Guest Post | Gene Luen Yang, Author of American Born Chinese

Gene Luen Yang

Several months ago, I had the opportunity to hear Gene Luen Yang speak at Cal during an InterVarsity meeting. Gene is the author of the multiple award-winning graphic novel American Born Chinese, which I reviewed a while back. He shared his college experiences (go Bears!), faith, and road to becoming a professional cartoonist and graphic novel author, and he was very fun and inspiring. I spoke to him after the meeting and got him to autograph my book, and followed up via email with a question regarding careers. He was gracious enough to respond and gave the okay for me to share his response with my readers on this blog.

My question: “As a high school teacher and an author, how are you able to balance both jobs, and do you have any advice for someone who’s looking to do something similar?”

Gene’s response was very practical and insightful:

“As for juggling multiple jobs/roles, I think this is more and more common. There are lawyers who record music on the side, doctors who do movie review blogs, etc. etc. For me, two things were very helpful. First, I found a community of Bay Area cartoonists pretty early on. We all had day jobs in the beginning, but we met on a weekly basis to encourage and challenge one another. Second, I developed a habit. For a couple of years, I would wake up pretty early (5am) to work on my comics before work. Then I would work on them after dinner every night. You just have to cut out a lot of the “normal” stuff — TV, movies, hanging out. Not completely, of course, but your work has to be your priority.”

I’d highly recommend checking out Gene’s book American Born Chinese, plus he has a new book series coming out in September called Boxers & Saints, a graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion.

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