11 July 2012
A Passion for Publishing
Elephant Community Press staff (left to right): Sarah Breidenbach, Genesis Lee, Erin Gendron, founder Christine Choi and Reena Bhojwani
Like many children, Christine Choi had a passion for reading, stories and writing growing up. But it wasn’t until Ms Choi was at teachers college at Columbia University that she was exposed to the idea of bringing publishing to the classroom.
After moving to Hong Kong in 2005, Ms Choi worked as an English teacher at a local primary school for two years and began teaching creative writing. It was during this time that she developed the idea for Elephant Community Press, project-based writing workshops from story development to the finished product.
Ms Choi felt that the writing-for-publication process would help students of all ages develop a love for writing and literature. “By guiding students through a step-by-step process, we set them up for success,” Ms Choi said. “And by making published student work available to young readers, I hoped to inspire more students to read and write.”
Zoe Lau signs her book Critter Chronicles, which came together at a Diary Picture Books workshop
Working with students from four to 16, Ms Choi has expanded her company’s offerings, with specialised workshops in public speaking, drawing and photography. She is also broadening collaboration with local primary schools, offering advice and strategies to incorporate creative writing into the school’s English curriculum.
“We focus on helping students hone and apply writing skills that they have already learned while exercising their creative and critical thinking,” Ms Choi said. “We typically work with these schools for two years to develop and fine-tune the curriculum. But afterwards, the workshops are led by the schools’ teachers to be a sustainable programme.”
While e-books and e-publishing are gaining in popularity, Ms Choi believes that traditional books are a key component to her business, helping motivate her students to achieve their goals.
“When [our students] receive their books, the satisfaction of flipping through the pages and seeing their story in a real book makes all the hard work that goes into writing and revising for publication worthwhile,” Ms Choi said.
Working with the Community
Sophie Allen and Michelle Tao celebrate the publishing of their book Living To Tell, written during the Survivor workshop
Ms Choi also encourages students to give back to the community. Last month, during its bi-annual book launch, Elephant Community Press and a group of Grade 10 students from Canadian International School published a book of writing and photography to benefit Visions First, a non-profit organisation that supports refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong.
More than a book, the project was an eight-week, community-based learning programme between Elephant Community Press, Canadian International School and Vision First. The project launched the ECP Street Team initiative, which seeks to connect creative writing, schools and community organisations to help engage students with the community.
With business growing, Ms Choi said that one challenge has been managing the company expansion, which now includes a team of full- and part-time teachers who have, together, guided students to publish nearly 50 books.
“With more schools and parents interested in our programme, our team has grown quickly,” Ms Choi said. “In the past few years, we have worked on putting more organisational systems in place to help the team manage our expanding scope of work.”
Earlier this year, the company hosted its first series of adult creative writing workshops, which stemmed from interest from parents of students, as well as other adults looking for creative writing courses.
The goal for the first series of workshops was to write creatively, and not for publishing. But Ms Choi hopes to eventually follow the same writing-to-publishing process that is core to her business.
“Through the books we publish, we encourage students to use their creative thinking and writing skills to create a product that ultimately gives back to the community, and we would like to offer adults the opportunity to do the same,” Ms Choi said.
Elephant Community Press