Pete Clements is a teacher and materials writer based in Bangkok. He has written/edited resources for various publishers and organisations, including Macmillan, Pearson, and the British Council. He writes for all levels and ages, and recently finished co-authoring his first global coursebook. You can find Pete blogging here: www.eltplanning.com
When did you first know that you wanted to be an ELT writer?
On my CELTA course. I remember writing a guided discovery resource for one of the observed lessons. It worked quite well, despite my poor teaching! Since then I’ve always enjoyed writing my own materials for class. Realising I could make money doing that was a bonus!
How did you start writing ELT materials?
I dipped my toe in the water by sharing resources in industry magazines. The Editor of English Teaching Professional, Helena Gomm, was very supportive. She published some of my materials and summaries of action research. The first time I saw my own work in print was really rewarding. I owe Helena a lot because my confidence grew after that.
What was the first thing that you ever had published?
A web quest using Google Arts and Culture. Random!
When was the first time you thought of yourself as an ‘author’?
I guess that was a fair few years ago, when I updated my LinkedIn profile. One day, I just thought, ‘Right, that’s it. I’m going to be a writer. How can I make this happen?’ My LinkedIn account was kind of dormant, so I reactivated it and listed my job as ‘Teacher and Materials Writer’. I mean, technically I wasn’t a writer yet… Then again, all teachers are materials writers anyway, right?
I tweaked my profile to include things like ‘digital materials’, ‘edtech’, ‘coursebooks’, keywords like that. I thought it might help me get noticed by recruiters doing random searches.
It turns out I was right. A few weeks later I got a direct message; something along the lines of…
‘Hi, I’m from [insert big publisher name here]. I’m looking for ELT materials writers – I see you are interested in digital materials. How about sending us a sample?’
A couple of weeks after that I was offered a contract to write a set of digital resources.
So, basically, I thought of myself as an author before I actually was one. And I lied a tiny bit on LinkedIn! Shhh! It’s a secret… Besides, it worked. I’ve never been out of work as an author since then.
What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
Getting feedback from editors. On a typical day, I read their comments, curse uncontrollably and say ‘right, BEEP this, I’m off for a run’. I come back 10 kilometres later, having let off steam and read the feedback with a different mindset. It’s then I usually realise that the editor is right and that I’m just being sensitive.
Reading feedback from editors is a key part of my fitness regime! I’d really lack the motivation to run without it.
What advice would you give to aspiring ELT writers?
Lie a bit on LinkedIn…
No, just realise the skills you’ve already got. If you’re a teacher, then chances are you’re writing some of your own materials already. Sure, writing for a publisher isn’t exactly the same, but it’s not far off. Just imagine having to re-write your materials three or four times because someone insists they won’t work. Then imagine the same person saying ‘actually, I kind of like what you did the first time round a bit better’. If you can deal with that type of frustration, then you’ll be fine as a writer!
If you could have any other job, what would it be?
A LinkedIn Profile Advisor.
Thank you so much Pete for your inspiring story! Lots of great tips here for aspiring ELT writers. If you have any questions for Pete, then please write them in the comments.
Stay tuned for more inspiring stories from ELT writers and editors.