Interview with Jessica Baverstock of Creativity’s Workshop

Jessica Baverstock has been a great friend and loyal reader of this blog (she's also written a couple of guest posts for me), and when she told me she would be publishing her 100th post last month, I wanted to do something to celebrate.  And since I'm a curious sort and have always wanted to know more about her, I suggested an interview.  So here it is, complete with photos of her life in China, taken by and captioned by Jessica herself.  Thanks, Jessica!


One evening while walking the streets of Beijing, I happened across a little boy and his grandmother. During the conversation we discovered that the little boy and I were both born in the same Australian city!

You're an Aussie living in China. For some reason, that fascinates me. Can you tell us why you're there and what you do there?

I grew up loving languages. When a friend of mine started teaching me some Mandarin Chinese, I found it addictive but slow going. Then someone invited me to stay with them in China for a month. In that month my language ability leapt ahead, and I discovered the wonders of living overseas.

Figuring that China was the best place to learn Chinese (can't argue with that logic) I've lived up here on and off ever since. It's such a fascinating place to live, and the more of the language I master the more I enjoy it. Language isn't just about understanding the words, it's also about understanding the people who speak it. Their intonation, gestures, personalities, culture, logic, history and landscape all influence how and why words are spoken.

I love watching people's faces change from concern, annoyance or outright distrust into surprise and openness when they realize they can speak to me in their mother tongue. It opens up a freeness of expression and a window into their soul. I have learned so much from these beautiful people.

Everywhere I look there are things to understand, photograph and describe. Even simple trips to the shops, to the doctor, to the acupuncturist all turn into hysterical adventures. What writer can resist that?!

I'm planning on starting a new blog soon, devoted to tales of living in China and descriptions of the wonderful people I meet, so I'll be able to share more interesting stories with my readers.

To earn a crust I do some work for a charity up here, helping them develop training materials for teaching nannies, teachers, mentors and foster parents how to look after orphaned children. It's a wonderful way to help out with my writing skills.

What is the most difficult thing about living in China?


It seems you need a minimum of three people for a Chinese chess match – two people to play and at least one person to watch. This is a common sight in parks and streets all around China

For me I think it's the sheer panic of not understanding what someone is saying. I have been studying Chinese for over 7 years now, but there are still so many words I don't know. I'm often presented with situations where I have no idea what is going on.

Every time the phone rings or there is an unexpected knock at the door, I steel myself for another interaction which my dictionary may or may not help me through. I have a good Chinese accent, which backfires because the Chinese expect me to understand more than I actually do. I had an argument with a telemarketer once because she thought I couldn't possibly be a foreigner with my accent, and I was telling her I didn't understand what she was saying.

Even when a Chinese person does speak English, there is still a language gap. Last week, when visiting the doctor she asked if I had "dyspepsia"* (I could not for the life of me remember what that meant) and then instructed me to 'respirate with my abdomen.'

Still, these experiences have given me valuable insights which I can then use to relate to foreigners in my own country.

I'd really love to hear more about your writing. First, I know you have an Ebook coming out soon. Can you talk about that?

 I recently released my first e-book, Tips for Those Contemplating Insanity. It contains 15 tips I've found useful for coping with overwhelming situations, and I'm already hearing back from people who love it. The e-book is available for free when you sign up for the Creativity's Workshop Newsletter.

After completing that e-book, I decided I should write something which specifically dealt with the stress and guilt writers often feel. As writers, we're under a lot of pressure to be creative, to pump out work, to accept criticism, to market ourselves etc. I personally find this takes the fun out of writing and saps me of energy – sometimes even leaving me too stressed to face the page.

So I wanted to write something which would free me (and other writers) from this pressure – a book with comforting reminders, helpful tips and gentle reassurance. Unfortunately, it's so much fun to write, and there are so many areas to cover, that it's turning into a far longer project than my last one! Still, I'm enjoying the journey and am really pleased with how it's coming together.


If you need your bike repaired, shoe resoled, keys cut or any number of other handy jobs done, you can find someone on the side of the street with the equipment and skills. Fascinating conversations are all part of the service.

And how about your novel?

During National Novel Writing Month (NaNo WriMo) last November I started writing a novel about Edward, an English businessman whose company sends him to China for work. It gave me a wonderful opportunity to take my Chinese experiences and wind them into a plot.

Because Edward writes manuals for a living (like moi) I'm experimenting with turning the novel into a manual for life in China, while weaving in plot throughout. It's still in experimental stages (such fun!) and full of sparkling potential. I can't wait to see how to comes together.

What are your writing dreams? If I could wave a magic wand and give you exactly what you wanted, writing-wise, what would it look like?

The confidence to believe in my ideas, to write my words, to market my work, to interact with other writers, and to bring humour, inspiration and entertainment to my readers – without the fear of not being good enough or losing my creative voice.

The skills/ability to craft stories, delve into characters and polish my work so that everything I work on will be good enough to be released to readers.

The freedom to explore plots, creative concepts and projects without having to worry about a bank balance or what others might think of the outcome.

The energy to complete all the projects spinning in my mind. Basically, it would look like lots and lots of my books available to be enjoyed by readers.

Oh, and while you're at it, can I have a lifetime supply of exquisite journals and perfect pens?

Now, how big a wand to you need? I'm sure we can get one made in China…

*Dyspepsia means indigestion.  (Editor's Note: I had to ask Jessica to remind me what it means.)


Isn't Jessica wonderful?  Before you go visit her blog, what's your take-away from the interview?  Please leave a comment.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Do you have an e-book in you like Jessica?  What are you an expert in that you could write about?

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20 Responses to Interview with Jessica Baverstock of Creativity’s Workshop

  1. Carole Jane Treggett 02/01/2012 at 07:27 #

    Wow, oh wow – what an amazing adventure your life is,Jessica! Lucky us, we get to reap the rewards and perhaps live a little of it vicariously through your writing about your experience in China and with those wonderful people. I can’t wait to read more from your new blog. Fantastic idea; I’m sure Creativity approves:)

    I loved your first Ebook and I’m so excited to get my eyes and soul into the second one – great topic! I’m trying to get to (and eagerly anticipate) the ‘fun’ part of this writing journey for myself. Constantly navigating the bumpy stress and guilt terrain of my life as a creative solopreneur/writer is getting quite tiresome at this point.

    Thanks to Charlotte for the great interview questions and for sharing all this with us. I completely concur with her that you’re wonderful and such an inspiration, Jessica. What a great year ahead for you!

  2. Charlotte Dixon 02/01/2012 at 10:13 #

    Carole Jane, I know you know and love Jessica already and isn’t it fun to learn more about her life in China (and see photos)?

    Debbie, I’m so happy to introduce you to Jessica. Thanks so much for featuring my book on your blog!

  3. Theresa H Hall 02/01/2012 at 12:14 #

    Absolutely charming from start to finish. I cannot wait to meet Jessica. Charlotte, you asked her the right questions and her answers were entertaining, well-thought and her timing impeccable. Writers who understand writing with their inner voice have the power to move readers. She will have much success in all of her dreams because she has a real gift … as do you.

  4. Charlotte Dixon 02/01/2012 at 12:23 #

    Thanks, Theresa! And you’ve got a lot going on yourself….

  5. Square-Peg Karen 02/01/2012 at 12:33 #

    Hmmm, my take-away from this post: I think it’s that asking great questions usually leads to getting great answers (that’s certainly what happened with this interview!).

    I love how the people-love and people-smarts you both have (yours, Charlotte, show up in the questions and the way you present Jessica – and Jessica, yours show up in your answers and the way you present China and the Chinese people) shine through in your writing!

  6. Charlotte Dixon 02/01/2012 at 12:43 #

    Thanks, Karen, but I have to say that its really all about Jessica and her fascinating life! I just love how in love she is with China and living there.

  7. Jessica Baverstock 02/01/2012 at 16:30 #

    Yes, Creativity is having a ball!

    I’m sure we’re not the only ones facing stress and guilt in our writing lives. I’m finding it fascinating that the more mindful I am of working through the stress, the more I’m able to manage it.

    In the coming weeks I’m going to be posting some questions on my blog about writing stress and how people deal with it. I’d love to hear your comments. 😉

  8. Charlotte Dixon 02/01/2012 at 16:36 #

    Jessica, it sounds to me like you’ve gotten several new fans through this wonderful interview and I’m sure they will all be checking our the questions about writing stress on your blog–great topic!

  9. Jessica Baverstock 02/01/2012 at 16:36 #

    Hi Debbie. Teaching overseas is a great experience, although there *will* be frustrating aspects to deal with. I’ve found the best way to deal with these is to love the people and respect the culture…and realise that sometimes they find you just as frustrating in return. *Giggle*

    If you’re thinking of moving to China, I highly recommend ‘Dreaming in Chinese’ by Deborah Fallows. She paints a realistic and insightful picture of living in China without degrading the place or the people.

  10. Jessica Baverstock 02/01/2012 at 16:44 #

    Thank you, Theresa. Your words mean a lot to me.

  11. Jessica Baverstock 02/01/2012 at 16:59 #

    The questions were specific enough to spark ideas but open enough that I could potter off in whatever direction I chose. Perfect for an interview.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the results.

  12. Jessica Baverstock 02/02/2012 at 02:40 #

    I’m pleasantly surprised at how everyone has responded to my interview.

    Thank you so much for setting this up, Charlotte. I had a wonderful time.

  13. J.D. 02/02/2012 at 04:48 #

    Very interesting Jessica, but we always knew you were. Good luck with your books. I’ll take a look.

  14. Charlotte Dixon 02/02/2012 at 07:28 #

    It’s my pleasure, Jessica, its been a blast watching people respond to your fascinating life!

  15. Jessica Baverstock 02/02/2012 at 12:23 #

    Thanks, JD! :)

  16. Giulietta Nardone 02/02/2012 at 13:46 #

    Hi Charlotte,

    Long time no cross comment!

    Your post entered my twitter stream the minute I hopped on. I will take a spin past Jessica’s site. Like the title of her e-book. Am writing a book as well, so it’s fun to be around other book writers.

    Interesting to learn more about China in this interview. We would all benefit from living abroad or at least traveling, it’s the greatest teacher …


  17. Charlotte Dixon 02/02/2012 at 14:07 #

    Giulietta, Indeed! Thanks for coming by. I don’t know why I haven’t been on your blog for awhile, but I’m happy for the reminder to drop in. And do check out Jessica’s blog!

  18. Melissa Marsh 02/02/2012 at 14:30 #

    Great interview! I am just amazed at how some people live their lives so full of adventure. I always wanted to live overseas but then I realized a few years ago that I am very content right where I’m at. :-) I really admire those who answer the call to adventure.

  19. Charlotte Dixon 02/02/2012 at 14:39 #

    Me, too, Melissa! Thanks for dropping by.

  20. Sue Mitchell 02/03/2012 at 21:15 #

    Jessica, I just love how you allow your love of language and writing to take you wherever it wants to go. There’s such a flexibility and openness in your responses. Very inspiring.

    Thanks for helping us get to know Jessica better, Charlotte!

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