The Story Behind Hey Taipei

A couple of years ago I had the idea to write a cute rhyming picture book about Taipei.

It would be like the ones I brought back from New York for friends’ kids, I thought. Except it would showcase the sights and foods of Taipei. It would be so cool.

Little did I know I had Inception-ed myself into a project that would take a painfully long time to finish.

Hey Taipei, the cute rhyming picture book you see above, has taken almost all of 2018 to pull together and I promise only 10% of the delay was due to procrastination. (I blame another 10% on the baby.)

On December 20, at long long last, the Hey Taipei crowdfunding campaign launched. It’s hosted on zeczec, which is Taiwan’s version of Kickstarter and will last 30 days until January 20, 2019.

[Update: the campaign target hit 100% in 3 days!]

For those who don’t read Chinese, I’ve also set up a Shopify storefront for pre-orders.

So what motivated me to do all this?

To be honest, a big part of it was an “if not me, then who?” mentality.

I figured there’s very little chance a traditional Taiwanese publisher would make an English-only picture book that’s actually fun to read. And there’s even less chance that a publisher in the US, UK or Australia would do a book on Taipei.

After all, an English-language picture book about Taipei is a pretty niche concept, and the market simply wouldn’t be big enough to make business sense for a mainstream publisher. 

The thing is, I feel Taipei and Taiwan desperately need more creative projects like this in English to help raise our international profile. Another way to put it is: Taiwan needs to start telling its own stories so more people know why we’re different and what we’re about. 

Even before the illustration process started I could imagine tourists buying Hey Taipei at the airport and businesspeople picking up a copy to take home as a souvenir for their kids. I spent a bunch of time with the illustrator and book designer getting all the details right in the hope Hey Taipei might one day be the de facto kids gift about Taiwan.

Another consideration for me was Hey Taipei’s potential to help children learn about Taiwan and Taiwanese culture. For overseas Taiwanese kids especially, the book can expose them to their roots and keep them connected to Taiwan.

I poked around online bookstores and noticed there are already a few books from the Asian-American perspective, but there were none from the Taiwanese point of view. The world needs more stories from the Taiwanese point of view!

Finally, I wanted to make English more relevant for kids in Taiwan learning English who never get to see themselves represented inside their textbooks. I think this is part of knowing your place in the world.

Just like we adults feel an innate sense of pride when we see Taiwan recognized internationally, I hope that Hey Taipei helps Taiwanese kids see Taipei is cool and interesting enough to have an English book dedicated to it. And I want them to know that kids all over the world enjoy this book about Taipei just as much as they do.

Is that so crazy?!

So a year ago, I was chatting with my friend Eric Yin who runs Garlic Crush Studios in the Neihu area of Taipei.

Two years ago Eric changed careers and started a content and publishing company because he wanted to tell creative, fun stories in Chinese. The guy is a huge Marvel and Pixar fan, and it was killing him that his heroes were all imported.

But more than that, he runs Garlic Crush because he wants his two young daughters to grow up laughing and smiling from silly and imaginative stories, not just the dry, educational books that Taiwanese publishers typically produce.

Eric knew I had written Hey Taipei, but he wasn’t sure how it would play out on the Taiwanese market. He said, “I like it, but how do we know enough people will want to buy this?”

I shrugged and told him I had no idea. I didn’t know if a book like Hey Taipei would make money. Or if enough young Taiwanese parents read English books to their kids.

I just knew it felt important enough to try. And I couldn’t seem to shake off that nagging thought:

“If not us, Eric, then who?”

 

Part 2 coming soon!