures for a period of one to five years.

The application itself is a lengthy process. Applications open every year in October, are submitted in November, and the email notification for an interview comes in January (I received mine in January from the Portland consulate, but some consulates vary on the specific timeline). Interview results come in March or April. Great, you’ve been accepted! However, you still don’t know where you’ll be living, that comes between May and June. I was notified of my placement in Miyoshi-shi (city), Tokushima-ken (prefecture), Shikoku in May.

After all of that waiting, you are sent to Tokyo for a three day orientation. The consensus from all of the fellow Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) was that the seminars and the crash course approach to teaching English as a second language was not very helpful, but instead, it was the networking that was worthwhile. We were able to meet people from all 40 participating countries in the JET program. I met the only Danish participant from this year and met many people from Trinidad and Tobago. I was promised a spot on the bedroom floor of a woman from New Zealand if I ever wanted to visit the region in Japan that was about to become her new home.

EB: How did you get interested in teaching abroad? You previously taught in Korea, right?

MH: Initially, I was not interested in teaching. I have known ever since I was an elementary school student that I would major in English in college, so the question I grew up hearing was: “Oh, so you are going to be an English teacher then?” I wanted so badly to prove to everyone that English majors can do so much more than be confined to the path of becoming a teacher. However, teaching English as a second language was the gateway to going abroad. My university, Southern Oregon University, had a two month summer program in South Korea. It was part English teaching and part study abroad. I taught a beginning and an advanced class for one month at the university. I was nineteen years old and I didn’t know anything about Korea or teaching. Luckily, the students were more concerned with going out for meals and drinks after class than they were with my teaching ability. After my experience there, however, I wanted to continue teaching abroad.

EB: Did you experience any sort of culture shock teaching abroad?

MH: Most things I experience, I wouldn’t call a “shock.” Things just happen and I say “Huh, that is different.” Recently, I was at an enkai with the teachers at my school. An enkai is essentially an “eat and drink as much as you want” party with your coworkers. They are very common in Japan and usually, my school has them to welcome a new teacher or celebrate big events at the school. Various types of food are ordered and shared between everyone and the teachers usually tell me the names of the dish if they think I have never tried that specific thing before. This time, a small plate is set down in front of me by the server and I know I have never seen that food before. The teacher across from me says “That’s….. Shirako. Do you know what it is? Do you want to eat it?” Her tone was a bit hesitant and she doesn’t speak any English, so I thought I’d better Google shirako for curiosity sake. I found out that shirako is “milt,” or fish semen. I said, to myself, “Yeah, I’ll pass on that one.”

The only thing I can honestly call culture shock is how discipline is handled in Japan. It is not uncommon to hear teachers screaming at the top of their lungs at students. I was teaching a class for the 7th graders when a few boys decided to giggle and tease some of the girls when they stood up to share what they wrote. The teacher heard their laughter and immediately exploded. She threw all of the student’s belongings on the floor and got directly in his face to scream louder than I have ever heard a teacher yell before. I was asked to leave the classroom for the rest of the period. Another teacher heard the screaming and she very softly told me she was sorry for what happened. I had to rush to the bathroom because I couldn’t sit at my desk like nothing had happened. I was very shaken and in tears over the whole event. However, for the boys, that type of behavior is sadly fairly normal, so they didn’t even flinch or seem visibly shaken like I was.

EB: Had you studied Japanese and Korean before you travelled? Were you able to acquire the languages?

MH: When I went to Korea, I did not know any Korean. I had just finished one year of learning Japanese. I was only there for two months, so I mostly only learned how to say the basics: good morning, hello, please, thank you, and water.

Coming to Japan was different because by the time I arrived here, I had taken two years of college level Japanese, but had a year gap between graduating and arriving here. I definitely lost a majority of my vocabulary and realized I had never had a natural conversation in Japanese until I was in an izakaya in Tokyo and a full table of drunk salarymen started a conversation with my friends and I. After living here for a month, I felt like I was rapidly improving. I am still better at listening than speaking, but I can usually convey what I mean. These days, I’ll have a conversation with someone and only realize later that it went as smoothly as it did.

EB: What was the experience of managing a class like?

MH: On the JET Program, I am an Assistant Language Teacher, so I am always accompanied by a JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) in class. I have three JTE’s that I teach with. As far as lesson planning, it varies between JTE. For the 3rd year students (freshman), I plan and teach the entire 50 minute lesson with the teacher there to provide translation help. For the 2nd year (8th grade) classes, I help with the normal classroom routine of singing a song and doing a word test, and then I am responsible for a 25 minute activity. For the 1st year classes (7th grade), I only plan lessons when the teacher asks me to prepare something specific, otherwise I just participate in her lesson.

EB: What has been the most fun?

MH: The best part about this entire experience is interacting with the students. When I first arrived, they were very shy and scared to talk to me. I began very enthusiastically waving at every student until slowly, they all started waving back. Now, I even have what I call “waving wars” with students in which both of us try to out wave the other, always very enthusiastically and with smiles. I also roam around through the halls during lunch time and talk to as many students as I can. This is my favorite time all day.

Recently, I have started playing sports with the students during lunch. I convinced a group of girls to let me teach them to play soccer and they told me that there are no junior high girls soccer teams in all of Tokushima prefecture. After playing a small game, lunch was ending and they decided we should race back into school. After our race, we were changing back into our indoor shoes and one of the girls said “We thought you were a very beautiful girl before, but now you’re cool!” I jumped on the chance to express to them that girls can be beautiful AND cool. Girls can play soccer. Girls can do anything. I got a big, enthusiastic “thank you” and a wave goodbye as they ran back to class. I am grateful for my chance to expose these students to not only native English and American culture, but hopefully act as a role model for these young girls in a society that is far too concerned with beauty standards and gender roles.

EB: Is there anything you wish you had known or known more about before you started?

I did extensive research on teaching abroad and this program in particular, so I don’t feel there is anything that made me say “I wish I had known that before now.” I also exist in an almost constant state of confusion anyway because I am surrounded by a language I am not fluent in and certain cultural differences in the workplace are difficult.

EB: How has the experience of teaching abroad influenced your career plans?

MH: I definitely want to become a teacher when I return home. Teaching abroad hasn’t influenced my teaching plans, rather it has influenced how I plan to teach. Teaching abroad is both extremely rewarding and challenging. Being a teacher at a school where every single student is Japanese and they share the same culture made me realize how important it is for students in the U.S to acknowledge their everyday opportunities at school to learn about other cultures.

Students at schools in rural areas have to actively seek out cultural exchange, or in the case of my job, they have it come to their school. I have made a point of teaching the students about “American culture” and what that means to me. To me, the “American culture” I can identify with is exclusively West Coast based. I taught an entire lesson on Hispanic Heritage Month and explained all of the ways that my life in California was shaped by being surrounded by Mexican culture. I told them that California, and many of our cities names, comes from Spanish. I asked the students if they thought anything in Japan came from a Hispanic or Latin language. Most of them said no, so I showed them a list of words that originated from Portuguese and some of their desserts that came from Spain and Mexico. I ended the lesson by playing some music in Spanish and I heard them humming the songs in the halls for the rest of the day. This lesson, almost entirely about Spanish, remains my best received lesson as an English teacher at this school.

Being in a school environment that has little opportunity to be exposed to various cultures during the school day has made me believe it is very important that my future students in the U.S realize their chance to learn about many cultures from their classmates. My hope is to teach tolerance and empathy along with the normal school subjects.

EB: Any suggestions for others?

MH: Do your research on finding a teaching program that sounds right for you, in any country. Say yes to things you would never do in your home country. Saying yes has gotten me to eat fantastic meals at hidden places, go to a weekly karate class, practice Japanese archery with my students, and many more things. My last piece of advice is that it is perfectly acceptable to commit to teaching abroad for a short time. The JET program is up to five years, but you can spend an incredible, life changing year teaching English in Japan and when the year is up, you will go home. Do not be fooled by those who say you won’t get the full experience in one year because you are the person who decides how you will spend your time in your new home.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

Posted in Teaching internationally | Comments Off on An Interview with Madison Huson

An Interview with Kevin Boringot

Kevin Boringot teaches at Jeomdong Middle School in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea. He graduated from Southern Oregon University in 2016 with a degree in English Education.

Ed Battistella: How did you get interested in teaching abroad?

Kevin Boringot: I became interested in teaching abroad because I thought it would be a wonderful way to combine my passion for teaching with the opportunity to travel and explore new places and cultures.

EB: Tell us about the program teach in? How did you find it?

KB: I currently teach with the English Program in Korea (EPIK). It is a government funded program, and I found out about it on Google when I was searching for teaching jobs overseas.

EB: What was the application and training process like?

KB: The application process was quite lengthy and competitive. I had to get an application form from their website and fill it with a lot of information about myself, my education history, work history, etc. I also had to attach a sample lesson plan about a topic of my choosing. Afterwards, I had to do a Skype interview with a person from the program. The interviewer asked me questions such as why I wanted to go to Korea, why I wanted to teach English, what my teaching philosophy is like, and how I would handle living overseas and deal with culture shock. I then had to get a comprehensive background check from the FBI and prepare a lot of documents for my recruiter such as an apostilled copy of my diploma, recommendation letters and a set of sealed college transcripts. After months of waiting, keeping in touch with my recruiter, and sending documents, I eventually got approved and had the opportunity to apply for my Korean work visa. The application process took almost half a year, so it’s important to try and apply early and be on top of all the required documents. The list of required documents is clearly detailed on their website, so all that is required is for the applicant to be proactive with the application process.

If everything goes well and the applicant finally arrives in Korea, EPIK kindly provides an orientation program that lasts for about a week and a half to ease the new teachers into their new lives in Korea and the expectations required of their new positions as Native English Teachers (NETs) in Korea. The orientation program includes lessons that go over working conditions, contract stipulations, Korean culture and basic Korean language lessons. There are also some cultural days and field trip events during the orientation to allow the new teachers to relax and get a taste of Korean culture and life. I found the orientation program to be very valuable, and it helped me ease into my new job. I felt very prepared afterwards, ready to take on day one of my teaching career.

EB: Did you experience any sort of culture shock teaching abroad?

KB: Definitely. I think working overseas come with its fair share of culture shock. Korean culture is quite collectivist, so my individualist American tendencies were out of place; however, as time goes by, I’m becoming more accustomed with Korean culture, so living here is becoming more comfortable.

EB: Had you studied Korean before you travelled? Have you been able to learn much about the language?

KB: Prior to my going to Korea, I have briefly touched Korean. I wasn’t conversational by any means; I just knew very basic elementary phrases to help me get by.

Nowadays, I would say I’m nearing lower intermediate level. I’m able to express myself more freely, but my lack of vocabulary still renders me unable to fully express my mind and feelings. I usually take Korean classes every weekend, so I’m making some progress.

EB: What’s been the most interesting experience so far?

KB: My most interesting experience so far is just surviving alone in a completely different culture and environment. It’s tough, and at times, I want to give up and go back to the comforts of home and the familiar. However, for some reason, I keep sticking it out, and I just signed a renewal contract for another year here, making the next school year my third school year here in Korea. Living overseas definitely makes you think, makes you more open-minded, and makes you more understanding of the bigger picture of the world and what it means to truly be a global citizen. There are just some things you can never experience living in the comforts of your own country.

EB: What are you learning about why people want to study English?

KB: With the interactions I’ve had with my students ranging from elementary, middle, high, and all the way to adults and seniors, I’ve come to understand that it differs from person to person. Learning English is highly valued here in Korea, for it means that more doors will be opened for them. Some of the big companies here such as Samsung and LG require its employees to have a certain score on English ability tests such as the IELTS or the TOEFL in order for them to be hired. Understanding of English gives people here a competitive edge in university admissions and in the job market. If it’s not for school or job purposes, many Koreans enjoy traveling overseas, so they learn English in order to have a more convenient time during their travels.

EB: How has the experience of teaching abroad influenced your career plans?

KB: Currently, I enjoy the career path that I’m in. I’ve come to understand that teaching non-native speakers is totally different from teaching native speakers, and this fact comes with its challenges, but it makes me happy to know that I’m here helping and making a difference in the lives of students who truly want to embrace English and how it can help their lives. With this in mind, I’m currently planning to pursue higher education, acquire a master’s in Applied Linguistics, and eventually teach at the university level.

EB: Any suggestions for others thinking about teaching abroad?

KB: I say do it. Even if you don’t plan on sticking it out and making it a lifelong career, just one year teaching and living overseas can greatly benefit and impact your life. You will experience many things. There will be positives and negatives, but I believe that at the end of the day, you will look back during your time doing it and you will say that it did make a difference, not just for you, but for the students that you’ve helped along the way.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

Posted in Teaching internationally | Comments Off on An Interview with Kevin Boringot

An Interview with San Mouy

San Mouy is a 2017 graduate of Southern Oregon University. He teaches English in Daegu, south Korea.

Ed Battistella: Tell us about the program you’re teaching?

San Mouy: So right now I am a foreign English teacher at a private school (Hagwon) in Daegu, South Korea. I signed a one-year contract with the school to teach students between 1st-8th grade, and sometimes teach adult classes at night. The lessons are relatively simple. They are taken directly out of English workbooks designed for young learners, with the main focus on short sentences and new vocabulary. The higher-level classes are essentially the same, however, there is more reading and a higher level of comprehension required. As for the adult classes, there is a workbook, but it is mainly used to keep a conversation going between the students and the teacher. My goal for the adult class is to help them become comfortable speaking English and help them learn new words and slang that they may not know already. The young learner and middle school classes take spelling tests and listening tests every week, and after each lesson I have to set up a game that covers the lesson for that particular day. That basically covers everything haha

EB: How did you find it/ What was the application and training process like?

SM: I found a teaching abroad website searching on Google. While teaching in Korea wasn’t my first choice (I applied to teach in Cambodia with Peace Corps,) after seeing some of my other classmates on Facebook teaching abroad in countries like Japan or Korea, I decided that I should try applying to those places as well. With numerous websites looking for English teachers abroad, I didn’t have as much trouble finding one, more so finding a location that I felt would be most comfortable living in for a year or so. Also, most overseas public English teaching jobs require additional documents (such as a TEFL certification) to be considered. And while I didn’t have that when I was looking for potential jobs in Korea or Japan, the positions available to me were further narrowed down. In the end, I got in contact with a recruiter after applying at travelandteachrecruiting.com, and I am very grateful with the job that I have.

The application process was fairly easy. After reaching out to travel and teach, I was guided by a couple recruiters that made the whole process less stressful. While there was a list of requirements that I had to have in order to continue with the hiring process, I knew that I would have to obtain everything on the list on time in order to truly be considered for the position.

Of course, though, obtaining everything meant spending a lot of money. I had to pay off a certain about of student loan debt in order to receive my Bachelors degree in the mail, I had to get a passport, fingerprint scan, FBI background check, Sign up for an online TEFL class, official notary to notarize all of my documents, extra passport photos, etc, which in total was upwards of 3k before even signing my contract. Getting everything took me almost ten months, but once all that was done, and as the deadlines for available positions came nearer and nearer, my recruiter set up three interviews for me to work in Korea; one in Daegu, one in Pohang, and one in Dejong. While two of the three wished to have me sign a contract, I felt Daegu would suit me best and decided to work there. Once I arrived in Korea, I met up with my Foreign Manager for the Hagwon and he helped me get set up in my apartment. I started training the next day.
Training was fairly simple, I would observe the other foreign teachers teach in class, take notes, and prepare to do what they have shown me for one or two classes while they observe and take notes on me. After the week of training, I was assigned my own teaching schedule for the semester and sent on my way. I still feel like I am learning how to be a better teacher everyday, so training for me is to be a better teacher than I was yesterday.

EB: How did you get interested in teaching abroad?

SM: I love traveling and thought teaching abroad would be a great opportunity for me to use my degree and to travel both at the same time. And after seeing how much fun my friends and classmates were having teaching abroad, it really made me decide that there wouldn’t be another chance like this than now.

EB: Did you experience any sort of culture shock teaching abroad?

SM: So far, the hardest part for me is to confidently order something on the menu or talking to anyone else in Korean. Haha Not really culture shock, its more a being aware that I am the foreigner in their country and need to accept that.

EB: Had you studied Korean before you travelled?

SM: Not a single day. In fact, I have yet to study any Korean seriously other than a couple of words since I have been here (about three months). Only because I plan on taking a Korean class that will show me everything I need to know about reading, writing, and speaking Korean soon.

EB: Have you been able to learn much Korean?

SM: I literally know less than 10 phrases and/or words

EB: Is there anything you wish you had known or known more about before you started?

SM: I wish I knew exactly how much money everything was going to cost me before taking that plunge. I knew that if I started to complete the requirements, but didn’t go through with everything, then I would have wasted a lot of money for nothing. At the same time, moving to another country takes a lot of money to get settled in. I’d say that in total, getting everything set up to sign a contract and getting situated in Korea cost me almost 5k (including paying off bills back in the united states). Other than that, I am truly loving every day knowing that I am an English teacher in another country. I feel like a tourist exploring the world, while at the same time saving money and doing a job that I am happy doing.

EB: How has the experience of teaching abroad influenced your career plans?

SM: I knew that teaching abroad would be a huge career change for me and feel like I will be doing things like this for at least the next 5-10 years. Its very rewarding to be able to travel and teach haha.

EB: Any suggestions for others thinking about teaching abroad?

SM: Honestly, the best advice I would give is to plan out where you want to teach, and then dig deeper to see what that place is like, and then save save save money. Be prepared to jump through a lot of hoops, sign a lot of papers, and follow a lot of orders.

Posted in Teaching internationally | Comments Off on An Interview with San Mouy

An Interview with Laura Payne

Laura Payne, a 2017 graduate of Southern Oregon University, is an Assistant Language Teacher in the JET Programme in Shimane, Japan.

You can follow her blog at Ms. Payne In Shimane

Ed Battistella: Tell us about the program you teach in? How did you find it? What was the application and training process like?

Laura Payne: I work with the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. I first heard about it through a brochure I found at a Japanese cultural event in Portland, and I applied for it during the senior year of my undergraduate studies. The application process took about six months from when I first applied to when I was accepted. It included sending in a paper application, letters of recommendation, and a written essay. In addition, I had to go to an interview at the Japanese Consulate in Portland. My first month or so in Japan was spent settling in and preparing for the job. I spent two days in Tokyo at a general orientation and participated in another two day orientation once I arrived at the prefecture I had been assigned to. I also met with the teachers and principals of the schools I was going to work with.

EB: How did you get interested in teaching abroad?

LP: In my junior year of college, I studied abroad in Japan for six months. During that time, I took on a part-time tutoring job and volunteered with the university’s English Salon. I really enjoyed the experiences of meeting new people and helping them learn a new language. I had already realized by that time that I wanted to be a teacher, but after studying abroad, I could see myself teaching English in Japan. I thought I could learn so much from the experience, and after I went back to the U.S., I immediately wanted to go back to Japan. From there, I remembered the JET Program and decided to apply.

EB: Did you experience any sort of culture shock?

LP: Nothing related to a difference in culture, but definitely something related to a difference of language. One of my favorite things to do in the U.S. is browse around a library and check out whatever book happens to catch my eye. I can’t do that in Japan, though. Most of the books at the library closest to my apartment are, of course, in Japanese. I use Japanese books as language study tools sometimes, but I don’t know enough Japanese yet to just relax into a story like I do when I read a book in English. There are some English books at the library as well, but that section is only made up of one set of shelves. None of the books in this section are current, and those books that belong to a series are often missing a volume. Experiences like this are difficult for me because in the U.S. I read so much, but in Japan, I’m partially illiterate. I’m trying to learn more Japanese to work past this.

EB: You had studied Japanese before. Did that help? What new things have your learned?

LP: Yes, knowing Japanese has helped me a lot. The JET Program doesn’t require you to know Japanese, but having a basic knowledge of it has helped me to be much more present in my everyday life. I can have conversations with staff members other than the English teachers at my schools. If my students don’t understand when I try explain something in English, I can switch to Japanese. Moreover, I can explore the area I live in knowing that I can handle all of the basic interactions I’ll run in to. In short, knowing Japanese has helped me to get more out of the experience of teaching abroad than I ever could have only knowing English.

EB: What was the experience of managing a class like?

Interesting because I’m actually not in charge of managing a class. I team teach classes with Japanese teachers of English, and they’re the main teachers in charge of the classroom. Also, I don’t go to the same classes every day, so most of what I do in the way of managing classes involves matching the style of the class and the teacher I’m currently with. In quieter classes, this might mean just following the lesson plan. In noisier classes, this might mean encouraging students to stay on task. In every situation, I try to get to know the English teacher and the students I’m working with as best as I can so that I can play whatever support role they need me to.

EB: What was been your most rewarding experience?

LP: Just getting to know my students day by day and helping them with their goals has been a great experience. So many of my students are funny, charming, upbeat individuals who can light up a room just by being present. Sometimes, I get the opportunity to help with extracurricular activities like coaching students who want to participate in English speech or recitation contests. I always love opportunities like these, because I’m so proud of the time and effort students put in to practicing, and I’m so happy for them when their hard work pays off. Now that I’ve started my second year teaching in Japan, I’m starting to see some of my students grow as they move on to different grade levels. All of this is incredibly rewarding because I know that every one of my students has their own dreams for the future, and I love seeing them try to figure out how they can get closer to those dreams through school.

EB: How has the experience of teaching abroad influenced your career plans?

LP: Since coming to Japan, I’ve decided that I want to earn a graduate degree in teaching English as a second language as well as a Secondary Education Language Arts degree. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy teaching English as a second language, and I want to keep doing it. I also think that the fact that I have experience learning a second language in a foreign country will help me serve students in ESL classes well. In addition, because of the experiences I’ve had here and the people I’ve met here, I want to keep a connection with Japan for the rest of my life. My ultimate dream is to work in a school with a Japanese sister city so that I can continue helping with international education programs.

EB: Any suggestions for others considering teaching abroad?

LP: If you think teaching abroad is something you would like to do, I can’t recommend it enough! Do some research on different programs and countries and find a way that’s a good fit for you. I’m sure you can find one.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

Posted in Teaching internationally | Comments Off on An Interview with Laura Payne

An Interview with Edward TW Pay

Ed TW Pay teaches at the Aidi International High School in Beijing, China. He is a 2015 graduate of Southern Oregon University.

Ed Battistella: Tell us about the program you teach in? How did you find it? What was the application and training process like?

Ed Pay: I teach year 7 and year 8 ESL-F for a large international school. The application process was very straightforward. I had two interviews, and needed to bring reference letters from my previous school.

EB: How did you get interested in teaching abroad?

EP: I had been working as a bartender, which was interesting but unfulfilling. I missed academic life, and I had taught karate for years. I wanted to teach in some way again. I saw an ad for EF (Education First). They run training schools across the world and they fly in foreigners to teach for years.

EB: Did you experience any sort of culture shock?

EP: I did. It was an enormous shift, from the size of the city, social norms, hygiene, pollution. Everything was jarring.

EB: Did you have much experience communicating with English language learners prior to going abroad?

EP: Next to none.

EB: Is there anything you wish you had known or known more about before you started?

EP: Bring more western cold medicine and money!

EB: How has the experience of teaching abroad influenced your career plans?

EP: I plan on doing this for life now. I’ve applied to some masters programs to get a 2 year degree in TEFL and I’m looking at starting my Delta as well. It’s a great life.

EB: What are your students like?

EP: My students are all from low English proficiency educational backgrounds. Our middle school (part of the pre k-12 school) is streamed into high vs low levels. I teach the low level. Their ages range for year 7 from 11-14, and my student base universally comes from incredibly privileged backgrounds. The school charges tens of thousands of US dollars each school year, so the behavioral, educational, interpersonal skills the students can have are often rooted in this “golden child” mind set. About 70% of our student base are boarding students from other provinces. They can struggle immensely with the pressures to conform and being away from their families, especially if they were sent away for seemingly abhorrent behavior (fears of sexuality were prevalent among parents last year though that seems to be changing now).

EB: Have you been able to learn much Chinese? Had you studied Chinese before?

EP: I have learned some Chinese. I am unfortunately, a bad foreigner who primarily associates with foreigners or Chinese people with strong English levels. My Chinese is best described as “survival level.” I had not studied any Chinese before coming.

EB: Any suggestions for others considering teaching abroad?

EP: Do your research. Find out as much as you can about the companies, and see what people say, or aren’t saying. I was forced to sign at my last job a non-defamation disclaimer, meaning I can’t comment on the more negative parts of that training center.

New arrivals should always bring more cash than they need, and they should think critically about how tight visa regulations can be, and the penalties of switching to a new job.

Above all, practice cultural tolerance and relativism. Be gracious and flexible and remain both upbeat and adaptable.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

EP: Take care professor.

Posted in Teaching internationally | Comments Off on An Interview with Edward TW Pay

An Interview with Wallace Stroby

Wallace Stroby is an award-winning journalist and the author of eight novels, most recently the stand-alone thriller, SOME DIE NAMELESS.

His debut novel THE BARBED-WIRE KISS, was called “a scorching first novel” by The Washington Post and two of his novels GONE ‘TIL NOVEMBER and KINGS OF MIDNIGHT were picked as “best Books of the Year.” by Kirkus.

Stroby is a lifelong resident of the Jersey Shore, a graduate of Rutgers University, and was an editor at the Newark Star-Ledger for 13 years.

Visit his webpage at wallacestroby.com and follow him on Twitter at @wallacestroby.

Ed Battistella: I’ve been a big fan since I read THE BARBED-WIRE KISS in 2003. How did you get started as a novelist?

Wallace Stroby: I spent 23 years working at daily newspapers as a reporter and editor, but writing novels was always a goal, for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first three novels while working full-time at the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger. After taking a buyout in 2008 – along with half the newsroom staff – I was able to start writing full-time.

EB: Reading SOME DIE NAMELESS, I couldn’t help but think of Ray Devlin as a Travis McGee-type character — although maybe a bit tougher. Has McDonald been an influence?

WS: I think John D. MacDonald has been an influence on most American crime writers. His novels, especially the McGee series, are seminal works of American crime fiction. I burned through almost all of them from ages 14 to 20. McGee and Ray Devlin from NAMELESS don’t actually have much in common, except for the fact they live most of the time on a boat, which was my direct homage to JDM and the McGee books. I wanted Devlin to be a character who was off the grid, so putting him on a boat seemed the best way to do that, and give a hat-tip to MacDonald’s work at the same time.

EB:
What other writers have influenced you?

WS:
That’s a long and ever-changing list. I was an avid reader from a young age, so I read everything I could get my hands on. As far as crime fiction, early on it was MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, etc. Then, in my later teen years, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake and their contemporaries, all the way up to Charles Willeford, James Crumley, Elmore Leonard and James Lee Burke. I always go back to Leonard, even now. Not only was he a master of pace and dialogue, but you could always feel the sheer joy of storytelling in his work as well.

On a more subtle psychological level, discovering the work of Patricia Highsmith was a revelation to me, especially her Ripley novels. Outside of the genre, there are a lot of writers whose work I love but could never hope to emulate – Tom McGuane, Lorrie Moore, Andre Dubus, Larry Brown, Flannery O’Connor, Yukio Mishima and many others.

EB: Did your journalism background at the Asbury Park Press and Newark Star-Ledger influence your writing or your style? Or your writing habits?

WS:
There’s definitely a skill set you learn at newspapers that comes in handy in writing fiction. The ability to organize material, write fast and tight and take a practical approach to the work are all invaluable. I think it also makes it easier to take editing and criticism. Editors in the publishing world tend to be concerned about your feelings, and try not to be too harsh. In newspapers, not so much. Deadlines are deadlines, and there’s always another one coming. No one cares about your feelings.

EB: You’ve been out of journalism for a time now. Are there things you miss?

WS:
Yes. I miss the people. I miss the buzz of the newsroom, and the mutual working toward a common goal. Writing is by its nature isolating, and that’s been the biggest challenge for me. I worked with a lot of smart and talented people – especially at the Star-Ledger – and I miss that interaction. Social media helps, but it’s not the same.

EB: I’ve enjoyed the Crissa Stone books. I was wondering if it was difficult to write a female protagonist like Stone or Sara Cross in GONE ‘TIL NOVEMBER?

WS: As with any character, you have to find a way inside their hearts and minds, regardless of their race, age or sex. You can always find some common ground. I’m not a female professional thief, but there are traits Crissa and I share – hypervigilance, a desire to re-invent ourselves – that I can use as touchstones when writing about
her.

I think the other key to writing female protagonists is to have a female first reader who can straighten you out when you go awry. Sara Cross from GONE ‘TIL NOVEMBER is a single mom. At the time I wrote that book, my editor, agent and first reader were all single moms, so I had some invaluable input from those sources. On all the Crissa books as well.

In the context of crime novels, I generally find it more interesting – and challenging – to write about female characters. Here’s a bit of behind-the-scenes trivia: I’d originally planned to alternate writing books about Sara Cross and Crissa Stone, which is why I gave them reverse initials – SC and CS. But once I started writing about Crissa, she took over.

EB:
You come up with some great bad characters—notably Morgan, the enforcer, in GONE ‘TIL NOVEMBER. What’s the key to making a believable bad guy?

WS: Again, getting into their head and into their skin. I try to be as empathetic with my villains as with my protagonists. Everybody has their reasons, and everyone’s been formed by unique circumstances. Lukas Dragovic in SOME DIE NAMELESS does some terrible things, but he also has some legitimate gripes. Every villain is the hero of his own story.

EB:
What are you working on next?

WS: Another stand-alone suspense novel, but this one a little more compact. With SOME DIE NAMELESS, I wanted to expand the scope, with different situations, locales, backstory, etc. This one’s much more intimate.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

Posted in Ideas and Opinions, Interviews | Comments Off on An Interview with Wallace Stroby

An Interview with Kit and Cat Seaton about The Black Bull of Norroway

Kit and Cat Seaton are sibling storytellers collaborating on the graphic novel series The Black Bull of Norroway. Based on a classic fairy tale, The Black Bull of Norroway is the story of Sibylla, whose life is forever changed by a forest witch who tells her that she will become the bride the Black Bull of Norroway. As things unfold, Sibylla comes to terms with a fate she’s not sure that she wants.

Kit Seaton is an artist living in California, where she teaches as California State University-Fullerton. She has an M.F.A. from the University of Hartford and has been illustrating and publishing comics online since 2011, including The , Otto the Odd and the Dragon King, Eve of All Saints, and AFAR. Cat Seaton is a playwright and storyteller currently living in Morocco. She has a B.A. in English & writing from Southern Oregon University. Cat writes the script, and Kit transforms them into sequential art.

Ed Battistella: Congratulations on the Norroway series and on Book 1: The Black Bull of Norroway. It’s a great work, artistically and literarily. How did this project get started?

Kit and Cat Seaton: Really, this project has been in the works since we were kids. We’ve always had a dream of working together, and telling stories together, and so if you want to get back to where it started, that’s it. This particular project came out of a class assignment for Kit. She had asked me to write a script for a children’s book mockup, originally she wanted to do East of the Sun and West of the Moon, but we saw it had been adapted several times already. This was back in the winter of 2013. I had taken a storytelling class the previous spring, and encountered The Black Bull of Norroway. It was a similar tale, but one that had not seen the same level of popularity. At first I suggested that script, but quickly realized it would be far longer than the 40 page book Kit was aiming for. We decided to go the route of the webcomic instead, and launched in October of 2014.

Ed Battistella: Sibylla is adventurous, tough and snarky, but also capable of being surprised. What sort of comic heroes or fantasy heroes influenced the two of you growing up?

Kit and Cat Seaton: A lot of our primary influences came from the media we consumed from the late 90s to the early 2000s. We’re going to give titles instead of particular characters in most instances, because it was the works as a whole that influenced us and left a lasting impression. So, to start with the things we have in common, because usually whatever Kit watched, I had to watch too: Constantine, particularly Tilda Swinton’s Gabriel, The Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, The Last Unicorn, The Neverending Story, The Lord of the Rings, The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix (Sabriel was our babe), A Wrinkle in Time, The Thief of Always, Sailor Moon, Inuyasha, Cowboy Bebop, X/1999, Trigun, FLCL, Neil Gaiman’s work (Sandman, Coraline), the list goes on. Kit felt particularly influenced by Jeff Smith’s BONE and by the work of Satoshi Kon (Paprika and Paranoia Agent in particular). For me, Harry Potter of course, and the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray. Things that were a little dark, that had a little magic, that had complex and interesting characters who often had flaws they couldn’t overcome.

Ed Battistella: I’m always fascinated by the process of visual story-telling and I know that writer-artist teams work in various ways—some from a synopsis where the artists tell the story and the writer adds words later, some where a writer blocks out the story in detail, some where there are sketches and back and forth. What’s your process like?

Kit and Cat Seaton: We spend a lot of time on the phone. Literally hours on the phone. We talk about our characters and their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses, their wants and needs. We talk about the plot and where it needs to go, and what difficulties we’re facing, or what areas might be problematic. We talk about everything. After that, I write the script—my main jam is playwriting, so they look a lot like play scripts—and send them on to Kit. Kit begins to break down the scenes into pages, usually 5-7 panels per page. First she figures out how much dialogue can fit comfortably, combined with the action, while leaving a good hook at the end of each page. Then she does maybe grids or layouts, planning out several pages in advance, and really looking at her beats. These are tiny thumbnails, just to begin to visualize things. I pretty much give Kit the script, and trust her to do what she’s going to do. I trust her implicitly. We both know where our main talents are, and we both trust the other person to carry their weight in their respective areas. We’re in constant communication the whole time, so it’s really like we’re working side by side, despite how far apart we might actually be.

Ed Battistella: Any major story telling disagreements or are you consistently of one mind?

Kit and Cat Seaton: Because of the process, if there’s a sticking point, we talk it out. Usually I’ll notice something isn’t quite working, and I’ll bring it to Kit in the first place. Because we’ve done so much talking and brainstorming beforehand, we know what direction the story needs to take even before we begin to get it down on paper.

Ed Battistella: A question for Kit: who are some of your artistic influences?

Kit and Cat Seaton: If I’m looking back, of course what was mentioned in our previous answers. Other influences include Arthur Rackham, Harry Clarke, Edward Gorey, Bill Waterson… I think I’ve gotten to the point where my work looks like my own work, but that’s it adopted a lot from a lot of other people’s work.

Ed Battistella: What’s planned for future volumes?

Kit and Cat Seaton: The next two books will complete the fairy tale, as well as take it on a dark and twisty turny road, where we really get to see Sibylla come into her own. Understandably, we can’t talk about that content too much.

Ed Battistella: A question for Cat (and Kit): what did you read fantasy and fairy tale wise that influenced the series? The Scottish tale of the Black Bull of Norroway of course, but what else?

Kit and Cat Seaton: Oh boy. So again, that giant list above. But also, the Time Life books, Andrew Lang’s books, Yeats, just all the fairy tales in general we’ve consumed over time. Grimm’s, of course, the HBO series Jim Hensen did… The Storyteller, it was called. We both loved fairy tales and folk tales as children, so we actively sought them out.

Ed Battistella: Your publisher is Image Comics. How did that relationship come about?

Kit and Cat Seaton: That came about through an established relationship Kit had with them, from her work with Leila del Duca on AFAR.

Ed Battistella: Tell us about the video content and about the marketing campaign.

Kit and Cat Seaton: We don’t know much about the video thing yet, but for marketing we’re working in tandem with Image comics. We’re sort of playing it by ear, but they seem to have a pretty solid plan.

Ed Battistella: How can readers get the Norroway series?

Kit and Cat Seaton: Readers can pre-order from local bookstores and comic shops, they can request their libraries to carry it, they can also pre-order online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other large retailers. We highly recommend supporting local businesses and libraries!

Ed Battistella: Thanks for talking with us.

Kit and Cat Seaton: Thank you!

Posted in Ideas and Opinions, Interviews | Comments Off on An Interview with Kit and Cat Seaton about The Black Bull of Norroway