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The Reflection

Jack Cheng reflects his ‘Hey, I can do that!’ attitude to students

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Jack Cheng had a slide show to accompany his speech. Cheng discussed his childhood and important milestones. Photo by Jenna Davison

Michigan author, Jack Cheng, came to visit Gull Lake High School on Friday, May 25 to discuss his life, and how he became a published author.

Cheng was born in Shanghai, China in 1983 and moved to the United States with his parents when he was five [1988].

“I spent most of my life growing up in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs,” Cheng said.

Cheng mentioned, that as a kid he was interested in sports, entering essay contests, drawing, geography, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and, like lots of children, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“In high school, I became really interested computers, and it was around that time that the internet became widespread,” Cheng said.

As the internet became a phenomenon, Cheng started to enter Photoshop contests. He said the goal was to turn a photograph into a funny picture or to take a 2D image and make it pop.

“I was doing this through college as well, for fun basically,” Cheng said.

According to Cheng, he majored in communications and minored in economics, and he thought advertising was a good blend ofhis creative and business sides.

“I remember junior year of college, my friend sent me a link to this internship in advertising in New York City,” Cheng said. “He was like I know you do creative graphic stuff you should check this out.”

Cheng told the group that he applied and was accepted to the internship that summer.

“That internship there were like 50 of us–all from different parts of the country, all working for different agencies in New York City, and all staying in dorms outside of Columbia for the summer,” Cheng said.

Following that summer, Cheng came back to the mitten state and graduated from University of Michigan before moving to New York to start his career.

“That was the summer of a lifetime and having mostly grown up in the suburbs and never really visiting New York as an adult, I just kinda fell in love with the city and was like I have to be there with the tall buildings and all the energy is,” Cheng said.

In 2005, Cheng started working in advertising in New York City working on commercials and general ads.

“Fall 2008, I left and early the next year I started a design studio with my friends, and I did until about 2012-2013, which is about the time my first book came out,” Cheng said.

Information taken from interview with Jack Cheng. Infographic by Courtney Pedersen

Cheng mentioned that while living in New York, he started writing in his journal every night and made a goal of three pages a night. One night while struggling to come up with something to write about, Cheng said he started to write about someone who makes fake computer screens for IKEA, which eventually turned into his first book These Days.

“A couple weeks later I was like ‘it’s not a book yet, but maybe it could be’,” Cheng said.

Cheng stated he took inspiration from his friends who used Kickstarter to fund their own publications.

According to Cheng, through Kickstarter he raised enough money to hire an editor and put together his novel, plus a literary agent showed interest in him.

“I always come back to the same sentiment, seeing something out there and saying ‘Hey, I can do that!'” Cheng said. “One of the big things I learned from this process and the process of being a writer is just to pay attention to this impulse.”

Cheng just published his second book, See You in the Cosmos, through a traditional publisher.

He now lives in Detroit, Michigan and is apart of the Michigan Authors who travel the state talking to students about their writing  processes.

“I learned a lot about how to format an actual novel from him,” said senior and aspiring screenwriter Jake Ragotzy. “I plan on implementing practically everything he said in my book.”


Courtney Pedersen
About

My name is Courtney Pedersen and I'm a senior. For the Reflection I primarily write news and feature stories. I am the news and media editor. I also am heavily involved in TAB, PAC, Spanish Club and the literary magazine.

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